On the eve of another 50 I had better put some thoughts down around Zane Grey or all will be lost.
Zane Grey didn't turn out as I had hoped but I can tell you it was the worst and best of times. Here's the story:
I spent the week working in Phoenix trying to acclimate to the heat by driving around with my windows rolled up in business clothes and going out for mid-day runs. The salt layer on my face is always a good conversation piece with my customers and wouldn't you know, I didn't get any business this trip. With it being so cold in Colorado I needed some sort of heat to increase my salt flow and although I knew it was too little too late, every little bit helps. I think back to my previous race in Utah where the temps hovered in the 20s and 30s all day, even with a mild year at ZG it was going to be a scorcher for me.
Lots of people whom I consider friends in the desert this year: James Bonnet, Mark Cosmos, Kevin Higgins, Jamil and Nick Coury, Jason Lutick, Ian Torrence, Paulette Zilmer, Dom Grossman, Mike Foote, Chris Price, Diane Finkel, and Brian Tinder. So my thoughts going in were "no matter how the race turned out it was worth every second to hang out with these folks".
The moon was out and the air very pleasant as Joe yelled "Go". I found Mike Foote and we chatted it up on our way to Geronimo (8) in a casual 1.17. Chris Price was out front with Mike, Dom, and myself trying to keep in under the hood. The trail up to this point is very tame in comparison to what was coming but apparently my memories were foggy as to how many rocks, twists and turns, and ups and downs really lie ahead.
I pulled over and lost sight of Mike pretty quick and never saw him again. Looking at the splits, Chris had sped up and Mike was slowly catching. It's pretty much the same story with the trail up to Wash Park (17.5) and with nearly 3 hrs in the legs I was still feeling pretty good. It was shortly after the aid station that James Bonnet caught me and really looked smooth going down the technical descents. I was going to latch on but then sure enough I rolled my ankle pretty good. So I slowed up and James was out of sight in no time. Up to this point I had fallen twice and rolled my ankle and with the Manzanita bushes starting to carve there work into my legs, I looked beat up going into Hell's Gate (23.6).
Hell's Gate is apply named because the trail is the toughest trail I've ever run. You have to run Zane Grey to understand what I'm talking about; it's hot, exposed, up and down, twisting, rock, roots, bushes, you name it and this trail has it. And just as the name suggests I started feeling it. Basically for 10 myles it does not quit and this hellish place was sucking every bit of energy. I was dizzy and stumbling on rocks and every hill was a death march. I continued to eat and drink hoping the energy would return. I pull into Fish Hatchery (33) trying to put on my best smiley face but deep down I knew things were not good. As I left the aid station I could have sworn I saw a naked man running down the trail. I stopped, rubbed my eyes, and sure enough there was a naked man running down the trail asking me which way to go!! I laughed so hard! It was Brian Tinder and exactly what I needed at that point. The image still haunts me today but it's good payback. At Western States 3 years ago we were both pacing (Josh Brimhall and Ian Torrence) and I took off all my clothes as they rounded a corner and started running. It gave us all a laugh and boosted our spirits so Brian paid me back and lifted my spirits when I needed it the most. You're awesome Brian!
It didn't last long because there was another exposed climb and my conditions were deteriorating quickly. Now I started cramping everywhere. I had a second bottle now but within 30 minutes of leaving the aid station I had already drained one. To add insult to injury I took a wrong turn. I took a left and started heading up to the rim and it didn't feel right but what kept me going was a set of footprints. The trail started to fizzle out, I stopped and looked around but was totally confused at what I should do. It was probably about 10 minutes that I had gone up and finally made the decision to go back the way I came. When I got back to a junction a man was standing there asking how far up I had gone and if I'd seen anyone else. I told him I was following some footprints but didn't see anyone. Turns out Chris Price had gone up that same trail about double my time and the radio people had seen us make a wrong turn. Chris came by me later and asked why I hadn't waited for him... I was totally out of it and couldn't even remember his name to respond.
After that point the trail actually gets better with a bunch of trees for cover. People were starting to catch me and I had no idea how many people passed me while I was off trail but at this point I was far beyond trying to race. I just wanted to be done and drink some beer. I pull into See Canyon (43.5) and Ben is there (Diana Finkel's significant other) and he gives me this look like "you should stay here a while". My face, arms, and legs were crusted with white from the salt. Brian Tinder was pacing Kerrie and had brought me back a bottle of water prior to the aid station because I was completely out. I was dizzy at See Canyon and sat for a bit but I just wanted to get this over with, and besides, sitting down only made my cramps worse. So I got out of there and basically walked it in. My split to the finish was 1.39... I'd say that pretty good for walking.
Tough day in the desert. But what made it all worthwhile were the friends I mentioned in the beginning. It took me about an hour after the race before I could actually socialize and once I did Justin Lutick had plenty of beer to rehydrate every single person in the race. Special thanks to Dom and Katie for giving me a ride to the start, Chris Price for giving me a ride home, and Justin for, well, just being Justin. Big congrats to James Bonnet for winning Zane Grey! I don't know if I'll be back because Zane has kicked my ass twice now and I'm too old for a good ass whooping anymore.