Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Zane Grey - 2014

Zane Grey 50 Miler 33 Miler

A week out from race day I was surprised to see cool temperatures forecasted for Zane Grey this year as it's notoriously a hot race.  As Saturday neared the percentage chance of precipitation steadily increased to 100%

photo by Jenn Thompson
I don't particularly mind running in the rain or wind, so I wasn't too concerned.  Then the day before the race the race director, Joe Galope, sent an e-mail informing us of some re-routing of the course that also cut the distance from 50 miles to 46... bummer.  He also mentioned stopping the race at 33 miles if the creek crossings became too dangerous.

The race kicked off at 5AM.  It was cool and breezy but no rain was falling from the sky yet.  A couple miles in we were all treated to an inspiring blood orange cloudy sunrise from half way up the Mogollon Rim... the kind of visual delicacy that pulls at something deep within your primal being.  It began sprinkling and the wind picked up a bit.  Someone mentioned wishing they had a camera and I started singing the, "let me take a selfie," song, my typical goofy/sarcastic/nervous energy/early race chatting continued.

The weather slowly but surely became more harsh.  I won't say it got worse because it was more fun than if the conditions were faster or easier.  The sprinkles turned into a steady rain, the wind became stronger, the rocks got slippery and the dirt turned to mud.  It began to hail, the hail turned to snow.

photo by Alex Flores
I can't think of a better litmus test for a trail shoe than Zane Grey in these conditions.  My Hoka Rapa Nui 2's worked perfectly.  I highly recommend them for any trail running, I've put them through the ringer, they can handle anything and are a fun shoe in all conditions.

What else did I wear out there?  I started out with gloves and a windbreaker but quickly overheated and ditched them at the first aid station.  From then on I wore my hat, capilene 2 under my Hoka One One shirt, Inknburn Denim shorts, Drymax lite trail sock and leg sleeves, and my Inknburn buff - which went from keeping my head warm to keeping my hands warm.  It turned out to be a versatile and handy thing to have out there.  Besides getting a little chilly when the wind gusted I was able to run hard enough to stay warm, eating 300 calories an hour seemed to help too.

I was pacing myself for running 46 miles, running more conservatively than I usually do in 50 milers - saving a gear for the last 10 miles.  So it was frustrating to get to mile 33 a couple minutes behind the winner, Ryan Smith, to hear that the race was stopping here.  Andrew Miller, who came in behind me was equally shocked an upset, he looked eager to turn on the jets.

Smiling at the camera, with eyes on the rocks.
photo by Megan Powers

So it goes though.  In hindsight I could have realized that the race would likely be shortened due to the blizzard.  Instead I optimistically thought that the snow falling on us and higher up on the rim was not going to cause the creeks to rise like rain would and that this would make the creek crossings safe, allowing the race to continue to mile 46.  After finishing and watching the storm intensify I think Joe made a sound decision to cut the race short.

The nature of the trail, the conditions and the way the course is marked resulted in many if not most runners getting off the course for at least a little bit here and there.  Runners putting in bonus miles off the course while nearing hypothermia is potentially a bad scenario.  Don't get me wrong, every ounce of me wanted to run the whole 50 mile course, but I understand why it was stopped short.

photo by Deron Ruse
My bittersweet love of this race continues.  I love the friends we met up with at Papago's in Tempe on Thursday.  The group of people that have gathered here the last two years keeps me wanting to come back.  Hanging out with my buddy Erik Schulte and his wife Jessica sparked inspired discussions and near brilliant inventions - I'll spare you the details.  Thank you James and Nick for showing Elissa and I some local trails Friday morning.

South Mountain Park,  Phoenix... cute little Saguaro spear.

The course is my ideal trail running:  rugged, remote, gorgeous and humbling.  Last year I accidentally took a couple mile detour that kept me from performing as well as I'd hoped.  This year my plan to run the last 10 miles uber hard was stymied when the race was stopped 13 miles short.  After returning home and letting the experiences of the last two years marinate in my noggin my memories are developing an acquired taste for Zane Grey.  The bittersweetness has all but faded.  Less than perfect experiences are what Zane is all about.  It's not supposed to be easy.  People get lost, roll ankles, get baked by the sun, get frozen in a blizzard.  While I was salivating at the chance to run down Ryan in the final miles, the teasing nature of this race denied myself and others the opportunity, but the way the events unfolded was fun.

Congratulations to ALL who braved the elements, including the winners Kerrie Bruxvoort (who also won last year) and Ryan Smith.  Kudos to them for keeping it together enough to not only run, but run fast in the harsh elements. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

ZANE GREY PREDICTIONS (a case study on the demise of ultrarunning).

The ultra running community knows that our sport is rapidly changing and the consensus is that this change is a good thing.  More people running, faster runners lowering course records and creating more competition, etc. etc.  You've all been hoodwinked!  Our sport is doomed.  We're all getting too soft.  Ultra runners used to be hardened grizzly characters with leathery skin and dirty clothes.  Nowadays we're all softies, which leads me to my Zane Grey Predictions...   For the men's field it's basically going to be a "walk off" over 50 miles of rocks.

Apparently there are tons of prizes for the top finishers this year*, like free highlights at the local salon, and Tweezerman Ultra Precision Slant Tweezers, and Ultra Whitening Strips for our pearly whites.  Pantene has jumped on board as one of the major race sponsors this year, with free shampoo and conditioner available at all aid stations (we all know what the sun and heat can do to one's hair).  The heat and our sweating will naturally require frequent reapplications of product.  Lucky for us, got2b is supporting runners this year by leaving this in our goody bags:

When we come rolling into the aid stations, parched by the desert heat, what better to quench our thirst than Orange Mocha Frappuccinos!

Here is a look at some of the "talent" on the men's side:

Hal "the smile" Koerner
When he's not posing for the cover of magazine's Hal does run extremely well.  He has run Zane three times and placed fourth, third and second.  Despite his refined exterior, he's proven his toughness time and time again, and that will likely earn him the W this coming Saturday.

Erik Schulte "Fox"
 My good friend Erik is a full-time employee with Patagonia... and part time professional model.  We train together a lot and he is very talented.  He's yet to race to his potential, hopefully Zane will be where he gets discovered.

Nickademus "where's the jungle?" Hollon
 Don't let his bulging biceps and good looks fool you, Nickademus is tough as nails.  He ran ZG back when he was a teenager, he won Barkley last year, he got 3rd at HURT, ran Badwater, etc. etc.  He'll feel right at home on the gruesome Arizona trail and will finish on or very near the podium.

Jesse "animal" Haynes
 Unfortunately, I think Jesse pulled out of this race since he just ran Lake Sonoma, but he's just so crazy, you never know - he might show up?

Jon "the cougar whisperer" Clark
Jon's specialty is racing shorter distances, but his sheer grit and speed will serve him very well.  So will his recent training block of chasing a mountain lion down a trail, hopping on a bike for a bit, then running sub 5 minute pace on the track.

"Hollywood Hone"
Evan ran Zane well years ago, and these technical trails are exactly what he loves to run (if he can't be in Alaska).  He's a ridiculous climber, as his Mt. Baldy FKT proves, but Zane isn't all uphill.  He has the talent to win it outright, we'll see in a week.  Behind these chiseled cheek bones and perfectly groomed facial hair is a family man, seen above playing games and goofing around with his daughter.

Billy third from the left.
Billy Yang, cinematographer, runner, and male model.  As of late, you just can't keep this guy out of the mountains (unless he has a scheduled photo shoot).  He's going to fall even deeper in love with the dirt, rocks, trees and wildlife that is abundant around the Mogollon Rim and never return home, LA will miss him.

Other top male contenders:  

Catlow Shipek - He'll get first or second place.

Bret Sarnquist - Runs a lot and places well, had a solid finish here last year.

Brian Peterson - Won Los Pinos 50k last year, which speaks to his toughness.  I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the podium.

Andrew Miller - Young guy (18) placed 3rd at Pine to Palm last year, has run some fast 50ks.

Ryan Smith - He's from Boulder and he looks tough, so he must be good!

Sion Lupowitz - Fresh off a Old Pueblo 50M win.

Nick Coury - Didn't include him on this list initially because I forgot he was running it, oops.  He'll run his personal best for sure and win be in the mix.

Ian Torrence - Has recently run some stupid fast 50k's and I think this will be his 12th year running ZG!  I initially didn't have him on the list because I thought I saw him lying on the ground dead at the finish here last year, my bad.

~Please let me know who I'm forgetting/overlooking/am unaware of and I'll add them to the list.


It's looks to be a cooler than normal year, and there should be a good pack of dudes up front pushing each other, but Dave Mackey's 7:51 CR will still be standing.

What about the Women?  Their field has some heavy hitters as well.

Kerrie Bruxvoort - Last years winner, likely to repeat this year.  She barely missed finishing sub 10 last year, she'll get there this year.

Diana Finkel - Has placed 2nd here the last four years.  She'll likely do the same this year.  It's not that she couldn't go for the W, for some reason I see this as good HR training for her more than it is a race.

Michelle Barton - She is extremely talented and runs a lot.  Will she show up eager to race, or will she be out having a good time at a more relaxed pace?  Either way she will finish quickly.  

Carly Koerner - She's raced a ton of tough courses, and will finish well. 

Silke Koester - Likes difficult races, or at least runs them a lot, will finish on the podium.

Holly Miller - She's familiar with Arizona trails, and will finish with a solid time.


Nikki Kimbal's 9:14 CR will remain.

*All comments in this blog related to prizes and sponsors are spurious, as are most comments made by the author.