Zane Grey 50 Mi. 2015. A love affair.

Running into the fish hatchery, My wife directing me to my gear.  Or was she telling me to finish my laundry?

Normally I'm dying with anticipation to get a blog out soon as a race or big run is over, but I have been so mentally and physically exhausted; finishing the Zane Grey 50 miler this year was a dream come true.   I had obsessed about this race since 2012 the first time I witnessed it first hand while crewing for my good friends, Tim and Giles. 

I registered for 2013 race as soon as registration opened.  Unfortunately a few weekends before the race, tragedy hit my family, as my father-in-law suffered a massive heart attack.  He was taking off life support and was buried on the day of the 2013 race.  I vowed to run the 2014 race in his honor.  I DNF'd that race, I made a huge mistake of underestimating warnings of a huge storm, causing the race to be cut short at mile 33. That day my race ended at mile 18, Washington Park.  It hurt so bad, and I did nothing but obsess about this years race.  I have purposely not read any race reports, with the exception of my buddy Tim's, so I could have a clear perspective when I tell my story.

Even now as I write this, I am not sure this will serve it justice.  Life has been crazy since the race, but here goes a quick write up.

Morning of the race I carpooled with Tim, Giles, Brian, and David to the start.  I put my ear buds in, and loudly listened to P.O.S, reciting the chorus  "no one will ever be, like me."  P.O.S mixes grung, metal and rap.  It got me pumped and I was ready to face my fears; my love affair with Zane Grey had to end. 

Tim, Giles, Brian, and I posed for a picture and shared last minute words of encouragement.  I was so nervous I dry heaved and lost a bit of stomach acid.  I shook it off and begin going over my race strategy.  I needed to be alone so I got lost in the crowd of runners anticipating the start. I did not get to lost, I ended up next to Scott Lump, another good friend, we wished each other good luck.

I started off just in front of the mid Pack runners.  I was cold at first but had layered perfectly, I did not have to stop to remove any clothing, I simply pushed down my arm sleeves.  I moved steady, just above my comfort zone, keeping my breathing in check, but not slowing down. I found myself ahead of a lot of guys I knew would finish before me, when they finally passed, I did not try to keep up, I had to run my race.

Aid station 1, Geronimo, seemed to come upon me very quick.  I filled up my water bottles, I had made sure to drink a full bottle before I got there, and once they were filled up I took off on the trail.   Last year at this point I was soaked and cold as sleet begin to fall, and soon turned into hail.  From training runs I knew the next section very well. I found myself running and talking with two men from Tucson.  Both are ultra vets, each with ten plus 100 miles completed, and their stories helped make the miles fly bye. Washington Park, the 2nd aid station of the race, was my big target. I DNF'd here last year.  

At Washington I reloaded gels from my drop bag and left the aid station with a huge smile on my face, I knew In my heart I would finish the race.  I kept my pace steady, I did not want to get cocky, with lots of race and challenges ahead of me.   I was now on a part of the Arizona trail I had never seen before. Beautiful views, lush grass, trees, and ankle twisting rocks.  This was the Zane Grey I had heard about for years.  My legs were now showing signs of fatigue but my spirit was still fueling my desire to keep putting one foot infront of the other.
Thanks Melissa for the Photo.  I was a happy RUNNER.  leaving Washington Park

I was moving slower now, but still feeling good,  I was glad I had started off strong, and built a cushion; I would not have to worry about cut offs, even if I walked the rest of the race.  
I started talking, hiking, climbing, and running with a guy from Nevada; I believe his name was Joe. We had many things in common, especially young kids.  Like me, he had been contemplating what was next as far as ultra-running.  Ultra-running can be a very selfish sport with all the time you spend away training.  I am grateful for my wife and kids support, but I think I owe them more of my time.  

With unstable footing, tall grass, and the constant up and down climbing on the way to Hells Gate (mile 23.5) I began to labor and I breathing getting harder. 
At hells gate I sat on an ice chest,   Complete exhaustion had come over me, I had to get back up and keep moving to keepy legs and body for stiffening up.  My wife, kids, Dave, and a few friends were waiting for me at the Fish Hatchery; and I did not want to let them down.  
I got to the Fish Hatchery about an hour and a half before the cut off.  I ate, changed my shoes, shirt, and tried to describe the first 33 miles to my crew and friends.  The storm was rolling in, I put on my waterproof coat, and after about 20 minutes (way to long) at the aid station it was time to go.  
 Fueled by the bean burrito, Chris Lopez dad gave me, I left the Fish Hatchery.  I felt a little lonely, and kind of wished I had a pacer, but I knew in my heart this was one journey I had to conquer on my own. 
The trail from Fish Hatchery to See Canyon is so beautiful, although at this point in the race, the climbs absolutely suck.  I don't wear headphones or listen to music during races, but I made an exception this time, and listened to an audiobook on my phone. Without a pacer to talk to you, it really got me through some rough patches and took my mind off my aching legs, empty stomach, and tired eyes; I needed caffeine.

When I got to See Canyon I drank about 3 cups of Mountain Dew as well as a few of Ginger Ale.  I was was glad to be reunited with Joe again, who to my surprise was at the aid station. We hiked hard enduring more steep climbs.  The storm was in full effect pouring cold rain.  It got dark fast, the trail was now slippery and muddy, and huge burst of thunder shook the mountains. I was a bit scared, to be honest, but pressed on;  my wife, kids, and my friends waiting for me at the finish line. 
 The mud begin the cake my shoes and I started having flashbacks to last years race.  The strap on my headlamp came loose, and with frozen hands I could not fix it, so I held in my hand like a flashlight.  My feet were completely soaked as I navigated the slippery trail.  I was kind of hallucinating, as I imagined huge rocks, to be cars, fully expecting to see the finish line.  
When I Finally I saw the lights of the finish line, I was so relived, my right hand was numb and throbbing, I had lost my water proof glove while messing with my headlamp.  A man appeared encouraging me on, he said "you got 30 seconds to the finish, well, the way you moving maybe one minute." I was overcome with joy, I screamed "Fuck Yeah." I saw my buddy Dave, who snapped a picture of me, then I saw my wife and kids.  They were huddled under a canopy, trying to stay dry.  I could not appreciate their sacrifice at that moment,  all I wanted to do is get in the car, I was freezing.  I stripped naked behind my van and immediately put on dry clothes and jumped into the back seat of the van.
Tim and Giles were in the van with the heat blasting, I was hypothermic, coughing, and my emotions were in an up roar; excitement, sadness, hunger, and the thought of  "holy shit I Finished Zane Grey."  

Tim and Giles had missed the cut off by a few minutes, my heart went out for them. Brian was still on the course and was about 45 minutes behind me. He got to the van completely soaked and wanted nothing more then to get in.  The drive home was sort of quite as both Brian and I tried to thaw out.  
It was a dream come true for me, I will be proud of this one for a long time, my love affair was finally over.  Zane Grey you hurt me, you challenged me, I love you and I hate you.  
I know this is a blurry account.  I'm still processing this one, pinching myself,  I am not sure what's next?
A big Thank You to my wife for being there to both support and crew me.  David Collier, for always believing in me; I will be there when you do your first fort ultra brother.  Tim, Giles, Brian, and all my other crazy friends out there on the trail.  Salute!!

Getting Ready

one of many climbs

crazy footing

2nd half of the course. 


about to cross the finish line

My Kids enduring the cold and rain, waiting for me to Finish.  They Photo bombed Jon Roig's Photo

Waiting for my Jacket and Rock.  I was DONE


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