We arrived in Zion on Friday around lunch and quickly set to the task of getting in some very serious heat training:
The next day, we set off for real adventure. The plan was to run the 48 miles across Zion on the West and East Rim trails, with a one mile detour to the Kolob arch.
Ready for Adventure!
The trail started with a nice easy decline to get us warmed up. After a few miles, Meghan and I need to make a pit stop. The guys moved on ahead, to give us our privacy, or so I thought. With business done, Meghan and I set off to catch the guys, but we got to the turn off to the arch and we still hadn't seen them. We couldn't believe they wouldn't wait for us at a trail junction, but figured we catch them on the out and back.
So Meghan and I follow a rocky trail for about a half mile until it just ends. And there is even a sign that says, "It is not recommended to go beyond this point." So Meghan and I head back to the creek and start boulder hopping up to the arch, still without the guys. It takes us FOREVER, but we make it another half mile. At that point the stream bed was practically impassable. Nothing made sense: Where were the guys, where was the trail and where was the arch??
"Is this the trail??"
Finally, we decided to turn around. When we are close to the junction, we pass a couple of girls who tell us the guys are looking for us, but they are about 15 minutes ahead. What?? We press on back to the main trail and down to La Verkin Creek. There we meet back up with Erin and Cheri (who were doing the first 38 miles at an easier pace) and they tell us all about seeing the Kolob Arch. We tell them we never saw it, but they wonder how because there was even a sign that marked the end of the trail!! All you had to do was look up when you got there!
Turns out the guys had stepped off trail too (and did leave a water bottle marker, but we can't see a huge stone arch, so how do you expect us to notice a small water bottle??). They went to the arch and turned around while Meghan and I went past the arch and were bush whacking through no-man's land! Aargh! Fortunately, the guys had more wits than us, so John came backwards and Rob went to the next trail junction to wait. And shortly after we were reunited.
The beautiful Kolob arch...that we did not see!
Hop Valley was beautiful, but a long slog through a lot of sand with few trail markers, so it was very slow going.
Super observant chicks over Hop Valley
There is a big climb out of Hop Valley and then a lot more uphill after that. I think we all kind of had the impression that we start at the top and have a nice gentle descent to the main valley floor, but there was actually 9,000' of climbing before we got to the bottom! (11,000' loss)
"I thought this trail was all down hill!"
I ran out of water about 20 miles in and pretty much every one else did a few miles after that, so it was a welome relief when we finally got to the first spring (26 miles; 6.5 hours!). We spent over 20 minutes refilling, drinking, eating and just lounging in the sun.
The next three hours were a mixed bag: ups, downs, forests, fields, mud, sand, pavement (yes, pavement!) and rocks. On the top of a rock hill, I missed another trail sign, made a wrong turn and found myself staring off a cliff for a few heart fluttering seconds. WTH? As a pathologist, my job is to look at things and observe, but I sure don't see things very well! The run ended with a big climb on tired legs and then 3 or so miles of steep descent, the last 2.1 miles with paved switchbacks ("Walters Wiggles") before the main canyon floor.
The original plan was to continue on to do the ten miles of the East Rim trail with it's big 2,100' climb in the first few miles, but I was a little worried about time and I was pretty beat. The altitude affected me more than I thought it would. I thought Meghan would cajole me into doing the rest with her, but she seemed like she was ready to call it a day as well. 42 miles in 9:30 - not exactly my intended Western States pace but a good training run, nonetheless. The only bad part is that today I learned that the fastest known time for women to do the entire trans-Zion route is 13 hours, meaning Meghan and I only had to do the last ten miles in three and a half hours to beat it. We could have walked faster than that - oops! Oh well, I think Meghan and I both got what we came for out of the run. If any women want to claim an FKT, this would be a super easy one to get.
After not enough beauty sleep, it was up and at 'em again. We drove up to Bryce and Meghan and I got dropped off at Ponderosa Canyon to run back to Bryce point. The guys opted for a shorter version and Erin and Cheri did some easy running on the rim.
Ready to rock - Day 2
My legs felt really good, but the extra 2,000 feet of altitude really did me in. After about ten miles, I was pooped! I just felt like I never caught my breath, even on the downhill. And on the uphills, I was dragging. Not so good, because I had to catch a plane that night so I couldn't spend all day in the canyon! I did get a little adrenaline boost from a big rattle snake in the trail, but not enough to propel me to the top of the canyon with a spring in my step!
Many gorgeous photo ops (or chances to try and catch my breath!)
At Bryce point, I got on the shuttle to my car and then high-tailed it to Vegas. Woo-hoo for 80 mph speed limits in Utah, because I made great time! Good thing too, because I was still in all my sweaty run gear when I dropped off the rental car. I did change into clean clothes, which basically just hid all the dirt underneath, and I tried to wash my face and hair as best as I could, but the rental car public bathroom is not the ideal place for post run clean up. I feel sorry for the guy next to me on the plane!
I got in to Portland at midnight, home around 1:30, and then definitely a shower before getting in bed. My whole rush home was because I couldn't get Monday off work, but let me tell you that was not a pretty day! But it was all worth it.
Next adventure: Western States!