The Zane Grey Obsession Continues....
The Mogollon Rim. Photo by Andrew Pielage- www.apizm.com
It's easy to be lost sometimes. Buried amidst a world of high speed activity, stress filled lifestyles and the ever climbing necessity of improvement, being lost is sometimes natural.
We go from one thing to the next. Thanksgiving to Christmas. Spring Break to Summer Break. Empty checking account to pay day. Starving to bloated. Happy to sad. Every day brings a new day and with that new challenges, new changes, and new views of what needs to happen.
For nearly two years it's been a non-stop whirlwind of change. Married. Honeymoon. Rented a house. Said rental went into foreclosure. Auction owners tried to evict us. I extorted them for payment to break our lease. We get pregnant. We buy new house. Start a new website with John Vaupel & Jay Danek. (www.trailrunningclub.com.) We have baby. We prepare for Mogollon Monster 100. We direct Mogollon Monster 100. We still have baby. Still have house. Still working all the time. And apparently I still have a blog.
Yet the Monster has come and gone. And the void that remains leaves me lost in what to do next. Immediately I volunteer to motivate and train our hotel staff to run the P.F. Chang's Half Marathon, something I'm passionate about but realistically didn't have time for. When I should be putting a hold on my ambitions to focus on traditional household husband things like siding, lawn care, organizing shelving, etc. I'm out signing myself up for more time consuming projects. Yet I can't help myself. I don't have ADD but I cannot just sit around. As great as that can feel sometimes.
I need to be involved in something.
I need goals.
I need ambitions.
To fill a part of that void I signed up for two races the day after the Monster finished. The Cave Creek Thriller 30K and the Zane Grey 50M a ways off in April 2013. I haven't run hardly a lick since my son Dean was born but now with the race behind us (for now) I should have more time... My training "program" the last three months consisted of a 30 mile training run on the Mogollon Monster 100 course on a Saturday.
Rest for 6 days.
Repeat on a different section the following week. I would run 20-30 mile long runs every weekend for 8 of the 10 weekends of August/September in preparing for this race in both training runs and course marking. Some went well...others were miserable death marches.
Yet somehow, towards the end of the summer, leading right up to the race I started to feel stronger. Not strong, but stronger. Last Tuesday I covered 16 miles on the Highline Trail for course marking for the race and on the return trip I pushed the pace, hammered the hills and came back into Washington Park feeling great. I drove up to the top of the Rim and ran another two miles along the General Crook Trail marking it along the way and somewhere on the way back, as the sun was coming down, still slightly poking through the tall Ponderosa's I felt like I was cruising down the trail on a bike. Nearly 7,500 feet up, it felt like sea level and I was off. It was short distance but a big boost to my confidence. Running hasn't felt that "easy" in a long time.
So the race is over. Planning for next year is ongoing and constant. Ideas flood into my mind in an ever rotating display of improvements and projects. Never submitting to mediocrity, my aspirations always at least reach for something greater. That will never change but leaves me pulled in another direction, a constant tidal pull bringing me back out to sea every few hours, every few days. As welcome a distraction as unwelcome. Focus on one thing, one specific goal has become very challenging with so many aspects of the race I'd like to change while also focusing on work, family, and training (not in that order necessarily...)
With the race over though it does allows me to focus on running again. My son is three months old now, bigger and stronger and stroller ready. We can train together and focus on the Zane Grey 50M in April and get back to running with Jay Danek. I've missed our reckless descents down Bell Pass at breakneck speeds and the much faster pace Jay trains at than I would running solo. His big ambitions, goals and training regimin rub off on me and I need to get back to that.
I have big plans for Zane Grey, my favorite race to hate in all of running. Yet ultimately...my favorite race. My brother distinctly remembers my putrid attitude following my horrible experience back in 2011 where I suffered through a death march the final 17 miles. All of which were self imposed through my own stupidity, poor planning and newly found arrogance.
This time around though, I'm smarter, I'll be stronger, and I feel like that's my home turf now. I've run the Highline so much now in preparation for the Mogollon Monster I know so many of the in's and out's of the trail. I know it's a whore of a trail. An unrelenting beast waiting to eat up the first runner that succumbs to the heat, elevation, exposure, manzanita, or those few rocks out there. The last time I was arrogant. I had been running 50K's like they were 5k's. The 50M was a near regular event for me, at least once a month. I had run a wickedly hard and vicious Superstition Wilderness 50M the month before and felt that Zane Grey was just a stop at the ice cream shop in comparison (incidently, during that delusional Superstitions run the first seeds of the idea for the Mogollon Monster we laid).
I made a cardinal Ultrarunning sin. I did not respect the distance.
Zane Grey is one of the toughest 50 milers in the country. I don't care which one you compare it to. There may be "harder" ones but there is no debate that this is towards the top of the list. Nobody leaves the Highline saying, "That was easy." Nobody. Most leave in a near crippled state saying, "I'm never coming back."
Which any Zane Grey veteran likely say's in their head, "See you next year."
I'm not overlooking the distance this year. I'm focusing on this race and this race only. I'm not going to go out and do all these fat ass random runs through the desert. My off course adventures that end up eating up every ounce of my energy. I'm training for speed, stregnth and endurance. I'm not just looking for an improvement over 2011. I want to knock several hours off it.
I want to go sub 10 hours.
At Zane Grey.
I know. Ridiculous right?
Anyone just ultrastalking me can look at my past results and will be wondering, "How in the world are YOU going to run sub 10 hours at Zane Grey??!"
It's 2:24 better than I ever have run there. Ever. I have zero statistical data to back up that kind of time. My fastest "official" 50K on there is 4:54. I barely ran 10 hours on a flat,loop course.
BUT...I know what I can do. I know what I'm capable of. I know I've never even gotten close to pushing boundaries on speed or training. I've always skirted by with just enough training to keep it from being a full on death march. I ran Cascade Crest 100 last year topping out at a 52 mile week. I get by because I'm a strong hiker and I can run downhill. I've always been weak on the flats and actual "running", as ironic as it sounds, and that is what has kept me plateaued, just off the cuff and from taking that leap to the next level.
My problem has always been that I could hinge back on the "I don't really train excuse" for my less than stellar times at races. It's always been a side joke with my running friends but ultimately it's just an excuse. I'm capable, I can make the time, I just have to put the work in.
So I will.
And when it comes down to the line, come April, on the Highline, I'll really see where that takes me.
And if sub 10 hours doesn't happen at Zane Grey...well look for me at the finish line. I'll still make it there. It just might not be as pretty.
Here it Comes
It's amazing how quickly perceptions can change. A little over a year ago my idea of a weekend was hanging out with friends, housework, going to coffee or breakfast, maybe taking a trip somewhere. While I still like to fit all of that in it's certainly taken a dynamic shift in how I spend my weekends.
This weekend would be a great example. The Plan? 50 Mile "Fun" Run.
I remember last April when I signed up for the Copper Basin Fun Run 50K how I thought "why is it called a fun run if it's 30 miles..." only to then realize later it's simply denoting the fact that it's not an official race, just an organized training run so to speak. At the time I remember thinking how idiotic that was, how crazy to think of just going out to run that long and you don't even get a t-shirt or credit for it on Ultrasignup.com or some kind of prideful boast to show you completed it.
Now? I LOVE the "Fun Run." Don't get me wrong. I LOVE gearing up for a big race, starting off the race knowing i'm going to have to run hard all day and with every person I pass I'm that much closer to first. (not that i ever get that close but you get the point.) With a Fun Run though you are usually able to go out into areas that you cannot have an organized race due to it being in a nationally recognized protected area, a reason that many trail races have gravel roads, fire roads or even pavement sections. You just can't have a great trail race in the great wilderness areas out there. It's great on one hand but disappointing when you look at how absolutely incredible some races would be in the right areas. Like the Superstition Wilderness Area near Phoenix, Arizona.
Most Beautiful Place outside the Grand Canyon???
The Superstition Wilderness Area is a protected collection of desert mountains, canyons, rivers, slots, and diverse vegetation ranging from 2,000 ft to 5,000+ in elevation. It's in Apache Junction, Arizona an eastern suburb of Phoenix and part of the cities surrounding skyline.
The Wilderness area is unique for many reasons and more so for the reasons pertaining to trail races. One is it's just so diverse in it's terrain. You have massive saguaro cactus, forests of Teddy Bear cholla, buckhorn cholla, prickly pear, and every variety of cactus out there. You'll run across white rock bedrock, past sandstone cliffs, massive pillars of rock, slot canyons, forests of cottonwood trees and all along a perfectly rocky, rugged, ruthless stretch of singletrack that goes on...and on...and on...in a collection of trails over 140 miles long.
As it is already the area is set up perfectly for an organized race. First Water Trailhead is large enough to hold the vehicles for parking, restrooms are there already, overflow parking is available. The trail is wide in the start, major trail intersections are already marked with fencepost. One major trail, The Dutchman, travels all the way across, North to South, and meets with the Peralta Trailhead. Peralta is also home to a large parking area which is perfect for setting up aid. The trip back to complete the loop includes the 1,500 ft climb in the two miles up Peralta to a spectacular view of the area and the majestic Weaver's Needle. Coming down Peralta is a dream trail. Ridgeline running while overlooking massive canyons, red rock singletrack on the edge of the drop off, flying down the ridge on what feels like a magazine cover for National Geographic.
50 Miles of "FUN"
Knowing all of this through the Superstition Wilderness 50K I put on back in Janaury for some friends as well as other hikes and runs I've done out there I'm even more excited to see what a 50 mile trip through the Wilderness will hold this Saturday. My friends from the East Coast make the argument often that there are no "wilderness" areas in Arizona when you don't have forests. Conventional wisdom may say that to some but when you get out into the desert in those lonely canyons you suddenly realize you can't possibly be in anything more "wild" than where you are right then. Some of those areas in the 'Supes are so remote, so untouched, so wild people get lost, bewildered and in a heck of a lot of trouble really quick. It's as wild as it gets regardless if there are little trees.
Training for this run was going great up until last week when I slid into second base playing softball of all things and destroyed the first 2.3 million layers of skin on my left shin. That perpetual pain left me with a massive road rash on my leg, major swelling for a week on that leg and ankle and a 101.2 degree tempature the following night as my body continued with the internal mantra of "You are a moron Jeremy. You are a moron. Look what you did THIS time." So due to that slice of luck I was not able to run a lick all week long. I hiked 4.5 miles in the McDowell Mountains Sunday morning for the first bit of exercise all week. Felt ok so I played softball again Monday night with no issues minus another slide on the same leg (luckily wrapped this time but no less painful...and no less stupid). Wednesday morning I ran with the WMRC group which was the first trail running I had done since the Cave Creek Fun Run Marathon 10 days prior.
So you could say I tapered. I had a great base going into last week after completing the 25 miles of rough Cave Creek run last Sunday and feeling absolutely wonderful afterwards. So I'm feeling ok that I didn't get to run last week and should be fine for Saturday. Knowing the 'Supes I'm sure there is some hiking involved as we push our way through Ironweed and catclaw as blood drips into our socks.
Harder than Zane Grey?
So come Saturday we'll see how in shape I really am. My real goal of course if Zane Grey 50 on April 16th which I was fortunate enough to complete last year in my first attempt at a 50 miler. I'm really looking forward to tackling that course again this year with a lot more miles and a lot more experience under by belt. My one thought though is...what if Zane Grey isn't even as hard as the Superstitions??
Very possible. We'll see.