Zion 50K Recap

At the finish receiving our prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd overall. These young bucks are fast! 

At the finish receiving our prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd overall. These young bucks are fast! 

It is now Wednesday the 25th of April. I sit here in my running shorts coming back from a mellow run in the nice spring weather, still feeling a little leg fatigue from the breathtaking Zion 50K that took place on the 21st. This course is a relatively flat race for a trail race in Utah. Throughout the 31 miles you go up 3,200 feet and down 3,200 feet. The race started at 6am in the dark. The temperature was a bit nippy at ~40 degrees Fahrenheit. Throughout the day there was a 35 degree increase! That gives you an idea of how the desert temperatures vary in Utah. Overall I am quite happy with how the race finished. I unfortunately hit a "wall" around mile 20 which set me back a bit from 1st place but I was able to hold 2nd place for the remaining 10 miles. I have never been a very fast flat ground runner, but in this race I proved to myself that I can keep up a pretty good pace (~7:48 min/mile) for a pretty long time, and I feel happy about that. 

The race started out with 3 of us in front. Not after 3 miles there were just two of us, Levi Hawks and myself. The race started out with some nice double track dirt roads. After about 4 miles we approached the first, and really the only major climb of 1,000 feet in one mile. At that point I was able to pass Levi. Approaching the first aid station I was in and out, wanting to keep the little lead that I had. On top of a beautiful mesa, I took in the orange sunrise as I weaved through the Gooseberry biking trail. This section of the course is very runnable but there is a lot of short ups and downs and abrupt turns. The course is easy to get lost on, I got off the course just a bit at least 3 times. Luckily I didn't loose too much time getting off trail. After a quick pee break I heard 2nd coming up quickly. After going through the 2nd aid station, the gap I had reduced to about 100 feet. It took one last deviation off the trail before Levi and I were running with each other again. After a quick stop at an aid station, we headed back down what we climbed up earlier that morning. The decent was a nice break as I began engaging my quads and giving my hamstrings and hip flexors a break. 

After descending, we were back onto some nice, flat double track trails. Casually conversing with Levi, I began to feel a serious drop in energy. If you've ever done a long distance race, you're probably very familiar with this sensation. I knew I was running through my glycogen stores quickly and I consumed two gels one after the other to increase calories and glucose into my system. Slowly I lost sight of Levi and I had to listen to my body. I kept a consistent pace, but it was quite a bit slower than the pace I had sustained throughout the race. I was in a tough position, I could have had another gel, but I could have risked putting my stomach in jeopardy as the stomach can only handle so much sugar and calories at one time. I chose to not risk stomach problems and pushed through with a caloric deficit. Once I hit the last aid station, I was feeling a bit better, but my pace was still not too great. Soon after, with about 3 miles to go to the finish, I saw 3rd place approaching at a faster pace than what I was sustaining. I didn't have much choice if I wanted hold onto my position but to amp up the speed. The last 3 miles were a real push for me but I kept my distance between myself and 3rd place. I finished only 40 seconds before 3rd place in 4:02. Not too long after, my older brother Eric crossed the line in 7th place! Not bad for taking a 2.5 year hiatus and not training much at all. 

Takeaways from this race:

1. Do more long runs to prepare your body for race day. I have said this to myself year after year, but I still hate long runs and don't do them as much as I should. Coaches and professional runners seem to agree that this is the most important workout for improving race day performance. I only had one good long run of 20 miles before the race. The rest were 15-18 miles. Looking back, more 20+ mile long runs would have done my body and mind good. It was apparent that once I hit 20 miles during the race, my body wasn't prepared for the remaining 10 miles. It's hard to know if this was a nutritional issue or simply a lack of training. I felt like I was running quite conservative with a moderate pace for me. It was frustrating to run out of energy when I felt like I wasn't going too hard at any point in the race.  

2. Eat more gels and food throughout the day. I never have been good about getting the calories I need every hour (~250 calories) during a race. This adds up and if you're not on top of your eating game while running, you will feel it later. I will say though, I had more gels in this 50 kilometer race than any other race of the same distance. I have found a gel that I actually like. Unfortunately I only had a few of these gels (Spring Energy) and wasn't too happy about consuming other super sweet gels. Note to self...bring more Spring energy gels next time. 

3. Up the miles. I already covered increasing my long runs, but increasing my weekly mileage wouldn't hurt either. The most I have ever hit in a training week is 70 miles. My body feels tired when I do this, but not exhausted. I will start working up my weekly mileage at a slower pace as to help my body slowly adapt. 

4. Increase moderate speed work. My training seemed to be either fast or slow. I was doing a lot of easy runs, and a few really fast track workouts. I should have thrown in some more tempo runs at a moderate pace that I can sustain for maybe an hour.

5. Stay in the race mentally. Comfortably in 2nd I decided I would let off a bit to let my body recuperate. Well, the truth is I already gave myself the time to recuperate but continued to tell myself I needed to go slower. Obviously I had more in me when 3rd was approaching. I need to push myself to the end by imaging there is someone constantly on my tail.  

Tres hermanos. Eric in the middle and I ran the race while Coulson was crewing. Our mom and dad came out to support too! 

Tres hermanos. Eric in the middle and I ran the race while Coulson was crewing. Our mom and dad came out to support too! 

Jesse Rich