Lions in Zion - Page 2
Climbing out of the canyon at sunrise was spectacular. It was the biggest ascent of the day, and zigzagging through Zion’s slickrock spits you out at a breathtaking overlook. Photographer Fred Marmsater and video guru Jeff Johnson met me just past Angels Landing, running alongside and taking shots. They told me that Luke looked strong and was moving well.
As I crested the climb and started rolling along the sweltering west rim, I was thankful I had gotten in some hot, humid road miles on a recent family vacation in Florida. My leg turnover was quick, and, with the help of music shuffling through my iPod, I enjoyed the section and its views of soaring red-rock formations, before dropping into Potato Hollow.
My 70 ounces of water was disappearing quickly, though, and I started to ration. I still ran dry, and found out later from our crew that Luke had done the same. This section became about body-management, not running too fast to cause cramping or a bonk, but quickly enough to cover the ground and make it to our water resupply in Hop Valley. The running was just technical enough to keep my attention, but smooth and descending enough to allow quick movement.
Temps were in the high 80s and a constant breeze felt cooling, but I was becoming dehydrated. At the Hop Valley Trailhead, I guzzled at least four pints of icy water while friends Jim Speth, Adriane Frehner, Bryce Thatcher and Santiago cheered me on and refilled bottles. Leaving revitalized but with a jostling belly, I trudged through the next few miles, trying to absorb the fluids and get my legs back under me. The terrain changed from the high rim running and cruise-y descents through the canyons to an open grassy meadow and down in to a sandy wash.
Admittedly, though, I never felt great again, but did have a nice laugh when crossing the sandy wash for the final time. I caught my toe on a stick in the mud and did a fabulous sideways dive into several inches of wet sand—probably the softest landing I have ever had.
I took the opportunity to clean up and cool off while crisscrossing La Verkin Creek bed. I saw Fred poised behind his camera halfway up the final ascent. He spurred me on with the news that Luke had dug deep to set a new men’s record.
In my dehydrated state, I progressed at more of a stumble than a run. Fred prompted me along and as I got closer to the rim he dropped back and I listened for the chatter of our friends, finding one last bit of energy to jog to the Lee’s Pass Trailhead sign to hit my watch at 9:09.
First, I congratulated Luke on his impressive 7:48, 10 minutes faster than the previous record set by Matt Hart of Park City, Utah, in 2010. Candice Burt of Bellingham, Washington, had posted an unsupported time (meaning she carried all of her supplies and water) of 11:47 on November 16, 2011 to the FKT proboards. My 9:09, apparently the FKT for a women’s supported run, was a happy ending to the day.