Since Zion is a National Park, getting permission to run a race on Federal land can be quite the challenge. Consequently, the race is actually held in Virgin, Utah, right next to the park. If you’re going to visit the race, you must visit the lovely towns of Virgin, Utah, St. George, Utah, and, of course, Zion National Park.
Near the start of the race and along the race course, the Fort Zion Outpost has, by far, the best bbq chicken, pork ‘n’ beans, and hamburgers anywhere this side of the Arizona. We gorged ourselves on the home-made food while watching others pet Alpaca’s and take selfies in front of a “ghost town” outside the restaurant. We happily ate we more than we should, and then got ice cream, because it was home-made and we couldn’t help ourselves.
My race, the Zion 100-50km, began early at 6am. Most races start at 7am, but the 25km was slated for that time, and considering this is the desert, and heat can be a serious issue, starting the race in the dark (with headlamps!) was a wise choice. The parking was easy, even though my wife had to leave early in the morning as she was delivering drop bags and getting into position to take photos at the aid station at the top of a mesa.
The start, as is always the case with Ultra Adventures, was an informal affair that began across the grass. I started near the rear of the pack, as I always do, since I’m racing against cutoffs and nothing else. Before long, the pack began to stretch and thin and it didn’t take long before I was running the dark mostly alone. That aloneness would continue for the majority of the race, except at aid stations and lookout points. Fortunately, that gave me the opportunity for selfies and self-videos.
At the start of the race, someone said, “There’s only one big hill!” While true, climbing over 1,500′ in about a mile is definitely a hill (grade approximately 30%), there are far more hills than just “The Big One” to the top of the mesa. I thought they were telling me the truth at the time, but once off the mesa, the climbs and descents were a tough discovery.
Fortunately, coming off the mesa I joined forces with an experienced runner, a veteran of several 100 mile races. Chatting for many miles, she allowed me to keep moving forward at a pace much faster than I would have normally.
The race was hot, dusty, and the views on the mesa amazing. Yet again, Ultra-Adventures has created an amazing challenge and tough course. Make no mistake: Ultra-Adventures races are tough. They are not easy. This one wasn’t, either. But if it was easy… Well, it wouldn’t be Ultra-Adventures.