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Trip Report: Zion 55K Ultra-running
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Trip Report: Zion 55K Ultra-running

Trip Report: Zion 55K Ultra-running

Zion 55K

We’re pretty new to the whole ‘organized ultrarunning’ thing. We’ve spent a lot of hours on our feet, moving from point-to-point in the mountains but the act of running an actual race for 30+ miles is something we don’t have a lot of experience doing. When a few of our friends signed up to run the Zion 55K, we jumped on board and attempted to fit a running training schedule into our skiing/climbing-packed weekends. For us, the key to a successful training plan includes a lot of variation. We ran new-to-us trails in Forest Park, scoped out a few climbs in the Columbia River Gorge, and experimented with new gear. The remaining months leading to the race were filled with a few bloody knees, lots of sore muscles, and a couple of purchases. It was all worth it in the end- racing around the desert outside Zion National Park was an incredible experience.

 

Favorite Places to Run (in the Winter)
 

  • Columbia River Gorge: the Angel’s to Devil’s Rest Loop is a fun 10-mile loop touting ~3,000’ of climbing. We were lucky enough to spend ⅓ of this loop walking/sliding around on 2’ of snow.

 

  • Forest Park: aka our usual training ground. Linking long sections of the flat Wildwood trail with the steep climbs and descents on the Fire Lanes was great training. We even got to scramble up, over, and around the plethora of downed trees that the winter storms took out.

 

  • McDonald-Dunn Forest: we ran a fun, 12-mile loop on the trails just outside of Corvallis, near Lewisburg Saddle. The weather threw its winter might at us- we had everything from light rain to spitting powder snow over the course of this run. Mental preparation at its finest.

Zion 55K

Race Report

Ultra Adventures really knows how to put on a fun race. The volunteers were well-organized, the aid stations were smoothly run and the course was pretty well marked. The race is even touted to be a “zero-waste event,” meaning that all utensils, cups, plates, etc. were reused- no trailsides littered with disposable cups! The major downside to this was that the start/finish area had no additional water- you drank what you brought with you or you didn’t drink at all. To cap it all off, the finishers got some fantastic homemade mugs and the 100 milers got custom-made belt buckles. Food at the finish line was either gourmet rice and bean bowls or DIY pizza - creative!

Zion 55K

For the 55K course, we ran dirt roads that quickly turned into a rocky single track trail that lead us up towards Gooseberry Mesa. The climb up Gooseberry was described as “hands on knees” hiking and they weren’t kidding - it gains about 1K’ in less than a mile. Once on top, the running was quite technical with many sections solely on sandstone boulders. We spent 12 miles playing “connect the white dots and pink flags” and enjoying the near-perfect temperatures. It was really fun, albeit slow, running.

Zion 55K

After completing the Gooseberry loop, we descended the way we came up- technical, scrambly, loose running that was both fun and exciting. There was a lot of “don’t fall, don’t fall” mantra-ing. Once we were off the mesa, we ran 10 miles of rolling dirt roads and drainages to the final aid station where we tried to eat snacks, refilled water bottles, and took a minute to recover. Temps were picking up at this point and so was the wind- a good incentive to try to pick it up for miles 26-34. Crossing the finish line, we were each greeted with cheers and high-fives. One of the best parts of running ultras is the community. People we each respectively ran with (for minutes or miles) cheered us on when we entered the home stretch. It was an empowering, encouraging feeling that can be hard to come by in other racing environments, and it’s one we hope to keep coming back to.

Corie’s Race-Day Gear

Zion 55K

Andy’s Race-Day Gear

  • Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts
  • Nike Miler Singlet
  • Injini Ankle Socks
  • Altra Lone Peak 3 Running Shoes
  • Nathan SpeedDraw Plus 18oz Water Bottle
  • Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Watch

To learn more about Corie & Andy - the Mountain Refugees Click Here

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