2019 Zane Grey 50

“Regarded as the toughest, roughest and most beautiful 50 mile trail runs in the country.  It run on the Highline trail near Christopher Creek, Arizona, at the base of the Mogollon Rim.”

I can say that it’s probably the hardest, and most beautiful, 50 miler I’ve ever run.  I was not scared by the talk of rocks, difficulty, etc., but I did treat the race with a ton of respect and I’m glad I did.  I’m still trying to get back to a previous fitness level and I felt like it was time to put a 50 mile on the calendar.  The timing of this race worked well which is why I chose it.  I didn’t choose it because I thought I was going to crush the competition though.  Fifty miles is still a long way for me and it’s the longest I’ve run since last October.  Regardless, I have zero regrets for signing up – what an amazing and awesome race!

The Zane Grey 50 miler takes place on the outskirts of Payson, AZ which is north of Phoenix and it sits somewhere around 5000’ as a starting elevation.  The high point of this race is somewhere above 7000’ which makes this whole thing interesting for me on many fronts.  First, I’m not exactly at 100% as far as fitness.  Second, living at much lower elevation, 7000’ feels a lot low on O2 to me.  The plan was to treat it like a hundred miler and chill for the first half.  If I had anything at the turn around, I would move with purpose back toward the finish. 

When the race started, I met a couple of ladies and we ran together for nearly 30 miles at which point, we all started to do our own thing and we parted ways.  Prior to that, it was all jokes and random conversation.  It’s interesting how you’ll talk about just anything in the middle of an ultra and we did.  It certainly made the time go by quickly.  When we eventually parted ways, I felt the switch flip as far as fun vs running an ultra fun.  25 miles running on rugged country will do that to you though.

Prior to the race, in the few emails received from the RD, he mentioned rocks -- there were plenty.  Where I run normally is technical so while I didn’t think this was all that more difficult than what I normally run, I can see why people might complain.  It’s rocky.  Frequently.  If you are not accustomed to rocks and you are accustomed to complaining, this is not the place for you.  In addition, if you’re not into races where the exit is difficult, this is also not the race for you because with the exception of the 2-ish miles of flat back to the finish, the miles prior to that leading to the end are HARD and mostly headed in an upward direction.  And it’s hot.  Or at least it could be.  It’s not a PR course by any means.

Pushing all of that aside, this is my second favorite ultra only to be bested by Tahoe Rim.  Both of these courses are amazingly beautiful and after you run either, the bar gets set high as far as your expectations for what an ultra should look like.  I want single track, wilderness, trees, amazing views, and both of these courses give you that and more.

Last month, I raced the Crown King Scramble and I made some small mistakes.  I made some corrections for this race and then I made a few new small mistakes.  Mostly, these issues revolve around changing up my nutrition plan in an attempt to feed more off of the course than carrying stuff in.  Zane Grey in particular has aid stations without food, just water, and the need to be more self-sufficient is kind of mandatory.  I didn’t use drop bags but probably should have.  There’s no one size fits all plan and without seeing the course, it’s hard to say exactly what you should or shouldn’t do.  Going into this race again, and I will, I’d use drop bags to get food, to drop gear, and in general, make the journey easier.

Hopefully I can stay healthy enough to do this race again next year.  I would love to push the effort and race this like a 50 miler.  Regardless, what a fun and hard course!  I highly recommend this race to anyone who isn’t afraid of a difficult course because it won’t disappoint. 

Next stop, Grand Canyon!