The Land of Zion–Zion 50 Race Report

Due to the lack of snow and my early races I started out my race training earlier this year than previous years. I was still feeling strong after all the fall running that I did (Coyote, Zion traverse, etc.) and the SkiMo racing over the winter. I planned my training schedule for the Zion 50 with a very determined goal time in mind. I trained on fast, rolling hills where I worked on running the majority of each training run – even running the hills as often as possible. I also had a great training partner, Emily S, who did a fantastic job in helping me increase my speed and was a great training partner. I, in turn, had the privilege of helping Emily S with her training schedule and getting her head wrapped around her first 50 mile race.

Since we were both running the race we decided to make it a weekend and invite our guys to join us. We left first thing Friday morning in order to get to Springdale and enjoy the afternoon. On Friday afternoon, we had a little bit of time to sit by the pool and swim at the Desert Pearl Hotel before we had to pick up our racing packets. The guys were able to get in a road ride in Zion National Park.

Saturday morning we were up at 4 AM to get breakfast and drive to the starting line in Virgin. We started the race at 6 AM in perfect cool temperatures.

Zion 50 Start

I felt great really pushing my speed for the first 4 miles. We then had a very steep uphill for a little over a mile to climb to Gooseberry Mesa. I love to hike those steep hills so that was great for me. At that point we ran the entire mesa which consisted of rolling terrain, slick rock, sand, and pretty tough navigation. Numerous racers got lost in this section.

I came into the first aid station and immediately noticed that there were a couple people at the aid station who didn’t pass me so I at first wondered if I had caught a couple people. The gentleman filling my water bottle let me know that this was mile 20. I then asked him if he meant 21.33 (what my Garmin was reading) and he said no and that I must have gotten some bonus miles. That was confirmed when I talked to Chad just before the 27 mile aid station and he let me know that there were 3 girls that got ahead of me when I was “off track” and now I was in 6th place (of women). Between miles 27 and 41 I pushed it to catch the 3 women. I passed 2 and then finally caught the 3rd at the 41 mile aid station. I left before she did but she quickly caught and passed me.

Descending from Little Creek Mesa


Descending from Little Creek Mesa

I was on track for my goal to finish in under 10 hours until mile 44.9 (mile 47 on my) when I totally melted with what was a combination of dehydration, heat exhaustion (90+ degrees), and probably some nutrition issues. Luckily Chad was with me at that point and had to help me walk into that aid station. I was pretty scared about how my body was reacting to these conditions and at that point didn’t think I could continue the race. I sat at the aid station and tried to get a lot of calories, liquid, and get cooled off. The aid station had water misters which were a savior. The cramping and the lightheadedness took a while to decrease. After a 2 hour recovery, I was finally get up and jogged the 4.8 miles to the finish. It was still a PR for me but definitely not as good as I was hoping for. I really think I might have pushed too hard in the beginning which is actually a big accomplishment for me as I’m not usually mentally able to do that.

Zion 50 Finish

At the end of the race, I was 10th woman in 11:46. Emily S was able to win the women’s division in her first ever 50 mile race. I am so proud of her for this.

Emily Sullivan – Zion 50 Women’s Winner

The Zion race crew did a great job at the finish. They had a shower that you could stand under as you crossed the finish line which was absolutely heavenly. There was a live band and it took place at a lovely park and great food (so I was told – my stomach was not quite right to eat yet).


Feet in tough shape from the heat and swelling

We spent Sunday morning sitting by the pool while Chad went on a road ride. Then Brent and Emily S took us to a great climbing spot in Zion Park. We hiked in about a ½ hour in and I watched Brent, Emily S, and Chad climb (my blisters would not let my feet into climbing shoes). It was an awesome wall with large hueco’s for holds. Brent climbed a beautiful 5.12a called Namaste and the rest of them climbed Half Route a fun 5.10+

Brent leading Half Route


Chad climbing Half Route


We then hiked back to the car and enjoyed a couple beers in the warm desert sun before driving home.

It was a great weekend spent racing and with friends.

Relaxing with a beer at the end of the weekend.


More photos can be viewed in the Zion photo gallery.

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