SLOWING IT DOWN FOR SUCCESS
On April 4 I ran across Zion National Park, west to east on the route known as the Zion Traverse with my trusted adventure partner, Heather. A trail closure in place meant the 50-mile route was for us a 37-mile route, still crossing much of the park but skipping the southeast corner. The route is a classic backpacking route and has some fast FKTs by elite runners, but we were just going for a full day being out in a beautiful place. Yet even though speed wasn’t the goal, in looking back the biggest take away was the value of SLOWING DOWN.
Coming from our PNW winter to a 7am start that only required short sleeves was NOT what I expected. It was projected to be 80 degrees which may well have been 1,000 degrees in how it felt by the time the sun was fully up. The route is also mostly around 7,500 feet and the first miles include deep sand. The point here is, however fast I THOUGHT WE COULD RUN was useless.
I knew the first few miles were relatively flat through the Hop Valley and was hoping for a certain pace. Much of the time we were double my dreamed up pace. It was ABSOLUTELY the right pace to go since running through deep sand sucks energy like a good vacuum, so hiking it was. It was gorgeous and no one was waiting for us but it was hard for me not to feel antsy that we should be going faster.
Then there was a section of slick rock with no apparent route markers. Thank you to digital navigation to make it easy to find the way, but again, not so fast moving for yet another section. Again, slow it down, don’t get lost, patience.
Then up on a plateau and the terrain flattens. Although I was carrying 4 liters of water (ouch, so heavy) I knew we would need more later, so again, slowing it down I put snow from the small piles left in the trees in my handheld. I think this saved my day in that I was able to keep cool by having ice in hand for hours at a time and also drinking ice water was a dream in that heat. This also allowed me to share water with Heather keeping us both moving well. But every stop for snow was another slow down.
With about 7 miles to go, the trail is mostly downhill. It is also the most gorgeous part of the route with big walls, amazing formations and awe inspiring vistas. Turns out, that my estimation of time for the route was almost exact. I figured 10 hours would be fastest possible. 12 hours would be realistic. We finished in 11:50. Turns out going slow was the key to success as was a great run partner, snow patches, thousands of calories of sugar, and patience.
For more on the Zion Traverse, see the route here. Some nerdy logistics here.
coach dana on running, racing and adventure