Zane Grey 50M, Pine, Arizona 4,5

Elevation Range:  5400-6920'             Total Elevation Gain:  11,000'    
Sunrise Twilight:  0515      Sunset Twilight:  1937       Results
Weather Forecast            Hourly Graph            Camping            Guide
April 26, 2014 - Regarded as one of the most challenging 50-milers in the
U.S.,  the Zane Grey course follows the historic Highline Trail in Tonto National
Forest between the towns of Pine and Christopher Creek.  The trail dates to
the 1870's when trails were built below the Mogollon Rim in the central part
of Arizona to connect homesteads to early pioneers of the West.  Due to the
difficulty of the course, which includes long distances between aid stations,
this is considered a graduate level ultrarunning adventure.

Zane Grey is the kind of race I dream of running.  It is rocky and tough, but I didn't
take into account the variable of weather as I prepared to run under the Mogollon
Rim this morning.  A nasty late winter storm was forecast to cross the area today.
Anticipating the potential for flash flooding on two of the later stream crossings
the Race Director made the tough decision to divert the course to an alternative
route after mile 33.  It was a smart decision.  Despite my disappointment at not
being able to run the regular course for 51 miles, I lined up at 0500 with the
option of running no more than 46 miles or optionally stopping at 33 miles.

Temps at the start were deceptively warmer than forecast - a mild 50 degrees.
It changed the way I dressed and what I put into my drop bags.  I added an extra
cotton layer to protect from the winds, forecast to gust to 36 mph.  The problem
was that the extra layer led to extra sweating on the initial climb.  After an hour,
despite climbing conservatively, I was soaked.  Then the storm hit an hour and a
half into the race, first with light rain, increasing gradually until we experienced
hail and ultimately snow.  The winds picked up as temps dropped into the low
thirties.  As long as I kept an even tempo I was comfortable and all was good.  


Coming through the first aid station at 8 miles in under two hours, I was satisfied
with climbing at three miles an hour and descending at five.  At about twelve miles
I had to yield to nature's call, baring my behind to a horizontal blizzard of chilly
hail.  Pausing for just a few minutes to take care of business dropped my core
temperature more than I could have anticipated.  I was never warm again.

The next aid station at 17 miles was another five miles, so I ran as much as 
possible to try to bring up my temperature.  The hills were mild so were not too
big of a challenge to roll over.  The trail became pasty with the rain and shoes
were a pound heavier and kicking up clods.  Things became slippery at points and
I took extra effort to negotiate wet rocks and slippery slopes as I descended.
I couldn't raise my core temp.  The winds in the frequent climbs to exposed areas
were relentless, wafting away what little precious heat remained between my 
fleece and soaked body.  I felt like I was starting to get into trouble with
hypothermia; it is a place I've been before, and I don't like it.  Hypothermia is a 
killer and I had to pay attention to an emerging priority - my own survival.

With the blood withdrawing from my exposed hands, I tucked away my bottle
and pulled them into my sleeves as much as possible for protection.  Taking up 
with a fellow named Mike, I worked at staying with him for a couple miles, using
conversation as a distraction to reach the aid station at mile 17.  I faced a tough
choice as to what to do.  The storm seemed to be getting worse.  I had to get my
core temp up before proceeding, or stop altogether.  I really didn't want to stop,
but knew that may be my only choice.

Rolling into the aid station I immediately sought warmth.  The race director Joe 
directed me to crawl into the warm cab of a UHaul, which was just the ticket.  
Stripping from my wet under layers I put on a clean, slightly wet shirt from my
drop bag and found immediate relief, but was noticeably shivering without control.
Joe crawled in with me and said my face was blue in color.  He took a picture as 
proof.  I knew I was in trouble, but still laughed at the idea.  I thought if I warmed
up a bit I could continue, but Joe would not have left me, indicating that most
people were stopping and that the race was cancelled beyond the following aid
station because the weather to the north was even worse and deteriorating.

It did not take me long to consider the potential for disaster if I was to again chill
to the same degree while in transit to the next aid station over even tougher
terrain 16 miles further.  As I sat there shivering uncontrollably in a warm van, I
accepted that my day was over.  Joe arranged a ride for me to the Fish Hatchery
where my crew of one - Mike Monyak - would meet me.  After a long ride in a warm
van, with some other folks who stopped at 17 miles, I was still cold two hours later.
I found Mike immediately and was still shivering two and a half hours later, with 
blue fingernails.  A long hot shower never felt so good.

The 17 miles took me 4 hours and 24 minutes, a reasonable effort against the trail
and the elements.  I never pushed and never fell.  All systems were intact.  It was
a short training run, on net.  My legs were preserved for further training runs in
Sedona later this week.  The trail was everything I dreamed it would be, but I
couldn't give it my full attention and race.  I'll return here in September to run many
of these same trails under the Mogollon Rim and on the other side of the ridge.
I hope to have more conducive weather and a better effort then.  I look forward to
testing myself against a hundred miler here.  

A huge thanks to director Joe Galope and his generous staff of volunteers.  Top
notch.  And a huge thanks to Kay Reed and her son Connor for generously driving
me and others to safer shores.  Those in and around this sport are my family, and
are perhaps more the reason I do this than the physical challenge.