Mike Foote and I(Justin Yates) ran the Trans-Zion route, in Zion National Park, from east to west on Sunday May 26th, 2013, in 7:22:08, setting a new overall and east to west FKT. Below is a brief recap of the run.
Mike and I set out from the East Entrance at 5am on Sunday of Memorial day weekend. Our early start had the two fold goal of beating the holiday throngs through the heart of the park and also of avoiding the "real" heat of the day later in the run. With headlamps donned we moved at a comfortable but quick pace along the East Rim Trail. As we fell into a rhythm we made a wrong choice at an early junction where a service road crossed the trail, but quickly realized our mistake and regained the East Rim Tail losing just 3 minutes in total. We continued the climb and subsequent descent and arrived at the Grotto 1:35 into the run. We received aid(from my girlfriend Paige and friend Jeremy), refilled bottles at the spicket and started the climb to Angels Landing and the West Rim Trail. Having never run in the park I had no real feel for what lay ahead and fell in behind Mike who pushed a controlled effort up the climb to the ridge. From the ridge we continued our push to the top of the West Rim Trail where I took over pulling us through the next very cruisable section to the junction of the West Rim and Wildcat Trails 26ish miles in, arriving 3:55 into the run. (A quick note on splits; since Travis Macy ran west to east his splits did not really translate to our effort. I ended up leaning heavy on Luke Nelson's(thanks Luke!) splits. Knowing we had to be 22 minutes under Luke's time I took notes of our splits vs. his(Luke), subtracting our time at each split and adding the remainder to see where we were in relation to Travis.) We received quick aid here from Paige and Jeremy and started the next 9 mile stretch to the Hop Valley Trail. This section along the Wildcat and Connector trails was very runnable and flowy, which led to a quick and enjoyable arrival at the Hop Valley Trail Head, 5:11 into the run. We received aid here for the last time of the run and departed on the Hop Valley Trail. The 6-7 miles on the sandy, relentless, winding, flat Hop Valley Trail were what I consider to be the crux of the east to west route. Staying mentally focused and not fighting the sand is the key to moving through the Hop Valley efficiently, because moving through it quickly is very relative. Grinding down Hop Valley we swung on to La Verkin creek and without any verbal communication began to turn our legs over on the trail to Lee Pass. Keeping a close eye on our watches we fought up the remaining few miles of trail and all of its rolling qualities. I admit that I bonked hard in the last two miles and clung desperately to Mike's finishing kick. In the end we fought the final small climb and tapped the sign and watches in 7:22!
On the whole this is an incredible, aesthetic point to point route that traverses a diversity of environs, never losing its appeal throughout(even in Hop Valley). The route really has a lot of cruisable trail and outside of the West Rim climb has no monster vertical gains or losses. Having said that, the mixture of sand and technical rock serves to keep the overall pace slower. Also, receiving aid at the three logical locations of the Grotto, West Rim-Wildcat junction, and Hop Valley trailhead is HUGE. It was a commitment on their part. Major thanks to Paige and Jeremy for their support and patience! I would also input that running this route as a duo was, i believe, a major factor in lowering the time. Having a bag full of long adventures with Mike was crucial in how well we worked the push-pull of the day and completely added to the experience. Very fortunate to have been able to pursue and accomplish our goal together as a team! Thanks to everyone who posted beta on previous runs, it all added up!
West Rim/Wildcat- 3:55
Hop Vally TH- 5:11
Lee Pass- 7:22