Friday, October 24, 2014

Southern Utah's Bearclaw Poppy Trail

This week I ran the Bearclaw Poppy trail in southern Utah for the first time. I got to enjoy one of the things I love most - being out in the middle of nowhere without another soul in sight.

Mucho hot + trails that aren't too insane = perfect training for the Javelina Jundred next week.

Another first: I had entertainment from a stunt plane off in the distance.

In the weeks before a summer race I try to really step up my heat training. "Step up my heat training" is code word for making myself really, really miserable to prepare for the late stages of a 100 miler when I feel, well, really, really miserable. I go in the heat of the day wearing a long, dark shirt so that it feels like I am running through an Easy Bake Oven. That heat training pays off on race day.

Bearclaw Poppy is rated as a "Must Ride Classic" by Utah Mountain Biking. There were countless rolling hills and the trail isn't technical so I can see why mountain bikers love it. I saw a few while I was out there.

I liked the Bearclaw Poppy and the scenery was good. There were lots of trails that branched off with many more miles to explore so I'm sure I'll be back soon. I think it's so cool that for as many trails I've explored and thousands of miles I've run out here I still feel like I've only scratched the surface of what this area has to offer. I never feel bored. Every run feels like an adventure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

New FastCory Bio by "It Just Gets Stranger"!!

I am excited to announce the coolest thing to happen to the website since that Scott Jurek jumping picture. There is a new bio on the "About Me" link. But this isn't just any ordinary bio. This was written by the Jerry Seinfeld of the internet, Eli McCann from the website It Just Gets Stranger! Eli is brilliant and it's quite the honor to have his write-up. (Even more impressive considering a minor detail that we've never actually met in person.) Here is the bio Eli wrote:

Having spent a lifetime researching Cory’s life in order to write his biography, in 2014 I was finally able to fill an entire twelve-volume set, which I entitled “Fast Cory: What is He Really Running From, and GREAT RECIPIES AND IDEAS FOR CAR GAMES!”* Below I provide you an abridged version to give context for the nonsense he writes on about running absurd distances.

Cory has a wife. Apparently one with an amazing amount of patience and an uncanny ability to not murder a husband who sets an alarm clock for an ungodly hour each day so he can go on training runs across the continental United States before getting to his job where he works as a social worker. Which is not as fun as it sounds. Unless you think it sounds like someone who helps people in bad situations and NOT like someone who goes to parties and tells mildly humorous anecdotes, like I thought when he first told me his job title. In which case, his job is exactly as fun as it sounds. Interestingly, Cory had to obtain a Master’s Degree for this, which consisted of two years of post-grad sitting in a room with overly-emotional people, saying “and how does that make you feel,” and then pretending to write things on a clipboard. If nothing else, this will be excellent practice for when his three children are all teenagers at the same time.

Cory comes from a long line of very interesting people. For example, his great great great great great great Aunt Jackie used to churn her own butter. In fact, a good chunk of his ancestors actually lived without electricity for several centuries. It is this very unique background that has provided Cory the fortitude to persevere through all obstacles, ESPECIALLY THE ONES HE BRINGS ON HIMSELF BY SIGNING UP FOR THE RIDICULOUS 100 MILE RACES HE DOES. His connection to family history is also what inspired him to name the family dog “Aunt Jackie.” Actually I don’t know whether that’s true. I mean, he does have a family dog and that family dog’s name is truly “Aunt Jackie.” But I have no idea why. The dog is a man. And yet these people named it Aunt Jackie. NOT THAT WE’RE JUDGING BECAUSE THE DOG CAN BE WHATEVER IT WANTS AND GOD LOVES EVERYONE. But seriously. They named their male dog “Aunt Jackie.”

So far he sounds like a likable person. But there is a catch. One which I’ve mentioned a couple of times already. Cory runs 100-mile races. No, that is not a typo. No, this is not a drill. Yes, he should be imprisoned for this. Yes, you should call your congressman today.

Cory’s 100-mile races have taken him anywhere from 22 hours to 35 hours to complete. And in case you don’t understand how long that actually is, I just did the math and discovered that that is enough time to listen to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” on repeat between 392.07 and 623.76 times. AT A TWEEN PARTY. AT FULL VOLUME.

As you probably expect, running 100 miles straight is terrible for you. In fact, when Cory took 35 hours to complete the race that one time, he actually hallucinated and had a full conversation with the Care Bears. And I know what you’re thinking: “Oh my gosh, yes please!” But let me remind you—he had to run 100 miles to do this. Not worth it. I can hook you up with some amazing food poisoning or stomach flus or Ebola that will get you the same results without having to take a single step out the door.

We don’t really know why he does this. Some suggest that it’s because he needs to justify the absurd amount of cake he consumes, which has gotten so out of control that the last time he gave blood to the Red Cross, they just shipped his donation directly to Hostess to inject into their next batch of Twinkies.

Despite it being unfathomable that Cory is able to run these races, we, the readers of his blog, are happy that he does. Because what he writes about them is funny and interesting and inspiring in its own special way. Inspiring, because nothing in life seems that hard when you compare it to exercising to Celine Dion singing about the Titanic for more than a whole day.

Because Cory is so good at presenting this world that most of us are too lazy and too reasonable to explore ourselves, he has been able to write for and contribute photographs to UltraRunning Magazine. And anyone who reads his blog and sees the beautiful images he posts is not surprised that his creativity has been appreciated elsewhere.

Cory’s blog is fun. His family is beautiful. And his life goals are confusing. So please read.

*Because I haven’t actually met Cory, and because I was too lazy to do more research than a quick scan of his social media presence (WHY ALL THE CAT PICTURES?), I ran out of things to say about him after one page. So I had to fill the remaining 11.99 volumes with information about which I’m an expert.

  ~ Eli McCann from It Just Gets Stranger

See, I told you he was good! You can go read more of his writing at HERE. I'll get you started if you'd like. Here are some of my all time favorite posts on It Just Gets Stranger. I guarantee you will be sobbing with laughter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Tale Of The Three Unwise Men - Runner Edition

I'd like to tell you a tale of the Three Unwise Men (and give a few tips on how to hopefully avoid being unwise).

I met the Three Unwise Men at the Bear 100 a few weeks ago. We had plenty of time to become acquainted in the first 12 miles of the race. The trail was almost vertical. It was a straight climb up for 12 miles. It was like being in a fun conga line. For hours. But without the Caribbean music. And instead of people downing shots of alcohol they were downing shots of Salted Caramel Gu.

When you're in an hours long conga line it's fun to talk with other runners. I was next to the Three Unwise Men and we talked about some of our favorite races. I found out that the Three Unwise Men were all friends and planning to run the whole race together. And I learned that for each of them this was their first 100 miler.

In those steep climbs there was almost no running. It was so early in the race that it would be foolish to exhaust your energy with 90 more miles to go. But you know who was doing some running? Yep. The Three Unwise Men. I could hear them panting and out of breath. Not smart.

They got to the first aid station before me around mile 10. I grabbed a drink and a few pretzels and got on my way. Soon afterward we reached a long, steep descent. I ran alone for a long time. And then I heard runners coming up behind me. It was the Three Unwise Men. They must have spent quite a while at the aid station. They were barreling down the trail as fast as they could go. The exact thought I had as they screamed past me was "Those guys aren't going to finish the race. They are destroying their legs. This isn't going to end well." I hoped I'd be wrong.

At mile 30 I could see some runners up ahead that I was catching. One was walking like Frankenstein. The others were shuffling uncomfortably. As I got closer I saw that it was the Three Unwise Men. I passed by and asked if they needed anything. I never saw them again for the rest of the race and learned that they all dropped out of the race.

The Three Unwise Men made some really, really dumb mistakes. They ruined their chances of finishing within the first 20 miles of the race. I'm not putting them down at all because I have made those same mistakes and many, many others numerous times. Take, for example, the Javelina Jundred in 2012. I made really dumb mistakes that left my legs destroyed and writhing in pain in the middle of the night. I didn't finish that race.

I am far from being an expert. I still have so much to learn. After finishing fourteen 100 milers here are some tips I've learned that apply to racing, whether you're running a half marathon or a 100 miler.

1) Pace yourself. Trust yourself to go uncomfortably slow early in your race. It's so hard to be patient and hold back at the start when everyone else is speeding by in an adrenaline filled frenzy. But being patient in the beginning will pay ENORMOUS dividends later on in the race.

One of my most memorable experiences was at the 2012 St. George Marathon when I paced very conservatively early on and was able to go fast at the end. In the last 7.5 miles I passed 436 runners and was passed by 2! (Cool chip timing can show stats like that.) It was an unbelievable feeling to be going so fast at the end instead of doing the marathon death shuffle for the last 7 miles like I had typically done before.

2) Be aware of where you are at in the race. In a 100 miler I really make an effort to NEVER let myself get out of breath for the first 30 miles. In that time I also NEVER bomb down hills at full speed. Don't blow up your knees and quads when you still have half the race to go.

3) Bank energy, not time. In my first marathon I felt so good in the first ten miles that I went faster than my planned pace thinking that if I was feeling good I might as well bank some time for later in the race. So, so dumb! That brilliant strategy resulted in a ten mile death shuffle. It would have been much smarted to bank energy instead.

4) Be smart at aid stations. Nothing can pile on minutes (or hours) to your finish time like delays at aid stations. When you're nearing an aid station make a mental checklist of what you need to do or grab. Then when you get to the aid station, be quick and purposeful. Unless I'm stopping to dump out dirt or rocks from my shoes, I try to never sit down during a race.

The distance of a race is a hard enough obstacle. Don't make the race harder on yourself than it already is. Reaching the finish line of a race gives a huge sense of accomplishment and you want to do as much as possible to put the odds of getting there in your favor. Do whatever you can to avoid becoming one of the Three Unwise Men.

Monday, October 13, 2014

100 Mile Recovery: Eat Rabbit Food and Cookies

My recovery after a 100 miler always includes a week off of running. Not even a mile. I eat lots of healthy food. You know, the kind of stuff you would feed rabbits. I also eat way more than my share of junk food. I'm a cookie fiend. I figure my body worked hard. It deserves an ample supply of cookies. So in summary:

  • No running.
  • Eat rabbit food.
  • Eat cookies.
So after the Hurricane Hundred a week ago I took a break from running. I ate lots of fruits and vegetables rabbit food, and ate chocolate chip cookies, cheesecake, pumpkin pie, and a hot fudge sundae. And by Saturday I was ready to run again. I had quite the awesome running partner with me on this one: my son Jackson.

Jackson is new to trail running so whenever he comes along with me I make sure to take him to the prettiest spots I know. This time I took him to one of my favorite spots. I'm not sure this particular route has a name but it is an offshoot of the JEM Trail in southern Utah.

It was pretty warm. (And by "pretty warm" I mean "ridiculously warm".) And it was pretty bright. (And by "pretty bright" I mean "ridiculously bright".)

We laughed. We talked about the baseball playoffs. And soccer. And the Utah Jazz. Jackson said "Wow, to be a trail runner you have to be good at parkour!" 

The scenery around here is just so amazing. These are the views you see on the course of the Zion 100.

We saw one surprise guest:

Jackson likes to take pictures too and snapped these ones which I thought turned out awesome.

I don't take this stuff for granted. I fully realize how incredibly fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful area. And I'm fortunate to spend time with my family doing stuff like this. I have a lot to be thankful for. I couldn't count how many times I've run here and it never, ever gets old.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hurricane Hundred Miler Report - 2014

So.....I ran a solo 100 miler over the weekend. It was hard. I ran many of the trails around Hurricane, Utah so I decided to call it the inaugural Hurricane Hundred.

I was certainly hesitant to run the Hurricane Hundred, mainly because the grueling Bear 100 was only six days earlier. But I've got this nerdy streak going on where I've tried to run a 100 miler a month which I had done for eight months in a row. Our family is going to be really busy in October. So if I wanted to get a 100 in for October it had to be that weekend. I've never tried to do two 100 milers six days apart.

I started the run in Warner Valley where the scenery is simply beautiful. But after only three miles I considered bailing out. I just wasn't feeling it. My legs were stiff, a little achy, and had absolutely no energy. Of course it's not too hard to figure out why. I sat down on a rock at three miles and had a heart to heart talk with myself. Do I keep going or end the streak? The absolute top priority in ALL my training and racing is to keep my body in good shape and avoid injury to the extent that I avoid Katy Perry music - which is a lot.

I sat thinking for a bit and figured I'd go a few more miles before making a final decision. Finally, thankfully after about 8 miles my legs loosened up and I felt much better. I thought "Maybe I CAN do this." I stopped to check out some dinosaur tracks in the area.

By midday it was toasty hot reaching 86 degrees. I had my car parked in a central location that branched off in different directions. I had lots of water, ice, and treats in my car and would stop to refill my pack every 15-20 miles which worked well. I spotted this guy near the car and thought the markings looked cool.

I really, really love races because of the camaraderie and the opportunity to spend time with other awesome runners. I also really love these long solo runs too. It's fun to have no specific course, no cutoffs, no aid stations, no pressure, just running for the sake of running. Because running is awesome.

In the late afternoon I was feeling like someone popped me inside an Easy Bake Oven. The heat was zapping my energy. Then I came up a hill and saw an old, familiar friend. On top of a rock I saw a little pile of rocks that I had stacked last time I was here.....almost 10 months ago! (You can see that old rock tower HERE.) It was a long time ago that I forgot about the rock tower I had made. It had fallen over but the rocks were still there. I stacked them again and smiled. Next time I'll add another rock to the stack.

Some of my route was on trails. Some on dirt roads. And some of the miles were on no trail at all.

I listened to Trail Runner Nation and Ultra Runner Podcast and never felt bored being out by myself hour after hour. Each time I run here I stop at this same spot to admire the view. The contrast of colors always looks so awesome.

I stopped again on the return trip back.

I would have killed for a bit of cloud cover. Just a little bit of shade. But alas......nothing except a trail of white behind an occasional airplane up above. Come on Mother Nature, work with me on this one.

Once the sun started to set and it got slightly cooler I started to catch a second wind.

Mel and Jackson wanted to run some miles with me so after 42 miles on the trails I drove a couple minutes back into town and met them at the middle school track. The best part about the track is that it's dirt. I had a lot of fun running five miles with Mel and Aunt Jackie the dog.

After Mel left my 13 year old Jackson came over to do some laps. He said he was planning to stay all night. He would run for a while then take a nap when he got tired. I agreed and it was great to have him there with me. I couldn't help but think about the time when he stayed with me all night in July when I ran 100 miles around a track. He is a good kid.

I admit that in the middle of the night when I was so tired and sore and beginning to fall asleep while running, it was tough to look over at the grass and see this. I desperately wanted to curl up on the blanket next to him and take a nap.

In the very early morning Jackson woke up and got some more miles in. He ended up doing a total of 13 miles. I'm so proud of him and his dedication to working hard.

After Jackson was done running I still had 10 more miles to get to 100. I decided to stop the Garmin and drive a few minutes up the road so that I could finish the run on some trails. I decided to go to Gould's Rim, a trail that is close by with beautiful views.

Years ago when I was running on Gould's Rim I found an ancient artifact called a Van Halen cassette tape. I couldn't help laughing at the thought of someone being so upset at realizing that their Van Halen tape must have popped out of their Walkman when they were out on the trail. I put the tape in a secret spot and I go see it every time I'm on Gould's Rim. It was still there on this visit:

After 26 hours and 28 minutes I finished the Hurricane Hundred and my ninth month in a row of doing a 100 miler. I really can't wrap my head around the fact that my body was willing to run two 100 mile runs six days apart. I'm just a guy who likes to eat pumpkin pie, drink Diet Dr. Pepper, and watch Major League Baseball playoff games. I'm not some kind of elite runner with a sculpted, muscular body. You only need one look at me to know that.

So what I'm saying is that bodies are amazing. We can do some really awesome stuff. It wasn't too many years ago when I gave up on my goal of running a marathon because my knees wouldn't let me get past six miles. (That happened a few years in a row.)

I'm thankful that bodies adapt. God knew what he was doing when he built us. So if you have a goal with your running, go for it! You want to go for a half marathon? Great! Do it! You want to run a 100 miler? Sweet! Do it! Because that sense of accomplishment from running and working hard is awesome.

"If one could run without getting tired, I don't think one would often want to do anything else." ~ CS Lewis

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bear 100 Race Report 2014 - Weather of Biblical Proportions

Things that are difficult:
1) Listening to music from Celine Dion.
2) Eating only a few Hershey Kisses.
3) Running 100 miles going up and down steep trails that have turned to Crisco because it has been raining for twelve hours straight. There have been exactly zero times in my life when I have thought "You know what I want to do? I want to mud wrestle a mountain for twelve hours!"

This past weekend I ran the Bear 100, the hardest race course I have ever stepped foot on. I knew the 22,500+ feet of climbing would certainly get my attention. This is what the course looks like on paper:

The only thing that first climb was missing was some Caribbean music playing in the background because the first couple of hours were simply one long conga line up the mountain.

Once the sun started to rise I realized that my eyes would be in for a treat. With the autumn colors the mountains looked like they were glowing. The moment I took this picture I knew it would be one of my favorites:

Friday got up to 88 degrees and everyone was toasty hot. I felt like a baked potato wrapped in tin foil. By mid day the heat was taking its toll and I started hearing about people getting sick and dropping. From the very beginning I worked very hard to keep my pace conservative and not go out fast. Numerous photography stops kept my pace under control.

There were long stretches where I ran alone without anyone in sight ahead or behind me. During one of these times alone I came across some four-legged beasts who seemed to be trying to stop me from moving forward.

Since it was so hot outside I stuck with mainly liquid calories (Tailwind and Coke) because my stomach always tolerates those well. I am so thankful that I didn't have any stomach issues during the entire race.

I continued to keep my pace steady but very in control. 99.9% of the time that is the way to go. Although looking back on this race, I probably should have gone against that logic and pushed harder early on. The weather got so hideous later that it would have been better to have more miles behind me. The scenery was nothing short of spectacular.

I met this new friend Bob around mile 35ish. Bob is 66 years old. And I had a hard time keeping up with him. This is one of the many things I love about ultra running: age is irrelevant. Senior citizens can put the smack down on whipper snappers like me who are 30 years younger. So awesome.

The majority of trails on Bear are very steep ups or downs, and often very technical. But every once in a while there was some amazing, silky smooth single track that could pull you right down the trail.

I ended up wearing my Altra Lone Peak 2.0 shoes for the entire 100 miles. I never changed my socks and only sat down long enough to dump out a few rocks a few times. This was my first time racing with them and they were AWESOME. They were very comfortable and the traction was critical when the weather got ugly.

The thing I focused on most during this race was staying in the moment. I didn't keep track of pace. I didn't focus on how many more miles. I didn't look at the elevation chart in my pack to see what was coming up. I just wanted to run the mile I was in. It's hard to keep your brain from doing math like "Oh my gosh. I still have 60 miles to go. And if I keep this pace it will take me roughly a bajillion more hours to finish." Staying focused on each mile the race an even more amazing experience.

As the sun began to set and the temperature started to cool off, I caught my second wind. The weather reports leading up to the race said an enormous storm would hit during the race. Not "if" but "when". In the evening aid station workers had concerned looks. "The storm is coming. We are going to get pounded. It's not 'if' but 'when'."

At mile 45 I met a trail angel named Jenn Swanson. My friend said Jenn was looking for a runner to pace so I met Jenn and her awesome family there at mile 45 and she would join me for the next 30 miles. She lives in the area and is very familiar with the trails. She truly was a life saver.

I was around mile 50 when the "not if but when" storm hit, and it hit with a fury. The rain fell in currents. Wind. Thunder and lightning cracking close by. Weather of Biblical proportions. And the mountains turned into slick trails of Crisco. Hour. After hour. After hour of rain. I'm not sure how many times I ended up slipping and laying in the mud. It was so positively horrific that it was insanely comical.

Jenn is so positive and optimistic. We talked the whole time and she got me through very difficult miles. Words can not describe the conditions we went through. Just when we'd think "Wow, it can't get worse than this", the rain would start pouring even harder. It was just funny.

At mile 75 we met up with my brother Kenny who planned to pace me the last 25 miles. I tried to talk him out of it. I told him how miserable it was out there. I told him it was less like running and more like skiing. Skiing on Crisco. (And have you ever tried to ski UP Crisco before? No bueno.) But he was undeterred.

Those 25 miles with Kenny were incredibly challenging also. I was soaked to the core and freezing. I never thought about quitting but I was scared that with the trails in such poor condition I might not be able to go fast enough to make it to the finish before the 36 hour cutoff. Looking at the following picture you'd think "Oh, that's a beautiful pond." But nope. THAT'S THE TRAIL!

On the steep parts this looked more like a flooding river. Needless to say my feet were soaked in water like this for at least 15 hours. It literally poured rain almost constantly for 15-16 hours.

My friend Quintin Barney filmed this short clip of what it was like trying to run (and ultimately fall) on the trails. This is good:

Kenny and I pushed forward mile after mile. This was his first taste of ultramarathons but you wouldn't know it. He paced like a pro. In those 25 miles he saw runners at the absolute lowest of lows....but they persevered. They kept going. It was such an inspirational and triumphant and beautiful experience seeing what people were going through. I felt truly honored to be among the runners who kept putting one foot in front of the other even when it was really, really hard.

There were many times when I wasn't sure how I was going to make it to the finish line. I went through my share of highs and lows. But finally after 34 hours and 32 minutes my eyes saw something just as wonderful as the 100 miles of autumn leaves on those mountains:

I can't say enough about the volunteers at the race. They were so helpful and enthusiastic and positively awesome, especially considering that they were enduring the weather also. I wish I could share my belt buckle with them.

The Bear 100 is an experience I will never forget. I am thankful that it was ridiculously hard because it made me stronger. I get chills thinking about what transpired in those 34 hours. I will never be the same. (Not to mention the fact that I might have PTSD every time it rains for the rest of my life.)

"Adversity introduces a man to himself." ~ Unknown