Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Seven Phases Of Sauna Training

I joined a gym to use the sauna to train for Badwater, the 135 mile race in Death Valley coming up in July. Here's what I've learned: 1) I'm not a gym person. At all. I need fresh air. 2) The thermometer in the sauna says it is 178 degrees. 3) Hell is exactly 178 degrees. 4) At a gym, lots of people call you "Bro". 5) I have approximately 86% less muscle mass than most people at the gym. 6) I have made it up to 82 minutes so far in Hell, I mean the sauna.

I've realized that the average time people spend in the sauna is around 12 minutes. (You can monitor things like this when you are sitting in Hell with nothing else to do.) I want to walk you through the Seven Phases people go through while sitting in a sauna. Even though I'm in there longer than 12 minutes, I go through these exact same phases myself. Allow me to provide a picture representation:

You drive to the gym. You think to yourself "This is going to be fun! The sauna is relaxing. I will sweat out all the negativity and Justin Bieber music that infected my body when I turned on the radio during the drive.

You walk into the sauna, sit down, and think to yourself "Ah, who cares if the thermometer says 178 degrees. It doesn't feel thaaaat bad. I've totally got this!"

The denial phase doesn't last long. Within five minutes you start smelling your flesh melt. Beads of sweat begin forming on your arms, legs, head, and fingers. (Yep. Beads of sweat on your fingers.) You start to panic. "Uh oh. It's really freaking hot in here."

There's always the moron who thinks they're going to do some kind of physical activity in the sauna. Because that makes them more awesome. Maybe a few push-ups. Maybe some leg raises. Maybe some jumping.

This is when the sauna session starts to get ugly. You expect the Devil to walk into the sauna at any second and say "Hot enough for ya?" You are sitting in a puddle of sweat. (I'm sorry. That's really gross to say.) Sweat is LITERALLY pouring off of you.

Desperation sinks in. People look skyward as if to call in some a heavenly favor in the form of a sauna snow storm. (You think I'm joking but I'm serious. People always, ALWAYS look toward the sky like this. Always.)

When that heavenly blizzard doesn't arrive, people put their heads down in resignation. Sweat pours off their noses like a running faucet, and they generally remain in this position until they can stand Hell no more and they leave the literal pain cave.

Something I've realized the hard way is that sweating doesn't stop after you leave the sauna. I IMMEDIATELY go take a long, cold shower. But even after a long, cold shower, the body continues to sweat for at least a half hour. I'm not talking just a little sweat either. I'm talking profuse sweating. Embarrassing sweating. One time I went to the sauna before work. After my sauna session, I walked into my office sweating like I had just been break dancing for seven hours.

National Geographic describes Badwater as the hardest footrace in the world. I sure hope all this sauna suffering pays off when I find myself at the start line on July 18th.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A 33 Mile Triple McDonald's Run - My Preparation For Badwater

I've been working on stepping up my training to get ready for Badwater coming up next month. In case you're unfamiliar with the details, Badwater is:

1) A 135 mile run through Death less than 48 hours.
2) Described by National Geographic as "World's Toughest Footrace".
3) A prime staging ground for wild hallucinations of unicorns, leprechauns, and Oprah Winfrey pulling up beside you in the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile asking if you'd like a nice, cold cup of Sunny Delight.

Only 100 runners are selected after a rigorous application and resume process so I'm not taking this lightly. I'm hoping my training will leave me prepared to tackle the hardest race of my life on July 18th.

To prepare, I've been running in the heat of the day when possible. When I run near the Virgin River, I get a guaranteed speed workout as I try to outrun swarms of vampire, flesh-eating deer flies.

A week or so ago I planned to run from the Hurricane, Utah McDonald's to the Washington McDonald's, then back, of course stopping each time for an ice cream cone.

The entire route was 33 miles. After the first McDonald's I began a long, steady climb out of the Hurricane Valley. Despite the heat, I was feeling pretty good.

Unfortunately, when I arrived in Washington, Utah many hours later, I walked into the second McDonald's and realized that I lost my debit card somewhere along the way. I almost started crying. (No worries, I would have just blamed it on sunscreen in my eyes.) I ran the 16.5 miles home in calorie-deprived sadness.

A few days ago I upped the ante and ran on a hotter day. I left work in the evening and started my run at the St. George, Utah McDonald's with a celebratory double-handed ice cream cone pose.

It was 93 degrees when I started running. On one hand, that seems pretty warm. But on the other hand, that is nowhere NEAR the 8,000,000 degree temps we'll face at Death Valley. On her way home from work Mel stopped to say hello and gave me a loooong hit off her Dr. Pepper.

It didn't take long before I arrived at the Washington McDonald's. I went inside for a few minutes to get another ice cream cone and a Spicy McChicken Sandwich. Now this isn't going to come as a gigantic shock to most of you, but a mid-run Spicy McChicken Sandwich is just about the worst idea in the history of mankind. My stomach had 0% appreciation for my kind gesture.

A few years ago I ran a solo 100 miler across the Salt Lake Valley just using gas stations as my aid stations to refill calories and fluid. I planned to do the same thing for this 33 mile run. I feel embarrassed about the way I abused my stomach on this run. I don't normally eat like this, and I assure you that I paid a price for it, but my gas station stop included a donut and a Mountain Dew.

The gas station attendant asked why I was wearing a hydration pack so I told him I was going from St. George to Hurricane and back to St. George. I told him I'd be hitting up the Hurricane McDonald's, but would be back at his gas station in a few hours when I passed by on my way back to St. George. Eventually I made it to the last McDonald's of the trip.

When I made it back to the gas station, the same worker was there. He said "So you made it all the way to Hurricane and back? I bet that really humbled you." I refrained from telling him that I've run a handful of 100 milers in the past, so in the big picture, this run wasn't all that bad. I just nodded and said "Yeah, it humbled me for sure." I wasn't lying. I had indeed been humbled by the Spicy McChicken brick that was sitting in my stomach.

Yesterday I did my hottest run of the year - 20 miles in 100 degree heat. I think my body is starting to become acclimated to the heat, so with patience and focus, I was able to manage the temps fairly well. I guess you wouldn't exactly be able to guess that this was the case considering that my face looked like a ripe tomato.

It won't be long before I'll find out if my training has left me prepared for the race. July 18th will be here before I know it. I can't wait to meet Oprah!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Observation Point, Zion National Park Is Basically Amazing

I mentioned that my friends Catherine and Clair came down to southern Utah for a weekend of running. (You can read the first post with some pictures of remarkable scenery HERE.)

The final stop on our weekend running extravaganza was Observation Point in Zion National Park. A surrounding storm dumped on us every once in a while but made the scenery even cooler:

Observation Point is my favorite trail in Zion. I really love how some sections of the trail are literally cut right into the mountain.

Trust me when I tell you that pictures from the point don't nearly do justice to how beautiful the views are.

Catherine caught this picture of me on our way back down the trail:

Then I caught this one of her later on:

I've run hundreds of miles with these guys. Every time I share the trails with Clair, I am constantly impressed by the fact that this guy is more than two decades older than me....and can still easily smoke past me effortlessly.

After Observation Point we went to Hidden Canyon. It was a tad scary.

I am terrified of heights. I don't want anything to do with any trail that involves holding on to a chain to prevent yourself from falling perilously into a messy splat at the bottom of the canyon. (I've never gone all the way to the end of Angel's Landing in Zion National Park for this very reason.) I gave myself some mid-trail mental health therapy and managed to conquer the trail. Go me.

I pretty much love these guys. The combination of beautiful trails and awesome friends is a perfect mix.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

When The Only Thing Your Friends Want To Do Is Run

My friends Clair and Catherine came down from northern Utah a week or so ago. They came down for one reason: to help eat the three loaves of cinnamon bread I bought from Costco. Wait. Come to think of it, there was one other reason: to run.

Catherine and Clair had never enjoyed the awesomeness of southern Utah's trails before. The plan was to show them around my very favorite trails. We just wanted to run and run. Mostly to justify all that Costco cinnamon bread. There was a hefty supply of reminiscing. A hefty supply of laughing. And a hefty supply of jumping.

I got to know Clair and Catherine many years ago through work. We've run countless miles together during many races, including every step of a 100 miler together. I can't tell you how much I love these peeps.

The first destination of the weekend was Gooseberry Mesa. It is a little slice of heaven. These amazing trails are also part of the Zion 100.

I seriously love this jump shot from Catherine:

Clair is kind of a freak of nature. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if he is actually a Cyborg. Clair is more than two DECADES older than me and Catherine....and yet we continually found ourselves working hard to keep up with his speedy legs.

In the evening we headed to Sand Mountain with my wife Mel, Catherine's husband Kacey, our friend Tia, and my brother-in-law Matt. The views from the top are unspeakably beautiful. (To get a true appreciation of the scenery, check out THIS video from The Piano Guys which has 49 MILLION (not a typo) views.

There were a few jumping pictures to be had at the edge of the cliff. Here is Matt:

And then I got one in myself:

I caught this shot of Clair running along the ridge:

Watching the sun set along the cliffs of southern Utah was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Monday, May 9, 2016

I've Been Struggling A Lot

I've been struggling a lot with self-control lately. This has resulted in me running more miles to counteract my complete lack of will power. My struggle with self-control stems from two sources:

1) Costo has this cinnamon butter bread that tastes like it was made by angels. A heavenly choir of these bread making angels rejoices with every bite. On a 1-10 scale of amazingness, it ranks 427. And of course you can't buy just one loaf. The package at Costco contains three loaves. I can't help myself.

2) Our neighbor Julie brought over Monkey Bread last night. Basically it is a pan full of cinnamon, sugar, and butter covered carbohydrates. I took a few bites, then blinked, and when I looked down, almost half of it had teleported into my stomach.

To counteract my self-control problems, I've enjoyed a chunk of miles in Warner Valley. The wild flowers are popping around here and they look downright awesome.

That awkward moment when the beam of a UFO grabbed me by the chest and yanked me skyward:

I came across my first snake of the year. There will surely be many more snakes (and many more of my high pitched screams like a little girl when I almost step on them) this coming summer.

I took Mel on her first "run" to Toquerville Falls. In actuality, much of the route isn't a run at all. It's a slog up hills that feel like they are never going to end.

At one point Mel said "How many more miles until we reach the top of the mountain? Basically how many more miles am I going to hate you?"

Eventually we reached Toquerville Falls and Mel stopped hating me.

We ate some Butterfingers that had been stashed in my pack since who knows when. And they were delicious. Because difficult trails always make candy taste better. We enjoyed the waterfall for a while before heading back.

Mel caught this picture on the way down:

I'm not going to buy anymore Costco bread because eating one slice turns into three loaves. I'll eat more broccoli and try to convince myself that it tastes almost as good as Monkey Bread. And when I buy more Butterfingers, instead of eating them on the spot, I'll put them in my pack for the next run.