Thursday, February 22, 2018

Jackpot Race Report - A Family Ultramarathon!

Last year my wife and I took the kids to Disney World. Though the kids had a blast, Mel and I realized that we are allergic to standing in a line for two hours for a 90 second roller coaster. I'm pretty sure I'd rather have a spleen removal than go to another theme park.

After last year's trip to Disney World, you can imagine the abounding excitement the kids felt when we told them that this year we would be running a 48 hour race together. They were so thrilled that they hoisted me and Mel on their shoulders and shouted that we were the BEST PARENTS EVER!! (Or something like that.) (Or nothing like that.)

We like the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival in Vegas. I've run it a bunch of times and it is the only race where I've ever run a sub-24 hour 100 miler. The course is a 2.5 mile loop so you get to know the other runners well, considering that you see them so often.

Going into the race, we told the kids we had no expectations of them except to go have fun. We didn't want to pressure them to go farther than they wanted. With a timed race like this, you just go as far as you want within 48 hours. (They have a 24 hour, 12 hour, and 6 hour race too.) You run when you want, you rest when you want. Since we brought the kids along, we decided to rent an RV for a few days so we'd have a place to rest when not out on the course.

I gave them a little talk about what to expect. In summary: don't get behind with fluids and nutrition. Start slow. A nipple with a Bandaid is a happy nipple. They have cheesecake at the aid station. Eat some cheesecake. I think that pretty much covers all the important things. Then we checked in.

I need to give a disclaimer: those first two pictures are us as a happy family. But those times were the minority. Usually we were wanting to strangle each other. Everyone would take their turns fighting, complaining, arguing, or giving the silent treatment. We just hoped that in the end, this would be a good experience.

The race started Friday morning. Run. Walk. Rest. Cheesecake. Run. Walk. Rest. Cheesecake. Hour. After. Hour. I truly loved seeing Mel and the kids out on the course and being able to give them a high five or a sweaty hug when we passed each other.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted my kids to have an experience at a race like this is to be surrounded by the amazing community of runners who are so supportive and encouraging. Take, for example, my friend Colleen Zato. I've known Colleen for years and always love the miles I spend with her. My admiration grew when I saw her work through some very dark times to finish Badwater. But I love her even more after Jackpot. Colleen and her boyfriend Alex kind of took Jackson under their wing and spent many, many miles with him. Getting lost in conversations with friends always makes the miles go by quicker.

A mile 34 jumping picture:

One of the biggest highlights of my race was being able to share some miles with legendary runner Ann Trason. Among her many accomplishments, she has won the Western States 100 a remarkable 14 TIMES! She is the most accomplished female ultrarunner ever. It was an honor to finally meet her and get some miles together. (When I asked her why she added the red feather boa later in the race, she said "I was needing an attitude change.")

I also met Ann's crew/pacer Dill. One night he stood by his tent handing out happy stickers to everyone who passed by. Sometimes a sticker can help you forget how loudly your legs are complaining.

Around 2:00am on the first night, I received my formal invitation to the pain cave. I reluctantly accepted the invite. I did lots of miles in training but no amount of training can prepare you for those late miles in a race.

The race is held at Cornerstone Park which is a bird refuge. There are geese everywhere. They are gigantic. And fearless. For a while, one of them was parked right in the middle of the trail by the timing tent. He looked like he was just itching to take a chunk out of my calf.

It seemed like it would never come, but finally we made it to the second day of the race. I loved seeing and talking with so many amazing people. One of them was my friend Tony Nguyen. Before this race, Tony had finished five 100 milers. And...he had dropped out of 17. This is the kind of tenacity and stubbornness that I LOVE. (Here's something cool: after this race, Tony had finished six 100 milers.)

Race director Ken Rubeli was pestering me for weeks before the race that he wanted to see a lap with the hideous cat suit. I gave in. How To Question Your Masculinity In One Easy Step: Wear a cat unitard during an ultramarathon. (This picture could also be titled "The Dangers Of Peer Pressure".)

Is a family pity party allowed after running hours upon end? I vote yes. Here is a picture of our camper pity party.

Among the awesome people I spent time with during the race, one of them was my friend Clair Coleman. He was one of my crew members when I ran Badwater and can attest that this man is a true saint.

On the second night I took a few breaks to sleep for 60-90 minutes, then got back out on the course to get in a few more miles. And then before we knew it, the race was done.

If you ever need proof that miracles exist, spend a weekend at an ultramarathon. I personally experienced many miracles. And I saw miracles with other runners. But my favorite miracles were with my family. From left to right, Jackson covered 65 miles! Kylee went 50 miles! Danica ran 40 miles! Mel traveled 52.5 miles! And I finished 130 miles. This is a weekend I will never forget.

Thanks to Altra, Tailwind Nutrition, Injinji, UltrAspire, and St. George Running Center for all your support of crazy adventures like this!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Update On My Upcoming Book!

AWESOME news! My new book about Badwater, the 135 mile run across Death Valley is getting close! It’s in the final stages of editing. And I brought on the amazing Luke Thoreson to help co-write! (Photo by Jud Burkett)

I was first introduced to Luke's writing when I came across his blog. His posts about buying a month-long all-you-can-eat pass at Olive Garden are so, so good. His writing is intelligent and hilarious, and he also has a deep connection with Badwater. You can check out his blog HERE.

Here's how the process went: I finished writing the book. Then I sent it to Luke. He took my manuscript and added another delicious dose of spice, sass, and humor. I seriously LOVE how it turned out.

When I asked Luke why he loves Badwater so much, he said “As four-time crew member, I think the question of why is amplified for crew members compared to the runner. Janice from accounting can at least somewhat understand someone wanting to run a race ("My niece ran a marathon!") - but when you tell her that you're going to spend 24+ hours in a van with three other people, eating your body weight in cookies and Fritos (magical scoops of deliciousness), and driving two miles at a time to hand someone a cup of Coke and a fistful of animals from the genus "gummus" (my personal favorite is "scandanvianus piscus," or what the lay person calls Swedish Fish) is a bit harder to explain. Why is Badwater week the first PTO request I make on January 1st? Because. Because of the moments looking around the crowded, chaotic registration room and seeing someone's face light as they do the one arm shake / other arm hug to another runner who provided some much needed company at mile 74 of last year's race. Because it's turning off the headlamp, walking away from the hazard lights blinking, blinking blinking, and looking up into the sky hearing the far-away howl of coyotes and appreciating how a moment can be both humbling and intimate. Because it's a chance to wear a T-rex costume and entertain/make a runner question their sanity ("But where would a dinosaur even get a light saber?"). Because the moment you set foot in the basin, you're being entrusted with someone's race, their hopes and dreams, and most importantly, their safety as they - to quote the great poet Artis Leon Ivey Jr once wrote - "walk through the valley of the shadow of death."(Okay fine, yes, it was Coolio and yes that's his real name) It's like a Choose Your Own Adventure book writ large - you make the wrong choice and suddenly you're realizing how long it takes to walk it in from Darwin. (Answer: Long. So very long.). I didn't really understand what I was getting myself into my first year crewing for Harvey Lewis, which became progressively more surreal culminating in standing around Jake's Saloon watching Sportscenter's "Summer of Champions" segment about the race (holy crap, that's me running with him in that section - that means I was on ESPN!!!!). And there wasn't an ah-ha moment where I told the rest of the guys in the van "I get it now." Badwater becomes a part of you. It's a lifestyle, it's a family, it's a feeling. And the first year that mid-July rolls around and I'm not searching the horizon for the lights of Lone Pine, that part of me will feel empty.”

NEXT STEPS: From this point, the book has a few more edits to finish. It has been sent out to a few people for some advance praise quotes. A graphic designer will work their magic for the book cover, and then it will be available for pre-order. There will be an audio book too! Until then, you can check out my first book "Nowhere Near First" on Amazon and Kindle HERE.

I CAN NOT wait to share this new book with you. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Our Overly Revealing Family Christmas Letter

Happy holidays from the Reese family! Whether you are celebrating Christmas, New Year’s, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or just Taylor Swift’s birthday on December 13th, we hope this letter finds you well. #shakeitoff

It has been an exciting year at our house. I had a secret goal that I didn’t even tell my family about at the beginning of the year. For 2017, I wanted to really LIVE. Not just let the days pass by. Not just survive. But really LIVE. I wanted this year to be about buying experiences instead of things. It turned out to be an amazing adventure. #sorryabouthowthatsoundedliketonyrobbinsinfomercial 

Though our consumer purchasing was minimal, we did have to crack open the check book to buy a new air conditioner. I can think of at least 7,000 things I would rather spend $7,000 on. Just imagine how many Krispy Kreme donuts that would buy! #holycholesterolbatman Here’s a little update on everyone in the house who is now enjoying $7,000 worth of cool air:

Jack and Little Debbie
Our four-legged family members remain hell raisers. Jack, the poodle, is stubborn and barks at anything that moves. This drives me CRAAAZY. Our Great Dane, Little Debbie eats as well as the humans in the house. Mainly because her head is level with the kitchen counter so she helps herself to whatever she wants when we aren’t looking. She has been a demon of wrath and terror ever since the day she was born. #calltheexorcist She gets into the garbage can and makes a gigantic mess. She barks. She snaps at you when you try to push her off the bed. #thisisntYOURbed! She is annoying and wants you to play with her when you’re in the middle of something. She likes to drink out of the bathroom sink and learned how to use the door handle to open the back door. Of course she doesn’t close the door afterward. She causes nothing but trouble. But we love her anyway. #whensheisasleep

One day I came home from work and Kylee had made enchiladas for dinner. She didn’t know how much enchilada sauce to use so she just poured the whole can over the top which made them a tad (or more than a tad) soggy. And it was wonderful. She loves to cook but has a tough time getting things to come out right. The cookies she makes are generally on the extremes of either being dough in the middle….or hockey pucks. And yet she keeps trying. She keeps cooking. I really love that. She got a 4.0 this past quarter in middle school! This year was her second year going to Girl’s Camp which she attended with Dani. In her year-end choir concert, they did a song from Moana and the highlight was the Coldplay song Sky Full Of Stars where they turned off the lights and did a bunch of stuff with flashlights. It may have been my favorite choir song ever. #seriousgoosebumpmoment. Her big thing right now is playing the ukulele. Recently we went on a road trip to Capitol Reef National Park for the first time. Our motel room smelled like a mix between a chimney and sweaty armpits. We had a blast immersing ourselves in stunningly beautiful scenery. #worththe15hoursofdriving

Dani has the strongest sense of Christmas spirit of anyone I know. #exceptchevychase She is so good about bringing us back to the meaning of the season when life gets crazy. She has been on the high school swim team and truly loves it. She is an amazing swimmer. She loves her biology class, including the day they got to dissect a fetal pig. She is an expert at Michael Jackson Just Dance, and despite my trash talking, she destroys me every time. Earlier this year we had a daddy/daughter road trip to Death Valley which is an experience I will never forget. (Think lots of hiking, lots of photography, and lots of Dr. Pepper.) On another road trip, I took her to Horseshoe Bend. She had fun (and I use the term “fun” somewhat loosely) going on a pioneer trek with our church group. She continues to get monthly penicillin shots to combat the rheumatic fever she had a few years ago. The injection is thick like Elmer’s Glue. The tradition EVERY time is for her to hold my hand and watch the song “What Does The Fox Say” on YouTube while Mel gives her the injection. I’m sick of “What Does The Fox Say”. She isn’t.

Jackson has had his share of health issues during the year. He has done some pulmonary function testing, lots of labs, and now gives himself weekly infusions of plasma. He actually sticks himself with 4 needles in the stomach each week, and does the infusions himself. Seriously impressive. He has worked at the finish line of a bunch of ultra races this year. Afterward, I always get comments from people about what a hard worker he is and how he “has a heart of gold”. I think it’s cool how the ultra community is so welcoming and is so good to him. And it’s cool how he really likes the people in the ultra community. For Father’s Day he surprised me with a trip to Denver to go to Cubs games. He used the money he had saved from working at races. We went to March Madness basketball games, and I got to take him on his first trip to Observation Point in Zion National Park. He plays the piano for the high school jazz band and the church choir. And he got his driver’s license. #insurancepremiumkicktothecrotch

This year has been a big one for Mel. After finishing her Nurse Practitioner degree, she was offered a great position in St. George. She really loves her job and her co-workers. She ran the Dirty Hurty Half Marathon this year, and….wait for it….she ran 50 MILES at the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival in February. She has a love/hate relationship with running (statistically, more hate than love), so running 50 miles was remarkable. In June, Mel and I went on the trip of a lifetime to Iceland. Here is a video:

We spent 9 days driving around the whole country, eating crappy gas station food (Subway using the slogan “Eat Fresh” in Iceland is blatantly false advertising), sleeping in hostels (#hairintheshower), running in the middle of the night since it doesn’t get dark during the summer, and seeing the most breathtaking black sand beaches, glaciers, and waterfalls in the world. A few months ago we went to Seattle with Jackson to see U2 in concert. Who knew you could head bang to “Where The Streets Have No Name”. Just kidding Mel.

The highlight of my year was in October when I was playing a game of Clue with the kids and I guessed the killer, weapon, and room on the first try. I will continue to remind my family of this accomplishment every time we play Clue for the rest of eternity. #legend. In April I ran Zion 100, then a week later ran the Lake Sonoma 50 in California. Mel and I had so much fun staying in the guest house of the race directors, John and Lisa, and spending time with them, their pup Zephyr, and our friend Rocket while we were there. I ran 100 miles on the high school track. #hamster This year I set a goal to run as many miles as I could on the 3.5 mile More Cowbell Trail in southern Utah, and finished the year-long goal with 422 miles. I’m finishing up a new book about Badwater, the 135 mile race across Death Valley. I’m really happy about how it has turned out so far, and it will be coming out soon! I finished up the year with an exciting invitation from UltraRunning Magazine to run the prestigious Western States 100 next year. Can. Not. Wait.

We had some great experiences as a family. In January we went to Florida. (Based on my observations, it seems that more of the US population chose to go to Florida in January than people who didn’t go to Florida in January.) A highlight was spending a couple days at NASA and we even had the opportunity to see a rocket launch. We hiked to Red Pine Lake with only minimal complaining. We hiked to Horseshoe Bend with only minimal complaining. We went to a NeedToBreathe concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver. And in September we had a family movie night that included a trip to Taco Bell and our kid’s first introduction to Dumb and Dumber. #journalworthy

We’ve had some really cool experiences this year. And we’ve had our share of challenges. Things haven’t always gone just right. We fight. We argue. We pull our ever-graying hair out when the kids don’t clean up after themselves. We want to put our dogs up for adoption when they steal cheesecake off the kitchen table or leave the back door open. (Yes, Debbie. I’m talking to you.) But in the end, we mostly love each other. And I’m pretty good with that. Happy holidays from the Reese’s. #happybirthdaytaylorswift

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hi. My name is Cory.

Hi. My name is Cory. I used to write a blog here.

There are a few reasons I haven't been quite as active on the blogging front.

1) I've been working on a new book! I CAN NOT wait to share this with you guys. It's about Badwater, the 135 mile race across Death Valley. It's about suffering. It's about passion and heartbreak and purpose. I'm really excited about the direction it is heading.

2) I've taken a few months off life to become a groupie for Justin Bieber's world tour. I've collected Bieber posters. And Bieber bobble heads. And If I hear "Despacito" one million more times, it won't be enough.

In between Bieber concerts, I've managed to get in some running as well. My feet have taken me to some incredibly beautiful places. Like some slot canyons in Arizona:

And an amazing waterfall in Arizona.

My goal this year has been to see how many miles I can get on the 3.5 mile More Cowbell Trail loop. My year is almost up and I'm closing in on 400 miles. After that many miles, I love the trail now more than ever.

In working on the new book, I spent some time in California with ultramarathon runner and bestselling author Dean Karnazes. His calves have the circumference of a minivan.

While in sunny CA, I discovered some of the most stunningly beautiful trails I've ever had the pleasure to run.

I spent some time on the trails of Muir Woods. After being surrounded by so much red in southern Utah, I loved seeing some green.

To compensate for my extreme lack of running speed, I've tried to up my jumping game.

I got to show my son Jackson around Observation Point in Zion National Park for the first time.

And I got to show my daughter Danica around Horseshoe Bend in Arizona for the first time.

And then, because I just can't get enough Horseshoe Bend in my life, I took the rest of the family there.

A few months ago I had the opportunity to do a book signing of my book "Nowhere Near First" at the Outdoor Retailer Expo, and spent some time with the amazing people behind Tailwind Nutrition. They know me evidenced by the gigantic bowls of Hostess donuts they had at their table. I really love these guys and their product.

Did you know that Justin Bieber was only 16 years old when his song "Baby" hit #1 on the charts? And he has paid $750 for a haircut? And he has more Twitter followers than the population of Canada?

Over the summer I found a rare flower in the backcountry of Zion National Park.

Picky Bars used one of my jumping pictures on the wrapper of their bar Moroccan Your World.

I did some running in northern Utah.

And in October I was asked to speak at Grand Circles Trailfest where ~600 runners from all over the country came to run the trails of southern Utah. During Trailfest, I ran the Zion section and the Bryce Canyon sections.

So I certainly haven't been slouching. I feel so fortunate to live in such a beautiful area. I think Justin Bieber's lyrics perfectly describe my love for southern Utah: "You are my sunrise on the darkest day. Got me feelin' some kind of way. Make me wanna savor every moment slowly, slowly."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Running 100 Miles On A High School Track (With Justin Bieber As My Pacer???)

Over the weekend I ran a 100 miler at the high school track. This probably wasn't my best idea ever. But it certainly hasn't been my worst. (The award for Worst Idea Ever probably goes to the whole cat-suit-in-Death-Valley incident.)

My friend Shelly Thomas is the one who helped make this run happen. She is the cross country coach for Hurricane High School, and got me a key to the bathroom near the track. This bathroom option was highly preferred over my other two options: 1) Constantly walking into the nearby Subway looking like I just stepped out of a shower, or 2) Trying to hold it for 29 hours. Shelly's team even ran a few miles with me early in my run. One kid said "You've already got 25 laps done. You only have 375 more to go!"

One frequent question I heard was "Why would you want to run 100 miles on a track?" It was partly for the challenge, partly because I hadn't run a 100 miler since April so I was starting to forget how hard they are, and partly because I ran 100 miles on a track three years ago and I felt like I could do better. Everything went pretty smooth for the first 25 miles. I was feeling good. In fact, good enough for a jumping picture.

But around mile 27 my legs started to cramp. And then they started to squirm and twist below my skin. It looked like a baby alien was trapped in my legs trying to get out. My legs were twisting so much that the started to resemble the face of someone you'd see on Pirates Of The Caribbean. The whole scene would have been wildly amusing....if they weren't my own legs that were throwing the tantrum. It got up to 95 degrees, though the radiating heat from the track certainly added a few degrees.

My friend Scott Hughes heard about my plan to run 100 miles. He's training for his first 100 miler so he came to get in some training miles. When I told him my legs were cramping pretty tight, he handed me a cup of what looked to be a urine specimen. I was in no mood to drink a cup of urine, but then he informed me that it was pickle juice. The combination of the heat, and getting a bit behind on calories and electrolytes was making my muscles frisky. Eventually they mellowed out and I was able to run again.

There isn't a lot of scenery to distract your mind when running on a track. So I tried to notice the little things around me.

I am SO, SO incredibly grateful to the many friends who came to run some miles with me. They were a great distraction when my legs began to get grumpy. I regret that at some points I must have been too tired to remember to get a picture with a few people. I missed pictures with Tiana Tidwell, Ken and Sharon Spence, Terry Pierce and his kids, Lyle Anderson, and Tony Ort. Here are the other awesome people who came: Cera Edgley, Tiffany and Brett Whitelaw, Patrick Rodgers, Mikey Nelson, and Justin Robins.

And Shelly Thomas, Keen and Sunny Ellsworth, Mel came to run some miles with me in the evening, and Dave Stephenson. 

And as the run continued into Saturday, there was Kasie and Glenn Watts, Karrie Nielson, Melanie Roberts, Mel and Kylee, and Angel Johnson. 

In the afternoon my son Jackson brought lunch. There is absolutely nothing that could go wrong by eating a head-sized burrito in the middle of a 100 mile run.  

In the evening I ran around the track while the football team had their practice. Mel brought my daughters Danica and Kylee and their friend Kaylie Yates over to the track. Mel joined me for some miles while the girls sat on the bleachers. Every time I passed by, they clapped and played Justin Bieber's song "Despacito". Then I had this thought. I realized that I still had many, many more hours to run. That would be plenty of time to listen to Despacito over and over again to learn the lyrics. Never mind the fact that I don't know Spanish. Imagine the street cred I would have with kids everywhere if I could sing every word to Despacito! But then I realized that listening to Despacito for hours on end to learn the lyrics would mean that....I would have to listen to Despacito for hours on end. it would kind of be like Justin Bieber was my....pacer? I quickly came to my senses and realized this would earn me NO street cred with the kids. NOBODY wants to listen to a middle-aged white man with a crappy singing voice who doesn't know Spanish try to sing Despacito. Idea aborted.

Remember my friend Scott who tried to make me drink a urine sample earlier in the day? That guy is hard core! He ended up getting in 40 miles on that track, running from mid-day into the night after the sun went down. Props!

Jackson got his driver's license a few weeks ago. He put that license to good use and brought me a steady supply of Dr. Pepper throughout the run.

It was still so, so hot during the night. There were a good group of friends out there until around midnight. For five hours I watched a huge storm in the distance. Flashes of lightning illuminated the sky in the distance but the storm didn't seem to be moving. It was a really beautiful sight. This picture is one I took a few years ago, but the guys who were there with me will verify that this is what our view looked like.

I really thought I'd be able to dodge the storm but around 3:00am it got crazy windy. It seemed like in an instant the lightning was popping all around me and a flash flood of rain began to pour. I was in no mood to get struck by lightning so I hunkered down in my car. Again, the storm just planted itself. It didn't move. Here are a few screen shots from my phone. You'll notice that one of them says 3:35am and I'm right in the middle of the wreckage. The second one is 4:15am, still in the middle of a mess.

The rain dumped harder than I've seen for a long time. It literally dumped like this for hours.

Meanwhile I'm just hanging out in my car. I didn't stop my Garmin because I wanted a total time of my run. I ended up sitting there for more than two hours while my time ticked by. I think I could have tolerated the rain, but the lightning was far too risky. Here's a shot of the strikes all around me:

A little after 5:00am the lightning passed, and I coaxed my Tin Man legs out of the car and back onto the track. Soon I was able to get back to a decent running pace. I wanted to get as many miles in as I could before the sun started to come up and the furnace was turned on again. The sunrise was spectacular. It seemed like the perfect reward for surviving a tough night.

The main thing I was struggling with was my feet. It felt like the heat from the track had singed the bottom of my feet and I had my usual neuropathy issue of having each step feel like walking on needles. After all these years, I haven't found anything that fixes this issue except to just get to the finish as fast as possible to get off my feet.

Mel came over in the morning and got in a bunch of miles. It was great to have her there. She walked most of the time but I tried to run as much as I could to get the run done.

And finally a wonderful thing happened! I finished 100 miles! 29 hours and 47 minutes is a long time to be out there. Taking into consideration the time I spent in the car during the storm, it was probably a total of 27.5 hours.

Mel surprised me with a belt buckle that she ordered. It's almost as if the buckle was designed just for this run!

My favorite part of that 100 miles was the very end when my whole family was there to do the last lap with me. I love these guys so much. They mean way more to me than any belt buckle ever could.

And so with that, I finished my 29th run of 100 miles or more. I got to spend some time with great friends. I got to finish a 100 mile run with my whole family. I didn't get struck by lightning. I didn't drink urine. And I didn't learn Despacito. All in all, it was a perfect experience.

Huge thanks to St. George Running Center, Tailwind Nutrition, Altra Running, Injinji, and UltrAspire for supporting nonsensical adventures like this!