Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Few Of My Pictures In UltraRunning Magazine! and Blood Moon

I forgot to tell you but I got a cool surprise when I opened the previous issue of UltraRunning Magazine: a two page spread of a picture I took at the Javelina Jundred 100 miler!

That race definitely was a "Sonoran Scorcher". In the following pages there was another picture I took plus one that Mel took of me while I was running the race.

I am so happy to be associated with such an awesome magazine. I feel really, really thankful.

In other news, we had a cool visit last week from fellow Altra Ambassadors Kathy and UltraPedestrian Ras who asked us to babysit their car for a few weeks while they spend some time on the 800 MILE (!!!!!) Arizona Trail going for a fastest known time.

My kids were interested in hearing their cool stories. Before they left they gave the kids a few stickers. I had finished the Zion 100 the day before their visit and can attest that this sticker is true:

And finally, in completely un-running related news, I went out Monday night to take pictures of the "blood moon" eclipse. I was not an enormous fan of setting my alarm for 1:30am to go catch the eclipse, but I suppose that's what Diet Dr. Pepper the next day is for. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

These Things Don't Go Together

These words don't go together:

1) "Michael Bolton" and "Enjoyable"
2) "Cauliflower" and "Delicious"
3) "Kids" and "Clean House"
4) "Cory" and "Boston Marathon Running Partner"

Well, on Saturday the words "Cory" and "Boston Marathon Running Partner" DID go together. Yeah, they went together like oil and water.

Here's how things went down.

I'm a member of this cool running group called Wasatch Mountain Wranglers. Most of the peeps are in northern Utah. Sometimes I like to post pictures of my sunny southern Utah runs to contrast their miserable trudge-through-snow pictures. So this northern Utah runner, Matt Clark, emailed me and said something like "Hey, me and my wife are going to be in St. George over the weekend. Want to run?" 

Me: Something like "Well, sure! My Kermit the Frog legs are still recovering from the Zion 100 last week but I think I could eek out some miles." I'd never met Matt or his wife Wendy before, and what he failed to tell me was:

1) Matt has run the Wasatch 100. (That automatically means you're seriously hardcore.)
2) Wendy is running the Boston Marathon next week. (That automatically makes means you're smoking fast.)

It's fun to show people around new trails. The Prospector Trail is one of my faves so I figured that would be a good one to show them around. I'm kind of a photography nerd so I look at things like the amount and size of clouds as the first sliver of light appears in the morning. As I was driving to the trail I knew from the clouds that we'd be in for a sweet sunrise. Within a few miles I saw that my hunch was right.

This is a great trail to hit at sunrise because as the sun starts to come up it makes these red mountains explode with light.

Now let's get back to the point of the story. I'm out on this little trail jaunt with 1) a hardcore runner who has done the Wasatch 100, and 2) a smoking fast runner who is doing Boston next week. The closest accomplishment I have to theirs is that I once at three packs of Twinkies without throwing up. So while they're looking fresh as spring tulips, I feel like I'm breathing through a straw and I'm sweating like a politician at a town hall meeting. As we were talking, my words resembled more like gasps than sentences.

At the turnaround point we took the obligatory out of focus selfie and I repressed my urge to say "Would you guys mind if I just lay here on the trail and take a nap for 20 minutes?" Of course some of this was just residual fatigue from running 100 miles a week earlier. But some of it was that they are just really good runners.

Our route back was when the true magic happened. We enjoyed the type of lighting that doesn't come around too often when the sky, the mountains, and everything around us was glowing. It was stunningly beautiful.

This story has a happy ending: I didn't die. I didn't nap or cry. It was totally fun. It's great for me to be pushed a little. It's awesome to meet new people. And it's sweet showing people around some new trails. Here are some words that DO go together: "Saturday morning trail run" and "awesome"!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Zion 100 Race Report 2014 - Best Ultramarathon Ever!

The Zion 100. Best race ever. There. I said it.

When I ran the Buffalo Run 100 miler two weeks ago I had no intention of running the Zion 100. But I recovered faster than expected. And the more I thought about it, the more I knew I had to run Zion. It's my hometown race. I do all my training on the course. I ran the inaugural race two years ago and ran it last year. I was ready to go for the triple.

The race gives you a slap in the face warm welcome by starting you right up a 1,000 foot climb called the Flying Monkey Trail. There was initially a bit of a bottle neck, I assume because all the oxygen at that altitude was used up and nobody could breathe.

It's tradition on each of my Zion 100 race reports to include a picture of this section where all us saps are shimmying up a rope at a particular section of the trail. Go ahead and look back at the past two years and you'll see almost identical pictures each year.

As if it was scripted, the sun rose right as we reached the top of the cliff. I couldn't help but stand there and watch, feeling so thankful to be where I was right in that moment.

After getting some miles on the top of the mesa and hitting an aid station we took a short paved road down to the bottom. I was really happy to spend the first 16ish miles with my friend Jill. (Yep, Jill from the Antelope Canyon race.) We picked up this new friend Sam as we headed down the hill.

As we neared the aid station at mile 14 I saw a big, black, furry Brillo Pad prancing around and knew I had some familiar faces that would be meeting me. It was good to see my awesome wife Mel and our dog Aunt Jackie. It was equally awesome that Mel shared a big hit of her Dr. Pepper with me.

There was another familiar face at that aid station: my friend Turd'l Miller. I refer to him as the Julia Child of ultramarathon aid stations. Last year he made me some gourmet apple pancakes. (Which I later found out were pancakes with apple Hammer Gel on them. I could have killed him.) This year Turd'l concocted some tortillas smeared with Nutella and a sugar wafer cookie in the middle. Genius! Pure genius!

After that high fructose kick to the gut we headed down the JEM Trail. JEM is one of my all-time favorites and it always makes me so happy to see others experiencing its pure awesomeness.

I felt kind of like a proud parent watching Jill. She has told me for a long time that she wanted to do something like this so to see her make that enormous leap of faith to click the "Register" button and then to be having so much was just really cool to watch.

Jill was running her first ever 100k and after 16 miles the course split and we headed down different paths. She ended up doing awesome. I headed down the trail, just me and my trusty camera. I'm a little embarrassed to say this but I realized after the race that I had taken more than 400 pictures!  If I spent an average of 15 seconds per picture, that would add almost two hours to my finish time! But guess what - I didn't care one bit. Totally worth that extra time.

This was the first 100 miler I've done without a pacer or any crew. I actually enjoyed it. I prefer to do most of my training by myself so I'm totally used to being out by myself for hours. I like it. I ran most of the rest of the race alone.

I made sure to keep my pace super conservative knowing that I'd need that strength and energy for later in the race. I just kept pushing on, enjoying the amazing scenery around me. I've run these trails so many times that I think I could run here with my eyes closed.

At mile 31 we reached the hardest part of the course - the climb to the top of Gooseberry Mesa. It climbs around 1,500 feet in less than a mile. I took this picture from a distance, and when I zoomed in very closely I could see what looks like little ants going up the mountain. But they aren't ants. They are runners. Each of these arrows points to a runner.

The trail is vertical. I wasn't going fast, and it wasn't hot outside but a peculiar thing happened about half way up. I sweated out the last ounce of fluid in my body and my lungs filled with molten lava. I commiserated with other runners who were feeling the same way. My thought in that moment: "Are we current on my life insurance policy?"

Eventually after something like seven months we reached the top of the mesa. To see the valley floor where the trail starts is pretty remarkable.

If you reach the top and haven't cached in on your life insurance policy yet you are treated to a few miles of glorious single track trail skirting the edge of the mesa.

And then the glorious single track trail ends. And turns into a nasty, hellish beast of rolling, punishing slick rock that seems to shred the legs a little more with each step. BUT I was able to spend some of those miles with one of my ultrarunning heros, Ed "The Jester" Ettinghausen. He is going for a world record 40 100 mile races in one year!

We finally reached my favorite part of the course - The Point on Gooseberry Mesa. It was an honor to be there with Ed who is an inspiration to so many runners including myself.

When you're standing on The Point it literally feels like you are standing on the top of the world. The views in every direction really are indescribable.

Then more scenic and completely soul-crushing slick rock.

By the time we finished that section on Gooseberry Mesa my legs were loving slick rock as much as my ears love Barry Manilow music. (Which is exactly 0%.)

I had another surprise waiting for me after Gooseberry Mesa - Mel, my son Jackson, and my daughter Kylee! That is a great way to infuse energy back into some tired legs. I can't tell you how thankful I am for my family and all their support.

I used Tailwind as my primary nutrition for the race and my stomach felt perfect the whole time. But when we came into that aid station my friend Jeff Manwaring was there. His wife Carol was also running the 100 miler. Jeff said "Do you want a steak and cheese sandwich?" He wasn't joking either. He gave me a steak and cheese sandwich! And it was delicious. Jeff is a legend at races for supporting and helping others. I love that man. I am honored to have him and his wife as friends.  We hugged. And then danced a little.

When I got to the next aid station at mile 49 night was approaching. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness when I arrived to many friends working the aid station or crewing. Cherie, Alex, Renee, Jennilyn, Wes, Polli, just some great people. I wasted so much time at aid stations talking to friends, laughing, high fiveing (I know, that's not a word), joking, and dancing. I bet that among all the aid stations I spent more than an hour hanging out with friends. Do I regret spending that time? Um, not one single bit. One of the things I love about these races is the camaraderie and friendship. Why would I want less of that? I have the best friends EVER. Renee snapped a few pictures at the aid station:

When it got dark I let Tom Petty, Mumford and Sons, and Bruce Springsteen be my pacers through the night. Since I had been conservative during the day I was still feeling pretty decent through the night. Finally I reached the last hard part of the course: mile 81-91 on the Guacamole Trail. It is more hellish, weaving slick rock but the sun was starting to rise and I was starting to taste the finish line.

At mile 95 the sun had come up. I wore some Altra Olympus shoes for all 100 miles and they worked like a charm! I saw lots of them out on the course. My legs were unquestionably tired but still had enough pep to do some running....and one last jump!

I reached the home stretch and saw my family up ahead waiting for me at the finish line. My kids ran up to join me across the finish line. It was such a happy moment to be there with those three little rug rats I love so much.

Not sure on my exact time but it was somewhere a little after 28 hours. I truly can't fathom that I finished my eighth 100 mile race. It seems like a dream. Huge, huge props to race director Matt Gunn, Rick Whitelaw who helped behind the scenes, and all the volunteers who made this race so amazing. The Zion 100 (there is a 50k, 100k, and 100 mile distance) has become a premier destination race. The views are unmatched. And the cherry on top of the race is the choice of custom belt buckles. Each one is different, made from materials that came right from the course. I saw this one and immediately knew it wanted to come home with me.

The pictures in this race report are a small taste of the amazing views on the course. I put some more of those pictures into a video highlighting how spectacular Zion is. Here is the clip. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spontaneous Race - Zion 100 in TWO DAYS!!!

After I finished the Buffalo Run 100 miler two weeks ago I planned to be lazy, sit on my couch long enough that there was a butt imprint, eat Hostess crumb donuts, and watch Judge Judy reruns until my eyes bled. Heck. After running 100 miles you deserve to be a couch potato and not leave your hizouse (old people - that is hip hop slang for "house") for a few weeks. Right? Right?!??

Unfortunately real life prevents Hostess, butt imprints, and Judge Judy. I have a family and a job peeps! No Judge for me. But in getting back into the swing of real life after the race, I was feeling good. Like GOOD! And then a few days ago this thought, this crazy, unexpected thought popped into my brain:

"Hey, maybe you should run the Zion 100 next week."

For months I've had no intention to run Zion. I committed months ago to help my friends finish their first 100 at the Buffalo Run and I didn't think I'd be near recovered for Zion two weeks later. But I am!

I LOVE the Zion 100. (And it also scares me to death because it's crazy hard.) I ran it the first year. Then I ran it the second year. It is literally in my back yard. I know the intricacies of the whole course. It is brutally difficult and brutally beautiful.

And so in two days I will be standing at the starting line of this amazing race. Who knows how things will go. Maybe it will be a miserable failure. Maybe. But I'm pretty sure it will be an epic adventure.

I took lots of pictures last year and turned it into a little video clip. Should you care to see the amazingness of this course, here ya go. Hopefully the next time I see you it will be with a shiny Zion 100 belt buckle in my hand!

Monday, March 31, 2014

I Went On A SMOKING HOT First Date

This is going to come as a shock to you considering:
1) My charming Justin Timberlake-like personality
2) My Will Smith-like charisma
3) My Arnold Schwarzenegger-like muscles

But.......I'm not quite the womanizer you might think.

Okay, we're all adults. Let's be honest with each other. I
1) Have the physique of Kermit the Frog
2) Have a pasty white complexion like chalk
3) Have the nerdy personality of Urkel. (Did I do thaaaat?)

Needless to say, I've only been on a few first dates in my life. Thankfully one of those suckers agreed to marry me. But on Saturday I went on another First Date. It was a running date with some other trail runners. These are some other local runners: Tiana, Jen, Kim, and Jesse. Oh, and some nerdy white boy that looks like Kermit the Frog.

First trail dates can be nerve wracking. "Am I going to get that crusty salt around my nose and not realize it?" "Are we going to come across a rattle snake and I will involuntarily scream like a girl?" "Is someone going to accidentally let out a little trail toot?" (Don't worry, if that happens when you're running with me I'll just ignore it.) 

We met together to run the Prospector and Church Rocks trails. These are a few of my favorites. We were treated to an awesome sunrise.

All sarcasm aside, I actually do get nervous sometimes to run with others because I worry that I won't be able to keep up. Things were fine on this run though. I got a kick out of hearing about Jesse running his first 50 miler lately.

We did in fact come across a rattle snake. Fortunately for the rest of the group they didn't get to hear my involuntary girl scream because the snake was dead.

I was so, so thankful to even be out running. My legs have recovered very quickly from the 100 mile race last weekend. This has probably been the quickest recovery I've had. That makes me happy. 

I decided that I'd run 9 miles. They were going a bit farther so I turned around and headed back on my own after a quick picture.

Some recent rain in the area has made the wildflowers burst with color. They were huge and just beautiful.

Here is a wider angle view of some of the trail. If you look closely you can seen some mountain bikers down below.

It seemed appropriate to wrap up the little shindig with a jump.

I have a hunch I'll be going out on a second date with these guys again soon.