Friday, February 27, 2015

Church Rocks - No Words

A few days ago I had a welcome visit with my dear old friend the Church Rocks Trail. It is a little slice of heaven in southern Utah. Here is a (mostly) narration-free glimpse of the trail and all its glory.

Forgive me, here is the only tidbit of narration. I had been watching this bird float through the sky for a few minutes. It seemed to be soaring in a similar pattern so I wanted to try to get a shot of it floating with the mountains in the background. I only got one chance and got lucky:

Dear Church Rocks: I love you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Traumatic Treatment of a Black Toenail

I entered mental health therapy to help me cope with the trauma I have experienced over the last few days as the result of my toenail. The therapist said that sharing about this trauma might help me cope with PTSD.

This traumatic experience started a week and a half ago when I ran the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival. Around mile 30 I accidentally kicked a rock. At that moment it felt like my big toe got struck by lightning. The agony was worse than exposing your ear drums to 1,000 Justin Bieber songs. (As if there is anything worse than listening to 1,000 Justin Bieber songs.) 

I had never done anything like this before. I was reduced to a painful hobble where lightning struck my toe with every step. I did some inspection and knew it wasn't broken because it was only the toenail that hurt.

Fast forward a week. My toenail still feels like a filing cabinet is sitting on top of it. On the Trail and Ultra Running Facebook page I posted this question: "A week ago I accidentally kicked a rock with my big toe while running. Woops. Sweet mother of pearl, it hurt so bad. still hurts so bad. At work I walk normal so I don't look silly, but I probably need a stick in my mouth from clenching my jaw with each step. Any tips on this that don't involve a needle in my toe or pliers?" 

The consensus was that the toenail needed to be drained. And many people suggested DRILLING A HOLE THROUGH MY TOE NAIL to drain fluid and relieve pressure. There are two problems with this: 

1) I'm pretty sure drilling holes through toenails is some kind of torture that Al-Qaeda uses against prisoners of war; and

2) I have a GIGANTIC fear of needles. I pass out when I get my blood drawn. And you want me to put a needle through my toe nail??????? You're more likely to see Richard Simmons' "Sweatin' To The Oldies" become popular again before you see me put a needle into my toe.

But here's the thing: I was desperate. Desperate! That dumb toe hurt so bad that I was willing to try anything. There were many suggestions on how to inflict this POW torture on myself. And part of my soul shudders even mentioning these things:

1) Heat up a needle until it's red hot and then insert it into the toe nail
2) Heat up a paperclip until it's red hot and then insert it into the toe nail
3) Get a small drill bit and work a hole into the toe nail

I'm not kidding people! These were real suggestions! And from lots of people. 

So what did I do? Yep. I tried all three of those suggestions. 

At first I planned to have my wife stick the needle in. She's a nurse. She knows what she's doing. But I was so mortified, I mean absolutely mortified at the thought of this, that I chickened out. When my daughter happened to walk into the bedroom seeing Mel approaching my foot with a needle and a lighter she literally acted like she had just seen a poltergeist. 

(That orange polish on my toes is from the same daughter who asked to paint my toes before the race.) So, yeah. I chickened out. I decided I'd try to do it myself. Drill bit? Fail. Heat the paperclip until red hot then push it into the nail? This worked better. Except for the minor detail that I could smell my flesh burning and I almost barfed and/or passed out. 

I finished off the job with a burning hot needle. I pray to God that my mother doesn't read this post. This will be the tipping point in convincing her that I have lost all my marbles. In all seriousness our bathroom looked exactly like the bathroom of a crack cocaine addict.

In the end this traumatizing experience was only mildly successful. Turns out you probably shouldn't wait a whole week after something like this to drain the fluid. My toe nail doesn't really feel too much better. (I know what you're thinking. "Duh! You just drilled a hole into it Einstein!") I ended up trying another trick of poking a needle under the nail bed. That worked better and was far less disturbing than the realization that I was burning a hole into myself.

So here are the morals of the story:
1) Don't kick rocks.
2) Don't listen to 1,000 Justin Bieber songs.
3) Nothing in the history of all mankind is as disturbing as smelling one's on toe nail melting. 
4) You're not a real ultrarunner until your bathroom looks like you're a crack addict.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

DNF Jackpot 100 Race Report 2015

A few months ago Mariah Carey performed a Christmas song on TV. For the sake of your ear drums I hope you haven't seen/heard it. (If you're brave you can check it out HERE.) It started off tune and got progressively worse, ending in a fiery train wreck.

The Jackpot Ultra Running Festival over the weekend....was my own personal Mariah Carey performance. Things started off on the wrong foot and I was never able to get the train back on the tracks.

Like I mentioned before the race, I wasn't sure if I was going to go for 100 miles. I was signed up for 100 but considered dropping down. My knee has been kind of tight and I didn't want to make things worse. The race is in Vegas where crappy buffets abound and one out of three residents is a fake Elvis. The race course is a 2.3 mile loop around a bird sanctuary lake where geese honk incessantly like whiny three year olds. It's hilarious.

For me the absolute highlight of the race was running with Mel and Jackson who both signed up for the 12 hour race. (There were options for 6 hour, 12 hour, 24 hour, and 100 mile races.) Years ago I had this fantasy about running Jackson's first marathon with him when he got older. At that time I didn't expect that he would be shooting for a marathon at age 13. But he decided this would be his goal for Jackpot.

Mel ran her last marathon a few years ago and swore that she would give birth to a baby rhinoceros before she'd run another marathon. Okay, she didn't say those exact words. But that's unquestionably what her face said when she finished. Well, she decided to go for at least a marathon at Jackpot also. Jackpot is a good place to do something like that because the race directors really go out of their way to help runners succeed. (Read: brownies at the aid station.)

I pretty much knew from the beginning that it wasn't going to be my day. Within the first few miles I was channeling my inner Mariah Carey. I decided to just have fun, talk with runners, and take what the day gave me. For me, the most inspirational runner of the race didn't actually "run" a single step. This is Huguette White who did the six hour race. She was always so happy and encouraging. One of the reasons I love races so much is seeing people like Huguette challenge the boundaries of what is possible.

I also met a new friend named Gene. He is 79 years young and told me that he has already run four marathons in the first six weeks of the year. Simply, simply incredible.

Jackpot happened to be on Valentine's Day. Me and Mel spent it together with a couple hundred other people. Running. And sweating gallons by the hour because it was 8,613 degrees outside. And eating cheesecake at the aid station. And waiting for each other at the Porta John. And commiserating about achy legs. And jumping.

I kept plugging along at approximately the speed you move when standing in line at the DMV. My knee and body didn't want to cooperate. I admit, it was frustrating to be going so slowly, particularly because this race was so smooth for me last year and I got a 100 mile PR of 22 hours and 24 minutes.

I managed to compound my not-so-great situation by accidentally stubbing my big toe on a big rock. No bueno. I'd like to describe how it felt. Years ago Mike Tyson fought Evander Holyfield. In the middle of the fight Tyson bit Holyfield's ear off. Remember? Well, after I kicked that rock the rest of the race felt like Mike Tyson's teeth were clamped onto my toe. And Mike Tyson's teeth are sharp! I'm positive that in a few days I'll only have nine toe nails.

I was so impressed watching Jackson during the race. He didn't whine or complain at all during the times I saw him and he just kept moving forward. It was an incredible feeling to talk to him later in the race when his mileage continued to build and I knew he would reach his goal. He is determined and stubborn - the two most important characteristics of runners.

We had the misfortune of running on a day that set a record high for Las Vegas. It reached 80 degrees, about 20 degrees above average. For February that's pretty warm. I kept my shirt soaked in water all day and kept ice in a bandanna around my neck which helped keep the heat manageable. (One minor side effect of a wet shirt and dripping bandanna is that your shorts get a little wet too.....and it looks like you drank a gallon of Gatorade and didn't make it to the bathroom in time. Worth it? Definitely.)

I decided that I would stop at 50 miles. I have some big races coming up that I don't want to be sidelined for. This decision didn't come easy. I wrestled back and forth for hours. It can be discouraging to not accomplish what you set out to do. But an ultramarathon isn't supposed to be easy. When you attempt something so challenging, there is always a risk that it won't turn out quite as planned. All the veteran ultrarunners have collected some DNFs (Did Not Finish) along the way, because unless you're always playing it safe, DNFs are part of the territory. Last year I wrote an article called Five Thoughts On Failure that I got a lot of kind emails about. This was my opportunity to (again) put that advice into practice.

As the sun went down I was so inspired by my fellow runners. I was impressed with so much positivity, encouragement, and determination. For example, I spent a bit of time with my friend Mark Mccaslin. He said he was having a rough day and not feeling good at all. A few minutes later he barfed up what looked to be a 13 course meal. And yet he finished 100 miles! I am constantly amazed that amidst difficult conditions and personal challenges people persevere.

So I went on to finish 50 miles. But this story has a remarkable ending. Mel and Jackson didn't just finish a marathon at the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival. They both kept going after 26.2 miles and each of them finished a 50k (31 miles) - their FIRST ULTRAMARATHONS! I really can't describe how proud of them I am. To be able to watch them along their journey was such an amazing experience. Here they are about to finish the race. They did their last lap together.

Despite my race going about as crappy as possible, that was far outweighed by the awesome ending to this adventure.

"Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you're young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don't let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself." ~ John Bingham

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Interview On Ultra Runner Podcast!

I have listened to Ultra Runner Podcast for years. I've learned so much from their interviews. It was such a huge honor to be asked to do an interview for their latest podcast.

In the interview we talked about running a 100 miler per month for a year, crazy hallucinations while running 205 miles, my dad taking his life when I was 14, and a low point in my life: crying while listening to Kelly Clarkson.

To listen to the interview click HERE or search for on iTunes. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

New Sponsor and Lucky Lottery Results!

Lots of awesome things happening around here lately. And no, I'm not talking about the latest cure for wrinkles. (Spoiler alert: don't smile for 40 years. Yes, this is a real story.)

I was asked to be on this year's race team for the St. George Running Center! I can't tell you how happy I am about this. I bought my first pair of running shoes at St. George Running Center six years ago. They are still sitting in my closet. I can't bear to throw them away because of the amazing journey they started. I look forward to working more closely with this awesome group of people.

This past week I also got lucky. And no, I'm not talking about Ben & Jerry's being on sale at the grocery store. I'm talking about the lottery for the.....wait for it, wait for it......WASATCH 100!

I was listening to the lottery Saturday morning and heard my name chosen. I immediately felt like someone had landed a nasty kung fu punch right in my stomach. This race scares the ice cream out of me. I've done some pretty tough 100 milers but Wasatch is the granddaddy. I have seven months to prepare for the Wasatch pain cave.

I spent some miles on the JEM Trail this week with Mel and Aunt Jackie. I guarantee that the JEM Trail will be in heaven.

Aunt Jackie is funny to watch on trails. He rarely got more than a foot away from Mel.

Aunt Jackie is still working on forgiveness for his latest grooming job that made him look like he is standing on four toilet brushes.

The Jackpot Ultra Running Festival in Vegas is coming up in two days. I got my 100 mile PR here last year. Mel and Jackson are signed up for the 12 hour race. I'm signed up for the 100 miler but at this point I'm on the fence about whether or not to drop down. I really want my body to be in good shape for Monument Valley 100 next month and Zion 100 the month after that. So I'll play it by ear and drop down my distance at Jackpot if need be.

My daughters have a habit of painting my toe nails before a 100 miler. Kylee figured she better do some painting just in case I decide to go for 100.