Friday, August 29, 2014

The Greatest Thing About Tuesday

I love nothing more than a big storm with lots of thunder and lightning. (Unless you count cheesecake and naps. I love those more.)

On Tuesday night a big storm was brewing so I grabbed my camera and asked if anyone wanted to come with me to take pictures. My youngest daughter Kylee was the only taker. We ended up having an AWESOME evening together listening to Taylor Swift, raiding the secret stash of Jolly Ranchers Mel had hidden in her car, and taking pictures of the storm.

I figured while we were out and about having fun we should get a picture together.

Then Kylee got creative and said we should take a few jumping pictures. Done!


We had so much fun that I think I converted her and I think she'll offer to come next time I go out to take pictures.

Shortly after we got home the thunder and lightning REALLY started cracking. So we headed back to the car to drive around watching lightning. I can't think of a better excuse for getting the kids to bed late. It was an awesome night.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Working Toward Breaking My Mileage Record

I have a goal I'm in the midst of. I started this past Wednesday and I'm working on breaking my record of the most miles run in a single week. I think my past record is 101 miles. I should be able to get past that.

Part of that attempt to break my record was a 30 mile run on Friday night. I went to one of my favorite chunks of dirt: some of the side trails around the JEM Trail. With a little bit of exploration you can find the edge of some cool mesas overlooking the desert below.

Many of those miles were part of the Zion 100 course. I can't tell you how spoiled I feel with trails like this only ten minutes away from home.

That towering mesa in the background is Smith Mesa. Runners travel UP and later DOWN this mesa during the Zion race. (Spoiler alert: that climb up will make you cry for your mama.)

I haven't had a good run for months. Seriously. Every time I go out my legs feel like they're trying to run through a swimming pool of peanut butter (which sounds awful and amazing at the same time). It has been rough. But for some reason I felt so, so good on this run. After months of blah it was an amazing feeling.

Then there is this mesa: Gooseberry. You go UP and DOWN this one also during the Zion 100. The trail to the top is the hardest I've ever been on but the views from above are breathtaking.

You are constantly treated to views of Zion National Park off on the horizon.

After around 15 miles I reached one of my all time favorite views. Every single time I'm here I take off my hydration pack and just sit on a rock for a few minutes to enjoy the scenery.

Being in such an epically amazing area justified one more jumping picture.

As the sun began to set the temperature gradually started to feel less like the sun which was splendid.

After the sun set I ran many more hours. In fact my run crossed a highway. It was almost midnight and suddenly I saw police lights. A sheriff pulled up and asked what I was doing. Seeing my hydration pack and trekking poles likely assured him I wasn't out partying. He asked why I was out running so late. I explained that I was training for a tough 100 miler next month. He asked how much longer I'd be out running. I wish I was brave enough to take a picture of his face when I told him it would probably be a few more hours.

I'm going to keep pushing the miles and if everything works out I think I'll be able to break my record.

Monday, August 25, 2014

My First Experience With Cardiac Arrest

Anyone with a sliver of understanding about athletics would say that I should be acclimatized to heat by now for the following reasons:

1) I live in southern Utah. Our next door neighbor is the sun.
2) I couldn't count how often this summer the heat has made me want to barf during a run.
3) No matter whether I've run at morning, noon, or night, the heat is unbearable. I run anyway.
4) A few months ago I ran 100 miles on a track when it got up to 107 degrees.

Despite months of agonizing heat, it still feels like my body has not adjusted. It still gives me a royal butt kicking every time I run. Case in point: last Thursday.

We had non-stop rain and flash flooding for a few days beforehand. And around here when trails get that wet they turn to thick clay that cakes onto the bottom of your shoes making it impossible to run. So I hit up some paved trails in Coral Canyon. (The clouds weren't nearly as cool on my run so I'm throwing in a picture I took a few months ago to give you an idea of the trail.)

I got a pair of Altra Paradigm shoes last week and have put lots of miles on them since then. They were splendid. Super cushioned and super comfortable.

Because life is so busy my only time to run was in the heat of the day. The heat and humidity were gripping and I was dripping sweat. If you didn't know better you'd think I just stepped out of the shower with my running clothes on.

After a few hours of running I was completely out of gas. So I did what any rational runner would do. I ate five Oreos then found a picnic table with nobody around where I could lay for a while. I think I took a nap for about a half hour which felt amazing. My hydration pack was the perfect pillow. Then some jerk came by and took a picture of me looking like I was dead. Either that or he set up the 10 second timer and scampered back to the table to depict how ridiculous (and dead) he looked.

After my dead person nap I felt much better and went back out in the heat to run some more. I even had me some Cardiac Arrest.
Coral Canyon, Utah

My long runs always have an uncanny way of bringing out the vultures.

I wouldn't ever choose asphalt over dirt for a long run unless I was desperate, but the trails around Coral Canyon were actually a pretty good option. It was my first time running here and I doubt it will be my last. I'd say it has the best views I've seen from a paved trail.

21 miles and 874 hours later I finished my run and proceeded to drive directly to Apollo Burger to replace the calories I had just burned. It was my first time getting food there and will likely be my last. I managed to find something that made my stomach feel more sick than running 21 miles on the sun.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Where My Love Affair With Trails Began

This past weekend I got two mandates from my friend Susette: 1) Take her to a cool trail, and 2) Get a cool jumping picture.

Susette is an amazing human being. I was able to run every mile with her of her first ultramarathon. And earlier this year I ran with her during her first 100 miler. It has been so awesome to see her growth as a runner over the years. Susette and her husband were down from northern Utah and I looked forward to spending a few miles with her.

For someone who hasn't run much in this area, I always recommend the JEM Trail. It is very runnable and seriously beautiful. After a few miles we got the mandatory jumping pictures.


Then I had an idea. Maybe we should do one together! Notice Susette sporting her shirt from the best half marathon ever coming up on 12/13/14 - the Baker's Dozen Half Marathon. I was pretty impressed with Susette's form here:

While we were out there we saw another runner! I am amazed that with all the stunning trails around here, I very, very rarely see another runner. That runner happened to be Bob, a local friend of mine:


The JEM Trail is the first trail I ever ran. That one run started a love affair with trails that is still burning strong. It feels like I know ever rock, twist, and turn on that trail. The only thing that makes it better is introducing someone else to it for the first time.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Brian Head, Utah - A Beautiful Place To Suffocate

As a young lad I went to a boy scout camp high in the mountains of northern Utah. There was a little lake at the camp with sailboats floating around. My friends and I had three words flashing through our brains: Must. Ride. Sailboats. 

We found out that to go on a sailboat you had to pass a swimming test. Jump off a pier. Swim to the shore. And then swim back. No biggie, I could swim and the test didn't intimidate me. My friend went first. And when he jumped in the water a shudder went through my soul. Because as soon as he hit the water he screamed bloody murder. The water was so cold that his body wouldn't function. He somehow paddled back and forth to pass the test, wailing the entire time that he was going to freeze to death.

It was my turn next. With apprehension I jumped in the water. And then the most peculiar thing happened. My body instantaneously became a block of ice. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. I bobbed there in the water for what felt like three hours before I finally coaxed my legs to move and force air into my lungs. I now know how hypothermia feels. (And how it feels to ride in a sail boat.)

That feeling of not being able to move or breathe returned with a vengeance during my long run last week.

I joined my friend Rick Whitelaw at Brian Head, Utah. This was my first time running there but he knew each of the trails like the back of a Gu packet.

The scenery was beautiful. Beautiful! But I honestly COULD NOT breathe. The altitude where I live is 3,200 feet. The trails we were running were at 11,000 feet!

My legs have had more pep after walking off a cramped airplane after a cross country red eye flight than they had during our run. Between the two of us, one of us was a boat and one was an anchor. (Spoiler alert: I was not the boat.) 

Rick, on the other hand, is at least 3/4 mountain goat. It was an awesome thing watching him float down the trails.

I've known Rick for years and have come to know him as one of the nicest humans alive. He is also one of the gurus behind Ultra Adventures and has helped spur the growth of the Zion, Bryce, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, and Grand Canyon ultras. Anybody who has done one of those races will attest that Rick has been a trail angel.

My favorite picture of the day:

One highlight of the run was reaching the highest point in the area: Brian Head Peak at 11,307 feet above sea level. (Spoiler alert: there is 0% oxygen up there.) At the peak is this cool little observation tower.



At one point our trail crossed this dirt road. I loved the contrast of colors.

The last part of our nearly seven hour run was hitting a few view points of Cedar Breaks out in the distance. The scenery was really incredible.


I must admit, I was a bit concerned with my performance after this run. With the Bear 100 next month, I hope the high amount of suckiness in this run isn't a bad omen. My two hopeful thoughts are 1) Maybe I sucked it up so much because I'm only two weeks out from running the Navajo 100 miler, and 2) The highest altitude of Bear is still thousands of feet lower than our run in Brian Head. Hopefully that will bring a bit less suffocating.

But suffocating or not, I'm bound and determined to find my way to that finish line of the Bear.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My Connection With Robin Williams

This is a post I really hesitated writing. I've gone back and forth 100 times about whether or not to publish it....but here goes nothing.

Like everyone, I was heartbroken to hear about the passing of Robin Williams. Like everyone, I felt my own little connection with the amazing actor and comedian. It wasn't long ago that I gave my kids their introduction to Mrs. Doubtfire. Patch Adams gave me a new perspective on my career. I couldn't tell you how many times I've watched Dead Poets Society. 

It seems all the more heartbreaking knowing this man took his own life. It doesn't seem real. Williams didn't seem like the person wrapped in chains of depression. He seemed like your funny, down-to-earth next door neighbor.


I think I feel okay writing this story now because that's how my dad was too - and he also took his own life.

My dad was wrapped in those same heavy chains of despair and depression. On the outside was a funny, compassionate, outgoing father, neighbor, and friend. A lot like Robin Williams. But that covered up a sadness (largely triggered by a multitude of health problems) on the inside. That despair overtook him. On a cold January afternoon he took his life. He was only 38. I was 14 years old.

I hope what I'm about to say doesn't imply that I think suicide is okay. It has a lasting impact on everyone left behind. BUT I can understand how people get to that point because I saw it first hand. I witnessed that smothering despair in someone I loved. I saw the feeling of being in a deep hole with absolutely no way out. 

It probably goes without saying, but that day as a 14 year old when my dad died changed me forever. I soon realized that I faced a choice: I could let that action destroy and ruin me, or I could, as much as possible, learn and grow from the experience. I decided on the second option. Here is how my life has been different:

1) I think it increased my empathy. I try to understand people better. I try not to judge. I try to support and encourage. I have lots of room for improvement but I'm trying.

2) It impacted my career choice. I'm a clinical social worker and work with the belief that I can make a difference.

3) It put things in perspective. If I'm having a bad day or going through a challenging time, I always remember that it could be worse. I choose to believe that this life experience made me stronger.

So with all that said, my hope would be this: 

Choose kindness.
Choose patience.
Choose love.

I'm not implying that if we hold hands and smile everything will be fixed. I'm saying that we can never know the demons someone may be facing. Appearances aren't always what they seem. We don't know the quiet struggles someone is battling. So you and I should work on spreading kindness. A little happiness could go a long way. In a world of so much sadness and pain, show love. Shine.

It's easy to judge someone else's actions - but I can attest that seeing a loved one struggle with (and ultimately surrender to) depression will give a different perspective. The fact that Robin Williams took his own life is proof that no matter how much awesome and how much funny and how much talent someone is filled with.....this stuff is powerful.

And if those chains are starting to wrap around you, tell someone. Let someone help you. The world needs your shine.