Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Most Embarrassing Experience Of My Life

After a few years of intense therapy I now feel comfortable sharing the most embarrassing experience of my life (right behind that time when I was nine years old doing school clothes shopping and a lady opened the door of my dressing room while I was standing there in my tighty whities).

Two years ago I was training for a 100 miler so I was out for a 30 mile run. I had gone eight miles when I passed through some long stretches of field after field. From past experience I knew the mosquitoes were horrible here, but I didn’t put bug spray on before the run because it was raining. (I put a poncho in my pack just in case it started to downpour.)

Unfortunately, by the time I reached the fields it had stopped raining. I started to feel a few mosquitoes on my legs.

I ran faster. “Maybe if I’m moving faster they won’t be able to catch me.” I thought.

But they did catch me. SWEET MERCY DID THEY EVER CATCH ME. I don’t know why, but mosquitoes think I am the finest thing since Justin Bieber. My wife and I can go running and she’ll get home with a mosquito bite. I’ll have fifty. (Literally.) And they swell up to the size of Junior Mints.  

So I realize that they are swarming all over my legs. I’m running like the dickens. Then a horrific thing happened: I looked behind me. I was surrounded by a cloud of mosquitoes. My neck and arms and back were covered. They were sucking my blood through my shirt.

I ran faster. I had this vision in my mind of someone coming across my bones on the side of the road. And a coroner doing an autopsy and then telling my family that I had Death By Mosquito. “Run, Cory! RUN!” said a voice in my brain.

By this point I was experiencing my first ever panic attack. I didn’t want to stop and pull out the phone in my hydration pack to call my wife because I knew if I stopped for even a split second I would get an extra 100 bites. Then I took off my head phones and that’s when the panic attack reached epic proportions. It sounded like a swarm of angry hornets. “AAAAAHHHHHH!” said that voice in my brain.

That was the tipping point. I stopped and got the phone out of my pack and called my wife. Our conversation went like this:

Me: “Help! I’m being attacked my mosquitoes!”
Mel: “Okay, I’m on my way.”
Me: “Please! Hurry!”
Mel: “Do you have your poncho?”
Me: “Yes, but that won’t help at all! It doesn’t cover my legs!”
Mel: “Sit down on the ground and put the poncho over you and I’ll bring you some bug spray.”

Her idea sounded just plain dumb but I wasn’t thinking clearly and had no other option, unless I wanted Death By Mosquito. So I pulled out the poncho, sat down on the side of the road, and covered myself in that thin coat of plastic.

And then I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed. “Please, please Lord. Please don’t let a car drive by and see me sitting here.” And for 20 minutes my prayer was answered. But then my fear came to pass. I heard a car coming. “Please, please Lord. Please let that be my wife.”

But it wasn’t my wife. A car sped by and I was more than relieved that they didn’t stop and ask what in the world was going on. And then the car stopped and turned around! “AAAHHHH!” said that voice inside my head.

A lady with a shih tzu on her lap rolled down her window. “Are you…….okay?” “Yes, I’m fine.” I whimpered. “I’m getting eaten by mosquitoes so I’m just waiting for my wife to get here with some bug spray.” A concerned look flashed across her face and then she drove away. This is what my pathetic self looked like:

After 30 minutes my wife arrived and saw the most pathetic scene I’m sure her eyes have ever witnessed:

I had smeared blood on my arms and legs from swatting mosquitoes. And apparently some on my face.

I am so thankful that my wife rescued me. She is a true angel. And I’m so embarrassed that she had to see her husband wrapped up in a plastic bag sitting on the side of the road. I wouldn’t blame her if she thought of me as less of a man. Not only did those mosquitoes suck out my blood. They also sucked out some of my dignity.

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Run In With A Grumpy Snake

I haven't seen one snake while running this entire year. Crazy! Well, that streak ended on Saturday during a seriously beautiful run on the Prospector Trail near St. George, Utah.

As of today, the Bear 100 is only ELEVEN days away. (Yikes!) This whole taper this is going swell. I've been running a lot over the last year so I decided to give myself a nice long three week taper to get ready for the race. I only ran twice last week, both easy, casual runs. Saturday was my favorite.

The Prospector Trail is very runnable, pretty smooth single track with amazing views the whole time.

That snake I came across was a little bit grumpy. It obviously wasn't a rattle snake, but it acted like one. It coiled up, shook it's tail, and even struck toward me once. There was no chance of it getting me because I kept plenty of distance. I'm not a huge fan of these critters.

Sometimes when I see a snake they don't seem to mind at all. They just hang out. But this one was as excited to see me as I was to see it. I didn't want to bother it so I took a few pictures then went on my way.

We got lots of rain earlier in the week so the flowers were out in full bloom. This was my favorite picture of the day:

Speaking of snakes, do yourself a favor and read THIS story from It Just Gets Stranger about his experience with a sea snake. I have no hesitation guaranteeing that you will laugh so hard that you cry.

May your week be awesome and snake-free!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why I Have A Hard Time Running On Roads (Toquerville Falls, Utah)

I run on the road sometimes. Sometimes during the week I don't have much time before work. I don't have time to drive to a trail. Roads are more convenient. So I run on the road sometimes. But I don't like it.

And here's why:

When you've had the experience of running on stunningly beautiful trails.....and they're so close by.....and there are so many to choose from......suddenly running on the road just seems, well, blah. On Saturday I took a group of people to Toquerville Falls in southern Utah.

There was a great mix of old and new friends. Some had been to Toquerville Falls before but a bunch hadn't. On this run you get initiated to big climbs immediately. (And somehow it always feels like it is uphill both ways.)

Though I generally consider a run on dirt to be a "trail" run, the route to Toquerville Falls isn't really much of a trail. It's more of a dirt road. A steep, rocky, and in some places really crappy road. But still a road.

To me it still has the feel of a trail though. It's out in the middle of nowhere. No civilization. Fresh air. The only sound you hear is wind blowing over the hills. Which is basically my description of heaven.

Once we made it to the falls, it was fun to hang out and laugh for a bit before heading back.

My friend Jack snapped this picture of me where I gave my best impression of a fluorescent marker.

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." ~ John Muir

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blow Hard Utah

You know it's going to be a good run when it starts off with your running partner bringing you a cinnamon roll.

My friend Rick Whitelaw is one of the gurus behind Ultra Adventures (races like Zion 100, Bryce 100, Grand Canyon 100, etc.) He is also one of the nicest humans you'll meet. He offered to show me around a new (to me) trail in Cedar Canyon called Blow Hard.

This is a popular mountain bike trail where bikers take a shuttle to the top and then ride down. But to run up it and then back down, 14 miles round trip, 5,000+ feet climbing on technical trails, then going back down? That, my friends, takes some fueling from a cinnamon roll. (Here is Rick nearing the top of a climb.)

It wasn't completely steep, technical stuff. There were some silky smooth sections too.

Rick is a farmer. He has been weathered by hard work from sun up to sun down. He is strong and fast. And thankfully also patient with slower mere mortals like me.

We enjoyed some great views of Zion National Park in the distance and Cedar Breaks off on the near horizon.

The top of the trail ended at one of the stranger things I've seen on a trail: an ENORMOUS soccer ball. Apparently this enormous soccer ball is actually a radar station for southern Utah.

The last time I ran with Rick on a high elevation trail a few weeks ago I felt horrible. I had absolutely no energy. I felt remarkably better this time. I think this trail most closely resembles what I'll be running at the Bear 100 in a few weeks, so feeling good on this run was a much needed confidence boost.

Bear 100 is a short 18 days away. Let the taper begin!!!!!!! Hopefully my legs have gotten enough altitude training and climbing to be ready for the challenge.

Friday, September 5, 2014

I Smell Like Poop

Among the things that have happened in my life lately:

1) We are planting a fall garden at our house. I stopped at the nursery and bought three bags of cow manure then drove home. They were in the trunk for a total of 45 minutes. And now my car smells like a cattle farm. And consequently after sitting in my car for a few minutes I now smell like a cattle farm. 

2) My son played the song "New York State Of Mind" by Billy Joel on the piano at Hurricane's Got Talent. If you want to get goosebumps stop by our house and ask him to play that song. 

3) I had my first experience with a run to the top of Pine Valley. It was only around six miles....and it took me around four hours to go up and back. Very steep.

It was a bit hazy that morning but in the distance you can see Zion National Park:

In related news, I may be able to run faster if I ran in ugly places where I didn't keep pulling out my camera.

This tree was pointing which way to go:

This is a typical view of what the Oak Grove Trail looks like to get to the top of Pine Valley:

4) I have issues with my feet during really long runs so a medical friend suggested trying compression socks. They are bright enough that I wouldn't need a head lamp at night. I wore them to Toquerville Falls. Here's what's crazy: it was pitch black when I took this picture.

5) The last few times I've been to Toquerville Falls, the deer flies have removed pounds of flesh from my body. It's a painful, though effective weight loss strategy. Well, good news. When I went a few days ago the vampire-blood-sucking-flesh-eating-deer-flies are gone! 

I'll be taking a group of peeps to Toquerville Falls tomorrow morning. If you're interested in joining email me at and I'll get you all the deets. 

6) "Deets" is teenager speak for "details". 

7) We watched some TV last night. Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives on the Food Network. Pretty sure I could watch the Food Network all day. (While eating ice cream of course.)

8) It's not an accident that you don't see car air fresheners with the scent Steer Manure. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

10 Valuable Lessons I Learned Running 100 Miles In A Week

Last week I achieved my goal of running the most training miles ever in a week. I made it up to 105 miles in seven days which also included a rest day on Sunday. Throughout all those miles I learned some valuable lessons I thought I would pass on to you:

1. Don't run 100 miles in a week.
2. Don't run 100 miles in a week.
3. Don't run 100 miles in a week.
4. Don't run 100 miles in a week.
5. On some trails in our area the only radio station you can pick up on your mp3 player is the pop radio station. They average a Katy Perry song every 4th song. Those many hours listening to the radio solidified the fact that despite her amazing beauty and talent I detest her music.
6. Don't run 100 miles in a week.
7. Don't run 100 miles in a week.
8. Don't run 100 miles in a week.
9. Don't run 100 miles in a week.
10. That same radio station that plays Katy Perry every fourth song.....they are giving away concert tickets to.......wait for it.......wait for it..........Barry Manilow in Las Vegas. I laughed every time I heard it. Are Katy Perry and Barry Manilow not polar opposites? I believe they are targeting the wrong demographic.

I'm mostly kidding about the whole "Don't run 100 miles in a week." It's certainly doable. And it did help me get used to running on tired legs. (At the beginning of each run my legs felt like rusty, old machinery. It took a few miles to work out the kinks.) I just don't think that mileage is necessary to prep for a 100 miler.

During those 100 miles I saw some pretty amazing things. I can't really explain it but it felt like I became one with the trails. They were me. I was them. (Or that could have been a hallucination one of those times when I was running at 3:00am.)

I felt so blessed to have hundreds of miles of trails close by so I never felt bored in all those 105 miles. There was always something surrounding me to hold my interest.

Running 100+ miles in a week forced me to be more conscious of things like diet, hydration, sleep, and taking care of my body. It was definitely a challenge physically. It was quite different than running a 100 mile race though.

In a 100 miler you have only one job for 22-36 hours: RUN. But it was an interesting experience to run 100 miles in a week while also being a husband, father, and employee. Part of this involved me sacrificing to run early in the morning or late at night. But the other part was an amazingly supportive wife who encourages me to continue to challenge myself. One night I was out running and she surprised me by bringing the kids by to say hello and bring some pizza and a soda. I'm so thankful for her.

I finished the 100 miles (and added a few more) in one of my very favorite places to run called Warner Valley. It is an expanse of desolate and stunningly beautiful desert. I can't count how many hundreds and hundreds of miles I've run out here and I never get sick of it. A huge storm was chasing me down and the clouds were surreal.

I bought a pair of canes, I mean trekking poles (I got the Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-Poles) because I figure I'll need them for the Bear 100 in LESS THAN A MONTH. (Oh my. I just gagged a little when I typed that.) The poles have taken some getting used to but I'm starting to get better with them.

#11: Running 100 miles helps you feel more than justified for that enormous cinnamon roll you're going to eat.
#12: Load your mp3 player with podcasts like Trail Runner Nation or Ultra Runner Podcast before you run. I always save their podcasts for my long runs. No Katy Perry. Your ear drums will thank you.

If you're a runnerd like me who is interested in miles, this was my mileage breakdown:
Wednesday afternoon: 21
Thursday: 5
Friday: 4 in the morning, 30 at night
Saturday: 6
Sunday: Rest
Monday: 5 in the morning, 20 at night
Tuesday: 10
Wednesday: 4 early in the morning to be done within a 1 week span