Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Race Report - 2016

The following things happened last week:

1) On Tuesday I realized that despite doing some 100 milers earlier in the year, I didn't have a Western States qualifying race.
2) I realized that the last WS qualifying race was coming up in California in a few days.
3) I mentioned the Rio Del Lago 100 to Mel and she said "Go for it!"
4) I packed my stuff, then headed to California two days later.
5) I drove for about nine million hours on the Extraterrestrial Highway where there is SOOOO much nothing to see.

6) In the absolute middle of nowhere I passed by Area 51 and made a quick stop at the Alien Testing Facility. (Not making this up.) I can now check off the box on my bucket list next to "Take a jumping picture next to a gigantic metal alien."

The next morning I found myself at the starting line of Rio Del Lago. For the first mile or so I had fun talking with Don Freeman from Trail Runner Nation. There is one minor detail about this: Don runs fast. And I run like a sloth on Ambien. So I told him to go on ahead. Pretty soon we experienced an amazing sunrise over Lake Natoma.

The first 19ish miles are mostly a paved bike path. I didn't mind it, but I hear those 19 miles screw up a lot of people's races because they go too fast and burn out their legs. I focused on running smart and conservative. If you have to run on a bike path, this isn't the most horrible scenery ever.

The first part of the race had some runnable dirt too. I commented to another runner how cool it was to see green during a run. In southern Utah I see mostly red.

And then we reached this part of the trail surrounded by trees. The trail had this little bend in it and I heard the trail say "Hey, look how photogenic I am!" And I was like "Wow, you're not kidding! Stay right there. Don't move! Let me grab my camera!"

I was feeling pretty good overall. For gear, I was using the Altra Olympus shoes, the UltrAspire Velocity pack, a jacket from St. George Running Center, Tailwind Nutrition for my fuel, some Injinji socks, and a fist full of candy at each aid station. I got to one aid station and had a celebrity sighting. I decided it would have been rude to mention that her pant suit was stiff as a board and had huge creases in it.

The middle section of the course was really tough. There was a long stretch on a trail called "The Meat Grinder". The thing I don't understand is if your legs have been through a grinder, how do you UNgrind them? After about 25 miles, my legs had no energy. They felt like a fuming pile of toxic sludge.

To be honest, I didn't think my legs would get better. You can't ungrind stuff. You can't ungrind hamburger back into a New York steak. But somehow after a few hours of running I noticed that my legs didn't feel like toxic sludge anymore. I was very thankful.

The weather was PERFECT, the scenery was great, and I felt like I was running at the best of my capabilities. It felt like I was having a good day.

All along the course were these huge pine cones almost as big as my head.

By early evening it started to cool down. Pretty soon I could see my breath, but I was still running hard enough to be sweating so I didn't need to put a jacket on.

The night absolutely WRECKED me. I struggled so much with sleep deprivation. At two points I just plopped down in the middle of the trail to rest my eyes. I really struggle when I get so tired that it feels like the fatigue is suffocating. I know there are bears and mountain lions out in these areas. I ran for most of the night by myself but never felt too scared because I knew there were always runners not too far ahead or behind me.

There were some big climbs during the night. On one climb, it was so steep and so long that when I got to the top I almost barfed. And then there were a bunch of river crossings. I'm as coordinated as a filing cabinet so I prayed that I wouldn't slip on one of the loose rocks and end up with wet shoes.

I can't tell you how much the night sucked. The climbing. The cold. The exhaustion. It really took a toll on me. I suddenly realized that I was right up against cutoffs. I didn't understand (and actually still don't understand) how I got into that predicament. I felt like despite struggling through the night, I had done pretty good overall. But here I was, up against cutoffs.

I got to the aid station at mile 84 only five minutes ahead of the cutoff. We had to go back across the long Meat Grinder Trail. I asked an aid station volunteer "Is this even possible?" Maybe I was looking for an excuse to drop. She handed me a breakfast burrito and a cup of Coke, then she looked me in the eyes and said "You'll have to run the downhills hard. You'll have to hike the uphills as fast as you can. You have no time to spare. But you can do this. Go get it!" I'm so thankful for her pep talk. I could have shed a tear...if I had any fluid left in my body.

As the sun came up I sent a quick text to Mel. "Very close to cutoffs but I'm hurrying. I think I can make it." She wrote back "You can do it! I know you can!!!! We are cheering for you!" I ran as hard as I could for hours. Then I heard something so incredibly wonderful. I heard music from a loud speaker. I was getting closer. I was going to finish! I crossed the finish line with about 10 minutes to spare before the 30 hour cutoff. I have never had to fight so hard to beat cutoffs.

I don't think there is anything like a 100 miler to take you through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and completely wreck you, and put up so many impossible barriers along the way, and then show you that you can do the impossible if you just keep working and don't give up. It sounds cliche to say that the harder you work for something, the more it means to you. But that idea is never more clear than at an ultramarathon. The harder you work for that finish line, the more it will mean to you. A belt buckle is proof that you can overcome the impossible.

Do you want to know how tired I was after the race? I bought a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream....and let the whole thing go to waste because I was too tired to eat it. That's absolutely criminal! The next day I had a miserable 12 hour drive home but I was so happy to see my family and thank them for cheering me on from home. My daughter Danica had this sign waiting for me.

So now I have that Western States qualifying race. And I didn't get eaten by a mountain lion. And I have a belt buckle that I worked really hard for. And I have photographic proof of my jump next to a gigantic metal alien. Life is good. So good.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Grand Circle Trailfest Review - Running Around Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Grand Canyon

A few weeks ago I ran the Grand Circle Trailfest: a 3-day running adventure on the trails surrounding Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Grand Canyon.

I have run the ultra distance in all those races and somehow the Trailfest managed to select my favorite sections of each of the courses to include in the 3 day event. The race is staged in Kanab, Utah - a hub for all this amazing scenery. Runners could camp or stay in hotels around Kanab, and were then shuttled to the various courses each day.

The event was put on by Vacation Races who designed and managed all the running. They also partnered with Trail and Ultra Running to coordinate the festival side of the event. This is Craig Lloyd, owner of Trail and Ultra Running. Apparently, when you take a jumping picture with him, your legs decide, against your will, to look like Peter Pan. This is the beautiful park where the event was staged.

The first day was a 13 mile run on the Thunder Mountain Trail near Bryce Canyon. Have you been on the Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland? This is the scenery that gave them the inspiration for the ride! Let's play a game of "Can you spot the runner?"

I loved how the trails took runners back and forth through the hoodoos.

I accidentally took 274 pictures during the Bryce Canyon race. Oops! Of all the pictures I took, this one is my favorite. The runners, lighting, and scenery aligned perfectly:

At the end of the race, we received this arrow. (Arrows for the following two races and a quiver are going to be mailed to runners.)

That night Sunny Blende was the keynote speaker who talked about endurance fueling and nutrition. Her talk was followed by an outdoor film festival. The next day was a 12 mile run on Gooseberry Mesa overlooking Zion National Park.

I only live a few minutes away from the Zion 100 course and am so blessed to do most of my training somewhere along the course. It was awesome to see ~400 runners from across the country fall in love with my home trails.

It was so funny to be running along the trail, then reach a scenic viewpoint and see a cluster of runners with their cameras out to capture the magic of our surroundings.

We neared a section called The Point which is probably my very favorite spot on Earth. It feels like you can see for one million miles.

My heart was filled with joy when I got there and saw lots of runners taking jumping pictures. I felt like a proud parent! I was happy to join in on the jumping.

I was honored to be the keynote speaker for Friday night. I talked about mental training for ultramarathons, running Badwater, and my new book Nowhere Near First.

Friday night concluded with an amazing concert by the band The National Parks. I had never heard of them before Trailfest but I've been listening to their music constantly ever since.

Saturday was the longest day of Trailfest, 19 miles on trails overlooking The Grand Canyon. We ran on the Rainbow Rim Trail through forests of pines and aspens.

It was great to see overviews of the Grand Canyon from remote trails that few tourists ever see.

The keynote speaker for Saturday night was Ray Zahab. Have you seen the movie Running The Sahara? He teamed up with Matt Damon to make that movie. His awesome adventures, his enthusiasm, and his humanitarian work is an inspiration. I loved spending time with him before his speech talking about expeditions and book projects.

The Trailfest concluded with a great surprise. Trailfest co-founder Matt Gunn got down on one knee and proposed to Toby Nishikawa. I have known Matt since before he started the Zion 100 and Ultra Adventures. And Toby was on of the members of my incredible Badwater crew. I love both of these people. It was the perfect ending to an amazing adventure.

I loved the Trailfest so, so much. I heard other runners say that this was something that belongs on runner's bucket lists. The pictures above are only a small taste of the pictures I took during the races. Here is a video I made that shows off the beauty of these amazing courses:

Monday, September 19, 2016

My Book "Nowhere Near First" Has Been Released!

My book "Nowhere Near First: Ultramarathon Adventures From The Back Of The Pack" has been out for a few weeks now! It has been so exciting to have the book receive such a warm reception.

A few days after it was released on Amazon and Kindle, a friend sent me this image:

Since then, I have some things for you to check out.

1) A few days ago I did an interview with the podcast Trailmanners. The hosts, Joel and Aric are seriously hilarious. There were a few times during the interview that I was laughing so hard that I was crying. Go find Trailmanners wherever you download podcasts and you can download the interview, or go HERE to download the interview right from their website.

2) A few weeks ago I did an interview with Katie from Running Our Lives. She asked great questions about Badwater, training, and the book. You can read her article HERE.

3) HERE is a book review from Emma Lemma at Rebeltart.

4) HERE is a book review from Josh at PhatJosh.

5) The amazing Terri Rylander created a new homepage at www.coryreese.com. It turned out really awesome. Feel free to visit the site and join the mailing list.

The book is available HERE from Amazon or HERE from Kindle. If you've read the book, could you do me a solid and jump over to Amazon to leave a short review? That would be sweet. And if you have a review on your blog or website, let me know and I'll share it.

Thank you SO, SO much for supporting the book. I can't tell you how grateful I feel.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pacing At Wasatch 100 - 2016

The Wasatch 100 is a CRAZY hard race. Imagine:

  • Listening to an entire Justin Bieber album.
  • Getting a root canal.
  • Staying awake in a math class.
  • Eating cauliflower. 

Each of those things is very difficult. But running the Wasatch 100 is harder than all those things. Combined! I had the privilege of pacing my amazing friend Jared Thorley at the race last week.

I ran the Wasatch 100 last year and it was unquestionably the hardest trail race I've ever stepped foot on. I'm still working through PTSD from that race and the fact that I finished a comfortable (cough, cough) 35 minutes before the cutoff. 

Jared paced me at that race so I was excited to return the favor. I planned to pace him from mile 67 to the finish. When I met up with him at the Brighton aid station (affectionately known as "The Morgue") Jared was feeling good, but sleepy. It was 3:00am and he wanted to nap for 10 minutes. I was impressed that he managed to sleep despite the chaos of the aid station.

After a few hours in the darkness the sun slowly began to light up the horizon. We arrived at the Ant Knolls aid station and a volunteer came up to me. She said "Are you Cory Reese?" I said "Yeah." She said "Did you just have a book come out?" I told her I did. Then she asked if I went to Oakdale Elementary School. I was stunned as I responded that I did. She said "I was in your first grade class with Mrs. Wassom! I remembered your name because I wrote in your workbook and got in trouble from the teacher." I had not seen Julie McDermott for 30 YEARS! It was awesome to have a mid-race elementary school reunion.

As the sun came up, my camera came out. And for the rest of the day I struggled to put it away. The Wasatch Mountains are so seriously beautiful.

Jared is an amazing downhill runner. He can effortlessly fly past me on the downhills...even when he's got 70-80 miles on his legs. I was thankful for the uphills when I could catch up with him. (The course is essentially straight up or straight down the entire time. There are hardly any stretches in between those two extremes.)

He went through some really strong sections, and then hit some really rough patches. That's normal during any 100 mile race. Those rough patches are inevitable. He did a good job of continuing to push forward even during those tough times.

On a side note.....these aspens......holy cow! Just so, so, incredibly, seriously beautiful! This area surrounded by aspens was my favorite part of the course.

We got to an aid station and the worker said "You guys really need to hurry. Generally in order to make the cutoffs later in the race, you need to be out of this aid station by 7:54am and it's 8:13am right now." Unfortunately Jared was in a pretty heavy bonk that he was struggling to get out of. He was eating, drinking, and doing all the right things, but couldn't get his pace up where he wanted it. But again...he didn't stop. He kept moving forward.

I don't know what mile we were at when Jared realized that he wouldn't make the 5:00pm cutoff for the race. He said "Even though I won't make it before the cutoff, I'm going to keep going. If I can make the cutoff at the mile 89 aid station, I'll keep going and finish, even if it's after the cutoff." I thought this was so admirable. 

I came across this heart rock while we were out on the trail. I took a picture, then set it on the trail facing oncoming runners. I figured the runners behind us would need a little love, and I hoped that if they saw the rock, they would smile.

Unfortunately Jared didn't make the cutoff for the aid station at mile 89 and his race was over. I'm sure he felt a bit sad that the race didn't turn out the way he hoped, but he seemed at peace and comfortable knowing he didn't quit and gave everything he had. 

I suppose that's kind of like life. Sometimes things just don't turn out the way you hope they will. Sometimes the best you can do is to smile and keep moving forward. There's something to say for that.