Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Oreos and Diet Dr. Pepper From The Top Of The World

Last week I made a jaunt to one of my all-time favorite views high atop Sand Mountain in southern Utah. Each time I go there the route is a little different. There is inevitably a bit of route finding. (And "route finding" are code words for "getting yourself lost".) But with some perseverance and about a dozen stops to dump sand out of your feet you reach a view that is more amazing than Oreos and a cold Diet Dr. Pepper on a hot afternoon.


It truly feels like you're on top of the world.

Inspired by my friend Sam Jewkes who always packs a Mountain Dew to enjoy at the top of a high mountain peak, I threw some Oreos and a cold Diet Dr. Pepper in my UltrAspire pack to enjoy at the top. Now that, my friends, is pure deliciousness.

"If you're not living on the edge then you're taking up a little too much space." ~ Morgan Freeman

Monday, March 30, 2015

Our New Family Member - A Great Dane!!

For quite a while we've considered getting a Great Dane puppy. We've kept an eye on the classified ads for a while but nothing felt quite right.

Until a month and a half ago. I saw an ad for some new puppies near our home in southern Utah. I called the guy. Then I went to see the puppies. I didn't tell a soul. I didn't tell my kids. Definitely didn't tell my wife. I knew that if she knew anything about the puppies it would be a done deal. She's a sucker for dogs. 

They were really cute. Later I told Mel my secret. And a few hours later we were in a car together driving to look at the puppies. And then we were driving home making plans for a future new member of the family.

We decided to keep the secret from the kids until we brought her home. Thursday night she became an official member of the family. The first order of business was that this family member needed a name. It felt like the windows of heaven opened (okay, slight exaggeration) and we felt inspired to name her......

LITTLE DEBBIE!

Here is a little video I shot of the big surprise:

This dog is ridiculously cute. Here are some pictures from her first hours at home:

Little Debbie will be a tremendous help to me on the trails in a few years. If I get tired while out on a run with her I can just ride her back to the car.

Aunt Jackie gets along well with her despite being a pest quite regularly. It won't be too long before Aunt Jackie is looking UP at Little Debbie instead of down.

Please pray for our family as we begin potty training. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monument Valley Trifecta - Kane Gulch, Goosenecks State Park, and Forrest Gump

A week ago I had the opportunity to run the Monument Valley 50 miler. I haven't been able to get my mind off the race ever since. It was the experience of a lifetime.

I went to the Monument Valley area a few days early to check out some destinations on the Ultra Adventures Trifecta Challenge. This is a pretty cool thing that the RD is doing with the Ultra Adventures races. For every trifecta spot you visit you get 10% off a future race!

Side note: On the way to Monument Valley I stopped at Antelope Canyon to take a few pictures. Guess what - this is actually the section of a different race, also by Ultra Adventures. Antelope Canyon is one you definitely don't want to miss:

The first spot wasn't on the Trifecta list but high on my To-Do list: the epic Monument Valley overlook from the movie Forrest Gump where he stops his cross country run.

It was cool to run in the exact spot Forrest stood.

From there I headed to Goosenecks State Park. There were a few cool views but if I were to make a recommendation I'd hit up a few other areas before Goosenecks. It was a bit anticlimactic considering views at the other spots.


By far my favorite area on the trifecta challenge was Kane Gulch. I was a little nervous to do this 10+ mile hike less than two days before the 50 mile race but it turned out to not be a problem. Kane Gulch has some incredible Native American ruins but the hike to get to them is just as beautiful.

I took a ton of pictures in those ten miles. It's hard to narrow it down to just a few. The area had received a few feet of snow in the previous weeks and the snow melt created some awesome little streams flowing down the rocks.


I took the UltrAspire Omega pack so I'd have plenty of room for water and photo gear.

Lonely rock.

The two main places I hit in Kane Gulch were Turkey Pen Ruins, and my favorite, these Junction Ruins:



Many of the ruins were largely intact and it was awesome to look around the different structures.

The last spot I (almost) hit was Muley Point. The road to the actual point was closed due to mud but I saw part of the overlook. I'd definitely suggest hitting up Muley over Goosenecks. Truly amazing.

The road down will leave your cheeks puckered. I'm deathly afraid of heights and seeing this long, winding, steep, narrow road made me queasy. Thankfully it wasn't as bad as it looked.

This entire area is full of jaw dropping scenery. Monument Valley is a little out of the way. You have to do a bit of driving to get there. But destinations on the trifecta challenge, not to mention the stunning beauty of the race make it more than worth the drive.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Monument Valley 50 Race Report - 2015

My name is Cory Reese and I have a problem. (Okay, not just one problem. Many problems. Including that I like cinnamon rolls too much and I know the words to way too many Taylor Swift songs.)

But the problem I'm referring to here is that I simply can not put my camera away while running. The scenery at the Monument Valley 50 miler over the weekend was jaw dropping. During those 50 miles I took an astounding 363 PICTURES! That is an issue. If you figure each picture takes an average of seven seconds to take, this adds an extra 42 minutes to my race! I'll talk with the race director about changing my official finishing time.

It seemed like it should be a requirement before the race to stop on the Forrest Gump highway to get a jumping picture.

I have been to Monument Valley a few times in the past and it has been one of my favorite places on Earth. The scenery is amazing and I'm fascinated by the Navajo culture. The race starts at the Visitor Center overlooking this iconic view:

I was nervous going into the race. Between the fact that I only have 9 toe nails now and a sore knee, my training was better suited for a half marathon than a 50 miler. I wasn't sure how my body would hold up. But I just couldn't pass up running here. A few miles after the race started we were treated to this beautiful sunrise:

One of my favorite parts (am I allowed to have like 15 favorite parts of the course?) was early on when we passed this enormous formation called Stagecoach. The rocks were glowing red.

This guy said "Keep your camera out. That's the only time I run."

Miles later we were running past East Mitten. I can't tell you how happy I felt to be running right through the middle of a postcard.

From here we ran a section called the North Window Loop. The views....oh my. For most of the race we were on trails that few people have ever seen before. This area is in the Navajo Nation and they have restricted access so we felt so fortunate to have this opportunity. Enormous thanks to the Navajo Nation for their hospitality and generosity. As runners we all felt so much gratitude for this privilege.

Next up was the 9.5 mile long Arches Loop where we got great views of Totem Poles in the distance.

I was around 30 miles into the race by this time. I wasn't feeling great but I wasn't feeling horrible. And after the bumps in the road over the last few months I had almost forgotten what it was like to feel unhorrible. Feeling unhorrible felt amazing! My toe and knee were both cooperating.

On paper, the Monument Valley course doesn't look too hard. The 50 miler only has 4,500 feet of gain. But anyone who ran the race will say that the course is much, much harder than it looks on paper. There are vast amounts of sand. Most of the course....sand. Deep sand. Relentless sand. Like the sand in the movie Neverending Story that swallows the boy's horse. Whether you were walking or running, making forward progress was difficult.

But here's the thing - nobody complained about the sand. The very challenging running conditions were FAR surpassed by the stunning beauty of the course. The people I talked to were beyond willing to do some sand slogging to drink in the beauty that was surrounding us. We all knew we were surrounded by something amazing, something spiritual, something special.


It was awesome to occasionally see Navajo men out riding their horses across the trails. How is that for a trail guide!

What goes up......

Must come down.

For me the icing on the cake was the view from the top of Mitchell Mesa. This was the section I had been looking forward to most. The amazing views come at a price. First you have to climb around 1,000 feet in less than a mile up a steep, rocky trail. But once at the top you are rewarded with the views of a lifetime.

I showed Mel this picture and she said "Wow, it looks like you took that from an airplane."

The cherry on top was getting a jumping picture from the top of the mesa with one of the mitten formations below me.

Once I reached the bottom of the mesa there were only four more miles to the finish line. I was treated to an amazing sunset as I ran to the horizon by the light of my headlamp.

Race finishers were given a handcrafted Navajo bracelet. There were many different colors. This is the one I chose.

I can't speak highly enough of this race. Being immersed in the scenery and culture was an experience I will never forget. Go visit the Ultra Adventures website HERE and get this race on your radar. (They have a 4 mile, 25k, 50k, 50 mile, and 100 mile race.) The race is a little out of the way. Chances are you'll have a scenic drive to get there. But it is well worth it. Just like for me, you will have the experience of a lifetime.

I must thank Altra for some awesome shoes to keep my feet happy. (I wore the Olympus all 50 miles.) And Tailwind Nutrition for being my only fuel for the whole race. (Except the last aid station when I had a gluttonous moment involving excessive amounts of chocolate cake.) And St. George Running Center for being the wind beneath my wings and carrying the gear I need. And UltrAspire, their Omega pack had plenty of room to carry all the gear I needed. And the Navajo Nation for their support of this amazing event.

Finally a huge thanks to Matt Gunn and the Ultra Adventures gang for an awesome race. I have seen what goes on behind the scenes to put something like this together. I have come to love the Ultra Adventures crew of Matt, Rick, Turd'l, George, and Mikey for their passion and dedication. Thanks for an incredible 50 miles.

Want to see more views from this stunning race? I put together this video highlighting the awesomeness of Monument Valley. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Monument Valley 50 in 3 Days & UltrAspire Sponsor!

I feel overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement right now for two reasons:

1) I'm running the Monument Valley 50 miler in precisely three days. Months ago I had hoped to do 100 miles but with a toe that looks like I accidentally put it inside a wood chipper, I think 50 miles would be more prudent.

Monument Valley is one of my absolute favorite places on Earth. The Navajo culture, the expansive, spiritual beauty, the environment......it's truly breathtaking. My goal for the race is to barely make cutoffs, spend as much time as I can squeeze out on the course, and get some pictures beautiful enough to make grown men cry.

I took this picture years ago when I visited last. Even though it is simple, out of the thousands of pictures I've taken in my life it remains one of my favorites.

2) I am beyond excited to become the newest member of the UltrAspire athlete team! These guys make the finest hydration packs, waist belts, and bottles on the market. I've been using their stuff for years and absolutely love it. My favorite is their Omega pack that has plenty of storage space to get me through 100 milers.

If you want to save a few bucks you can use discount code uaa5210 at checkout for 10% off orders from their website.

An awesome weekend is on tap at Monument Valley. Grown men: prepare to cry.