Friday, April 29, 2011

Bring On The Ogden Marathon!

One of the reasons I am excited for the Ogden Marathon next month is that my brother Kenny is running it also. He is currently working in Washington DC and snapped this sweet picture during a training run last week!

Would you like to know the other reason I am so excited about the Ogden Marathon? There is a Hostess store right by the finish line. I'm serious! The location could not have been planned any more perfectly.

I made a decision that if I can beat my PR of 4:25 for the the marathon, I am going to go to the Hostess store and cram in as much artery-clogging goodness as my stomach will hold.

But I also have to consider the possibility that something will happen to prevent me from getting a PR. And if that's the case, I will go to the Hostess store and drown my sorrows in as much artery-clogging goodness as my stomach will hold. Bring On Ogden!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hurts So Good

There is a principle I have always lived my life by: I, Cory Reese, will never get a massage.

It just boils down to the fact that I don't want no one's hands on me. I just don't. But after the ultramarathon on Saturday my knees and legs were feeling ultra-achy. I decided to abandon my life principle and call the person who does sports massages for runners on the St. George Running Center team. Her name is April and I've heard she can make grown men cry.

I'll be honest with you: I was scared to death to go see April. Remember, I don't want no one's hands on me? And....I'm a grown man.....and I didn't want to cry.

So April starts doing her sports massage thing on my legs. I thought to myself "Hmm, this isn't so bad." And then April found the sweet spot - part of my leg that hurt just by looking at it. She zoned in on the sweet spot and I believe I levitated four inches off the table. Nowhere in the fine print did I see that she did the massage with Tasers. She continued to find many more sweet spots.

I heard April say, with a tone of slight surprise, "Oh, your legs are pretty tight." I really enjoyed my conversation with April as she smushed my muscles into peanut butter. I laid there trying not to levitate off the table, and it hurt so bad, but holy Moses, it felt so good.

She finished doing her sports massage thing, I stood up, and the greatest thing happened: I could bend my knees! It was glorious. It was a huge difference. I feel much better. My legs are still sore, but I have to remind myself that this is likely because I ran an ultramarathon three days ago.

So I officially abandon my anti-massage policy. I will certainly go see April again. Her rates are very reasonable - if you're in the southern Utah area you can schedule your own awesome Taser session by calling her at 435-773-7297.

I am proud to say that I, Cory Reese, did not cry.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Red Mountain 50k Review

The Red Mountain 50k was my first official ultramarathon if you don't count last month's 50 miler. I'm going to tell you a secret: my knees were hurting so bad last week that I told Mel I might have to drop out of this race. I wanted to stay optimistic, but deep down I knew I might be in trouble. I decided to give it a try and just see what happened.

The bus ride to the starting line was ultra-long. Honestly. I could have watched the whole Harry Potter movie series during that bus ride. We got off the bus and it was COLD outside with a decent wind. After about two minutes of that nonsense, we got right back on the bus and waited until it was time to start.

The first 12 miles of the race is on dirt and the rest is on pavement. Considering the problems I've been having with my knees, I planned to start very conservatively. I quickly realized that the ultra-steep uphill and ultra-steep downhill of the first few miles was going to be murder on my knees.

Thankfully the incredible scenery made up for the beating my knees were taking.

At one section of the trail I paused to watch the sun rise over the hill. This was one of my favorite pictures of the day.

A few minutes after I passed the Mile 9 aid station I reached a river. The only runner I had seen for a few miles was this guy who charged right through the river.

There was the option to leave a change of shoes for the Mile 12 aid station but I chose not to because I didn't know we'd be crossing a big river. I walked up the river to find a shorter distance to cross. No luck going down river either. I didn't want to run through it and have wet shoes for the next 22 miles so I sat down, took my shoes off, and waded to the other side:

After I put my shoes on again I started running up another ultra-hill. I had run a mile past the river when I thought I saw a group of around 15 runners charging toward me! I figured it was too early in the race to start hallucinating. Sure enough, they were running the other direction. Apparently they had gone farther up, hadn't seen any course markings, and realized they had gone the wrong way!

We ran a mile back to the river and had a pow wow about what to do. Someone concluded that we took a wrong turn and needed to go BACK across the river! So.......I took off my shoes AGAIN and waded back to the other side. Apparently a prankster sabotaged the course by changing the direction of the arrows. Standing at that river again with everyone was the craziest thing I have ever seen during a race.

When we got to the next aid station I realized that I had run almost two miles extra. That made me nervous. My knees were feeling ultra-terrible from the loose rocks of the trail so I was ultra-thankful to finally reach pavement.

And then things got ugly. I met up with my friend Jason Smith at Mile 15 and neither of us were feeling too hot. I tried to stay with him for the next couple miles but I just couldn't do it.

After this I reached a really low point. My knees just would not allow me to run for more than a minute or two. In my 33 years of life my knees have never hurt so bad. When I bent my left knee, it sounded like a bag of chips being crumpled. That wasn't too comforting.

In the first half of the race I was praying to God to please help me and my knees. In the second half of the race I was praying to God to forgive me for all the swear words I had been saying. The death blow was around mile 20 when I got passed by two old ladies. Granted, they were fit old ladies. But still, they were old ladies. I saw the race director at an aid station and asked him where I stood. He told me I was among the last 10 racers. I felt devastated and didn't know how I could keep going for another 10 miles.

I ran many miles by myself without another runner in sight, either in front of or behind me. By this point the extra two miles I had run from the detour were killing me mentally. It was so frustrating to arrive at the Mile 24 aid station as my watch showed that I had run 26 miles. Normally a few extra miles would be no big deal, but with my knees in dire pain, I was very concerned.

Eventually I could see a few runners creeping up behind me. I realized that I was part of the "Who Is Going To Win Last Place" competition. It was powerful and humbling to be part of a group of people who were experiencing such intense suffering.

Sometimes I was able to run 30 seconds before walking. Sometimes I managed to only get a few steps before being slowed to a walk. Want to see what it looks like when you try to smile at the same time your knees feel like they've been run over by a train and your flesh feels like it's melting off your bones? This is what it looks like:

The scenery during the last mile of the race is amazing:

There were a few people still at the finish line when I arrived, including my friend Jason who finished the race earlier. That meant a lot. When I crossed the finish line, I didn't feel a huge sense of accomplishment. I didn't feel enlightened. I didn't feel like I was a new person for what I had achieved. I didn't feel a runners high. I didn't really feel anything. Except glad that it was over. I finished the 31 miles in 6 hours & 38 minutes (but with the couple miles extra my race time was 7 hours & 3 minutes).

Now that I've had a day to digest everything that happened, thinking back on that experience brings tears to my eyes. I can't describe how bad my knees hurt during those 33 miles. I am so thankful God forgave my swearing and helped me make it through. I certainly didn't feel his help then, but I see it now.

Despite how I felt yesterday, I think this race did change me. This was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was shown again that I can do hard things. From now on, when I finish a race, I'm going to stick around and cheer for those people at the back of the pack. I have a new understanding about how people persevere amid suffering. I'm thankful I have a cool medal to remind me of the lessons I learned during this race.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Marathon Tips From An Expert

My crazy-fast friend Tom Dansie ran the Salt Lake City Marathon five days ago and had an INCREDIBLE PR finishing time of 3 hours and 51 seconds. He was 16th place out of the entire marathon! I had lots of questions for Tom and he was generous enough to write some responses for me to post here. (Although I disagree with his harsh comments about my favorite beverage.)

In your opinion, what is the most critical part of successful marathon training?

For me, “fast finish” long runs (16 to 22 miles with the last five to six miles at marathon pace) are the most important part of training. I find these runs build my endurance and train my body to go fast when it is already fatigued. These runs also teach your body what race pace feels like so running that pace on race day will seem natural and automatic.

In addition to these fast finish long runs I also think tempo runs are very important. They help increase your speed over a moderately long distance.

While training for Salt Lake I did ZERO speed work at the track. So for me speed work was not so important. However, I know for other people speed work is very important. So I guess my best advice is to learn what type of workout benefits your body the most, then concentrate on those workouts. As long as you are also building your endurance with long runs you should be fine.

What recommendations would you give to someone looking to improve their marathon time?

Run faster.

Do lots of race pace running in training so your body gets “tuned” to your race pace.

To help stay on pace during the marathon I like to use a pace wrist band (see here Referring to the pace wrist band every mile will keep you from going out to fast at the start, and will motivate you to keep going fast at the finish.

What do you do to get through the last stretch of a marathon after exhaustion has set in?

I think, “What would Cory do?” This gives me the motivation to keep moving. Seriously.

I think of how I will be able to brag about my performance to my friends and family, and if I just keep pushing through the pain and exhaustion I will be able tell everybody I reached my goal.

I try to break up the last bits of the race into manageable pieces. For example, at mile 20 I think, “Just a 10K left to go. 10k’s are easy.” At mile 23 I think, “Alright, one last 5K. I can do a 5K in my sleep. No problem.”

I try to play fun games with the spectators like counting how many times I hear, “One more mile to go!” before I actually get to mile 25.2. (Note: In Salt Lake this was about 14 times.)

The key is to distract yourself enough so you don’t give into the pain in your legs, but not so much that you forget about your goal and get off pace.

What role does diet play in marathon training? (And can I keep drinking my occasional Diet Mountain Dew?)

I try to eat healthy, but I am not obsessive about it. Fortunately for me, I have the greatest wife in world who also happens to be a gourmet chef. She keeps me well fed with reasonably nutritious and incredibly delicious food.

Unfortunately for you, you cannot keep drinking Diet Mountain Dew, but not because of your marathon training. Stop drinking it now because, next to anti-freeze, there can’t be anything less appealing to drink (from both a visual and taste perspective).

What is going through your mind during those 26.2 miles? Explain the mental aspect of racing.

The mental side of racing is huge. It is important to have a positive mental outlook during training as well as during the race. One trick is to tell your friends and family early on in your training what your goal time is. You will be surprised at how much they will want to support you in achieving your goal during your training. It will also help motivate you during the race knowing that you will be accountable to everyone you told your goal time to. This will help you when you hit the wall during the race. You can say to yourself, “I can’t slow down now. Everyone is expecting me to run sub 4 hours and I don’t want to let them down.”

Another recommendation is to avoid mental barriers to going fast. For example, I might be tempted to say to myself at some point, “There is no way I can break X time. That is just way too fast for me.” I know I did that to myself with a sub 1:25 half marathon. I kept telling myself that I just couldn’t do 1:25. Because I had created a mental barrier it was difficult for me to break that time, regardless of what my training and fitness would have allowed me to run. Once I finally did break 1:25 last year my next two half marathons were also fairly easily under 1:25 because I knew I could hit that time. So prepare yourself mentally to reach whatever goals you set with positive thinking and visualization.

What were your thoughts and feelings as you crossed the finish line with a PR?

Unless you are from Kenya you have very little chance of actually winning a marathon. So the real competition is with yourself. This is the great thing about the sport of running and what makes it so different from other sports. Pushing yourself to the limit of your ability and improving your personal performance is what running is all about. Setting a new PR is a huge sense of accomplishment. It gives you a supreme sense of satisfaction to know that you just ran faster than you ever have before. I was not close to “winning” anything in Salt Lake, but knowing that I ran my best marathon ever gave me a lasting sense of accomplishment regardless of what my official place was.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our Push Up Competition

A few nights ago our family had an impromptu push-up competition. I don't mean to brag, but I was able to pound 1 boy push-up and 12 girl push-ups. Take that all you stupid bullies that pushed me around in elementary school!

The kids were stunned into silence while witnessing my incredibly enormous strength. I am finally reaping the rewards of all the time I spend weight lifting (exactly, um, zero hours).

On the bright side, I did beat my wife in our competition!

Disclaimer: my wife has two broken elbows.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Running With The Reptiles

Monday, April 11th 2011: 20.5 mile bike ride @ 16.6 mph average speed. 5:44pm: Arrive home from work. 5:47pm: Change into my ultra-nerdy cycling clothes. 5:53pm: Pound down one (alright, three) chocolate chip cookies. 5:55pm: Pump bike tires and hit the road. There was a rare weather occurrence: very little wind. I think this may be my fastest longer ride.

Tuesday, April 12th 2011: Rest. My knees are still achy and kind of feel like they are grinding. I don't know who put sand paper and rusty nails under my knee caps while I was sleeping, but when I find out who it was, they are getting a mega wedgie.

Wednesday, April 13th 2011:
6 miles @ 11:47 minutes per mile pace. I ran some sections of the JEM trail thinking a softer surface would be better for my knees. They didn't feel as good as I had hoped after taking 5 days off running. (Did I mention I'm running an ultramarathon NEXT WEEK!?!?!)

Thankfully the beautiful trail made up for the CRAZY tornado-force winds. Some sections of the trail look like they are about to crumble underneath you:

This was the first time I had ever seen anyone out on that trail. Two mountain bikers cruised past and I happened to have my camera ready:

Toward the end of my run I nearly squished a snake that was sitting right in the middle of the trail. I appreciated that it was patient enough to hang out while I grabbed my camera. It also let me get surprisingly close to take a picture:

Thursday, April 14th 2011: 3 mile jog in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve with my son Jackson. I talked Jackson into coming with me and he was excited to catch a big horny toad at the top of the trail:

This gave us some good time to make plans for the upcoming science fair. The temperature and scenery were perfect and we had lots of fun together. The only thing better than being outside getting fresh air is being able to do it with family.

Friday, April 15th 2011:
1 hour walk. At the end of the walk I talked with my friend Tom who was doing a final training run. He ran the Salt Lake Marathon the next day and KILLED it with a time of 3 HOURS AND 54 SECONDS! Incredible. That conversation got some crazy wheels turning in my head. I'll tell you more about that soon.

Saturday, April 16th 2011: 7 miles @ 11:57 minutes per mile pace. I ran on the Diamond Ranch dirt road and it didn't go well. My knees are being very, very pesky. I am SO, SO thankful that they will be feeling better this week. I'm sure of it. They don't have a choice. Red Mountain 50k in 6 days!

"We have been told time and again we were born to success, but a truly run marathon convinces us of that truth."
~ George Sheehan

Friday, April 15, 2011

Goals For 2011

Recently I joked about what my running goals are. While those goals are valid, I have two primary running goals for 2011:

1) Run a marathon PR. I really think this is possible. My PR is 4 hours and 25 minutes and I think I can beat that. The last 6 months I have been so focused on building distance that my speed has started to plateau, but I'm going to work on that. I think my two best possibilities for a PR are the Ogden Marathon in May or the Top Of Utah Marathon in September.

2) Complete the Utah Grand Slam. This is a unique club in Utah where you complete a series of four marathons over the course of a few months. There aren't too many spots to get entered for the Grand Slam. I was lucky enough to get into the Grand Slam this year so now I just need to run the races.

A sub-four hour marathon continues to tempt me. If I achieve my two goals I will be very happy. But if I happen to get a sub-4 somewhere along the way I will be ecstatic.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How To Jump During A Marathon

The Sand Hollow Marathon a few weeks ago was particularly special to me for a few reasons:

1) It was on my home turf.
2) With the mess of the real world, I helped prove to myself that I can persevere and triumph despite difficult circumstances.
3) It was the conclusion of my first 50 mile run.

I was so tired that it felt like I had been huffing Benadryl and my legs felt like spaghetti with marinara sauce but I still managed to find the energy to get some jumps in. (Maybe the race director spiked the Gatorade????) It was awesome that race photographers captured the jumps so perfectly. These were definitely some pictures worth purchasing:

I was pleasantly surprised that I was still able to jump across the finish line after running 50 miles:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Feeling Like A Wussie

Monday, April 4th 2011: 7 miles @ 10:57 minutes per mile pace. This was my first real run since the 50 miler and my knees felt ultra-achy. It reminded me of when I first started running two years ago and always drove to work with ice packs on my knees because they were so sore. I enjoy this feeling, um, not at all.

Tuesday, April 5th 2011:
3 miles @ 10:38 minutes per mile pace. This was the most enjoyable run I've had in a long time. I went at about 10pm and the temperature was PERFECT. I didn't worry about my pace and just relaxed. I loved it.

Wednesday, April 6th 2011: Signed up for the Red Mountain 50k ultramarathon coming up in two weeks.

Thursday, April 7th 2011: Rest.

Friday, April 8th 2011: 10 miles @ 11:15 minutes per mile pace. I should have realized the bad omen when I woke up ready to run and saw this:

I live in southern Utah - a part of the state that does not believe in snow. As far as I'm concerned, snow should be illegal.

Later in the day it cleared up a little bit. I really want to do well at the Ogden Marathon next month and thought maybe it would be helpful to get some downhill training. Thankfully my wife has been cleared to drive only a few weeks after her "incident" and she was happy to drive me 16 miles up the road toward Zion National Park so I could run home.

The snow had turned to rain so I decided to learn my lesson from a few weeks ago and wear a garbage bag:

That got annoying after a few miles so I decided I was willing to get wet. It was around 38 degrees and even though I was wet, I actually didn't feel very cold. In this picture, the dense storm clouds are covering up some large red rock mountains in the background:

A few miles later I passed an ostrich farm. When you get up close to these beasts you can see that they are positively the UGLIEST creatures in the animal kingdom. Ostriches are proof that God has a sense of humor.

I started having technical difficulties after about 7 miles. My right knee went all haywire and my left foot felt like someone threw a trident at it. At 9 miles I surrendered. I didn't want to risk jeopardizing upcoming races to finish my 16 miler. So I gave in and called Mel to pick me up. I ran another mile before she arrived.

I was hurting and frustrated. This was the first time I have ever given in and quit mid-run. Part of me wished I had just kept going. Part of me knew that would be just plain dumb. Part of me was glad I had called it quits before hurting myself worse. Part of me felt like a big fat wussie.

Saturday, April 9th 2011: Ice & Ibuprofen. My knee and foot still have that distinct Just-Been-Stabbed-By-A-Trident feeling. I don't think it's anything major but I probably won't run much over the next few weeks so I will be ready for the ultramarathon. Bring. It. On.

"I don't think you can become an outstanding runner unless you get a certain amount of enjoyment out of the suffering. You have to enjoy absorbing it, controlling it and—ultimately—overcoming it."
~ Derek Clayton

Friday, April 8, 2011

Upcoming Ultramarathon

Just for the fun of it, I registered for an ultramarathon coming up in two weeks:

The Red Mountain 50k (about 31 miles).

A few other friends, Darin and Logan decided to register just for the fun of it too. The first 12 miles are on trails/dirt roads and the last 19 miles are on the road. I think it will be a blast. I will be sure to bring along my camera. And a copy of my life insurance policy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Me + St. George Marathon Video

A while ago I did a voice-over interview for a video that the St. George Marathon was producing for the 35 year anniversary of the race. One of the questions was "What is going through your mind toward the end of the race?" I responded that during at least one part of every race I think to myself "This is the stupidest hobby ever! I am never going to run again." Of course those thoughts all evaporate by the time I reach the finish line.

Incidentally, that was one of the comments that was included in the video. Watching this gave me goose bumps. Their video is EXCELLENT.

Be honest, is it just me? Do you have some point during a race when it starts to hurt and you question your sanity for ever getting into running?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Un-Awesome Week

To be honest with you, this hasn't been the most awesome week of my life. It has been pretty much crazy since Mel broke her elbows. I feel so humbled and grateful for all the support and kind deeds that friends and neighbors have done for us this week. We have the greatest friends ever. You may think you have the greatest friends ever, but if you saw everything our friends have done for us this week, you would change your mind and agree with me.

This week I have also been acutely aware of all the little things I take for granted like being able to scratch my nose, get a glass of water, or turn a door knob. I hope I never take little things like that for granted ever again. Ever since her fall I keep thinking maybe I'm going to wake up in the morning and tell Mel "You will not believe the crazy dream I had last night! You fell and broke both your elbows!" I think I've finally admitted to myself that it isn't a dream.

Mel is improving. She can now feed herself and got herself dressed for the first time this morning. I felt like a proud parent. It was a big accomplishment!

I managed to get my sweat on a few times this week which was good.

Wednesday, March 30th 2011: 18 mile bike ride @ 15.1 mph average. This was the most wind I have ever rode in. I was going Superman speed on the way out, then Superslug speed on the way back.

Thursday, March 31st 2011: 3 mile run @ 10:40 minutes per mile pace. It was a beautiful run through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

Friday, April 1st 2011: 31 mile bike ride @ 13.9 mph average. This was my longest ride ever. I did the Leeds loop which I had never done before. I passed Quail Lake which is surrounded by incredible layered red cliffs:

Then my bike started having wardrobe malfunctions. The stupid chain popped off the gears a bazillion times (bazillion = 4) which was aggravating.

Toward the end of the ride I reached a stretch of highway that had a very small shoulder and those huge divots on the side that thump-thump-thump when you drive on them. Apparently as I was cruising down a hill I swerved a little bit on the midget shoulder and hit the divots. I completely lost control and was swerving all over the place.

Keep in mind that cars and semi trucks are speeding by at 60mph roughly seven inches away from you. I got two honks from cars during this section. I figured they weren't giving a friendly Hows-It-Going honk. I felt like I was on the verge of becoming a hood ornament.

By the time I got home, I was FUMING from my near-death experience. I was livid. I vowed to never do the Leeds loop ever again and contemplated throwing my bike in the dumpster. (Don't worry, we are friends again. As long as the chain issue can get fixed.)

When I started biking I swore I would NEVER post a picture of me in my biking clothes. You have to be fairly comfortable with your body to even put this stuff on. But now I give in. Here is a picture of me after my death ride sporting my I'm-Really-Mad-But-I'll-Smile-Anyway smile (which is remarkably similar to my I'm-Really-Happy smile.)

On Saturday, April 2nd 2011 Jackson did his first triathlon which he has been looking forward to for a long time. The family had a blast watching his race:

The distance he chose was a 200 yard swim, 5 mile bike ride, and 1.5 mile run. He finished in 1 hour and 7 minutes and won his age division! And....he was the only one in the age 10 and under age division! It was funny to see him in the starters area amid a crowd of adults. When they announced his name as the winner of the age division, the announcer said "I give this kid mad props for being this young and doing this race!"

I am looking forward to having a much more awesome week starting tomorrow. Yea!