Friday, September 30, 2011

I Registered for a 100 Mile Ultramarathon!

I have some exciting news: I signed up to run my first 100 mile ultramarathon! (Cue butterflies in the stomach.) The Javelina Jundred in Arizona is coming up November 12th! The goal: complete 100 miles in less than 30 hours.

Even though the date is coming up soon, don't worry - this is not a decision I've rushed into. I've actually been discussing it with family and a few friends for many months now. I have been planning and training for it for many months but it took some time to build up enough courage to actually register.

I've been talking to a bunch of ultra-runners who said they think my training has prepared me to tackle 100.

In the last six months I have run:
*Six marathons (plus a bunch of halfs)
*One 50k ultramarathon
*One 50 mile run
*Lots of race-specific training (trail running, heat training, etc.)

There are lots of reasons that I think this race will be the perfect fit for me:
1) It's in the desert on trails almost identical to where I train.
2) It's a well-supported race with a history of taking good care of runners.
3) The course is a series of six 15-mile loops (plus a 10 mile loop). I train similarly and I think psychologically this helps to break up the race into chunks.
4) Running the same loop on a well-marked trail will make sure I don't get lost. Previously I was scared of trying 100 because I didn't want to be out by myself in the middle of a race and get lost.
5) It's a big race - almost 400 runners! So I don't think there will be as much of the lonliness that runners feel in most ultras. (Most reviews say it's a 30 hour party + a 100 mile run.)

BRING. ON. 100!!!!!!!!!!!

"Your biggest challenge isn't someone else. It's the ache in your lungs and the burning in your legs, and the voice inside you that yells 'CAN'T", but you don't listen. You just push harder. And then you hear the voice whisper 'can'. And you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

2 Days Until The St. George Marathon

I'm so excited for Saturday to run the St. George Marathon with Mel. We have two goals for the marathon:

1) Cross the finish line.
2) Have a crazy, crazy amount of fun.

I have run her two previous marathons with her and they are some of my favorite race experiences. I think we figured out how to have a blast while running 26.2 miles.

Plus, when I finish the St. George Marathon I will also complete the Utah Grand Slam of marathons. This has been a goal of mine for a few years now. Here is a view of where we'll be running in two days:

Big announcement coming tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

22 Miles Of Bliss

In the wee hours of the morning yesterday I ran 22 miles @ 11:53 minutes per mile pace. I learned a valuable lesson. When you take your camera running, it doesn't work nearly as well if the battery is still at home on the wall charging. Fail. I had to just take pictures with the phone. Booo.

I had been running for hours before the sun came up. It is slightly spooky to be out in the middle of the wilderness all by your lonesome. Gu packets make for terrible company. But running in cooler weather was pure heaven. I was thankful when the sun finally started coming up.

Later I saw some big muther paw prints in the dirt. I suppose they could be from a dog, but I don't think so because they were coming down from the mountain. I was so thankful that I didn't end up being breakfast for some animal. You can see how big the tracks were:

One of the wierder things I ever seen while running: an enormous pile of black feathers scattered everywhere. It looked like a flock of birds had swallowed fire crackers. But there was no sign of any dead birds. Just feathers everywhere. This is only a part of the carnage. Strange.

I was surprised how good I felt during the whole run. The cooler temps made such a huge difference in covering the 22 miles. Since the St. George Marathon is coming up in a few days I made sure to take it very easy and went slow enough that I never felt out of breath. I felt like I could run forever.

Finally, the coolest part of the whole day. I ran past a butterfly that was just sitting on the trail. I stopped and took a few pictures. I came by the same place about 30 minutes later and it was still there! I stuck my finger out and it crawled right on. It was the perfect ending to a great run.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Close Encounter With A RATTLESNAKE

Monday, September 19th 2011: Rest. My legs were still crazy sore from the Top of Utah Marathon a few days ago. My legs hurt when I blinked.

Tuesday, September 20th 2011: Rest. (And a pack of Hostess Donuts. Mmmm.)

Wednesday, September 21st 2011:
14 miles @ 12:19 minutes per mile. My legs were still a little stiff but it felt good to get them moving again. The worst part of this run was the obscene heat (mid-90's the whole time). After a few hours it felt like my skin was melting off the bones.

I ran around the JEM Trail and Hurricane Rim Trail which has become my favorite place in the world to run. The scenery is so amazing. Many times you find yourself running along the edge of a cliff with river weaving below.

For the first time I experimented with a black and white setting on my camera. I liked how it gave some contrast to the views.

I'm still trying to make friends with my Camelbak. It was too hot to just rely on my handheld bottles. Me and Camelbak are at least on speaking terms.

I was sporting some nice tan lines around my ankles when I got home. (Tan lines = dirt lines.) (Pedicure courtesy of my 7 & 8 year old little girls.)

Thursday, September 22nd 2011: Rest.

Friday, September 23rd 2011: 15 miles @ 11:30 minutes per mile. I headed out for my run right after work Friday evening and the temp was still in the mid-90's. I ran a different section of the JEM trail. You know, there is nothing better than trail running. I would take dirt over road in a heart beat. You have to let down your pride a little on trails because your 9 minute mile on the road can easily turn into an 11 or 12 minute mile on a trail. Running up hills like this will slow you down a bit:

This is my favorite overlook of the whole area. Pictures can't do it justice. You are high on a cliff overlooking amazing desert scenery and red rippled mountains. It is incredible. I experimented with a bandanna over my ears and neck to see if it would keep me cooler. I think it did, even if it cost me looking more nerdy than usual.

I ran 9 miles on the trail then met Kelly, Micah, Michelle, Braydon, and Mel for a 6 mile night run. The run was followed by amazing pie and Taco Bell - certainly a highlight of the day.

Saturday, September 24th 2011: 14 miles @ 11:24 minutes per mile. I heard MC Hammer on the radio while I was running. Really! Any run is a good run when it's Hammer Time.

I went back to the JEM trail again. Again, scorching hot. I didn't take my camera this time because I had already taken 119 pictures over the last few days and figured I'd be able to go faster without the camera. Big mistake.

I ran a section of the trail that I have never done before. There was weeds and growth surrounding a few miles of the trail which limited visibility. I was just moving along minding my own business when I came around a corner and then....

Came one step away from running over a RATTLESNAKE!!!!!

I screamed like a little schoolgirl and then it rattled at me some more. I was completely terrified. It didn't slither away, it just stayed right on the trail so I went wide around it. I couldn't believe how big it was. It stayed curled up ready to strike. I didn't have my camera but looked up a picture and this is exactly what it looked like:

This is positively the scariest thing that has ever happened to me while running. It still gives me the willies every time I think about it. I probably won't run that section again.

Other than the snake incident, it was a good week. I was happy that I was able to do a 14, 15, and 14 miler less than a week after the marathon. Only six more days until the St. George Marathon!

What is the scariest thing that has happened to you while running?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Soreness After A Marathon

It is now four days following the Top Of Utah Marathon, and let me tell you something amigo: my legs are crazy, crazy sore. Not really even my legs, just my quads. My quads are crazy, crazy sore. Those downhill races definitely put your quads through the meat grinder.

The good news is that I have survived Monday.

The Monday after a race is always the worst for me. Usually a few hours after a Saturday race I'm feeling good enough that I could go run again. On Sunday I am much more sore. I start the Feeling-Like-Frankenstein walk.

But Monday? Monday?!? Sweet angel of death, Monday is horrible. My quads feel like they have been trampled by a herd of overweight ostriches. It takes tremendous mental will-power and determination to lift my leg high enough to get in or out of the car. It hurts my legs to breathe. It's always a Monday when I consider changing my hobby from running to stamp collecting.

By Tuesday I feel like a new man. Soreness decreases significantly. But Monday? Ouch. Just plain and simple ouch. This is the most accurate (and highly funny) video I've found about how you feel after a marathon:

After a race, when are you most sore?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Top Of Utah Marathon Review 2011 (And A New PR!!)

I was excited for the 2011 Top Of Utah Marathon and had a goal of getting a new PR (under 4 hours, 25 minutes, 36 seconds). The course is perfect and the weather was supposed to be perfect.

During my 7 hour drive up to Logan I stopped at Subway in Nephi for lunch and some people I didn't know called me over to their table. They were going up to TOU also and said they liked my pictures and blog. It may have (did) make my day.

Race morning arrived and the weather..... wasn't perfect. It was raining at the starting line but not terribly cold. Then the announcer said it was time to move to the starting line because the race was about to start. The moment he said that, it changed from rain to a complete downpour. I was so thankful I brought a garbage bag, but my feet were completely soaked before the race even started. Grrr.

After about a half hour the rain stopped and it looked like the weather was clearing up so I ditched the garbage bag. (Spoiler alert: this was a bad idea.)

At mile 10 it was like we ran into a wall of pouring water. Pounding thunder shook the canyon and lightning was flashing all over. It was slightly scary and I worried they would call the race. I was so impressed as I looked around me. As we were getting drenched I didn't see one runner whining or complaining or moping. Everyone was so focused and determined that I don't think it really mattered whether it was raining or not.

But it just got crazier. Suddenly the torrential downpour turned to hail! I've had plenty of rocks get into my shoes but never gotten plenty of hail in my shoes. That was certainly a first. The whole scene made me laugh really hard. If an average person saw thousands of people completely soaked running through a hail storm they would have us committed to a mental institution.

During the race I met a guy named John and we ran a bunch of miles together. He was really nice and was running his first marathon. Runners are nice people eh?

I was cruising along making good time, feeling good when I made a quick bathroom stop at mile 15. This was when my race suddenly got much harder. In that one minute of not running, my legs wound up into tight knots. I tried to stretch them but that made them cramp even more.

I kept running hoping they would loosen up but I just couldn't shake the cramps. It was strange, this hasn't happened for a long time. I was drinking and fueling good, and not going too fast for my pace so it may have just been the downhill or the cold or the fact that I stopped for a minute.

I got nervous at mile 20. The thunder really started to kick up again and there was a dark storm rolling in. I really didn't want to run another hour in the rain (thankfully it held off).

In the last few miles I knew I'd really have to push to get under 4:25. My legs just weren't cooperating. My shoes felt like they were 3 pounds heavier. Oh, wait! They were! I was popping Gu packets like Skittles to try and get one last push. Seeing the finish line in the distance made me ecstatic.

I finally made it and jumped across the finish line. I immediately regretted trying to jump because I probably got about 3/4 inch of air. At least I didn't pull the same stunt I did last year at the finish line. Usain Bolt looks awesome. I, on the other hand, looked like a really nerdy cheerleader.

I looked down at my watch and saw that I had achieved a PR by a comfortable (loaded with sarcasm) 1 minute and 4 seconds! To be honest, I felt well-trained and thought I'd be a little faster, but with leg cramps (or anything else that could come up), you just roll with the punches and do the best you can. I felt good knowing that I had 1) earned a PR, and 2) pushed my body to give everything it had.

After I crossed the finish line I saw fellow bloggers Erin & Betsy who were volunteering at the race. I told them two things: 1) Thanks for helping at the finish line! and 2) Okay, I'm going to go die now. My stomach was not at all interested in eating anything. I barely managed to eat a small ice cream sandwich without throwing up. Then I saw John again who did awesome finishing his first marathon!

I took off my shoes to see what damage had been done from running 26.4 miles in soaking wet socks. My skin looked like elephants but I amazingly avoided any blisters. My little girls begged to paint my toenails a few days ago and I realized this was probably good so I wouldn't see if any toenails had turned black.

My ailments were nothing compared to one guy I saw at the finish line who had the worst bloody nipples I have ever seen. I wanted to hug him and tell him I was sorry. A marathon in a soaking shirt could certainly cause problems. I was thankful I remembered Band-Aids.

I felt really happy at the finish line knowing that I had given 100%. It hurt really bad and it was really hard, yet this was the fastest that my legs have ever run 26.2 miles. I was happy. Us runners realize something that non-runners don't: our bodies are capable of so, so much more than most people know.

The Top Of Utah Marathon put on a fantastic race again, as usual. Aid stations were excellent, volunteers were incredible, and the finishers area was perfect. Plus - I love this shirt! The moose wearing running shoes = awesome!

And the medal?!?! This puppy is huge. It's the biggest medal in my collection. This thing is big enough to need a birth certificate. Thank you Top Of Utah for another excellent marathon!

"Some think guts is sprinting at the end of a race. But guts is what got you there to begin with. Guts start back in the hills with 6 miles to go and you're thinking of how you can get out of this race without anyone noticing. Guts begin when you still have forty minutes of torture left and you're already hurting more than you ever remember." ~ George Sheehan

Friday, September 16, 2011

Double Good Luck and Pre-Race Jitters

I caught this picture a few days ago after a huge storm. Double rainbows = double good luck. Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!

If you're racing, be sure to check out this excellent article "Conquer Your Pre-Race Jitters". I could identify with many of them.

What pre-race jitters do you get?
Yesterday I drove up a hill on my way home from work and said to myself "Man, I wish I had run that hill a few more times before Saturday's marathon." I'm good at questioning my training.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Quest For a PR (And An Aerodynamic Haircut)

The Top Of Utah Marathon is coming up in a few days and I'm nervous. I've run lots of marathons this year but haven't actually "raced" a marathon for around a year. Usually I just go to have fun and enjoy the experience. But for this race I want to go fast.

More specifically, I want to run faster than 4 hours & 25 minutes and get a PR. I'm feeling pretty good right now and I think I may have a chance. A few days ago my wife gave me some assistance in my quest for a PR.

She was giving me a hair cut and buzzed the clippers all the way to the top of my head before she realized that she forgot to put on the attachment. (I still don't know how she did the length of my head before realizing her error.) So the clippers went right to my scalp.

Yes. I was scalped by my wife.

I looked positively ridiculous with a big streak of baldness going right down my head. Remember that old saying "You get what you pay for?" The guy who invented that saying had just gotten a haircut from his wife and she forgot to put the attachment on and he got a too-close-for-comfort buzz. Here is a picture after one week of growth:

Thankfully Mel's sister is a hairdresser and repaired the damage as much as possible. Now I look like a drill sergeant. You can call me Serg for short. But I always try to look at things from a Glass-Half-Full perspective. So....I'm considering this my aerodynamic haircut. Having an aerodynamic head will shave (no pun intended) minutes off my time. And then maybe I will get a PR!

Bring. On. Top of Utah!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Ran Through Two States

Monday, September 5th 2011: 15 miles @ 11:06 minutes per mile pace. I ran part of the Sand Hollow Loop which has quite a few challenging hills. Bonus points to me for not dying. I ran the first 4 miles with Mel and Braydon then did the rest by myself and really enjoyed running alone in the dark. I was right by Sand Hollow Reservoir when the first hint of sun started to show up.

There was a really pretty sunrise coming over the hill but thankfully it didn't distract me too much since a skunk ran right in front of me.

Tuesday, September 6th 2011: Got a highly aerodynamic haircut that I'll tell you more about later.

Wednesday, September 7th 2011: 16 miles @ 11:11 minutes per mile pace. I was excited to try my new trail shoes for the first time: Saucony TR 4. I have run many miles on dirt and trails but never had actual trail shoes until now. I am in love with them. Is it just me, or is the smell of a new pair of shoes not one of the greatest smells in the world? New shoes smell like adventure and potential.

I ran on the Arizona Strip dirt road. The night before I ran I looked on to see exactly how far it was from the parking lot to the Arizona state line and found out it is 6.5 miles away. I looked forward to running through two states. The area is so isolated that there is no sign saying that you have crossed into Arizona. So I grabbed a stick and made my own state line.

I also figured that this would be a prime spot for a jumping picture. Just for good measure I did a jumping picture in Utah:

Then I stepped across the line, turned around, and did a jumping picture in Arizona. I noticed that my pose is almost identical. I promise I have never been a cheerleader.

I ran a few more miles in Arizona before coming back to my home state. I only took my two handheld bottles and toward the end I was running out of water. (I'm getting pretty good at that if I do say so myself.) It was a toasty 95 degrees outside. I'm sure my blood resembled hot fudge. Up ahead I saw a can on the side of the road that looked unopened. I prayed that it was a Pepsi. But alas, it was a can of Bud Light. And I don't drink. Grrrr.

Aside from the heat, it was a great run. I drank myself a fat Coca Cola afterward which was amazing. Those know-it-all brainiac scientists who say soda is dehydrating are full of it. My Coke was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, September 8th 2011: Rest

Friday, September 9th 2011: 5 miles @ 9:16 minutes per mile.

Saturday, September 10th 2011: 4 miles @ 8:58 minutes per mile.

Less than one week until the Top of Utah Marathon. I'm nervous and excited and scared and excited.

Do you have any big races coming up?

Is the heat frying your last few remaining brain cells?

Have you ever worn anything besides road shoes?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Best Jumper In The World

The jumping contest has come to an end and the hands-down winner was Christy from Dirt Road Runner. Just looking at her picture made me squirm in pain. That flexibility is stunning.

I just got a new jumping picture myself from the South Valley Half Marathon. I've got so many jumping pictures that I may need to come up with something different to do for race pictures. By all means, I'm opened to suggestions.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

St. George Marathon Course - My Advice

A few people have asked for my advice on the St. George Marathon course. I am by no means an expert on this course but I have run the marathon twice (#3 less than a month away) and have trained on the course many times. Here is what I've learned (and a picture from each lesson):

1) Bring some warm clothes to wear while you wait at the starting line. It can be COLD up there. (If it's like last year when it wasn't cold at the starting line, you know you're in trouble. Prepare for skin-melting heat a few hours later.) Lots of fires help keep you warm.

2) Take it EASY on the Veyo Hill. At mile 7 you reach the hardest part of the course: the Veyo Hill which is about a mile. I've made the mistake to trying to keep an even pace going up the hill and by the time I reach the top I'm fried. Slow down and relax so you can keep your energy for later in the race.

3) Don't think it gets easy after the Veyo Hill. After you reach the top of the hill, there are still a few miles of gradual incline. Mentally this section is challenging because you worry about your pace slowing down. Again - don't panic. Downhill will be coming soon.

4) In the Beginners Clinic at the expo (highly recommended!), Terry Tucker says that if you don't get a negative split (running the second half of the race faster than the first), you have done something dramatically wrong. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. I talked to him a few days ago at church and he recommended trying to do the first half around 4-5 minutes slower.

5) 14 is the magic number. Get to Mile 14 and then you're in business. This is when the downhill really starts and you can get down to business. Soon you reach Snow Canyon which is probably the most beautiful section of a marathon I have ever run.

6) Save a little energy for the last two miles. The steep downhills are done and the last few miles are fairly level through neighborhoods. Your quads are screaming by this time so you want to keep a little gas in the tank so you don't have to do the marathon death shuffle as the crowd cheers "You're almost there!" (I perfected the marathon death shuffle my first year.)

7) Take whatever steps are necessary to avoid nausea so that when you reach the finish line you can replace every calorie you just burned by eating face-fulls of Blue Bunny Ice Cream. It is so good that it makes your eyes go buggy. Here's the proof:

Here is an excellent course video that I was able to be a part of. You can hear my voice saying things like "Running is the stupidest hobby ever."

Have you run the St. George Marathon before? Any tips you'd like to add?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Trail Running + The Dark + By Yourself = Scary

"Small differences in your performance can lead to large differences in your results." ~ Brian Tracy

Monday, August 29th 2011: 6 miles @ 10:43 minutes per mile pace. I took my Camelbak Rogue on the run because I'm trying to like it. For longer trail runs I want the availability of extra water. But I'm just not a fan. It's really comfortable until I actually start running.
I knew I wouldn't be able to do my speed workout on Tuesday so I went to the track late Monday night. It was still crazy hot outside but I was happy that my eight Yasso 800s went pretty good. My times were: 3:52, 3:49, 3:36, 3:46, 3:44, 3:45, 3:48, and 3:32.

I came home and celebrated with a large bowl of ice cream. "Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos." ~ Don Kardong

Tuesday, August 30th 2011: Rest

Wednesday, August 31st 2011: 23 miles @ 12:35 minutes per mile pace. I treat each long run as an experiment to see how my body responds to different variables. This time I wanted to see if I could adjust pace so that I felt almost as good at the end as I did at the beginning. I went out to the JEM trail early in the morning while it was still dark.

Note to self: Running in the wilderness + the dark + by yourself = scary. Hearing things rustle in the bushes sent shivers down my spine. I'm sure it was only a rabbit or something, but it sounded like this:

I was so thankful when the sun started to come up an hour later. There was a beautiful sunrise over Zion National Park:

I explored new dirt roads and areas of the trail which were simply breathtaking. I want to go back with my good camera to really do it justice. I thought to myself that I should start a running tour business because if other runners saw these amazing views they would never want to run on pavement again.

My two handheld bottles worked great (gotta love the St. George Running Center bottles. I just ordered a new pair of trail shoes from the St. George Running Center this week! If you're in southern Utah, this is the place to buy shoes.) Runners - if you have never tried a handheld before, give it a try. They are heaven. (HERE is more info about my favorite.)

I was standing on the edge of a cliff admiring the view when a rabbit came up to join me. It wasn't nearly as big as the animal I had imagined a few hours earlier:

I was at about an 11:50 pace when I reached the aid station (car) at mile 17 to refill my bottles. I read about ultrarunners drinking Boost during runs so I bought a bottle and decided I'd experiment during the long run. I drank a bottle and about 10 minutes later my stomach felt so completely, utterly horrible. It felt like someone was playing tug of war with my intestines. I wished I could have thrown up, I think I would have felt much better. My pace slowed to 12:35 after walking a few miles to try and get my stomach back.

It was a tad warm at 95 degrees when I finished. My experiments were helpful. I learned that 1) slowing pace a little helps keep you feeling good the whole time, and 2) Never, ever drink Boost during a run. This is 360 calories, 45g carbs, 14g protein, and 8 ounces of gut-wrenching misery.

Thursday, September 1st 2011: Rest

Friday, September 2nd 2011: 11 miles @ 10:40 minutes per mile pace. This made for an early morning to get the miles in before work. Sleep is for sissies. (Totally kidding - I adore sleep.)

Saturday, September 3rd 2011:
10 miles @ 10:47 minutes per mile pace then later I went out for 3 miles @ 9:31 minutes per mile pace.

I kind of liked doing a few two-a-day runs! I ran 60 miles this week but still had three whole rest days. Only two more weeks until one of my favorite races: the Top Of Utah Marathon. Bring it on!

Do you like two-a-day workouts?
This is the first time I've done them, but I think I'm a convert.

Any scary running-in-the-dark stories?
I run in the dark all the time but running in the dark on trails was slightly scary.