Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Ultramarathon Training Plan

When I was preparing for my first marathon I was a little overwhelmed with how many different marathon training plans there were. Unfortunately it's quite the opposite for ultramarathons. I found some stuff for 50 milers (here is information on the plan I used), but almost nothing for 100 milers. (With the exception of which is loaded with very useful information. I read everything on this site multiple times.)

I think I've figured out why there is so little information about ultra training plans. 1) There just aren't as many people who blog or write about this topic since fewer people do these races. 2) Most ultrarunners I talked to are much less ridged about their training. For many, their training plan is simply "Run as much as I can" (or want to) to gradually build miles. 3) Cliche as it may sound, there is no "right" training plan for ultras. Everyone is different and a plan should be tailored to individual strengths, weaknesses, and the race course.

I found two training plans for 100 milers. THIS one seemed unreasonable knowing I'm more injury-prone with high mileage. I think that many miles would have had me on the injury reserve, and I believe it would be very challenging if you still want to have a job and family. Plus....with running, sometimes less is more. Then there is THIS one which seemed more realistic so this is what I built my training off of.

In all my searching, I never found a training history where someone said "This is what I did in the months leading up to the race and it seemed to work." I wish I had something like that. So I made my own.

Here is what my training looked like for the four months leading up to the Javelina Jundred. I did some biking occasionally on the days I didn't run. And you'll see the 26.2 miles when I ran a full marathon or 13.1 when I ran a half.

This plan isn't going to help you set a course record. But that wasn't my intent in signing up for a 100 miler. My goal wasn't to go fast, my goal was TO FINISH. This training plan helped me do just that in a race that only has a 50% finisher rate.

Running one 100 miler is far from being an expert on the art of ultramarathons, but here are some tips that I gathered along the way which I think are critical for training:

Race-Specific Training
Study your target race and it's course. If the course is rocky, find some rocky trails to train on. If you're race may be hot, get lots of miles in the heat to prepare. I try to run on trails whenever possible, but at the very least, almost all your long runs should be on trails. It's important to train your feet, ankles, and knees how to adjust to different terrain and rocks. I've had lots of minor ankle rolls that were no big deal since my ankles have gotten stronger. Before running trails, these would have been major black and blue ankle sprains.

Practice Walking
An experienced ultrarunner told me that a 100 miler isn't a race, it's a test of patience. Expect to be walking 40-50 miles. I think that's true. I have incorporated frequent walk breaks into all my training runs. What works for me is running for 5 minutes then walking for about 1 minute. Some people run for 25 minutes then walk 5. It works out to be about the same. Frequent walk breaks have completely changed my running. They help me finish runs feeling strong and I recover faster. In training and racing, start walk breaks right from the beginning. If you start doing walk breaks after you start feeling tired, you're too late. Just ask Jeff Galloway.

Long Runs
These were definitely the most crucial parts of training. I treat each long run as an experiment. I experiment with hydration, nutrition, calorie replacement, run/walk breaks, electrolyte replacement, etc. Long runs help teach your mind how to deal with pain. Time on your feet really is the important thing. I learned to take it very easy on long runs because when you're doing lots of training miles, your purpose for each run is to be in good enough condition to do tomorrow's run. I was careful to avoid excessive soreness so I could recover quickly. I think a training plan based on time instead of mileage could be very helpful. Go sloooooow on long runs.

Running Frequency
I really liked doing just four days a week of running. I think that was helpful for a few reasons: 1) It cut out some of the junk miles, and 2) It built in more recovery time. Rest days are just as necessary as the long runs! Many ultra runners do back-to-back runs where they run 20 miles one day and 30 the next (mileages vary). I think those back-to-back runs are definitely helpful to train the body how to run on tired legs. But I don't train on Sundays and with a family and job I found those back-to-backs hard to fit in. You'll see that I did some shorter back-to-backs. I think some are helpful as long as you don't overdo it.

Listen To Your Body
Don't get so locked into a training plan that you ignore what your body is saying. If you feel an injury brewing take a break. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to allow yourself to adjust training as needed. My 100 miler was so physically demanding that I don't think I would have made it if I was at the starting line with nagging injuries. Keep yourself healthy.

Relentless Forward Motion
This is a mantra of ultra runners. When times get tough and their bodies are revolting and each mile is taking an eternity, everything is boiled down to one element: just make relentless forward motion. Keep fighting. Keep moving long enough for that second (or third, or fourth) wind to come. Don't worry about the 30 minute miles. As long as you are making relentless forward motion you will get to the finish line. I found this to be completely true during the race when it felt like the finish line might as well have been in Nigeria. (This is how I looked at that moment.)

Gear (none of these are sponsors)
Everyone is different but I'll tell you what works for me.
Gaiters: I got mine HERE and they work great to keep dirt and rocks out of my shoes.
LinkShoes: Road shoes will work okay for many trail runs, but my favorite trail shoe is the Hoka Mafate.
Hydration: I am madly in love with my Nathan HPL 020 hydration pack. I tried lots of others and this one leaves all the others in the dust. I wore it during the whole 100 miler and it didn't bother me one bit.
LinkBody Glide: Useful for any areas that may chafe. I also rub it all over my feet before I put socks on.
Electrolytes: Get used to taking these during long distances or in heat to replace the salt and minerals you are sweating out. I bought Saltstick capsules but lots of ultrarunners use S-Caps. I take one every hour. extreme heat or after lots of hours this might not be enough. After I had been running for about 20 hours I started urinating A LOT every ten minutes or so. It was clear (thankfully not Coke-colored like I've heard from other runners) but it was very frequently. Lucky for me at that time my wife was pacing me who is also a nurse. She said I needed more electrolytes. I took the Saltstick caps more frequently and that fixed the problem.

Training The Mind
I think the biggest thing that got me to the finish line of the 100 miler was the fact that quitting was not an option. You have to really, REALLY want it. You have to be willing to suffer. I told my crew (wife and sister) that the only way I was dropping from the race was if I didn't meet the cutoffs and was pulled from the course by race officials. I gave my crew specific motivation points to remind me of during the race. I told them to not let me quit, no matter how much I might beg them too. (Thankfully I never reached that point where I begged to quit.)

I told myself before the race "Eventually this is going to really, really hurt. But that's okay! It's alright to hurt. It's okay to suffer. It's (probably) not going to kill you. You. Can. Do. Hard. Things!!!!

I'm not going to lie. Those last 30 miles were excruciating. I was in way more pain than I had ever experienced. Every single cell of my body was in agony. Each step hurt worse than the one before. But the feeling when crossing that finish line was indescribable and made all that suffering worth it.

So here's my point in all of this: If you want to run an ultramarathon, YOU CAN DO IT! Seriously, that is the honest truth. If you really want it, you can do it. So go find a race, get really, really brave for five minutes and click the Register button. That is the scariest part of the race is getting guts to click the Register button. You. Can. Do. Hard. Things!!!!

Is there a part of you deep inside that wants to tackle an ultra?

Is there anything I'm missing? Anything you want to know more about?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Scene From The Oral Surgeon's Office

Scene from the oral surgeon's office the week before the Javelina Jundred:

Oral surgeon: "The endodontist is right. The root on the tooth is cracked."
Cory: "Thanks for the un-awesome news. No wonder it feels like I've been chewing on lightning for four months." (At least that's what my brain said.)
Oral surgeon: "We'll need to do a tooth extraction today and fill in the bone so you can have a post implant in a few months."
Cory: "Okay. I have my first 100 miler coming up next week. As long as I'll be okay for the race, I don't care what you do."
Oral surgeon: "You won't be able to exercise for 3-4 days, but you'll be fine next week to do a 100 mile bike ride."
Cory's Wife: "No, he'll be running 100 miles."
Awkward silence.
Oral surgeon: Gets crazy eyes like a Care Bear just walked in the room and asked him to square dance.
Cory: Sits there quietly wondering if that's a deal breaker and he'll have to keep his lightning tooth.
Oral surgeon: "You're......running 100 miles?"
Cory: "Well, I hope so."
Oral surgeon: "Um.....okay. You'll be okay to run 100 miles if we do the tooth extraction."

Cory gets laughing gas. He still doesn't think the oral surgeon is funny. Oral surgeon says "You're going to feel some pressure." Adios dumb tooth.
Cory gladly takes a gaping hole in the back of his mouth over chewing on lightning.

The end.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Am Thankful

My kids and I read the book Selma together all the time. It is easily one of my favorites. The book is about a sheep named Selma who has the same routine every day. She wakes up, eats some grass, plays with her kids, chats with the neighbor, eats some more grass, and sleeps well at night.

When Selma is asked what she would do if she had a million dollars, she said she would wake up in the morning, eat some grass, play with her kids, chat with the neighbor, eat some more grass, and have a good night’s sleep.

When Selma is asked what she would do if she had more time, she said she would wake up in the morning, eat some grass, play with her kids, chat with the neighbor, eat some more grass, and have a good night’s sleep. Selma is just plain happy with her life.

I feel exactly like Selma. I wake up in the morning, sometimes go for a run, spend the day at work, come home and spend time with the family, get the kids tucked into bed, then go to sleep. I think I would choose to do the same exact thing if I had a million dollars or if I had more time. I feel so happy. I feel so thankful. I would not change a single thing in my life.

I have had such a great Thanksgiving week. Here are a few of the highlights:

On Wednesday I tried to go on a bike ride. With all the training for the ultra, my bike actually had dust on it. That is embarrassing. Unfortunately the ride didn’t go quite as planned. I only made it four sissy miles because my feet are still too tender to wear bike shoes. Even two weeks after the Javelina Jundred, shoes still are not my friend.

Mel worked the night before Thanksgiving. Since we didn’t have work or school the next day, the kids and I stayed up late hanging out on the bed watching a movie. Our movie put Ace right to sleep.

On Thanksgiving morning I took the offspring on a hike around my favorite part of the Jem trail. The weather was perfect. We also took Ace with us. He had horrific gas that day. We kept thinking that we smelled a combination of road kill and moldy burritos, but then remembered that it was just Ace.

It was an excellent way to start the day and get a little exercise before going into a turkey coma.

On Friday I hiked around the Jem trail for a few hours trying to scout out some trails for the Zion 100. I was hunting for a trail up to Gooseberry Mesa which apparently climbs more than 1,500 feet in less than one mile (!!!!!). Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t find it, eh? I saw this image in my dirty car mirror as I was leaving:

My knees still aren’t ready to run, but they’re getting closer. They are a tad tight and achy. But I’m not stressed about it at all. I’m going to give my body all the time it needs to recover from the 100 miler. And I'm thankful for the lesson I learned this week to hike in front of, not behind a dog that smells like those leftovers you found in the back of the fridge from three months ago.

What are your favorite childrens books?
Selma is high on the list. I also like Love You Forever, Milk and Cookies, Goodnight Horsey, Guess How Much I Love You, and Have You Filled A Bucket Today (this is a must-read for any age).

How was your Thanksgiving?
I always over-eat, but this was the closest I've ever come on Thanksgiving to throwing up. I just couldn't resist the different pies for dessert.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Running A Charity Marathon

I like guest writers. I want to start doing more guest bloggers. I was contacted by Jackie Clark about an article she wrote called "The Numerous Benefits of Running in a Charity Marathon". There's nothing like giving your running more of a purpose. Here is Jackie's article:

For those who enjoy running and would like to see their efforts go towards a worthy cause, one of the most favorable options to consider is to run a charity marathon. Charity marathons are those in which runners receive pledges from their friends and family who agree to donate a certain amount of money if the runner can complete the marathon.

In general, many types of charitable organizations exist that can benefit from these charity marathons, and nearly everyone will be able to find some cause to support that they feel passion about. Many of these charities are those that seek to improve treatment for modern diseases, such as mesothelioma or other types of cancer. Additionally, many aim to improve the well being of those who are less fortunate, such as the Charity Chase Marathon. In particular, one of the most prestigious charity marathons to be held each year is the Running Hope Marathon, which uses all of its proceeds to help orphaned children receive basic necessities and improve their overall quality of life.

In order to begin preparing for a charity marathon, the first step is to collect pledges. The best people to collect pledges from are typically friends and family members, as these people will be very sympathetic to your cause and more than willing to help reward you for all of your efforts. Additionally, seeking out pledges from colleagues at work can also be immensely effective. Once pledges have been acquired, the next step is to train at running. A marathon is a particularly difficult event that cannot be completed without proper training, and those who wish to fulfill the pledges will need to begin training many months ahead of time in order to be prepared once the date of the race approaches.

In addition to benefiting a charitable organization, charity marathons can also provide many benefits to the runners as well. Embarking on a running program can be an incredibly revitalizing endeavor that will provide runners with more energy throughout the course of the day. Additionally, research in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” has found that those who run regularly enjoy numerous health benefits.

Although it may not be easy, taking part in a charity marathon can be an immensely rewarding experience that most people will find is well worth the effort. For those who are looking for a way to benefit a charitable organization, have fun, and improve their health, few options are more favorable than running in a charity marathon.

Have you ever been part of a fundraising team through running?

For my first marathon some friends and I raised money to support organ donation and a friend who was waiting for (and has since received!!) a heart transplant. Thanks for your article Jackie!

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Pacer's Perspective At 100 Miler

I asked my sister Hollie (crew member and pacer extrordinaire for the Javelina Jundred) if she wanted to write her experience of the race from a pacer's perspective. (She is way too nice. I think I owe her cookies now for all her kind words.) Here is her review:

Every spring I dust off my copy of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine I’ve had since high school. I love ushering in the growth and new life of the season with this book. Within the first few chapters, the protagonist discovers for the first time in his life, “I’m alive!”

“And everything, absolutely everything, was there. The world, like a great iris of an even more gigantic eye, which has also just opened and stretched out to encompass everything, stared back at him. I’m alive, he thought. I’m really alive! I never knew it before, or if I did I don’t remember! He yelled it out loud but silent, a dozen times! Think of it, think of it! Now discovering this rare timepiece, this clock of gold-bright and guaranteed to run…”

The Javelina Jundred reminded me that it’s definitely not spring…but it was the quintessential affirmation of I’m alive! My play-by-play perspective on how this race panned out and how it taught me some of the most simple, beautiful truths in life:

Before the Race
I admit, I was nervous and skeptical about Cory doing a 100 miler. Even now, I can hardly wrap my brain around the magnitude of how long you run! And honestly, our family’s DNA is not really designed for endurance sports outside of…Monopoly games.

LAPS 1 through 4 (0 – 61.6 miles)
The anticipation sitting around at the headquarters (where you finish a loop, refuel and change supplies, then head back out on the loop in the opposite direction) waiting for your runner was intense. Seeing Cory come around the corner after his each lap was phenomenally exciting. He was positive and upbeat every time, like he was totally getting the most out of the experience.

He noted after the first lap that this course could not be underestimated (oh, how I can attest to this now!). He pointed to some mountains that seemed 200 miles away on the horizon and said, “You run all the way out to those. This is a BIG loop.”

Mel and I had a lot of down time at the headquarters while Cory was running his laps. Spending an entire day with Mel is a bit like Christmas. There’s always a surprise, and it’s so much fun. We tried resting (ha!), making motivational posters for Cory, watching a movie, and eating our body weight in powdered donuts and Oreos.

The weather during this whole race was bananas. It started out freezing, but within 10 minutes of the sun coming out, it felt like we were sitting in an Easy Bake Oven. I worried that Cory was frying out on the trail. There is not a single ounce of shade out there. But every time he finished a lap, he looked more elated, stronger, and increasingly excited. He. Looked. Outstanding!

I learned that if you complete 60 miles (100k), you still get a belt buckle (it’s a different color and reads 100k rather than 100 miles). It was a little shocking to see so many runners drop out at this point. This made Cory’s strength and enthusiasm all the more impressive. He was not shooting for “I’ll go as far as I can comfortably make it, and I’ll quit at 60 if necessary to still get the buckle.” True to Cory form, go big or go home.

LAP 5 (61.6 – 77 miles)
By the time he started lap 5, it was dark. Cory ran this lap with Mel, making it the most lonely and stressful few hours of the experience for me. This was also the lap when the rain started. It turned everything into a muddy river within a minute.

I think this is where the wheels started to come off the “Cory cart” a bit. I set my timer to be ready to see Cory and Mel again in about 3.5 to 4 hours. And then I waited around headquarters for about 2 hours after that wondering where they were and what happened. I’m not gonna lie – I was quickly developing a growing case of mother-like worrying. I maybe said 2,449,893 prayers during this time and envisioned every manner of animal that may have eaten them.

All of this waiting time at headquarters, though, proved to be one of the best experiences of the weekend. Ultra runners are pretty remarkable people, and I felt so honored to talk with several of them. They know what it’s like to feel alive, and I love the perspective it gives them.

LAP 6 – (77 – 92.4 miles)
I ran this lap with Cory, and it was one of the most insightful experiences of my life. I’m pretty sure it totally sucked for Cory. I could hear him groan in pain and frustration after he tried to run. To add to it, the rain and mud were horrific. It felt like every step required 3x the energy just to ensure stable footing; it was so slippery. During several parts of the trail, the mud stuck to our shoes. It seriously felt like someone strapped 10-pound cinderblocks to each foot. We had to stop a couple times just to scrape buckets of mud off our shoes.

I learned that being a pacer is both the easiest and the most difficult run. It’s easy in the sense that the focus is entirely on someone else. It wasn’t my race, so it didn’t matter if I was tired, if my knees hurt, if I almost fell 200 times in the mud. The singular objective was pulling Cory through this, and it seemed as though my body registered the “you’d better not complain right now – it’s not about you” message.

But it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. I knew he was hurting, and it was excruciating to feel so helpless. When he expressed pain or frustration, I debated what to do:
1) Agree with him and empathize (I know, this mud does suck, huh?)
2) Encourage and praise him (You’re looking really good, just keep on going)
3) Tell him to get over it and keep pushing through (There’s only one way to make that pain stop, so quit ‘yer belly-achin’ soldier!)
4) Try to point out a silver lining (At least those birds aren’t vultures…)
5) Say nothing

I felt so frustrated that I didn’t know the right answer. I tried all 5 approaches several times and worried incessantly if any helped. When he mistakenly saw the aid station that wasn’t there, it was a major low point for both of us. I could sense the rising frustration and panic in him. And it felt like we kept running another 10 miles before FINALLY coming to it. I ran with him, silently crying in frustration and a growing sense of need to help…but not knowing how.

I imagine this is how Heavenly Father must often feel. I so badly wanted to help Cory, to carry him, to give him strength. But in the end, I knew it was ultimately up to him – and only him – to put one foot in front of the other. There were limitations on how much I could do. And finally, both of us just had to exercise the faith and trust that the end result would be worth this temporary challenge. It was a beautiful recognition of the love of the Lord. He wants to help us through our trials, but an important element is the realization that in order for it to work, we have to suck it up and trudge through the painful parts.

But then….watching the sun rise was one of the most beautiful and spectacular moments. It was stunning, peaceful, and reassuring. Sharing those moments with Cory is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

LAP 7 – 92.4 miles
Waiting at the headquarters for Cory and Mel to finish the final lap made me feel like I was a 4-year-old. I was impatient, couldn’t hold still, and asked myself a gazillion times, “Are they there yet??” I ultimately gave up patience and ran backwards through the course until I met up with them. Seeing them trudge up a hill, still making progress toward the finish line was a bit like slow-motion running through the daisies [insert The Hills Are Alive music here]. I was so happy and so proud of them!

Watching Cory jump across the finish line was a tremendous sense of pride and gratitude. Gratitude that he made it and survived. Gratitude that I could be there to share the experience with him and Mel. Gratitude that he pushed himself to the utmost limits of humanity and now fully knows what it’s like to be and to feel alive in every respect. I see now how running an ultra-marathon shows you the highest and lowest points of human experience – all of it contributes to a perception of your own life experience and what you are capable of achieving. It’s a beautiful, incredible taste of Dandelion Wine.

“He stood swaying slightly, the forest collected, full-weighted and heavy with syrup, clenched hard in his down-slung hands. I want to feel all there is to feel, he thought. Let me feel tired, now, let me feel tired. I mustn’t forget, I’m alive, I know I’m alive, I mustn’t forget it tonight or tomorrow or the day after that…”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Next Race ....... The Zion 100!

Finishing the 100 miler was the hardest, most rewarding thing I have ever done. I am fascinated and intrigued by such an obscene distance. So.....less than one week after finishing the Javelina Jundred......

I signed up for my next ultramarathon: The Zion 100!

I will be honest, this scares the Gatorade right out of me. The course is challenging and I'm nervous about the heat (the race is May 11th and 12th 2012). But there are a few reasons why I couldn't pass it up:

1) It's right in my backyard. I love the thought that I won't have to travel and can sleep in my own bed the night before the race.
2) I know some of the trails well, and will be able to train on the course.
3) This is the innagural race (there is a 50 miler as well).

I would love to have you sign up. I want you to join me on this adventure and see what it's like to push your body to the max and then keep pushing it. (Remember? Misery loves company.) CLICK HERE to visit the race website for more information. I will be happy to give you any training tips or coaching based on my fairly limited experience.

Pre-race party at my house? I'll bring the Twinkies.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Recovery From An Ultramarathon

It has been exactly one week since the Javelina Jundred 100 miler. I have good news: I can see my ankles again!

Cankle (noun): when your legs are so large or swollen that the calf and the ankle seamlessly run together. I was sporting some mean cankles for most of the week. Here is what my feet looked like before the race (pedicure courtesy of my little girls):

And here are my feet a few days after the race. My ankles had vanished. And it's slightly gross that my toes turned into Vienna Sausages.

A week post-100 miler, my muscle soreness is gone. My knees are still pretty sore. And two toe nails keep getting blacker and they really hurt. All in all, I think recovery has gone well.

I have now run a half marathon, full marathon, or ultra for 20 months in a row. But now I don't have anything major in the near future! No need for a training plan! I am just going to run whenever I feel like it for as long as I feel like it! Sweet!

I have lots more exciting stuff to tell you next week. And I'll be featuring a guest post from my sister about the ultra experience from a pacer's perspective.
But right now, go set your DVR to record David Letterman tomorrow night (Monday, November 21st). One of my favorite music groups NeedToBreathe is going to be playing a song from their amazing new CD The Reckoning. I will bet you a pack of Twinkies that you'll like their music. Here's a sample:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Javelina Jundred Race Review - My First 100 Miler!

I'm not sure how to describe in words what a profound, challenging, painful, rewarding experience it was to complete my first 100 mile ultramarathon. (It was 101.4 miles to be exact.) It was life-changing.

I knew the Javelina Jundred would be the perfect opportunity for my first 100 mile attempt. Its barren, rocky, desert trails are very similar to where I train which proved to be a big advantage. I felt right at home on the trail. The race was 15.4 mile loops run washing machine style (go clockwise one direction, then turn around and do it counter-clockwise). I didn't get bored with this. In fact I LOVED having these shorter loops. It was easier to break the race down psychologically, easier to crew, and I never felt alone. I think this is one of the reasons that Javelina has so many runners (almost 400!). This was at Javelina Jeadquarters where you turn around after each loop (plus meet your crew, and there is an aid station):

When you're standing at the starting line of an ultramarathon there is such an intense sense of togetherness and purpose and determination. I felt honored to be standing there with a bunch of other crazies.

The temperature in the morning was perfect - around 55 degrees. We ran in the dark for about 45 minutes until the sun started coming up. The sunrise was beautiful and I couldn't help but stop to take lots of pictures.

I saw a lady up ahead of me who seemed to be stopping as much as I did to take pictures. I caught up to her later and said "I think we'd make good training partners. I don't like to train with people because I stop so much for pictures, but I think you and I could run together." I found out it was Susan Donnelly who has run more than 40 100 milers! Simply incredible. (She ran a 100 last weekend!) She gave me some great tips. Later I emailed her and told her thanks for her help. She wrote back "I'm always happy to help but I've seen a lot of first timers and don't think you needed help. Every time I saw you, you were pacing steady and looked naturally in good shape." (+1 for my self-esteem.)

In the afternoon it started to get warm (I heard around 75 degrees). I knew it was getting hot but I think all the heat training I had done really paid off and it didn't wipe me out. My little girls made me some bracelets to wear during the race so I could think about them. I also wrote a little reminder to myself for when things got hard:

By this time I had switched to my Hoka shoes. I was a little concerned because they give me blisters, but they are so much better for my feet and knees. I guess you just take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the Facts of Life. (I would have KILLED for an ipod to get that horrific song out of my head during the race! Killed!) The course was just beautiful. We were surrounded by enormous saguaro cacti.

I've been scared of rattlesnakes since my close encounter with one a few months ago but thankfully I didn't see any the whole time! The scariest thing I saw was a guy who ran out of the bushes right in front of me after taking a bathroom break. Scared the bejeebers out of me! I also saw six of these:

Let me tell you again: I LOVED having this be a loop course! Loved it! It was so fun to watch the race unfold and have the faster people come by going the other direction. I just loved cheering them on. But what was awesome was that they were cheering people on too. When the fastest elites would pass me they would smile and say "Great job!" or "Way to go!" It made the race feel more like a family of runners instead of being out in the middle of nowhere without seeing another runner for hours on end.

The course was very runable but certainly challenging. There are ultras with way more elevation change but this course has its share of hills. Hills that drag on for miles and miles and miles. Some parts of the course were sandy and level:

Some parts of the course were very, very rocky. This can take a toll on your feet after a while.

I liked this withered, rotted tree. Mel saw this picture afterward and said "This is how you felt at the end, isn't it." Um, yep. This picture PERFECTLY describes how I was feeling at the end.

About halfway through the loop you reach Jackass Junction. (I can't think of a more appropriate name for an aid station at a 100 miler.) You can have a drop bag at this point so I stocked some warm clothes just in case the weather got ugly. (Spoiler alert: IT DID.)

The aid stations were the best I have ever seen in a race. Over the course of those 101 miles I ate: brownies, gummy worms, M&Ms, pretzels, pizza, a turkey sandwich, PB&J, Ramen noodles, oranges, bananas, watermelon, hot chocolate, pumpkin pie, and Oreos. And I didn't just have a little. Since my stomach was cooperating, I ate lots.

But I came across two items sent straight from heaven: Nutella sandwiches and bean burritos. At each aid station I was popping those like a drug fiend. (I know......bean burritos + ultramarathon = ultradisaster. But by some act of God, they never caused any problems!) I expected a nuclear attack in my gut but it never came. (Thank goodness, because, whoa. Whoa, that could have gotten ugly.)

Physically, one of the best parts of the race was that I somehow managed to keep my stomach the whole time. I never had any GI problems. I never threw up. I was able to eat just fine at all the aid stations. I was so thankful because if you can't keep calories down, your day is over. The sun was starting to go down on day 1 and you can see some menacing clouds on the horizon.

I finished my third lap at 45 miles as the sun went down and saw a simply amazing sunset. I got goosebumps. I felt so grateful that I was witnessing something so beautiful and was so happy to be participating in this experience.

I headed out for lap 4 by myself in the dark. It took a few miles for me to get my sea legs night legs but when I got accustomed to running in the dark I caught a serious second wind. I felt so, so good and it felt like I was gliding up and down the hills and rocks. It was smooth and effortless. I finished lap 4 (60 miles) with a huge jump across the start/finish line at Jeadquarters.

And then the race got ugly. Super ugly. At first the rain started to sprinkle. Then it started coming steady. Then the downpour started. (This is Arizona for crying out loud! It rains here like every decade or something!) The trails became slick and muddy and much harder to run. At this point I picked up my first pacer: my kind wife Mel. We wore garbage bags which helped keep our tops dry but my shoes were wet and I was cold. I asked her to say a prayer that I would be alright.

The coyotes were howling. At one of the aid stations we stood under their canopy for a minute. I told Mel "Let's take a picture right here. This is what I look like inside my pain cave." After about 65 miles I definitely had entered the pain cave. My knees and feet hurt and I was tired. It was probably around 3:00am and I had been running for 21 hours.

In life I think it's important to try and stay positive and smile even if things really suck and you're going through a hard time. I tried to do that during this race also. I had pulled up a Lazy Boy inside my own personal pain cave and things were really starting to suck but I tried to still stay positive:

Lap 6 (miles 75-90) were indescribably difficult. Words can't describe how challenging those miles were. My incredibly awesome sister Hollie joined me for this lap to keep me on track. There wasn't a ton of running during this lap. But there was more rain on and off. I'd guess it rained a total of seven hours during the race. No bueno. My only hallucination was during this lap. I saw an aid station tent coming up around the corner. I said "Yes!" But we went around the corner and it wasn't there. We kept going and then it was nowhere in sight. I was distraught. I swore I saw it, but it never appeared. I never did see any Care Bears or unicorns. I was definitely glad to have Hollie there for company.

Hollie was positive and encouraging but I just couldn't run very much. My feet felt like I was walking on burning coals and the pain in my knees was excruciating. It was humbling but refreshing to see my second sunrise of the race. (I had a poncho attached to my back because more rain was forecast.)

Hollie was the official crew photographer. I told her to take pictures of everything, good or bad. This was a photo where I was utterly exhausted and teetering on the edge. I am not a gifted athlete. But I am tenacious and determined and stubborn. And that can take you far.

For the race I averaged a 17:22 minute mile. You think to yourself "Easy, I could walk that fast." Very true. But when you add in hills, and rocks, and rain, and physical exhaustion way beyond anything you have ever experienced before, 17:22 is no stroll through the park.

I finished lap six and received the one thing I had been coveting for many hours: a glow bracelet! You get one of these when you reach the start of lap 7 - the final lap. I could have cried, I was so happy.

Mel joined me for the last 9 miles. Even though I was happy to be on the last lap, I was a complete mess. I knew I would make it to the finish line, but I honestly did not know how I was going to get there. Every cell of my body was screaming. My gas tank was completely dry and I had nothing left to give. Mel just held my hand and kept me walking. "You'll be wistful for the "wall" off the marathon when you hit the "death grip" of the ultra." ~ Bob Glover

I had heard that in an ultramarathon you experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. For me, those things happened at the exact same time. And it was at mile 95. I was only six miles away, but that finish line might as well have been in Portugal. I started sobbing. Not loud weeping. I just silently walked as tears rushed down my face. Normally I'm not a very emotional person, but at that moment my eyes were like faucets.

I was crying because of the crippling pain. I was crying because of complete exhaustion and despair. I was crying because every single step hurt worse than the one before. I was crying because I so desperately wanted to be at that finish line. I was crying because I was so grateful for the body my Heavenly Father gave me. I was crying because I thought of my family and friends and their tremendous support. I was crying because I was so thankful to be part of this incredible experience. I was crying because I knew that the last 40 miles had been so difficult which would make the finish line that much sweeter. I was crying because I was so, so happy.

The "slow and steady, one foot in front of the other" approach was slowly getting me closer to the finish line. I was ecstatic to finally see this sign for the home stretch. (I just couldn't bend down to get any closer to the sign.)

In the last mile a coyote was hanging out on the side of the trail. I didn't care if he ate me. And then I arrived after 29 hours and 22 minutes. Words can't describe how happy I was to be here. Even though my sweet wife snapped the picture a little too early, I did jump across the finish line.

And then I was handed the Javelina Jundred belt buckle. I will cherish this little piece of metal for the rest of my life. It symbolizes all those long months of training, all those early mornings waking up to run, all those gallons of sweat I lost doing my heat training. It will always remind me that I can do hard things.

It was amazing to see how quickly my body shut down after the race ended. I started walking to the car to leave and had to kneel down because I almost passed out. I also had a few dry heaves but managed to make it to the car. Hollie snapped this on our 15 minute drive back to the condo:

Warning: Gross Pictures Ahead. Just to prove that the ultra wasn't all smiles and fun, I'll show you a few post-race pictures. When we got back to the condo I got out of the car and immediately had to stumble over to the stairs because I almost passed out again. Everything went black but I don't think I completely passed out. Then the throwing up started. I felt not-so-awesome.

I haven't been able to eat very much over the last few days since the race because I become really nauseous whenever I eat. My knees are pretty sore and I'm walking like Frankenstein. And not only did my feet feel like I was walking on hot coals. They also look like I had been walking on hot coals. But considering everything I went through this isn't too bad. I was actually expecting to be in much worse shape.

If I were to design a perfect race, it would be the Javelina Jundred. The course was beautiful. The volunteers were simply incredible and supportive and encouraging. The organization was flawless. I can't think of one thing I would change. The finisher rate for this race is only 49%. I was so thankful to be counted among the finishers.

Completing a 100 mile race truly was a profound, challenging, painful, rewarding, and life-changing experience. Crossing that finish line transformed me and I will never be the same.

"Pushing your body past what you thought it was capable of is easy; the hard part is pushing yourself even further.....past what your mind wants to let you. That's what ultrarunning is all about; introducing you to a self you've never known." ~ Rex Pace

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I survived the 101.4 miles of the Javelina Jundred! It was by far the most difficult, humbling, defining, rewarding experience of my life.

Even though my sweet wife snapped the picture a little too early, I DID jump across the finish line.

Give me a day to make sense of everything in my brain and I will have the whole race review and lots of pictures posted tomorrow. (I admit, I slept with this belt buckle last night.)

"I gazed in envy at ultra runners whose quadriceps had the kind of definition that tells you Secretariat is somewhere in their family tree." - Liz Zelandais

Thursday, November 10, 2011

2 Days Until 100 Miler

Forecast for the Javelina Jundred: Rain. Yep - this is a trail run. It could get sloppy. I don't long as the candy and pumpkin pie at the aid stations don't get wet.

We are leaving for beautiful, sunny, warm Arizona today. Just a reminder if you want to watch the race on Saturday and track my progress you can visit starting Saturday morning and continuing for the next 30 hours.

(Facebook is easier to update so I will probably update that before the blog. If you'd like, you can visit the Facebook page here.) I hope the next time you hear from me I hope my body is so sore that it hurts to blink AND I'm wearing a belt buckle!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Last Minute Prep For 100 Miler

I got some great news in our preparations for the 100 miler coming up on Saturday. I was happy to find out that my sister Hollie will be joining Mel to help crew and pace! Hollie is one of the most supportive, enthusiastic, happy people I know. (Here is a picture with Hollie when we ran the Park City Marathon.)

Both Mel and Hollie will be pacers for me. Each will take turns joining me for 10-15 miles toward the end of the race. The job of a pacer is to 1) make sure the runner is eating and drinking, and 2) make sure to keep them focused when the runner starts going nuts and begins talking with Care Bears and unicorns.

I have written down certain words of wisdom they can remind me of during the 30 hours of the Javelina Jundred:
*** Embrace the suck.
*** Just make relentless forward progress.
*** Keep going, even if you have to walk.
*** It's not over 'till it's over.
*** Remember all your training and hard work.
*** You don't want a DNF next to your name.
*** Imagine how it's going to feel to cross the finish line.
*** Dig deep. Dig deep!
*** Don't talk to Care Bears.

Would you like to watch the Javelina Jundred unfold right before your eyes online? Here is info from their website:
The Javelina Jundred offers one of the most advanced webcasts available on the ultra circuit. As runners pass through the timing gateway, lap times are recorded from the timing chip and instantly displayed on the Ultracast web page on the Aravaipa Running website. Family & friends may access the Ultracast during the race by visiting A webcam of the finish line will be integrated into the Ultracast as well. Runners cross through this check point every 15 miles. (I got bib # 300.)

The race starts Saturday morning (November 12th) and the cutoff is 30 hours. Tune in for a good time.

Are there any other words of wisdom I should add to the list for this weekend?