Thursday, December 29, 2011

An Amazing Run

Out of all the miles I've ran on dirt, many of them were on the Warner Valley dirt road. I've come to know every twist and turn and it is one of my favorite spots in the world to run. I hadn't been there in a few months since the Javelina Jundred and was anxious to go back.

So yesterday I made the trip ("trip" = 10 minutes away). During the drive I stopped to take a picture of an incredible sunrise above Molly's Nipple. I caught myself saying out loud "Wow, that is amazing!"

I arrived at the dirt road and started running. I wasn't dressed warm enough and the cold was stinging. My fingers were so cold that I think if I had tapped them on the ground they would have cracked off. I was pleading with the sun to come up.

After a few miles I reached a cattle guard. It was surrounded by an Insane Cow Posse, including one with horns that looked mean. He acted like he was daring me to cross the cattle guard so him and his bovine friends could trample me. I apologized for all his friends I had eaten between the buns of Big Macs.

I was relieved when the cows ran away after I crossed the cattle guard. I was feeling ambitious and decided I'd try a jumping picture. This is as close as I can get to doing the splits without causing permanent damage:

The total ascent during my run was 1062 feet but it is gradual and not technical at all. At one point the sun popped out from behind the clouds and completely lit up the red rock mountains surrounding me. Pictures don't do justice to how beautiful it was.

I ended up running 10 miles averaging a 12:13 minute mile. It's no Usain Bolt, but considering that I haven't done much running since the 100 miler, the 12:13 minute miles felt like a speed workout. For much of the run I did a 2/1 run/walk schedule. It's what my knees would allow, and I was so happy with how I felt afterward. I feel like I'm finally finishing up my recovery from the ultra and I'm so excited to start building my fitness and endurance again. It was an amazing run.

When I got home, I got a warm welcome from Ace. Just in case I needed another excuse to shower, here it is:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Updated Pictures And A Flying Monkey

I am far behind in posting because of the holidays and the half marathon last week. I felt proud to award this medal to finishers. Here is a comparison of the St. George Half Marathon medal to the medal from my "race":

On December 21st I set out again to find the Flying Monkey Trail going up Smith Mesa for the fourth time. Good news - I finally found it! I spent two hours running/hiking. I planned to take some pictures to show directions to the trail but when I got to the bottom I could not see the trail I had just hiked up. All you see is this:

There actually is a trail here which was actually very easy to follow. I climbed more than 700 feet in .6 of a mile. Of course the views were sweet.

I am petrified of heights (not to mention narrow trails that hug the edge of cliffs). I was pleasantly surprised that even though I was up high, there weren't any really scary parts that made me want to start crying.

A few days later on December 23rd I ran 6 miles on the lower Jem Trail. This was the first time since the Javelina Jundred that my knees have felt decent. Holy Sweet Mother Mary, it was so cold that morning. I was very thankful when the sun started to come up. The little ponds around the area were frozen.

I felt like a frozen slab of meat with mittens but it was such a beautiful day. I don't like being that cold, but I had to remind myself that at least the cold temps kept me from having to dodge rattlesnakes. Here is a different view of Smith Mesa where I found the Monkey a few days earlier:

I realized I forgot to show you a few pictures from an earlier attempt on December 14th to find Flying Monkey. These were an amazing two hours out on the trails. Seeing the moon set over the mesa was incredible. Every time I'm out here I get so excited for the Zion 100 since all these trails are part of the course.

There hadn't been hardly any precipitation in the area, but even the slightest bit turns the dirt into clay that packs onto your shoes. It felt like a dumbbell was strapped to each of my shoes. No bueno.

Early morning on Christmas Eve my brother-in-law Matt took me on the Chinle Trail in Zion that I'm embarrassed to say I'd never done before. I'd guess we hiked/ran around 8 miles of the trail.

It was a well-kept trail surrounded by petrified wood and amazing scenery. I will definitely be back on this trail again soon.

Over the last two weeks I have fallen off the wagon with junk food (that is, if I was ever on the wagon in the first place). With all the cookies, cake, chocolates, candy, and fudge on the break room table at work, I treat myself to a stomach ache multiple times a day.

And what glorious stomach aches they were. One brave man dared to bring in fruit to share with the staff. I laughed hard when I co-worker jokingly said "Who does he think he is? The Grinch?" I'm not willing to give up my Diet Mt. Dew, but I am going to work harder on decreasing my cookie intake a bit this coming week.

"The only way to define your limits is by going beyond them." ~ Arthur Clarke

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Opposite Of Self-Control

I have lots of real pictures coming soon, but in the mean time.......

We got a bag of Muddy Buddies for a neighbor gift (thank you Petersons!). They looked good so I thought I'd eat a few while I was reading. And then suddenly I looked down and my bag was empty! I was royally ticked off that some jerk would come and steal Muddy Buddies from me while I was reading. I pity the fool who messes with my Muddy Buddies.

Then I noticed my messy hands and crumbs down my shirt. Woops.

And all the fudge that was sitting on the table in the breakroom at work? Don't even get me started.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Slightly-Too-Revealing Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays from the Reese family! We have had an incredible year full of crazy things we couldn’t have predicted in a million years. No, really. The only thing that would have been less predictable would be Celine Dion showing up at our front door asking to sing us Christmas songs. (I would have told her thanks, but no thanks.)

Kylee: She has really loved being in second grade. She has taken off in piano and had fun doing dance this year with Danica. If Kylee could only do one thing for the rest of her life, it would be riding her bike. Recently she asked if I would split a peanut butter bar with her. When she broke it in half, she asked if I wanted the bigger piece or the smaller piece. I told her she could decide. She said “I’ll take the bigger piece so that you can stay healthy.” She is missing her two front teeth which is basically the cutest thing you will ever see.

Danica: She has had a blast in third grade with her teacher Mr. Clay (aka the Brad Pitt of Hurricane Elementary School. Okay. I’ve never heard anyone refer to him as that, I’m just saying. The kids adore him.) In February she got very sick and was diagnosed with rheumatic fever which her doctor said he hasn’t seen in 35 years. She will need a fatty penicillin shot regularly for many more years. This can damage heart valves but thankfully her heart tests have been coming out good. She was in the community musical Seusical this summer and her performance as a Who Girl was worthy of a Tony Award.

Jackson: He has become a piano guru and is now playing in church. He excels in school and recently won the Hoop Shoot Contest for the school and now moves on to regionals. He knows every obscure stat imaginable about every sport. I’m hoping he’ll hook me up with basketball tickets when he works for ESPN. He was ecstatic in September when we added a new member to the family: a boxer dog named Ace who takes up more of Jackson’s bed than Jackson.

Melanie: And the award for Craziest Year Imaginable goes to……Melanie Reese! In March she fell in our house and broke both (yes amigo, BOTH) of her elbows. FYI: you can do pretty much nothing with two broken elbows. I joked with her that if she ever got sassy I would put her dinner in a blender and she could drink it with a straw. (She never got sassy.) For about a week she was completely dependent on people for everything from eating to scratching her nose, but started improving after having surgery. She went on a family church trip back east over the summer and we ran the St. George Marathon together in October.

Me: My tooth extraction a few weeks ago suddenly seems like a ride on the back of a unicorn through a field of tulips when thinking about what Mel went through. I am enjoying life as a dialysis social worker. I had fun getting more involved with running, and ran 16 half marathons, full marathons, or ultramarathons this year. I got daring and went for the whole enchilada in November: I ran a 100 mile race called the Javelina Jundred. It took 29 hours to finish this little excursion and I promptly threw up on my shoes afterward. (Sorry, too much information for a Christmas card?)

In typical Reese Christmas card style, I thought I’d share a few journal entries with you:

Monday, March 28th 2011
After Mel broke her elbows I took the whole week off work to help take care of Mel and the kids and the house. Mel had a doctor’s appointment that morning. When we walked in a few people said to her “Oh boy, I’ve heard about you!” when they saw her arms wrapped up. When we stopped at the store afterward a few random strangers said “Oh boy, I’ve heard about you!” Apparently she was the talk of the town. After school Dani had her appointment to get her penicillin shot. She was not thrilled. She said “I hate that shot! It feels like getting a rattle snake bite!”

Saturday, April 2nd 2011
Jackson participated in the SHAC Triathlon. He was really excited, and wanted to do the Beginner instead of the Kids triathlon. He was in line at the pool before the start of the race and said “Dad, where are all the kids?” And….there weren’t any. He was surrounded by adults. I’m sure that made him feel a little nervous.

At the awards ceremony afterward the announcer said “We only had one male in the 10 and under age bracket. I give this kid mad props for doing the race!” And then she announced Jackson’s name! He got to go on the stage and get a medal and $15 gift card. We were so proud of him. It was a really fun experience.

Sunday, April 3rd 2011
Lazy day watching conference. Mel had a big accomplishment – she got herself dressed – all by herself! Considering how things had been going, this was really cool. I was very happy for her. It has been hard to see her struggling with even the simplest of daily tasks.

Tuesday, April 5th 2011
Kylee is the Spotlight of the Week in school so we made a poster board for her and she filled out some questions about herself. On Favorite Thing To Do With Dad she wrote “Go on bike rides with him.” On Favorite Thing To Do With Mom she wrote “Help her eat.” We thought that was funny. (The kids really have been good about helping out since she isn’t able to do anything.)

May 12, 2011
Mel left work a little early so she woke me up early in the morning and said “You have a problem upstairs.” I went up and Jackson was sitting there watching TV and there were two piles of barf on the floor. It was yucky and smelly. We’re not sure why he threw up, but he felt fine the whole day Monday. We kept him home from school because we didn’t know if he had the flu, but he didn’t have any problems after that. Jackson – if you’re reading this when you’re older, remember to be nice to your dad because I scrubbed your chunky throw up out of the carpet.

September 8, 2011
Mel gave me a haircut that night and ran the clippers up my entire head before realizing that she didn’t have the attachment on so she went right down to the scalp. I would have been really angry if it wasn’t so funny. We went over to Renee’s house and she did the best she could to repair the damage but I still look ridiculous. I forgive her though. I guess you get what you pay for.

October 25, 2011
Mel said that a lady was coming over to pick up some Scentsy. So when I heard someone knock on the door I went to answer it. It was this lady maybe in her 50s and she said “Is Melanie here? Is she….your mom?” I’m sure she felt a little sheepish when I told her I’d go get my wife.

December 2, 2011
Danica admitted that she snuck out of her room a few nights ago to sleep on the couch because she didn’t want to sleep in her room. She said she fell asleep on the recliner but it was too uncomfortable so she moved to the couch. She fell asleep on the couch but woke up after slipping onto the floor. So she moved to the love seat. Yep. She fell on the floor again. So she decided to just go back to her bed.

We are so thankful for all of our blessings as a family and we’re grateful for such wonderful extended family and friends. We hope you have an amazing New Year! (And we hope Celine Dion won’t show up at your door offering to sing.) Love, The Reese Gang

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hostess Half Marathon 2011

My love for Hostess runs deep. Last year I decided to organize a little fun run called the Hostess Half Marathon where crazies run 13 miles while eating a Hostess product at each of the five aid stations. We had such a good time last year that I decided to do it again.Link
This was our kitchen table the night before the race. You can not fathom what an incredibly tempting problem this was to be surrounded by Twinkies.

The morning of the race was chilly but it warmed up as we started moving and increasing our body fat content. At the starting line I saw Andrea, Alicia, and Craig who were sporting some SWEET homemade shirts. (Craig went on to win the Torpedo Twinkie Award - fastest race finisher - with a smoking time of 1 hour 21 minutes!)

The thing I like best about this "race" is that it's more like a neighborhood fun run with lots of laughing and good food. I didn't advertise at all, I just told a few neighbors and we ended up having quite a crew.

At each aid station, a volunteer marked our hand to verify that we had eaten the Hostess product. I heard someone say they were worried about eating something every two miles. I think everything at the aid stations looked so delicious that I had trouble choosing which one to eat.

By the look of things, it doesn't appear that my friends Shane and Alex were too concerned about the race requirements:

I ran with Mel the whole time which was so fun. At one point she said "Look behind us." I saw this awesome scenery with runners on the horizon. One of my favorite pictures:

It is an out-and-back course so it was fun to see people after they had turned around to head toward the finish line. Here is Jason, Logan, Dustin, and Lyle after having one too many Hostess products:

This was not the first time I have seen Cherie catching some air:

Will and my brother Kenny also got in on the Air Jordan action:

I just wouldn't feel good about myself if I didn't attempt a jumping picture during a race. I passed the camera off to Mel and she snapped this. (I apologize for how closely I resemble a really nerdy cheerleader. Certainly not the first time.)

The volunteers for this race were so amazing. I can't thank them enough. At the turn-around aid station Melissa and Nicole were helping out. They even had a Christmas tree and some Christmas music bumpin'. A+ for creativity!

I had so much fun during the last half of the race running with Mel, Shane, Alex, June, Braydon, and Micah. Remember how we got a mark on our hand each time we ate a Hostess product? We needed to have a total of 5. Check out Micah's hand! He as 12 (yes, 12!) marks on his hand! He won the Hostess With The Mostest Award (person who eats the most Hostess products). It was so funny to run with him and watch him try to not throw up enormous quantities of Twinkies.

I had so much fun at the "race". It combined three things I love: hanging out with friends, running, and eating junk food. Here is me and Mel sporting our fat bling:

I was so happy with how the medals turned out. They are big and they look good enough to eat. Check out Amber's race report for more pictures I missed. Thanks to all the volunteers and runners who showed up to make the Hostess Half Marathon so much fun!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Progression Of A 100 Miler

Exactly one month ago I had just finished my first 100 miler, the Javelina Jundred. (Coincidentally one month ago my toenails hurt so bad that it was hard to sleep.)

One cool thing about this race was the fact that it is run in seven loops (the first six are 15.4 miles each and the last lap is 9 miles). My sister and official crew photographer had a great idea: she took a picture of how I looked after each lap. Crazy bug eyes are apparent in all pictures, though I look noticeably more like a zombie after 29 hours of running on lap seven. Here is the progression of my 100 miler:

Lap One (mile 15.4)

Lap Two (mile 30.8)

Lap Three (mile 46.2)

Lap Four (mile 61.6)

Lap Five (mile 77)

Lap Six (mile 92.4)

Lap Seven (mile 101.4)

Notice the cheese sandwich on my knee. That thing didn't stay in my stomach for too long after I ate it. Grrrross.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You've Got To See This

My friend Steven Sharp Nelson is a brilliant cello player. I had him play on my last two piano CDs and was constantly amazed at his skills. He seriously is brilliant.

His newest video was posted only one week ago and already has nearly 2 million (MILLION!) views. It is basically awesome. You ought to check it out:

Monday, December 12, 2011

On The Verge Of A Crisis

"It's not the races you enter that count. It's your runs in training and sticking with it. It's how you adjust to injury and how you recover that makes you a good runner." ~ Dave Hladysh

Our family is on the verge of a crisis. Our washing machine passed on to Washing Machine Heaven almost two weeks ago. Home Depot is not feeling the same urgency we are to do laundry. Our floor is now a layer of dirty clothes. Our children are about to become the stinky kids at school that you always hated sitting by. Please rescue us Home Depot. We promise we won't put anymore Chapstick in the washing machine. Helllllllllp!

On Monday I attempted a run. I woke up early and put on layer after layer of clothing. I started running and it was bitter cold and blowing like a hurricane (no accident that I live in a city named Hurricane). I made it one mile before realizing that this was possibly the dumbest thing ever and nobody with more than seven brain cells should be out running in this condition. I have barely more than seven brain cells so I went home. Fail.

On Wednesday I ran 11.2 miles on some beautiful trails. But in good conscience I can't really call this one a run. I hiked way more than I ran. Although my camera happened to catch this nerdy-looking runner heading down the trail:

It was cold and windy. My muscles felt tight, kind of like Laffy Taffy that just came out of the refrigerator. Don't you hate when you get a case of Laffy Taffy Legs? I snapped this picture at the end. What I lack in speed and athletic ability, I make up for in self-timer skillz.

It was the anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor. We went there last year and I snapped this photo inside the memorial:

Saturday was a little 3 mile jaunt through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. This trail is exactly one mile from my house. In the hundreds and hundreds of miles I have run on trails I have never, ever seen another runner. I've seen maybe 10 mountain bikers over the last few years but never another runner. Until Saturday! In passing, I didn't tell her that our washing machine was broken so I was wearing dirty running clothes.

Did you watch the Biggest Loser marathon? Although I don't think it's wise to jump from morbidly obese to marathon in 5 months, I loved watching the show. I was so impressed, especially with the last finishers who took more than 10 hours. I have a tender spot in my heart for the slow runners (probably because I relate to them so much). Major props to them, and anyone else who uses a marathon as their goal to get in shape!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

101 Things - Secrets Revealed

1. I desperately want to go to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.
2. I would give anything to be able to grow a moustache like Burt Reynolds.
3. Words can’t describe how much I hate airplanes.
4. My kids have complained that I take too many pictures of them.
5. My library card is used often. I’m usually reading 3-4 books at any given time.
6. My heart is broken every year by the Utah Jazz.
7. I’ve met George Bush (the old one) and Gordon B. Hinckley.
8. Our shih tzu is morbidly obese.
9. I have a bad reputation for passing out when I get my blood drawn.
10. Kids + pouring a gallon of milk on cereal = recipe for disaster. I still love them anyway.

11. I enjoy Letterman, Survivor, and Colbert.
12. I am proud of being frugal and thrifty.
13. I’ve never met a kind of candy I didn’t like.
14. Except for the color, my hair resembles a Chia Pet.
15. My car traps odors. You can smell a Big Mac for a week.
16. I have a sweet tooth that would put Willy Wonka to shame.
17. I have never seen any Star Wars, Rocky, or Harry Potter movies.
18. I think the name “Herb” is funny. I wouldn’t mind having that as my nickname.
19. The scent of seafood makes me want to upchuck.
20. While I respect their abilities, I detest music by Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Pat Benetar, Gloria Estefan, or Santana.
21. Dentists were created by the devil.
22. I have no doubt that I could eat my weight in pumpkin pie.
23. For the most part, politicians make my blood boil.
24. I would love to be the director of a Gospel choir in the Deep South. Not that I can sing. Nor have I ever directed a choir.
25. Once I sprained my ankle and instinctively said words I shouldn’t have said in front of people I shouldn’t have said them.
26. Is it a requirement for figure skaters to wear sequins? How depressing. If I’m ever having a bad day at work, I will remind myself “At least you don’t have to wear sequins.”
27. 101 is a lot of things.
28. I wish my car had sirens I could turn on when someone is driving really slow in the fast lane.
29. My children can recite lines from Napoleon Dynamite.
30. I can recite lines from Napoleon Dynamite.
31. One of my biggest fears is getting old.
32. I married a patient, forgiving, selfless, compassionate person.
33. I have a firm belief that Cream of Mushroom Soup is over-used in the culinary world which is a shame because it’s pretty yucky.
34. I haven’t ever used alcohol, cigarettes, or heroin.
35. I am very picky when it comes to buying shoes.
36. I have never, and will never own a cat.
37. I like to listen to ESPN Radio on my way to work.
38. I can be bribed to do anything with cupcakes.
39. My wife often forgets to change the lint trap on the clothes dryer. So when I change it, it looks like a kitchen rug.
40. OneRepublic makes some incredible music.
41. I take a daily multi-vitamin, Glucosamine, and fish oil capsules.
42. I’m trying to be like Jesus. Sometimes the closest I get is owning a pair of sandals.
43. Now that I have run 100 miles, I believe I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.
44. I wish spinach tasted like churros.
45. When I was younger, my brother and I would sneak out of the house at night, ride our bikes to the grocery store, and buy ice cream.
46. I get predictably grumpy when I am tired.
47. The temperature in my office is either Sauna or Meat Locker. I prefer Meat Locker.
48. When I die, I don’t want to have a funeral. I want everyone to have a party and have fun and laugh and eat lots of junk food. And possibly hire a stand-up comedian for one of the speakers.
49. I learned from experience that my car isn’t built to drive up snow-covered hills.
50. I kind of like the Buttered Popcorn flavored Jelly Belly Beans.
51. I think my wife Melanie is a babe.
52. With my life, I am much more interested in quality than quantity.
53. A mouse lost its life in my desk drawer at work. It was grrrrrrross.
54. I like to surround myself with people who have a good sense of humor and don’t take things too seriously.
55. I feel guilty when I drink regular soda instead of diet.
56. I have never broken a bone.
57. My brother and sister are ambitious.
58. I wish I could play the cello. I’d listen to myself all day and never leave the house.
59. I wish I could make rolls as good as elementary school cafeterias.
60. I have LOTS of female in-laws that live close by. There is nothing worse than hearing about certain times of the month.
61. I am an eternal optimist.
62. I once got my mouth washed out with soap for calling my brother stupid.
63. I’m sorry I called you stupid. You are much, much smarter than me.
64. Note to self: Ivory Soap doesn’t taste nearly as good as it smells.
65. I am a photography nerd.
66. Among the phone numbers I have saved in my phone: Domino’s Pizza, CafĂ© Rio, and the Piano Gallery.
67. My chemistry teacher in high school drank more Mountain Dew than should be legal for a human being to consume.
68. The people I work with are very, very smart.
69. Church sometimes makes me sleepy.
70. I would like to meet Bruce Springsteen, Lance Armstrong, and David Letterman. And ultrarunning freak of nature Karl Meltzer. (Karl - I'm going to be in Salt Lake over New Years. Call me.)
71. A rain storm is the best smell in the whole world.
72. I admire people who are humble, thankful, giving, and appreciative.
73. Banana bread, pumpkin pie shakes, and toffee are scrumptious.
74. I am positive that I was a first grade teacher in my past life. I LOVE going to help at the elementary school.
75. Our dog likes to tip over garbage cans and make a big mess of the garbage. He is lucky to be alive.
76. Sleep apnea makes me stop breathing a couple hundred times a night so I’ve slept with a CPAP for lots of years. I loathe my CPAP.
77. Anyone with sleep apnea needs their spouse to make baked goods including cake and pie at least once per week.
78. As a kid, I liked Alf, Silver Spoons, The Wonder Years, Mr. Belvedere, Small Wonder, and Charles In Charge.
79. I survived two winters in Wyoming. (I’ll pause a moment and let you finish your applause.)
80. In my high school anatomy class we dissected a cat. A cat!
81. Running is contagious.
82. I nearly needed a clean pair of britches a few years ago during a particularly bumpy flight into St. George. If friends weren’t with me, I would have kissed the ground when we finally landed.
83. Without my contacts in, I am as blind as an NBA referee.
84. It bothers me when my girls listen to music from Mama Mia. This is the reason ear plugs were invented.
85. I have an in-law who likes to use the phrase “Quite frankly…” to begin many sentences. Quite frankly, it always brings a smile to my face.
86. My sassy and funny sister-in-law Rachel uses the phrase “Y’ain’t” which is always very funny. I’m going to try to use that in my vocabulary more often. “Kids – y’ain’t gonna get none of my Mike & Ike’s so stop asking!”
87. Why don’t children understand the concept of sleeping in?
88. My wife thrives on telling me gross things that she does while working as a nurse at the hospital.
89. I wouldn’t mind being Nacho Libre.
90. I have three pieces of toast and hot chocolate for breakfast on my way to work every day.
91. My knees often don’t cooperate.
92. Maybe it’s because I eat three pieces of toast everyday for breakfast.
93. I don’t understand the appeal of CSI, vampire movies, or Red Lobster.
94. Beagles have a loud, and very funny bark.
95. My memory leaves a lot to be desired.
96. Sometimes I have a problem with laughing during the prayer.
97. Getting a root canal is the next closest thing to being struck by lightning.
98. Mel’s family is so tight-knit that they sometimes discuss their bowel movements with each other. That's when I leave the room.
99. I firmly believe that figure skating would be so much more enjoyable to watch if everyone wasn’t wearing sequins.
100. Does it make me less of a man if I admit that I don’t mind Taylor Swift’s music?
101. I think if I let my hair grow out, it would look like I French-kissed a light socket.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Blame The Peanut Butter Bars

"26 miles 385 yards is where racing ends and ludicrous extremes begin."
- from "Runner's World"

I sincerely wish spinach tasted like churros. That would make it so much easier to eat healthy! I'm trying to eat a decent amount of fruits and vegetables to counteract all the peanut butter bars and cookies I've been eating this week which have caused my diminishing fitness.

This week I went on my first real run since the Javelina Jundred three weeks ago. The ol' knees are still a bit tender so I'm easing back slowly. A good chunk of my first run on Wednesday was more of a power hike. I'd guess I went 9-10 miles but don't know for sure since I didn't wear my Garmin. (I went about a month without wearing a Garmin watch. Glorious!)

I took a new path near the Jem trail that I can't believe I've never explored before. I've run past it a churroillian times put never ran it before. So many trails around here are spectacular but I believe this was the most spectacular-est trail I've ever been on (which happens to be part of the Zion 100 course).

I came up over this little hill and suddenly a view of Zion National Park opened up right before me:

I stopped for about 10 minutes just soaking in the view. Trust me when I tell you that pictures don't do it justice. I thought about how fortunate I am to be surrounded by a network of amazing desert trails. With scenery like this, its hard not to be drawn to the dirt.

Wednesday night Jackson competed in the Basketball Hoop Shoot contest for the school. All the students who entered had two rounds to see who could make the most free throws. And Jackson won! He won this basketball and now moves on to regionals. So proud of him.

Saturday morning I met Matt Gunn for the first time, race director of the Zion 100. He was showing a group of runners some of the course for the race in May. Usually I prefer to run by myself but it helped to have him there to describe some of the course directions to us:

Windchill as we started was 26 degrees. I realized that I have certainly lost some of my fitness over the last three weeks since the 100 miler. After a mile I was sweating like a dog in a sauna. I far exceeded the FDA's guidelines on How Much A Person Should Be Sweating In 26 Degree Temps. It felt like I was coming back to running after sitting on the couch for three weeks eating peanut butter bars. (Oh.....wait.....)

We did the trail leading to the top of Gooseberry Mesa. I was anxious to see what the hardest part of the course was like. The website describes the climb as "brutal" ascending more than 1,500 feet in less than one mile. This little hill was just the appetizer:

The views going up were actually amazing enough to take my mind off the fact that my lungs were filling with molten lava inside my chest.

I decided (okay, my knees decided) that I'd head back a little before reaching the peak. The rest of the group did about 18 miles but my total was 7. A hard-earned 7. This run/hike was a good boost psychologically because I like to know the worst of what I'm in for. And actually, the worst wasn't horrible. The trail was pretty good and if you take it slow it's definitely manageable. I was actually slower going down than up just to make sure my footing was okay. (Notice the frost forming on my hat. Temperature certainly felt cooler 1000 feet up.)

I'd like to tell you that chocolate will find its way to my stomach less frequently this week. But my sweet wife just made another pan of peanut butter bars. And I lack self-control when they are sitting there in front of me. And I lack the self-control to tell her not to make them. I think I'm set for another good week.

Do you love or loathe your Garmin watch?
I want to wear mine less so I can get better at listening to my body instead of worrying about pace.

Do you like running in the cold?
As long as my head and hands are warm I love the cooler weather.

Is junk food your friend during the holidays?
My blood is starting to clog with oatmeal from all the no-bake cookies I've eaten.