Friday, March 30, 2012

Be A Pacer - Run For Free!

Do you like to run?
Do you like to help others?
Would you like to be involved in a race for FREE?

If you answered yes to those questions, boy do I have an idea for you!

The Zion 100 coming up on May 11-12 is looking for pacers to help runners during the later stages of the race. Here are the perks: 1) You get to participate in part of the race without paying anything. 2) You get to use the same aid stations and eat whatever you want. 3) You get a free dinner. 4) You get a free shirt. 5) You get to help another runner who is looking for some companionship.

Here are some responses to some common concerns about pacing:

I don't even know what a pacer is.
A pacer is basically there to give some company to the runners. After running 60 or 70 miles, your mind can get a little fuzzy. The pacer helps make sure their runner stays on the course, makes sure they are eating and drinking, and gives the runner someone to talk to. Click HERE to read more about what a pacer does.

I can't run that far.
You can choose how far you want to go. You want to run 7 miles? Perfect! 11 miles? Great! 17 miles? Excellent. You decide.

I can't run fast.
The word "pacer" is a little deceiving. You aren't going to be striving to keep someone at a certain pace. Think of it more as a companion than a pacer. Trust me - by the time you meet up with your runner, they will have run lots and lots of miles already. They will be very tired, and likely walking a lot more than running. Speed definitely isn't an issue.

If you're considering getting into ultra running, this is an excellent opportunity to see what it's all about. If you just like to run and want to be involved in the festivities, I think this is right up your alley.

Click HERE and follow the link to volunteer and become a pacer. I guarantee it will be a good time!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Buffalo Run 50 Miler Race Report

I ran the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50 miler on Saturday and had an awesome experience. I felt a little under-trained but figured since I had done the 100 miler in November, surely 50 miles wouldn’t be too bad. (Possibly dumbest thought ever.)

The race starts with a miles-long steep climb. Imagine this: pitch black outside. All you see is the few feet ahead of you from the beam of your headlamp. You see little beams of light like a line of ants going up the mountain. I didn’t see anybody running. We were all power hiking. I didn’t hear anybody talking. Everyone was intently focused on the hill and conserving energy for the coming 48 miles. And finally the sun started to rise over the Great Salt Lake.

Antelope Island sits in the Great Salt Lake and I had never been on any of it’s trails. As the sun started to rise I was amazed by the incredible scenery. (Which helps explain why I took 218 pictures during the race.)

I tucked in with a group of wiley old veteran runners. They had a steady, conservative pace that seemed sustainable for the race. Older ultrarunners are really a gem. They have perfected the art of tortoise-and-the-hare. They hang back early while the youngsters speed by, then pass everyone at mile 40 when the youngster’s legs have blown up. I was happy with this little pack of guys.

After a while our pack broke up and I ended up running with these two guys. I heard one say to the other “The cutoff for the race is 12 hours and 30 minutes. If you finish any faster than 12 hours and 30 minutes, you aren’t getting your money’s worth.” Those are the kind of people I like to run with.

The first 20 miles of the race were particularly challenging. There was some rocky terrain and long hills where you thought you’d never reach the top

I decided the 50 miler would be an appropriate setting to break out the Don’t Worry, Be Happy hat that Mel got me in Virgin Islands. Although this did have the unfortunate side effect of getting the song stuck in my brain more times than I cared for.

I experimented with a heart rate monitor for the first time ever. My watch beeped whenever I went above 148 beats per minute. I listened to an Ultra Runner Podcast which talked about the importance of using a monitor for the first 30 miles so that you don’t start out too fast and you don’t fill your body with lactic acid early in the race. I hoped that if I was conservative for the first half, I wouldn’t feel like a dead weed for the second half.

There was a 50k race that started a few hours later which made the trails a little more congested at times, but I didn’t mind having some more company.

Around mile 20 I saw a race photographer and said “Hey, I’ll do a jumping picture for you.” After I jumped he got a grin and said “I remember, you jump at all your races don’t you.” I told him that I try my best.

I expected to see more buffalo than I did. I wasn’t even close enough to smell them. Or vice versa.

I was feeling pretty tired by mile 30. Even though the news said temps only got into the 70’s, I swear it was 120 degrees out there. I seriously felt like I was melting! I carried an extra water bottle just to keep dumping water on me, and still I could not cool off. Much to the dismay of Bobby McFerrin’s song, I wasn’t feeling so Happy.

Around mile 35 I started to feel some discouragement and despair. I felt like I was on fire, my quads were sore, and I felt like I was completely out of juice. I didn't know how I could keep going. I would have sold my firstborn child for a cold Red Bull. Then the song “All This Time” by Britt Nicole came on the radio and gave me the boost I needed. (Check out a video of the song here, I think you’ll like it.) The scenery almost took my mind off the fact that my skin had ignited in flames.

I met some awesome blogger friends during the race. I saw Janice from Run Far Strong a few times. It's good to get a few high fives from a friend along the way. And Chris Boyack from The Scene Begins who ate a positively nauseating 47 Gu’s (!!!!!!) during the 100 mile race. Chris was so nice – after he got cleaned up he came back to mile 44 and cheered on the runners.

One of my favorite things was seeing Jay Aldous at an aid station. I ran the Javelina Jundred with Jay who happens to be the WORLD (yes, world) record holder for fastest 100 miler for someone age 50-54. So I see Jay at an aid station and he is so happy and encouraging. I drank a cup of Coke and he made sure I had everything I needed. Then he said "Do you want one more cup of Coke just in case? You can always throw it up later." That kind of reasoning is hard to argue with. So I had another cup. Thanks Jay!

The area I struggled with the most was my stomach. It never felt very good. It was a little tense the day before the race too, so maybe it wasn’t because of the running. It just felt tight – like there was a buffalo standing on my stomach. The sure sign that my stomach is off is when I can’t eat candy. It wasn’t until mile 46 when I was able to eat some of these.

The last 10 miles were challenging because I was tired. But a very strange thing was happening..... I could still run. Even though my quads were sore and my rump felt like I'd been kicked by a buffalo......I could still run. And the knees? Golden! Knee issues were my biggest fear and they didn't bother me once! I can't tell you how happy I was (and am) about this! I knew my day would have a happy ending.

In the last few miles I could feel the finish line pulling me in. I was so happy that I wasn't doing the death shuffle, but I did feel worn out and exhausted. I had my fun for the day and I was ready to be done. I saw this sign and got even more excited to finish the race and stop running.

And then I saw the finish line. Relief. I made a big jump across the line and was done. Five hours earlier I wasn't sure how I was going to make it to the finish line. I was wasted and exhausted and I didn't think it was physically possible to keep going in the heat for five more hours.

I re-learned a few valuable lessons when I crossed that finish line: Our bodies are pretty remarkable. We can always go one more step. We can't know our limits unless we push them. And then push them a little more. We can do hard things. We are capable of more than we know.

And how is this for a post-race meal.....BUFFALO STEW! I had never eaten buffalo before, and it wasn't too bad. Unfortunately my stomach still didn't feel very good so I didn't eat much. Heck, if I can't eat Oreos at the aid station, I surely can't eat buffalo stew.

My feet were pretty sore and tender afterward, but I didn't have any blisters and I'm pretty sure I'll be able to keep all my toe nails. You can see how much dirt piled up on my legs.

I would call the Buffalo Run a success. I was able to run WAY more toward the end than I have in any other ultra, my knees had no problems, I didn't throw up (despite coming close a few times), and I didn't get chased by a buffalo. My Don't Worry, Be Happy hat ended up being a perfect summary of the race.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I Ran 50 Miles and A Dilemma

The good news: I ran the Buffalo Run 50 miler on Saturday!

Exactly one year ago our family went through a dark time. I was registered for the Buffalo Run as my first ultra. The day we were leaving for Salt Lake, Mel called me crying and said that she fell, and then the phone disconnected. Long story short, she broke both of her elbows and the Buffalo Run didn't happen. I just ended up running my own 50 miles. (You can read the whole story here.) Needless to say, I was very happy to do the actual race this year. I was even more thankful that Mel didn't have two broken elbows.

The dilemma: I took 218 pictures during the race on Saturday. I might have a hard time narrowing them down.

Give me a day or two and I'll body slam you with the race report and some of my favorite pictures. Spoiler alert: I didn't have to outrun any buffalo.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Running 50 With A Buffalo

In two days I am heading north to run the Buffalo Run.

I keep going back and forth, but at this moment I'm thinking I'll do the 50k (31 miles). I am signed up for the 50 miler but I'm leaning toward doing the 50k instead because I would have a faster recovery and be able to get more training in on the Zion 100 course which is only seven weeks away. I'll decide tomorrow which distance to run.

There are so many unknowns with these longer distances and it's hard to predict how the body will react when pushed so hard. Am I trained enough? Will I get sick? Will I get trampled by a buffalo? Who knows. Judging from past experience, all that fear goes away as soon as the race starts and its time to get down to business. I am going to work very hard on being ultra-conservative for the first half of the race. I don't care if I'm in last place. My goal is to feel good toward the end instead of doing the death shuffle.

Speaking of being trampled by a buffalo, check out this quote from the race website:
Bison will charge you (and not with credit cards) if you enter their personal space. The charges are generally short but can result in having to clean out your shorts, and that leads to chafing issues. Don’t look them directly in the eye, they take it as a challenge.

The thing I am most excited about with this race is what I will learn. I'm approaching it like a big science experiment to see what works and what doesn't work. I want to learn more about how I work through adversity. I'm looking forward to having a rendezvous with Pain. I know we will spend some quality time together. And when Pain joins me out on the trail I won't be afraid. I will welcome it for its challenge to get stronger and overcome it.

If this distance running stuff is remotely interesting to you, you should check out this article I came across called 7 Lies About Ultrarunning. I think it is funny, and true.

Bring on the Buffalo!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Virgin Islands In Review - Part 2

If by some twist of fate you didn't see Part 1 of the Virgin Islands review, you can find it HERE.

Would you care to know a few facts about St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands?
1) The main grocery store is called Pueblo. They didn't carry Diet Dr. Pepper and my wife almost started crying.
2) We ate coconut ice cream by the bucket from St. Thomas Dairy. Funny thing is that we never saw a solitary cow on the island. We later heard that the dairy just uses powdered milk.
3) They drive on the left side of the road in Virgin Islands. We only had a few near-fatal mishaps on the roads.
4) There are tons of boats.

We stopped at many beaches, but some we just enjoyed at the scenic overlook. Case in point - Trunk Bay.

We visited St. John one day and went on some cool hikes. One hike took us to some old ruins like this one:

One of the popular beaches on St. Thomas is called Magens Bay. First we went to the overlook. I had no idea at this point that I was about to become famous.

As we were hanging out at Magens Bay a young couple walked by us arguing. AND they happened to be surrounded by a camera crew. Thanks to Google I found out that a new season of MTV's reality show The Real World has started filming.

I was standing in the background as they walked by the second time. When the show airs, I'd appreciate if you don't stop by my house asking for autographs.

I learned that pelicans are scary creatures. They will plunge into the water for fish no matter how close by a human may be.

We are thankful our friends Darin and Shelley invited us on this trip. Our room had an awesome view of the ocean. This was the view we saw from our room:

On the last night of our trip we ate dinner near Bluebeard's Castle (seen below). Note to self: Don't order the Pepsi which costs approximately $1 per swallow and the waiter forgets to tell you the cost until you have had six swallows.

Shelley is a fellow photography nerd so we had to leave the dinner table for a minute to go take a picture of the incredible sunset.

Great fun was had by all. Nobody died as a result of the crazy island drivers. And I have a massive craving for powdered milk turned into coconut ice cream.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Virgin Islands In Review

We have finally returned from a week on the Virgin Islands. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I ate my weight in Double Stuff Oreos, candy, and coconut ice cream. I'd assume this was not the wisest fueling strategy for the 50 miler coming up next weekend. Currently my blood stream is 84% sugar.

Our friends Darin and Shelley (far right) had a time share and invited us to join them on the trip, so we've been planning it for two years. Joining us were their friends, and our new friends Brad and Christy (center). We all had a blast together.

Instead of giving you the boring Travel Channel play-by-play of everything we did, I thought I'd just hit you with some of the highlights.

The condo we stayed at had a nice little beach where we hung out the first night. This was my one and only jumping picture on the island. The moment I hit the ground I knew something had gone terribly wrong. I instantly knew that my jump looked like a cheerleader. I'm sorry about that.

This was the speed limit on one part of the island. Not 10 mph. That's too fast. Not 9 mph. That's too slow. But 9.5 mph. That's juuuuuuust right!

I hoped to get a few decent sunset pictures from the island. Thankfully the sky cooperated on most of the nights.

On some of the days we drove to different parts of the island to visit different beaches. (Except for that one day when the girls went shopping. And the boys stayed home and watched March Madness basketball for most of the day. It was funny how they actually thought we'd choose shopping over March Madness.) This was Coki Beach:

There were big leafs from sea grape trees spread all over the beach. I really liked this one that looked like an autumn leaf:

We went to St. Johns and did a hike through a national park. At the top of one particular hike there was a local islander making traditional island food and sharing it with everyone. It is called Dumb Bread. We asked why it was called "dumb bread" and she said "Because smart bread was already taken."

I have nothing to say about the following picture except that these sunglasses were hideous and funny and I should have bought them instead of just trying them on. They are big enough to provide protection for your whole face.

In addition to its human inhabitants, the Virgin Islands are also home to loads of iguanas. We found out that just like their human neighbors, iguanas like Doritos.

This was one of my favorite sunsets of the trip. The sky looked like it had been splashed with watercolors.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow with more pictures.....and my national television debut on MTV!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Guest Post - In Defense Of The Skinny Finn

Today's guest post is by Tom Dansie, a person who can run 26.2 miles at a pace faster than I can run 1 mile.

There is a side by side comparison image of a skinny, balding, goofy looking white Finnish distance runner next to a young, muscular, attractive, black British sprinter currently going viral on Facebook, the ultimate source for information on everything from tea party politics to the best kind of exercise regimen. Usually the image is posted by advocates of high intensity exercise programs and has a caption like, "Which is healthier?"

The obvious intent of the comparison is to extol the virtues of short duration, high intensity exercise (P90X / Crossfit / weight lifting - represented by the sprinter image) over longer duration and lower intensity exercise (cardio training - represented by the distance runner image), with the sprinter clearly being the obvious preferred choice. Who can argue that Crossfit (or P90X, etc.) is not the greatest way to exercise when you get results looking like the ripped sprinter?

Well, I am here to speak up for the goofy Finn. Let me be the first to say, "I want to be him!" Let me explain why.

First of all, I can't be certain but it looks like the sprinter in the image is British sprinting sensation Dwain Chambers. The same Dwain Chambers who tested positive for steroid use in 2003, resulting in a lifetime ban from Olympic competition, erasure of his 2002 Olympic gold medal, and forfeiture of all his earnings from his athletics career. If it takes steroids to look like him I think I will pass.

I know what you are going to say next, "Well, you can't judge all sprinters based on one isolated instance of drug use." To which I say, "Exactly. Just like you can't compare the relative health benefits of high intensity versus low intensity exercise by looking at two isolated photographs."

By placing these images next to each it tricks the viewer into thinking these are the only two possible outcomes of high intensity and low intensity exercise. If I do cardio training I am going to look anorexic, have a receding hairline, and look like a dork. But if I do Crossfit I am going to be super ripped, have a cool flat top, and look like a stud.

Of course, this is not the case. There is a huge variety of body shapes and levels of fitness among both sprinters and distance runners. There are a thousand other images of sprinters and distance runners that could be placed side by side to make the choice between the two much less dramatic. For example:

These are both world class athletes: one a sprinter, the other a marathoner. Which would you want to be? A little harder choice, isn't it? I would suspect most people would choose the image on the left, I know I would.

The image on the left is of Meb Keflezighi, one of America's top marathoners, silver medalist at the 2004 Olympic marathon and winner of the 2009 New York City Marathon. The image on the right is of Christophe Lemaitre, a rising French sprinting star who won the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay at the 2010 European Championships.

What can we learn from these two photo comparison exercises? Answer: If you want to look like a serious athlete and not a dork, you had better be black.

Because we don’t get to choose our skin color, what else can we learn from these two photo comparison exercises? Answer: Two cherry picked images can never completely illustrate the benefits of one exercise regimen over another.

Further, some body types respond better to one type of exercise program than do others. Just because you adopt a Crossfit / P90X / sprinter's workout you will not automatically end up looking like Dwain Chambers. And (sadly for me) if you adopt a marathoner’s training program you are not guaranteed to look like Meb Keflezighi. Some of us (again, sadly for me) are always destined to look like the goofy Finn.

But here’s the good part. I am happy being a goofy distance runner. I like the health benefits of low intensity, long duration exercise. I know I will never have bulging biceps by following the exercise program I have chosen, but I don’t care. If concentrating on cardiovascular exercise means I am destined to be skinny and goofy looking I am content with that. At least I don’t have a receding hairline (as far as you know).

Of course, some people are different. They are more suited to high intensity exercise. They like throwing old tires around and doing wall push-ups. And they put a higher priority on muscle tone and strength. I think that is great for them. I am not suggesting that Crossfit / P90X / etc. are not great exercise programs. I believe they are.

What I am suggesting is everybody gets to choose which type of exercise suits them best. The most important thing is to stay active and try to improve your overall health through some type of exercise program, and to be consistent in whatever program you choose.

I just have three words of caution for those who choose a Crossfit / P90X / sprinter’s workout:

1) Don’t try to convince me that your workout program is better than mine with pictures of dorky looking distances runners (we already know we are dorks).
2) Don’t think you are going to look like Dwain Chambers without doping.
3) It’s just not worth it to dope (unless you are a national sports icon, prominent Nike sponsored athlete, and founder of a high profile cancer advocacy group – in which case I guess it is worth it).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Guest Post - Mr. Wheel vs Mr. Jogger

Today's guest post is by Parker Haslam. Don't get too offended by his Colbert Report-ish humor:

If you’re pretentious, don’t over-think or confuse yourself. I am completely aware that there are far more noteworthy topics of controversy than the above mentioned forms of fitness and hobby.

Cranky! That’s the word I would use to describe most of us motorists when confronted with the problem of navigating the roads of Southern Utah when they’re plagued with cyclists. I recognize that people who peddle are using a crank to propel themselves and that the adjective “cranky” more applies to their passion than to humans in cars that vehemently express their disdain for “that guy” hogging half of the highway shoulder in his shirt that looks like a NASCAR auto hood.

I respect what your over all objective is Mr. Wheel. I get it! You want to enjoy the scenery in an open cockpit at a slower pace than motorcycles typically travel. All while getting a workout and showing your sculpted calves and beautiful varicose veins to the 60 cars behind you that are too timid to clip your shoulder as you make it up the last quarter mile of hill left to go.

Other than awkwardly running in place at cross walks, Mr. Jogger doesn’t annoy much. Sure, he is nauseating the local church members about his triumphs over the physical and mental adversities of the latest fund raising 5 or 10k. But can you blame someone for talking about something for which they are passionate.

Before I caught the “run bug”, I despised these people out of envy however; I have never been tempted to throw a water bottle at the side of their head while they share their stories of mind and body pain. Mr. Wheels doesn’t have to share. In fact, he’s often the selfish one. Halfway in the road, not committing to anything other than his efforts to prove that he’s got road rights too. Why he doesn’t travel in the three feet of free space a little further to the right? I will never know. Why he believes he can shoot through an intersection when the lights defer the right-of-way to opposing traffic? Your guess is as good as mine. But one thing is for sure, he needs to travel the friggin’ speed limit if he’s on my side of that white line or else Toyota will be a new sponsor imprinted on his tail gate.

I see Mr. Wheels asserting himself everywhere. Even when he has joined us motorists, he’s still announcing that we all need to “share the road” with the bumper stickers that I am convinced are part of an underground cult that meets to correlate which stickers to use and when to use them. Am I missing something? Does Mr. Wheels pay an extra “Bicycle Tax” that is used to fund the development of our city’s road system? Go ahead and Google it. The answer is “no”. The day Mr. Wheels is fronting cash to fix potholes and widen the roads is the day I respectfully wait behind the channel of cheek sweat that bobs up and down as he pumps up the road in his ignorance to the fact that we are late for work while he watches the sunrise in gear two. Until then, expect me to buzz the tower and laugh at you in my rear view mirror while you wrestle the handgrips for control. Ritzy little clown!

Mr. Run, thank you so much for never interfering with the roads. I know that the occasional “J-Walker” misrepresents you but most of the population can distinguish between the guy carrying a Pizza box across State Street and a tightly clothed, sweat drenched fitness buff who shuffles his iPod while he waits for the “please cross” sign to light up. We all know that cyclists are just lazy joggers that take breaks by coasting instead of stopping anyway. Mr. Jogger, have a nice day.

Oh and by the way Mr. Wheels, I love it when your bike is upside down and you are changing your flat on the side of the road. Nothing makes me happier. Well……almost nothing.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Running In 74 mph Wind Is Less Than Awesome

Monday, March 5th 2012: 5 miles. I ran the first two on the dreadmill. I am jealous of people who are okay doing their runs on a treadmill. It seems like my perceived effort is much higher and my pace much slower. After two miles on Satan's Sidewalk I decided I'd just go run the last three miles outside and finished with a 9:07 pace.

Tuesday, March 6th 2012: Rest.

Wednesday, March 7th 2012: 10 miles @ 12:37 minutes per mile pace. I had the chance to do a longer run with Mel which was fun. It was bitter cold and more windy than I have seen in quite a while. One website said there were gusts up to 74 mph, and of course you can believe everything you see on the internet. My wife is smiling somewhere underneath her layers:

I took her to a trail she hadn't been on before which included one of my favorite trail views ever:

There was quite a bit of elevation gain which Mel wasn't used to so she had a hard time getting her pace up but still had fun, despite the fact that we were seriously running in a tornado.

Thursday, March 8th 2012: 5 miles @ 8:41 minutes per mile. I am in charge of marking the course for the Zion 100 from mile 56-66. I went out with RD Matt Gunn to have him show me some of my area. We even had a mile @ 7:55. The last time I ran a mile that started with a 7 don't remember when. The views were, again, incredible.

There are some sandy sections here and I'll definitely be wearing my flashy gaiters during the race. My favorite part was coming up to a windmill which I wanted to get silhouetted against the sunset. I am nervous and excited for the big race.

And today we're leaving for the Virgin Islands! I'm excited for the trip, but less-than-excited for the flights. I have a slight (or not so slight) fear of airplanes. (CLICK HERE to read why.) If I could take a Greyhound to the Virgin Islands I think I would. I have a few guest posts lined up for the next week. Enjoy and see you soon!