Sunday, April 29, 2012

It Is Entirely Possible

It is entirely possible that our family will be on a cruise in Mexico next week. It is entirely possible that we will eat our body weight in soft serve ice cream. It is entirely possible that I will burn my skin to a Donald Trump-ish red glow. It is entirely possible that a week of 24-hour-per-day buffets is not the best idea one week before a 100 mile race.

This little blog here is my training journal so I'll give a quick recap of the week proceeding my Mexico cruise / high calorie / sunburning bonanza:

Monday, April 23rd 2012: 7 miles @ 10:43 minutes per mile. The hardest part of this run was dragging my carcass out of bed so early before work.

Wednesday, April 25th 2012: 24 miles @ 12:52 minutes per mile. Mel joined me for the first 8 miles and we ran to the Yellowman Petroglyphs. The sky was amazing. The clouds looked like a rolling canvas of watercolors:

Mel kept stressing about pace but I told her not to worry. She is a little slower than me but it works out really good to run the first part of the run with her because then I don't overdo it at first and I can finish faster. Plus she is funny and I enjoy our conversations. We averaged 13:45/mile. I had fun running with her.

After that I headed toward Little Creek Mesa. There is about 3.5 miles of steady hills that climb 1,500 feet. Everytime I've run here before, that hill has kicked my butt. But for some reason my legs had lots of kick this time. It felt like I drank a gallon of 5 Hour Energy.

When I got to the edge of the mesa I saw a guy driving a Jeep. This was the first person I'd seen in hours. He rolled down his window and said "Are you running from the law?" I laughed and told him I was.

Later I realized that this guy was serious. I wore a new hat that covers your neck. It is useful, but downright hideous. I realized that he asked if I was running from the law.....because it should be illegal to wear a hat this ugly.

I ran those last 16 miles at a steady pace and got the average down to 12:52/mile. It gave me more confidence to tackle that hill on race day.

Friday, April 27th 2012: 7 miles @ 11:18 minutes per mile. It was a beautiful evening on the Jem trail with some great lighting as the sun was going down:

Right now I'm feeling pretty good going into the Zion 100. Everything seems to have fallen into place over the last six weeks. I've been able to get in a 31 miler, 36 miler, and 50 miler and my body is feeling good. I think with squeezing ultramarathon training into the craziness of life, I'm as prepared as I could hope to be. It's going to be a crazy, wild, exciting ride.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New Family Pictures

We got our family pictures done recently. I was really happy with how they turned out. It turns out that candy is a great bribery tool for children when having pictures taken. Here are a few of my favorites:




Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Upcoming Trail Race: Hurricane Trails River Run

I thought I'd mention an awesome trail race coming up soon on July 7th called the Hurricane Trails River Run. I have had the pleasure of taking pictures at the race over the last few years and the scenery is incredible. The trail weaves through Confluence Park with some great views of the Virgin River.

Since the race is only 4 miles, this is a great intro for anyone looking to get into trail running. This is the third year and the race has always had good support and really good treats at the end. (And some cool scenery.)

Want more info? Great! Here are the details:
When: Saturday, July 7th 2012 @ 7:04am
Where: Race starts at Stout Park in Hurricane, Utah
Cost: $17.50
Registration Includes: Race shirt, swag bag, and post-race refreshments
How to Register: CLICK HERE for registration and more info at the race website.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, April 23, 2012

I Survived Hell Week

"Hell week" actually wasn't too bad. I dropped my mileage a little bit and put my focus on my last long run of 36 miles. The worst part of Hell Week happened when I was listening to the radio while running and the song "Love Shack" by the B52s came on. Dear radio station: 1989 called and it wants its crappy music back.

Monday, April 16th 2012: 10 miles @ 11:20 minutes per mile. It was very early in the morning before work so I slept through the whole thing.

Tuesday, April 17th 2012: Rest.

Wednesday, April 18th 2012:
5 miles @ 10:08 minutes per mile. Here are the steps to take if you would like to repeat the hill workout I did Wednesday morning:
1) Find a steep, long hill in the neighborhood.
2) Run up and down it until your lungs fill with lava and you start getting chunky burps.
3) After the chunky burps start, go up and down a few more times for good measure.
4) Run back home, sit on the bench in front of your house, and patiently wait until you stop seeing stars.

Thursday, April 19th 2012: 6 miles @ 11:05 per mile. I took some friends for their first experience on Gould's Rim. Joining me were Jason Smith, race director for the Sand Hollow Marathon, and Jess Jensen who will be pacing me for 20 miles during the Zion 100.

We went after work and it was mighty warm. While we were running I told Jess that I probably won't be very sociable by mile 70. I told her that the 20 miles she runs with me will be slow. I told her to ignore me if I curl up on the side of the trail in fetal position and start crying.

Friday, April 20th 2012: 36 miles @ 13:56 minutes per mile. This was my last really long run before starting to taper. I knew it was going to be a long, hot day with a high of 85 degrees. I ran 7 miles on the Hurricane Rim trail before Mel joined me for another 3. This was her first time here and she wasn't a huge fan of the technical trails and climbing.

We decided to drive up the road a little bit and she ran five more miles with me on some trails near Gooseberry Mesa. Last week I ran in this same exact place in SNOW, and one week later it was ROASTING.

After Mel departed, I wandered around some trails looking for the Yellowman Petroglyphs. After a while I came upon some campers who were in the middle of nowhere. They told me the petroglyphs were a steep scramble up the ridge. I had run 28 miles by this point so I wasn't sure my legs were up for a steep scramble, but once I made it to the top I was glad I decided to go.

After the petroglyphs, I ran up Little Creek Mesa. My pace doesn't reflect my stops throughout the day to go to the bathroom or refill water bottles, or that one time when I sat in my car with the air conditioner cranking for a few minutes drinking a Red Bull. It really did end up being an all-day adventure. I felt like I managed the heat much better because I worked on staying hydrated. There were about five times throughout the day when I would be running and suddenly start pouring sweat, almost like someone had dumped a big glass of water on me. I'd find some shade to cool off for a minute then get back on my way.

I was surprised just how good I felt in the evening when it started to cool off a bit. I had a renewed burst of energy and decided I'd do a quick jumping picture at mile 35:

Saturday, April 21st 2012: 4 miles on the Flying Monkey Trail. For some reason, Mel and Jackson decided to join me on my outing. I'm glad they did. The Flying Monkey Trail is brutal. It's steep and challenging AND it was 95 degrees outside! 95! No bueno.

It was funny to hike with Jackson. When we got to the top of a steep climb, he would let out a pained groan as we would turn a corner and see another oncoming steep climb. This happened over and over. Jackson wasn't a fan of melting his body on the Flying Monkey.

We made it about 1/3 of the way up before they cried uncle and we decided to head back. When we turned around, I set up the camera for a picture. A second before it clicked, I stuck my thumb up at the exact instant Jackson stuck his thumb down.

And now it is time to start tapering for the big race. I think the biggest factor may end up being the weather. Temps in the high 80's or 90's could make things tricky. The desert floor just radiates heat and makes you feel like you're standing in an Easy Bake Oven.

I am nervous, and scared, and hopeful, and very, very excited.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Treadmill Torture and 31 Miler

First of all, when I find out which one of you has been slipping a bottle of Benadryl in my food every day for the last week, I am going to give you a goose egg big enough to have a Social Security number.

Monday, April 9th 2012: 5 miles @ 10:19 minutes per mile. Uneventful pre-work run.

Tuesday, April 10th 2012: 5 miles. I thought I’d get some course-specific training and try something new. So I put on a sweatshirt and wool cap, went upstairs where it’s hot, set the treadmill to it’s steepest incline, then power-walked as fast as I could for 45 minutes.

Let me tell you something: in Hell, everyone is wearing a sweatshirt and wool cap, and they’re walking on a treadmill set to its steepest incline. I have no doubt.

After about 10 minutes I wanted to bash my head with a hammer. I thought “This is ridiculous. It would be so much easier to just go outside and run a few quick miles.” I decided I’d stick with it though because it was uncomfortable. And I need to do more training outside my comfort zone because that’s where growth happens. I will be walking plenty of miles on steep uphills during the Zion 100 in one month (gulp) so I think this actually was good training. I ran another mile afterward with Mel, Jackson, and Ace.

Wednesday, April 11th 2012: 31 miles @ 13:18 minutes per mile. I ran on Gould’s Rim and the spider web of dirt roads surrounding it. I plugged along for mile after mile happy as a clam listening to my ESPN radio station and admiring the scenery.

After I had been running for a few hours Mel came out to join me for five miles. She still gets frustrated because her pace is so much slower on trails. I reminded her that with the elevation changes and rocky terrain, pace is naturally going to be noticeably slower. It’s all good. Nothing to worry about. The thing we DID have to worry about was her nose springing a leak and dripping blood.

There was cloud cover all day which kept the temperature perfect – highs in the 60s. When I was running with Mel, the clouds were all sorts of funky. They were rolling across the sky like waves on the ocean. It was really beautiful. I got this picture which may be my favorite in quite a while:

I was constantly stopping to take pictures, then would run to catch up with her. But the lighting was so perfect that I couldn't help it.

In the afternoon it got reeeeeally, reeeeeally windy. There was a High Wind Advisory and I was getting blown all over. But in my neck of the woods, if you wait until a day without a wind advisory before you run… will never run.

I felt good the entire time. I was seriously amazed what a huge difference temperature can make. Last week running in the 80s wore me out, but cooler temps almost felt like I was cheating. I finished 31 miles feeling like I could have kept running. Probably 40 miles. Heck, probably 50. But 100? 100 miles!?!?!? I really have a hard time wrapping my head around that number.

Thursday, April 12th 2012: Rest

Friday, April 13th 2012: 9 miles @ 11:43 minutes per mile. Early morning run. My muscles were stiff and my legs felt like cold Laffy Taffy.

Saturday, April 14th 2012: 14 miles @ 12:36 minutes per mile. I woke up to rain and knew the morning run would be miserable. I came up with about 284 excuses to go back to bed. I ended up putting on my big boy pants and drove to a trail that was a little more sandy and I hoped would be better in the rain.

Unfortunately by the time I got to the trail it wasn't raining. It was snowing and windy. I pretty much didn't want to get out of my car. The first few miles were indeed miserable. Although once I got into the swing of things I felt pretty good. Actually, really good. The trail was only like an ice skating rink a few times. I was thankful I packed a warmer jacket and the lifesaver: my little girl's scarf. Real men wear little girl scarfs.

It was so incredibly beautiful watching the snow drift down and cover the trees around me. I was really thankful I decided to get out of my warm bed.

I did six more miles on the dreadmill after the kids went to bed so that I could get to 70 miles for the week.

This was a hard running week for me. And it wasn't because of the body feels good. It was just a crazy week juggling me working a lot, Mel working a few days, a dentist appointment, kid's piano practice, dance, baseball, etc. I try to do most of my running while they are asleep, so squeezing 70 miles in between the busyness was a challenge. I fantasize about sleep. I'm angry at whoever is putting Benadryl in my water bottles.

I'm happy with how the week went. Only one more building week and then it will be time to taper. Saaweeeet! And you know what's great about training for an endurance event? You get to eat whatever you want! Mountain Dew? Extra large. Pumpkin pie? Don't mind if I do. Hostess? Already had some, but I'll have some more. Snickers? I'll take two. I think I could get used to this.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Choosing To Suffer

Every single day at work I am surrounded by people who are being bombarded with UNINTENTIONAL suffering. They have kidney failure and are faced with a life on dialysis. Some have cancer. Some are old and have to depend on other people for everything. The thought of facing those challenges scares me. A lot. They don't have a choice. There is no escape from their suffering.

But with running, I am in control of my suffering. Even when I am most miserable - when my legs are cramping like crazy, or when I'm dehydrated and sick, or when I'm so exhausted that I start talking to Care Bears - one thought keeps me going: I CHOSE THIS! Nobody is making me do this. It is my choice.

And all those people who are drowning in unintentional suffering would LOVE to be able to be out on a trail running 50 miles even if it meant they were cramping like crazy, and dehydrated, and exhausted, and talking to Care Bears. They would trade places with me in a heart beat.

I have a sweet high school friend named Alisa who is in the middle of a hard-fought battle with cancer. Alisa is one of the kindest, happiest, most courageous people you could ever hope to meet. I couldn't get out of my mind that before she got really sick, she was training for her first half marathon. It made me really, really mad that cancer took her race away from her. I have felt helpless wishing there was something I could do.

The night before the Buffalo Run 50 miler I told Alisa I was going to run it for her. If she couldn't be out there running, I'd try to do it for her. I wrote Alisa's name on my hand to remind me of her when things got hard. Because no matter how difficult my race became, it was absolutely nothing compared to the race she was facing.
I hope I am able to continue running for a long time. I hope I don't take running for granted. I hope that when I am suffering, I remember that it was my choice, and there are countless people who didn't choose their suffering. I hope I can be there when Alisa runs her first half marathon.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Got Myself In A Risky Situation

Monday, April 2nd 2012: 6 miles @ 10:53 minutes per mile. Just the ordinary, early morning pre-work run.

In the evening I ran 8 miles @ 11:42 minutes per mile. It was a busy day and I wasn’t able to get out to run until almost 10:00pm. Ouch. That makes for a late night. With the 100 miler coming up, I’m starting to focus on making sure that each training mile has a purpose. The purpose in these miles was to run when I was tired, and do some trail running in the dark.

I'm not a fan of running trails in the dark. I worry about becoming dinner for a mountain lion. During the run I did see two pairs of glowing, beady eyes up ahead. I get a little jumpy when I see something moving in the shadows. Probably just rabbits.

Tuesday, April 3rd 2012: Rest.

Wednesday, April 4th 2012: 21 miles @ 15:21 minutes per mile. I really need to get some heat training so I wore a long sleeve shirt underneath a long sleeve black biking shirt. Combined with the 80 degree temps, I think that did the trick. On the trail toward Gooseberry Mesa I came across a herd of cows. All of them darted off…..except for one baby calf.

Since I am pretty much The Cow Whisperer, I walked calmly up to him and almost got close enough to pet him. He was a cute little guy. I considered cow-napping him and taking him home to the kids. If you look closely you can see him smiling at me:

The trail up to the top of Gooseberry Mesa is positively brutal. It climbs more than 1,500 feet in less than a mile. Even on fresh legs, it kicked my butt. We will be reaching this point on race day after having already run 40 miles. Wowzers.

The trails on top are some of the most technical I have ever run. Many miles are on rolling slick rock and the trail is marked by little white dots spray painted on the rocks:

The scenery up here is just spectacular. Pictures don’t even come close to doing justice to the amazing views. That little line across the desert is a highway.

I came across some guys from Germany who were jealous that I lived near “mountain biker’s heaven”. They asked me to take a picture of them, then offered to take one of me.

Around mile 11 I realized I might have a problem. It started earlier in the day when I was packing for the run. I noticed a small hole in the bladder of my hydration pack. So instead, I threw two bottles of water into the pack and took two handheld bottles.

At mile 11 I had turned around to head back but was worried that I might be running low on water. I had another 10 miles of heat and hard trails ahead of me. I saw a mountain biker coming up, swallowed my pride, and asked if he had a little water to spare but he didn’t.

An hour later I was starting to feel panicked. It was so hot and I was almost out of water. I saw three more mountain bikers coming up but I just let them pass without asking for water. I really hate asking for help for anything in everyday life, but I also felt like such an idiot for letting myself get into this position.

After they passed I heard them stop for a minute. I turned around and went back to them. I said “Do you guys happen to have a little bit of extra water?” I told them I still had an hour or two to go and I was almost out of water. In an instant all three of them had their packs off offering to fill my bottles. They were an answer to my prayers. I would have hugged them. But that might have been a little awkward.

Another 45 minutes later I saw a camper up ahead. My water was almost out again and I prayed that someone would be in the camper to spare some water. I called out but nobody answered. Then I saw a card table in the front of the camper with a box of bottled water. Another prayer answered. I figured they wouldn’t mind sparing a bottle.

It actually took me longer to go down the Gooseberry trail than it took to go up because it is so steep and rocky and I didn’t want to twist an ankle. I was thankful to get back to my car.

In all the hundreds and hundreds of miles I have run alone on trails, this was the first time I have ever felt like I put myself in a bad position. I am normally overly prepared and it’s important to me to be safe. I couldn’t have guessed that a little hole in my hydration pack would lead to this situation. I’m embarrassed that I let this happen and feel truly grateful for the kindness of strangers. I promise I will pay it forward.

“Alex, can I take Stupid Running Decisions for $500?” In the wise words of Susan Donnelly, it was an “unnecessary amount of epic-ness per mile.”

Thursday, April 5th 2012: Rest.

Friday, April 6th 2012: 9 miles @ 11:38 minutes per mile. I woke up at 3:50am to get in the run before work. That, my friends, is not a typo. I. Woke. Up. At. 3:50am. I knew that was the only free time I’d have all day. But guess what’s really nuts…..Mel came with me! I didn’t even bribe or threaten. She volunteered! I really loved running with her.

Saturday, April 7th 2012: 21 miles @ 13:08 minutes per mile. I ran the Hurricane Rim / Jem Trail / Gould's Rim loop. There are many miles of the trails which aren't necessarily hard, but hard to run fast. I felt pretty good overall.

I over-dressed with a few long sleeve shirts again to get more heat training. It was around 75 degrees. Note to self: It's difficult to look hard-core when you're wearing tights.

I was happy with how the week went. Even though the 65 miles weren't very fast, most of them were on some pretty tough trails with a total of 9,572 feet of climbing. Goals for the coming week: 1) Don't wake up at 3:50am to run, 2) Don't risk ending up on the news because I didn't pack enough water, and 3) Be generous enough to share at least a little of the pumpkin pie sitting in our fridge with the kids.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

50 Mile Wrap Up

The Buffalo Run 50 Miler is firmly in the rear view mirror. A few more parting thoughts:

The night before the race I talked with my eight year old daughter Danica. She gave me three pieces of advice:

1) Don't fall.
2) Start off slow so that you have energy to run strong at the end. (This little nugget made me so happy. Somehow she already understands the importance of pacing yourself.)
3) Try to win the race.

Thankfully I accomplished #1 and #2. I love how my kids are still young enough that they think I'm going to win the races I enter. They don't quite understand my lack of speed. And I'm okay with that.

I hadn't ever been to Antelope Island before and had no idea that there were actually mountains on the island. My GPS died at mile 39 but you can see how much more challenging the first 20 miles are compared to the last 30.

In my race report I mentioned that I talked a little bit with a guy named Chris Boyack who was running the 100 mile race. Click here to see his must-read race report.

And finally, I was lucky enough to get a jumping picture at the race:

Within 10 minutes of leaving the island, I was standing in a 7-11 dying to get my hands on a Slurpee. Let me tell you my friends - there has never existed a finer post-race beverage. (That is if a Slurpee qualifies as a beverage.)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Very Un-Awesome

I have experienced a number of things that are very, very un-awesome. A few of these include:

1) Once I stopped at Home Depot on the way to work to buy some bags of cow manure for the lawn and left them sitting in my hot car all day. The smell in my car for the following two weeks.....very, very un-awesome.

2) Once I passed out while getting my blood drawn. Waking up on the floor with a nurse cradling my head in her hands......very, very un-awesome.

3) Once I was in an airport when a Gloria Estifan song came on the speaker system. There was nowhere I could run to escape the sound. My ear drums were weeping. Very, very un-awesome.

4) Middle school. Start to finish. Especially playing Shirts and Skins in PE while the girls watched. And how did I always end up being Skins? Very, very, VERY un-awesome.

On Wednesday I had another experience which was very, very un-awesome: getting a metal post drilled into my jaw. This dental implant is like twisting a screw into a piece of wood. Except instead of putting the screw into a piece of gets screwed into your jaw bone. You guessed it......very, very un-awesome.


On Saturday I ran for the first time since the 50 miler last week. Almost all of the muscle soreness is gone and I'm feeling pretty good. I've made sure to give plenty of rest time. I ran 7 miles near Gooseberry Mesa.

I had a few peeps join me on the trail: Mel's step-mom Dottie, Mel, and our good friend Jess who will be doing some pacing for me at the Zion 100. (I have warned Jess that she may see me differently than she's ever seen me before. (Such as crying like a little girl, or laying on the side of the trail in fetal position begging to die.)

I have become quite fond of this windmill that is on the trail. As opposed to all those un-awesome things I mentioned, this windmill is actually highly, highly awesome.

It's safe to say that I'm getting a little (understatement of the year) scared about the Zion 100 coming up in six weeks. That leaves me three more weeks of training and then three weeks to taper. Cue the butterflies in the stomach.

Have any of you had something very un-awesome happen lately?