Friday, August 31, 2012

Running A Marathon - The Last 6.2 Miles

Last year I ran the St. George Marathon with my wife. She wasn't having a good day, and each step she made became a challenge. Ever since then, I often think about how amazing those last six miles of a marathon are. I felt honored to be around fellow runners as we each fought our way to the finish line.

I guarantee that you will learn some of the most powerful lessons of your life by watching people who are in the last 6.2 miles of a marathon. I see it particularly with the runners who are slower taking more time to enjoy the scenery. In the last six miles of a marathon you will see something profound:

You will see tears.
You will see intense pain.
You will see a struggle to put one foot in front of the other.
You will see suffering.
You will see an internal battle of will.
You will see challenge.
You will see limping.
You will see exhaustion.

But when you look past the suffering....

You will see dedication.
You will see courage.
You will see strength.
You will see power.
You will see determination.
You will see bravery.
You will see pride.

When you see someone cross the finish line of a marathon, you are witnessing a miraculous transformation. Because the moment that person crosses the finish line, they realize that ANYTHING is possible.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Most Embarrassing Experience Ever

On Wednesday during a 30 mile run I had the most embarrassing moment of my life (right behind that time when I was nine years old doing school clothes shopping and a lady opened the door of my dressing room while I was standing there in my tighty whities).

I had run eight miles when I passed through some long stretches of field after field. From past experience I knew the mosquitoes were horrible here, but I didn’t put bug spray on before the run because it was raining. (I put a poncho in my pack just in case it started to downpour.)

Unfortunately, by the time I reached the fields it had stopped raining. I started to feel a few mosquitoes on my legs.

I ran faster. “Maybe if I’m moving faster they won’t be able to catch me.” I thought.

But they did catch me. Sweet mercy did they ever catch me. I don’t know why, but mosquitoes think I am the finest thing since Justin Bieber. My wife and I can go running and she’ll get home with a mosquito bite. I’ll have fifty. (Literally.) And they swell up to the size of Junior Mints.  

So I realize that they are swarming all over my legs. I’m running like the dickens. Then a horrific thing happened: I looked behind me. I was surrounded by a cloud of mosquitoes. My neck and arms and back were covered. They were sucking my blood through my shirt.

I ran faster. I had this vision in my mind of someone coming across my bones on the side of the road. And a coroner doing an autopsy and then telling my family that I had Death By Mosquito. “Run, Cory! RUN!” said a voice in my brain.

By this point I was experiencing my first ever panic attack. I didn’t want to stop and pull out my phone to call my wife because I knew if I stopped for even a split second I would get an extra 100 bites. And then I took off my head phones and that’s when the panic attack reached epic proportions. It sounded like a swarm of angry hornets. “AAAAAHHHHHH!” said that voice in my brain.

That was the tipping point. I stopped and got the phone out of my pack and called my wife. Our conversation went like this:

Me: “Help! I’m being attacked my mosquitoes!”
Mel: “Okay, I’m on my way.”
Me: “Please! Hurry!”
Mel: “Do you have your poncho?”
Me: “Yes, but that won’t help at all! It doesn’t cover my legs!”
Mel: “Sit down on the ground and put the poncho over you and I’ll bring you some bug spray.”

Her idea sounded just plain dumb but I wasn’t thinking clearly and had no other option, unless I wanted Death By Mosquito. So I pulled out the poncho, sat down on the side of the road, and covered myself in that thin coat of plastic.

And then I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed. “Please, please Lord. Please don’t let a car drive by and see me sitting here.” And for 20 minutes my prayer was answered. But then my fear came to pass. I heard a car coming. “Please, please Lord. Please let that be my wife.”

But it wasn’t my wife. A car sped by and I was more than relieved that they didn’t stop and ask what in the world was going on. And then the car stopped and turned around! “AAAHHHH!” said that voice inside my head.

A lady with a shih tzu on her lap rolled down her window. “Are you…….okay?” “Yes, I’m fine.” I whimpered. “I’m getting eaten by mosquitoes so I’m just waiting for my wife to get here with some bug spray.” A concerned look flashed across her face and then she drove away. This is what my pathetic self looked like:

After 30 minutes my wife arrived and saw the most pathetic scene I’m sure her eyes have ever witnessed:

I had smeared blood on my arms and legs from swatting mosquitoes. And apparently some on my face.

I am so thankful that my wife rescued me. She is a true angel. And I’m so embarrassed that she had to see her husband wrapped up in a plastic bag sitting on the side of the road. I wouldn’t blame her if she thought of me as less of a man. Not only did those mosquitoes suck out my blood. They also sucked out some of my dignity.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A 30 Miler With Bacon Cheeseburgers

On Wednesday evening after work I headed out for a 30 miler. It was a complete downpour all day but when I started running it was only sprinkling. I packed a poncho just in case. My route was a loop around Sand Hollow Reservoir. I like it here because you can go long stretches of time without ever seeing a car. (Code for "You don't have to search for a porta potty.")

After eight miles, a few different things happened: 1) the poncho literally saved my life, and 2) I had the most embarrassing experience of my life. I'll save that for tomorrow.
My sister-in-law Rachel is a brand new runner training for her first 5k. I really admire new runners because I know how difficult it is in the beginning. Mel and Rachel had a few miles on their training plan so they came out and joined me to run for three miles which was fun.

We got to the overlook of Sand Hollow Reservoir right in time to catch a positively awesome sunset. This is a reservoir where people fish, and boat, and water ski. But from this view it looks like a little puddle.

After soaking in the sunset for a few minutes we headed back to their car. We appreciated the positive encouragement that was spray painted on the road.

After they got back to the car I continued on my own. Eventually it got dark and I just kept moving....mile after mile....hour after hour. Finally I reached civilization again and may have (did) stop at a gas station to fill my water bottle with Coke. At mile 23 I was starving. It was almost midnight and I hadn't eaten since noon.

I knew there was a Wendy's up ahead and prayed that they would still be opened. Thankfully the drive through was! I sheepishly um....walked up to the drive through. But they said their rules required that you couldn't WALK through a DRIVE through. I almost started crying.
Literally 10 seconds later an angel appeared!

One of my dialysis patients pulled up in the drive through! I hoped I wasn't hallucinating. I said "Wow! I'm so happy to see you! If I gave you some money, would you buy a few hamburgers for me?" Of course he did. Those two junior bacon cheeseburgers were the best food I ate all week. The only bad part is that I had gut rot and chunky burps for the next hour but it was more than worth it. 

I was surprised how many of these I saw all over the road over the last few miles:

The other time I took my camera this week was a 10 miler on Saturday. I went out to a dirt road near Diamond Ranch Academy where there are some nice non-technical hills.

I was surprised how good I felt. It was the only run of the week where I didn't feel like I was having to coax my legs along. That could be due to residual effects from the Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers.

I use the blog as my training log so here is the summary for the week:
Monday, August 20th 2012: Morning: 8 miles @ 11:11 per mile, Evening: 5 miles @ 10:27 per mile
Wednesday, August 22nd 2012: 30 miles @ 12:27 per mile
Friday, August 24th 2012: 7 miles @ 11:21 per mile
Saturday, August 25th 2012: 10 miles @ 11:34 per mile

Tomorrow I'll fill you in on my humiliating experience during the 30 miler. I need another therapy session before I can talk about this in public.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Must Read Blogs

Blogs are a great source of information, and humor (and homemade Hostess recipes). Here are a few blogs that I highly recommend:

Riding The Wind – The blog of insanely awesome ultrarunner Anton Krupicka. At first glance, you’d think Anton looks like Jesus in running shoes. If nothing else, scroll through his pages to check out his pictures. In my opinion they are some of the best on the web.

Alisa – My high school friend Alisa Linton is fighting cancer. She also happens to be insanely awesome. Her courage and determination is incredible. If you’re looking for some inspiration, look no further.

It Just Gets Stranger – This guy is one of the funniest writers I have seen in a long time. I first came across his blog when I saw this review of the Deseret News Marathon. His posts are hilarious. Grab the tissues because you will be laughing so hard that you cry.

The MRC – This is from a group of trail runners with some cool stories and pictures. One of my favorites is Jay Aldous, one of the nicest runners I know. (Despite my reluctance, he coaxed me to drink more Coke at the Buffalo Run 50 miler and I started feeling better within minutes.) One of my favorite posts is his review of breaking the 100 mile world age record.

It’s A Dog Lick Baby World – Kara’s blog is one of the first I turn to when I need an irreverent good laugh. She has a gift for turning bad things into funny things.

What are your favorite blogs to read? 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Overdosing On Cinnamon Rolls

"Oul our bike canes!"

I saw the note sitting on the counter and I remembered I needed to oul the bike canes (code words for "Oil our bike chains").

The day before, my youngest daughter Kylee told me that her bike chain slipped off while riding home from school. Two "really old people" stopped and helped her fix the chain. (Thank you really old people, whoever you are.) They said "Whoa! Your chain like really needs some oil!" (Admittedly, I'm doubtful that the really old people used the word "like" in this sentence but I'll take my daughter's word for it.)

I asked Kylee to leave a note on the counter to remind me to oil our bike chains. Little kid spelling (and really old people who help kids with bike chains) are awesome. When I saw the note, I went right outside to oul the bike canes.

I decided I'd take an easy week after the Corner Canyon 50k last week. I wasn't sore at all, but my body just wasn't feeling that running mojo. (Possibly because I tried to overdose on cinnamon rolls this week.) My runs were:

Wednesday, August 15th 2012: 4 miles @ 10:14 minutes per mile. Not chased by any stray dogs. Bonus!

Friday, August 17th 2012: 13 miles @ 10:57 minutes per mile. My friend Jess (who was my pacer extraordinaire for the Zion 100) asked if I wanted to do a "longish run" Friday morning. We ended up doing a half marathon before work. Waking up at 4:00am to run a half marathon before working all day guarantees an afternoon Diet Mountain Dew.

Saturday, August 18th 2012: 7 miles @ 11:56 minutes per mile. I went on my favorite secret path near the Jem Trail. It was one of those mornings when the sunrise gives you goosebumps:

I was just standing there admiring the view when all of the sudden this lanky, wiry, nerdy runner jumped right in front of the camera:

It was already an inferno outside, too hot to be too speedy. Plus I ate too many cinnamon rolls this week and my body was on a sugar crash. Plus I wanted to soak in the scenery around me. You ought to join me out here sometime.

I have run out here countless times. I've seen roughly 87,371 rabbits. I've seen tons of lizards. I've seen some desert tortoises. I've seen mountain lion tracks. But there is one thing I've NEVER seen out here....until Saturday. HUMANS!

Other than a few people I have taken out here, I've never seen another human being. I was surprised and caught off guard when I nearly ran into them.

When I got home, Mel and I did an 11 mile bike ride. It's a good thing I had "ouled our bike canes".

As a public service to my fellow Utahns, Maverik gas stations have cinnamon rolls for $1.49. You will think you died and went to heaven. And then you will develop an addiction. And then you will eat too many, and your body will feel like a slug when you go out running. But they are heavenly.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I Was THAT Guy!

At the Corner Canyon 50k on Saturday I was THAT guy.

You know THAT guy. He's the one wandering around the finish line that everybody is looking at thinking "Boy, I'm sure glad I'm not THAT guy!" 

One year at the Top Of Utah Marathon, THAT guy was at the finish line with red streaks down his shirt from some bloody nipples. I was sure glad I wasn't THAT guy!

One year at the St. George Half Marathon a guy was wearing too short shorts. He woke up that morning and thought "You know what? I feel SO patriotic today! What can I do to display my patriotism on a chilly January morning? I've got it! I'll wear my too short flag shorts!" I was sure glad I wasn't THAT guy!

Well, on Saturday I was THAT guy. Despite some difficult trails and temps flirting with 100 degrees, I felt great all day. Until I stopped running. That's when it hit. My body got tingly. My vision started getting fuzzy. And the nausea?!?! Holy Aunt Jemima, the nausea! I had a few dry heaves but nothing came out.

I realized that among the crowd at the finish line......I had become THAT guy. I could feel people looking at me out of the corner of their eyes. They were probably placing bets on how many minutes it would take before I blew chunks. After about ten minutes a guy came up to me and said "Are you okay?" I told him I was fine. Just a little sick. Then he gave me a pep talk about throwing up. He told me it was okay to barf, and I would probably feel better afterward. "Don't worry. All of us have done it." he said. I didn't tell him that I have too. I appreciated his concern. It's not everyday that you get a pep talk about barf after all.

My friend Susette happened to grab a picture of me trying to keep liquid in my stomach instead of on my shoes. I was only slightly exaggerating how horrible I was feeling. 

I'm telling you - it was miserable. I would rather have bloody nipples or wear hideous teeny flag shorts than be THAT guy who passes out and/or throws up on someone's shoes after a race.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Corner Canyon 50k Race Report

I have cried during races before. (Take, for example, the Javelina Jundred last year when I sobbed like a little school girl because my legs hurt so bad.) But I've never cried BEFORE a race. Until the Corner Canyon 50k on Saturday.

The race was a benefit for ultrarunner John Maack (aka Johnny Runner) who has been diagnosed with cancer. He is in the midst of ugly chemo treatments....and still manages to get out on the trails to run. He talked for a few minutes before the race started about his trials and gratitude, and I admit that a little bit of awesome leaked out of my eyes. We all started the race feeling inspired.

The temperature was perfect as we started, but I knew we'd be in for a warm day. The forecast was 98 to 100 degrees. We made sure to take advantage of our time before the sun came up.

My friend Susette Fisher from You'll Always Have My Heart was also running the 50k. She asked me a week ago if I'd be interested in pacing her and helping her get to the finish. This was her first ultramarathon and I knew we'd have a good time together.

The first chunk of miles of the course is very runnable. There were some rollers but nothing major. And the trail was nice and smooth. We just cruised along.

After a while we hit some hills. At the time we thought they were pretty good hills. (Later on we met REAL hills. No. They weren't hills. They were mountains. The kind that almost make you cry like a little school girl.)

Without a doubt, my favorite sections of the whole race were parts when we ran under a thick canopy of trees. It was pretty much beautiful. The scenery is so vastly different from the red rocks where I usually run in southern Utah.

There was also a 25k that started an hour after us. After a few hours we heard some rustling behind us. And then a guy went screaming past. I'm positive this guy won the 25k because he was light years ahead of the next 25k runner.

One of the things I love most about ultramarathons is the aid stations. When you're out running all day, your body needs more than just a few Gu packets to get you through. At each station I loaded up on Skittles, chips, pretzels, and an embarrassingly large amount of Coke.

Susette caught on quickly to the strategy in long trail races. Sometimes the trail will let you run. And when that happens, my friend, you RUN! But sometimes the trail makes you put your hands on your hips and climb. And climb. And you can feel your heart beating in your head. And you can't seem to get air into your lungs. And your calves feel like someone poured lighter fluid on them and started them on fire. And then you climb some more.
We had one little stretch of flat land around mile 15 before the real work of the race began.

We had started some of the lung-burning, leg-demolishing hills which hurt, but we were rewarded with some amazing views of the valley below where we had started.

Part of the course includes a trail called Widowmaker. I had never been on this trail before, but was kind of excited for this section because I thought it would be cool to finish a race that included the word "WIDOWMAKER" in the course description. Here is where the fun begins:

The trail is so steep that in some sections we had to try to scramble up on our hands and feet. The steep incline is punishing and brutal. And it goes on for MILES. Those two miles took us an hour.

After a hard push, we made it to the top of Widowmaker! We survived, and thankfully neither of our spouses became widows.

We were now 18 miles into the race and it was sweltering hot. In some canyons it felt like the heat was swallowing us. Every once in a while we passed under a tunnel which gave a much-appreciated break from the heat, if only for a few seconds.

The Corner Canyon Ultra Trail Run had race organization down to a science. And this was a first year race! The aid stations were well-stocked and had lots of ice. (A life saver!) The volunteers seriously could not have been better. They were incredible. And the course marking was the best I've seen in a trail race. The ribbons were everywhere. It's a huge relief to not worry about getting lost.

Susette did awesome during the race. The only time I really had to help much was around mile 28. She started to stumble around a little and had a hard time keeping going. I had a hunch that maybe she hadn't stayed on top of nutrition and convinced her to eat a Gu packet. About one minute later she was like a new woman! It was like she drank a gallon of 5 Hour Energy then darted down the trail. I was feeling good. (Fear not, I saved my hard crash for after the race.)

After 9 hours and 47 minutes we crossed the finish line! I was very proud of Susette. My favorite part of the entire day was at the finish line talking to John Maack. He is an inspiring runner and human being. I was touched that such a huge group of friends and fellow runners were there to put on the race for him. To think that he is out running while he has a port in his chest for chemotherapy is astounding. It was the perfect ending to an amazing day.

Apparently my body thought it would be downright hilarious for me to get really sick at the finish line. Once I stopped running everything started spinning and I had a few dry heaves. I wanted to keep talking to John but decided I better step to the side so I didn't throw up on his shoes.

I couldn't be happier with my day. Aside from a hit of post-run nausea, I felt good all day. It gave me a good confidence boost for the upcoming 100 miler. I have no doubt that the Corner Canyon Ultra Trail Run will become a renowned race. They couldn't have organized the race any better. Without question this is one you need to add to your calendar.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Picture From Scott Jurek and Anton Krupicka

There are lots of runners I admire and look up to. But top on my list is Scott Jurek. This guy is arguably the most dominant ultrarunner in the world. He won the Western States 100 miler SEVEN times in a row. He has won Badwater a few times. His recent book Eat and Run was an instant New York Times Best Seller. The guy is amazing.

I also admire ultrarunning freak of nature Anton Krupicka. Not only does he look like Jesus in running shoes, but he is insanely fast and featured in the movie Unbreakable.

My friend Cherie Santiago works at Ultraspire and worked at the Outdoor Retailer Expo. She emailed me the most awesome digital autograph from Scott and Anton!

I thought this was so kind of Cherie to talk to these guys and get a picture for me. Not only is she one of the nicest friends you could ask for, but she also has some serious hops. Thanks Cherie!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Getting Lucky With Lightning

I have gone out many nights this summer trying to get some decent pictures of lightning. Up until Friday night, all I got was a bunch of garbage.

But after going to the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid movie with Jackson Friday night we saw lots of lightning on the horizon. Jackson said "Dad, lets go take lightning pictures!" I was planning to go, but I was even more excited when I saw how excited he was.

We got lucky and I drove to a spot that had a perfect view of the approaching storm. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the evening:

Jackson and I had a blast showing each other the pictures we had gotten. We couldn't have asked for a better night.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Best Trail In Zion National Park and 200 Mile Month

Good news: I'm doing an impromptu 50k on Saturday! It's the Corner Canyon Ultra Trail Run in Draper, Utah. I've run some of the trails here and they were incredible. If you're in the area, it's not too late to sign up. I think it will be fun!

Monday, July 30th 2012: 10 miles @ 11:57 minutes per mile. Very early run before work, I think I slept through the whole thing.

That night I ran another 6 miles @ 10:56 in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

That last run put me at exactly 200 miles for the month, the most I've ever had. I was very happy and thankful.

Friday, August 3rd 2012: West Rim Trail in Zion National Park. This was easily the most incredible trail I've seen in Zion. I'm not sure on exact distance, I've read 16 miles up to 18.6 miles. I went with my brother-in-law Matt and his brother Rorry.

The first few miles of the trail are pretty mild with little rolling hills. We started as the sun was climbing above the pines.

We ran some of the downhills and flats, but did a fast hike for most of the time.

By the time we started climbing it was starting to get hot outside. Matt was the only one who had been on this hike and he told us the best views were yet to come. He wasn't joking.

After a few hours we reached the west rim overlooking Zion National Park. The views really were breathtaking. The scenery is 100% better than these pictures give credit for.

We didn't see hardly anyone for most of the hike. Every corner we went around gave a new angle on the canyons below.

One of my favorite parts was an area of slick rock switchbacks coming down one of the canyons. The last few miles were a steep decent that had our knees and quads screaming.

The last few hours of the hike were insanely hot. It was that kind of heat that feels like an anaconda is wrapped around your body trying to suffocate you. I think it says in the Geneva Convention "Thou shalt not hike for 5 hours and 29 minutes in Zion National Park in August." We got a very slight break every once in a while when we passed under some shade.

I can't wait to do this hike again. It was easily the most awesome hike I've done in Zion. But next time I'll do it in the spring or fall. Not August.