Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Zion 100 Group Training Run - Grafton Mesa

On Saturday I had the pleasure of helping with a 22 mile group training run for the Zion 100 coming up in a few months. Our group included Justin, George, Jared, and Kelly.

Our destination was Grafton Mesa, one of my favorite parts of the course. The route starts out mellow enough but with the mesa ahead, it's clear that there is only one direction to go: up.

Lots of up.

There are some grunt sections with good climbing and technical trails, but I think the climb up this mesa is considerably easier than other mesa climbs on the course (particularly the Gooseberry climb and the Flying Monkey Trail - see last year's race report if you want to check out those gnarly trails).

It is impossible to run in places like this without stopping every once in a while to check out the incredible scenery surrounding you.

The view once you reach the top is downright beautiful. Here is Kelly soaking in the view:

Once we reached the top, we took a side connector trail that I had never been on before. I really loved it. There is nothing like running a trail for the first time and seeing your surroundings in a way you've never seen. There was a great shot of Gooseberry Mesa in the distance.

Jared and I missed a trail junction somewhere and got separated from the rest of the group which wasn't a big deal because we both knew where we were going. Our destination was the rim of Gooseberry:

Jared and I spent many, many hours together during the Alpine to Slickrock 50 miler and I always have fun running with him. He is a great technical downhill runner (of which I'm not).

Our loop finished with a descent down Crybaby Hill, a steep dirt road. We will be going down this during the race which has the potential to trash quads. I'm not ruling out the possibility of being a crybaby by this point in the race.

The view from the bottom of Crybaby Hill after the quad thrashing has taken place:

The Zion 100 is definitely shaping up to be an epic race adventure! I can't wait.

Monday, February 25, 2013

My First 100 Mile Week

Last week was the first time I have ever run 100 miles in a seven day stretch (not counting races), going from the past Thursday to Wednesday.

I would have never, ever believed that this was possible. I feel so thankful for the body my Heavenly Father has given me. The breakdown from the past week was:

Monday, February 18th 2013: 15 miles
Tuesday, February 19th 2013: 3 miles
Wednesday, February 20th 2013: 33 miles in morning, 5 miles in evening
Thursday, February 21st 2013: Nothing
Friday, February 22nd 2013: Nothing
Saturday, February 23rd: 22 miles

The 15 miler on Monday was spent running the Guacamole Trail, a new section of the Zion 100. This is a highly beautiful but very challenging area to run in. There are very few short spots that are smooth and runnable.

Very few short spots that are smooth and runnable and jumpable.

Most of the trail is very technical with lots of rolling slick rock. It's easy to lose the trail and hard to get into a groove.

The scenery up here is awesome. You just have to let your pride down a little on this section because pace will undoubtedly be slower. (Especially if you set the camera down a few times with the self timer.)

The 33 miler later in the week was, in a word, miserable. Not because of the distance, but because of that miserable Winter Storm Warning. I ran around Gould's Rim, starting the run at 5:00am which gave me a few hours running in the dark. It was so cold and windy. These white dots aren't stars....they are snow flakes.

I was soaked and frozen solid. On a scale of 1 to 10, the amount of fun I was having was -48. I would have rather eaten a hair sandwich. As it started to get lighter outside, the snow started falling even harder.

I am praying to the running gods that it doesn't snow like this during the 100 miler next month, which is certainly a possibility. I was even desperate enough during this run to break out the bank robber mask. I've only had to do this one other time. Ugh.

I ran up there for around four hours before driving back home to a lower elevation and finishing the run on the road.

When I got home I added up how many miles I had run over the last week and realized I was at 95 so I did five more miles on the dreadmill that night. I feel so thankful that I was able to get this high before the Buffalo Run in March. I feel like the people in this awesome video about Thanksgiving.
Saturday's 22 miler was an group training run for the Zion 100. I'll give you that run down in the next day or two. Run on my friends!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Yant Flat - Most Beautiful Place In Utah?

Last week my brother-in-law Matt took me to an isolated spot in the foothills of the Pine Valley Mountains to a place called Yant Flat.

By the look of things, you can see that there was plenty of scrambling up and down amazing mountains of slick rock.

My feet have carried me across many miles of Utah, but I think the miles here were among the most scenic I've seen. I took hundreds of pictures out here. The following are some of my favorites:

This cliff made both of us a little queezy standing on the edge.

Matt hiking down below:

These Montrail Bajada shoes had just the right amount of grip to get me up and down the hills.

And my UltrAspire Omega pack worked perfectly to carry my water and gear.

I think Utah has more than it's share of completely, awesomely amazing places. I'd rank Yant Flat as one of the most beautiful.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stranded On The Trail

I had a bit of a cut back week with 52 miles, and am so, so thankful that I continue to feel good. I'm feeling more and more prepared for the Buffalo 100 coming up next month. The breakdown:

Monday, February 11th 2013: 6.5 miles early morning with Karrie Nielson. (Her husband couldn't pull himself out of bed to come with us. I'm getting to know that feeling well.)
Tuesday, February 12th 2013: 4 mile tempo run early, then 3.5 miles on the dreadmill that night.
Wednesday, February 13th 2013: Ate a fat Maverik Cinnamon Roll (also known as "Heaven").
Thursday, February 14th 2013: 24 miles in Red Cliffs Desert Reserve
Friday, February 15th 2013: Nothing
Saturday, February 16th 2013: 14 miles in Warner Valley

The 24 miler was certainly the most eventful run of the week. I started on the Prospector Trail in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. The first hour or so was in the dark. It was beautiful to watch the sun come up and make the red mountains glow:

I was thankful when the sun came up because wowzers, it was brisk outside.

The Prospector Trail connects to Church Rocks Trail. This is one of my favorites in the Reserve. Morning light isn't the best for this spot. In the evenings this place really lights up.

This was my first run with my newest pair of Hoka Stinson Evo shoes. Muy bueno.

On the side of the trail is this little arch. With a little crunching down you can get Church Rocks in the background.

I finished up with more miles on Prospector. It was a perfect day. (Until the wind kicked up.)

In the last hour it became INSANELY windy. Weatherbug said 55+ mph wind. Tumble weeds were flying everywhere. It would have been really funny to watch if I hadn't been running out there. It looked like it was horizontally raining tumble weeds. They were just flying out of the ground like a tumble weed apocalypse.

I got back to my car to leave and realized I had a huge problem. To get to the trail head you have to drive a narrow half mile dirt road. Well, this road was completely covered in 3-4 feet of tumble weeds. The entire road! I panicked. I knew the bag of peanuts and the last few Swedish Fish in my pocket wouldn't get me through a whole week before I could be rescued. Here is a picture of the road. That little dot on the horizon is an underpass, only about half the distance I needed to travel.

I spent about an hour in those 55 mph winds trying to remove tumble weeds. Spoiler alert: That worked about 0%. I called my wife to ask what she thought I should do. Mel became the hero of the day by coming to rescue me. She drove an SUV to clear a path for me and I was able to escape. Definitely one of the crazier things I've ever seen.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tailwind Nutrition Review - Two Thumbs Up!

A few months ago I listened to a podcast on Trail Runner Nation with Jeff Vierling who designed Tailwind Nutrition. You can click here to listen to it. After listening to the interview I was intrigued by what I heard about Tailwind.

I was interested about these prospects:

1) Tailwind is a drink mix you add to water to fuel your ultra or endurance event.

2) It contains the needed amount of calories, sugar, sodium, and potassium so you don't need to fuel with gels or bars.

3) Supposedly the taste wasn't overly sweet like most sports drinks.

At the most recent Javelina Jundred 100 miler my stomach was demolished and I couldn’t eat another Gu if my life depended on it. I couldn’t get in any calories and eventually ran out of steam resulting in a DNF. I loved the idea of getting all my calories from liquid and not needing to eat any Gu.

Tailwind sent me a trial pack including all four flavors: Mandarin Orange, Berry, Lemon, and Naked Unflavored. I really loved each of the flavors. What I liked most is that they are not overpowering and super sweet. The taste is mild with just the slightest taste of salt. I’ve heard their flavor described as “savory”.

Finally, it was time for the rubber to meet the road. I used Tailwind as my primary fuel source for an 35 miler, a 20 miler, and a 30 miler. I added six scoops (100 calories each scoop) to my 2-liter UltrAspire pack and just made sure I kept drinking. I liked having a more consistent stream of calories and my stomach never got queasy or sick of the flavor. I never lacked energy to get in a few trail jumps.

I was so impressed with this product that I bought more from their website and will definitely be using it in my training and upcoming races. I see myself using this as my primary fuel source for ultras and then supplement it with food if I feel hungry at aid stations.

In addition to a great product, I was also very impressed with Tailwind's customer service. Email responses were quick, they added some little notes with each package, and they personalize each bag they sell. Very cool.

I bought the Tailwind Challenge - four bags with 50 servings (100 calories) each. This costs $125 which seems like a lot.....until you realize that a 100 calorie Gu packet costs $1.25 each. I did the math and Tailwind costs HALF the price. Sold. 

I want to emphasize - Tailwind is not giving me anything for this endorsement. I'm telling you, it's a great product. Aside from trying their samples, I bought these bags myself. If you have any stomach issues or hate the thought of eating a gel every half hour during training or racing, I’d definitely suggest trying Tailwind. CLICK HERE to visit their website. After you try their stuff, you'll be glad you did.

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Near Death Experience On The Trail

Last week was the highest training week I've ever had. My scrawny chicken legs carried me 80 miles. This gave me a little nugget of confidence for the Buffalo Run 100 coming up next month.

Monday, February 4th 2013: 8 miles
Tuesday, February 5th 2013: 10 miles before work, 20 miles before bed
Wednesday, February 6th 2013: 5 miles
Thursday, February 7th 2013: Rest
Friday, February 8th 2013: 7 miles
Saturday, February 9th 2013: 30 miles

During Wednesday night's run I also had one of my scarier trail experiences. I spent the first seven miles weaving my way through some trails in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. I found this great rolling trail that lured me into the belly of the desert guided by the light of my head lamp. Just for fun I stopped and turned off my head lamp. It was the kind of dark that feels like it's swallowing you. All I could see were the pin pricks of a million stars above me.

I turned on my light and ran. Soon my body went on autopilot the same way your body can go on autopilot while running on the road. But all too soon I was snapped into reality by what felt like a near death experience.

As I passed a bush, a crash exploded through the silence.....and then flew away. It was either 1) an eagle on performance enhancing drugs, 2) a pterodactyl, or 3) an enormous owl. I ruled out the steroid-enhanced eagle and the pterodactyl. It must have been an owl I surprised in the middle of the night, perched close enough that I could have petted him.

I heard myself yell in fright, making a sound that a grown man shouldn't be making. My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. Like I just had a near death experience. Autopsy = Death By Owl. That thing sounded like a helicopter as it flew away. I'm scared of rattle snakes, mountain lions, and drunk hippies.....but owls? OWLS!?!??!

About an hour later I passed a power pole and I heard an owl with it's distinctive "Whooo. Whooo." But it wasn't a sissy "Whooo." It was a determined, powerful, deep "Whooooo". The kind of "Whooo" that is generally followed by "let the dogs out!"

After those seven miles on a dark trail, I was thankful to run the other thirteen miles on the much more harmless roads. The next day I went back to this same trail to see what views I had missed the night before. They were awesome! There was a great shot of the Virgin River down below.

On Saturday I ran 30 miles on the Chinle Trail in the back country of Zion National Park. Serious props to my wife who let me escape for a plethora of hours. There were ominous clouds on the horizon and I was just waiting for them to start dumping.

The trail wraps right around the base of Mount Kinesava. Pictures don't do this place justice.

Much of the trail is very runnable and not very technical. On one side of the valley the clouds were rolling past the sky all day. I had a hard time putting the camera away.

It felt like it would be unethical to pass a place like this without getting a jumping picture.

I read that this trail used to be called the Petrified Forrest. No surprise why. Sections of the trail looked like someone broke open a pinata filled with petrified wood.

Some pieces were huge, and some were approximately the size of a Zinger. Oh, great. That reminds me of Hostess. Pardon me for a moment while I sob uncontrollably.

After a few hours of running I was out in the middle of nowhere. I'm talking nowhere. I'm totally cool being in the middle of nowhere by myself. But then I saw some people coming toward me on the trail! In the thousands of miles I've run on trails, I have seen another runner a total of TWO times. Not only were they runners, but they were also runners I knew! It was my friend Locke Ettinger who runs the IHC Live Well Center / Run Fit program and his wife Carol Sue!

It snowed for about three hours total of the run. It was a little chilly but not bitter cold. I'm okay with chilly, not okay with bitter cold. Eventually that ominous storm hit with a punch. It was a complete white out with huge snow flakes. The whole experience was stunning and beautiful.

This was the perfect ending to a record week. And as a public service announcement, beware of startled owls. That would be an embarrassing cause of death.

"Go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see." ~ Jimmy Buffett