Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Buffalo Run 100 Race Report - New PR!

Over the weekend I ran my third 100 miler - the Antelope Island Buffalo Run. Other than a brutal winter storm that settled in on us for a few days, the race couldn't have gone better and I ended up with a personal record.

The race started Friday at noon. My eight year old daughter Kylee asked if I'd bring her sock monkey hat to wear. That sock monkey hat stayed with me for all 100 miles. (Although a few people didn't know what it was and called me "Mighty Mouse".)

There are 500+ head of buffalo on Antelope Island but our closest encounter was in the first half mile of the race when the trail took us past this little fella. It would be a shame to need a clean pair of shorts in the first half mile of a race.

I'm always a bit anxious before these long races, not knowing what the next 25-30 hours will hold. But once the race starts, all that worry goes away because you need to put all your focus into figuring out how to get to the finish line. It was pretty chilly as we started our journey.

Right from the beginning I started running with my friend Christy who I met at last year's Buffalo Run when she was running her first 100. (Her race report is HERE, one of the best I've read.) She is always so happy and positive, and she helped the miles fly by.

My goal was to be very conservative in the first half of the race. We made sure to not burn all our energy on the steep hills.

The first 20ish miles of the race have some big, big climbs and some fairly technical trails. But there are also stretches of trail that are just pristine and smooth as Twinkie filling. I LOVE trails like this. LOVE.

Within the first hour we got our first punch of snow. With the wind, it was bitter cold but thankfully the snow wasn't heavy enough to stick on the ground. I'm happy as long as I can see dirt.

One of my favorite things about these ultras is talking with other runners along the way. I talked with a guy who said the younger runner with him was his son. And then he said "My dad is running the race also." His 81 YEAR OLD father Grant was running the 100 miler!!! I said "Wow, I would love to meet him!" He told me that I would. Grant was approved for an early start so he said we'd come upon him eventually. After a while I met this incredible runner on the trail:

The extreme weather forced Grant to stop after 50 miles, nothing short of spectacular. But to fathom that an 81 year old would click "Register" for a 100 mile race?!??!? This should be a motivation for runners everywhere.

Another cool part of my race was being able to watch elite runner Karl Meltzer completely dominate the race. Karl has won more 100 mile races than anyone in history so I loved watching him add another win to the list. I got lucky to catch this shot of him cruising down the trail:

Around mile 30 I hit a bit of a rough patch. It was getting dark, I was starting to feel tired, and I was in no-man's land for a while where there wasn't another runner I could see ahead or behind me. I felt better when I got to an aid station at mile 33 and had this little slice of heaven waiting: a quesadilla and a slice of bacon. Yep. Heaven.

Somewhere along the way I hooked up with a runner named Marty who I had ran most of the first 20 miles with. We kept plugging away in the cold and helped each other get to the 50 mile mark at about 12:45am.

Can I tell you a little secret about that happy, smiling picture of me and Marty? We were miserable. Positively miserable. Tired. Sore. Frozen solid. But what I find so inspiring at these ultramarathons is the mentality of the runners. Despite the adversity and exhaustion, everyone is amazingly positive. I would see runners truly suffering and ask how they were doing. It was always "Good!" or "Great!". They didn't focus on everything going wrong, only on what was going right. And sometimes the only thing going right is that we're still upright. Another reason I love this sport.

At mile 50 I picked up my first pacer, my sister Hollie. You can see some pictures of her in yesterday's post. The next 18 miles she ran with me were incredibly challenging. I heard that with the bitter wind blowing across the island, the windchill was 8 degrees. I didn't take any pictures during that time because we were so focused. Hollie did a miraculous job of plowing ahead of me and I worked to keep up with her over those technical, hilly trails. I can't imagine doing that by myself.

My wife has told me that my race reports sometimes minimize the dark spots. And not the kind of "dark" like at night. The kind of mental darkness where you think about quitting. The darkness where you don't know how you can keep going. The incredible discouragement when you realize that you are beyond exhausted and still have 50 (fifty!) more miles to go. I definitely had some of those dark moments. Those moments are hard to describe in words. It's like someone is holding a blanket over you, smothering and suffocating. I tried to have faith that if I could make it through the night, I would get new life with the sunrise.

At mile 68 I met my second pacer, my friend Jared Thorley. Sunrise was coming soon, but I apologized to Jared saying that my legs were fried and I might not be able to run at all for the last 30 miles. I was so thankful to see the sun starting to rise over the Great Salt Lake.

I told my pacers that I'd prefer to have them go ahead of me and keep a steady pace that I would try to hold on to. Jared was so patient, understanding, and supportive when I started to fall behind.

I was still able to get some stretches of running in. From this point on, my mom and Hollie served as my crew. They drove from aid station to aid station and helped get my supplies ready. I used Tailwind drink mix which worked like a charm and my stomach never went bad. (Another huge reason my race went so well.) So when I'd pull into an aid station, they would fill my hydration pack and I'd get out of there as fast as possible. My crew helped make sure I didn't waste time at aid stations. I got a little chuckle out of this Wall of Shame at one aid station - bibs from runners who had dropped out. (I heard that around 56% of people finished the race.)

We had fun running with Christy and her pacer Derek (who has a killer Jim Carrey impression). Christy went through some very dark times herself, and yet she was always so happy and positive. Her spirit was infectious.

Somewhere around this time I had a breakthrough. My knees were crazy sore and my feet felt like I was walking on hot coals. It hurt to walk each step. But I realized that it only hurt a little more to run. So why not run and get this over with? So I would mutter to Jared "Okay, lets run for a bit." I'd go as long as my legs could bear and then cry Uncle and he would go back to a fast power walk. We kept doing that and the miles ticked by.

Around mile 90 my suffering was still at a tolerable level. I told Jared that if we kept up this pace I could beat my PR (29 hours and 22 minutes). I told him I would love to see a PR that started with 28. Jared said "If you stick with me, I can get you a PR that starts with 27!"

That lit a fire in me. I really wanted that. I wasn't sure it was possible, but I was willing to try. I tried to turn off all the complaining in my brain and just run like a mad man. At mile 96 we passed some athletic looking guys who were running the 50 miler. They were so encouraging and told me to keep it up because I was finishing so strong. That felt good.

It wasn't until mile 99 that I knew I would indeed have a new PR that started with 27. I can't tell you how happy I was. But I can show you how happy I was. This was my jump across the 100 mile finish line:

The amazing people I ran with, my amazing crew chief mom, amazing pacing sister Hollie, and amazing pacer Jared helped me get a PR that started with 27! I would have never thought this was possible.

My finish time was 27 hours and 44 minutes, an hour and 38 minutes faster than my previous PR. I figured out that I ran the first half in around 13 hours and the second half around 14:44. I feel so blessed that everything seemed to fall right into place for this race.

I was so excited to take my shoes off. My feet were throbbing but thankfully I had hardly any blisters.

Thanks to you guys and amazing friends and amazing family, dreams came true this weekend.

"Your biggest challenge isn't someone else. It's the ache in your lungs and the burning in your legs, and the voice inside you that yells 'CAN'T', but you don't listen. You just push harder. And then you hear the voice whisper 'can'. And you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are." ~ Unknown

Monday, March 25, 2013

100 Mile Mission Accomplished!

Over the weekend I was able to complete my third 100 mile race at the Antelope Island Buffalo Run. Aside from weather which at times resembled a nightmare, my race could not have gone better. I was able to get my fastest 100 miler ever, a PR of 27 hours and 44 minutes.

I'll have a race report and pictures tomorrow, but before then I want to thank everyone who made this great race possible.

The race volunteers: these guys braved snow storms, bitter cold wind chill of 8 degrees, strong and biting wind, and downright miserable conditions to help us runners. Just to be nice and support the sport. People like Mark Kreuzer from www.trailandultrarunning.com were a huge help.

My mom who helped crew for the race. She drove to the different aid stations and helped with supplies and moral support. She has never seen one these ultra races before and thought they were crazy. But I think she has a new perspective after this weekend. She said she loved the race environment. She loved helping runners, and was amazed how supportive, happy, and friendly everyone was. She basically rules.

My sister Hollie who helped crew and paced me from miles 50 through 68. I can't describe how brutal those 18 miles were. She started running with me at 1:00am as the weather worsened and we couldn't hardly hear each other talk because it was so windy. These are also the hardest, most technical miles with the most climbing and descending. She helped get me through some dark times.

My friend Jared Thorley who was my pacer from miles 68 through 100. Jared challenged me more than I could have pushed myself. His style of pacing was perfect. He didn't say much (which is good since my brain resembled scrambled eggs), he just kept a steady tempo ahead of me and I tried to follow.

I ran with some absolutely incredible runners during those 27 hours. You see the raw emotion and all defenses are stripped down to nothing after that many hours of running. Unparalleled bonds and friendships develop. I felt like many runners helped carry me in times when I started questioning myself. Runners like Marty and my friend Christy who I spent countless hours with.

All of you guys here on the blog have been a huge support for me also. I truly appreciate all the encouragement you guys have given. I want to buy each of you a cinnamon roll. I've met so many awesome people through the blog like Ryan who ran an amazing 21 hours at the race.

My family is my biggest support. My incredible wife Mel has never once questioned any of my silly ideas like trying to run 100 miles. Instead of saying something like "Chinese Checkers sounds like a better hobby" she says "Go for it!" I love her so much. I also have the most supportive, awesome kids ever.

I'm thankful for my Heavenly Father and the body I've been given. There were more than a few times where I muttered a silent prayer to help get me through some difficult times. I'm sure God looked down on people in the middle of the night getting blown around a mountain and just smiled and shook his head and said "Chinese Checkers sounds like a better hobby." Despite my choice of hobbies, I think he still helped me out.

So there you have it. My scrawny chicken legs carried me 100 miles but it was a completely team effort. I couldn't have done it without everything I mentioned here. I feel so blessed and so thankful that I was able to make it to the finish line. I'll have the whole story tomorrow.

"Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue. Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which fortunately functions independent of logic." ~ Tim Noakes

Friday, March 22, 2013

Buffalo Run 100 Here I Come

I'm on my way to Antelope Island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake in hopes of running 100 miles at the Buffalo Run. The weather forecast is a little less than optimal - snow, and a high temp of 34ish degrees. The low in the middle of the night is forecast to be a windchill of 11 (yep, 11) degrees.

That weather has me a bit nervous, but I'm actually kind of excited to see what it's like to run a 100 miler when it isn't 95 degrees like previous races. I'm about to find out. The race starts at noon today with a 30 hour cutoff.

I went to the island yesterday to scout things out. The following are some pictures I snapped:

Apparently it is permitted to hitch a ride on these four-legged beasts:

It was a beautiful and chilly day out on the island.

I saw this bright yellow bird as I was driving down the road. I stopped, put the car in reverse, and thankfully this cool bird was still there:

I saw this buffalo right on the trail. He gave me the stink eye.

I'm proud to represent UltrAspire at the race tomorrow. I am loving their Omega hydration pack.

I'm anxious to see what the next 30 hours holds. Hopefully at the end of those 30 hours I will have traveled 100 miles and earned a belt buckle. If you're on Facebook, I'll probably have an update there quicker than I will on the blog. My Facebook page is HERE.

See you in 100 miles!

Monday, March 18, 2013

100 Miler in Four Days! Ultramarathon Preparation

My running schedule has me as nervous as a germaphobe in a truck station bathroom. AND as excited as a middle aged woman at a Barbara Streisand concert. (Although to a middle aged man like myself I can't think of too many things worse.) Coming up:

1) The Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 miler in four days.
2) The Zion 100 four weeks after that.
3) The Bryce 100 six weeks after that.

I've got a great team on board. In addition to my good friend Jared Thorley who is pacing from miles 70-100, my mom volunteered to crew for the race (probably appropriate since she'll likely see me lying in fetal position on the side of the trail). My sister Hollie also volunteered to help with crewing and will pace from miles 50-70. No excuses to quit now.

The taper for the Buffalo Run has been good. This week I enjoyed some time with my wife on one of our favorite dates - a long bike ride:

I've started making some preparations for the race. Including:

1) Cutting my toe nails down to the smallest nubs possible. Learned that lesson the hard way after my first 100 miler when this little piggy and that little piggy ended up with black toe nails.

2) Printed off a map of the race. Jackson saw it sitting on the counter and said "Wow Dad, that looks complicated." He had that concerned look that seemed to say "I'm pretty sure you're going to get lost. And then get so hungry that you'll have to eat your shoes. It's been nice knowing you."

3) I've got food ready for my drop bags. In addition to drinking Tailwind in my UltrAspire hydration pack, I'll also be enjoying these tasty treats. (By mile 80, this stuff will look as tasty as a running shoe.)

If any of this trail or ultra running nonsense is of any interest to you, you should watch this awesome video from last year's Buffalo Run. They did such a great job making the video, and it shows how up-close-and-personal we'll get with them buffalo. This gives a great idea of what these ultra races are like.

Four days. Can't wait.

"Pushing your body past what you thought it was capable of is easy; the hard part is pushing yourself even further....past what your mind wants to let you. That's what ultrarunning is all about; introducing you to a self you've never known." ~ Rex Pace

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

All Systems Go For 100 Miler

Things seem to be shaping up nicely for the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 miler next Friday, March 22nd.

It's not an accident that this race is called the Buffalo Run. There are indeed 500 head of buffalo on the island. Last year when I ran the 50 miler none of them got too close.

ALTHOUGH......check out what the race website says:
Last year some of our 100 mile runners had a friendly chat with some bison as they were running on the Mountain View Trail. As in close enough to touch them. It was a bit scary, but no one got hurt. If you encounter bison on the trail, generally they will get out of your way, however, some of the bulls (1500-1800 lbs.) are obstinate and won’t budge. Bison will also 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.

I am undoubtedly hoping I don't have to "clean out my shorts". My daughter Danica drew me this picture, I assume to help me be one with the buffalo:

I am also incredibly fortunate that my pacer for the last 30 miles is my good friend Jared Thorley. I ran an ultra with him last year and he understands distance races well. He is going for the whole enchilada, the Zion 100 next month. I'm so thankful he wanted to join me. He has full permission to slap me if I start whining that my legs hurt, or complaining that I keep seeing Smurfs.

I'm better trained than I've ever been for a race. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared. Before my first 100 miler I tried to imagine that it would be the worst pain I'd ever experienced. Even then, I far underestimated how much it would hurt. I'm nervous about night time and that tight grip of exhaustion and fatigue that makes me fall asleep while running.

Despite those challenges, the rewards far outweigh the costs. You are not the same person at the finish line of a 100 miler that you are at the starting line. I'm ready to fight.

Monday, March 11, 2013

11 Days To 100 Miler and Sleeping On Treadmill (Literally)

I finished a good taper week with 30 miles. The Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 miler is 11 (ELEVENNNNNNN!) days away. March 22nd - the big day. Your mind starts doing weird things in the last few weeks before a 100 miler. You feel so scared. You feel so excited. Your brain is CONSTANTLY thinking about things like:

1) What should I pack in drop bags?
2) How can I make sure I don't go out too fast?
3) What should I name all the blisters I will get?
4) What shirt will best hide throw up stains?
5) Will I cry when my legs feel like someone is pushing them through a paper shredder?
6) How many hours post-race will it take before I can eat a cinnamon roll?

Monday, March 4th 2013: 6.5 miles early before work. I had the pleasure of being joined by Logan, Karrie, and Shane. I may have been asleep the whole time.

Wednesday, March 6th 2013: 13 miles around Hurricane Rim and Hurricane Canal Trail. My original plan changed due to a closed road but I saw these awesome goats before moving to a different trail:

Tell me these are not the cutest things you have ever seen on four legs:

From there I headed to the Hurricane Rim Trail. There are sections of the trail that are fairly challenging and technical. This makes it hard to get into any rhythm and the miles are slower. Every once in a while you get rewarded with some smooth single track and amazing views:

I decided I'd take a side trail I've never run before, part of the Hurricane Canal. Settlers to this area built a long canal to bring water to the city. The canal is no longer used and is now part of a trail. This trail involves going through some tunnels that were part of the canal.

The last part of the trail involved a long, steep climb along some pretty exposed trails. I got to the top of the trail and saw this sign going the other direction. I got to go UP "The Drop".

Saturday, March 9th 2013: 10.5 miles up Dalton Wash Road and Guacamole Trail. It dumped lots of rain all Friday night so I knew Saturday's run would be pretty sloppy. I started at around mile 65 of the Zion 100 course. The Dalton Wash Road has a few steeper sections but overall isn't bad at all.

The higher I climbed, the worse the conditions became. I was okay with the miserable conditions because it was good to practice suffering before the 100 miler. The road was steep, muddy, snowy, and very slick.


The Guacamole Trail is beautiful, whether it is dry or covered in snow.

In conclusion, my daughter thought it would be a good idea to sleep on the treadmill last night. She hung her clothes up on the arm bar. Shockingly, by morning, she didn't think sleeping on the treadmill was such a great idea. (This is what I feel like doing every single time I'm on the treadmill also.)