Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Javelina Jundred Race Report 2013 - 100 Miles Of Awesome!

Wow, I had quite the 100 mile running adventure over the weekend at the Javelina Jundred. It is so crazy to think that this was my first 100 mile race two years ago. It was such an amazing experience that I came back again last year (which ended a few miles shorter than I hoped for). I was nervous but excited going into this year's race.

I submit that you won't find a race with a more fun, happy atmosphere than Javelina Jundred. It's like a 100 mile Jalloween party. I wasn't going to wear a costume after last year's traumatic experience. But we found this big foam wig at Target the night before the race so I figured I'd give it a whirl. Here is my mug shot:

I was so thankful to have my wife and son, Mel and Jackson join me on the trip to Arizona. After Jackson's experience crewing at the Bryce 100 he was so excited to be involved again. We went the day before the race to check out the trail. This is at Jeadquarters where runners pass every 15.4 miles.

One of the things I was most excited about was to run with my coworker and friend Catherine. We've run a bunch of races together and I was psyched to be with her as she went for 100.

Around 400 runners set out to tackle the 100 miler (with nearly another 100 going for 100k). It wasn't cold at the starting line at 6am so we knew we'd be in for a hot couple days on the trail.

It is a beautiful thing to watch the sun come up and see the little dots of a conga line of runners spread out on the trail up ahead of you.

We kept getting a good laugh from other runners who said they were puzzled when they saw this shadow coming up behind them with an enormous Bride Of Frankenstein head.

Catherine is about the happiest, funniest person you could spend a race with. Our goal was to stay very, very conservative for the first 50 miles and we did a good job of staying on pace. We were having a blast! (Of course there were still 87 more miles to go.)

The course consists of six loops of 15.4 miles and then one last 9 mile loop. You have 30 hours to cover those 100 miles. On our second loop we spent some time with new trail friends Ian and Leslie. Leslie said something like "We're looking forward to noon so we can say to ourselves 'At least we'll be done with the race by this time tomorrow!'"

It wasn't just humans that we spent time on the trail with. Thankfully no rattlesnakes, but we saw a few well-fed tarantulas.

As the hours went on, temperatures continued to soar into the 90s. Reports from Jeadquarters got up to 96 degrees and out in the middle of the desert people were getting up to 102 DEGREES! Trying to go 100 miles in the middle of that heat is a huge challenge and we started seeing people hunched over barfing or trying to lay in a thin sliver of shade from a cactus. We kept plugging forward.

Despite the crazy heat, Catherine and I were feeling as good as new. Here is the secret: ice in a tube sock! This was the first time I've used this and it was nothing short of a miracle. Mel had sewed some Velcro to the end of a tube sock so we could fill it with ice and then seal it. It kept us cool and the ice dripped down our shirts keeping our core temps very manageable. I also filled my hat with ice at each station. These things made a WORLD of difference. I really think this little icy sock puppet saved our race.

One of the things I was most happy about was being able to manage nutrition and hydration better than I have in any other race. I probably got 80% of my calories from liquids. After each loop I refilled my pack with Tailwind to get the calories and electrolytes. I also took some hits of Coke along the way. I'd say I got another 10% of calories from Honey Stinger chews just because sometimes I felt like I wanted something to eat. And another 10% of calories from food at aid stations like a few pretzels or a little piece of pumpkin pie. The Tailwind had electrolytes, and in the heat of the day I also took one salt tablet around once an hour. I had no stomach issues for the whole race. This little chunk of sandwich was the only substantive solid food I ate for 30 hours:

We kept plugging along knowing that once the sun started to go down the temperature would cool off. Sometimes Catherine and I would tell each other funny or embarrassing stories. Sometimes we'd just run in silence. But it was so, so great to have that company out on the trail. I was so thankful for her support and focus.

When we were around mile 42 we got passed by ultra running legend Hal Koerner who was at around mile 77 of his race. We cheered him on and he smiled and said "Way to go, keep it up!" You can see Catherine in the background thinking "What just happened?!?" That guy was cruising. He went on to crush the race with a winning time of 14 hours 56 minutes. We joked that Hal could run 100 miles, go take a shower, eat a nice dinner, sleep eight hours, have breakfast in bed, and watch a movie by the time we finished the race. Props.

We witnessed a completely spectacular sunset. I kept thinking how thankful I was to be doing what I was doing. It simply does not get better than this.

Mel and Jackson volunteered all day at the Jeadquarters aid station. They are the best! It was so cool to have their support each time I came through. It wasn't just Mel and Jackson that were awesome, each aid station was full of the best volunteers you'll ever find at a race.

We finished 45 miles and picked up a pacer for loop four- a friend of mine named Kristin. We have corresponded for years but never met in person. This kind soul drove two hours to the race, paced us for 15 miles, then hung out and waited at the finish line until the end. She kept us motivated and moving steady. I can't thank Kristin enough for her help.

Some crazy stuff went down on loop four. Somewhere around mile 52 Catherine stopped moving. Then she hunched over. I knew she was about to join the ranks of those real runners who leave part of their dinner on the trail. She said her stomach felt much better after barfing and she kept right on moving. For photographic purposes she recreated the scene.

It turns out that we didn't need to recreate that scene......because it happened two more times. But here is the amazing thing - Catherine kept right on going. She was passing through some dark times that are inevitable in a race this long. But she was determined and kept fighting. To see her feeling yucky, then barf, then keep persevering - it made me cry. I was so inspired.

We finished mile 61 with Kristin then headed out on loop five on our own. It was pitch black outside but the temperature was absolute perfection. To be honest, I only remember one thing about that lap. It was at mile 69. My feet and knees had been sore, but mile 69 is when I plunged into the pain cave. Make that the pain penthouse. Holy ouch. Bob Glover said "You'll be wistful for the 'wall' of the marathon when you hit the 'death grip' of the ultra." Very true. Here is the entrance to the pain penthouse:

We arrived at mile 76 and ready to begin loop six. Our pacer for the loop was none other than Catherine's awesome husband Kacey. Unfortunately Catherine's feet were not happy campers. She had some blisters going on that would make you blush.

We had to bust a move if we were going to cover the last 24 miles of the race before the cutoff. Catherine and Kacey said that considering how she was feeling, it was looking like she wouldn't make it in time. They told me over and over that I needed to go now or else I wouldn't finish. I kept resisting but eventually agreed. It was hard to leave after going almost 80 miles with Catherine but I pressed on.

My feet were SCREAMING. I have what is known in the medical community as WOHCS (Walking On Hot Coals Syndrome). Every step feels like walking on a bed of fire. That kicked in around mile 40 and grew progressively worse with ever mile but after doing these races I'm slowly starting to learn that I can keep running despite a raging case of WOHCS.

I got to enjoy my second sunrise of the race. Seriously - how funny is it that you can be running for so long that you see a sunrise, a sunset, and another sunrise?!?!? This cool cactus threw me a peace sign.

I don't know what got into me but a fire was lit and my little chicken legs started hauling. I was feeling better than I could have hoped. One of the things I love most about Javelina is that after you finish loop six you are given a glow necklace as you head out on your last lap. I can't tell you how much I looked forward to that necklace for 91 miles. You can buy one of these for ten cents, but for me, this thing is priceless.

When I got to Jeadquarters Mel said she was ready to come out on the last loop with me. I told her I didn't know if that was a good idea. She hasn't run in three weeks since we ran the St. George Marathon. Plus it was scorching, scorching hot. (No ice sock puppet on day two.) Plus I was having this freak of nature thing where my legs were running like lightning. But she insisted. And you know what? She held up like a champ! She kept up with every burst I threw at her. I am so happy that I was able to share those miles with her. She is amazing. I love her.

The last four miles of the race are different than the rest of the course. They are lovely, silky smooth downhill rollers that kept my legs whipping. I was in heaven.

I finished in 29 hours and 33 minutes after running the last 20 miles faster than any ultra I've done. Mainly I just wanted to get done so I could take my shoes off and sit down.

I was highly thankful to get those shoes off.

So here's the conclusion in all of this: I have the best family ever. That girl Catherine?? Yea. She's amazing. Amazing. She earned herself a very well-deserved 100k belt buckle and pushed through more than anyone could know. I really admire what she accomplished. Running 100 miles is seriously hard and seriously rewarding. Out of the 400ish people who started this race only 41% finished. Now that's a hard race!

I have now finished five 100 milers. These ultramarathons change you. I feel like the person who started the race is not the same person who finished the race. I was again given the chance to peer inside myself in a way that only 100 miles can make you do.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

THREE Days Until 100 Miler!!!!

Countdown three days to 100 miler. My third dance with the Javelina Jundred. Speaking of the Javelina Jundred, do you know what a javelina is? I know, I didn't either until this race. A javelina is a really grumpy wild pig. I haven't seen one out there before but I know they are there:

My bib is it was last year and the year before. I'm hoping it's my lucky number.

Let's say, hypothetically speaking, that you're interested in tracking my progress during the race this Saturday and into Sunday morning. Well, my friend, you're in luck. There should be a live video stream and updates on mileage HERE. The course is a 15+ mile loop through the desert so you get to see runners passing through all day.

Hypothetically speaking, my wife will probably be posting some pictures and updates on my Facebook page during the extravaganza also. If you're interested you can visit that Facebook page HERE.

I'm so excited that my wife Mel and my son Jackson will be coming along to help crew for the race. I'm so excited that I'll be running with my friend Catherine who is gunning for her first 100. I'm so thankful that my friend Kristin Morris will be coming to pace us for some of the 101 miles. And I can't wait to share the trails with 470 other runners, so many of which have become close friends since I started running ultramarathons a few years ago.

Plus they have pumpkin pie at the aid stations. So I'm not looking at it like trying to run 101 miles. I'm just running from one pie station to the next. It will be unequivocally awesome.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Guess What I Found On The Trail?!?

I've kept things low-key for the last few weeks taking it easy to get rested for the Javelina Jundred. This little 101 mile jaunt through the Arizona desert starts in precisely five days. (Typing the words "five days" just made me dry heave.)

Current race forecast: high of 90 degrees. Yikes! My body and heat have never been BFFs. This past week I have been getting some heat acclimation by wearing layers upon layers of clothes on my runs. It is miserable but this has helped in the past when I've prepared for hot races.

Since the St. George Double Marathon a few weeks ago all my runs have been short, no longer than six miles. I'm making sure that me and my right knee can stay on speaking terms. Check out what I found while running on Gould's Rim! Vintage Van Halen.

Kids: this is called a CASSETTE TAPE. If you had a blank one of these, you could listen to the radio and when a good song came on, you could record it and make yourself a super sweet mix tape (aside from the fact that the DJ would be talking at the beginning and end of your song). There was some heavy rain in our area which must have uncovered the tape. Funny to think that this might have popped out of someone's Sony Walkman 20 years ago.

On Saturday I did six miles on the Jem Trail. It is one of my favorite places in the world to run. I think I could run these trails with my eyes closed.

I tried out the new Scott Jurek hydration pack. Having bottles in front is different for me. I'll need to spend some more miles with it before giving a definitive opinion.

I could a great sunrise lighting up Smith Mesa in the background.

The leaves have definitely started their autumn transformation:

The Jem is a little piece of heaven. This little stretch of trail is the first part of the Zion 100......and the only part of the course that is smooth, flat, and pristine. The rest of the course is a meat grinder.

With five days to go until the big dance I'm nervous and excited. The Javelina Jundred is one of the most fun races I've ever done. But I also know how incredibly grueling these 100s are. Before my first 100 I imagined that it would be the hardest thing I'd ever done. And yet the difficulty and pain MONUMENTALLY exceeded what I had imagined. But maybe it's that challenge that keeps me coming back. Can't. Wait.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nine Days To 100 Miler!

Only nine days until the Javelina Jundred - 101 miles of trail running through the Arizona desert. I'm nervous and completely excited. This race demolished me last year and I dropped after running 77 miles (plus one bonus mile after getting lost). I'm hoping for better luck this year.

Another thing I'm really excited about is running with my friend and coworker Catherine. We've done a bunch of races together but this will be her first time going for the whole enchilada. She is awesome.

I sent her an email with a tentative game plan for the race. I am very far from being an expert on this ultra running thing and I have so much to learn, but I've finished four 100s and thought this may be helpful for others looking to run far. So here is the proposed game plan I emailed to her with a few edits:

1) Have you listened to this Trail Runner podcast on race execution?  I listened to it again this morning because there is so much good info.

On the podcast they talk about The Line: this predetermined point where the race REALLY begins. So everything you do before the line doesn't matter. Your only focus is to get to the line feeling good. I think our line should be the beginning of the 5th loop at mile 62.

That really is the hugest part of the race right there because you think to yourself: "Okay, I'm feeling crappy and sore and tired. I'll just go for the 100k belt buckle and be done." As long as we can drag our butts out of that aid station we'll hopefully be good to go.

2) For lighting at night I prefer a head lamp and a hand held which helps a ton with depth perception (and spotting snakes - ha ha). I bought a 3 pack of hand helds from Costco that are 250 lumens. They are so bright that they should require a fire permit. So if you usually run with a head lamp and want one of these I'll bring one for you.

3) Nutrition: We MUST, MUST stay on top of nutrition, 200-300 calories per hour no matter what. We can help remind each other. I plan to use Tailwind for the majority of my calories. It's a gluten free drink mix that I just dump in my pack. Eventually my stomach tanks and I don't want to eat any solid food but I can at least keep drinking. Check out their facebook page, you'll see how many people it's helping to get through long races: I know you're not supposed to do anything new on race day but I've got a good supply, if you want I can bring some as a backup in case things go south for you.

Keeping the calories going is one of the very hardest things about these races but I've learned that it comes back to bite you big time if you get behind. I'm going to have this be one of the things I really try to do better with for this race.

4) I think we should be take very frequent walk breaks but make sure that when we are walking, we're going speedy. Run slower and walk faster.

5) In and out of aid stations fast. Especially in a race like this where there are so many aid stations that can suck time like crazy. Even if we passed through each aid station on the loop and just stopped at Jeadquarters for 15 minutes that would still add an hour and a half to our race, and the extra time on our feet is the real killer.

What has worked well in the past is to fill up my pack at Jeadquarters and then that is usually enough water to get me through the whole 15 mile loop so I don't have to stop at the other aid stations along the way except to maybe grab some fruit or Coke or whatever. Tell Kacey that when you come into Jeadquarters he needs to kick us out quickly. I'll tell Mel the same.

6) I've heard this tip on a few podcasts and it has worked well - I'm not going to listen to music at all for the first half of the race. But after 50ish miles when you put that music on it's like a drug and gives your brain something else to focus on besides the fact that your legs feel like they're pinned underneath a Greyhound Bus.

7) If we do get separated, we need to make sure to latch onto another group of runners because it gets lonely out there by yourself and then your mentality spirals down and you get cold and tired and come up with more excuses to drop. No bueno.

Here's the thing I was thinking about this morning: I have trained for this. I've woken up at obscene hours to get a run in. My kids are watching me and I need to be a good example. I've sacrificed sleep. This little extravaganza costs a decent chunk of cash I. AM. NOT. LEAVING. WITHOUT. A. BUCKLE. Granted - there will be times that I'll want to quit. And my mind will have rationalized some really good excuses why it's okay to drop out. I will be miserable. But don't let me. No matter how much whining and complaining I make - don't let me. Remind me that if I drop I'll regret it. I'm not stopping that race until I get to the finish line or until someone pulls me off the course after a cutoff. And I'll do anything....anything I can to help you get that buckle too. I'll help you through some dark times in the pain cave and I'll let you help me when I'm in there too.

So that's my $.02. Sorry about the War And Peace novel I just wrote. And of course some of this stuff is race-specific....but you get the point. Finishing a 100 miler involves a degree of training, a degree of race strategy, and a degree of luck. Everything has to come together. And I'm scared to be posting all this gibberish before the race because I'll feel a bit silly if something comes up where I don't finish. You never know what will happen - but that's what I love about these races! Experiences like this let you peak into your soul and see what you're really made of.

Here's what I'm hoping - we are able to dig deep, push through the pain cave, and after 101 miles (right, this race is actually 101 miles, not 100) make it to the finish line. I'd love to add another one of these to my collection:

Monday, October 14, 2013

EXCITING NEWS - My Next 100 Miler!

Holy Moses, the Javelina Jundred is coming up in twelve days. I am super scared and super excited. If the stars align and everything goes as hoped, this will be my fifth 100 mile finish.

I have something else I am super seriously excited to announce - I am officially signed up to run my next 100 miler coming up February 15, 2014: The Jackpot Ultra Running Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada!

I am so psyched for this race for a bunch of reasons:

1) The race is put on by Beyond Limits Ultra Running. These guys have an amazing reputation for putting on an awesome race. They are known for great aid stations, a fun atmosphere, cool swag, and huge awards.

2) The course is a 2 mile loop through this 100 acre Cornerstone Park. I LOVE trail races. But this sounds so fun to have a relatively flat course where you can just focus on running. I am intrigued to see what it will be like to run 100 miles without distractions like climbing 1,500 feet in less than a mile going up a mesa. This loop is about half crushed gravel and half asphalt trail (pulled these pictures from their website).

3) No stressing about a bunch of drop bags. You're passing an aid station every two miles. No hydration pack. This thrills me.

4) Loops are fun! Granted, I've never done a short loop course for 100 miles. I have heard these are a big mental challenge but I like challenges. Remember when we did that 1 mile loop Hostess fun run a few months ago? It feels like a fun party atmosphere with all the social interaction that I love with running.

I have wanted to do a loop race like this for a long time but there hasn't been one anywhere nearby. I even thought about organizing my own. So when this innagural race popped up I was so happy. I think it's going to be a blast. I can't wait until February. In addition to the 100 mile race there is also a 6 hour, 12 hour, and 24 hour race. (The cutoff for the 100 miler is 30 hours.)

Weekend in Vegas + Running + Friends + Big Bling = AWESOME. You can get more info about the race HERE. I'd love to spend some miles with some of you peeps!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Awesome Articles For Training And Racing

Wow, there is some really great info on the web right now about training and racing. Here are some links to some amazingly informative articles:

Your Ultra-Training Bag of Tricks - Unbonk!

How To Be An Ultra Pacer - Make sure to read Part 2 and Part 3 also. It's highly sassy, highly sarcastic, and highly funny.

Running......My Mouth! - I had felt a little silly wearing a belt buckle that I earned by running 100 miles. My buckles are at home collecting dust. My feelings changed a bit after reading this funny article.

Baker's Dozen Half Marathon - This sounds like such a fun race! I think I will run it! (Or be the race director for it.)

The funniest video I've seen in ages. It's actually a voice mail after a car accident. I sobbed with laughter. Guaranteed to be the best three minutes of your day right here.

The Definitive Explanation of a Race DNF (Did Not Finish) - Wow, this should be required reading for anyone before an ultra race. It delves into the enormously important mental side of running.

What Is Ultra - Very funny and very true.

Please, I beg of you, check each of these out. You'll get your share of laughs and be more prepared for your next race. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Double St. George Marathon 2013

I'm telling you - writing a race report to summarize the kind of experience I had this past weekend is almost as hard as running the race. It's hard to describe and I get a little choked up every time I think about Saturday's adventure.

I decided that I wanted to attempt to do the St. George Marathon twice in a row - start running at the finish line, go up to the starting line, and then run back down. I wanted to try the double marathon partly because of the challenge of running UP the course (my Garmin says I climbed more than 5,000 feet in those 53 miles) and partly to have this be my last long training run before the Javelina Jundred 100 miler in less than three weeks. (I just got nauseous when I typed "less than three weeks".)

So I started running a few minutes before midnight. It was surreal to be starting my run at the marathon finish line knowing that in a few hours there would be thousands of people standing here. But for right now it was

Earlier in the day I had stashed a pack at mile 9 and mile 18 with water and some baggies of Tailwind for my fuel. I desperately hoped they would still be there when I arrived in the middle of the night. Thankfully they were!

It was bitter cold outside. I was running into a strong headwind and I could see my breath with each exhale. But I actually didn't feel too cold.......thanks to my thrift store $4 jacket and $4 pants. These clothes got me through 100 miles of cold and snow at the Buffalo Run. Next time you go to Everest let me know and you can borrow my $4 jacket.

I ran alone in the dark hour after hour and was pleasantly surprised how good I was feeling on the hills. I would take cold over heat any day. Then suddenly a car pulled up and someone got out. I hoped they weren't mean because I didn't want to go all Karate Kid on someone. But it was my friend Mendy who was out on the course at 2:30am to cheer me on and hang up signs for runners. I got goosebumps. And not because of the fierce wind.

More hours went by. I really worked to keep my pace steady but not burn myself out since I'd have another 26.2 miles to run once I got to the top. Eventually buses full of runners started to pass. My pace slowed a little because I ran way off on the side of the road where it was more rocky and slanted. I didn't want a bus to get too close and personal. Finally after 27.2 miles I made it to the starting line.

I got there around 45 minutes before the race started. That gave my muscles adequate time to tighten up and go into uncontrollable shivering since it was 32 degrees at the start. I was happy to meet up with Mel and the rest of our friends.

Around a month ago our dear friend Braydon Nielsen died in a tragic cycling accident. Everyone in southern Utah knew and was inspired by Braydon. Our running community was tremendously affected by this. I think one of the things that people admired so much about him was that he didn't fit the profile of a typical marathon runner. He was a big guy and often struggled with beating cutoffs. Our group of friends decided we'd run this to honor him and do the race "Braydon pace". It was bound to be an amazing day.

By the time we got to the Veyo Hill I was just beginning to lose the feeling of being a freezer-burned block of ice cream.

It was after Veyo Hill that Mel and I made a decision which was agonizing for me - to leave her and continue on with the group. Mel and some work friends were pretty undertrained and by mile 8 they were already hurting and didn't know if they would be able to finish. I have never left her in a race before. I knew she'd be with friends and I didn't want to risk having already run 35 miles and then have to drop so I continued on with the rest of her group. I questioned this decision for the next 15 miles.

One of the friends I ran the whole race with was Turd'l. During one of my weakest, most delirious points of the Zion 100 Turd'l was working an aid station in the middle of the night. He told me he made me some gourmet raspberry pancakes for me. It was like they were delivered from heaven. And then a lady told me "You know he's just putting Hammer Gel on your pancake, right?" If I had the strength I would have kicked him in the crotch. He is a beast. He ran the grueling Bear 100 a WEEK ago so I enjoyed running the marathon with him knowing that he was well acquainted with the pain cave.

Miles kept clicking by until we got to the most beautiful part of the entire marathon - Snow Canyon where you get the opportunity to run through a post card.

This race gave me some practice with the mental side of running. I have a degree in psychology and they call the term "catastrophic thinking". You know that feeling when you realize "Oh my gosh, I still have so far to go, my legs hurt, I'm tired, I can't do it." It's so hard to turn that thinking off once it starts. There have been times I haven't been able to turn it off and I have dropped from races. It is so critical to not let those thoughts overtake your brain. Just focus on the mile you're running right now. Views like this are almost enough to distract your brain.

When we reached Snow Canyon it was finally warm enough to ditch my thrift store sweat shirt (are you seeing a theme here?). The most frequent word in Braydon's vocabulary was "Booyah!". Our big gaggle of friends were all sporting these sweet shirts.

I couldn't stop thinking about Mel. Knowing how bad her IT bands were hurting I admit that I didn't think she would be able to finish the race. I kept asking people if they had heard any updates. In the mean time I was running with the finest group of friends you could ever hope for. Supportive, funny, encouraging - I don't know how I got lucky enough to have friends like this. I spent all my miles with Micah, Will, Janie, Helen, Bob, and Turt'l.

When we made it to the bottom of Snow Canyon we waited for a few people to take a quick bathroom break. That sounded like a wonderful excuse to 1) take a break, 2) rest my legs, 3) get photo bombed by Helen, 4) argue with people that even though they look slightly feminine they really are man tights, and 5) audition to be in a Coca Cola ad. (Coke may not be calling me.)

At around 46 miles I was running with Turt'l. I stopped to point at the ground and said "Right there. That was the entrance to the pain cave." He laughed because I think he had pulled up a recliner in the pain cave also. A few miles later I said "Turt'l - remember when I said I had entered the pain cave back there? I'd like to retract that statement. Actually this is really the pain cave." He got a picture of the entrance to the cave.

The reality of the matter is that the pain cave of a 50 miler feels like the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland compared to the pain cave at a 100 miler. I did realize that I forgot sunscreen and currently my face feels like I fell asleep in a tanning bed for a few weeks.

The only cutoff for the race was at mile 23. We had to be there by 1:00pm. Even though our big group of friends had gotten a little spread out, we all planned to wait at mile 23 for everyone and then run the last three miles together. With Braydon's wife and kids. We were all going to finish this thing together.

Waiting at mile 23 was agony. There were four of our friends we were waiting for.....including Mel. I didn't know if she was even still in the race. With each minute that ticked by I got more nervous. Five minutes to cutoff. Four minutes. Three minutes. No sight of Mel and the others. Two minutes. And then we saw some runners on the horizon. Everyone got excited. "Is that them?" They got closer and we could see that our friends and MY WIFE made the cutoff by a minute!!! My eyes got wet at the sight of them coming over the horizon.

Traveling those last three miles as a big group of friends laughing and crying at the same time I kept thinking about how thankful I am for my friends and everything that running has given me. I am so blessed.

And exactly as planned we all crossed the finish line together at Braydon pace followed by lots of hugs, some tears, and a loud enough "Booyah!" that I guarantee Braydon heard in heaven. My friend Bryce Jones snapped this shot of us:

I can't tell you how proud I am of Mel. She said that the only way she was able to keep going was to think about Braydon. She is amazing. And I was so thankful that everything had come together so perfectly to complete the double St. George Marathon.

That 53 mile adventure is an experience I will never forget.

"I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible." ~ John Hanc