Monday, June 30, 2014

I Could Have Drank My Weight In Pina Colada Slurpees

This past week of running included some miles on the street with the dog, some miles at the track, some miles on the JEM Trail, and some miles of cooking my innards in Toquerville.

Tuesday was the JEM. It's about a ten minute drive to get to this gem. I'm having a very hard time dragging my carcass out of bed early in the morning lately but the views made me glad I did.

It's cool to be able to see the sun rising against the silhouette of Zion National Park. I'm so spoiled to live this close to seriously incredible trails.

The JEM also travels alongside Gooseberry Mesa. One of the sections of the Zion 100 climbs 1,500 feet in less than a mile to get to the top of this puppy.

Wednesday included a run to Toquerville Falls. I planned to run here frequently over the summer to train for the Bear 100 because it is a very hard run. But I might have to change my plans. Because on this run and the previous one I got eaten alive by deer flies. I applied bug spray with 40% deet before the run. And I even brought the can of bug spray in my pack just in case!

Well, when I neared the falls I started getting swarmed. I pulled out my 40% deet. 40%! That is strong enough to remove the hair from your legs. That is strong enough to deserve a concealed carry permit. That is strong enough to make you speak in tongues. So I doused myself again. And guess what. The deer flies didn't care one bit. My flesh tasted just as delicious to them. I stayed at the falls for approximately 2 seconds to take a picture then I had an impromptu speed workout to run away from there.

I decided I'd add some extra miles and run to the top of the mountain to the Toquerville cell towers. That climb added another dimension of brutality to the run (which was steep enough that there wasn't much actual "running"). But the view at the top is cool. That little line is the freeway running through southern Utah.

It was SO unbelievably, unawesomely hot. 4.5 hours out there and the temperature was somewhere between 91 and 762 degrees. I was a little tight on water and next time I'll bring more with me. I swear to you I could have drank my body weight in pina colada Slurpees out there. SO unawesomely hot.

It hasn't rained here since like 1984 so the route is bone dry and some sections have dirt that seems like moon dust. With each step a cloud of dust flew up (and right into my shoes). It was like running on powdered sugar.

I love my back yard of trails, hills, rocks, and powdered sugar.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Race That Scares Me

I have this dirty little secret, I've been thinking about signing up for the Bear 100 in September. The Bear is the major league of ultramarathons. None of this run-100-miles-down-State-Street preschool nonsense. It climbs 22,000 feet through thin air on difficult trails. It's harder than any race I've ever done.

It. Scares. Me.

But it also has me intrigued. Everyone who has run it says it is one of the most beautiful races ever. I'm just working up the courage to click that "Register" button.

I've learned that the most important key to training for a race is to have your training simulate the race course. So this summer I'll be doing lots of climbing. My favorite place to get tons of climbing on technical trails is to head to Toquerville Falls in Toquerville, Utah. This gem is only eleven minutes from home.

The route is very rocky, and technical, and is either steep up or steep down the entire 11 miles. Perfect Bear training!

I didn't really feel that great for the whole run. My energy felt zapped and I had some soreness at the top of my feet that I haven't felt before.

The payoff at the end of those relentless climbs is a beautiful waterfall flowing through the bone dry desert. No matter how many times I've run here, I never, ever get sick of this.

There is a rock that I always sit on for a few minutes to try and coax air back into my lungs soak in the view.

As I was running back I tried to figure out why I had no juice. Then I realized that it had been less than two weeks since the Hostess 100 miler. I felt dumb when I realized that it had only been a short amount of time. I think the recovery had been so smooth that I forgot it hadn't been very long.

And then a jump the other way....

I took it easy on the way back to give my feet a break and watched the sun rising in one part of the sky while the moon set in another part of the sky.

That night Kylee was playing with her friend Kaylee. They came downstairs and said "Do you want to go on a run with us?" No way would I pass on that opportunity. They wanted to get a jumping picture while we were out. Check out their form!

I plan to visit Toquerville Falls very, very often this summer. 1) Beautiful. 2) Challenging. 3) Great Bear training. So I went back again Saturday. With my feet being sore a few days before, I was willing to turn back early if my body wasn't cooperating. There was an awesome sunrise coming!

But inexplicably everything felt great! My feet were good. More energy. No problems. Happy.

A motorcycle cruised across the dirt road up sending up a dusting of powder and led to one of my favorite pictures of the day.

I don't know why but my body has been healing amazingly quickly over the last six months. If I have some tweaks or niggles (that is a funny word), when I go for a run it makes things better instead of worse. It is recovering quickly from races. I think it has taken me a few years of doing ultras to really understand my body and know when it's okay to push and when I need to back off. I try to always listen to my body, rest when I need to rest, and avoid injury like the plague. I feel so fortunate that everything has been clicking.

It ended up being a great run......except for the swarm of man-eating deer flies that showed up and removed a few pounds of flesh from my legs. Talk about an unexpected speed workout!

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're a lion or a gazelle - when the sun comes up, you'd better be running."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Five Thoughts On Failure

I spent this past weekend at the Bryce Canyon Ultra (they have 100 mile, 50 mile, and 50k distances). I was there to pace my friend Jared Thorley as he worked on tackling his first 100 miler. If you haven't yet experienced the beauty of Bryce Canyon in Utah, stop reading this post, throw some stuff in a suitcase, and go. Now. It is arguably the most beautiful place on earth.

I planned to meet Jared at the 50 mile point, make sure everything was going okay, and then ride with his wife to the 60 mile point and run the last 40 miles with him. This plan allowed me to enjoy the most awkward shuttle ride EVER. Imagine this:

  • I'm in a school bus.
  • Only one other guy in the bus.
  • There was the bus driver, a young kid. And his assistant (?) an older, clearly unrelated lady. 
  • He grabbed his phone and started a play list on the radio. Then these two kind souls sang Josh Groban as we cruised down a dirt road for an hour. Nope. Not a joke. I plead the 5th on whether or not I joined them on a rousing version of "You Raise Me Up."

I waited at the 50 mile point. And while I waited I chatted with ultrarunning legend Hal Koerner. All the ladies in ultrarunning have a crush on Hal. (And if we're being completely honest about this, so do all the guys.) This made my day.

But it wasn't just Hal I talked with. I also visited with elite runner / freak of nature Timmy Olson who has won the Western States 100 the last two years in a row!

Jared's expected arrival time came. And went. A half hour passed. Then an hour. And then another hour. By the time Jared arrived it was cold and dark and he was flirting with cutoffs. I was concerned. I knew that Jared wanted this race badly because it demolished us when we ran it last year. I decided I wouldn't wait to join him at 60, I'd start at 50. We plunged into the darkness.

Jared was struggling. His legs felt like they had been blown up with dynamite. Everything hurt. Every ounce of energy had drained out of him. Then the most incredibly peaceful, awe-inspiring sight opened up before us. The moon rising over the horizon had me stopped in my tracks. It was stunning.

Keep in mind, the Bryce 100 course is BRUTAL. One of the most scenic places I've ever run, but INCREDIBLY difficult. Jared made up a fun game to distract himself from his legs yelling. The game was called Name That Fluid. Barf? Bathroom? Blood? We saw all of the above on the trail.

The reality of the situation gripped Jared and he knew that he wouldn't be making the next cutoff. So when his legs could take no more, we'd sit on the side of the trail for a minute with our headlights off staring at a trillion stars above us.

At mile 60 Jared's race was over. At exactly the same place our race ended last year. I knew the feelings he was having. I know that realization that I gave the best I had, but my best wasn't quite enough. I've been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt in the past, like at this race and this race. That feeling really, really sucks.

I want to say something about this. Getting a DNF (Did Not Finish) at a race is NOT failure. Here are five truths about a DNF:

1) Just clicking the "Register" button for a race shows epic faith and determination. Countless people think these races are cool, but they are too scared to pull out the credit card and make a commitment to run. You were brave enough to take that risk.

2) Running is a gift. I work in a healthcare setting with people who would KILL to be able to run. We are blessed to be able to do this. So whether you make it 3 miles or 89, we are so blessed to even be out on the trail.

3) Consider this from Theodore Roosevelt who said "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." Just showing up at the starting line proves that you "dared greatly."

4) Valuable lessons can be learned when things don't work out as planned. I HATE hearing that kind of crap after I've "failed", but after a little time passes, I can see that every single time I have collected a DNF it has been a valuable learning opportunity and I have bounced back smarter and stronger.

5) Let that "failure" light a fire under your rear end. Ramp up your training. Add some miles to your week. Run another hill. Eat an apple instead of a glazed doughnut. (Just kidding, pretend I never said that.) Make your legs burn. Push out of your comfort zone. Strengthen your mental determination. Do a speed workout. And most importantly CLICK "REGISTER" FOR ANOTHER RACE so you can KICK SOME BUTT!!!!!!

On my drive home from Bryce Canyon there were clouds in the sky that only come around once or twice a year. The sunrise was breath taking. It was the beautiful dawn of a new day.....literally and figuratively.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hostess 100 Miler In the News and Other Randomly Awesome Things

So about a week and a half ago I ate some Twinkies and donuts......and ran 100 miles in Salt Lake. It was a seriously different experience running 100 miles on pavement versus on trails. When we got home we saw this cool picture on our driveway and immediately knew it was from our awesome friend Cherie Santiago. This made me smile.

The day before the run this story ran on KSL News by Arianne Brown. I did not seek out any news coverage but I thought her story turned out great. 

A few days ago I went outside to check out the "honey moon": the honey-colored full moon that won't happen again until 2098. To me the moon looked remarkably un-honey-like, but still beautiful nonetheless. I caught this picture:

My son Jackson is an amazing piano player. He's been taking lessons for many years and loves playing songs from Billy Joel. We surprised him with an early once-in-a-lifetime birthday present and took him to a Billy Joel concert in Las Vegas.

The concert was beyond amazing. 

After the show Jackson smiled and said this was the best day of his life. 

If you haven't seen it yet, watch this  recent visit on Jimmy Fallon. I guarantee it will be the coolest thing you see today. It already has 10 million views.

And finally a view from a recent run on the Gould's Rim trail.

Give me a few days to digest everything from the Bryce 100 over the weekend. There are some amazing stories to be told.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hostess 100 Mile Race Report - I WON!

Writing a race report for a 100 miler is really difficult. It's pretty much impossible to put into words how those highest of highs and lowest of lows feel. I'll do my best to give you the scoop on the 100 miler I ran a few days ago.

Up to this point I'd completed nine 100 mile races (plus two more that I didn't get all the way to the end). I wanted to try something different and challenging so I decided to try running a solo 100 miler. I decided to call it the Hostess Hundred because 1) Hostess is delicious, 2) I didn't want to take myself too seriously with this stuff, and 3) Their raspberry filled powdered donuts are delivered straight from heaven on the wings of angels.

This isn't my first dabbling with Hostess. For a few years I had an underground race I called the Hostess Half Marathon. When I made it a real race I changed the name to the Baker's Dozen Half Marathon because I didn't want Hostess mad at me. (Dear Hostess: don't sue me, let's be BFFs.)

I planned out a route starting at the Utah state capitol building, running 50 miles of pavement mostly along State Street to Provo, Utah, and then turn around and come back. It was a beautiful morning at the capitol building.

I planned to do the run solo and then just stop at gas stations along the way when I needed to refill water or get food. In the days leading up to the race I caught wind that some other runners might join for sections along the way. At the start I was met by Becca and Robert. Becca suggested that an adventure like this needed to start with a jumping picture. I wasn't hard to convince.

Then within the first mile we were joined by two running legends: Matt Van Horn and Jennilyn Eaton. BOTH of them WON the Antelope Island Buffalo Run a few months ago. Plus you'd be more likely to see Sasquatch eating bacon and eggs at Denny's than see these guys running on a road instead of a trail. I was honored to have their company.

And as if the party couldn't get any better, we were joined by Renee (who is running her first 50 miler next weekend) and Cherri who WON both the Salt Flats 100 and the Grand Canyon 100 recently. Wow, these are some fast peeps!

I felt so humbled and thankful for their company. We were laughing the whole time and may have made a quick stop at 7-11 for Slurpees. They ran for many miles before leaving me to do some running on my own. It was scorching hot outside and I got a bit behind on electrolytes so my legs started cramping up but I knew it was something I could work through. I felt like a KFC chicken inside a rotisserie oven.

Suddenly I heard a car honking behind me. Then some cheering. It was my daughters and my amazing wife Mel who drove by to say hello.

I ran some more miles alone before being met by a new friend - Wan Kou who came out in the absolute worst heat of the day to run 10+ miles with me. I so much enjoyed his company and incredible stories. He was so kind and thoughtful bringing me a special treat. (That, amigo, is a 20 PACK of Twinkies!)

A bunch of people along the way said "Are those trail shoes you're wearing?" They were indeed trail shoes. The Altra Lone Peak shoes. Why did I wear trail shoes for 100 miles of pavement? Partly because I think they are the most comfortable shoe ever. But partly because of guilt. I didn't want trails to think I was having a secret love affair with roads. Don't worry trails. You are way cuter. I would never cheat on you.

Wan headed out and I stopped at 7-11 again to refill my hydration pack. As someone with a moderate aversion to germs it kind of sicked me out when the mouth piece of my pack accidentally rubbed against the gas station counter. Um, gross. Then, for no reason, I took a picture next to a big chicken.

My cousin Kody lives in the area and came out for a few miles. I don't get to see him as often as I'd like which is unfortunate because he is so awesome and funny. We are two nuts that have fallen from the same tree.

Evening had finally arrived and it started to cool off a bit. My body functions great in the cold. Not so great in the heat. So I was ecstatic that it wasn't quite as hot. I hadn't eaten much all day except pure junk: Hostess donuts, Swedish fish, a few Twinkies, and Dr. Pepper. I was starting to feel hungry for real food and decided to make a quick stop at Subway. They were SO busy and SOOOO slow! I honestly could have watched an entire episode of Golden Girls while I waited. But while there I met Steve and Adrienne Parsons who were following my Spot Tracker and wanted to say hello. They insisted on buying my sandwich. Seriously so nice. Thanks you guys!

After Kody left I had a two-wheeled companion for a bunch of miles. My friend Susette is about the nicest person you could hope to know. (A few months ago I got to run with her when she completed HER first 100 miler.) She rode her bike next to me for a while and was great to talk to.

Then there was a big owl. Since I had taken a picture with a big bird earlier I figured I'd go two for two in getting pictures with random oversized birds.

Right as Susette finished up I was joined by my friend Catherine. We stood on the sidewalk admiring the incredible sunset. I told them "That sky looks like it has been Photoshopped." It was simply beautiful.

Catherine and I go way back. We've run so many races together and have seen the best and worst of each other. We've had lots of experience getting each other through hard times. I am fortunate to have Catherine and her husband Kacey as my friends.

Literally one minute after Catherine left, a car pulled up and a few guys hopped out in running clothes. This was the most amazing part of the entire run. It was as if a bunch of friends had a secret meeting before this run and decided where each person would join me so that people wouldn't overlap and I'd have company for almost the whole run.

I planned to do this run solo. But it was FAR from solo. I got emotional thinking about all these amazing people who were coming out to support me. I didn't know why they were doing this, but I was so humbled and touched by everyone who came to run a few miles with me, or met me along the way to give me ice, or just to stop and say "Good job." It meant so much to me.

So the guys who hopped out of the car were Sam Jewkes and Jeff Davis. I've run many of the same races they have, but have never talked to them much because, well, they're fast, and we're never at the same part of the race course. I had a total blast talking with these guys and getting to know them better. They made those miles float by, which is saying something when you're like 55 miles into a run.

It was the middle of the night when they left and it was time to get more miles on my own. Around mile 60 is always when the demons start creeping in. Mel said sometimes my reports minimize some of the sections where things get ugly. In order to run 100 milers you need to get comfortable with doubt, fear, pain, and loneliness. Eventually things are going to get ugly and you start to wonder how you'll be able to take another step, let alone go 40 more miles. Everything, EVERYTHING hurts. It's a difficulty and doubt that I could never begin to truly understand until I was around mile 60 of my first 100 miler and I realized that this was harder than I had ever imagined. You must continue to put one foot in front of the other. Nobody can do it for you. It's all on you.

I try to stay positive and smile, even if it's difficult and it's the opposite of how I'm feeling. Because I refuse to let that darkness get any more grip on me then it already has. Negativity and whining makes nothing better. I appreciated those miles alone to work through the challenges.

It was still pitch black outside when I saw another car stop ahead of me. Two girls hopped out and came with me for many miles until finally a hint of light started to appear above the Wasatch mountains. The second sunrise of the day was coming. Those girls were Cherri and Renee from the first day who came out to do more miles. They are seriously amazing.

I worked on getting in as many miles as possible at night because I knew I'd be in for another hot day once the sun came up again. It was sure pretty to watch though.

After Cherri and Renee left I had another chunk of miles alone. (I'd estimate that over the entire 100 miles there were only maybe 30-35 that were by myself.) It felt like the heat came back quickly.

After a while I passed my high school: home of the Jordan High Beetdiggers. Nope, not a joke, and they're proud of it. I also realized that right at this moment I could have been sitting on my couch eating Ben & Jerry's and watching Price is Right.

I had some new companions join me as I was pushing toward the last stretch: Monte and London Riding. I first met them at the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival. I wished I could have run faster with them but my legs had other ideas.

As we crested a hill I got my first view of the state capitol building far in the distance. It seemed light years away. I worked on staying focused in the mile I was in instead of how far there still was to go, although I did get some pep in my step with about 10 miles left and I started smelling the barn.

Then something positively wonderful happened. Sam Jewkes who ran with me the night before is the band teacher at Hillcrest Middle School. As I neared that area I could see that a huge group of kids was standing at the front of the school playing their instruments and cheering. Sam had his whole band out there. I was speechless.

I was so touched. I gave them each a high five and thanked them for coming out. They were so awesome. It made my day.

Only a few more hot miles through downtown Salt Lake City...

I had some great support in the last few miles as I neared the capitol. Wan came back and ran a few miles in his work clothes, DJ Loertscher, Catherine, and Zac Marion from Altra. And finally, FINALLY I arrived at the state capitol 100 miles later! I'm so thankful for these guys.

God gave us bodies that can do some pretty amazing things. He helped me and protected me. I am indebted to all those running angels disguised as my friends who came out to support me. And finally I am thankful for my amazing family. My wife Mel is one of a kind. When I brought up trying something like this there was absolutely no doubt or hesitation, only complete support. I love her and the kids. She bought a special belt buckle for the end of this run.

Total time to finish all 100 miles was 27 hours and 52 minutes including approximately nine bajillion stops at stop lights along the way. The buckle was designed by Kali who also makes the buckles for the Zion 100, Bryce 100, and Grand Canyon 100. I will always treasure this buckle.

And so this Hostess 100 miler, a solo run that was anything BUT solo, was complete. The run that started with a jump......also ended with a jump. If I could have scripted the perfect experience for my tenth 100 miler this would have been it. I am so blessed.