Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Hate You. I Love You. My Love Affair With Toquerville Falls

I've been doing almost all my running lately on this route to Toquerville Falls (which also has a turnoff to some cell towers on top of a mountain). I managed to get there three times last week. My only purpose is to get as much climbing in my legs as possible to prepare for the ultra gnarly Bear 100 coming up in two months. I've been able to rack up many thousands of feet each week.

The climbing to Toquerville Falls and the towers are steep, long, and unrelenting. It's definitely not the place to go for fast running. Many times during each run I say to the hills "I hate you!" But then I reach the top of some vista, or see some amazing view and I apologize. "I'm sorry hills. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I love you. Let's be friends. You make me happy."

The route is so unbelievably hot. Inevitably it feels like my skin is going to melt into a puddle on the dirt. This is the extent of the shade available.

The climb to the cell towers adds a whole new, inhumane level of climbing. I have to keep reminding myself that this is good race preparation to keep myself from crying.
Toquerville Cell Towers

And then there is Toquerville Falls. Ahhhh, the Falls. The last few times here my legs have been an all-you-can-eat Golden Corral buffet for the deer flies.

One of my trips last week was in the evening as the sun was setting. It was still a toasty 103 degrees outside at that time. It's a beautiful place for a sunset.

Want to know something cool? Any awesome thing you see in the following picture is part of the Zion 100 course.

As beautiful as it is out here, I hardly ever see another soul.

I feel a little sheepish but I admit that at night I made it up to the cell towers, but turned around a mile before I reached Toquerville Falls. I feel a little intimidated when I'm out in the middle of nowhere by myself at night. Although I highly doubt any hungry mountain lions would mess with me if they caught a glance of my intimidating, frightening self.

I have faith that as difficult and challenging as my runs are now, I will be better prepared for the big dance in September.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Well, That Was Really Embarrassing

Back in college when I took that photojournalism class, Dr. Cakefactory (his first name was Cheese) always taught us to have the story match the pictures or else your blog post will be complete rubbish. "Kids," he'd say, "always have the story match the pictures," and then he got this stern look, pointed his wrinkly old finger at us, and finished in a whisper "or else your blog post will be complete rubbish." Obviously he was old since he was using the word "rubbish".

(And every word of that previous paragraph, every syllable is a complete lie.)

I'm breaking Dr. Cheese Cakefactory's rule and I'll tell you a story that has NOTHING to do with my pictures. I'm doing this for a few reasons:

1) I believe the story is funny.
2) You've heard me talk enough about my love affair with Toquerville Falls lately. I went there again last week and caught an amazing sunrise. But you probably don't want to hear AGAIN about Toquerville Falls. So I'll just show you the pictures while weaving in the completely unrelated story.

My sister-in-law Rachel had surgery last week. One day we were watching her kids and I called Rachel. "Rach, what do you want? A Diet Coke? A Slurpee? A shake? I'll bring something over to you." She decided on a Diet Coke from McDonald's.

Well, our McDonald's is connected to 7-11. And our 7-11 has wonderful Diet Dr. Pepper. So I thought "Great! I'll get Rach's Diet Coke at McDonald's, then walk 10 feet away and buy myself a Diet Dr. Pepper!"

I had my daughter Kylee and Rachel's son Jude. So I bought the Diet Coke from McDonald's. Then I walked over and bought my Diet Dr. Pepper fountain drink. The line was the longest I've ever seen there. Probably 15 people in front of us. People everywhere. Ugh. I should have just got a drink at McDonald's.

I asked Kylee to hold the Diet Coke. Well, a minute later I looked over and she was holding the 32oz cup upright on her palm because she was holding Jude's hand with her other hand. I said "Kylee, you probably shouldn't hold it like that or else it will fall." No more than two seconds later my feet were covered in Diet Coke and there was soda everywhere. (Warning: fake running picture ahead.)

Remember how there were around one thousand people at the gas station? The mess was gigantic. And the clerk was too busy to get the mop. I offered to mop it up but he refused.

I asked Kylee to go refill the cup with Diet Coke while I stayed with Jude and waited in line to pay for my dumb Diet Dr. Pepper. Standing in the midst of the huge mess we just caused. People everywhere.

Kylee came back with the cup full again. I FINALLY paid for my dumb drink, and then we went to get in the car. There was some soda on the Diet Coke cup so I wiped it off with a napkin. But more drips kept appearing. Then I noticed that the plastic cup had a crack in it.

"You've GOT to be joking," I thought to myself. So I got out of the car and threw the nearly full, leaky cup of Diet Coke in the garbage. Then I got in the car and drove around the building to the McDonald's drive through. In a slight growl I said "One large Diet Coke please." I was coming to the realization that buying two fountain drinks had taken nearly a half hour.

And of course the guy at the window handing me the large Diet Coke was the same exact man who handed me a large Diet Coke around ten minutes beforehand. I grinned a little but didn't go into the whole story of the adventure it had been to buy this drink.

Kylee said she was sorry. I smiled and told her it was my fault because I shouldn't have asked her to hold the drink AND Jude's hand at the same time. Despite the mess we made, I'm sure glad it happened. Because I guarantee that every single time I go buy myself a Diet Dr. Pepper at 7-11 I will laugh.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Some Things I Really Love

There are a bunch of things I'm loving lately.

1) I recently tried Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream for the first time. Dear Cherry Garcia ice cream: where have you been all my life? I love you with all my heart and soul.

2) My wife Mel is awesome. You couldn't ask for a more supportive, encouraging spouse. She is funny and smart. And she makes awesome cupcakes. Here is a picture of Mel and Aunt Jackie.

3) I got a new pair of kicks in the mail last week - the Altra Olympus trail shoes. They are comfortable and roomy. I love the smell of new shoes.

4) Check out this video of kids having their first taste of foods (including anchovies and lemons). It is cute, funny, and all around wonderful.

5) I saw this quote a few days ago that I liked. I decided to throw it on a picture from the Zion 100.

6) HERE is an awesome article called "How Numbers Show You're Probably Starting Your Ultramarathon Too Fast."

7) And finally......the funny things that happen if you ride in the bike lane:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Kids + Kolob Canyon

I hope you'll forgive me. I have a hunch that the following blog post will be lacking in anything witty or mildly amusing. If perchance you WOULD like to see something very witty and very amusing check out the What Is Ultra Tumblr page. This website has made me laugh so hard that I've cried.

So last week my daughters asked me to take them on the Taylor Creek hike in Kolob Canyon. We went a few years ago and they wanted to go again. It took very little convincing. They brought some friends with them too.

Kolob Canyon is part of Zion National Park. And it's beautiful.

The trail is only five miles but for some reason it always feels longer than that to me. The trail crosses this little creek constantly. (The girls counted a total of more than 60 times we crossed over it.)

In the autumn this area is seriously amazing with the leaves turning a rainbow of colors. Amist all the green I did spot one yellow leaf.

A water reflection:

The trail ends at an enormous double arch alcove, always a perfect spot to relax, cool off, and eat lunch.

We had a blast together. (Finalized with some snow cones when we got home.)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Many Reasons I'm Obsessed With Hardrock 100

The Hardrock 100 was one week ago. The Colorado race is one of the hardest 100 milers in the world, climbing nearly 34,000 feet.

I've known about the Hardrock 100 for years but never paid much attention to it. Until last week. And ever since then I've been captivated by this race. Here's why.

Check out this view from the course courtesy of the amazing Matt Trappe:

CLICK HERE for an excellent, captivating article from Outside Magazine about the awesomeness of this year's race.

I BEG of you to watch this video of Darcy Piceu Africa, the female winner last year and this year. The views of this course are beyond description. I've watched this video quite a few times over the last week.

Read THIS article about Adam Campbell who was STRUCK BY LIGHTNING during the race. And went on to finish third!!! Unbelievable.

Again, I beg of you to click THIS link to see images from this year's race taken by Matt Trappe. They are the most spectacular race pictures I have EVER seen. Seeing his pictures is what made me think "Hmmm, I might need to go here."

And one last stunning video showing the beauty of this amazing race.

The Bear 100 that I'm running in a few months is a qualifying race for Hardrock. Hmmmm. I'm intrigued.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Facing My Fear

I am facing my fear. I'm not referring to:

1) My fear of flying in airplanes.
2) My fear of needles.
3) My fear of being strapped down and forced to listen to Whitney Houston's song "I Will Always Love You" play on repeat into eternity.

I AM referring to The Bear 100. After trying to work up the courage for a few months, I finally registered. That race scares and intimidates me. It's in the major league of 100 milers. 22,000 FEET of climbing. Sometimes in a blizzard. It is also allegedly one of the most beautiful races in the country. The elevation profile looks like a cardiac rhythm. And I may include this picture in every blog post until the race in two months.

One of the things that has helped in recovery from 100 milers is to not run a single step for at least a week afterward. It has been a week since the 100 miler at the track and I was antsy to get back on the trail. Some other peeps joined me Saturday morning for the 10 mile trek to Toquerville Falls.

We started out with my friends Tom and Liz. But they are fast and my legs are in recovery mode so I encouraged them to run ahead. My friend David also came but had to head back early. I did end up running the whole time with my brother-in-law Matt. In the distance we saw the moon setting which was seriously beautiful.

I caught this picture of Matt running across the top of the falls. I've never been to the other side like this before because the water has always been higher. It was awesome to see Toquerville Falls from a new perspective.

These next two pictures were taken by Matt. He is a great photographer.

The sun came out on the way back so we got a good workout of Sweating To The Oldies......minus the Oldies. And sadly minus Richard Simmons. That guy seems like he would be funny to run with.

Remember when your parents told you that they walked to and from school, and it was uphill both ways? Toquerville Falls is exactly like that. Due to some warp in the cosmic universe, it really is steep uphill both ways.

I plan to spend many miles here in the coming two months getting as much vertical as my legs will tolerate to prepare for The Bear. As nervous as I am for the race, I'm not sure I've ever been more excited after I clicked that "Register" button. Dear Bear 100: You will be MINE!

Monday, July 7, 2014

15 Life Lessons I Learned Running 100 Miles Around A Track

A few days ago I ran 100 miles around the high school track. I realized something during this experience. Do you know what is difficult? (Besides listening to an entire Celine Dion album?) Yep. Running 100 miles around a track.

I've run ten 100 milers and for a while I've wanted to try doing one on a 1/4 mile track. I'm also a sentimental schmuck and realized that I've done a 100 miler every month since February so I wanted to keep the streak going one more month. Even though it would be my sixth 100 miler in five months my body was feeling good and I figured I'd give it a shot.

Life Lesson #1 - There Is Nothing Better Than A Cool Sunrise.
Technically a fresh cinnamon roll is better than a sunrise. But I didn't have any cinnamon rolls. So the sunrise had to suffice. I started running around 4:45am and it was already 82 degrees outside. It wasn't long before I saw my first sunrise of the run.

Life Lesson #2 - Vanilla Ice Is A Genius
I've always tried to model my life after the sage wisdom of wise, poetic, pasty white musician Vanilla Ice and his lyric "Ice, ice baby." I'm allowed to call him pasty white. Takes one to know one. I brought three coolers with tons of ice, ice baby, water, soda, and Tailwind knowing the temps would be scorching during the run. Once at the track I found this hose that I soaked myself in every few laps.

This was a blessing and a curse. I think keeping myself wet was the only way I was able to keep running in the heat. I would wet myself (that just sounds wrong) and then be completely dry two laps (1/2 mile) later. So I'd wet myself again. (Not that kind of "wet myself".) But this also completely soaked my shoes so I had a case of Sloshy Shoe Syndrome for literally 60 miles. After the run my feet looked like a chewed up Big Mac. My feet have entered mental health therapy to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Life Lesson #3 - Accept What You Can't Control, Take Advantage Of What You Can
I was willing to have perma-wet feet in exchange for staying a little cooler. With no control over the temperature I just dealt with it. But I tried to get everything going in my favor that I did have control over. Which basically boiled down to my attitude and what pair of shoes I wore. I went with the Altra Olympus for the extra cushion and the fact that they're super comfortable. They were excellent.

Life Lesson #4 - Ignorance Is Bliss
Enormous thanks to my friend Shelly Thomas and Hurricane High School for helping with the logistics of the run. Their track is the nicest I have ever run on. The only down side is that from the track you can see the school marquee......which shows the current temperature. Sometimes that would be better NOT to know. The high for the day reached 107 degrees. It was intimidating to watch the temp slowly climb. I imagine that's what it feels like to run inside a fireplace. In the underworld.

Life Lesson #5 - Friends Are A Blessing
Late afternoon was difficult. I hit a rough patch for a while. The track was radiating heat and it felt like I was standing under a hair dryer. But every once in a while a friend would stop by and say hello or bring a little treat and it lifted my spirits. Melanie brought a banana and Hostess donuts. Michelle brought a smoothie. Matt brought a Slurpee. Angel brought a popsicle. Lyle brought a smoothie. Shannon from Arby's in Hurricane brought some awesome sandwiches. Katrina brought a Slurpee and some candy. Leif and Melissa stopped by to make sure I was still alive. Lyle came back and brought a cookie and the most delicious substance known to mankind: Dirty Dr. Pepper (Dr. Pepper with coconut syrup.) I never asked anyone to come, and I felt so touched by their kindness.

Life Lesson #6 - Smiling and Jumping Make Everything All Better
I try to smile and be positive during races. It's not that I'm always having fun. (Sometimes in the moment what I'm experiencing is anything but fun.) It's not that I'm always happy. (Inside I might be feeling seriously grumpy.) It's not that it isn't hard. (Running has never come easy to me.) BUT I'm convinced that a positive attitude makes an ENORMOUS difference. Having a pity party doesn't make anything better. Taking a jumping picture is a great way to break out of a funk. Maybe that's why I have to take so many of them. Mile 50:
track 100 miler, Utah

Life Lesson #7 - Be Thankful For What You Have
From the track I could see Smith Mesa on the horizon. In the Zion 100 you climb to the top of Smith Mesa, around 1,000 feet in less than a mile. I love trails here. I love the trails there. I love trails anywhere. (Sorry to go all Dr. Seuss on you.) I run almost all my miles on trails but doing 100 on trails in this heat just wasn't feasible without spontaneously combusting. So I just enjoyed the track and enjoyed the mesa from a distance.

Life Lesson #8 - There Is Nothing More Important Than Family
In the evening Mel and the kids came over to share a few laps with me at the track. It was so awesome to see them. And for a little bit I almost forgot about the huge temper tantrum that my legs were throwing.

Life Lesson #9 - Patience Is A Virtue
I always hated when my dad said that. But it's true. If ultramarathons have taught me anything, it is patience. I've learned that when times get really tough, you just have to be patient because things will get better. It's guaranteed that at some point things will get really ugly. But if you hang in there it will get better. I knew if I could make it through the heat of the day I'd feel better when it started to cool off. I was rewarded with some beautiful clouds, a few drops of rain, and one of the most amazing sunsets I've seen in quite a while.

Life Lesson #10 - A Happy Stomach = A Happy Run
I brought some snacks like Fig Newtons, chips, candy, and gallon jugs of Tailwind that I mixed the night before. (I labeled the caps O for Orange and R for Raspberry). Having premixed bottles helped so much at the Jackpot 100 that I figured it would work well at the track too. That was the only thing my stomach tolerated consistently for the entire run. This isn't some kind of paid endorsement for their stuff. It really is awesome. Anyone who has run a 100 miler will testify that keeping your stomach happy is one of the hardest parts of an ultra. My running made a big shift when I started using the Tailwind.

Once it got dark my friend Jess came to run a few miles with me. Jess paced me the first year of the Zion 100 when the race took me 35 HOURS(!!!) and has seen me at my absolute worst. I appreciate her friendship. And Angel came to the track a few times during the day and ended up getting a total of 25 miles!

My son Jackson begged and begged to stay at the track with me for the night. I told him he would get so bored. But he said he'd just walk while I ran. That little creature ended up getting in 13 miles before going to the car to sleep! I admire his determination.

Life Lesson #11 - Aside From "The Clapper", Pizza Is The Most Amazing Invention Ever
5 years ago I was training for my first marathon when I read the book "Ultramarathon Man" by Dean Karnazes. He talked about how one night he went out for a run that was so long that he ordered a pizza to eat while running. To think that a human being could run that far. Mind. BLOWN. Fast forward to five years later. It was almost midnight and I was around 70 miles in. Me and Jackson pulled a Dean Karnazes and got ourselves a pizza. Sitting there on the bleachers eating pizza at midnight with my son was my favorite part of the 100 miler. (I was surprised when I saw that Dean had shared this picture on his Facebook page. Cool!)

Life Lesson #12 - It's Always Darkest Before The Dawn
From about mile 70 on, the run was very difficult for me. My legs were so sore, I was so tired, and every step was a challenge. Words can't describe how daunting and humbling it is to be at mile 70, feeling so beyond exhausted, and knowing that you still have potentially another NINE HOURS (and 120 laps!) to keep going. That is a dark time. Literally and figuratively. I got a little bit of a boost when the sun started to come up. And speaking of that - how crazy is this sport where you see TWO sunrises during the same run? That is hard to fathom for me.

Life Lesson # 13 - The Only Way Out Is Through
The last ten miles were silent, alone in my little pain cave. By this point I had started running the straight parts of the track and quickly walking the curves. Every step was so hard but I wanted to keep moving as fast as I could to get it done. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Mel and my daughter Kylee came by to visit on the second morning. I must say that my wife is awesome. A few weeks ago in church I said "I think I want to try running 100 miles around a track." Instead of saying "You're a lunatic!" she said "When were you thinking to do it?" I might as well have been asking if she wanted to go to Dairy Queen. I'm so thankful for her support and encouragement.

Life Lesson #14 - Only Trust People Who Like Big Butts. They Cannot Lie.
Granted. It's completely unrelated to this post, but a valuable lesson nonetheless.

Kylee wanted to run the last mile with me. I told her she didn't need to do that, but I was so happy that she insisted.

Finally after around 26 hours 55 minutes I finished 100 miles at the high school track. A few people commented that this sounded so miserable. And of course at times it definitely was. Although I figure "so miserable" is code word for "excellent mental training for upcoming adventures."

The heat was my biggest hurdle by FAR. When I finished I felt demolished. There was no jumping to be had after this one. The only thing my body had left in it was to do this:

Life Lesson #15 - We Can Do Hard Things
Our bodies are remarkable things. We are capable of so much more than we know. I've found that if we are willing to challenge the boundary of what we think is possible, a breakthrough can happen. It will hurt. It will be hard. But it can happen. running 100 miles....can happen.

"I never ran 100 miles. I could never do that. I ran one mile a hundred times." Thank you guys so much for your support and encouragement!