Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bear 100 Race Report 2014 - Weather of Biblical Proportions

Things that are difficult:
1) Listening to music from Celine Dion.
2) Eating only a few Hershey Kisses.
3) Running 100 miles going up and down steep trails that have turned to Crisco because it has been raining for twelve hours straight. There have been exactly zero times in my life when I have thought "You know what I want to do? I want to mud wrestle a mountain for twelve hours!"

This past weekend I ran the Bear 100, the hardest race course I have ever stepped foot on. I knew the 22,500+ feet of climbing would certainly get my attention. This is what the course looks like on paper:

The only thing that first climb was missing was some Caribbean music playing in the background because the first couple of hours were simply one long conga line up the mountain.

Once the sun started to rise I realized that my eyes would be in for a treat. With the autumn colors the mountains looked like they were glowing. The moment I took this picture I knew it would be one of my favorites:

Friday got up to 88 degrees and everyone was toasty hot. I felt like a baked potato wrapped in tin foil. By mid day the heat was taking its toll and I started hearing about people getting sick and dropping. From the very beginning I worked very hard to keep my pace conservative and not go out fast. Numerous photography stops kept my pace under control.

There were long stretches where I ran alone without anyone in sight ahead or behind me. During one of these times alone I came across some four-legged beasts who seemed to be trying to stop me from moving forward.

Since it was so hot outside I stuck with mainly liquid calories (Tailwind and Coke) because my stomach always tolerates those well. I am so thankful that I didn't have any stomach issues during the entire race.

I continued to keep my pace steady but very in control. 99.9% of the time that is the way to go. Although looking back on this race, I probably should have gone against that logic and pushed harder early on. The weather got so hideous later that it would have been better to have more miles behind me. The scenery was nothing short of spectacular.

I met this new friend Bob around mile 35ish. Bob is 66 years old. And I had a hard time keeping up with him. This is one of the many things I love about ultra running: age is irrelevant. Senior citizens can put the smack down on whipper snappers like me who are 30 years younger. So awesome.

The majority of trails on Bear are very steep ups or downs, and often very technical. But every once in a while there was some amazing, silky smooth single track that could pull you right down the trail.

I ended up wearing my Altra Lone Peak 2.0 shoes for the entire 100 miles. I never changed my socks and only sat down long enough to dump out a few rocks a few times. This was my first time racing with them and they were AWESOME. They were very comfortable and the traction was critical when the weather got ugly.

The thing I focused on most during this race was staying in the moment. I didn't keep track of pace. I didn't focus on how many more miles. I didn't look at the elevation chart in my pack to see what was coming up. I just wanted to run the mile I was in. It's hard to keep your brain from doing math like "Oh my gosh. I still have 60 miles to go. And if I keep this pace it will take me roughly a bajillion more hours to finish." Staying focused on each mile the race an even more amazing experience.

As the sun began to set and the temperature started to cool off, I caught my second wind. The weather reports leading up to the race said an enormous storm would hit during the race. Not "if" but "when". In the evening aid station workers had concerned looks. "The storm is coming. We are going to get pounded. It's not 'if' but 'when'."

At mile 45 I met a trail angel named Jenn Swanson. My friend said Jenn was looking for a runner to pace so I met Jenn and her awesome family there at mile 45 and she would join me for the next 30 miles. She lives in the area and is very familiar with the trails. She truly was a life saver.

I was around mile 50 when the "not if but when" storm hit, and it hit with a fury. The rain fell in currents. Wind. Thunder and lightning cracking close by. Weather of Biblical proportions. And the mountains turned into slick trails of Crisco. Hour. After hour. After hour of rain. I'm not sure how many times I ended up slipping and laying in the mud. It was so positively horrific that it was insanely comical.

Jenn is so positive and optimistic. We talked the whole time and she got me through very difficult miles. Words can not describe the conditions we went through. Just when we'd think "Wow, it can't get worse than this", the rain would start pouring even harder. It was just funny.

At mile 75 we met up with my brother Kenny who planned to pace me the last 25 miles. I tried to talk him out of it. I told him how miserable it was out there. I told him it was less like running and more like skiing. Skiing on Crisco. (And have you ever tried to ski UP Crisco before? No bueno.) But he was undeterred.

Those 25 miles with Kenny were incredibly challenging also. I was soaked to the core and freezing. I never thought about quitting but I was scared that with the trails in such poor condition I might not be able to go fast enough to make it to the finish before the 36 hour cutoff. Looking at the following picture you'd think "Oh, that's a beautiful pond." But nope. THAT'S THE TRAIL!

On the steep parts this looked more like a flooding river. Needless to say my feet were soaked in water like this for at least 15 hours. It literally poured rain almost constantly for 15-16 hours.

My friend Quintin Barney filmed this short clip of what it was like trying to run (and ultimately fall) on the trails. This is good:

Kenny and I pushed forward mile after mile. This was his first taste of ultramarathons but you wouldn't know it. He paced like a pro. In those 25 miles he saw runners at the absolute lowest of lows....but they persevered. They kept going. It was such an inspirational and triumphant and beautiful experience seeing what people were going through. I felt truly honored to be among the runners who kept putting one foot in front of the other even when it was really, really hard.

There were many times when I wasn't sure how I was going to make it to the finish line. I went through my share of highs and lows. But finally after 34 hours and 32 minutes my eyes saw something just as wonderful as the 100 miles of autumn leaves on those mountains:

I can't say enough about the volunteers at the race. They were so helpful and enthusiastic and positively awesome, especially considering that they were enduring the weather also. I wish I could share my belt buckle with them.

The Bear 100 is an experience I will never forget. I am thankful that it was ridiculously hard because it made me stronger. I get chills thinking about what transpired in those 34 hours. I will never be the same. (Not to mention the fact that I might have PTSD every time it rains for the rest of my life.)

"Adversity introduces a man to himself." ~ Unknown

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bear 100 Miler TOMORROW!

All my training this year has led to now........the Bear 100 starting tomorrow. I'm certainly nervous, but also seriously excited to tackle the hardest race of my life. 

Climbing more than 22,500 feet in those 100 miles will be an incredible adventure. I can't wait to see the scenery. I can't wait to see some great running friends. I can't wait to see what kind of wildlife shows up to put some pep in my pace.

The race starts Friday morning and the cutoff is 6:00pm on Saturday night. I fully intend to be standing at the finish line before that time. 

If by chance you're really bored on Friday or Saturday and want to track my progress during the race you can click HERE. (Sometimes there are glitches with this stuff so if you see me stuck at a certain point, don't worry. There is at least a 70% chance I haven't become dinner for a bear.) My bib # is 234. 

100 MILES OR BUST!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Got To Be In One Of The Most Amazing Running Videos Ever

My friend Jeremiah Barber is a stunning photographer. Jeremiah is to photography what Chuck Norris is to manhood. Jeremiah is like the Harry Potter wizard of photography. I've spent some time on the trails with Jeremiah and this is the kind of stuff he comes up with:

Not only does he take incredible pictures but he also has a quadcopter drone thingamajigger with which he makes AMAZING videos. 

We've been working on a running video and I'm excited to show you the finished product. In this video you will see:

1) A scrawny, wiry fella named Cory running the trails.
2) Some cool new Altra shoes.
3) Some of the most incredible scenery your eyes will ever behold.

You can see more of Jeremiah's stuff at his website HERE. Enjoy the video! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bear 100 In FOUR DAYS!

The hardest race of my life, the Bear 100, is only four days away. I've got this taper thing down like a champ. I am:

1) Pounding the carbs in the form of an enormous Costco pumpkin pie.

2) Infusing my body with good mojo in the form of ample Bruce Springsteen music.

3) Eating mostly healthy to cleanse my body from the Katy Perry toxins that have inadvertently entered my ears while listening to the radio on my mp3 player during training runs.

4) Keeping my legs happy by going on short, easy, and very beautiful runs:

5) I got my drop bags packed. I think this is one of the things I hate most about racing. Figuring out drop bags is like fortune telling. I hate trying to guess what I might need during a race. At mile 55 is it going to be cold enough to need a coat? At mile 68 am I going to need an extra baggie of Tailwind Nutrition? At mile 83 am I going to come across a bear and need a clean pair of shorts? I always solve the dilemma by packing everything I might POSSIBLY need and during the race I actually end up using about 10% of the stuff I pack.

I haven't felt this nervous about a race for a long time because, at least on paper, the course looks like it is steep up or steep down the entire time. There is a total of 22,518 feet of climbing in this beast. If this elevation profile doesn't trigger your gag reflex nothing will.

Even though I'm nervous and intimidated, I'm hopeful that my training over the last year has prepared me to tackle The Bear. I have no doubt that it will be an epic and amazing adventure and I am determined to find my way to that finish line.

Friday, September 19, 2014

RunGoo Blister Protection Review

The folks at FootKinetics sent me some of their product RunGoo to try out. I've been using it for a few weeks on runs of varying length to put it to the test. Here's what I've found:

Before each ultra I coat my feet in some kind of lubricant, usually Body Glide. I looked forward to trying something new. RunGoo is quite different from Body Glide, starting with how you apply it. It comes in a tube that you squeeze onto your feet (or wherever else you might have chaffing or blister issues). 

When you remove the cap, the dispenser on the top has these bumps to help spread out the cream. I thought this worked well. I liked how I could spread it all over my feet without ever getting it on my hands.

To me the RunGoo reminded me of a consistency of a combination between diaper cream and Vaseline, nice and smooth. FootKinetics says that it lasts longer because of a mix of waxes that improves endurance, compared to dimethicone products that are thinner. The RunGoo creates a barrier against moisture to prevent blisters.

I read that it is supposed to be applied liberally, and it doesn't need to be spread perfectly even. I realized that the key to using RunGoo is that once you put it on your feet, you need to roll your sock on instead of just pulling it on so the cream stays in place.

The manufacturer says that one thick application will last all day and get you through your workout or race. Based on the runs I've used RunGoo, it has lasted for many hours and gotten me through all the runs just fine, although during a 100 miler where you're out for potentially 36 hours I could see needing a few more applications midway through a race. I think that's to be expected.

I've been pleased with using RunGoo on my feet and feel comfortable taking it with me to use at the Bear 100 next week. I'd suggest giving it a try yourself if you have issues with blisters when you run. You can get more information and order at their website www.footkinetics.com.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Most Embarrassing Experience Of My Life

After a few years of intense therapy I now feel comfortable sharing the most embarrassing experience of my life (right behind that time when I was nine years old doing school clothes shopping and a lady opened the door of my dressing room while I was standing there in my tighty whities).

Two years ago I was training for a 100 miler so I was out for a 30 mile run. I had gone eight miles when I passed through some long stretches of field after field. From past experience I knew the mosquitoes were horrible here, but I didn’t put bug spray on before the run because it was raining. (I put a poncho in my pack just in case it started to downpour.)

Unfortunately, by the time I reached the fields it had stopped raining. I started to feel a few mosquitoes on my legs.

I ran faster. “Maybe if I’m moving faster they won’t be able to catch me.” I thought.

But they did catch me. SWEET MERCY DID THEY EVER CATCH ME. I don’t know why, but mosquitoes think I am the finest thing since Justin Bieber. My wife and I can go running and she’ll get home with a mosquito bite. I’ll have fifty. (Literally.) And they swell up to the size of Junior Mints.  

So I realize that they are swarming all over my legs. I’m running like the dickens. Then a horrific thing happened: I looked behind me. I was surrounded by a cloud of mosquitoes. My neck and arms and back were covered. They were sucking my blood through my shirt.

I ran faster. I had this vision in my mind of someone coming across my bones on the side of the road. And a coroner doing an autopsy and then telling my family that I had Death By Mosquito. “Run, Cory! RUN!” said a voice in my brain.

By this point I was experiencing my first ever panic attack. I didn’t want to stop and pull out the phone in my hydration pack to call my wife because I knew if I stopped for even a split second I would get an extra 100 bites. Then I took off my head phones and that’s when the panic attack reached epic proportions. It sounded like a swarm of angry hornets. “AAAAAHHHHHH!” said that voice in my brain.

That was the tipping point. I stopped and got the phone out of my pack and called my wife. Our conversation went like this:

Me: “Help! I’m being attacked my mosquitoes!”
Mel: “Okay, I’m on my way.”
Me: “Please! Hurry!”
Mel: “Do you have your poncho?”
Me: “Yes, but that won’t help at all! It doesn’t cover my legs!”
Mel: “Sit down on the ground and put the poncho over you and I’ll bring you some bug spray.”

Her idea sounded just plain dumb but I wasn’t thinking clearly and had no other option, unless I wanted Death By Mosquito. So I pulled out the poncho, sat down on the side of the road, and covered myself in that thin coat of plastic.

And then I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed. “Please, please Lord. Please don’t let a car drive by and see me sitting here.” And for 20 minutes my prayer was answered. But then my fear came to pass. I heard a car coming. “Please, please Lord. Please let that be my wife.”

But it wasn’t my wife. A car sped by and I was more than relieved that they didn’t stop and ask what in the world was going on. And then the car stopped and turned around! “AAAHHHH!” said that voice inside my head.

A lady with a shih tzu on her lap rolled down her window. “Are you…….okay?” “Yes, I’m fine.” I whimpered. “I’m getting eaten by mosquitoes so I’m just waiting for my wife to get here with some bug spray.” A concerned look flashed across her face and then she drove away. This is what my pathetic self looked like:

After 30 minutes my wife arrived and saw the most pathetic scene I’m sure her eyes have ever witnessed:

I had smeared blood on my arms and legs from swatting mosquitoes. And apparently some on my face.

I am so thankful that my wife rescued me. She is a true angel. And I’m so embarrassed that she had to see her husband wrapped up in a plastic bag sitting on the side of the road. I wouldn’t blame her if she thought of me as less of a man. Not only did those mosquitoes suck out my blood. They also sucked out some of my dignity.

Monday, September 15, 2014

My Run In With A Grumpy Snake

I haven't seen one snake while running this entire year. Crazy! Well, that streak ended on Saturday during a seriously beautiful run on the Prospector Trail near St. George, Utah.

As of today, the Bear 100 is only ELEVEN days away. (Yikes!) This whole taper this is going swell. I've been running a lot over the last year so I decided to give myself a nice long three week taper to get ready for the race. I only ran twice last week, both easy, casual runs. Saturday was my favorite.

The Prospector Trail is very runnable, pretty smooth single track with amazing views the whole time.

That snake I came across was a little bit grumpy. It obviously wasn't a rattle snake, but it acted like one. It coiled up, shook it's tail, and even struck toward me once. There was no chance of it getting me because I kept plenty of distance. I'm not a huge fan of these critters.

Sometimes when I see a snake they don't seem to mind at all. They just hang out. But this one was as excited to see me as I was to see it. I didn't want to bother it so I took a few pictures then went on my way.

We got lots of rain earlier in the week so the flowers were out in full bloom. This was my favorite picture of the day:

Speaking of snakes, do yourself a favor and read THIS story from It Just Gets Stranger about his experience with a sea snake. I have no hesitation guaranteeing that you will laugh so hard that you cry.

May your week be awesome and snake-free!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why I Have A Hard Time Running On Roads (Toquerville Falls, Utah)

I run on the road sometimes. Sometimes during the week I don't have much time before work. I don't have time to drive to a trail. Roads are more convenient. So I run on the road sometimes. But I don't like it.

And here's why:

When you've had the experience of running on stunningly beautiful trails.....and they're so close by.....and there are so many to choose from......suddenly running on the road just seems, well, blah. On Saturday I took a group of people to Toquerville Falls in southern Utah.

There was a great mix of old and new friends. Some had been to Toquerville Falls before but a bunch hadn't. On this run you get initiated to big climbs immediately. (And somehow it always feels like it is uphill both ways.)

Though I generally consider a run on dirt to be a "trail" run, the route to Toquerville Falls isn't really much of a trail. It's more of a dirt road. A steep, rocky, and in some places really crappy road. But still a road.

To me it still has the feel of a trail though. It's out in the middle of nowhere. No civilization. Fresh air. The only sound you hear is wind blowing over the hills. Which is basically my description of heaven.

Once we made it to the falls, it was fun to hang out and laugh for a bit before heading back.

My friend Jack snapped this picture of me where I gave my best impression of a fluorescent marker.

"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt." ~ John Muir