Friday, February 27, 2015

Church Rocks - No Words

A few days ago I had a welcome visit with my dear old friend the Church Rocks Trail. It is a little slice of heaven in southern Utah. Here is a (mostly) narration-free glimpse of the trail and all its glory.

Forgive me, here is the only tidbit of narration. I had been watching this bird float through the sky for a few minutes. It seemed to be soaring in a similar pattern so I wanted to try to get a shot of it floating with the mountains in the background. I only got one chance and got lucky:

Dear Church Rocks: I love you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Traumatic Treatment of a Black Toenail

I entered mental health therapy to help me cope with the trauma I have experienced over the last few days as the result of my toenail. The therapist said that sharing about this trauma might help me cope with PTSD.

This traumatic experience started a week and a half ago when I ran the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival. Around mile 30 I accidentally kicked a rock. At that moment it felt like my big toe got struck by lightning. The agony was worse than exposing your ear drums to 1,000 Justin Bieber songs. (As if there is anything worse than listening to 1,000 Justin Bieber songs.) 

I had never done anything like this before. I was reduced to a painful hobble where lightning struck my toe with every step. I did some inspection and knew it wasn't broken because it was only the toenail that hurt.

Fast forward a week. My toenail still feels like a filing cabinet is sitting on top of it. On the Trail and Ultra Running Facebook page I posted this question: "A week ago I accidentally kicked a rock with my big toe while running. Woops. Sweet mother of pearl, it hurt so bad. still hurts so bad. At work I walk normal so I don't look silly, but I probably need a stick in my mouth from clenching my jaw with each step. Any tips on this that don't involve a needle in my toe or pliers?" 

The consensus was that the toenail needed to be drained. And many people suggested DRILLING A HOLE THROUGH MY TOE NAIL to drain fluid and relieve pressure. There are two problems with this: 

1) I'm pretty sure drilling holes through toenails is some kind of torture that Al-Qaeda uses against prisoners of war; and

2) I have a GIGANTIC fear of needles. I pass out when I get my blood drawn. And you want me to put a needle through my toe nail??????? You're more likely to see Richard Simmons' "Sweatin' To The Oldies" become popular again before you see me put a needle into my toe.

But here's the thing: I was desperate. Desperate! That dumb toe hurt so bad that I was willing to try anything. There were many suggestions on how to inflict this POW torture on myself. And part of my soul shudders even mentioning these things:

1) Heat up a needle until it's red hot and then insert it into the toe nail
2) Heat up a paperclip until it's red hot and then insert it into the toe nail
3) Get a small drill bit and work a hole into the toe nail

I'm not kidding people! These were real suggestions! And from lots of people. 

So what did I do? Yep. I tried all three of those suggestions. 

At first I planned to have my wife stick the needle in. She's a nurse. She knows what she's doing. But I was so mortified, I mean absolutely mortified at the thought of this, that I chickened out. When my daughter happened to walk into the bedroom seeing Mel approaching my foot with a needle and a lighter she literally acted like she had just seen a poltergeist. 

(That orange polish on my toes is from the same daughter who asked to paint my toes before the race.) So, yeah. I chickened out. I decided I'd try to do it myself. Drill bit? Fail. Heat the paperclip until red hot then push it into the nail? This worked better. Except for the minor detail that I could smell my flesh burning and I almost barfed and/or passed out. 

I finished off the job with a burning hot needle. I pray to God that my mother doesn't read this post. This will be the tipping point in convincing her that I have lost all my marbles. In all seriousness our bathroom looked exactly like the bathroom of a crack cocaine addict.

In the end this traumatizing experience was only mildly successful. Turns out you probably shouldn't wait a whole week after something like this to drain the fluid. My toe nail doesn't really feel too much better. (I know what you're thinking. "Duh! You just drilled a hole into it Einstein!") I ended up trying another trick of poking a needle under the nail bed. That worked better and was far less disturbing than the realization that I was burning a hole into myself.

So here are the morals of the story:
1) Don't kick rocks.
2) Don't listen to 1,000 Justin Bieber songs.
3) Nothing in the history of all mankind is as disturbing as smelling one's on toe nail melting. 
4) You're not a real ultrarunner until your bathroom looks like you're a crack addict.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

DNF Jackpot 100 Race Report 2015

A few months ago Mariah Carey performed a Christmas song on TV. For the sake of your ear drums I hope you haven't seen/heard it. (If you're brave you can check it out HERE.) It started off tune and got progressively worse, ending in a fiery train wreck.

The Jackpot Ultra Running Festival over the weekend....was my own personal Mariah Carey performance. Things started off on the wrong foot and I was never able to get the train back on the tracks.

Like I mentioned before the race, I wasn't sure if I was going to go for 100 miles. I was signed up for 100 but considered dropping down. My knee has been kind of tight and I didn't want to make things worse. The race is in Vegas where crappy buffets abound and one out of three residents is a fake Elvis. The race course is a 2.3 mile loop around a bird sanctuary lake where geese honk incessantly like whiny three year olds. It's hilarious.

For me the absolute highlight of the race was running with Mel and Jackson who both signed up for the 12 hour race. (There were options for 6 hour, 12 hour, 24 hour, and 100 mile races.) Years ago I had this fantasy about running Jackson's first marathon with him when he got older. At that time I didn't expect that he would be shooting for a marathon at age 13. But he decided this would be his goal for Jackpot.

Mel ran her last marathon a few years ago and swore that she would give birth to a baby rhinoceros before she'd run another marathon. Okay, she didn't say those exact words. But that's unquestionably what her face said when she finished. Well, she decided to go for at least a marathon at Jackpot also. Jackpot is a good place to do something like that because the race directors really go out of their way to help runners succeed. (Read: brownies at the aid station.)

I pretty much knew from the beginning that it wasn't going to be my day. Within the first few miles I was channeling my inner Mariah Carey. I decided to just have fun, talk with runners, and take what the day gave me. For me, the most inspirational runner of the race didn't actually "run" a single step. This is Huguette White who did the six hour race. She was always so happy and encouraging. One of the reasons I love races so much is seeing people like Huguette challenge the boundaries of what is possible.

I also met a new friend named Gene. He is 79 years young and told me that he has already run four marathons in the first six weeks of the year. Simply, simply incredible.

Jackpot happened to be on Valentine's Day. Me and Mel spent it together with a couple hundred other people. Running. And sweating gallons by the hour because it was 8,613 degrees outside. And eating cheesecake at the aid station. And waiting for each other at the Porta John. And commiserating about achy legs. And jumping.

I kept plugging along at approximately the speed you move when standing in line at the DMV. My knee and body didn't want to cooperate. I admit, it was frustrating to be going so slowly, particularly because this race was so smooth for me last year and I got a 100 mile PR of 22 hours and 24 minutes.

I managed to compound my not-so-great situation by accidentally stubbing my big toe on a big rock. No bueno. I'd like to describe how it felt. Years ago Mike Tyson fought Evander Holyfield. In the middle of the fight Tyson bit Holyfield's ear off. Remember? Well, after I kicked that rock the rest of the race felt like Mike Tyson's teeth were clamped onto my toe. And Mike Tyson's teeth are sharp! I'm positive that in a few days I'll only have nine toe nails.

I was so impressed watching Jackson during the race. He didn't whine or complain at all during the times I saw him and he just kept moving forward. It was an incredible feeling to talk to him later in the race when his mileage continued to build and I knew he would reach his goal. He is determined and stubborn - the two most important characteristics of runners.

We had the misfortune of running on a day that set a record high for Las Vegas. It reached 80 degrees, about 20 degrees above average. For February that's pretty warm. I kept my shirt soaked in water all day and kept ice in a bandanna around my neck which helped keep the heat manageable. (One minor side effect of a wet shirt and dripping bandanna is that your shorts get a little wet too.....and it looks like you drank a gallon of Gatorade and didn't make it to the bathroom in time. Worth it? Definitely.)

I decided that I would stop at 50 miles. I have some big races coming up that I don't want to be sidelined for. This decision didn't come easy. I wrestled back and forth for hours. It can be discouraging to not accomplish what you set out to do. But an ultramarathon isn't supposed to be easy. When you attempt something so challenging, there is always a risk that it won't turn out quite as planned. All the veteran ultrarunners have collected some DNFs (Did Not Finish) along the way, because unless you're always playing it safe, DNFs are part of the territory. Last year I wrote an article called Five Thoughts On Failure that I got a lot of kind emails about. This was my opportunity to (again) put that advice into practice.

As the sun went down I was so inspired by my fellow runners. I was impressed with so much positivity, encouragement, and determination. For example, I spent a bit of time with my friend Mark Mccaslin. He said he was having a rough day and not feeling good at all. A few minutes later he barfed up what looked to be a 13 course meal. And yet he finished 100 miles! I am constantly amazed that amidst difficult conditions and personal challenges people persevere.

So I went on to finish 50 miles. But this story has a remarkable ending. Mel and Jackson didn't just finish a marathon at the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival. They both kept going after 26.2 miles and each of them finished a 50k (31 miles) - their FIRST ULTRAMARATHONS! I really can't describe how proud of them I am. To be able to watch them along their journey was such an amazing experience. Here they are about to finish the race. They did their last lap together.

Despite my race going about as crappy as possible, that was far outweighed by the awesome ending to this adventure.

"Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you're young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don't let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself." ~ John Bingham

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Interview On Ultra Runner Podcast!

I have listened to Ultra Runner Podcast for years. I've learned so much from their interviews. It was such a huge honor to be asked to do an interview for their latest podcast.

In the interview we talked about running a 100 miler per month for a year, crazy hallucinations while running 205 miles, my dad taking his life when I was 14, and a low point in my life: crying while listening to Kelly Clarkson.

To listen to the interview click HERE or search for on iTunes. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

New Sponsor and Lucky Lottery Results!

Lots of awesome things happening around here lately. And no, I'm not talking about the latest cure for wrinkles. (Spoiler alert: don't smile for 40 years. Yes, this is a real story.)

I was asked to be on this year's race team for the St. George Running Center! I can't tell you how happy I am about this. I bought my first pair of running shoes at St. George Running Center six years ago. They are still sitting in my closet. I can't bear to throw them away because of the amazing journey they started. I look forward to working more closely with this awesome group of people.

This past week I also got lucky. And no, I'm not talking about Ben & Jerry's being on sale at the grocery store. I'm talking about the lottery for the.....wait for it, wait for it......WASATCH 100!

I was listening to the lottery Saturday morning and heard my name chosen. I immediately felt like someone had landed a nasty kung fu punch right in my stomach. This race scares the ice cream out of me. I've done some pretty tough 100 milers but Wasatch is the granddaddy. I have seven months to prepare for the Wasatch pain cave.

I spent some miles on the JEM Trail this week with Mel and Aunt Jackie. I guarantee that the JEM Trail will be in heaven.

Aunt Jackie is funny to watch on trails. He rarely got more than a foot away from Mel.

Aunt Jackie is still working on forgiveness for his latest grooming job that made him look like he is standing on four toilet brushes.

The Jackpot Ultra Running Festival in Vegas is coming up in two days. I got my 100 mile PR here last year. Mel and Jackson are signed up for the 12 hour race. I'm signed up for the 100 miler but at this point I'm on the fence about whether or not to drop down. I really want my body to be in good shape for Monument Valley 100 next month and Zion 100 the month after that. So I'll play it by ear and drop down my distance at Jackpot if need be.

My daughters have a habit of painting my toe nails before a 100 miler. Kylee figured she better do some painting just in case I decide to go for 100.

Monday, February 9, 2015

My Friend Josh Ran ACROSS Utah!

I've known Josh Bryant for many years. We shared some miles on the trails together during races and collaborated on crazy running adventures for a long time. Josh took his level of crazy to a whole new level by running across the entire state of Utah......425 MILES......for his 30th birthday!

Late night on January 22nd as he started his run at the Utah/Arizona border I went out to meet him and take him 1) a hug, 2) some high fives, 3) some encouragement, and 4) some high fructose corn syrup snacks.

Josh finished his cross-state run in a little over ten days. I was impressed with his accomplishment and was interested in hearing more about the experience. Here are some questions I threw Josh's way and his responses. (The following pictures are courtesy of Josh.)

Describe your run: distance, total time, etc.
I covered just over 425 miles in 258 hours (10.75 days).  

What inspired you to do something as crazy as running across the state of Utah?
I like to challenge myself and push myself to the breaking point.  The idea came to me last year on my birthday when I was running my birthday 100 around the Ogden area.  I first thought I would run 300 for my 30th.  I started planning it out and found my brothers house was 315 miles from my house, but then thought if I was to cover that much of the state I just as well cover the whole thing.

Describe your setup. You planned to do the entire run solo pushing a baby stroller of supplies. What gear did you bring with you? What things did you wish you had packed but didn’t?
I tried to have 4 basic bags: Food, Clothes, Emergency Supplies (first aid, extra tires, patch repair kit and rain gear) and Gear (headlamps, batteries, charging cables, hand warmers).  Plus some sleeping gear a small chair water and drink mixes. 

One of the big misses while packing was a good light weight sleeping bag.  I tried to rough it with a wool blanket and a tarp.  It worked but I wasn’t comfortable and the rest I got was not as good as it could have been.  I also didn’t plan enough variation into my meals after the 3rd day I was wishing for something other than bologna, peanut butter or pizza.  I was going to bring my back packing stove and should have done that also.  Hot chocolate and a warm meal would have helped in a few lonely places. 

In an ultramarathon you experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I assume that was exaggerated even more for a run like this. Explain what it was like going through the low points.
I only had 3 points where I felt completely miserable. 
On the second day coming into Cedar I was about 10 miles out.  I was cold and had been cold all night and day from accidentally spilling water down my shirt and having a north head wind just chilled me to the bone early on the first night.  I felt like I wasn’t moving and was behind schedule.  I called and talked to my wife and told her I wasn’t sure if I wanted to ever continue. (Oops, a sheriff stopped Josh to make sure there wasn't a baby in that stroller he was pushing down the highway!)

After leaving Delta I had a great day on the road.  I knock out about 25 before it got dark.  When it got dark though, it got cold. I kept moving trying to stay warm.  It wasn’t really working.  I wanted to keep pushing until I got cell reception again so I could let my wife know I was going to bunker down for the night but after a few hours I gave in and knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do that.  This was the part of the course that I was the most isolated and alone.  I pulled off the road ate a small meal then laid down for the night.  I was able to get about 4-5 hours a “good” sleep.  I woke up to a lite rain and got everything covered up in time for it to stop.  I still had 45+ miles until my next stop and no communication for about 20 hours with my family.  It was during this long stretch that I had one of many great examples of humanity though.  Todd is an owner of the gym I contacted in Delta to find a place to rest.  Todd and his wife were headed north and were kind enough to bring me some hot chocolate and words of encouragement. 

The third low point also came after a good day.  After passing through Provo/Orem I really wanted to make it to Salt Lake City in one shot.  I had tremendous support throughout this area, but my right leg and ankle had finally reached a point I was only moving about 1 mile per hour.  This was a huge mental blow to me.  I called my uncle and he was willing to come and transport me to his house to get some rest and my foot looked at.  This was the first time I was riding in a car in about a week.  In the morning he dropped me off at the spot I was picked up at and I had what I consider my best of the journey the next day.

How did you get out of those low spots?
With help from friends and family I was able to pull myself out.  I knew going in it was going to be tough and I would be relying on them for these situations.  I have always loved and lived by what JFK said in his Moon Speech at Rice Universtiy:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. “
I thought about that many many times out there.  
(P.S. everyone should read this at least once….

What were some of your high points?
Seeing my Family on State Street in SLC after a week and a half was a great thing, I could really run again and I took off to them. 

Somehow about ½ a mile from the Idaho border there was about 6 of us running it in, and in the sky to the right appears this giant bald eagle, just soaring across some pine trees.  I was in awe.  I think that was Gods way of telling me good job.  I will never forget that image in my head. 

Is there anything that surprised you during the run?
The weather.  I had a tiny bit of rain.  For the middle of winter in Utah, how did I manage to get this great of weather? 

I was surprised to see how big this became also.  I figured it would grab some peoples attention, but I had a few people asking for selfies in Salt Lake with me, bringing babies out to run with me.  It was fun and I am glad people got excited about it.

If you could travel back in time what would you have done differently in preparing for this adventure?
I would have changed my schedule I gave to my support houses.  I hate giving a time frame and not following it.  I would have planned 12 hour breaks instead of 8. I also would have liked to have my map, the couch wasn’t going anywhere.

What are your plans for the future?
World domination…

I don’t know what or when my next running adventure will be, but being home with my 3 kids and wife is my favorite adventure.  (Photo courtesy of Lori Burlison)

Huge props to Josh! Thing thing I love very most about this experience is that Josh had the courage to try something daring, something daunting, something scary, something epic. My admiration of that fact would have been the same whether he finished the journey or not. May we all have the courage to try something daring, daunting, scary, and epic!

Monday, February 2, 2015

100 Miler Per Month For a Year - Mission Accomplished!

I would like to thank the decade of the 1980's for helping me write this summary of the most amazing 12 months I could have ever imagined.

In February I began a goal to run a 100 miler each month for an entire year. I had built a good base and was ready to run like it was 1999. (Thanks Prince.) If you want to see more, click the heading of each race for the whole race report and pictures.

February - Antelope Canyon 50 Miler
I started the challenge with a 50 mile warm-up at Antelope Canyon. Running through stunning slot canyons made me so excited that I just couldn't hide it. (Thanks Pointer Sisters.)

With obscene amounts of sand on the course it was impossible to avoid walking like an Egyptian (thanks Bangles) but then we experienced lovely slick rock with views like this:

February - Jackpot 100
The year's first 100 miler was the Jackpot 100 in Las Vegas. This was my first time running a short loop course (2 miles). Some would argue that you'd have to be a super freak (thanks Rick James) for doing a short loop but it was straight up (thanks Paula Abdul) fun.

March - Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100
Like a virgin (thanks Madonna) this was my first time running an entire 100 mile race with someone. I ran with my two friends Catherine and Clair. I can't describe how much fun I had with these two. It was better than walking on sunshine. (Thanks Katrina And The Waves.)

I went into the race thinking "Wow, I wanna dance with somebody." (Thanks Whitney Houston.) I was proud to introduce the world to the Ultramarathon Dance Party!

April - Zion 100
I'd run this race every year since it's birth and I was determined to beat it (thanks Michael Jackson) again. It's so awesome to pump up the jam (thanks Technotronic) on your home course where you do all your training.

I attempted to soar to heaven like a prayer. (Thanks Madonna.)

May - Grand Canyon 100
I ran the first half of the race with my friends Jared, Clair, and Catherine: proof that girls gangsters just want to have fun. I basically love these guys.

I ran all night long (thanks Lionel Richie) by myself and was thankful to make my way to the finish line of a tough race.

June - Hostess 100
This was my first time ever running a solo 100 miler. I started at the state capitol building in Salt Lake City, ran to Provo, Utah, and then back. No crew, no aid stations, just stopping at gas stations for fluids and food when I got hungry like a wolf. (Thanks Duran Duran.)

It touched my heart to see such an outpouring of support during this run. Every time I felt like biting the dust (thanks Queen) random people would show up to run with me. Runner Sam Jewkes had this middle school band waiting for me on State Street when I passed!

July - 100 Miles At A High School Track
I ran at the Hurricane High School track where summer temperatures average 8,591 degrees. (It did get up to 107 degrees.) I was livin' on a prayer (thanks Bon Jovi) and Slurpees.

August - Navajo Lake 100
This was another solo 100 miler I ran on some trails around Navajo Lake in southern Utah. This was a tough one for me. I couldn't avoid thinking "Every breath you take, every move you make (thanks The Police) is completely miserable. You should get in your car, drive home, and lay in your bed eating ice cream and watch Shark Tank." I'm thankful now that I didn't give up.

September - Bear 100
This race. The difficulty was unlike anything I had ever experienced. And so was the scenery.

It poured rain relentlessly for the last 16 hours of the race. I've never seen rain that hard for that long. It was like God was weeping for all the bad music Hall & Oats ever made. The trails turned into rivers deep enough to cover the eyes of a tiger. (Thank you Survivor.) A summary of this race would be incomplete if I didn't blame it on the rain. (Thank you Milli Vanilli.)

October - Hurricane Hundred
I was shocked that less than a week after the Bear 100 I was feeling good enough to get in my October 100 miler. This was another solo run on some home town trails around southern Utah. My conversation with the trails: "I think we're alone now." (Thanks Tiffany.)

November - Javelina Jundred
I met the original pioneer of 100 miler ultramarathons - Gordon Ainsleigh. Gordy is the wind beneath my wings. (Thanks Bette Midler.)

I followed up the dance party hit with this little gem. I guarantee you that watching this you won't be worried, and you will be happy. (Thanks Bobby McFerrin.)

December - Across The Years
This race is held on a 1 mile loop and you run as many miles as you can in your time allotment. I signed up for the 72 hour race and finished the first 100 miles while still in December. Within that time my legs felt like they were being smashed by a sledgehammer. (Thanks Peter Gabriel.)

January - Across The Years.....Part Deux
I finished the second 100 miles of the race on January 1st. Being involved in a 72 hour running adventure was easily the craziest, most difficult, and most rewarding running experience of my life. I was so blessed to have my son Jackson there to help crew and support my run for the whole three days. In that time he helped with my gear, food, and even joined me for a total of 20 miles. I'm so thankful for this sweet child o' mine. (Thanks Guns & Roses.)

Early on the last morning of January 1st I finished my second 100 miler of the race and finished with a total of 205 miles at Across The Years. At the awards ceremony I was presented with this gift that I would have never imagined at the beginning of my 12 month journey:

Over the course of those twelve 100 mile runs I learned twelve valuable lessons:

1) Our bodies are remarkable pieces of machinery. As long as we take care of them they can take us far.

2) Race pacing is absolutely critical. Be patient. Start races uncomfortably slow. Don't panic when the rest of the field prances down the trail and leaves you in the dust. Run smart and I promise you'll see them again. When you pass them.

3) Treat your feet well. I lather my feet with Body Glide to prevent blisters and use thick compression socks to keep dirt away from my skin. Altra shoes kept my feet happy for every single mile I ran last year.

4) Stay focused on nutrition and hydration from the start. It's so easy to get behind on these things and once you get behind it's hard to catch up again. Can't recommend Tailwind highly enough in the Keep Your Stomach Happy department.

5) A good Bruce Springsteen song fixes just about everything.

6) If you run 205 miles you might need to ride an electric wheelchair later that night when you go to Target.

7) Attitude makes a HUGE difference! I've found that even if I'm not feeling too awesome deep into a race, I try to smile and stay positive no matter what. Nobody wants to hear your whining and complaining if you're in the middle of an activity that you CHOSE to do. It's supposed to be hard. If you wanted an easy, relaxing day you'd go to the spa. Be happy! This is fun!

8) Be thankful you can run. Don't take it for granted. Working with people who have serious health issues, I know so many people who would give anything to go out and run a mile, let alone 26.2 or 50 or 100. We are so fortunate.

9) It's always darkest before the dawn. Just like in life, it can get a little ugly out on the trail. It's not always smooth sailing. But don't give up. Whatever you do, don't give up. Be patient enough to let things turn around. I had so many experiences where I was really struggling and didn't think it would get better.....and yet it did. But you have to stick with it long enough for things to turn around.

10) Make family a priority. No belt buckle or finish line or toned body is worth sacrificing the relationships that matter most to you. Words are inadequate to express my gratitude to my amazingly supportive wife Mel and my kids Jackson, Danica, and Kylee. They were my rock of encouragement.

11) You need to make sure you're getting enough calories in your day-to-day life to fuel your adventures. May I suggest a regular helping of Ben & Jerry's?

12) You (yes, YOU!) are capable of so much more than you know. Think about what you would want to accomplish if you had no limits. Now go DO IT! You can. It's okay to be scared. But challenge yourself to live big. Take a step beyond that line of what is comfortable. Do something your grand kids will brag about. Turn off the TV. Get off the couch. Go out and do something awesome. Because you (yes, YOU!) are awesome!