Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Suggestion When Your Run Is Really Crappy

You know how you have those runs when things just don't click? It's like you're running in a universe where Twinkies don't taste good......and Barry Manilow makes enjoyable music......and the Utah Jazz actually win (instead of ripping your heart out and then doing the River Dance on top of it)?

It's basically that run where your body and your intentions just aren't on the same page. You know what I mean? Do you have those sometimes?

Of course you do. Because every runner does. Because running isn't always like riding atop a unicorn as you travel across the sky with a heaping bowl of Lucky Charms waiting for you at the end of a rainbow.

Sometimes. Runs. Are. Just. Crappy.

I had one of those on Saturday. I had good intentions. I hoped to get some miles in. I wanted my pesky right knee to cooperate. But things just didn't click. I did, however, see some beautiful stuff. I present to you Exhibit A:
I went to one of my familiar stomping grounds. It's the back side of a route to the top of Molly's Nipple. And what sucks is that because my run was crappy I ended up surrendering early and turning around. I didn't even get any pictures of Molly's Nipple to show you that Molly's Nipple actually looks like a nipple. So in your mind you'll just have to imagine nipples and instead look at this pretty mesa which in no way resembles a nipple.

There were some storm clouds rolling all over the place. The ground was a bit soggy but I managed to avoid the complete downpour and only caught some sprinkles.

I tried to fight through the crap. (Okay, that didn't come out right.) About 99% of the time I think it's best to keep pushing because it's good to teach your body to persevere and do hard things. But this was the 1% time when I knew staying out there wasn't going to help matters.

Every once in a while, you know what? I give you permission to have a crappy day. And I give you permission on that crappy day to take out your camera, snap some pictures, soak in all the awesomeness around you, and just be thankful God gave you two legs you can use to carry yourself around this awesome planet.

My immediate instinct is to get frustrated or discouraged when things go crappy. Sometimes it's really difficult to find the ray of hope, the positive light when things aren't going right. But usually if I look hard enough I can find it.

So may 99% of your runs be amazing jaunts across the sky with unicorns and a post run meal of Lucky Charms. And for those 1% of your runs that are royally crappy, just smile. Things will get better. They always do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I SWEAR I'm Not Using Steroids

I haven't been posting on the blog quite as much the last month or so. This is because I am under investigation for steroid use. Apparently a few things tipped off the authorities: 1) Super fast race times such as a 32 hour finish at the Zion 100, and 2) My incredibly ripped, toned body.

On the surface you might look at me and think: "What in the WORLD is he talking about? I've never seen someone so scrawny and gangly." But looks can be deceiving. Just look what happens when I have my shirt on versus when my shirt is off:

With such enormous tickets to the gun show it's probably best that I keep my shirt on. I feel like I would embarrass other guys and I don't want them to feel like less of a man. But I swear I'm not on the juice.

Aside from defending my innocence from using 'roids, there have been a few other things that have kept my life ridiculously busy:

I'm a social worker for the University of Utah Dialysis Program. I've been busy with various projects and traveling out of town to do a presentation.

Mel recently started schooling to become a nurse practitioner. So she works all day and then comes home to do school work at night. I'm usually in charge of meal preparation and feel sorry for my family because my cooking skillz are so lacking that I could even screw up making a bowl of cereal. Despite being super busy herself Mel still managed to crew and pace at the Zion 100 which was awesome.

I finished my mandatory volunteer trail work for the Wasatch 100. I removed 187 pounds of garbage from Confluence Park and in the process found this SWEET gem: one of the finest albums ever.

We've had Little Debbie for about a month now. In case you missed it, Little Debbie is a Great Dane and is arguably the cutest puppy ever.

We are busy with potty training, and dealing with the usual puppy phase of raising a dog.

There is another couple in our neighborhood that has a few Great Danes. This is what we're in for:

In the midst of all our busyness I slipped in a 100 miler at Zion.

Over the weekend we went to Las Vegas to go see Chris Tomlin in concert. He is one of my favorite musicians and put on a great show.

If you missed the post on my Facebook page, our hotel room was, um, sketchy. Mel said the hotel looked fine on the internet. But it couldn't have been farther from "fine". It was the kind of place that had way to many hairs from the previous occupants in the shower. The kind of place where you risk catching an STD just by pulling in the parking lot. The kind of place where your "non-smoking" room makes you feel like you're sucking through a chimney. One daughter said the pull out bed was too gross to sleep on. One daughter said the floor was too gross to sleep on. We agreed with both of them and let them each sleep where they felt was less gross. We assured them that this was an experience that 1) we would look back on and laugh, and 2) cause emphysema.

If you're dying to know how I have built such a muscular, toned physique I'll let you in on my secret. It doesn't involve steroids. It's a diet craze I'm trying to start called Body By Dr. Pepper.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Zion 100 Race Report - 2015

At least the zombies were friendly.

I saw zombies stumbling all over the place. I WAS one of those zombies! It was in the middle of the Utah desert. The heat was somewhere around 8,172 degrees. I've never seen the show The Walking Dead but I'm convinced that they could film the show at mile 90 of 100 milers and avoid paying lots of money for a cast.

But all the zombies I saw were friendly. They just wanted to get to the finish line, have someone hand them a belt buckle, take off their shoes, and try to avoid dry heaving. This is the awesomeness of an ultramarathon.

31 hours before The Walking Dead, hundreds of runners stood at the starting line of the Zion 100. I have run the Zion 100 each of the three years since the race started and I was psyched to be starting my fourth Zion 100. The race begins with an immediate slap in the face named the Flying Monkey Trail (also known as the Zion 100 conga line).

Then you get to a part where there is a strategically placed rope to hoist up your not-dead-yet body.

I took a casket load of pictures (um, around 300 during the race) so it's hard to narrow down which ones to include in the race report. Here is one of those pictures showing off the view at the top.

Here's an interesting tidbit: after running a bunch of miles around the top of the mesa we went back DOWN the Flying Monkey Trail. That was a new twist this year. And then once we got down there was more climbing, lots and lots of climbing, and then we reached the Guacamole Trail. It's rolling, twisting, turning slick rock that makes your calves feel like their being rubbed by cheese graters. But the views.....just wow.

After lots of cheese grater miles we went back down the same way we came and then headed toward the most brutal climb I have ever witnessed in any race I've ever run. It's a trail torture chamber to the top of Gooseberry Mesa. It climbs 1,500 feet in one mile. The trail is vertical. It's loose dirt and rock so it feels like turning a skating rink at a 45 degree angle and then trying to climb up it. (Here's another interesting tidbit: you get to go DOWN this trail at mile 69....in the dark.....when your legs feel like chocolate pudding.)

When Meatloaf sang "I would do anything for love, but I won't do that", he was singing about climbing up the Gooseberry Trail. Even the most manly man in the world, Chuck Norris, would have an emotional breakdown if he saw this trail. Aside from the suffering, it is hilarious watching everyone go up this thing. They take three steps then hunch over to catch their breath. The trail is strewn with runners who look like this:

The view at the top is stunning. It's incredible to think about how a mile ago you were standing on the valley floor.

On my way to Gooseberry Mesa I had my scariest experience ever while running. I was running with my friend Terri and we were suddenly enveloped in a cloud of bees. I have never seen anything like it. They were all around us. Here's the thing - I'm deathly allergic to bees. Soon the bees left and neither of us were stung once. It was truly a miracle. I really feel like some guardian angels were watching over us. On top of Gooseberry we passed by these bees that weren't going anywhere, but the swarm earlier in the day was much, much bigger.

Many times throughout the race I thought about my friend Alisa. We went to high school together and have been friends since. She is battling cancer and is the bravest, most courageous person I know. When I was struggling or going through a dark time I thought of her and tried to have a portion of the strength and bravery she has.

I took one jumping picture during the race. It was at mile 41 at this location called The Point. It's my favorite part of the whole course. Guess what happened during this jump - my shorts ripped at the crotch and I had to change my shorts at the next aid station! It was an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. Worth it? Indeed.

I tried a new foot lube (yes, I broke the cardinal rule of never trying something new on race day). I think it worked good but it made one of my shoes squeak. It sounded like a cat meowing. I know it wasn't the shoes because I wore the exact same pair of Altra Olympus shoes at Monument Valley last month and didn't have any issues. You think running an ultra would drive you crazy? Try having a cat meow at you every other step for 100 miles!

For the last three years I have been trying to get the perfect picture of a runner on the edge of the Gooseberry Mesa cliff. This year I FINALLY got it! Fourth time is the charm! (This is my friend and fellow bee magnet Terri.)

One of my absolute favorite parts of this race was having Mel and Jackson crew almost the whole time. They met me at aid stations, helped get supplies, provided moral support, and at one stop even had chips and queso dip in the car. (I proceeded to eat WAY more chips and queso than a human being should be eating in the midst of a 100 miler.) Having this family support meant so much to me. I saw them one last time before they headed home for the night. We witnessed a positively stunning sunset. (Sock monkey hat courtesy of my daughter.)

After they left I headed out into the darkness of night. I was at one of those low points where I felt really tired and zapped of energy. I didn't think about dropping out but wondered how in the world I could keep going for another 50 miles. (The answer to that question is: one step at a time.)

In the middle of the night I struggled to stay awake. I really hate that feeling of sleep walking and then stumbling myself awake. I decided I'd lay down right in the middle of the trail and take a shoe nap, I mean cat nap. (Get it?) I figured laying in the middle of the trail would assure that I wouldn't sleep too long. I kept my head lamp on thinking that might prevent a mountain lion from eating me. I looked at my watch then tried to sleep. I made it two minutes before runners arrived and asked if I was okay. Cat nap over. Time to keep moving. After approximately eternity I saw my second sunrise of the race.

I started seeing mountain bikers on the trails and I wanted to body slam them into the slick rock and then steal their bike. Then I remembered that the muscle composition of my body is .04% so I just let them pass instead. Mel and Jackson came out to crew again on the second day and Mel ran with me for seven miles toward the end. She kept me moving well and ignored when an involuntary whimper would leave my mouth.

I was ecstatic to be nearing the finish line. This was the view at mile 97:

I still can't fathom that a human being, any human being can propel themselves forward nonstop for 100 miles. Bodies are really amazing things. I crossed the finish line with the biggest jump my legs could give. I think my face was saying "Hmmm, that ground is going to hurt when you touch down in a second."

I was so happy to be done after 32 hours and change that I kissed the ground beneath my feet.

Each buckle is handmade and unique using materials from the course. I looked at lots of buckles and this one whispered that it wanted to come home with me.

A race like this takes an incredible amount of support to be successful. I'm so thankful for St. George Running Center, UltrAspire, Tailwind Nutrition, Altra, the Ultra Adventures team, the AMAZING race volunteers, my awesome wife and family, and God. It was definitely a team effort.

Ultramarathons have a way of stripping you bare. All the outside layers are peeled away like an onion and you are left alone with your doubts and fears and a finish line that feels like an eternity away. But step after step, minute after minute, hour after hour that finish line gets closer. And when you find it all the doubts and fears vanish, replaced by triumph.

Monday, April 6, 2015

I've Been Keeping Some Secrets

I've been keeping some secrets from you. For example I would give anything to grow a moustache like Burt Reynolds. And flying in airplanes scares me to death. And my car traps odors so you can smell a Big Mac for a week.

There is another secret I've been keeping - the location of one of the most incredible views in the entire world. To be honest, the spot isn't the kind of secret that I'd have to kill you if I told you. Ultra Adventures race director Matt Gunn was the one who showed me. And I've taken others to this amazing spot on Sand Mountain. But it is kind of tricky to get here. There aren't good directions. Chances are you'll get lost if you don't know where you're going (and if you're like me you'll get lost even if you DO know where you're going).

Thursday night I took my friend Sam and brother-in-law Matt to this little slice of heaven.

The ten mile route is full of soul-sucking sand. Lots of climbing up that soul-sucking sand. It's kind of miserable. The views aren't anything to write home about. But at the peak you reach the end of the cliff and you'd swear you are standing on the edge of the world.

Sam is a local legend for always drinking a can of Mountain Dew once he reaches the top of a high mountain peak. I BEG of you to watch THIS view of Sam being caught by a KSL News helicopter high up in the Wasatch doing just this. I was pretty excited for my first opportunity to drink a Dew with Sam and Matt.

Matt caught this shot of my jump at the edge of the cliff.

We were incredibly lucky to hit the secret spot during the golden hour when the red cliffs were burning with light.

The moment the sun set the sky really began to glow.

I got lucky to catch this picture, one of my favorites of the night:

The last hour of our run was in the dark. But the moon was shining so bright that we didn't need to turn on our headlamps. It was.....dare I say.....magical.

And so I leave with you a few more secrets. If I let my hair grow out, it would look like I French kissed a light socket. I could survive on a diet of nothing but banana bread and pumpkin pie. I have a bad reputation for passing out when I get my blood drawn.

Finally one last fact that isn't such a secret: I am intensely, deeply, madly in love with the world that opens up to me when I hit the trails.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Oreos and Diet Dr. Pepper From The Top Of The World

Last week I made a jaunt to one of my all-time favorite views high atop Sand Mountain in southern Utah. Each time I go there the route is a little different. There is inevitably a bit of route finding. (And "route finding" are code words for "getting yourself lost".) But with some perseverance and about a dozen stops to dump sand out of your feet you reach a view that is more amazing than Oreos and a cold Diet Dr. Pepper on a hot afternoon.

It truly feels like you're on top of the world.

Inspired by my friend Sam Jewkes who always packs a Mountain Dew to enjoy at the top of a high mountain peak, I threw some Oreos and a cold Diet Dr. Pepper in my UltrAspire pack to enjoy at the top. Now that, my friends, is pure deliciousness.

"If you're not living on the edge then you're taking up a little too much space." ~ Morgan Freeman