Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Salt Lake Temple Run or That Time I Jumped At 4 Temples

I belong to a great group of trail runners on Facebook called the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers. Even though I live a few hours south of the Wasatch mountains, this group has adopted me and welcomed me into their fold. Last year when I did a solo 100 mile run across Salt Lake City, many of them who I had never even met before showed up to support and encourage me.

A few years ago I read a report from Craig Lloyd, one of the Wranglers. He talked about a 35 mile run he had done to hit all four Mormon temples in the Salt Lake valley. (You can see his post HERE.) It seemed interesting and challenging and fun.

Fast forward to this past weekend. Once a year my parents like to kidnap the kids for the weekend and do fun activities and downright spoil them rotten. I had a free day to myself while the kids got spoiled and decided on a whim to try the Craig Lloyd temple run.

I started early Saturday morning before the sun came up at the Draper Temple. (Want to know more about the purpose of Latter Day Saint temples? Visit HERE.)

The Draper Temple is amazing. I figured I ought to post a picture of it in the daylight also. Here is a shot I took the day before.

At the beginning of my run I decided I would take a jumping picture at each temple. Temples are sacred, holy places of worship and I didn't want the silliness of a jumping picture taking away from the atmosphere so all the jumping pictures are away from the temple grounds or in parking lots. TEMPLE JUMP #1:

The weather forecast was seriously intimidating. It was supposed to dump rain for most of the day. I got a few sprinkles early in the morning but as the sun started to rise many of the rain clouds cleared out.

There is a nice descent coming down from Draper into the valley. I caught this view of the Draper Temple behind me:

Since I did the run on a whim I hadn't made my normal preparations. I usually use Tailwind for my nutrition but ended up just stopping at gas stations to refill my UltrAspire pack. I got a gut full of calories when I stopped at McDonald's for a quick breakfast. I plan to talk to Tailwind Nutrition about adding a Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Biscuit flavor of drink mix. Mmmmm.

It is about 11.5 miles to the next temple across the valley, the Oquirrh Mountain Temple. It was cool to see my destination off on the horizon as I got closer.

It is a privilege to wear this blue shirt. It is from the St. George Running Center race team. These guys have been such a huge support since I first started running six years ago. I wouldn't be where I am today without them. TEMPLE JUMP #2:

By now I was across the valley from the Wasatch mountains. It was cool to watch the clouds swirling around the mountain peaks.

It's only a little more than four miles to the next spot, the Jordan River Temple.


The next stretch is the longest, almost 16 miles to the Salt Lake Temple. Spoiler Alert: my legs aren't used to this much pavement! The trails are much more forgiving. I distracted myself from temper tantrums in my legs by looking at pretty things like flowers.

Speaking of pretty things, I made another pit stop along the way at 7-Eleven and got a pina colada Slurpee. I haven't had one of those for a while and had forgotten how AMAZING that Slurpee flavor is. It is like frozen angel tears that you sip with a straw that can also serve as a spoon. PURE. HEAVEN.

In the afternoon I made it to the Salt Lake Temple. That building is so amazing that it is almost surreal.

Incidentally, I married my wife in this building almost 17 years ago. (Typing the number "17" just made me feel really old.)

It was a challenging run. I had been moving for many hours. (Spoiler alert: I'm WAAAAY slower than Craig Lloyd.) But I was so thankful for the awesome things I had seen and the beautiful places I had been. I liked how the run seemed to take on an almost spiritual feeling. It felt great to complete TEMPLE JUMP #4:

I took the TRAX train back to Draper then had three more miles to run to get back to the Draper Temple where my car was parked. My watch died along the way so I'm not sure on the exact mileage but it was somewhere between 35-38 miles total.

I am so thankful that I have the ability to run. This was an adventure I won't soon forget.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chicken Wings Of DEATH!

I hope you won't mind. Pardon me while I take a slight detour from running adventures.

So here's the deal. I work in a dialysis center across the street from the hospital. The close proximity to the hospital has a few benefits:

1) If I slip on the floor and break a hip while I'm trying to unclog the toilet in the patient restroom (which nearly happened last week), the emergency room is never far away.

2) The hospital has a cafeteria that I sometimes visit on days when I don't bring my own lunch to work. The food is reasonably priced and usually tastes good. Usually.

There was that minor mishap a few years ago when I got chili verde from the hospital for lunch. Within ten minutes it literally felt like I had ingested a Gremlin. An angry, venomous Gremlin with sharp finger nails and a raging desire to claw its way out of my stomach. I'm downright astounded that I ever went back to the hospital after what I shall call "The Gremlin Incident". (Now that sounds like a movie that needs to be made! I could see The Gremlin Incident topping the box office.)

Last week I went to the hospital cafeteria and the menu item of the day was chicken wings with a variety of sauce choices. I audibly heard angels rejoice when I realized that it was chicken wing day. Because about a month ago they served chicken wings and their house sticky sauce was like a dance party in my mouth. That sauce was like sweet, heavenly nectar. I wanted an IV of the house sticky sauce.

So of course I chose to get the house sticky sauce again. Because who wouldn't want a dance party in their mouth? So I got back to work to enjoy my chicken wings. But this time was different. I sat down at the break room table. I literally got a bite of chicken a few inches from my mouth and then coughed because it felt like a wildfire was burning in my mouth. Even the smell of the chicken was like breathing in an inferno.

Then I took a bite. Once the blow torch chicken hit my tongue I immediately broke into a sweat. The sauce was delicious. Heavenly. But scorching hot.

Five minutes later my nose was running. And with my excessive sweating it looked like I had either 1) run 20 miles on a summer afternoon, or 2) eaten chicken wings from the hospital.

But the worst part.....the break room was crowded with coworkers! I tried to be unnoticeable wiping the sweat from my head. But you can only casually wipe your head so many times before people start to wonder if you are on the brink of spontaneous combustion. The whole experience was scrumptious and embarrassing.

Here's the kicker - I went back to the hospital two days later and they were serving the same chicken wings again. I had this internal conversation with myself. "Yes! Chicken wings again! But they are like chewing on dynamite. And you take the chance of sweating nine gallons of fluid IN FRONT OF YOUR COWORKERS again. But they are so delicious. But do you really want to be embarrassed again? And maybe that guy should have a hair net around his beard." 

After standing in the cafeteria listening to this conversation taking place in my brain I walked up to the counter. "One order of chicken wings with the house sticky sauce please." I fully expected that I would have to sign a waiver acknowledging that I understood the risk I was taking.

My lunch break played out EXACTLY like it had two days prior. Breathing fire. Runny nose. Profuse, humiliating sweating. All I could think to do when coworkers looked at me with beads of sweat on my face was to smile and think to myself "It was worth it."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Life Lessons I Learned From Alisa

Heaven became a better place today. My friend Alisa Linton is now among the angels in heaven. After an eight-year battle with cancer she is now at peace.

I learned some things over the years from Alisa and my life has been touched by her amazing spirit.

Kindness Is Essential
I became friends with Alisa and her (soon to be) husband Josh in high school. Alisa was one of the "popular kids" in school. But it wasn't because she was a star athlete or the smartest student in the grade. It was because of her kindness toward everyone. Everyone! Being popular, Alisa never saw herself as better than anyone else. She was as gracious and kind to the loners as she was to the star quarterback. I admired how she was a friend to the friendless.

Family Is Essential
Alisa was happiest when she was with her family. She cherished her husband and three sons and found true joy in being a wife and mother. She didn't take time with them for granted and took advantage of her time with them. I love THIS blog post she wrote about her family.

Hope Is Essential
I was inspired and at times downright surprised at Alisa's hope and faith. She had setback after setback after setback. I can't help but imagine how discouraged I would have felt in her shoes. Maybe she did indeed feel some of that discouragement. But after each setback she always seemed to resolve to be strong and put her hope in the belief that the next treatment would work better, or tomorrow would be better. Even when her life was clouded by storms, she had the hope that the rain would be followed by a rainbow.

Gratitude Is Essential
Go read Alisa's blog HERE. You'll see how even amidst the most trying of times she was still able to feel gratitude for all her blessings. Her example is a reminder to me of everything I have to be thankful for.

Around a month ago I heard this voice in my heart telling me I needed to go visit Alisa. Through reading her blog and a few emails I knew her time on Earth was short. Things worked out and I was so fortunate to spend some time with Alisa and her family. She was so thoughtful and even had a little gift bag for me when I arrived. (Seriously? Who, when they are struggling with pain and nausea and illness...thinks about getting a gift bag for a visitor? I had to smile that the things she gave me were almost exactly the same things I brought for her and her family.)

Alisa talked about the kindness that people have shown her and her family. She talked about how even though there is a lot of bad in the world, there is so, so much good. She said she's seen it. She has felt it. She has felt it. I will always remember that visit. I am so thankful I listened to that voice in my heart.

(Side note: Alisa is the reason we now have a poodle as a member of our family.)

I can't help but think of Alisa arriving in heaven this morning. I can see her standing face to face with Jesus. I can see him smiling and hugging her and telling her how brave and strong and courageous she was despite all her challenges. I can see him saying how proud he is of her.

We will miss you Alisa. Thank you for the kindness you showed and the example that you were. I will try to be more like you. Heaven is lucky to have you.

Monday, May 18, 2015

How Many Flowers Can I Cram Into One Blog Post?

14 miles in Warner Valley. So, so hot. The sun screen dripped into my eyes. That hurts. But I would take that feeling of molten lava in my eyeballs any day if that was the price that had to be paid to enjoy views like this.

The bright yellow wildflowers are absolutely bursting in this area right now. It kind of feels like I have this duty, this responsibility to stop and take pictures when I come across views like this. It feels like these views are begging to be shared with others.

I followed this bird around with my camera lens for a few minutes and took a few blurry pictures before finally catching this one:

There is a big rock in the absolute middle of nowhere where I built a small rock tower years ago. The wind or rain often knock the tower over so I restack them each time I pass.

The path was lined with flowers like I've never seen before. I loved the kaleidoscope of colors within the length of one picture frame.

I shared the dirt with lots and lots of cows over the course of those miles. It was almost like these multi-colored cows lined up in a row (with one cow in the background photo bombing the picture).

Those 14 hot, eye-burning miles were pure perfection.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The 250 Mile Run and Marie Osmond

I've been coaching Justin Osmond for a few months as he has prepared for an eight-day, 250 mile run across much of the state of Utah. We addressed things like mileage, nutrition, the considerations of multi-day runs, and recovery. 

Justin started the run on May 2nd and I had the pleasure of running the last chunk of miles with him on Saturday. Justin's experience in ultramarathons is limited making his accomplishment even more extraordinary. 

I met up with Justin on the morning of his last day. He looked good. He looked strong. He looked happy.

Justin has quite the musical history in his blood. His dad is Merrill Osmond, lead singer of the music group The Osmonds. It was nice to meet his parents and talk a bit before the run started.

I was impressed with how strong he ran as he neared the finish line. As we talked he related feeling the exact same way I feel toward the end of ultras. Once you start catching scent of the finish line all you want to do is get there as fast as you can.

I also had the pleasure of running with Debbie who is the only person on this earth who has run each of the 38 St. George Marathons. It was fascinating to talk to her about her running history. The question I was most interested to ask was "Tell me about the years when you weren't sure you would be able to continue your streak." I love hearing about the challenges people overcome and Debbie was no exception. One year she ran after being diagnosed with cancer and going through chemotherapy. Her determination is an inspiration.

Justin was running to raise awareness and money to support 25 children who needed the gift of better hearing by getting new hearing aids or devices. He worked with the school board to reach needy children and it was great to see some members of the board join in on the last day of his run. St. George Mayor John Pike even got in some miles with us. 

The run finished with a big crowd awaiting his arrival. It was an awesome moment to see Justin finish such a lofty goal he set for himself many months ago. He is proof that we can do hard things when we put our minds to it.

At the finish line I was able to spend some time talking with Justin's aunt, the one and only Marie Osmond!

I posted the picture on Instagram with a joking comment that me and Marie were now BFFs. But check this out.....Marie later confirmed on her Instagram account that we ARE indeed BFFs! Eat your heart out baby boomers! Now that is funny.

Huge congrats to Justin! May each of us find something scary, daring, and intimidating.....and then take the risk, take the chance to do something awesome. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Injury I Worried Would End My Running

In January I ran 205 miles at the Across The Years 72 hour race. (You can see that report HERE.) I didn't have any significant issues during the run, but in the days after the race my knee didn't feel good.

I didn't worry much about it. It didn't seem serious and I figured that I'd just be patient and give it time to heal. Over the years of running ultras I've learned to listen to my body. If it needs rest then I rest. I gave it lots of time and it still just wasn't right. 

I haven't said much about it over the last five months because I don't want to sound like I'm whining but it has been rough. I had sports massages. I hate doctors but even got desperate enough to see a sports medicine doctor. No improvement. And then I saw a physical therapist. And then I even saw an orthopedic doctor. They took x-rays, twisted, and turned my knees around and couldn't find anything major. They said everything was okay. But it didn't feel okay. 

So I waited. And waited. And waited. I've never had an injury drag on this long. I truly forgot what it felt like to run which was a little (okay, a lot) scary. I feared that maybe I wouldn't get back to real running ever again. To say that it was discouraging and frustrating would be an understatement.

And then suddenly out of nowhere over the last few weeks my knee has been feeling much better. Dare I say.....normal! Those of you who have had setbacks or injuries know the amazing feeling of getting back to running and actually feeling good.

I felt safe in saying I'm back after a 14 mile run last week to the Toquerville cell towers and Toquerville Falls.

Getting to the top of this beast is less like a run and more like a strong hike.

When you zoom the camera you can see the freeway far below.

After reaching the towers, most of the route is steep heading down. I'm always cautious on my footing because I would prefer to trip and do a Superman leap through the air before giving a big French kiss to Mother Earth (which HAS happened before).

The route leading up to the cell towers isn't very scenic but once you get down a few miles and head to Toquerville Falls the scenery gets better and better.

What I love is that as you get closer to the falls, you come around a curve and you can start to hear the flowing water in the distance. And then with a zoomed in camera you see this:

I am always amazed that in the middle of the barren desert there is something so beautiful like this. Thanks so some recent rain storms, on the trails lately I've seen some cool pink and red flowers on the cactus plants but this was the first time in a long time that I've seen yellow flowers.

I finally got to the falls and they were as awesome as ever.

The recent rain had the waterfall really full. I haven't seen this much water flowing for a long time.

If I find a cool treasure on the trail I'll hide it on the trail and revisit it next time I'm there. I found a Van Halen tape that's hidden on the Gould's Rim Trail. It gives me a smile every time I run there. I have a cool rock hidden in Warner Valley. As I was getting ready to leave I saw a flash in the dirt. I went over to check it out and found this awesome $2 coin from Canada! Definitely a rare find. I kept with tradition and found a secret spot to hide my treasure until next time. I'll be visiting the falls....and this coin often this summer.

It feels so good to be back to regular running. So, so amazingly good. I am again reminded of yet another parallel running is to real life: I never want hardships or bumps in the road....but those challenges make me more appreciative and thankful for those times when things go good.