Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This Doesn't Happen Too Often

I struggle with running at this time of year. I still do it, but it kind of sucks.

It sucks because I live in a place so ridiculously hot that even Satan would find it inhospitable. That place is southern Utah. I swear, the heat is literally trying to kill me. I managed to get in some shorter runs and a few scorching long runs last week.

The first was a 20 miler up a long, steep, and sometimes rocky dirt road in Browse. I knew my only shot at getting in a chunk of miles was to start very early.

Mercifully I crossed a river a few times in those 20 miles. I took advantage of that opportunity to take my shirt off and soak it in the water before continuing on. When running in the heat, keeping water on your shirt or head makes a HUGE difference.

Near the river there were some beautiful wildflowers that I couldn't resist taking a few pictures of.

As I ran, the most peculiar thing happened. I felt really, really good. I don't know if everyone else is like this, but those runs happen very rarely where I feel like I could run forever. Earlier this year I had a knee issue that made me fear I would never be able to run normal ever again. So I was filled with gratitude that on a difficult, obscenely hot long run.....I actually felt good.

I ran farther than I ever had on this road before. I love that feeling of seeing things for the first time. I reached the top of a hill and had this Sound Of Music panorama open up in front of me.

And more cool flowers.

After almost eight miles I reached the old Browse ranger station. Apparently the station was built in the 1920s, and behind it is the only California Redwood Tree in Utah.

Rumor has it that the tree is more than 100 years old. The tree itself was a bit anticlimactic after all the beautiful scenery I had run through earlier in the day to get up there.

I explored a few other trails at the top, then headed back down without seeing another person the entire time. I love being alone in the middle of nowhere surrounded by awesomeness.

A few days later I ran a 14 miler. The night before, Mel and I went to see Jurassic World, eat popcorn, and sip delicious Diet Dr. Pepper. We got home late. We got to bed late. So we had a hard time getting our bodies out of bed in the morning. A late start meant that during those 14 miles I felt like a rotisserie chicken cooking in an oven. Mel joined me for the first three miles.

I am thankful my body is cooperating as I ramp up my miles. Even though each run feels like a sitcom called "Watch Cory Get Heat Stroke", the beautiful scenery around here helps distract me from the sound of my skin sizzling.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rabbits Are From Hell

I bet you didn't know this but rabbits are from Hell. Rabbits were invented by Satan who then strategically placed those demonic animals in hidden locations on remote, desolate trails.

So this is how it works. A runner will be cruising down a trail, zoned out, minding his own business. Within a split second there is a rustle in the bushes and then suddenly one of Satan's house pets a rabbit will run right in front of you.

You will be scared to death because at first all you see is something darting out of the bushes. It could be something frightening. Like a mountain lion. Or a bear. Or Celine Dion. At the moment that spawn of Satan rabbit runs in front of you, you involuntarily scream like a girl. And then, even though nobody else saw, you suddenly feel really embarrassed about how you just acted.

I'm not going to say whether or not this actually happened to me during my run this weekend. I'll just tell you that I will NEVER, EVER, EVER have a rabbit foot on my keychain.

I ran in Browse, Utah for the first time. Haven't heard of it? That's okay. Neither has 99.91817374% of the population. As far as I could tell, the only thing on the Browse freeway off-ramp is a dirt road leading to the mountains. Sounds like just the kind of place I want to run.

The road is a challenging place to run. There is lots of climbing, some rocky sections, and so much heat that it felt like running through a furnace while wearing fleece pajamas and drinking hot chocolate. Still, it was beautiful. Dear trails: I love you too.

I know precisely nothing about yoga. But I'm pretty sure my hands (not to mention the nostalgic gaze) are all wrong. These kind of jumps are the hardest for me.

I was thankful that I was alone on the run. Because I must have looked fairly ridiculous running back and forth following a butterfly hoping it would land so I could snap a picture. Finally with some patience....mission accomplished.

Next time you are running alone, beware of mountain lions, bears, Celine Dion, and rabbits. You can't say you weren't warned.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

PURE HEAVEN - Trail Running In Southern Utah Video

I've been keeping a little project under wraps but now I can let you in on one of the coolest things I've been involved with lately.

A month or so ago I got an email from a professor at BYU named Chris Cutri. He is working on a film about ultra endurance sports and asked about coming down to southern Utah to shoot some footage with me and a few friends.

He asked for some trail suggestions so the first spot we hit up was Gooseberry Mesa. I showed up to meet the crew and was AMAZED at the incredible equipment they had. Chris was joined by stunning photographer Ty Arnold (check out his website HERE), one of Chris' students (sorry, I forgot his name), and incredible drone photographer Dane Christensen (his website is HERE).

I casually asked how much money in camera equipment was sitting in that van. Their estimate was nearly as much as the cost of my house! Their equipment made me drool.

It was fun to run with my friend and fellow southern Utah runner Emily Baehr.

I also met John Brown from northern Utah for the first time. Lots of fun and lots of laughs were had.

The whole project isn't complete yet, but Dane but together a video of his drone footage that is seriously awesome. I had so much fun showing these guys around the trails in my backyard. This video is proof that southern Utah is PURE HEAVEN for trail runners.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Bryce Canyon 50 Race Report - That Was Really Hard

I almost got barfed on by a stranger. I ate a Snickers bar while standing in a flash flood. I prayed that I wouldn't get struck by lightning. I got mud in my underwear. I helped people keep going when they wanted to give up. Then later they kept me going when I wanted to give up. I saw God's fingerprints in the beauty around me. You know, just your average ultramarathon.

On Saturday I ran the Ultra Adventures Bryce Canyon 50 miler. In the days leading up to the race I was as nervous as a dachshund in a hot dog bun factory (thanks for the joke Jenny!). (Or as nervous as Milli Vanilli before an acoustic concert. You choose.) The weather forecast suggested getting your ark out of the storage unit. It was going to get messy. When the race started, the forecast of a downpour seemed accurate.

The trails were surrounded by a thick, billowy blanket of fog. It created views that I suspect few people have ever seen around here.

As we neared the first aid station at mile six the route got wetter and muddier. The trees and fog made it feel like I was running through a watercolor painting.

One thing I really loved was to look behind me and see the faint shadows of runners pressing through the dense fog.

These same foggy views continued mile after mile. And then we descended a long, steep ridge taking us 1,000 feet below the summit. Almost instantly the fog lifted! The skies were clear, the views were incredible, and I was almost positive that we had passed the worst of the weather.

As I was going down the trail I popped a salt tablet in my mouth then started sucking on the tube of my UltrAspire pack for a drink. The Tailwind that was in my pack went down the wrong pipe and made me choke. I started coughing and that salt tablet went rocketing across the sky. In your mind's eye imagine a gun shooting a bullet. And then replace the gun with my mouth. And replace the bullet with a salt tablet. That's how the scene played out. Then more running. More RIDICULOUSLY amazing scenery like this:

When I was around mile 25 dark clouds started to roll in. Big, dark, grumpy clouds. And then thunder started. Soon the thunder was so loud that it sounded like the sky was cracking apart. Flashes of lightning flickered around me. It was a tad scary. And by "a tad" I mean that I almost needed a clean pair of shorts.

I was all alone. Then the sky opened. Waves of rain showered down. It was relentless. Then it turned to hail that felt strong enough to leave bruises. The trails were flooded. I was miles away from the next aid station. Suddenly another runner caught up to me. We ran as fast as we could. Selfishly I was thankful to have someone to run with so people would know where to find my body if I got struck by lightning. But truly it was comforting to have him there. The scene was so hideous that all we could do was laugh.

Finally, FINALLY the clouds ran out of water and the skies cleared. But then we ran into our next obstacle in the form of a mud wrestling match with Mother Earth. We reached a super steep trail going down and the rain turned the trail into slick Crisco. If you lost your footing (which many people did) you slid down a steep 30 foot cliff of Crisco. Yep. Happened to me. Half of my body was completely covered in mud. It got in my underwear. (No bueno.) BUT THEN once you got to the bottom you had to climb a super steep 30 foot trail of Crisco back to the top of the ridge on the other side. I might as well have been climbing a vertical, Crisco-covered Slip And Slide. I deeply regret being covered from head to toe in mud. Because otherwise I would have taken a video of this absurdly funny scene and won $10,000 on America's Funniest Videos. Here is part of my mud-coated body:

All too soon the sky got dark and started grumbling again. More lightning. Ugh. I don't want to go on anymore Crisco Slip And Slides. It was around mile 40 and I figured I better take a quick jumping picture because if the rain started, I might not get another chance.

I kept running with that stranger I met in the thunder/rain/lightning/better-get-your-ark storm. I think we both felt a bond because we stuck with each other when things got really ugly. In talking with him I learned that his name was Clint Lamb and this was his first ever 50 miler. I was faster than Clint on the uphills. Clint was faster than me on the downhills. So we just stuck together. Mile. After. Mile.

Thankfully we didn't get pounded by anymore rain. We talked about life and families and running. Clint said he had some family training to qualify for the Boston Marathon. But this race, the Bryce Canyon 50 was the big race he had been dreaming about. He was in the middle of his Boston.

The last 10 miles of the race were undoubtedly my favorite. The views are simply indescribable. It's the kind of area I imagine God spent a little more time on so he could make it just right.

Mile 45 jump covered in mud.

Toward the end I was definitely tired and out of gas but otherwise felt okay. I bought some 2Toms SportShield to try on my feet and it worked AMAZINGLY well to prevent blisters, even with soggy feet (Amazon link HERE). I wore two pair of socks (been doing that for the last year or so): Injinji socks covered by Feetures socks. Used the Altra Lone Peak shoes (probably my all time favorite running shoes), UltrAspire Omega pack, Tailwind Nutrition and a delicious Snickers bar for calories, the trusty St. George Running Center shirt, and a pack of Hostess cupcakes waiting for me in my car once I finished.

Clint and I neared the finish line. We had become good friends over the last 24 miles. Trails have a way of doing that. When you see people through the good times AND the bad times, trust and admiration grow stronger. I treasure the friendships that have been born as the result of running with so many amazing people over the years.

As the sun was setting on an insanely difficult and insanely beautiful day we arrived at the finish line. It was definitely the most challenging 50 miler I've run. I slowed down and told Clint to cross the finish line first. He refused. He said we had to cross together. Class act right there.

Props to Matt Gunn, Rick Whitelaw, Turd'l Miller, and the Ultra Adventures crew for putting together yet another amazing race. The scenery, the adventure.......and the Crisco Slip And Slide are things I will never forget.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Spontaneous 50 Miler in Three Days and A Cool Waterfall

So, um, on a whim I signed up for a 50 miler coming up in three days. I have a hunch that I'm not trained for a 50 miler but the pull of the Bryce Ultramarathon lured me to click the Register button. The race is put on by Ultra Adventures, the finest race crew in the business. I ran the inaugural race in 2012. My 100 mile race turned into a 100k because the course is really, really hard. I came away with some of my favorite race pictures ever though so it was worth the smack down I received from the course. You can read about the Bryce smack down HERE.

Last week I hit up Toquerville Falls again. This is a really challenging run that will hopefully leave me prepared for an upcoming smack down in September called the Wasatch 100.

The week before when I ran here I stopped and made a little rock cairn on the side of a trail. (What really happened is that my legs were burning, I was out of breath, and I was so hot that I could have started crying. I sat down on a rock to take a break and built the little rock tower.)

I have never, ever seen a solitary person running up here. But what was cool was that there were a few extra rocks added to my tower. Somebody had passed by and saw the tower. Awesome!

Dear trails: I love you too.

There has been a lot of water flowing at the waterfall lately making it incredibly beautiful.

Unfortunately before long the annual vampire blood-sucking deer flies will be out. And unfortunately those vampire blood-sucking deer flies love Toquerville Falls as much as I do. When that happens I'll have to take a sabbatical from running here. So I'm making sure to enjoy every visit while I can.

I am so thankful for the amazing area I live in. When you are surrounded by trails and scenery like this, it becomes really hard to run on the road. You don't see stuff like this when you are running through the neighborhood.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Little Debbie, Aunt Jackie, and Some Cowbell

Little Debbie is getting less little by the day. I'd give it four more weeks before we can throw a saddle on her and charge the neighborhood kids $2 each for a ride around the block on a Great Dane.

Just to compare her growth in the first two months we have had Little Debbie, here is a side-by-side picture from the first day we had her:

We are going to have to start charging the neighbors for elephant puppy rides to help pay all her expenses. We have had to take her to the vet a few times for a bacterial infection, and also bought her a bigger kennel. And by "bigger kennel" I mean that our dining room suddenly shrunk because half of it is filled with a kennel big enough for me to fit inside.

Amidst the joys of parenthood with a sock-eating, hole-digging, ear-licking canine, I've been getting in some running too. Last week I took my family (minus one daughter with a sore knee) for their first visit to the More Cowbell Trail. I informed them that it's bad luck if you pass the cowbell without ringing it.

It was slightly warm out on the trail but we just took it easy and took a breather every once in a while. Just long enough to get in a quick jump.

A family that runs together (and only whines a little bit together, and takes jumping pictures together, and then stops for Slurpees afterward together) stays together.