Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I Fell In Love With Timpanogos

So. There's this friend of mine named Catherine. I've run more miles with her than anyone else on Earth. I've seen her barf on her shoes. I've seen blisters on her feet big enough to make a grown man cry. I've run every step of a 100 miler with her. We've seen the good, bad, and ugly in each other. I seriously love every mile I spend with her.

For years I have been envious of my friends in northern Utah who have posted pictures of their runs to the peak of Mount Timpanogos. It looked like an amazingly beautiful area and has been near the top of my running To Do List. Over the weekend I finally ran this trail for the first time with Catherine and her friends Alessandra and Carin.

I live in southern Utah where almost all my runs are red. Red rocks. Red dirt. Red mountains. I love the red. But it was awesome to run through something different than red.

I have seen some crazy things on the trails over the years. I've seen rattlesnakes. I've seen coyotes. I've even seen Care Bears. (Granted, they were at mile 90 of a But the Timpanogos run was the first time I've ever seen THIS!

Over the years I have worked on improving my running photography. I feel like I'm getting comfortable getting the scenery and action shots I want.

Listen. The wildflowers in this area. The kaleidoscope of colors was simply incredible.

The flowers on the hill sides seemed downright patriotic with bursts of reds, whites, and blues.

One of the things I love most is experiencing a trail for the first time. I had high expectations about the Timpanogos scenery. And the scenery exceeded my already high expectations.

There were some smoother sections of trail, but also large chunks that were super rocky and technical. I loved it all.

I put Tailwind in my pack and also brought some Picky Bars for a mid-run snack. These are tasty! I've tried lots of different brands of bars and these are my favorite.

Sometimes we'd get to a section where I'd look up and think "How in the world am I going to get up there?" The answer: lots and lots of climbing.

One of my favorite pictures was catching Alessandra cruising across the trail.

The higher we climbed, the cooler the views became. Soon we could see the city valley off on the horizon.

I'm afraid of heights. There were a few sections of the trail that made me tense up a bit but overall it wasn't too bad. I admit I felt a little squeamish arriving at this point, looking up at the peak, and thinking "That trail looks slightly, um, scary." If you look closely you can see the faint line of the trail weaving up the mountain.

I tried the new UltrAspire Astral pack for the first time on this run. I was pleased with how comfortable it was. I want to spend some more miles with it and then will give a more thorough review. Catherine caught this picture of me admiring the view.

After reaching the peak we hung out for a while soaking in this amazing experience. After years of wanting to run this peak, it was cool to finally be standing here.

I was thankful for a few minutes to catch my breath. The air is pretty thin up there!

As we headed back down the trail, the girls got far out ahead of me. I was smitten by all the wildflowers and couldn't seem to put my camera away. You guys, it was just so, so beautiful.

We met up with an unexpected trail buddy - this cool bighorn sheep. Mountain goats are common around here. (We saw some of those too.) But apparently the bighorn sheep are much more rare.

I had a ridiculous amount of fun running with these guys. My first time running Mount Timpanogos is an experience I won't forget.

Monday, July 20, 2015

My Man Crush, A Nipple, And Unholy Amounts of Diet Dr. Pepper

Here's what is going on in my life right now:

1) I have a man crush on Scott Jurek. I told you this a few years ago when we hung out together. We are basically BFFs. (And by "BFFs" I mean that I met him at a book signing.) But my man crush is even stronger now after he set a record running the 2,189 mile Appalachian Trail. I admit I was swooning when he said "Hi Fast Cory!"

2) A Celine Dion song was on the speaker at the grocery store. I had frozen items in my cart. Otherwise I would have just ran to the parking lot and waited until the song got over so that sound didn't pollute my ears.

3) It is ridiculously, unfairly hot in southern Utah. Therefore this week I have consumed a few Diet Dr. Peppers in cups as big as my head. Don't judge. You would too if you lived on a surface of the sun.

4) I did some running last week. Big whoop. (Remember when that saying was popular? Like in 1984?)

One day I ran an 18 miler, mostly hills to get ready for some upcoming races. I did a few hill repeats to the H overlooking my hometown of Hurricane, Utah. This was the first time I've been here. It just looks like a blob of white when you're standing there.

But from a distance this actually is an H. I'm not lying. I took a H picture a few days later on another run. You can see Zion National Park overpowering the background.

I really love where I live. I mean, I don't exactly love that summer temperatures are around nine BILLION degrees. But other than that, this place is perfect. While standing on the H I could see my house in the distance. This is the beautiful area I live. Here is my house. Feel free to drop off brownies anytime.

While I was running this little bundle of fur darted out in front of me and made me jump. I call him a "little bundle of fur" because this is a family blog. And I can't type what I was really calling it when it scared the crap out of me. (Dear little bundle of fur: I hate you.)

After visiting the H, I made a trip to the top of Mollie's Nipple. I bet you're dying to know why this bundle-of-fur infested mountain is called Mollie's Nipple. A picture is worth a thousand words.

I took a selfie standing atop the nipple. Couldn't open my mouth though. Because sweat would run into my mouth. And a cocktail of sweat and sunscreen is not exactly the beverage you want to drink while standing atop a nipple.

On a 9 miler later in the week I ran mostly on roads. I've run on this certain sidewalk many times but it's usually early morning by the light of a head lamp. So this was the first time I noticed this cool mark in the cement from a falling leaf.

Saturday my legs needed an easy day. 4 miles on the trail with the greatest name in the world: the More Cowbell Trail. I didn't see any runners but there were lots of mountain bikers. I am deeply, madly in love with this trail that skirts along the edge of the mesa. Look closely and you'll see some bikes.

Proudly sporting my Tailwind Trailblazer shirt. I'm lobbying for them to make a Dr. Pepper flavor of Tailwind. Can you say "#1 Best Seller"?

Predictions for the coming week: more heat in southern Utah. And more head-sized cups of Diet Dr. Pepper.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Why You Should ONLY Run ALONE On Trails

I do almost all my training alone. There are a few reasons for this:

1) My schedule is crazy so I have to fit runs in at odd times.
2) I am self-conscious about the fact that I'm not very fast. I don't want to hold people up or beat up my body trying to keep up.
3) There's something so seriously awesome about being out in the middle of nowhere without another human being in sight.
4) I have a bad habit of stopping to get a fat, ice cold Dr. Pepper after a long, hot run. Because why wouldn't you? I mean Dr. Pepper is delicious. It seems like it was specifically developed for recovery after a long run. And it's inventor should earn a Nobel Peace Prize....or an Emmy....or whatever you give someone who makes utterly delicious things.

Last week I was reminded of a few other reasons why it's usually best for me to run alone. I went on a long run in the beautiful (and sweltering) southern Utah desert. Everything started off fine. The scenery was worthy of a jumping picture.

I was running along, feeling moderately decent, envisioning a post-run Dr. Pepper, and enjoying the beauty that was surrounding me.

Then I heard a rustling behind me. I had enough time to think "Well, great. A mountain lion is going to eat me. That's embarrassing." I turned around and there was nothing there. A few minutes later I heard more rustling behind me. Again, I turned around to see nothing. Then I realized that the rustling I heard behind me wasn't actually a mountain lion. It was the flap on the back of my hat blowing in the wind. You know, the kind of hat that shouldn't be worn in public.

I kept heading up the trail when suddenly I saw out of the corner of my eye something shooting toward me. It happened so fast that I couldn't see what it was, maybe a bumble bee or a wasp or a mutant gigantic deer fly, but the thing smacked me right on my upper lip! Right in the moustache zone.....if I could actually grow a moustache. I immediately let out this kind of teenage girl scream. It was a sound that really shouldn't have been made by an adult male. I thanked my guardian angels for 1) Allowing that thing to fly into my lip instead of into my mouth, and 2) Gratitude for the fact that nobody else heard my involuntary sissy scream. I was thankful I was alone.

And in pure contradiction to my proclamation that it's best to run alone, I ran the same 16ish mile route a few days later with my friends Tom and David. The sunrise was kind of ridiculous.

Tom had never been to the hills of Browse, Utah before. He is a sub-3 hour marathon runner with his first ever 50k race, Speedgoat, coming up in a few weeks. He wanted some tips on pacing so his legs are still strong toward the end of the race. I'm nowhere near fast, but I feel like one thing I've gotten decent at over the years is smart race pacing. (Often I learned those lessons the hard way.)

David is also a runner I really admire. He has a crazy work schedule but still manages to get runs in before work (which often means a 4:00am start). We made it to our turnaround at the Browse ranger station which feels like it's in the middle of absolute nowhere.

During our run I was reminded why it's great to run with other runners - the scenery pictures look really cool with runners in them. Running with others is fun! It's different. It makes the miles pass quickly.

It was a completely awesome, completely beautiful run.....made even better because no mutant insects flew into my moustache zone.

Monday, July 6, 2015

How To Run A Marathon Before Work

I've run a bunch of marathons before but never tried to run one before work. Until last week!

The idea was planted in my mind years ago when I read a blog post by one of my ultra running heroes Davy Crockett. Just for fun, just for a unique challenge, he woke up really early one day and ran a marathon before work. (I remember him saying that he did this when his wife was out of town so she wouldn't be able to tell him he was an idiot.) This guy takes conventional wisdom and throws it out the window.

Choosing to run a marathon was a spontaneous decision. The day before this I woke up early and ran a beautiful 10 miles before work while witnessing one of the most beautiful sunrises I've seen in years.

Had I been planning to run a marathon the next day I wouldn't have done 10 miles. But seeing the sun rise over Zion National Park was something I didn't regret.

So while I was driving home that evening I thought it might be a good day to try the Marathon Before Work. I felt like my training was at a level where I'd probably be okay getting in a spontaneous marathon. Should you choose to do this yourself, I have some tips.


You need to make sure you finish with enough time to get ready for work. Spoiler alert: when you go to bed at 10:00pm then wake up three hours later to run a marathon, the sound of your alarm clock might make you start crying.

Bug spray with at least 40% DEET for me. Mosquitoes look at me like a pre-teen girl looks at Justin Bieber. Clearly they like blood that is 72% frosting. Don't start running until you have sprayed so much bug spray that your legs glisten.

Live in a climate that, even at 1:00am, resembles running in a sauna while wearing sweat pants. Because if it doesn't feel like you are running on molten lava you're doing something wrong.

I ran a loop around the city that was around 8 miles, stopping back at my house twice to refill my pack.

It could get a little boring running by yourself for hours in the dark. I had some Ultra Runner Podcast, Trail Runner Nation, and Radio Lab podcasts to keep me occupied. I used the UltrAspire Omega pack, fueled with Tailwind and a Butterfinger, and wore Altra Torin shoes for the first time ever on a long run. These may have become my go-to road shoes. After many hours and a few times nodding off to sleep while running you'll see a hint of sunlight. You will feel very happy!

As the sun comes up, don't make eye contact with passing drivers. Between the bug spray on your face and sweat dripping into your eyes, it will look like you are crying. An advantage of running a solo marathon is that you don't have spectators lying to you. "You are almost there!" LIE!!! "You're looking good." LIE!!! It's best to just avoid human contact.

If you keep a conservative but steady pace, eventually you will reach 26.2 miles. (This time isn't completely accurate. I stopped my watch both times when I stopped to refill my pack and enjoy air conditioning for a few minutes.)

Congrats on finishing a marathon! A celebration jump is definitely in order.

Now that you have 26.2 miles on your legs and three hours of sleep, take a quick shower, get dressed, and head out for a full day at work. On your way there stop at a gas station and purchase the biggest Dr. Pepper money can buy. Because yeah. You're going to need it.