Monday, October 26, 2015

My Advertisement For Utah Running

Utah has the most beautiful trails in the country. There. I said it.

(Disclaimer in fine print: I haven't run in 47 of the other states.)

Here is a small sample of the trails that have gotten my feet dirty over the last 10 days. 

Example #1: Dead Ringer Trail

This was the first time I ran some parts of this trail. The "dead" part of the Dead Ringer Trail is quite literal:

The weather forecast called for a downpour so I almost stayed in bed. I'm so glad I went out. It ended up being a perfect morning. That is Zion National Park in the background. 

The weather forecast called for a downpour so I almost stayed in bed. I'm so glad I went out. It ended up being a perfect morning. My girls inform me that sitting like this is called Criss Cross Applesauce. Doing an airborne Criss Cross Applesauce is one of the hardest jumps for me.

Example #2: More Cowbell Trail
I was rummaging through my closet and found this shirt from my first ultramarathon. It was a 50k four years ago. It was an utterly miserable experience. I've learned a lot since then. I'm glad I didn't give up four years ago. I have come to love running. That is the seriously lovely Gooseberry Mesa in the background:

Example #3: Goosebumps Trail
I was so psyched to have Jackson join me on this run. The only thing better than a trail run is a trail run with your offspring.

It was his first time on Goosebumps which is a great beginner trail with some sweet views. 

I have always wanted to get a shot of this view with a runner on the trail. Cool that I finally got the picture I wanted...with Jackson in it!

This is my favorite picture from our run.

Jackson snapped this jumping picture with the wickedly handsome Smith Mesa in the background.

Check....and mate. Utah wins.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Ultrarunning Magazine / Golden Girls / More Cowbell

What do you do when Cory and Lisa from Ultrarunning Magazine come to town? I narrowed it down to three possibilities:

1) A Golden Girls marathon on Netflix (who wouldn't love 14 straight hours of Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia???)

2) Pumpkin pie eating contest (extra whipped cream please)

3) Show them around one of southern Utah's most beautiful trails

It was an agonizing decision but I finally decided on option #3. I took them to the More Cowbell Trail a few short minutes away from my home.

They asked about jumping picture techniques so after a quick tutorial they gave the jump shot a try....and immediately became experts!

I had a few other friends come to join in the fun. There was Dave:

And Shannon:

I had so much fun with these guys. Within five minutes I knew our run would be quite a bit more fun than a pumpkin pie eating contest or laughing uproariously to the Golden Girls.

We hit the trail right at the golden hour when the cliffs and mesas around us were glowed like a burning ember. I beamed with pride at the beauty of southern Utah.

It was a great run with new and old friends. You know those times when you don't want a Golden Girls episode....I mean a end because it's just so awesome? This was one of those times.

Monday, October 19, 2015

UltrAspire Astral Review (For The Sugar Addict)

Do you love to eat Twinkies while running? Sweet, me too! There's nothing worse than running out of Twinkie storage room in your hydration pack. Well, my friends, I have a solution to all your lack of Hostess storage problems.

I have used an UltrAspire hydration pack for as long as I've been running ultramarathons. They recently came out with a new pack called the Astral which was specifically designed to fit women to give a more comfortable, less restricting fit around the chest area. My friend Steve at St. George Running Center said they aren't just for women though and said the pack has a great fit for men too.

A week after I heard the praise from Steve, UltrAspire asked about providing a pack for review. Since then I've been testing it out on many training runs as well as a very big race. In fact, I wore the Astral on my first ever run to the peak of Mount Timpanogos.

My friend Catherine took a few pictures of the pack when we were on this run (during which I regretfully consumed no Zingers or Ding Dongs).

I also used the pack when I ran the Tushar Sky Marathon, one of the hardest and most beautiful races I've ever run.

So here's the low down on this pack. First of all, I love how it holds a two liter bladder. (And speaking of bladder, you're going to have a full one after all that Mountain Dew you're drinking at aid stations.) There is lots of storage in the pack. The biggest pocket is large enough to easily fit five family-size bags of M&Ms. That, my friend, would hold lots of Twinkies. (This one pocket is a bit more restricted when a full two liter bladder is up against it.

There is a stretchy mesh pocket on the outside of the pack that would be perfect to stuff a small jacket and gloves into. Or if it's hot outside and you don't need a jacket and gloves, you could put a can of Dr. Pepper and Butterfinger in there. Don't disregard the soda idea. My friend Sam Jewkes packs a can of Mountain Dew as a celebratory beverage to drink at the top of each mountain peak he climbs. That's a tradition I can get behind. The stretchy mesh does a good job of holding things in place.

On the front side of the pack you get four more pockets. There are two smaller ones toward the top. One is a cool magnet-closing pocket and the other is a zipper pocket. Some people may use these for their car key or salt tablets. The zipper pocket could certainly fit a bag of Mike and Ike's.

The final feature is the two pockets that sit lower on the chest. There is a stretchy elastic pocket that I keep my camera in, but would also be perfect for a small water bottle or phone. The zipper pocket is roughly the size of two king sized packs of Skittles. Conceivably you could fit plenty of gels in this pocket. But why would you put gels in this pocket when it could hold two king sized packs of Skittles?

The pack is light, comfortable, and looks as cool as a Dairy Queen Blizzard on a hot day. So although the pack was specifically designed to give a comfortable fit around the chest area for women, I've run with this pack enough to feel okay saying this would be a good option for men or women of any shape or size.

If you want to save a few bucks you can use discount code uaa5210 at checkout for 10% off orders from their website. I hope you enjoy the nice little sugar buzz you'll get from all the calories you'll store in this pack. And may that sugar buzz carry you for many fast and fun miles.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The People Who Made The Quadruple St. George Marathon Awesome

Last week when I ran the St. George Marathon four times in a row I went through some tough times. There were moments of despair and discouragement. In those times where you are hurting or exhausted or sore, it's understandable that you would have thoughts like "How am I going to keep going for another 50 or 60 miles?!??!"

What was really touching was that it seemed like whenever I hit a low point, someone would show up and provide an amazing boost in my spirits. I wanted to tell you about those people who were a positive influence in my race:

John Bozung drove up the course to meet me and bring a popsicle. It was hot outside and that popsicle was a welcome treat. Wrap your head around this one - John ran the St. George Marathon as well....and it was his 388th MARATHON! So, so incredible.

Amylee Nicoll ran her first St. George Marathon in a smoking 3:27. She drove up the course Friday and provided fist-fulls of gummy bears. Pure heaven.

My friend Clint Lamb found me on Friday and brought an Icee. I first met Clint earlier this year in the middle of a near death experience dodging lightning at the Bryce 50. By the time we helped each other get to the end of that race we were the best of friends. You won't meet a nicer, more supportive person. I love this man.

I had just finished my second marathon, more than 54 miles into the adventure. I stopped to change my shoes when Amber Farmer, Amanda Jocelyn, and Nicole Stout showed up with some Twinkies, kind words, and lots of encouragement. I thought that was so nice of them.

On the fourth marathon I ran past this random stranger. I loved his sign.

At the finish line I was greeted by Kami Ellsworth who is the amazing race director of the St. George Marathon. Each year I am continually impressed by the organization of the race and the army of volunteers that make the race a well-oiled machine.

Some of the most influential people in my running are Steve and Kendra Hooper from St. George Running Center. I bought my very first pair of running shoes from them many years ago and they are always a great source for tips and encouragement. Steve came out and ran the first few miles of the quadruple with me because he is awesome like that.

I ran the last 8 or 9 miles with my friends Rick Whitelaw and Turd'l Miller. It meant so much to me that they wanted to run the last section of the race together.

Rick and Turd'l ran a double marathon. Here is a video that Amber Farmer shot at the end of the race with our celebratory finish line jump.

My biggest support was my wife and kids. Mel crewed all day Friday for the first two marathons, then volunteered with my daughter Kylee at an aid station during the race. I can't tell you how thankful I am for such an amazing wife and family.

Each of these people played a role in helping me accomplish the quadruple marathon goal. I feel so blessed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Quadruple St. George Marathon Race Report - 2015

What do a Celine Dion concert and a quadruple St. George Marathon have in common? Answer: they both make you want to barf. (I'm totally guessing about the Celine Dion thing because I'm more likely to give birth to a polka-dotted ostrich than go to a Celine Dion concert.) 

For the past year one of my goals was to be the first person to run a quadruple St. George Marathon. The plan: start running at the finish line, run up to the start, then back down the course, then back up and hopefully get there in time to run the last marathon with the official race. 104.8 miles. This weekend was my chance to go for it.

I started my journey Friday in the morning darkness. After a few miles darkness slowly faded and my surroundings lit up.

The sunrise made the red mountains of Snow Canyon State Park glow off on the horizon. I couldn't help but be overwhelmed by the beauty of the area where I live. 

The St. George Marathon is notorious for being a fast downhill course. But when you're going the opposite direction, a fast downhill course becomes a slow uphill course. For safety I ran on a bike path next to the highway. The down side is that the bike path winds around adding more mileage, and even more climbing than staying on the evidenced by the following picture:

Taking the bike path made my total mileage closer to 108 miles. My plan for the first couple marathons was to stay very conservative, manage the heat, and have fun.

The part of this whole adventure that scared me the most was making the cutoff on the last marathon. If you're not at mile 23 within 6 hours 15 minutes you get pulled from the course. No ifs, ands, or blisters. Some may argue that a 16:13 minute/mile sounds downright pedestrian but with 78 miles on your legs, 16:13/mile is closer to a speed workout. I knew I needed to make sure I had enough gas in the tank to get me through the last marathon.

The absolute key to accomplishing this goal was my amazing wife. Mel was my crew for the first 50 miles, meeting me every hour or so to refill water and supplies. I begged her not to because I didn't want to be a burden. But she insisted. She said she wanted to do whatever she could to help. I can't express how thankful I am for her support.

It was SO hot all day. I used Tailwind Nutrition for the majority of my fuel. Going with mostly liquid calories has completely changed the way I race. Although after finishing the first of the four marathons my stomach started to growl a little bit. Mel had a bag of Hostess Donettes and I don't know what came over me. I started acting like a prisoner of war that hadn't eaten in five days. I couldn't stuff those things in my mouth fast enough. 

Being on the course the day and night before the race, I was so impressed with the army of people behind the scenes making preparations to assure that the race would go off without a hitch. While running I found Mel a souvenir to thank her for all her help.

While running marathon #2 I passed through the small farming town of Veyo. In the state of Utah it is illegal to pass through Veyo without getting pie at the famous Veyo Pies. It was a heavenly mid-run snack.

After ten hours of running I was getting tired. My legs began to get a bit grumpy. I started experiencing the inevitable highs and lows that come with running an ultramarathon. In an ultra, you start hearing voices that fill you with doubt. The voices say "If I'm feeling like this now, how in the WORLD am I going to keep going for another 10 or 20 more hours?!?!?" Those voices can be debilitating and paralyzing. It can be tough to tune out those voices.

Thinking about the future gets you in trouble during an ultramarathon. You have to stay focused on the mile you're running. ONLY the mile you're running. One. Foot. In. Front. Of. The. Other.

I finished the second marathon, then Mel headed home for the night and I did the third alone in the dark. There were a few times that I severely struggled to stay awake. I desperately wanted to lay down and sleep but resisted. I perked up when I started seeing signs that Mel had surprised me with on the course.

Around mile 70 I had to stop and patch up my feet. At the Wasatch 100 three weeks ago I made a dumb mistake by not dumping some sand out of my shoes and consequently ended up with some hefty blisters. By mile 70 of St. George those old Wasatch blisters were rebirthed. And then those blisters gave birth to more blisters on top of them. So I guess you could say I'm a blister grandfather. How special. Feel free to call me Grandpa. I spotted this sign that my friend LaRae had hung up:

After what felt like forever I finished the third marathon. I made it to the starting line about an hour and a half before the official start which gave me time to talk with friends and refill my UltrAspire hydration pack. My plan was to use the pack so I wouldn't have to waste time stopping at aid stations.
Worked like a charm.

Then it was time for the biggest challenge - keep moving fast enough to make the race cutoff. In the first few miles I was nervous. My blister grandchildren were giving me fits. My legs were stiff and sore. I was so scared that I would travel 102 miles to the only race cutoff time, and then be disqualified three miles before the finish line. 

I had this internal conversation with myself. I made a conscious choice that I would need to tune out the soreness and exhaustion and push forward the best I could. 

I wore a new pair of Altra Paradigm shoes right out of the box for the last 53 miles. They were flawless. I worked as hard as I could to stay positive and enjoy the journey. Here is a mile 88 jump. 

I prayed over and over again for strength and courage. I had pulled up a not-so-comfortable chair inside the pain cave. But I got to the downhill part of the course and was determined that I would do whatever I needed to do to make the cutoff.

I received so much inspiration from the runners I could see ahead and behind me. Those fellow runners at the back of the pack were also working so hard to make the cutoff. They were struggling and hurting too. But they were determined and focused.

When I was at mile 97 (mile 18 of the official marathon) I heard a voice say "Hey Cory!" I turned around and it was my friend Rick Whitelaw followed right behind by Turd'l Miller. I've run many many miles with these guys in the past and truly love them. They also happened to be doing a double St. George marathon raising money for Girls On The Run. They said they wanted to run to the finish with me. 

When you're legs have carried you 97 miles and you've been in the heat for two days and you're sleep deprived, emotions run raw. I told them I was so thankful for their kindness and I might start crying. They said they didn't care.

We came across one more sign as we neared the cutoff. Tears streamed from my eyes when I realized that we were going to make the cutoff. I was overcome with gratitude and joy. 

I crossed the finish line completing my goal to run a quadruple St. George Marathon. My friends Steve and Kendra Hooper from St. George Running Center were there and snapped this picture of our finish.

I was ecstatic to see Mel and my daughter Kylee who both volunteered working at an aid station all day.

The moment I crossed the finish line and stopped running, the weight of those miles kicked in and I started feeling really crappy. I was on the brink of barfing on my new Altra shoes. I tried to keep myself from throwing up...but Kylee grabbed a garbage can just in case.

I am monumentally thankful for my family, and the friends and strangers who met me along the way to bring treats or moral support, to my amazing sponsors, and to Rick and Turd'l who kept me moving so that this dream could become a reality. This whole quadruple marathon experience was a team effort and I was only one piece of a big puzzle.

I was again reminded that our bodies are remarkable things. When we face adversity we found out what we're made of. I firmly believe that running 100 miles is far less about athletic ability and far more about being determined and stubborn. It's about being willing to tolerate and embrace suffering. It's about reaching a point where you physically and mentally can't take one more step.....then taking another step. Those 100 miles change you and you're never the same. This 100+ mile journey is an adventure I will never forget.