Thursday, May 18, 2017
Recently I took my daughter Dani on one such adventure - her first visit to Death Valley.
It was such a great, great opportunity to spend time together. Every opportunity like this becomes a cherished memory.
Last year I visited Death Valley during the rare wildflower superbloom. (HERE is a picture and video clip I put together of the superbloom.) The flowers were minimal this year but we were still able to track down a few.
Since it wasn't (yet) nine BILLION degrees, we did a little bit of running. Dani caught this cool shot which is one of my favorite running pictures ever.
We spent quite a bit of time at Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.
Dani has some serious jump skills. It would be a shame to leave the flats of Badwater Basin without a jumping picture. Am I right?!?!?
Then we drove to the Devil's Golf Course.
There weren't any hotel rooms at Furnace Creek in Death Valley so we stayed in Beatty, Nevada about 40 miles away. On the way to our hotel we stopped at Rhyolite Ghost Town. If you're ever in the area, check that place out. Not only does it have shells of old buildings, but it's also got a lot of artsy creations and sculptures.
The most unique (okay, downright craaazy) thing at Rhyolite is some ghosts in the formation of the Last Supper. We got lucky and caught an amazing sunset while hanging out with the ghosts.
The next day we did more exploring in Death Valley. There was some more running. Death Valley will always hold a special place in my heart after running Badwater last year, the 135 mile race across Death Valley in July. That race was undoubtedly the hardest thing I've ever done, along with the biggest sense of accomplishment I've ever felt. (Badwater race report HERE.)
We did the Natural Bridge hike:
And we checked out Zabriskie Point (I would type a million heart emojis next to "Zabriskie Point" if I could."
I can't describe what a cool feeling it was to watch my daughter fall in love with this place just like I have.
There was a trail right by Zabriskie Point that I had never explored before. I decided to check it out for a few miles and it was unspeakably beautiful, definitely one of the most amazing trails I have ever run.
We stopped at the little Furnace Creek convenience store for a soda and treat refill, then drove to the Mesquite Sand Dunes. Again, we got lucky and caught a beautiful sunset.
Don't think for one solitary second "Ahhh, what a good dad." I assure you that you could ask any of my children on any given day and they'd tell you we are horrible parents. (Teenagers are hard!) We make mistakes. We're not perfect. We have regrets. But we try. We really, really try. Just like you do with your kids. Go create your own adventure with your kids. I promise you won't regret it.
As the sun set on our last night of the trip, I wished I could freeze time. I was so thankful for that time laughing together...and blasting music with the windows rolled down together...and drinking rootbeer together...and enjoying one of God's Greatest Hits together. (Is God going to strike me with lightning for saying he has "Greatest Hits"?)
I felt so thankful to be a dad.
Yes. I wished I could freeze time.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
HEALDSBURG, CA - Southern Utah hobby jogger Cory Reese recently finished the Lake Sonoma 50 mile race in northern California. "I heard runners get cool jackets and homemade tamales at the finish line, and I really like tamales", said Reese in the days leading up to the race. He did indeed receive a jacket and tamales, but not before facing tremendous adversity.
His Lake Sonoma tamale quest began two days before the race when Reese and his wife Melanie arrived in California. The first place on their itinerary was the Golden Gate Bridge, with a gift shop that should sell t-shirts saying "Good Luck Trying To Find A Parking Spot Anywhere Within 4 Miles".
Reese's wife immediately began singing the theme song to "Full House" like a 1-song playlist set on repeat.
The couple enjoyed walking all the way across the bridge and back. Reese later admitted "I needed to get some form of physical activity to help justify the basketball-sized chocolate chip cookie I ate with lunch."
They then traveled further north to Healdsburg, California where they had been graciously invited to stay at the guest house of race director John Medinger and his lovely wife Lisa Henson. "There were so many highlights from this amazing weekend, but undoubtedly one of the top highlights was being able to spend time with Tropical John and Lisa," Reese said. "They are so funny and so kind, and we feel honored to call them friends."
Upon seeing the views from the house, the Reeses promptly informed their hosts that they would be moving in permanently.
The day before the race, the Reeses enjoyed a relaxing afternoon walking the streets of Healdsburg, meeting new friends at the pre-race dinner, and taking a quick dip in the pool.
Before the race, Reese confessed that he was apprehensive about the Lake Sonoma 50. "I just ran the Zion 100 a few days ago. My legs are still pretty stiff and sore, and Sonoma has almost as much climbing in 50 miles as Zion has in 100 miles. I'd say I have a 94% chance of crying during this race."
Once the race started, Reese was overcome with amazement at the beauty of his surroundings. "I can already tell this race is going to be hard for me to keep my camera in my pack", he said at mile 4.
The stunning views made him completely forget his sore legs...for at least a fourth of a mile.
Unseasonably high amounts of rain made many trails muddy, and some sections became the adult version of a Slip And Slide.
Controversial allegations have arisen that Reese fakes all his runs. When asked about these harsh allegations, Reese laughed and said "If my runs were faked, I'd like to think I'd give myself faster finish times. I'd be happy to show you the 142 pictures I took during the race to prove that my wiry chicken legs have traveled every mile of the course." Upon inspection, Reese did indeed take 142 pictures during the race, implying that maybe he should run more and take less pictures. "With scenery like this, I just can't help myself," he said.
Damning evidence of Reese's jumping abilities (or lack thereof) was spotted at the end of the race when he caught approximately one inch of air in his "jump" across the finish line. His saving grace was this mid-race jump captured by the official race photographer.
Reese was pleasantly surprised to see Gordy Ainsleigh volunteering at an aid station. Ainsleigh is the original pioneer of the 100 mile run - the first person to run 100 miles and show that humans are capable of this insane feat.
Reese's wife nervously waited at the 25 mile turnaround point of the out-and-back course. Reese was a half hour ahead of the cutoff and only stayed at the aid station long enough to take a quick picture and refill his hydration pack before leaving again. Melanie later posted a picture on Facebook commenting "Tons of rocks in his shoes, muddy as hell and currently in the pain cave, but he still has a smile on his face!"
Runners struggled on the return climbs and Reese quickly realized that he wasn't the only one who had reserved space in the pain cave. Hands on hips are a sure sign of pain cave occupancy.
"My biggest problem was that my legs still felt zapped of energy from the Zion 100," said Reese. "I just didn't have much oomph." He pushed forward enjoying the views and the variety of wildflowers blooming all along the trails.
The course boasted countless river crossings. "I was nervous about this before the race," said Reese. "Living in the desert, we don't have obstacles like this." Yet Reese was still managing to defy all odds. Despite the river crossings and oomph-less legs, he had not burst into tears or resorted to curling up in fetal position on the side of the trail and sucking his thumb.
Around mile 45, after more climbs and more mud, Reese finally began to feel a bit of confidence that he'd be able to finish the race before the cutoff.
The clock at the finish line ticked 13 hours 41 minutes as Reese made his one inch jump across the finish line, narrowly avoiding the final cutoff by 19 minutes. Mud-covered legs, a near-dead camera battery, bags under his eyes, and a ravishing appetite for tamales were evidence enough to prove that Reese's run was far from faked. His Lake Sonoma adventure concluded with hugs from his wife and friends, a new finisher's jacket, and the satisfaction of pushing hard to achieve a goal.
~ ~ I can't recommend the Lake Sonoma 50 highly enough. The course is tough and challenging, but the trails are buttery smooth and runnable. They are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful trails I have ever run. Thank you John and Lisa for a truly unforgettable weekend!
Here's a video I put together if you'd like to see more of those 142 pictures I took during the race:
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
I just finished the Zion 100 so I thought I'd give you the race report in hashtags. #butseriously #JustinBieber'shairmightreallylooklikeGrinchfingersifitwasgreen. I've run the Zion 100 every year since it started, if you're willing to count last year where I worked at the finish line during the race so I ran it solo a few days beforehand. #somuchsleepwalking
I planned to run the whole race with my amazing friend Catherine Van Tassell. We've run countless miles together, including her first 100 miler years ago. Click on the link to see the original #ultramarathondanceparty
Shortly after the race started, I enjoyed my first stunning sunrise of the race. #crazytoseetwosunrisesinonerace
The Zion 100 doesn't gently lead you into the suffering. You get a swift kick to the groin right from the start by climbing up the Flying Monkey Trail. There was a huge line to get up a section that requires a rope. #20minutelogjam
We managed to make it up the Flying Monkey Trail, traveled along the top of Smith Mesa, then went back down the mesa the same way we came. #anotherlogjam
At the bottom of the mesa we arrived at a river crossing. The race guide said if you're careful you won't get wet. #theguidelied
Next on our To-Do list was to make the long ascent up Dalton Wash to the Guacamole Trail. The trail is challenging and technical with lots of slick rock that shreds your legs. But it has some seriously incredible views. #love/haterelationship
This is Catherine on the Guacamole Trail with Zion National Park in the background. #shoesdriedout
At mile 30 we got back to the Dalton Wash aid station. It was great to see Mel and Jackson. #familyrocks
I love my wife more than anyone on the planet. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all her support. Though I do question her ultra food choices just a tad. While running Badwater she bought me a gigantic burrito called The Bomb. (I passed on The Bomb because I didn't want a gastro-intestinal #nuclearattack.)
When I arrived at Dalton Wash she had a huge tuna sandwich waiting for me. I mean...there's a reason why tuna sandwiches are never served at aid stations. The place where she bought the sandwich put in TONS of onions. #Ialmostbreathedfire
A few miles later Catherine and I got to the hardest part of the course - the brutal climb up Gooseberry Mesa. The trail is vertical, climbing around 1,500 feet in less than a mile. There is always so much carnage on that climb. People barfing, people crying, people hunched over trying to coax air into their lungs. (HERE are some good pictures of the climb.) #peoplepaytodothis???
The view at the top is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. #Ididn'tcryorbarf #win!
The miles on top of Gooseberry are very challenging. The technical, rolling slickrock makes 10 miles feel like 20. Catherine caught this jumping picture of me up on the mesa. #vanhalentoldmeto
I don't remember what mile it was, maybe around 30, when Catherine said "Should my IT band be hurting this much this early in the race?" I could tell that she was struggling. Her knee was especially grumpy on the downhills. #houstonwehaveaproblem
There is this one spot on Gooseberry Mesa that is unbelievably beautiful. During each race I try to catch a runner going by this spot. (HERE is the 2015 race report where I caught a good shot.) This time I caught Catherine going by. #Ican'tthinkofacreativehashtaghere
Night approached. A few minutes after I turned on my headlamp a big moth flew into my mouth. #ittastedliketuna #mothpowered #fueledbymoths #proteindrinksareoverrated
We had been fighting cutoffs all day and this continued into the night as well. It is an amazing adventure to run so many miles with the same person. You help them during their rough patches and they help you through yours. Mel, Jackson, and Kylee met me at the mile 53 aid station but we didn't stay long because of cutoffs. But seeing them for those couple minutes was a tremendous boost for me. #notuna
This is when my race made a huge shift. Over the next few hours in the dark, here's what happened:
1) We got lost on Grafton Mesa. We were with a few other runners and somehow got turned around. After 4 miles I said "We should have dropped off the mesa by now." Then we met up with runners coming the other way who told us we were going the wrong way.
2) The sweepers had caught up to us and we couldn't return the way we came because they had already removed the flags.
3) We were dangerously close to cutoffs. Catherine said "You have to go. I can't go faster and if you stay here you won't finish." It was such a hard decision but I decided to push ahead to make the cutoff at the next aid station.
4) I got to the aid station, then a few minutes later, Catherine arrived! She found a second life. Unfortunately when we got to the 1,500 foot descent off Gooseberry around mile 70 she knew her knee wouldn't go any farther. We gave each other a hug and I headed into the dark alone.
I sprinted as hard as I could for many miles. I had found a second life as well and I knew I'd have to push hard to finish in time. I only stopped long enough to take a picture of the sunrise. I may have had a little bit of moisture exit my eyes as I witnessed the sunrise and thought about everything I had experienced, the challenges that were still ahead, and the gratitude I felt for a body that is willing to do this kind of stuff. #justalittledirtinmyeyes.
I got to the aid station at mile 76 only 10 minutes ahead of the cutoff. My friend Jared Thorley was waiting there to pace. He has helped me through many rough points during races and seen me at my absolute worst. He knows just how to keep me moving. Every once in a while he'd offer a chunk of a Rice Krispy Treat. At first he'd be nice about it. If I refused, he got mean about it. But either way, he made sure I ate the freaking Rice Krispy Treat. #betterthantuna #betterthanmoths
I was still close to cutoffs but making up a little time. Jared didn't feed me any "you're looking good" nonsense. He just stayed far enough ahead that I had to work to keep up with him. #hatemenowlovemelater
After 33 hours and 10 minutes I saw the most beautiful sight of the whole race....the finish line! I was ecstatic that I beat the cutoff. #thatlandingisgoingtohurt
As usual, Vacation Races/Ultra Adventures put on a great race. I am SO, SO thankful for such great running sponsors. Huge thanks to St. George Running Center, Tailwind Nutrition, Altra Running, UltrAspire, and Injinji. I'm so thankful for those amazing miles I was able to spend with Catherine, and thankful for Jared helping me push to the finish. And I am so thankful for such a supportive family. Sixth Zion 100 buckle.....#blessed.
If you're interested, here is a short video clip with more pictures I took from these beautiful trails: