Thursday, February 22, 2018

Jackpot Race Report - A Family Ultramarathon!

Last year my wife and I took the kids to Disney World. Though the kids had a blast, Mel and I realized that we are allergic to standing in a line for two hours for a 90 second roller coaster. I'm pretty sure I'd rather have a spleen removal than go to another theme park.

After last year's trip to Disney World, you can imagine the abounding excitement the kids felt when we told them that this year we would be running a 48 hour race together. They were so thrilled that they hoisted me and Mel on their shoulders and shouted that we were the BEST PARENTS EVER!! (Or something like that.) (Or nothing like that.)

We like the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival in Vegas. I've run it a bunch of times and it is the only race where I've ever run a sub-24 hour 100 miler. The course is a 2.5 mile loop so you get to know the other runners well, considering that you see them so often.

Going into the race, we told the kids we had no expectations of them except to go have fun. We didn't want to pressure them to go farther than they wanted. With a timed race like this, you just go as far as you want within 48 hours. (They have a 24 hour, 12 hour, and 6 hour race too.) You run when you want, you rest when you want. Since we brought the kids along, we decided to rent an RV for a few days so we'd have a place to rest when not out on the course.

I gave them a little talk about what to expect. In summary: don't get behind with fluids and nutrition. Start slow. A nipple with a Bandaid is a happy nipple. They have cheesecake at the aid station. Eat some cheesecake. I think that pretty much covers all the important things. Then we checked in.

I need to give a disclaimer: those first two pictures are us as a happy family. But those times were the minority. Usually we were wanting to strangle each other. Everyone would take their turns fighting, complaining, arguing, or giving the silent treatment. We just hoped that in the end, this would be a good experience.

The race started Friday morning. Run. Walk. Rest. Cheesecake. Run. Walk. Rest. Cheesecake. Hour. After. Hour. I truly loved seeing Mel and the kids out on the course and being able to give them a high five or a sweaty hug when we passed each other.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted my kids to have an experience at a race like this is to be surrounded by the amazing community of runners who are so supportive and encouraging. Take, for example, my friend Colleen Zato. I've known Colleen for years and always love the miles I spend with her. My admiration grew when I saw her work through some very dark times to finish Badwater. But I love her even more after Jackpot. Colleen and her boyfriend Alex kind of took Jackson under their wing and spent many, many miles with him. Getting lost in conversations with friends always makes the miles go by quicker.

A mile 34 jumping picture:

One of the biggest highlights of my race was being able to share some miles with legendary runner Ann Trason. Among her many accomplishments, she has won the Western States 100 a remarkable 14 TIMES! She is the most accomplished female ultrarunner ever. It was an honor to finally meet her and get some miles together. (When I asked her why she added the red feather boa later in the race, she said "I was needing an attitude change.")

I also met Ann's crew/pacer Dill. One night he stood by his tent handing out happy stickers to everyone who passed by. Sometimes a sticker can help you forget how loudly your legs are complaining.

Around 2:00am on the first night, I received my formal invitation to the pain cave. I reluctantly accepted the invite. I did lots of miles in training but no amount of training can prepare you for those late miles in a race.

The race is held at Cornerstone Park which is a bird refuge. There are geese everywhere. They are gigantic. And fearless. For a while, one of them was parked right in the middle of the trail by the timing tent. He looked like he was just itching to take a chunk out of my calf.

It seemed like it would never come, but finally we made it to the second day of the race. I loved seeing and talking with so many amazing people. One of them was my friend Tony Nguyen. Before this race, Tony had finished five 100 milers. And...he had dropped out of 17. This is the kind of tenacity and stubbornness that I LOVE. (Here's something cool: after this race, Tony had finished six 100 milers.)

Race director Ken Rubeli was pestering me for weeks before the race that he wanted to see a lap with the hideous cat suit. I gave in. How To Question Your Masculinity In One Easy Step: Wear a cat unitard during an ultramarathon. (This picture could also be titled "The Dangers Of Peer Pressure".)

Is a family pity party allowed after running hours upon end? I vote yes. Here is a picture of our camper pity party.

Among the awesome people I spent time with during the race, one of them was my friend Clair Coleman. He was one of my crew members when I ran Badwater and can attest that this man is a true saint.

On the second night I took a few breaks to sleep for 60-90 minutes, then got back out on the course to get in a few more miles. And then before we knew it, the race was done.

If you ever need proof that miracles exist, spend a weekend at an ultramarathon. I personally experienced many miracles. And I saw miracles with other runners. But my favorite miracles were with my family. From left to right, Jackson covered 65 miles! Kylee went 50 miles! Danica ran 40 miles! Mel traveled 52.5 miles! And I finished 130 miles. This is a weekend I will never forget.

Thanks to Altra, Tailwind Nutrition, Injinji, UltrAspire, and St. George Running Center for all your support of crazy adventures like this!


  1. I cracked up when I looked at the results during the race and saw so many Reeses! It was really impressive, but I had to wonder how you had managed to bribe them all into participating. Hopefully this won't be the last time a race gets flooded with Reeses!

  2. Your family is the coolest. And I'm totally with you on theme parks. In fact, Jeff and Jacob are all excited about the Star Wars part opening at whatever Orlando park it's coming to, and I'm advocating heavily for them to take that trip while I'm doing Tour Divide.

  3. Watching your family in this race was an honor. It was great to see you all push through the lows and the highs. Thanks for signing my book! Just sad we didn't get a chance totake a picture together. Your family is great