Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 In Review

While I know there are still a couple of weeks left in the year to do something cool, my commitment to heal up this Peroneal ankle tendonitis is winning out over running. With nothing to do, really, I find myself reflecting on my accomplishments of this past year. I will review each in its turn below, but some of the behind the scene bigger moments are; getting through 95% of the year injury free, continuing my streak of ultras without a DNF, eclipsing my total mileage of 2009 by several hundred this year, and the biggest yet, making new running friends and just thoroughly enjoying the trails with all my mates. 2010 has been a brilliant year.

Now, reflection.

Big Goals - Coming off of 2009 recovering from ITBS I set a pretty high goal of running a marathon length distance or further every month this year. January and December were the only months I failed to do that (December isn't over yet; don't count me out). While I didn't do it in each of the months, I did run 26.2 or further 15 different times this year, a huge accomplishment for me . . . or just about anyone, really (except Davy who seems to do it week after week).

Sapper Joe 50k - While I had some great runs early in the year, my real test was in May during the the Sapper Joe 50k, my first race of 2010. I knew the competition would be tough and I only had hopes for a personal good performance, but even though I had a really difficult day I was still blessed to run faster than planned and take 4th overall. I'm looking forward to bettering my time in 2011 by more than 20 minutes. Placement won't matter to me.
From 2009, but you get the idea

SL Valley Temple Run - If I get something in my head it generally gets stuck there until I achieve it. Not attempt to achieve it, but actually do it. Running to each of the 4 LDS temples in the Salt Lake Valley was an idea I got in my head very early in 2010 and I just couldn't sleep at night until I went for it. The wet spring and muddy trails really helped me make the decision to go after this urban ultra. 

Bryce Canyon Link-up - Another hair-brained idea was to link the three main backcountry trails in Bryce Canyon, making for an amazing tour of the park. While I didn't get to run every step of the trail I had planned, I still linked all three, technically, and did something I'm pretty sure has not been done before. I can't wait to head back and try the full version in 2011.

Utah Triple Crown - Setting the new speed record on the Utah Triple Crown has been my primary goal since I decided to start running. In 2001 I hiked all three in a day from an advanced base camp, making the papers (silly) and triggering a small wave of followers who were now set on repeating it. However, in 2008 Davy Crockett did all three in a day starting from the car. He not only stepped up the standard, but he set a solid time to beat. My intention was to target a different route and hopefully cut off mileage and time. The end result was that I not only set a new record of 9:41:46, beating the old record by more than 4 hours, but I summited 4 peaks instead of just the 3 tallest (I had to go over East Gunsight to get to Gunsight Pass). Davy thinks the record will stand for a long time. I think, and hope, that it is beatable and anyone who is familiar with the area could do it in the next couple of years. That would be awesome. 

Katcina Mosa 100k - August would be new ground for me, running further in a single go than ever before. The Katcina Mosa 100k is one of the toughest 62 mile trail races in the country, boasting over 34,000 ft of elevation gain and loss. It is run in the hottest month of the year through the mountains behind Provo, UT. I had set a pretty good goal and over-achieved, something I really didn't expect. It was an awesome race and I ran a 13:38:00, taking 9th overall. It was that race that really gave me the confidence to run 100 miles. While wrecked after, I knew I could have gone further if the race required it.

Quest for King's Marathon - In 2009 I devised this little fun run as a way to race the tallest mountain in Utah. It's not an official race since racing isn't allowed on pristine wilderness land, but it is a great way to get all my friends together and enjoy one of my favorite trails in Utah. This year we had a small turn-out and I had a rough day, but overall it was a really fun day. I set a new PR and came in 2nd overall. I'm pretty sure that next year I won't finish that high, but I do hope to knock off more than a half hour on my time. 

Pony Express 100 - My focus since mid-year 2009 was to work up and run a 100 mile race. While I am a mountain runner at heart, the Pony Express 100 was a draw for me for several reasons. First, the race director is a friend and my running mentor, Davy Crockett. Second, I ran the 50 last year, knew the course, and enjoyed the remoteness of the course. Finally, I was on the race committee and therefore had no choice but to go for it. Oh, and Davy was way too smug about always winning it. He needed someone to take him down. While it wasn't me or anyone else for that matter, I did come in 3rd overall, set a 100 mile PR of 22:46:00, and wet my tongue on the world of 100 milers. I'm hooked. Next year I will have no other goal but to win it . . . and try and go under 20 hours. I know I can do both.

Halloween Half Marathon - One of my most prized moments of the year was running a road half marathon with my wife, mom, and brother (and my mom's friend). I can't express how proud I am of my wife and how much I value having the experience to run with her. She beat her goal time by 15 minutes, ran strong the whole way, and we just had a TON of fun. I am so proud of her.

While the year was dotted with other fine accomplishments, such as; running two ultra distances in Cedar Valley, monster days on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, pacing at the Wasatch 100, Lake Mountain marathon, and discovering how amazing the Timpanogos trails are, the ones listed above were truly the highlight of an amazing year. Will 2011 be even better? I don't know. I'm not sure I could ever have a better year than this one, but you can be certain that I am going to try. Stay tuned for my 2011 goals. They should be impressive, even for me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Euro Racing

I've been doing a bit of reading and watching race videos of trail races held in Europe, specifically two kinds of races that differ from those (if only slightly) we offer here in the States; Sky Racing and Vertical Challenges (Vertical Kilometer). Both of these types of races interest me greatly. I'll address them seperately.

First, Sky Racing. This has been defined by the International Skyrunning Federation as - The discipline of running in the mountains above 2,000m where the incline exceeds 30% and the climbing difficulty does not exceed II° grade. Ski poles and hands may be used to aid progress. There are three types of sky races; Sky Marathon (20 - 26.2 miles in length), Sky Race (15 - 20 miles in length), and Sky Raid (multisport team races at elevation). There is also Sky Ultramarathon, which is anything more than 5% greater than a Sky Marathon. We have a few of these in the States that would qualify; Wasatch 100, Hardrock 100, Leadville 100, Wasatch Speedgoat (best possible example) and others. We also have races that are similar in nature to Sky Races, but aren't quite at elevation. One that comes to mind is the Wahsatch Steeplechase.

Often times these races run up and over mountains. The grade is extremely steep for most of the ascent, requiring the use of trekking poles and on occasions, ropes to pull yourself up. The distance of such a race (15 - 20 miles) is ideal in that, for most, runners will likely push their limit on not only climbing but outright running. Often with ultras we just get into a casual rhythm and grind it out to the finish. With Sky Racing you have the challenge of doing difficult mountainous ascents at marathon pace.

I would love to host or co-host races like this here in Utah. For those familiar with the Wasatch Mountains I can easily think of several options that would fall into this category; Bullion Divide, Beatout Hike, Devil's Castle / Sugarloaf / Baldy loop, Alta-Brighton loop, etc. The requirements are easy - make it steep and do it at altitude. I just think it would be cool to do more altitude racing, especially since our local options are in such abundance.

Now, as for the Vertical Kilometer. These races are simple and insane. Find the steepest, toughest trail you can and push racers up it for 1 kilometer. I've watched videos on this and its crazy. The old Widow Maker trails on South Mountain would work perfectly for this. I wonder if Draper City would let me run a race like this. It's individually timed and people leave about 2 minutes apart. And they just go up as fast as they can until they collapse at the top. Sound fun?

What are your thoughts on the whole concept?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday 26.2

I needed to get my marathon or further in today, but I also wanted to hit some trails and maybe get a peak in. Since I'm a wuss and backed out of the Wire Peak Rampage, and knowing I would be down here in Lehi today, I decided to try a run from my parents house all the way out to Lake Mountain, summit the peak, and come back. I was hoping it would be near 26.2 miles. It was almost dead perfect.

I woke up late after dealing with the kiddos all night, but that turned out to be a good thing. I left at about 9:30am, just warm enough to be outside. There was no wind and with the sun on me I was able to stay warm enough to maintain a good pace and positive attitude. I ran the trails through Lehi and Saratoga Springs, passing (I can only assume) near Crockett's house. I know I was near his house because I could smell the fear of me beating him next year at Pony Express 100 coming from somewhere nearby. I then continued along the paved trails until I got to the access road to Israel Canyon. That climb through the neighborhood was very pleasant and when I hit the dirt road I still felt pretty good (8.2 miles in).

I have struggled on my runs lately that are longer than 10 miles, but today was different. Once in the canyon it turned to more of a power hike. I was worried I was going to have to break snow most of the way up the canyon, but to my surprise I had a couple of day-old four wheeler tracks to follow, almost all the way to the top. I probably only had to break snow (that wasn't more than a few inches deep) for about a half mile. I then ran into the tracks again right at the top. I hit the summit in 2:31:06, 2.81 miles. I stopped to call my parents and check on my kids, eat a few things, take a couple of pics (to be posted later), and I was off again.

Running down I chose to follow the four wheeler tracks. It added a little distance, which I needed, but it was all runnable and I was having a great time blazing down the snow for the next several miles. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to run fast through the snow, but I maintained a 6:30 pace for more than 3 miles down the canyon. Near the bottom I still held a pace in the 7s and even maintained a pace in the 8s nearly the rest of the way back. I was pretty tired my last two miles. I had to walk a few times. I was energizing well, but I also did the mental math and found that I had burned almost 2600 calories and only taken in 700. I wasn't bonking, I was just tired. I finished strong though and am super happy with my effort today. It was a near perfect outing. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.

Time: 4:19:03
Avg Pace: 9:53
Vert: 3370

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Leg 5k

This is not a race I ran.

There are certain moments in your children's lives that really stand out. Whether it is the first time they rolled over, walked, or shoved a pea up their nose, they are moments beyond 'milestones', moments that you know you will never forget. When it comes to my children, there are more of these moments than I can count. I am proud of each of them for so many little things they do almost daily.

Today's day was Tyler's. I've been asking him if he wanted to run a 5k for a few months now. Running one on Thanksgiving Day seemed like a logical and fun choice. A friend of mine was the race director of a cool 5k up in Farmington, called the Turkey Leg 5k. Yes, there are many other options much closer to home, but I thought it would be fun to support him. Besides, I also had several friends running in the race and I knew that the tech t-shirt they gave out with the entrance fee would be awesome. Unfortunately, my wife had to work so I had my two smallest with me. Knowing the temps would be in the teens, at best, not only would it be a challenge for Tyler, but it would be tough for my two smallest to hang out in the cold.

I got Tyler there about 20 minutes before the start. His mom had shown up to cheer him on, as well. I bundled up the rug-rats and we all headed out to get him settled. Just before the race started he stripped of his down coat and sweats and headed to the starting line. Minutes later they were off. I had coached him to not go out too fast and just find a group of people he felt comfortable running with. He listened to my every word.

The layout of the course was cool in that just after the 2 mile mark the runners pass the park, so you get to see them run by. It was here that I snapped a few good shots. I then urged him to start pressing a little harder. The race then runs through a neighborhood and then loops back around the opposite side of the park and around and back, so you get to see them finish the last third of a mile. As Tyler came back into view I could see he was still running strong. He was passing several people who were out of energy. With 100m to go he passed two people. The announcer then called out the competition between the three and the two he passed started to sprint. Not to be beaten though, Tyler turned on the heat and passed them both again at the line, finishing in an unofficial 25:08. That is super fast for a 12 year old in his first 5k. I couldn't believe how well he did and I am so proud. He was hammered. I asked if he thought he might puke to which he concurred, but he kept it down. That's the sign of a great effort. We snapped a few more pics and then I got my freezing kids home while Tyler left with his mom.

 Tyler at the 2 mile-ish mark

Not to be beaten

I am so proud of him. He has really caught the running bug and is going to be amazing. Congrats Tyler!!!

Here are a few additional pictures:

 T and his Deacon's Quorum advisor, Jason

T and his mom

T and me

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Antelope Island

Matt and I went out to Antelope Island to try and do the 25k course. We knew of the impending storm coming in and were a bit worried, but it appears the craziness isn't coming in until tonight now. We only had to deal with wind and cold. I like the cold, but hate the wind.

The first several miles run south heading straight into the wind. We passed several buffalo along the way, which was cool. The views are awesome. The weird thing though is that everything looks closer than it really is. I knew within a mile that we wouldn't have time to do the whole course so I thought we could go out and bag Elephant Head knoll, but it turned out to be quite a bit further than it looked. Even still, we got out there pretty far and turned around at the 6 mile mark. We then reversed the course and followed the finishing way back, which added the half mile. It was a really cool run and I can't wait to go back out there and run the whole thing. Oh, and there was zero snow on the ground.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Timpanogos Has a Front?

Several weeks ago I went running with my friend Eric in the hills east of Provo, following the Squaw Peak course. With Timp as our background we talked of running the trails on and around that mountain. I mentioned that I don't think I'd be interested in running any trails on Timp that didn't involve me hitting the summit. But then last week Eric ran a loop route on the front that he absolutely fell in love with. He mentioned it in his report and challenged me to come out and try it. He was confident it wouldn't disappoint. He couldn't have been more right.

We met this morning at 7:30am at the Grove Creek trail head and headed out north on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Even that section of trail was nice; 4 miles of perfect single track to about a mile of dirt road where we stopped at the mouth of Dry Creek for a quick bathroom break and then up the canyon. I was having trouble with my breathing, but even after my tough run up Malan's yesterday I was surprised how well my legs felt. Eric told me that the next three miles would be a steady climb up Dry Canyon, but that it was all runnable and beautiful. I had no idea just how incredible it would be. Unfortunately, one of the set-backs of Pony Express has been that my recovery after even a normal run has been slow and the climb quickly took it's toll on me. Within a mile I found myself walking periodically. My legs were heavy and my quads really suffered yesterday. Six miles into our run and I was tired. At mile 7 you come to a bench on the edge of a cliff that looks over an amazing waterfall. The views out over Utah Valley were incredible and even with my tired legs I couldn't have been more content to be running in such a beautiful setting.

Our run began with a beautiful sunrise

About a half mile up Dry Creek, after the first switchback

Eric running along a cool cliff line

At the bench looking back at our route up Dry Creek

Above the big waterfall with a small one behind

Does it honestly get any better?

Another mile past the waterfall we were up at Dry Creek campground. I really struggled that last mile, hiking more than running. I was really mad at myself because the trail was all runnable and on any normal week I would have cruised right up it. And I was holding Eric back, which also bothered me (I doubt he cared, but that's not how my psyche works). Once you hit the campground the trail rolls up and over a small pass and then you get to cruise through amazing meadows on your way to Big Baldy Pass. I can't even put into words how beautiful it is up there. So I won't.

Yeah, it was that cool.

Possibly the best running pic I've ever taken

After you run through the meadows you then have a very easy, steady climb of about 1000 feet up to Big Baldy Pass. It is a series of switchbacks that slowly climbs up to the pass. I made the mistake of looking at the actual time on my watch and realized that I was going to be really late getting home and that got to me even more. I was struggling just putting one foot in front of the other. It wasn't about fueling or energy, I had been fueling fine the whole run. I just didn't have anything in my legs. I don't think I've ever felt like that before in a run. Ever. But again, the views were pretty dang good.

On the way up to Big Baldy Pass

At the top of Big Baldy Pass we were at mile 11.5 (about), which meant we had about 2.5 miles of wicked-steep downhill, then another mile to the base of the canyon and another 1.5 miles back on the BST to the finish. I could do that. Eric mentioned to me that these first couple of miles were really steep and in a 'trough', but wow, I certainly didn't realize how steep and deep it was. The trail/trough was a good 3 feet deep with grass growing over the top, so you couldn't even see your feet. And the horses had chopped up the trail enough that it made foot placements tricky. I was wearing my new New Balance MT101s and was glad I had put on thicker socks. They were working very well. 

We made good time down the steep stuff and then opened it up on the lower angled downhill to the bottom, laughing and talking the whole way. The last cruiser mile and a half back to the car was pretty good and I felt remarkably better than I thought. Don't get me wrong, my legs were TRASHED, but I was still able to keep a moderate pace. As soon as we got back to the car I called my wife and apologized. I would be more than an hour late getting home. Luckily, she is extremely understanding. I couldn't ask for a better wife.

After talking with Eric I've resigned myself to the fact that even though I've had some good runs in the last couple of weeks that I am just not recovered from my 100 miler. It will definitely be in my best interest to take the next week off, which I plan to do. I need my legs to recover. I still have to run an ultra this month and I'd like it to be the Grand Canyon. Not sure if I can work it out logistically, but I want to try and I need to make sure my legs are up for it. I'm sure they will be. Below is a 3D map of our route and the statistics summary. Note the 4600+ feet of vert we had. Pretty monster for a run that long. Even with the trouble in my legs and the holding Eric back part I can't say enough about how cool that run was. Without a doubt one of my most favorite trails I've ever run. I can't wait to do it again. Hopefully, the weather will hold until I can try. If not, I'll be on it first thing next Spring.

With Timp as a constant background, what could go wrong?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Malan Peak

I had a great morning running with 'the boys' - Matt, Bryce, and Scott. The three of us drove up to So Ogden and met Bryce at the trailhead. I had just gotten my new MT101s in the mail yesterday and was eager to try them out. Last night the 11.5 felt a little large, even though in the store they felt perfect. I guess my running socks weren't as thick as my work socks. So this morning I put on a little thicker pair of trail socks. Still not good enough, but we'll get to that.

From the start it is a gorgeous trail up awesome single track to Malan's Peak. After about a mile it gets really steep and I slowed to a power hike while Bryce continued to climb. This is about what I expected. Bryce hit the summit first, followed by me, then Matt and finally Scott. I hit the peak in 41:30. Bryce said that was pretty fast, but I felt like I was really slow. I was definitely not in good form today. Just not feeling it. The overlook was amazing, however. We hung out on top long enough to chat and take in the sights and wait for it to get light enough to run down without our headlamps. 

Ogden from the summit of Malan Peak

Scott and Matt on top

Me, of course


Of course there was a peak jump

I flew down the trail. It was hard to keep my legs moving fast enough at parts. I was not happy with what my shoes were doing though. I felt like I was swimming in them. However, my heel never came up and my toes weren't crushing against the front. The trail was wicked-steep though, so between not having on good socks and the trail I think both contributed to a bad experience. I'm not going to blame the shoes. The rock plate in these things is amazing. I rarely ever felt a rock, something I can't say about my Inov-8s. I'll have to try my next run in better socks (Darn Tough vs Bolega - what I wore today). Biggest lesson learned is to just buy a size 11 next time. They just felt so small when I had them on in the store. Maybe I'll feel better about things when I get on better socks. I certainly can't send the shoes back after today's run. Ha.

Bryce and Matt near the bottom
Anyway, it was an awesome day and I loved running with the guys. I think we are going to head back up on Monday/Tuesday to try and do Ben Lomond, which should be amazing. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Half Marathon

I had the wonderful opportunity of running with my wife, Emily, in her first half marathon; the Halloween Half Marathon up Provo Canyon. The race is only in its second year and they went from 700 participants last year to nearly 2500 this year. While there were some minor frustrations with the race (as there is with EVERY race) I thought everything was really well done. There is just nothing better than running with several thousands of other people dressed up like idiots down a beautiful canyon a beautiful fall day.

I can't say enough about how awesome Emily was on this run. Her goal was to run a 2:30:00 and I knew it was very achievable. She has been working hard and has some good, fast, long runs in and I knew she was ready, even if she didn't. Along with her my Mom would be running her third half with her friend Deanna and my brother, Brent, would be running his first half, as well. We all dressed the same; black tights, black top, masks, and a purple and red kids cape. We all met at University Mall in Provo to catch the buses and quickly got on. We were on one of the short in-town buses and had a great time riding up with other costumed racers.
On the bus. So fun.

The buses dropped us off at Aspen Grove, above Sundance Ski Resort. They had a large 15000 square foot heated tent for the runners to hang out in prior to the race. I don't know why they had people get up to the start so early, but we were there for two hours. At least we had fun seeing the other costumes and hanging out together. 
Our group costumes

Me and Em

A group of people up for the costume contest

When it came time to gather outside it had warmed up a  bit more and wasn't so bad waiting for the start. It was cool to be out there with so many people on that narrow road. Since we were lined up with the 2:30 runners we were right in the middle of the pack. Below is a picture looking back behind us.

And the four of us at the start (Brent lined up with the faster runners)

When the gun went off we headed out slowly, as usual. We had to make our way through a maze of cars and buses shortly after the start that got stuck in the road, but after that it was clear sailing with the rest of the group. Emily was running at a very even pace as hundreds of people zoomed by us. I told her that we were pacing it just right down this steepest of sections. I then told her to pay attention to what happens after we exited Sundance Canyon, we'd start pacing people all over the place because they started out way too fast. About mid-way down the canyon a guy in tiny shorts and a half cut shirt was dodging the cones in the road and at one point picked one up and carried it over his head for about 5 minutes. It was really funny and there were about 100 of us just laughing at him. It was awesome.

Em running strong down the canyon

At the bottom of the canyon we hit the the Provo Canyon Rd and then at Vivian Park we caught the Provo River Trail all the way to the finish. As predicted, we passed hundreds of people on this 8 mile stretch. Emily continued to run super strong. Her pace never faltered and we only had to stop for one potty break (in the bushes) and then to walk a couple of times while she ate a gel and took a salt pill. 

At about mile 9 we started up this super short hill by Nunn's Park and while we ran up it really strong these two girls started to walk it as one said to the other, "there's no way I'm running up this thing". The hill couldn't have been more than 100 ft long and both Emily and I laughed as we easily ran up it, never breaking our pace. 

Emily along the Provo River Trail

Such a beautiful trail

Em started to have some cramping in her calf towards the end, but other than a grimace on her face she never showed it and her pace remained consistent. With less than a half mile to go she really picked up the pace and pushed strong to the end. We crossed the line at 2:16:36, nearly 15 minutes faster than her goal time of 2:30:00. I was so proud of her and her determination to train hard and run a solid race. It is a fast course, but you still have to run the distance. She was amazing the whole way. Here are some final pictures of the finish line. We hung around for a while with friends and then my step-dad came to pick us up to take us back to our cars. We ended the rest of the day with our children, trick-or-treating in Lehi and having a great time!

Em and me with our finishers medals

All of the great finishers

My FastRunningBlog friends:
Allie, RAD, Bec, and Lily

Me and Scott W