Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Refuse to Quit

I'm writing this post for a very special cousin of mine who is losing a bit of faith in herself. She has had many struggles in her life and has constantly had to battle self-confidence issues. Somehow, through all of this she has set a goal for herself to complete an Iron Man (I believe in 2012). If you knew her you'd know what kind of accomplishment this would be. She is absolutely capable and WILL accomplish it, if, and only if she will refuse to quit, no matter what. I hope this post will help get her going back in the right direction. I hope that maybe it will also inspire some of you.

In 2003 I set my sights on doing something that was extremely fool-hardy, for me. It was a last minute decision to join a friend and a couple of people from the local news rag to attempt to climb Utah's three tallest peaks in one day, starting from an advanced base camp. While I was in good hiking shape and was chiseled from years of rock climbing, I had no actual idea of what I was in for and no concept of how I would accomplish it. I just knew I had an opportunity to summit Utah's tallest peaks and that was good enough for me. I hadn't even considered the concept of Refuse to Quit yet, but would soon be faced with the foundations of it. After summiting King's and So King's I sat on a rock by a stream at the bottom of the Anderson chute with my shoes off, contemplating whether to continue on or call it quits. My hiking partner and the reporter and his son had already thrown in the towel, leaving only myself and the photographer to get the job done. He, the photographer, had said he was good with whatever I chose to do, obviously feeling the effects of the miles and vert we had already put in. We both knew we still had another 3000 feet of climbing and several miles to go before getting to the final peak, Gilbert. Every part of my body told me to stop. Every active thought in my head was screaming to just curl up and sleep. Yet, something in my core, at the very essence of who I was began to push up and rise through all the doubt like plant pushing through the soil to reach sunlight. At the time I didn't know what it was, but it became the beckoning force that motivated me to move on. It was accompanied by a very simple thought, "you can rest when you're done, you can quit when you're dead". I got up and pressed on. Together, we finished that last peak and made it safely back to camp.

I look back now, with all my experience as an ultra runner and realize that what I accomplished that day really wasn't all that awesome. Since then I've returned and completed that same thing thing in a much faster time and starting and returning to my car, which adds 16 miles. But on that day it was the biggest thing I had ever physically faced and it would set the tone for the rest of my adventurous life.

Not long after that event I was faced with what would be the absolute biggest challenge of my life, my divorce. That experience dwarfed the Triple Crown in difficulty, both physically and mentally. As I rebounded from that and began to start my life again I was faced with that age-old challenge of dating. After only a few random dates I was presented with a wonderful gift, the woman who would eventually be my wife. But only after she and I had gone through more trials than I thought possible would we be able to tie the knot and begin a life as husband and wife. I won't go into the details of those trials, but they tested me to my very core. They pushed the concept of Refuse to Quit to the absolute limits and on more than one occasion I was certain had broken it. I had given up. Yet, sitting silently alone, that same motivating force that had compelled me to get up from that rock next to a stream in Henry's Fork would push me to get up and fix things with my fiance'. Six years later and I'm happy to say that we have a wonderful marriage and look forward to a perfect life together.

I continue to face challenges. Every day something else jumps up. In the past year we've endured the process of buying a house and preparing financially to do that. I had no idea what a challenge that would be and on many occasions wanted to just quit and go rent something. In August we had our youngest son in the hospital for three weeks. I can't explain what kind of anguish we went through. And then to have to face the financial difficulties that would follow as a result of all the bills (a challenge we are still facing). Then, only a few short months later we were back in the hospital for the birth of our final child, William. While not a challenge in and of itself, the bills are now stacking up against Max's hospital bills, creating what is again a very trying time for us. There are moments when I just want to return to the base of King's Peak and curl up on the grass and die. But that's not who I am. Refuse to Quit has embedded itself so deeply in the foundations of my life I can't do anything but get up and continue on.

In our darkest moments we discover who we really are. It is at those times when we define ourselves by how we respond to that situation. Will you curl up and want to die or will you rise up and refuse to quit? It seems like a cliche' phrase, but when you really give it some thought and reflect on what you have gone through or are going through you may find that you too have lived by and are currently living by this same principle. At our very core I believe all of us who refuse to be held down, who refuse to live in the dark, and who choose to get up and be successful do so because we do one simple thing, Refuse to Quit.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Vision

If you read my most recent post you'll know that while 2011 was a very successful running year, it was also very busy professionally and personally, which didn't allow for me to do quite as much as I had hoped as far as personal goals are concerned. I'm hoping now that we are in a new home, our family is complete, and my job is back to normal that I can set some serious goals for this coming year and hopefully achieve a new standard of running for me.

While I will detail out several new goals, it is important to note that I will be running very few races. Unfortunately, the side effects of having a new home and new baby means we have less money for me to pay for big races. Instead, many of my goals will focused around some pretty awesome adventure runs. I'm absolutely certain I won't be able to achieve all of these since I simply won't have enough time, but I sure want to try.

I do plan to do a few races this year. First on the list will be redemption at the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50 miler. While I did actually reach my goal of nearly 8 hours last year, I felt like I didn't run the race well, struggled for at least 15 miles, and didn't actually achieve my true potential. This year I'm hoping to go back and push more towards 7:30.
Second, and without a doubt the most important goal on my list is to get into the Wasatch 100 and perform well. I have a few time goals in mind, which I won't publicize here. Let me just say that everything I do this year will be to prepare me for that race and 'just finishing' or even going over 30 hours is not an option for me.   I will be going into it with the intent to achieve a new standard of racing, for me.
Me training on the Wasatch 100 course this past year

Finally, I will, of course, be racing the Pony Express Trail 100 again. Different from this past year, I won't actually be 'racing' it. My brother, Brent, is hoping to run the 50 miler, his first. My plan is to run the first 50 with him, nice and slow. Then hang out at the finish line with him for a while and enjoy seeing people. Then I'll chuck him in the van and continue on running the rest of my 100. It means that track record of coming in third will be thrown out the window, and most likely won't even see a sub-24 hour finish, but that won't matter. The purpose will be to just enjoy Brent's race and then cruise in and enjoy the rest of mine.

Adventure Runs
This is where things start to get a little crazy. 
My first goal is to head back to Zion with some friends and finish what we started. The Zion Traverse. I actually plan to put a twist on this one, but I'll save that surprise for after I complete it.
Second is to go after another piece of unfinished business - complete the full 110 mile run on Skyline Drive in central Utah. Whether alone or with Davy Crockett, this thing is getting done this year. I have a new plan on how to crew it and friends who want to support me, so this is definitely on the books. 
This past summer the MRC boys stripped the FKT on the Utah Triple Crown from me. It's time to get that back. I have a slightly new strategy that I think will shave some time. I'm also a better runner and that will help as I won't be slogging along the last 6 miles.
Standing atop South King's

Additional long-goals will include a potential shot at the FKT on the Uinta Highline Trail with some friends, a LONG slog of a run in the Wind Rivers, possibly doing a run of Gannett Peak in WY (this one would take priority of the long Wind Rivers run), Grand Canyon R2R2R (this is always a goal, every year), and start on my lifelong goal of running the entire Great Western Trail from the border of Idaho to the border of Arizona. 
Other than that the only other real goal I have is to run at least one ultra distance run per month.

Not bad, right? If it seems like a lot, it is. It's more than I can do in one year without my wife outright killing me. Obviously I have to balance work and family in there, but if I can plan and save correctly I should be able to get to most of this. Like I said at the beginning, I want 2012 to be a new standard of running. Time to start get to work.

Monday, December 19, 2011

2011 Post-Mortem

An organization I 'Like' on Facebook recently asked the question "What one word would best describe your ultra running performance during 2011?" My knee-jerk response was to put "lack-luster" since I didn't accomplish as much as I would have liked due to several things; buying a home, having a son in the hospital for three weeks, and then have a new son join us only two weeks ago. Basically, there was just so much going on I didn't have the time or the money to get out and do all the things I wanted to this year. Add to that the fact that we had significant snow in the mountains until nearly August and even my normal, shorter adventure runs were squashed.

And then, just before typing how I initially thought my year went I started to rethink all of the things I did accomplish:

My first real test of the year was the Buffalo Run 50 miler. I went into that race with a 'racing' mindset, intent on doing more than just trying to finish. While I had done numerous 50+ miles runs prior to that, I hadn't ever actually raced the distance. I prepared by heading out to the island on several occasions with friends to prepare. Matt and Scott were both running, Matt shooting for his first ultra. My goal was to hit 8 hours. While you can read my race report HERE, I'll just summarize by saying I came pretty dang close to my goal by running an 8:02:39, good enough for 11th place overall.

Over the next few months I focused on building my base and getting ready for all of the adventure runs and two 100 milers I had planned June and after. One of the cool runs I did with Matt, Josh, and Scott was to head out to Stansbury Island to run loops on the 10 mile long mountain bike trail. That place is amazing and we had an awesome time.

I'm certainly no road runner and am definitely not known for my speed, but I did end up running a half marathon PR in May - 1:34:49. I know, slightly pathetic, but it was a very flat course (something that isn't popular in Utah; they love fast downhill courses) and I wasn't planning on doing anything other than using it as a training run anyway. So to pop out a PR was pretty cool.

In early May I went on another adventure with my boys Scott, Josh, and Matt. We all headed down to attempt the Zion Traverse, 48 miles across Zion National Park. We went down knowing it would be a battle against the elements and a battle it was. Unfortunately, it was a battle we lost and after 18 miles we had to turn back due to significant rain, snow and mud. But wow, what an adventure. It was a 30 mile effort with almost 6,000 feet of climbing. You can read the full report  HERE and watch the video HERE.

The Laramie 100 in June would be my 2nd 100 miler and really the first one I would go into with a racing mindset. While I intended to race it, I wasn't actually in the best 100 mile race shape, so my expectations were low. Surprisingly though, the field was small, but the competition still good and I put forth a solid effort that was good enough for the win. I thought the chances of me ever winning a 100 mile event, regardless of the size was near impossible. To do it on only my 2nd attempt blew me away. More than anything it opened my eyes to my own potential and I went into the rest of the year expecting more of myself. Details are HERE and the video HERE.

As the summer progressed I got more and more involved in personal and family endeavors, but even then I was presented with a really cool opportunity, to run Skyline Drive; a dirt road that goes from HWY 70 north to HWY 6, with most of the road being above 10,000 feet elevation. If completed, it would be 110 miles of pure bliss. Unfortunately, we got pummeled with 30 miles of mud. After 50 miles I called it quits while Davy Crockett continued on to complete 67 miles before giving into the mud. That will definitely be a run I go back and try and finish. Details HERE.

Right after that run all hell broke loose in my home. My youngest son, Max, ended up in the hospital for three weeks with a Colidocal cyst on his bile duct. It was a tough three weeks for our family, but he came out of the two surgeries completely back to normal and healthy as can be.

Ah, the sweet pain of not getting into the Wasatch 100. Well, if I couldn't compete I could help my friend Scott finish. He allowed me to pace him the last 47 miles. He knew that if he could make it 53 I could get him home the last 47. He made it without incident and we had a great time the whole way. Congrats to Scott, he really fought for his first 100 miler. The video is great, check it out HERE.

The real focus of my whole year was the Pony Express 100. I felt like I had prepared well enough to run under 20 hours, but the day itself would tell the tale. Not only did I achieve my goal, but I crushed it, running a 19:18:05 and taking 3rd. The part of the entire race was walking knowing I could go faster. My goal two years from now will try and cut another couple of hours off of that (next year I'll be running it, but not 'racing' as I plan to run the first 50 with my brother Brent for his first 50 miler). It was a great way to cap off racing for the year. Details HERE and video HERE.

The remainder of the year was filled with mediocre training and the newest addition to our family, William. Our fourth and last boy joined our family on December 7th. We are so happy to have him. I don't have a good picture now, so I'll have to add a few later.

So after all of that, how did I answer the original question on Facebook? Once I gave it some thought, there was only one word that could describe my year of ultra running - STELLAR. It was really that good.

Tune in soon for my 2012 goals. If I can even come close to achieving them it will be my best year yet!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Finding Time

Obviously, since the birth of our new baby I have had little time to get out and run. Top all of that off with the nasty inversion that plagues Salt Lake City through the winter months and it has made for a messy tangle of lack of running coupled with unhealthy running. That being said, I have been able to get out a few times this week and have thoroughly enjoyed each and every step.

Monday was a road loop of only six miles, but it was the first real run since the birth of William, so it was awesome all the same. Well, except for the fact that I had eaten a huge lunch minutes before heading out. If I want to run though, I have to be ready to jump out the front door the second my wife gives me the green light. Draper has a bunch of paved trails that cruise through neighborhoods, keeping you off of the busy roads.

Tuesday was a step in the right direction as I took advantage of a short gap of time and drove up to the Red Rock trailhead and hit an amazing loop that starts on the BST, then heads up Potato Hill, and then finishes by running almost all of Ann's trail around to the BST again. There is 1000 feet of vertical gain, but none of it feels challenging and you can really cruise. For much of the run I had fresh tracks, just floating through the fresh inch of new snow.

The next couple of days were a shamble. It was only today, now back at work, that I could take a long lunch and head back up to those same trails and run a longer version of that loop. This extended course is what I hope to be a killer unofficial half marathon I'll be holding in late January or early February. There is 2500 ft of elevation, you summit a great small peak, and every step of the trail is runnable terrain. The entire route is 13.63 miles long and will make for a great, challenging half marathon. I tacked on another 1.37 miles to cap a full 15 for the day. That was just what I needed to deal with the stress of the last week. Below are a few pictures from several of these trails. Most are in summer, but you get an idea of how awesome the trail system is around here.

Summiting View Benchmark with Mt Timpanogos behind.

Matt running the upper section of Ann's Trail.

Tomorrow I'll have the opportunity to do a group run with the Altra fellas at the Salt Lake Running Co. While it will be a short run, it will be nice to hang with friends again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Newest Member of the Team

My wife and I are proud to present the newest member to the Lloyd family, William. He was born this morning at 9:53am. He weighed 8.8 lbs and is 20.5 inches long. Boy and mamma are doing well.