Monday, December 31, 2012

What scares you?

By MattW

No, I'm not talking about sharks, clowns or animals dressed as people. 

A couple of years ago a friend called me up and asked me if I would join him in signing up and training for a sprint triathlon. Without much hesitation I agreed. I'm not sure what I was thinking, or what made me say yes, but as I hung up the phone I realized that I was completely and utterly terrified. Could I  even do this?
That fear drove me out of bed on those cold early mornings. It pushed me as I (re)learned how to swim and started running. As race day approached, I felt well prepared, but there was still some of that residual fear prickling up on the back of my neck. After all, I had never done anything like this before! It was hard, even still that swim remains one of the hardest things I've ever done - Yet somehow I did it. 

I may be smiling on the outside... (L)

Fast forward a little less than a year to 2011. I found myself clicking "Submit" on registration for the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 50K. My longest run at the time was 13 miles. Yep, you guessed it - I was terrified. I had a few months to train, and was under the best tutelage anyone could ask for, and I got there.

The races and adventure runs in 2011 started to become more frequent that year as I pushed (and was pushed) to stretch what I expected of myself:

Zion Traverse (attempt) - Petrified
Pacing Craig for 40 miles in the Laramie 100 - Didn't think I could do it
Pony Express 50 miler - Yep, still scared

2011 Pony Express 50 finish - with Josh

Despite the fear, each time a challenge arose I would trust in the training and work that I had put in, and lived to tell the tale. 

As I burst into 2012 my level of experience, confidence and expectations for myself had grown by leaps and bounds. As I now look back on the year though, it occurred to me that I didn't really do anything in relation to my running (with one exception) that truly terrified me like the previous year had been full of. While I was able to have some amazing running experiences, even running longer and faster, I was missing that element of fear that had driven me. 

The 2012 "Exception" - Pacing Craig the last 47 of Wasatch

This realization motivated me to (with a little peer pressure) start off 2013 by pulling the trigger on putting in for the Wasatch 100. This is something that terrifies me, but I know I can do it, and relish the opportunity to have a lofty goal to reach. Hopefully the path to that goal also includes other such "terrifying" challenges.

Check is in the mail

I'm often asked (as I'm sure many of us are) if I ever worry about falling while running trails. My answer is simple: "Nope - I know that I will fall, so I don't worry about it". If we're always scared of falling, it's likely that we'll never do anything worth doing! 

I hope that as we ring in this New Year you will join me in the challenge to terrify yourself (running or otherwise)! Do something that scares you! That challenge will be different for each one of us. Surround yourself with people that will push you beyond what you believe is possible, and go out and get it done!  

Here's a little something from earlier in the year...just for fun. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My 2013 Wishlist


So if I had a wish it would be for world peace. Who wouldn't? Since that will never happen, I like to wish for more realistic things. Here is my outdoorsy wish list for 2013:

January: Begin running six days a week and take Sundays off. I would like to do the Temple Run. That is, from home in Farmington to the Bountiful LDS Temple, then around the corner to the Salt Lake Temple. Then to the Jordan River Temple, and over to the Oquirrh Mountain Temple, and finish at the Draper Temple. I do not know how many miles that is, exactly, but it I hear it is somewhere in the range of fifty to sixty.

February: Moab 55K. I am already signed up, and the hotel is booked.

March: Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 mile and 50 mile. "Hey, you can't run both of those!" Can't I? In fact, someone already is making a serious consideration to do it. Why let him have all the fun? Of course, I would have to complete the 100 in 18 hours or less if I want to start at 6AM with the 50 milers for a third lap around the island.

King's Peak, ski-in at the end of March. I would love to go back with my new ultra marathon fitness and get up there and back before dark. My fitness is worlds away from where it was the last time I skied to King's Peak.

April, May, June: I will be getting out as much as possible, whether it be for Spring mountaineering in the Wasatch, long-distance adventure runs, and hopefully some downhill skiing.

Bryce 100 Miler

Zion Traverse FKT attempt: I like to dream big.

Grandeur Peak Fun Run in May

I am going to enter a 5K with the intention of beating my PR of 19:47.

I would love to do the Grand Canyon R2R2R.

Timpanogos a bunch of times.

Millwood 100. 

July:Flag Rock 10K in Farmington. I got 3rd place this year in a very fast trail race above the smal town of Farmington, Utah. I am going back to see if I can beat my time.

Gannett Peak. After the miserable time I had this year getting back from Gannett I said I would never go back. I changed my mind, but with conditions. I will go back if I can climb the pass over snow. The thing is miserable without snow.

Speedgoat. Now that I have run it I will seek to significantly improve my finish time.

August: Kings Peak. I will go out to set my fastest time and back of the highest peak in Utah.

September: Wasatch 100, if I win the lottery again. If not, I would like to enter another or two 100 milers, perhaps out of state.

October: Pony Express Traill 100 Mile Enduracne Run. PE is a fast course. This is where I will test myself for my 100 mile PR.

Antelope Island 100K

 November: Something big. If my fitness and endurance is where I need it to be, I have something in mind that everything I do throughout 2013 will be leading up to. I am keping it on the down-low for now.

That is my 2013 wishlist of things to do, running and mountain-wise. I am looking forwad to the new year so I can start making it happen. In the meantime, enjoy my video of Mt. Olympus:

Injured, But Not Out

So I've been dealing with a nagging foot injury for the last few weeks. I fear it could be a stress fracture right in the middle of my foot. It is definitely getting better, but it hurts to run on pavement or flat, hard dirt. Good thing I rarely run anything flat and all of the dirt is covered in a blanket of snow. I've also been taking a lot of time off. I'm only trying to get out once or twice a week and mostly to hike, something that doesn't hurt my foot. My last two outings have been amazing - Mt Olympus and Lake Mountain. Both were in considerable snow with the latter being done in a near blizzard. I was out with good friends and in the mountains, so there was never a moment when I didn't want to be there. Here are some photos from these past two forays.

Mt Olympus
 Matt W on the way up.

 Jeremy Howlett and Aaron W summitting

 Matt W on the summit

Matt navigating the coulior ice and slick snow

Lake Mountain
 Jeremy running on the way up

 Aaron and Mindy nearing the summit in a blizzard

 Scott and Matt still happy in the blasting wind

My knees are covered in snow because that is how deep it got at times. So awesome.

Friday, December 21, 2012

2012 - BANG!

by Craig

I remember back to 2010 and thought of that as my breakout year. It was the first year I ran a 100k and 100 miler. It was the year I achieved my goal of a new FKT on the Utah Triple Crown (it's been beat three times since). And it was the year that Scott and I did something no one had ever done, linked all three backcountry trails in Bryce Canyon as a run. Then 2011 came around and I reached a new level. I won my first 100 miler (Laramie 100), then went sub-20 hours in my third ever 100 miler (Pony Express 100). I thought for sure that I had broken out. Now that 2012 is nearly over I've finally come to the realization that I don't have a 'break-out' moment, that everything I've achieved this year was done so by gradually building one piece upon another and that ultimately my success is associated with two things . . . . which I won't mention until the end of this post. For now, a look back.

In January I was approached by a friend and co-founder of Altra Zero Drop footwear, Jeremy Howlett, with an opportunity to act in a series of parody webisodes as part of a psuedo-superhero duo called the Altramaniacs whose purpose was to spread the Altra Zero Drop love. We had a good six months of fun making video segments and attending several events all over Utah. And while the funding ran out to keep the series alive, the Altramaniacs live on and I continue to see people 'Like' the Facebook page and videos. It is pretty cool.

My first focused race of the year was the Red Mountain 50k, a local secret down in St George. The race, half on dirt roads and half on pavement is fast for the distance, with only 1500 ft vertical gain and probably around 2500 of vertical loss. For some reason I didn't really consider my abilities and set a goal to try and run a 4 hour 50k. I had no idea if I could do it, but was amazed to be able to cross the finish line in 4:02:02 and in 2nd place.

Following that race, even though I was doing some pretty awesome adventure runs with my friends, such as Antelope Island and the Wedge, my real focus turned towards attempting something no one had ever done before, a double crossing of the Zion Traverse - 48 miles across the entire Zion National Park . . . and then back again for a total of 96-98 miles and 20,000 ft of vert.That run turned out to be tougher than any 100 mile race I've done to date and was probably the most satisfying thing I did all year.

I spent the rest of the summer ramping up for my big race of the year, the Wasatch 100. As part of that training I hosted the Quest for Kings Marathon for it's fourth year. This year I didn't have a kid in the hospital and I got to attend and what a treat it was. We had about 15 people show up, mostly at different times, and everyone killed it. It was an amazing weekend with perfect weather, great trail conditions, and amazing friends.

Then Wasatch. What a race that was. To keep it short, I ran solid until mile 25 then did my normal breakdown until mile 42. It was those miles that cost me my sub-24. Someday I'll learn how to not go through that for that long. I won't bother explaining, but it happens in every race. After mile 42 I bounced back and killed it all the way to mile 75 where I promptly lost all my mojo. I still ran strong into the finish, but  there were about 12 miles that I would have liked to have gone a little faster than I did. Crossing that finish line in 24:25:26 was incredible though. And then to enjoy spending the rest of the day watching all of my friends come in was absolutely the icing on the cake.

Recovery sucks. It takes longer than I like it to, especially now that I'm, well, let's say 'not young'. So going into the Antelope Island 100k in early November fully recovered but probably a little under-trained was a reality I had to accept. Yet even then I set some lofty goals for myself - go sub-10 hours and try and do something I had never truly tried to do before, race for the win. Well, my chance at 1st was gone in the first 15 miles and the middle of the race was a complete mental and physical disaster for me, but I was still able to achieve my ultimate goal of going under 10 hours in a final time of 9:54:36ish which was also good enough for 2nd place and the fourth fastest time ever on the course.

So that's what it's come down to. Since then I've done some incredible runs - Mount Olympus West Slabs, South Thunder Mountain, and Mount Olympus in under 2 hours RT. Throw in a few other fun-runs with friends and it has been a pretty awesome way to cap off the year. So I'll go back and answer what I think are the two reasons for my continued improvement and success. It's simple: 1. I continue to push myself while maintaining one single focus, Having Fun. 2. My friends and family. It is my friends that make all of my runs what they are - play. And my family is who gives me the strength to continue every time I want to quit. It's the thought of my wife and that she knows the only way I could feel disappointment in myself is if I give up. So I keep running as fast as I feel I can at that moment. And I Refuse to Quit. Always Refuse to Quit.

Monday, December 17, 2012

(Almost) Anyone Can Be An Ultrarunner


 How did I get here?

First, let me tell you where here is: At age 40 I became an ultrarunner. I did some running in middle school but after that, nothing. To a forty year-old, sixth grade is a lifetime ago. When I moved to Utah in my twenties, I became an enthusiastic hiker. I could not ignore the Wasatch mountains. I was very happy to define myself as a hiker, so seeking out others who shared the passion, it was inevitable I would meet up with people who hiked really really quickly. How did they do it? They were ultra runners and ultra-hikers (see Joseph Bullough), so hiking was actually a much slower pace than they were conditioned to going on mountain trails. One man, goes by the name of Grizz, was my role model. This guy was in his sixties, and had finished the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run eleven times, and was still entering the race every year. To me he was a demi-god. He could climb to the summit of the tallest peaks around, seemingly with little effort (and even a littler amount of clothing). I wanted to be like that. But it took time and effort to transition from being a hiker to a runner. With the help and inspiration from younger friends who were also discovering the ultrarunning sport, I ran my first "ultra", a fifty miler called The Pony Express, at age 40. Middle age. From my point of view, not young, but not old, and certainly not too late to start running. Remember the Pixar film Ratatouille? The famous french chef Gusteau's catchphrase was "Anyone can cook!" Similar to that, mine, with respect to running farther than 26.2 miles is (Almost) Anyone can be an ultrarunner.

My year in review: Highlights

February: The Wedge, 32 mile adventure run on the rim of the San Rafael Swell Little Grand Canyon
March: Antelope Island Buffalo Run, my first 100 mile race. I celebrated my 41st birthday at mile 65
May: Zion National Park Traverse, 48 mile adventure run. Was with Craig who completed the first double Zion Traverse
July: Speedgoat 50K, advertized as one of the hardest 50Ks in the US
August: Adventure runs to Gannet Peak (Wyoming highest) and the Utah Triple Crown (three highest peaks in Utah)
September: Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run

Oh, and I also made it into Bob Athey's (The Wizard of the Wasatch) Wasatch 100 day blog entry. ( See photo below

These few things may not seem so great when compared to others who run a heckuva lot more, but for a guy that has just picked up the sport, I am very happy to have reached all of my goals for this year.

Hope your year was a good one. Make 2013 an even better year.
September 7, 2012
Photo by Bob Athey

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Winter is Finally Here!

While I sit and write this I'm also enjoying the new blanket of snow that has fallen outside, all six inches of it. From what NOAA says we are supposed to get a few more before the weekend is over too. I celebrated the onset of Winter (finally, in December) by building three snowmen with my two middle boys, Sam and Max.

Now that it's here I need to rethink how to plan what, where, and how to run. This past week I've continued to enjoy what could only be described as Fall weather - cold mornings and warm days/evenings. Knowing a storm was brewing I tried to make the most of this past week. Who am I kidding, I had no idea a storm like this was on the way and everything I did this last week was done with basically zero planning. Whatever I did this week I did because it sounded fun.

While I put in five good days this week, three stood out. Tuesday I did an evening/night run up Wire Peak and Red Butte with friends Matt W and MVH. It was a slow outing, but the views were gorgeous, the trails in good condition, and the company brilliant. 

Thursday I met Matt W downtown during a long lunch to run the Avenue Twins. One day before the storm blew in and we were running in shorts and just a long-sleeve shirt . . . and were sweating bullets. I'm fairly certain we won't see another day like that for a few months.

Friday was a fairly planned run, at least as early as Wednesday. I met Matt W and Leslie H downtown to run the Bonneville Shoreline Trail to City Creek and back, a nearly 20 mile outing with 4000 feet of vert. The trails were perfect and the morning was nice and warm. We cruised along in the dark for the first two hours, then the sun came up and we enjoyed the change in views. While we didn't see as much wildlife as we had hoped, we did see two deer just before sunrise. It wasn't the fastest run, which turned out to be nice because I'm not 'training' anyway and I feel great today.

And while I didn't get to run today I'm happy with the week I had and look forward to whatever next week brings.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Refuse To Quit is Growing

You may have noticed a few additions to the right sidebar. I recently invited my core ultra-running friends to join me on this blog. A few of them keep their own blogs, but don't post very often. I felt like is gaining traction and would be a great venue for all of us to post in a central location. We all bring something different to the table, and while we often run and race together, we bring different backgrounds, focus, and experience to the site. So take a minute read through the bios and get to know everyone. You should start to see new posts from different people very soon. I couldn't be happier with the direction that the site is going. Stay tuned.

On a side note, last week was awesome. I took the first few days of the week off to let a sore foot heal. Somehow, without planning, I made up for it the last three days of the week, summiting three peaks and putting in about 35 miles.

Thursday I ran Lake Mountain with Scott, something that has become a weekly outing. We thought it would be super muddy, but only had to deal with it for about a mile. The rest of the route was dry and amazing.

Friday I took the day off of work and chose to run to the summit of View Benchmark from my house. It was exactly what I thought, amazing. I took a different way up from the trailhead and a different way down, both smart choices. Jeremy joined me for the trail portion of the run and it was a lot of fun to have him around.

Saturday the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers (our running crew) joined forces to run the Grandeur Peak loop. We went early in the morning to avoid the coming storm, a very smart decision consider it started snowing later in the day and hasn't quit since (not that it has really dropped much snow in the valley). We had a lot of fun though.

 It was cold on top. Scott snuggled up with Matt to stay warm.

 The Wasatch Mountain Wranglers

Scott and Aaron running down Church Fork

Sunday, December 2, 2012

View Benchmark, VB, Suncrest

Living in Draper, UT I have the luxury of being able to run some of the best trails closer to home than just about anywhere else in the country. Corner canyon and the Draper trail system allow me to run more than 40 miles without hardly running back over my footsteps. As a trail runner who also likes to hit the top of a mountain whenever I can, and often being unable to once the snow settles into the higher peaks, I'm grateful that several of the trails in Corner Canyon lead up to a local peak sitting above the housing community of Suncrest, located on the hill/mountain on the south end of the Salt Lake Valley.

View Benchmark, AKA VB or Suncrest Peak is a hill by local standards as it only sits at an elevation of 6682 above sea level. Most people wouldn't even consider it a mountain since the peak is only 1.5 miles and less than 300 vertical feet from the closest homes. At one point a developer owned much of the land and therefore there is a well maintained gravel road with sewer and water put in nearly up to the top of the peak itself. However, in a recent purchase the city of Draper has acquired the land and promised to not develop anything other than trails on it. History has proven that they will likely keep their word, making for future awesome trails to be created.

Because of its proximity to my home I regularly make the 5 min pilgrimage to one of the main trailheads and start towards the peak. Usually, if I'm running with my friend Scott, we start off of Vintage View Dr and head up Ann's Trail, then connect to the downhill mountain bike trail and up to the summit via the dirt roads. If I run solo I usually elect to take one of the other many trails that get me to the summit dirt roads - Canyon Hollow to Clark's and Eagle Crest or the Bonneville Shoreline Trail to Potato Hill and then to Ann's. If I want to run even longer distances I can loop around to some of the higher trails using many of the other options in Corner Canyon. Needless to say, in any given run I can get anywhere from 1500 to 2500 vertical feet of climbing in a single run of up to 8 - 10 miles and tag a local peak. Needless to say, I've done it a lot this year. And by a lot, I mean more than  30 times. Scott has done it around 50 times. This past week I did it three times, using two different trails, thus prompting the need to write this post. If you live in the Salt Lake or Utah valleys I would highly recommend checking out some of the trails in Draper and Corner Canyon, you won't regret it. If you want a tour of them, just comment on this post.

Here's a short video I made of one of mine and Scott's run up there a few weeks ago. Watch it in HD.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I've run five 100 mile endurance events (4 races, 1 adventure run), two 100k events, a bunch of 50 milers (2 races, at least), and more 50k length runs than I can count. Yet, with all of that I still feel like a rookie. Every time I go into a long run I feel like I'm lacking the appropriate knowledge and experience. I know that through all of my training and racing what works for me, how and when to eat, to be meticulous about my electrolyte intake, and how to pace early on. My race and adventure run results would indicate that I have a wealth of experience, but I still find myself in a constant state of learning.

Five 100 milers just doesn't seem like enough to be ready and confident going into my next race. When I talk with people, especially runners who haven't done an ultra, they think I'm amazing and an encyclopedia of information. Yet, when in discussions with other experienced ultra runners who have double the years of time invested in the sport I feel like a student, even if I have produced better race results. I definitely don't think that race results are a direct indication of how good a runner a person really is. Success can be found in smaller races, harder courses, or even just luck (like me).

Mile 56 of the Wasatch 100, 2012

The longer I'm involved with this sport the more I'm coming to realize that I'll never stop learning, that every race and each long run provides just a little more experience as I prepare for whatever comes next. I'm guessing that the day I go into a race thinking I have it in the bag will be the day I probably experience my first DNF (Did Not Finish). As long as I respect the distance and the course I believe I can go in with confidence and the knowledge that I can achieve my goals, but I have to stay humble. There is always something new to be learned.

As a side note, I had a great week of Thanksgiving. Perfect weather all week allowed for several amazing runs, two of which I took video of. Enjoy them when you have time. I would suggest changing the settings to watch both in HD.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

November Running

The miles just aren't there this month. It's ok, really, I'm having a lot of fun every time I get out and that's my focus until January.
I've been messing with my Sony Action Cam a little more. Recently I purchased a monopod and I wanted to see how well it worked on the run. Below is a short compilation video I made of my last two runs, one of which features the camera and monopod. I'm psyched on the setup.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Hurt Locker

No, not the movie. I would never try and liken myself to the amazing men and women of our armed forces who put themselves in harms way to protect my freedom. I only honor them by plagiarizing the name of the movie that represents a pain and danger of my own I went through.

I recently posted that while I'm in a season of downtime I would only go out and run and push myself if it seemed fun. Well, the weather here in Salt Lake has been amazing for this late in the year and I've wanted to really take advantage of it. Monday I did my normal run with Scott up View Benchmark. While nothing special it was still amazing because it was the first week in November and we were wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

Tuesday morning rolled around and I wanted to take advantage of it being election day and things being slower at work. It hit me that I should try for a personal best on Mount Olympus, the standard route. I've hiked it many times, my fastest being with my son a year or more ago. We summited in around 2 hours and went round trip in right around 3 hours. After that day I wanted to go back and try for a fast attempt, somewhere around 2:30 round trip. My plan as I pulled up to the trailhead was to try and hit the summit in 1:45, giving myself 45 minutes to get back down. The trail is only 6.5 miles round trip, but with 4100 feet of elevation gain in the 3.75 miles to the summit you can imagine just how steep it gets.

I was able to maintain a running pace all the way to the switchbacks, at which point I settled into a power hike. I wasn't feeling like I had a lot of energy and pep in my legs, so I just pushed at what I felt was a manageably uncomfortable pace. When I got to the scramble up the gully I was able to move quicker because it's more technical and that is my real comfort zone. Shockingly, I hit the summit in 1:23. I wasn't going for a fastest known time, so I stopped my watch, took a few pictures, and enjoyed the views and solitude as I looked out over the Salt Lake valley.

Now I had a decision to make. Could I get down in 37 min and was it worth the effort and potential danger of running that fast down such a technical and steep trail. Yep, it was. I don't think I ever got into my fully 'out of control' speed, but I was moving. With 2 miles left my quads were really starting to feel it and I knew I'd pay for it the following day, but I pressed on. To my own shock I hit the bottom in 1:59:20, a full 30 minutes faster than my goal time. I think with more energy on the way up I could drop that time by another 10 minutes. But that will have to wait for Spring.

Wednesday I just did a short recovery run in the gully by work to loosen my quads. It didn't work.

Thursday I met up with friend and co-founder of Altra Zero Drop shoes to attempt South Thunder Mountain. We wanted to summit, then traverse over to North Thunder and back. We knew there would be wind, but were under the impression it wasn't supposed to hit for a few hours. The run up is incredible. I can't really put it into words. As we hit the summit saddle the wind really picked up and dropped the temp by about 20 degrees. When we hit the top the wind had to have been gusting upwards of 60 mph, way to strong for us to try the sketchy ridge traverse. It will have to likely wait for next summer now. Bummer. The run down was just as awesome as the trip up. We even saw mountain goats along the way. We were pushing really good and my quads were again feeling it. Thanks to both hard days I was somewhere in my 'hurt locker', but loving every minute of it. I don't know if I'd call it training, but it was a great way to spend what was probably the last day of really nice weather this year. As I write this a day later it is snowing like crazy and has already dropped over an inch in the valley. My mountains will have to be climbed in something other than shorts for the next several months.

 Golden with Bighorn peak behind

 Me running to the summit with Lone Peak behind

Golden on the summit

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Good Week

It's been a long race and adventure season. I'm currently in rest and relaxation mode. I am running when it sounds fun (which is nearly every day), but I'm not training and therefore not pushing very hard. I spend most days out either summiting peaks right out of the valley or doing casual runs with friends on local trails. It's been physically and mentally refreshing and I'm really starting to sense a return of my speed and endurance in association with healthy joints and muscles. I've gained a little weight, but I' noticed that's typical for this time of the year and I plan to carry that weight into next Spring, at which time I'll slim down slightly to my race weight.

In the last couple of weeks I've hit up a few peaks, taken a bunch of pictures and made two videos. All are below. Enjoy.

In the last two weeks I've run View Benchmark peak three times, two of those with Scott. Yesterday was the best day in regards to weather and beauty on the trail. It was just incredible.

Last week Scott and I ran Wire Peak, something I haven't done in a long time. It was a crazy day with recent snow and low-lying clouds. I took along the POV cam and it was well worth it. Check out this short video about our run.

Just two days later Scott and I made an attempt on Grandeur Peak. Trail conditions were less than ideal, but the day couldn't have been more fun.

Great couple of weeks overall. I'm hoping the weather holds for another week or two and I can get onto some of the upper peaks before the deeper snow comes. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The morning light breaks through the thinning canopy and reflects off the amber floor.
No sounds but the rhythmic motion of my feet as they crunch through drying yellow and burnt orange.
Shadows crisscross the path, their haunting maze revealing the previous night’s lingering discord,
Hiding the roots and rocks that seek to hinder my progress
I move swiftly, my glazed glare always forward and down.
The steaming hot breath leaving my lungs betrays the chill in my fingers and ears.
Beyond I hear the footfall of fauna as they search for warmth and nourishment.
I wind along the trail, past oak and cedar,
Crossing a stream upon whose edges ice still precipitously holds before being swept away.
And in front of me lies that hill, the monolith that so often defeats me.
My breathing increases, elbows driving back, as I lean into the slope.
Success is found not on its summit, but in the welcoming song of the Chickadee.
Once crested I start down the other side;
Feet delicately placed between and on sharpened stone, careful not to catch a toe.
Then in and among the branches and auburn leaves once again
Each footfall places me closer to my ultimate destination,
With heaving chest and hands on knees I reach my finish line,
The place I love more than any other.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Runners World Half Marathon & Festival

How do you reduce the enormity of 5 amazing days into one blog post that won't take an hour to read? It's truly difficult to put into words the last several days, the whirlwind of events, the exhaustion at the end of each day, and the royalty of specific moments.

I was invited by Altra Zero Drop Footwear to help them as the title sponsor of the Runners World Half Marathon & Festival. It was the inaugural year and it needed to go well. We flew into Newark airport on Wednesday and drove out to where the festival would be held in Bethlehem, PA. After checking into the Hotel Bethlehem, an iconicly old and potentially haunted hotel, we went on a four mile run through the city. It is truly a stunningly beautiful town and we were there at the perfect time of the year.

Thursday was spent setting up the booth at the expo, an enormous undertaking considering we were the largest one there and had an immense amount of gear. That being an all day event we looked forward to attending a Bloggers dinner that night at Runners World headquarters in Emmaus. More than 25 bloggers were invited to come to the event, be treated like VIPs, and then hopefully they would share their experience all over the internet. As the title sponsor we provided them with shoes and then planned to take them on a morning run with Bart Yasso the following day.

Legigh River and the Bethlehem Steel Stacks

 Friday morning was rainy and chilly. The water that dropped had run down the pavement and soaked the carpet we laid under the booth, making for a soggy couple of following days for people trying on shoes. The run with Bart went off without a hitch though as the weather broke just long enough for us to get in almost four miles. Bart stopped the group every half mile or so to share some historical fact about Bethlehem. That man is an encyclopedia, it's amazing. The rest of Friday was spent manning the booth while thousands of people came through packet pick-up. We sold an amazing amount of shoes and felt like the vibe was super positive for not just our product, but for the the whole festival. Runners World was definitely doing it right.

Saturday morning started with the 5k at 8am and then the 10k at 9:30am. Runners who would participate in all three races over the weekend would get three medals and a 'Hat Trick' hat to commemorate the feat. Of course, I planned to do them all. My plan was to take it easy in the 5k and 10k, saving some energy and legs for the Half on Sunday. However, 400 feet elevation is way easier to run than where I spent my summers, around 8000. Both races went well and I was able to PR in both the 5 and 10k. I paid for it though. Between running in lower profile shoes and on pavement faster than I normally do my calves were extremely sore. Add the next 11 hours of standing on my feet selling more shoes and taking down the booth and I was worked. Sunday was going to hurt!

 5k start. Photo courtesy of Altra

The Half Marathon started at 8:30am. I had gone to a VIP breakfast at 8am and then walked the half mile over to the start. When I got to the starting line there were already nearly 3000 people lined up ready to race. The Runners World execs saw me and ushered me over for a chat and then walked me through the front gate and across the starting line like I was a celebrity. It was pretty cool, but my nerves took over and I tucked in about 5 rows back. The race was tough; not just the course, but my calves were wrecked, my legs were tired from standing for 15 hours the day before, and at about mile 7 my peroneal tendonitis flared up worse than ever. None of that seemed to matter though because it was so beautiful and inspiring to be running. I put up a respectable time considering my ailments and went on to have a fun afternoon meeting with runners and taking down the rest of our booth. We then checked out of the hotel and drove to Newark to stay the night before flying home Monday afternoon.

 The start of the half marathon

 Fist bump to the guy that tried to out-kick me to the finish

 A last photo with some of the awesome bloggers

So what do you do with nearly an entire day to waste before catching a flight out of Newark? You take the train into NYC and run around Manhattan, that's what you do. While we didn't get down to Ground Zero we did run just about everywhere else. We also had lunch with a few of the Runners World execs, which made us feel special. It was an amazing way to cap off the weekend. I can't wait to go back and take my wife to New York. What an awesome place.

 First thing we saw was the Empire State building

 Times Square

I can even find trails in a big city. Central Park

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Antelope Island 100k Race Report

I weaseled my way into the Antelope Island 100k by offering to write a pre and post-race article for, a cool online magazine I periodically write for. If you haven't been there you should check it out, there are some solid writers and interesting articles. Anyway, I stayed the night at friend Matt's and on the drive to the start I was questioning my decision to run the full 100k. Oh, why didn't I just sign up for the 50k and run with my friends? All the same, I arrived and was amped to toe the line. This would be the first ultra I've ever run where I went in with a truly 'racing' mentality. Not race against an arbitrary time goal, but literally race for a win. I knew that my main competition was someone who had proven better results in a lot more ultras than me, but I was up for the challenge and was hoping for the best (that's a lie, I was hoping he wouldn't show up or twist an ankle or something).

In great ultra fashion, Jim Skaggs drew a line in the dirt, we all stepped up, and he counted down from 10. We were off. No matter what race or how I run it I'm really good about going out at my own pace and that's just what I did, way ahead of everyone else. About a mile in Aaron, my main competition, caught up and we chatted the next four miles to the base of Lone Tree hill. His uphill legs were a little stronger than mine and he gapped me a little. He then didn't stop at the first aid station while I refilled my water and ate some chips. By the time I left and headed down into Blackrock Valley he was now a quarter mile ahead. That was fine, my plan was to stick to my race and we had a very long way to go.

I kept him in my sights through the valley and then up and over to the switchbacks. We ran these at a pretty good clip. At the top the trail deviates from the spring Buffalo Run course. It turns south over the saddle and takes a steep, rocky drop into the next valley. Over the next few miles we would do a few easy, semi-longish climbs, then drop back down near the beach. Then we finally dropped down to the very rocky shore and technically made our way around the beach, alternating rock hoping and slogging through sand. Once you turn the corner you get a clear look at the biggest climb of the day, a 2+ mile 1200 foot ascent up to the 2nd aid station at North Senty. We ran all but the steepest parts and I got to the aid stop about 5 minutes after Aaron. I wouldn't see him again for another 5 hours. I wouldn't see anyone other than him for the rest of the race. Headphones in.

I still felt pretty good at mile 15 just as I made the 3 mile descent down to the Ranch on the east side. The climbing was now over and I just had the long 12 mile Mountain View trail heading north back to the starting line.Once I got to 9 Mile Gate aid station at mile 20 my legs started hurting. My calves were locking up even though I was meticulous about salt, hydration, and nutrition, and my hamstrings were getting tight. It was the leftovers from Wasatch and some of the difficult vert training I've done since. With 10 miles left in my first loop I went into a very dark, bad place. I was constantly having vocal conversations with myself. One part of my head would give an excuse about why I should DNF and then I'd very vocally tell myself to shut up. There were a fair amount of swear words involved. I just didn't like running. I actually didn't want to run, race, or do anything, I just wanted to be at home with my kids. As I came into the start/finish of the first loop I knew if I stayed any time in the aid station I wouldn't leave so I told them to get me out of there as quickly as possible. Amazing, even though I was having some very severe mental battles I was still on my splits, finishing that first loop in exactly 4:30:00.

As I headed out on my second loop I had a 1.5 mile easy climb and tried to run all of it. But I was still in my head when I had to slow to a walk on a very easy part I yelled as loud as I could a few things I can't write on this family-friendly website. I vowed from there to run every step to the base of Lone Tree Hill. As hard as it was to keep myself moving at a trot I ran every step and enjoyed the easy power hike up to the aid station. I asked one of the volunteers if they had any ibuprofen and amazingly she had two in her pocket. SALVATION. They kicked in half way down into the valley and I was back. And I was back in a big way.

My leg pain went away and I could run, really run. I ran all of the switchbacks and all of the hills until nearly the same spot I did on the first loop. I got into the North Sentry aid station at 7:15 (I knew I ran the first loop in 2:20 from that point to the finish). Now I had a bit of a cushion to run a little slower and I could still go in under 10 hours, my second goal. Obviously, with 16 miles left I wasn't going to catch first place as he was 15+ minutes ahead. I didn't know it at the time, but he was running hard and scared, thinking I would catch up at any minute. I made the cruise down to the Mountain View trail and started the long 11 miles flat run back to the dirt road heading to the finish. I was hurting and trying to run hard, but I was mentally solid. I just told myself, "you've missed your time goals your last few big ultras, not this time. It's going to hurt, just keep pushing". As I came into 9 Mile Gate aid station I caught up to my mom and her friend Deanna who were running their first 50k. My mom was dealing with severe ITBS, but she way under her goal time and I just told her to walk it in. The awesome volunteers (all of whom I know) ushered me out of there quick and convinced me to race it, push hard, and maybe I could catch Aaron.

Unfortunately, within a mile my stomach did a backflip and it was all I could do to not throw up. If I walked I felt dizzy and nauseated. Running felt marginally better so that's what I settled on, an easy trot. After four miles I knew I had to take a gel, even if I threw it up. Fortunately, it actually helped settle my stomach and I was able to get back into a decent pace. I knew from the first lap that if I hit the fence turn-off with 20 minutes to spare I could definitely finish in under 10 hours. I got there with exactly 20 minutes to spare and made the turn. I made the steep climb up to the dirt road, then passed two more 50k runners cresting the hill. I now had a 4 minute blasting run down to the finished. There waiting for me was Matt Williams and Matt Van Horn. I crossed the finish line, and literally collapsed into Matt W's arms. I just lost it. I gave everything I had  in that race and while I didn't take first I truly believe I one the biggest prize,  getting over my own issues to achieve my very aggressive time goal.

This was the perfect way to cap off a very long and tough race season. I'm looking forward to taking some serious downtime from racing and hard training. I plan to spend the rest of the year doing a bunch of fun and adventurous runs with my friends. I'll refocus on training in January, until then I'm just going to enjoy recovering and having fun. Oh, I should mention this as I am actually writing it on Sunday morning, I don't think I've ever been this sore after a run. I am wrecked, completely and totally wrecked. It's awesome.

My mom and Deanna finishing their first 50k

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Quality, Not Quantity

Now three+ weeks off of Wasatch 100 and I feel fully back to normal. I've tried to get into the swing of normal training again, and while I have had some amazing outings over the last week it certainly isn't reflected in the number of miles I've posted. I wouldn't trade those outings for anything though. What a week.

It really started one week ago when my friend, Matt Van Horn, and myself wanted to tackle Mt Nebo. Unfortunately, we did the math and just didn't have the time. Instead, we targeted the 'ole fallback, Mt Timpanogos. But then, while standing in my front yard, I turned to the east and Lone Peak caught my eye, a peak that has been on my to-do list, but something I've never done. As a Draper resident I feel it's my civic responsibility to climb it. I called Matt and shared my idea and he was immediately on board.

I could tell I still wasn't recovered fully from Wasatch, but all things considered I think it went really well. I settled into a very relaxed pace on the way up, summiting in 2:55:18. Matt beat me up by a few minutes and I'm quite certain could have gone a lot faster had he not had to show me the trail. What a view. It is really beautiful up there. We chose to come down a different trail so that I could get a sense of both of them. It turned out to be a nearly 16 mile outing with almost 7000 feet of vertical gain. I'm proud to say that I've finally put that one away.

 Looking through the notch above Bear Canyon toward the summit

 Matt on the summit

 Me on the summit

That run tuckered me out. I took Sunday off and enjoyed a very easy run on Monday up to View Benchmark, my standard Monday run with Scott Wesemann. I felt better than I had expected and really enjoyed a speedy run on Tuesday in the gully with good friend and amazing triathlete, Leslie Howlett.

Wednesday was another day, like Saturday, where we had plans in mind, but ended up having to change them a few times. Matt VH and I again hoped to get together and this time tag the Broads Fork Twins. Unfortunately, clouds had been sitting on top of it for a few days and just as we pulled into the parking lot it started raining. We settled on Mt Olympus, a peak we can do in pretty much any weather (lightning aside). While on the drive over Matt suggested we do the West Slabs and loop around. I immediately bought on it as the west slabs are another tick list item I had yet not done. The only hitch was that were it to rain we would be in a world of trouble.

How do you explain the west slabs if you haven't seen or done them? Hm. A grueling steep single track climb into a very steep 2nd/3rd class gully. The slabs themselves are more than 1200 vertical feet tall and range from 4th to low 5th class, if you take the correct route. Go off-route and you sustain more consistent 5th class (5.4 - 5.6) for considerably longer. As we made our way up the approach I was looking for the clean line, while Matt searched for the correct and easiest way up. Within a few hundred feet I had found the clean line, but it turned out to be much harder and exposed than Matt was comfortable on, considering we were in running shoes. As I continued up Matt looked for another way. I hit the top of the slabs in 1:15:00 (which included a 7 min wait for Matt). After waiting up the north ridge for a bit longer we both continued together over to the main summit, reaching the top in 2:07:40. From there we ran the spectacular main trail back down and then cut around on the newly cut Bonneville Shoreline trail. At only 7.3 miles total it boasts a total of 4800 vertical feet of climbing. Again, I was grateful to tick off another from my to-do list.

 Matt, low on the slabs during the still very easy part

 Looking back down the technical section

 Matt on the north ridge

 On the summit of Mt Olympus

 Cruising through the turning leaves

Matt on the new BST

I finished my week off with a very easy run in the gully with Brent and Jeremy testing out my new Sony Action Cam. I think I'm going to have a lot of fun with this thing. I posted a very short video about it. The clarity isn't that good because my output file with medium format and I didn't upload it to youtube in HD. You'll get the idea though.