Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Trying to Find My Footing Again

I just want to quickly revisit my post from last week and give some status on where it is going, then I'll get to the real post. First, thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of my new professional plan. It will be a very long road, but the end result will literally be a dream come true. I've had several people approach me about opportunities to speak. I hope they all pan out. If you are interested and have any connections please contact me. I have presentations that are as short as 10 - 15 min and can go up to and even over an hour. I am comfortable speaking to youth groups, adults, businesses, or anyone else. I've developed my presentation in such a way that it can be easily tailored to meet the needs of whoever I'm speaking to. It's all very exciting. The topic of the presentation is "A Life Worth Running" and "A Business Worth Running".

I will be moving into this long-term project with friend and previous coworker Matt Williams. He has years of corporate training experience and a wealth of knowledge that I really believe is integral to the overall success of the project. He brings a background that is different enough from mine that he will be able to reach a totally different audience from me in a way I may not be able to. Together I believe we can change lives.

Ok, so back to the topic at hand. Obviously, recovering from any very long run is a slow process and one that requires more patience than I probably possess. It's been clearly proven that extended rest is integral to proper recovery of muscles and joints and that more is often better than less. I tried, I really did, but unlike previous 100s I've run I came off of Zion feeling amazing and close to fully recovered within a week. Even with the running I've done since then I've felt like I was taking it very easy and not pushing it. I don't feel injured or sore any more and for the most part have even seen my speed come back on a couple of runs. But the reality is that I probably shouldn't have been running, at all, until this week. Teaching note of the day - if you run a marathon and that is your limit take a good week off after your race. For ultra-marathons consider taking up to two weeks off, definitely if you've just run 100 miles. Rest people, it does a body good.

Well, yeah, I haven't been resting. Saturday I ran a 5k (that's kind of like resting, right?) which was no big deal. However, before the race their was a crossfit booth and they challenged me to try their little timed workout. I kind of killed it, shocking the people working the booth. The problem is that even for how little I did it completely crushed me. I was so sore in my inner thighs the next morning it hurt to walk normal. It must have been the box jumps.

When Matt and I went out yesterday to hit up the first section of the Wasatch 100 trail up to Chinscraper I was wrecked from the time we left. Not only did my legs hurt, but I had no energy. We had eaten a good breakfast, I just didn't have any energy. Within 3 miles I was taking a gel. I then had a 200 calorie fruit bar not long after. We weren't pushing the pace and even though the first 8 miles had 4000+ feet of vert I can usually push a decent power hike. Yesterday I just had nothing. Even running down I wasn't my usual self. And by the time we got back to the car I was ruined. Moral of the story? REST, REST, REST. It's good for the body and the soul.

 Our turn around point. We were about a mile from cresting Chinscraper.

 Matt running down through the trees

Antelope Island in the distance

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A New Look at 'Refuse to Quit'

I've stood on a soapbox for ages on this site and preached my philosophy of Refuse to Quit, that it is a motto I live by, and that it's something that has driven me to accomplish things most people wouldn't consider possible. But ultimately I'm a bit of a liar because while I've made it the foundation of my recreational life I haven't applied it to my entire life, across the board.

When it comes to running I feel like I have no limits. After winning the Laramie 100 I was asked by someone how I could run 100 miles without stopping. After some careful consideration my response was simple, I said "I just never told myself I couldn't". That pretty much sums up my whole running career, as short as it has been. When I decide I want to do something I just do it . . . because I know I can . . . and because I know when I get there that I won't allow anything to stop me (except injury). Well, that's all said and good for running and climbing and peak-bagging, but it doesn't mean much if I don't apply it to my personal and professional life.

Let me preface by saying that I love my job. I do. More important than what I do I appreciate who I work for; not the company, but I have an incredible boss who sincerely cares for my professional career and personal well-being. In that light I'm certain that I'm one of the very rare few who get to work under such amazing management. But I don't find my job duties satisfying enough. I've felt for years that there was something lacking. Until about two years ago I didn't know what that was, however, after considerable mediation it occurred to me that the reason I felt so unfulfilled was because I knew deep at heart that what I do doesn't make a difference. While it helps the company I'm not directly impacting any individual for the better. I've always felt a desire to motivate and inspire others. To a small extent I've seen the fruits of that through my running, this blog, and my relationships with others. But my professional career is such a huge part of my life it has simply become too difficult to sit idly by and watch my professional life go by because I was too scared to do something about it.

A couple of months ago I made a commitment to take my own advice and apply it to my professional career. I began to send out feelers to people I knew about finding opportunities to speak publicly. I am willing to speak to youth groups, adult groups, runners and non-runners alike. My presentation, while steeped in running, has a specific message that applies to everyone. The governing principles behind my lectures are as follows:

  • We don't have to be victims of our circumstances
  • We have to take responsibility for our own lives
  • "I never told myself I couldn't"
  • "Refuse to quit"
I gave my first lecture this morning to a group of high school seniors and several teachers. I was warned in advance that because these kids were part of the special ed program that they would likely be disruptive, sleep, or just not pay attention. I didn't care as I was using this opportunity to polish my presentation. However, what I experienced was slightly surprising to me, but outright shocking to the teachers. For a full hour I spoke to these kids about running, canyoneering, and life. And for that full hour I had every single kids' attention. They responded to my jokes, my stories, and asked some impressive questions. I had a couple approach me after to discuss different aspects of the presentation and both expressed their gratitude for being able to attend. I walked away hooked.

It is now my goal to turn this into a career. I'm going to live my philosophy. I know it will take a while, most likely years to build and that's ok. I've got a good partner to work with, some brilliant ideas, and a dedication to achieve this new goal. I know I can do it because now I'm finally not telling myself I can't. I do have something to offer and am working on an avenue to share it. While I won't be quitting my current job any time soon, hopefully someday this new chapter in my life will be my primary source of livelihood. Only time will tell.

If you are interested in having me come speak to a group of your students, athletes, adult groups, etc, please email me at craig.lloyd@gmail.com. Thanks so much.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Zion Double Traverse Video

Here's the recap video.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Zion Double Traverse Report

Where do I even begin when trying to reflect on an adventure that was as amazing as the one I just had this past weekend? I guess I'll start with a year ago. In May, 2011 I went down to Zion National Park to try the now popular Zion Traverse; a 48 mile adventure run crossing the entire park. Often done from east to west this diverse trail requires runners to climb nearly 10,000 vertical feet and travel at elevations ranging from 4200 to 7500. Temperatures can differ by up to 15 degrees and weather can change on a dime. On that trip I attempted to cross with three friends; Josh, Matt, and Scott. Unfortunately, due to poor weather we were turned back after only 18 miles and had to call it a day. However, on the drive home we started discussing our potential return trip a year later. It was then that I hatched the idea of possibly doing a double crossing.

I was uncertain whether anyone had ever tried it before, so I started doing a little research on the internet, but couldn't find any proof. In September, while hanging out at the finish of the Wasatch 100 I came across Jared Campbell who is one of the modern pioneers of the Zion Traverse (while Bo Beck was the first to do a non-stop crossing, it was Jared and Karl Meltzer who went after the traverse with any speed interest). I asked if he had ever heard of anyone trying a double crossing of the park and he commented that he was pretty sure no one had tried. While my interest was now piqued I was worried that Jared would go and attempt it as I think he's adopted Zion as his own personal playground. Yet, as time went by and I started to make more plans I didn't hear of any attempts by anyone and my excitement started to grow. Dates were set, my crew was put together, and I even picked up a few sponsors (Altra Zero Drop footwear, UltrAspire hydration, and Goal Zero solar energy).

As the date approached I became more and more nervous. While I've successfully run 100 miles on three occasions before, all of them were at races with a bunch of support at frequent intervals. This run would only allow for crew support infrequently and in between support I would be deep in the Zion back country. I was also very nervous because for the first time ever there were other people who had a vested interest in what I was doing and I didn't want to let anyone down. However, I was better trained than I've ever been, uninjured, and ready to try and run 96 miles fast. I set a goal of sub-24, but would also be happy with just getting it done if things didn't go well.

My crew for this trip would be Matt Williams, Josh Greenwell, Scott Wesemann, and Matthew VanHorn, all experienced ultra runners. To my dismay, however, Matt had gotten violently ill just days prior to our trip and Josh and Matthew were nursing sore ITBS. Between the four of them though, I knew they would take care of me. We got to the Lee Pass trailhead in Kolob Canyons right at 6am on Friday 5/11 and were off and hitting the trail by 6:15am. We quickly settled into an easy pace in the cool morning air, trying not to trip as we would cast our eyes towards the glowing pink cliffs overhead. Even though I wanted to run quickly it was equally important to me that I enjoy the beauty of this spectacular land.

Mile 2

I quickly came to the realization that Matt was still not feeling well and would not be able to keep up. Without asking I knew he'd call it quits after this first 13 mile leg and act as support for the rest of the trip. Josh was continuing to stay pretty close though, with only dropping out of site a couple of times as we got closer to the Hopp Valley turn-off. When I made the turn up the hill I took a quick look back and couldn't see Josh, but was confident he'd see the sign and make the turn. I continued over into Hopp Valley and started slogging through the sand and endless stream crossings. In this open valley I would take frequent looks back for Josh, but never saw him coming. I assumed then he had probably waited for Matt to make sure he was ok and so I pressed on. I enjoyed the next few miles and even the climb out of the valley and on towards the car, getting there in 2:21, almost 10 minutes faster than planned. Matthew and Scott helped me secure my gear for the next leg while I ate and I told Matthew that he should probably prep to go with me in case Josh didn't show up in the next 10 minutes. After a full 20 minute stop I couldn't wait any longer and I took Matthew with me onto the next 23 mile leg across the West Rim into the Zion park proper. I would learn later that Josh missed the turn up to Hopp Valley and spent 3 hours lost in the Laverkin Creek area of Kolob, accumulating at least 26 miles and lots of scratches. I feel really bad I didn't wait for him.

The next section is broken up into three different trails; the Connector, Wildcat, and West Rim trails. They each differ from each other in landscape and difficulty. I was feeling ok, but starting to have trouble with maintaining energy even though I was taking in plenty of gels, chia seeds, and other random snacks. I was drinking plenty, but it was now after 11am and starting to get hot. Matthew was with me most of the time, only running up ahead periodically so that he could stop and stretch his IT Band. The Connector trail is interesting in it's changing dynamic. It can be grassy at one spot, then change to slickrock, and then rocky dirt trail. Once on the Wildcat trail the conditions worsened into rocky basalt strewn trail as it wound it's way up and around Wildcat Canyon until it met up with the West Rim trail. At the confluence we took a short break to try and increase my energy before heading out onto the exposed west rim for the next 8 miles.

 Matt climbing out of Wildcat canyon
At the top of Wildcat canyon

As we started onto the West Rim trail I just wasn't feeling all that great. It wasn't that I had stomach issues or any pain anywhere, I just didn't have the energy I needed to be dealing with the now increasing heat. I was also starting to run low on water. I knew there was a spring at the top of the west rim climb above Angels Landing, but that seemed very far away and I was nervous and unable to push any faster. While I continued to struggle mentally I was also impressed with how beautiful the canyons that dropped below us were. I had only been on part of this trail before, 14 years earlier when I hiked in from Lava Point to descend Imlay Canyon. Little was familiar to me. Beyond Potato Hollow (the top of Imlay Canyon) the trail was all new to me, but I could see in the distance where we were supposed to drop down and where I knew the spring would be. With just a couple of ounces of water left in my last bottle we descended down to where the West Rim trail meets the east end of Telephone Canyon trail and the source of our spring. We refilled and I drank heavily, but didn't quite feel the surge of energy and hydration I needed to push quickly down to the Grotto trailhead where we would meet our crew again. In the process of Matthew stowing his gear he must have lost sight of me because he ended up taking a wrong turn, which didn't last long, but he did end up getting to the bottom of the canyon several minutes after me. Once back at the Grotto TH I collapsed on a rock and felt very nauseated. The boys fed me Pepsi and a banana and after a quick potty stop I felt a million times better and ready to push on.

The next section requires a quick mile on the paved road and then up the endless switchbacks beyond Weeping Rock. While I love that section of trail, we were unfortunately running it at the hottest part of the day. OK, 'running' isn't the right word, 'slowly hiking' is more appropriate. It was more important that we conserve energy and heat reserves though as the climbing got steeper and harder the higher we went. Like on the West Rim, as we approached the top of the climb and by the time we got to Stave Spring I was nearly out of water. The spring, which is fed from a pipe, was cool and welcome. We cruised as fast as my failing body would allow me to go down to the East Entrance trailhead. Those last 5 miles were spotted with horribly deep sand and between that and diaphragm cramping I just couldn't maintain a normal running pace. My goal was to hit the turn-around at 10 hours. We got there at 11:03. To make my 24 hour goal I would now have to make a quick stop and really push hard on the way back. However, I just didn't have the energy and needed a longer break to eat real food and recover. 

Cruising into the turn-around, mile 48

Once refueled and Scott on my hip I was ready to start pushing back towards the west end of the park. As Scott and I made our way through the sand I started feeling good, really good. When the sand relented I found I had legs and energy to spare and we absolutely flew up the long incline back to Stave Spring where we topped off our fluids and then literally flew down the trail all the way back to the Grotto in record time (for someone who was already over 50 miles of running). We were having a ton of fun, laughing while we ran, and Scott was snapping a bunch of pictures. At this time of the evening the glow of the canyon was just beautiful and we were soaking in the views. We ran that section of trail in 2:35, three minutes faster than our group ran it fresh the year before.

 Running up towards Stave Spring

 Scott running down towards Weeping Rock

 I hated going up this section, but loved going down

Making the final turns into the switchbacks

We actually beat Matt, Matthew, and Josh to the Grotto. I guess they tried to drive up to meet us and got pulled over and received a strict lashing from a park ranger. The stop was 30 minutes, much longer than we wanted, but by now I figured my 24 hour goal was lost and would just be happy to finish strong. Besides, Scott and I were having a bunch of fun and were enjoying the time out on the trail more than we did trying to go fast. We ate a sandwich, some chips, and a Pepsi and were off up the Angels Landing trail back towards the west rim. Scott was shocked at how fast I was able to move up the switchbacks and before we knew it we were rounding towards the next set heading up to the West Rim proper and the spring. With the heavy dinner and aggressive pace both of our stomachs were turning circles. At the last turn, high up on the cliff before the spring, my stomach finally said stop and I asked if I could lay down for a second. Scott said he'd give me 2 min (he actually gave me about 5) and continued to pep-talk me back to life. I got back up and just moved slow. By the time we reached the top my stomach was back and I was feeling strong again. After refilling our reserves we started the last push to the rim and then Scott's stomach turned. It was now his turn to sit on a log and try not to vomit. He was better than me though and only after a couple of minutes was ready to push on. Like me, within 10 minutes his stomach came back and we were back into a solid pace along the West Rim trail. Those 8 miles along the trail you have a constant view of two red lights that I thought were at Lava Point, but they never kept getting closer. We were so frustrated as we slogged along, hiking the steeper hills, and trying to keep a steady pace on the downhills, flats, and easy inclines. But we just never got any closer to the Wildcat turn-off. We did finally hit it though, but it took much longer than I had hoped. We sat down for a minute and ate and enjoyed looking at the stars. 

The next 8 miles down Wildcat and onto the Connector trail were tough. We were both sleepy and with about 4 miles to go before Hopp Valley TH Scott ran out of water. I had plenty by filling up at a spring in Wildcat Canyon, but he only needed one drink from me. All we wanted to do was get off this very rocky trail, make it through the sparse Connector trail, get to the van, and enjoy a little rest before finishing out the last 13 miles. We finally made it, now 23 hours into our trip. I collapsed in the back of the van and tried to sleep for 5 min, but it never really came. I could hear talk up front about Matthew taking off several hours earlier, expecting us to have finished much earlier than we did and hoping we would catch him before completing that last section. Weird. Our stop was too long, almost 30 minutes, but it was just what I needed. Once back on the trail we mushed our way through the horrific beach sand until we could descend into Hopp Valley, but I was feeling really good and ready to push to the finish. Once down in the stream crossings I could see a person off in the distance wandering around and trying to talk into a radio. I knew immediately it was Matthew. Apparently, in the dark he had gotten confused with the directions and not gone far enough to meet up with the Lee Pass trail. He had been wandering around the Hopp Valley trail for 3 hours and was making his way back to meet us. Brutal. In the dark that place would feel like a maze. He stepped in behind us though and we all moved well across the stream and through the sand. 

Once we got over the pass and onto the final trail to the finish we did what we could to press hard through the sand and then run what uphills we could. I was paying close attention to my watch and wondering if I could still go under 27 hours. With about 3 miles left I decided it was worth a try. I felt strong and fresh, so I asked Scott if I could step by and I turned on the gas. He tried to keep up for a while, but in the end I was just feeling too good and started my final burn to the finish. Those last few miles were tough, but fun. They wind around tiny canyons and must cross the creek 10 times. Then that final mile. And that final climb. It's like a boxing match where you know you've just gone toe to toe for 12 rounds with the champ, only for him to step up in the final minutes with a sledge hammer to pound you into the ground. In the last half mile you have to climb several hundred feet up what might be the steepest climb of the whole run. Then, just as you are almost done it drops you back down 100 feet that you have to gain in the final .1 to the finish. However, I could hear the yelps and calls from Matt and Josh, yelling for me to finish strong. I sprinted those last steps to the top, slapped the sign, and stopped my watch. 26:55:03. I had done it. 

This is the actual moment I finished

While I've run farther than this three other times, this was by far the most difficult. The sand and heat were relentless. The climbs were staggering. Yet, I always knew I would continue on. With the help of good friends my success was never in doubt. I can't express enough my gratitude for my friends who were willing to come along and help me in this endeavor. Also, thank you to Altra for making the best shoes ever. To UltrAspire for making such a great hydration pack. And to Goal Zero for producing a really cool and ingenious product. Now that it's done I hope someone goes out and crushes my time.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Zion Double Traverse

Today is the day we leave for Zion National Park. My running of the potentially first ever Zion Double Crossing will begin tomorrow morning at 5am . . . ish. We will drive down to Cedar City and stay in a motel tonight and then make our way to the west entrance early in the morning.

If you want to follow my progress on Twitter you can through my account @ultracraig and I'll tag all of my posts with #ziondouble.

Thanks again to Altra, UltrAspire, and Goal Zero for their support. They are awesome companies.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Last Week of Training

I completed my final week of training before heading to Zion this weekend. No, I'm not running the new Zion 100 race this weekend. As much as I'd like to I have my sights set on something I think will be even better - a double traverse of Zion National Park. From what I can tell, it's never been done before. You can follow me on Friday and Saturday via my Twitter account - @ultracraig. I'll post again on here on Thursday with some details.

Last week was a real treat though. Most people take a two week taper, but I've found in the past that tapering that long does not help me. Instead, I like to train up until the week before then just get a couple of shake-out runs in the week of the race. I tend to perform better when I manage my race approach that way.

I had some cool stuff happen last week, for sure. I ran the Dimple Dell gully one day, the Draper Trails two days (summiting View Benchmark one of the days), ran the Avenue Twins another day, and finished with a really cool run up Butterfield Canyon in Herriman on Saturday. The weather all week was pretty amazing, even in the middle of the day. Overall, I had a solid 57 mile week with about 10,000 ft of vert. Details of some of the runs below.

On Wednesday I ran a cool new 13 mile route up to the summit of View Benchmark. It starts at Red Rock and then heads over and up Clark's Trail. From there I ran Eagle Crest to the View Benchmark road, then up to the summit and back from there. I then cruised the often run Ann's Trail down to the BST and back to Red Rock. The day was really pleasant, warm enough to run without a shirt, but cool enough that I didn't ever feel over-heated. I wore my UltrAspire Synapse and was impressed that I could wear a waist pack without a shirt. It was really comfy.

Then on Thursday I ran with Matt up to the Avenue Twins via the Shoreline trail. I don't think there was a morning for views and weather this year. It was really stunning. Near the top we ran into Scott and Van Horn on their way down (they started a little earlier than us). Matt and I ended just cruising the whole way, even after I had had a relatively tough week to that point. And then with 2 miles left Matt turned on the jets and it was all I could do to stay up with him. It was really impressive to see him perform like that.

 Matt nearing the summit of the first Twin

Me summiting the second Twin

On Saturday I did a really cool run up Butterfield Canyon. I've been asked to confirm the trail course for the Herriman Half Marathon on the 18th of May (the road half and marathon are on the 19th). The trail was laid out on mapmyrun, but no one has run the course yet. Because the road up to the top of Butterfield canyon is still closed, that would mean I would need to run the 6.5 miles up + the half marathon course. 

Aaron, the RD, dropped me off at the closed entrance to Butterfield after dropping my car off at the Rose Canyon/Yellow Fork trailhead. My intention was to run the road all the way up; however, if there happened to pass a would-be lift (there were motorcyclists who had gone around the gate) I would try and get one as my focus was on validating the course, not the 6.5 miles of pavement. However, while I did see a few groups of motorheads riding down, there were none going up. The road is an easy run except for a few spots where it gets really steep. I got to the top in 1:11, not bad considering I took several walk breaks.

The road up Butterfield Canyon. My intended end point was the summit in the distance.

Now it was decision time. I had a route to follow, but I also knew of a shorter, more direct way to the summit. Since I was there to validate an existing course I took the planned route and went left. At mile 1 of the course is the first real branch in the trail. My notes said left. I knew it would descend and then wrap around and back up. But after a half mile it was going down farther than I expected. When I came to a hairpin turn (which I didn't remember) the trail seemed to go the wrong direction and way too far down for it to match the course elevation description. Assuming I was wrong I hiked back up the very steep half mile and then took the other turn-off. Unfortunately, after another half mile that trail ended. What really got to me was that I was now less than 1200 vertical feet and couldn't have been more than two miles from the summit, but I had no trail and bush-whacking wasn't an option. I backtracked a ways and called Aaron, giving him the bad news. During the call I had a Red Tailed Hawk fly right in front of me - awesome.

I ran back to the trailhead. I knew I could take the other route, but I was now out of time as it was about 6pm. I wouldn't be able to run the whole course before dark and I didn't have a light (and the awesome full moon wasn't going to rise until 9:45). So I ran the paved road all the way back down where Aaron was waiting for me to take me back to my car. Unfortunately, I won't be able to validate the alternate course as I am actually going to taper over the next 5 day, but we have been communicating an alternate course and I think it will work out just fine.

End result is that I got in 17 miles total with over 3500 ft of vert. At the end I felt fresh and ready to keep running. I think I'm ready for Zion. In fact, I don't think I've ever been more ready to run a 100 miler in my life. I'm so excited I've been dreaming about it.