Monday, June 25, 2012

Back to Work

After more than a month of recovery and inconsistent training following the Zion Double Crossing I finally had a great training week. I was able to hit what seems to be my target optimal mileage and added a whole heap of vert. I ran 65 miles and had over 14,000 of vertical climbing. Out of the six days of running I felt like three of those days were at my limit effort level, which is just how I like it. I don't believe every workout has to be at 100% effort, but I definitely believe that one to two should be with the others being somewhere from 75% - 90%. In all, I was just happy to walk away from a great week of training, having summitted several mountains and seen some great views.

On Tuesday I ran the Wahsatch Steeplechase course up and over Little Black Mountain with friend Mark Kreuzer. It's a 16.3 mile course with over 4000 feet of climbing in the first 8 miles.

Mark on one of the down-climbs through the crags 

Flying down Smuggler's Gulch

Wednesday was our second get together of our now weekly night run. This time we chose to stay local and ran the Corner Canyon trails in Draper up to the summit of View Benchmark. This great course offers about 2000 ft of vert in about 10.5 miles. It was great to spend the evening running with Josh and Scott and we spent the whole time just chatting away. 

Finally, on Saturday I did a solo run up Mt Timpanogos, my first time for this year. After a full week of training I still felt like I had a lot in the tank and was able to feel strong the whole way up. I made it to the top in a new best time (for me) of 1:52:07. There weren't many people on the way up due to a race being held lower in American Fork Canyon. However, as I was nearing the bottom on my way down the crowds had shown up and were all on the trail since the race had ended and the road had re-opened. It slowed me down, but I still managed my second best time on the trail - 2:53:38, only a minute behind my PR. I just loved being back on the mountain and having the summit all to myself. I'm hoping I can get back there again in the next week or two.

Approaching the saddle at 1:35:00. Looking up at the summit. 

On the top of Timpanogos, all alone. So awesome.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What Are Your Excuses? Part 2


I hear the following excuses all too often:
"It's just so difficult".
"Ugh, I get so bored, I just can't stand it".
"I can't stand getting that gross and sweaty".
"I don't like feeling sore".

I could go on, but I think we've all heard or used some form of the phrases listed above. I'll be the first to admit that I've used at least one of them in the past. For 36 years I was more than happy to claim that I didn't like running even though I would try it from time to time. The excuse I used most often was, "I'm a great runner, but only if someone is chasing me. Other than that I hate it". I look back now and realize how stupid it was of me to say something that naive and ignorant. What it boiled down to is that I never stuck with it long enough for it to get interesting. And that's where I think most people get stuck. There is that imaginary wall of effort that they are neither willing to recognize nor go over. For some, that wall is three miles, for others it is merely getting out the front door. Yet, all of us, whether we are trying to become a runner, an entrepreneur, or anything else we can dream of, must be willing to push through some discomfort, even pain, if necessary, to accomplish our goals.

To quote my friend Matt Williams:
"You should sweat. It should hurt. You should even feel like you might die at any moment. If you want to get better then you need to accept the fact that it is going to hurt like hell".

Ask yourself the following questions:
"When was the last time you collapsed after a run?"
"Or threw up because of effort?"
"When did you last curse or scream in agony due to your own output?"
"When was the last time you know you gave absolutely 100% of the effort you had in you?"

If you can't answer that it was sometime in the last two weeks, you probably aren't trying hard enough. For me it was three days ago. I was running a 16 miler with 4000 feet of climbing. The last seven miles are downhill and we were pushing the pace at the edge of  my comfort. With a half mile to go I was low on energy and tired from a tough week of running. With a quarter mile left my running partner and I pushed it into overdrive and sprinted to the finish. We both were yelling in pain and nearly collapsed as we finished the run. It was that last effort that solidified the satisfaction I took away from the run. 

My favorite picture taken of me was the moment I hit the sign and finished the first ever Zion Double Crossing - 96 miles and 20,000 of vertical climbing. I had given everything I had in those 27 hours and literally couldn't have pushed any harder at the end. The elation of knowing I did my best was the biggest take-away for me and has mentally opened a ton of doors as to what I can accomplish.

The moment I finished the Zion Double. I collapsed immediately after this photo was taken.

'Effort' is a very personal word. We each gauge our own effort differently. I've often been out running or climbing with people and been disappointed in what I thought was them giving less than their best effort, only to find through their own admission that they were at their absolute limit. I generally expect the people around me to give their best because I am giving mine, even if they don't perform at the same level. However, I also tend to wear my effort on my sleeve and it is generally obvious to everyone that I am at my limit, whereas other people have an innate ability to contain or hide it better. I've learned not to judge those around me any more, but I do hope that they see the importance of giving more than they are able, at times.

Note that I haven't said that everyone needs to do it all of the time. Others would argue that, but I think it's important to allow yourself a mental and physical break. My general rule on a per week basis is, if one were to run 5 days a week: 1 day medium effort, 4 days hard effort, 1 day all out - leave nothing on the table - effort. Like my previous post I believe this has a ton of crossover. I don't believe this only applies to running. It can apply to any aspect of your life, including your job. But applying these basic principles will help you realize that you have a lot more to give than you ever thought you could, you just have to be willing to push yourself farther than you ever have before. Most often, our own limits are put on us by ourselves, rarely by others. 

After a long run or after I go a few weeks without climbing I tend to have a tough time getting back into the swing of putting forth my hardest effort. I forget what it's like to try hard, how much it hurts, and the satisfaction that goes along with pushing through it. It takes that one time when I'm willing to step it up and push harder than I thought I could that I realize I have much more in me than I was giving. Once I break through that barrier I can then repeat it without even thinking about it, but that first time requires a conscious effort. And that is where people tend to get stuck. They simply don't know that they can give more effort and don't try. Luckily, for a few people, they are surrounded by others who know how to solicit that kind of effort, but they are the minority. For most people it is a deeply personal, yet conscious internal interaction that requires a choice, the choice to continue through the pain or heartache or uncertainty. But once done whole new vistas of what we can accomplished are opened and we begin to see that we are capable of so much more than we've ever done before. We just can't quit. 

My mom (on the right) and her friend Deanna finishing their first marathon, dead last. They are the epitome of  what it means to give everything you have and succeed.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What Are Your Excuses? Part 1


I'm often asked how I have the time to train and race like I do. The answer is easy on the surface - I have a great job with an amazing boss who supports what I do and a wife who loves and supports me. My boss values a job well done more than the continuous 8 hour day worked and therefore doesn't mind when I take off for a long-ish lunch or bail early to head up into the mountains. And my wife is the best ever, personally sacrificing her own work-outs, time with friends, and at times, even her job so that I can get in a run at night or race on the weekend. But if I were to get right down to it one would find that it is much more complex and difficult than that.

To put it into perspective let me break down my current family and social situation. I'm married and have four children (6 months, 3, 4, and 14). My wife is a full-time nurse at Primary Children's Medical Center and works every Monday, Friday, and every other Saturday/Sunday. My 14 year old is with us every Tuesday and Thursday evening and every other weekend (the weekend my wife works), so we tend to try and do family things when he is with us. I also work an 8 - 5 job Monday through Friday, with the occasional Saturday thrown in. I don't race as much as most ultra runners, but I try and race every few months and will do at least three 100 milers this year (which basically requires a full weekend away). I also run for Altra Zero Drop shoes and they frequently have me participating in smaller events and/or trade shows. There is more, but if I get that detailed I might start hyperventilating.

So I'll ask the question again? "How do I do it"? In a climbing movie made back in the early 90s one of the elite climbers was asked how he knew what to eat and how to train to be such a good climber. His response was interesting, "when being your best becomes important enough to you you'll know what to eat and how to train, no one will have to tell you". It's a very interesting concept, no? What it really boils down to is, 'if you want it bad enough you'll find a way to make it happen'. As it pertains to my own training and success in ultra running I can confirm that this is true.

Early on in my running career I had more 4:30am wake-ups to my alarm than I can count. Often those runs were on the road or trails in the Salt Lake Valley. I've gotten away from those super early starts, but I still find myself wiping the gook from my eyes at 4am at least once a week as I roll out of bed to go tag a Wasatch peak. Now-a-days I tend to sacrifice eating out or going home for lunch so that I can get miles in running in the Dimple Dell recreation area (the Gully). I also try and do one night run each week (starting at 9pm after my kids go to bed). These runs allow me to go farther or for a longer period of time because the only sacrifice I'm really making is my own sleep. Even with all that I probably don't run as many miles as most other ultra runners and definitely not as many as I'd like. I run 40 - 60 miles each week with about 7,000 ft of vert.

Me and Scott on top of Grandeur Peak sometime before 6am on a weekday.

My long term goal is to be able to compete on a national and international level. I'm not sure if I can do that running so few miles as I do. However, I have a feeling that it might be enough if I can increase the intensity of my workouts, at least 3 - 4 times a week so that I'm getting the added benefit of pushing myself harder (which will be discussed in detail in Part 2). One final thing I do is to try and run an 50k+ distance (more than 31 miles) run each month. This allows my body to stay in touch with how it feels to push into higher numbers. Muscle memory is a great asset, but I'll save that for Part 2.

I'm not writing all of this to brag about how much I'm willing to sacrifice to achieve my goals. I'm writing this in hopes that it might inspire some of you who think "I just don't have time". It doesn't matter what you want to achieve, you can do it if you're willing to make the time sacrifice to accomplish it. Maybe your dream is to write a book, but you've never been able to find the time to sit down in a quiet room and do so because of family and job obligations. Perhaps you want to be a musician and play the piano, but you can only practice after the kids go to bed and then you face the challenge of the noise waking them up. After reading this post I would hope you will see that there is time, but it requires sacrifice. And there is away around the noise, but it might require investing in an electric piano with headphones. It boils down to this, there is always a way. Always. You just have to decide that you want it bad enough to do what it takes to achieve it.

And before you try and stymie my sleep sacrifice with the argument "I MUST HAVE' 8 - 10 hours of sleep". Sorry, but I don't believe that and I'll prove it when mine and Matt's book A Life Worth Running comes out. There is plenty of research to prove that the body can function at a normal level with as little as 5 - 6 hours of sleep each night (and a few that will say as little as 4). Again, it's an excuse.

And before you try and throw out an excuse that you can't run because of injury, let me tell you that there is a way around nearly every injury out there. 

Amy Palmiero-Winters has run 50 and 100 milers with a prosthetic leg. 

What was that excuse again?

It boils down to this, we all have excuses and for the most part they are all good. And that's fine. I'm not going to discount anyone's excuses or say that you don't have viable reasons for not going after your dreams. I get it, I really do. I mean, geez, all you have to do is go back a few posts to understand that while I've been living my running dream I've been finding a million and one excuses not to live my professional dream. Well, I've given up on my excuses and now I'm finding a way to make it work and WILL make it work. We can all do it, we just have decide how much we want to.

Stay tuned for Part 2 - Effort

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wow, What a Week

While my mileage wasn't as high as I wanted it to be last week, it certainly was made up for by the little adventures I had. As you can read in my previous post, I had a great time climbing the south ridge of Mt Superior. That will be one of the highlights of my summer - at least until I do it again in a couple of weeks. The following day, Friday, I left work early (I had to work that night and the following morning, so it only made sense), cruised up to Alta, and targeted a run I wanted to do last year, but never got around to trying.

From the paved parking lot at the Albion lodge I ran the Summer Road up to the Cecret Lake trailhead. However, instead of following the trail I stayed on the dirt road that winds its way through the cabins and then up towards the ridge to the east. About half way up I diverted my course and made straight for the ridge, through mud, rocks, and snow. While the potential for falling was high, the danger was minimal due to the amount of snow. I would have just slid for several hundred feet and comfortably come to a halt. However, that was never an issue as I found solid footing all the way to a gap in the ridge.

Looking back down the gap and my approach from the dirt road. Steep, but manageable. 

Once through the gap I traversed west toward Devil's Castle. This peak is one of my favorites as it requires some technical 4th class climbing, but nothing really dangerous. I summited the first of the two main summits to 50 mph gusts. It was a little scary standing on top trying to take self-portraits. After only a couple of minutes I downclimbed the gap and raced up the next 4th class section to the main summit. I then quickly signed the register and started my descent. The downclimb is scary, but with careful footing it really isn't that bad. The run over to Sugarloaf is much easier than I remember. I made good time and was standing atop my second peak in just over an hour and a half from the time I started. 

Looking back at Devil's Castle from the summit of Sugarloaf

The section from Sugarloaf to Mt Baldy is one of my favorites. The trail down from Sugarloaf is rocky, but fast. Then a quick run across the ski resort upper road to the base of Mt Baldy. My favorite part is climbing the 3rd class scrambling section to the ridge. Once there it is like running in Europe across a ridgeline in the Alps. I just love it. I got to the summit of Baldy only 20 minutes after leaving Sugarloaf. After a few portraits I started my way down the north ridge.

Looking back at Sugarloaf and Devil's Castle

The north ridge is not awesome. It's a rocky scramble down a steep slope. And this time of year there is a lot of snow, so I used a resort marking pole made of bamboo as a rudder and break as I skied down the snow towards the access road below. It's not scary and something I would normally glissade, but I was in fairly tiny shorts and wasn't excited about the prospect of a scraped bottom had I slipped and slid the rest of the way down. So I took it pretty easy.

The access road allowed me to open things up a little. And other than stopping to refill my water bottle in the stream I made good time to the bottom. From there it's an easy climb back to the upper parking lot and my car. Total mileage was 8.7 with over 3000 ft of vertical climbing. Such a fun day.

Oh, and Matt Van Horn made an awesome video of our climb up Superior. Check it. So cool.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Redemption on the South Ridge

I finally got redemption on the South ridge of Mt Superior today. I tried it a few years ago, but was deathly ill and had to back off very early. It was also a winter ascent and the snow conditions were brutal. However, today the weather was perfect and I currently feel awesome.
 We started at about 4:45am and just went straight up the hill towards the obvious ridgeline looming above. We all kept in pace and chatted our way up to the technical section. Once there we immediately hopped onto the ridge (you can avoid the ridge for a while, if desired) and enjoyed the exposure. The climbing is pretty casual for a while and while exposed you never really feel any threat. It is easy 4th class climbing with some 3rd class scrambling in between.

Matt VH starting up the more technical section.

Scott cresting one of the easier technical climbs 

Things start to get serious once you get to Suicide Chute. After crossing that you climb solid 4th class rock to the more technical knife-edge ridge.

 Matt working up the obviously more technical section. Things get a bit more serious after this point.

For every scary technical section there is an obvious and easier bailout opportunity to the right or left (most often left as the cliff isn't as high). For all but one section, the obvious crux, I chose to stay along the ridge. In one spot I was making easy 5th class rock climbing moves over a pretty exposed 40 foot cliff that probably would have resulted in serious injury or death had I fallen (don't tell my wife). However, I never felt at risk and was fully in control the whole time. The crux of the whole route is up near the top, just before the rock turns black. I tried to make the extremely scary and exposed move over the bulge (probably 5.7 for any rock climbers reading this), but just didn't feel comfortable after the second move, so I backed off and traversed around. I don't feel bad for bailing out, it is a serious section and not worth the risk at any time.
The much slower and more technical section. You don't want to fall here.

The easier of the two cruxes. I didn't bail out on this one.

Matt VH right after the crux of the whole route. The part he is on here is not as bad as it looks.

Scott was a little slower at this point while Matt and I were making good time. After the final crux we cruised quickly to the top, hitting the summit in 2:20:33. I think if I was really pushing it I could get there in about 1:30:00 or so.

The kid is super psyched to be on top.

Yay for me. Finally, someone took a photo of me. Ha.

While Matt and I waited for Scott we contemplated and felt drawn to try and bag Monte Cristo, which is a slightly higher peak just to the west of Superior. We knew we could get there and back in about 15 minutes, but would we be making Scott wait? We didn't know. We couldn't see him on the ridge horizon so we decided to go for it. In the picture below you can see Monte Cristo behind me and why we had to go tag it. I mean, come on, look at how inviting it is.

We really pushed the pace across the narrow ridge and snowfields. We got over there in just over six minutes and back in about 5 and a half. Awesome. In fact, I even beat Scott. Matt was only a minute after me as he stopped to take in his surroundings.

Matt running the snowfield down from Monte Cristo

Scott summiting Superior

The way down is not a gimme. You have some really technical ridge running, followed by a nasty 500 ft drop down a scree slop. Then up and over a small knoll to get to Cardiff Pass. Once you hit that though you can fly back down to the road. The last mile of road is fast and Matt and I flew down in a sub-6:30 pace. In the pic below you can see the South ridge of Superior just over Matt's right shoulder, showing the entire route we took to the top. This was definitely the best route I've done in the Wasatch and I can't wait to go back and do it again. Unfortunately, there are so many other mountains I want to run/climb that it might have to wait a few weeks. What an awesome morning.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Secret to Success

I'm sure everyone has their secret to success. These little gems are usually personal and came about as a result of some deep introspection, or conversely, as the result of having 'the perfect day'. Some might be actual practices while others might be odd superstitions. In either case, they work and are thereafter unchanging. After talking with many people about their secrets or reading about them in articles and blogs one thing is clear, they are as wide-ranging and random as the stars.

For one of my friends it is wearing his favorite green shorts in a race. Another eats only gels, while another won't eat gels, at all. My mom has to have a Pepsi Throwback during a long run or race. My brother wears those weird balance bracelets, something the makers have even admitted don't really work. But for Brent they do, so he wears his. Mr Crockett swears by bacon, something I tend to agree with. Matt won't run without bringing along salt pills, and the other Matt won't run without bringing wet wipes. It doesn't matter what these secrets are as long as they work.

My secret would seem a little less personal, but ultimately maybe even more necessary. The secret to my success is my friends. I'm not a superstitious person, I don't need special socks or a tried and true hat. My nutrition can vary and while I tend to drink just water on my runs, I do appreciate a good soda later in a race. Nope, my secret to being so successful (which is a very relative term) simply boils down to the company I keep.

I don't need my friends with me on every run or in every race, I actually enjoy the solitude of running alone. I generally don't user pacers in a race less than 100 miles long, but if the opportunity is there to give one of them a chance to join in I will usually invite them along because it's just more fun. This little secret of mine wouldn't really work if my friends sucked; not in the sense of being poor runners, but poor people. Luckily, like Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, "I've chosen wisely". The deep center of why I love running so far and in such remote places is because I just love the people who are there with me. I couldn't ask for a better family or group of friends. We don't all run and compete at the same level. We often get out on long runs and spread out over miles without seeing or talking to each other for up to a couple of hours. And it doesn't matter. Ultimately, we love being there for the sake of our surroundings. We visit and laugh during the trip to wherever we are going and generally stay together for the first bunch of miles, even if it doesn't last for the entire run. I love my running crew and I wouldn't change it. However, if you want to join our little brigade, just let me know. We are always willing to add more to the bunch. Just don't be offended with how we act or our attitudes towards running. We just want to have fun and run far.

Here are some photos with some of my friends doing what we love best.

Left to right: Scott W, me, Josh, Matt W (foreground)

Left to right: Matt VH, princess Matt W, Scott W, me

Matt ans Seth W

Left to right: Deanna, Leslie P, Mary Kay F, me, Brent L

Davy C

Brent, me, and Ty

Eric J (his wife Catherine should really be in the photo)

Jeremy H (wife Leslie is missing, but she's definitely in the crew)

My son Tyler, my favorite running partner

My favorite overall partner of all, my wife!

Yep, I've got it good!!!!