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