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.