Monday, December 30, 2013

Waxing Lyrical


Caution: Gratuitous Use of Personal Pronouns Ahead

So let's get the stats out of the way first:

In 2013 I covered 2500 miles on foot and accumulated over a half million feet of vertical ascent. In the narrow world of "People Who Do This Kind of Stuff" - meh, that's sort of middling. And I am a middle-aged guy so that is appropriate. But for me, if I define myself, in part, as a distance runner, it translates to a pretty good year. I ran faster and farther than I ever had. I even won some races.

Other significant accomplishments:

I slugged back a lot of endurance gel. Like, gallons.
I pooped a lot in the out-of-doors.
I did much of my own laundry.
I made new friends ( I hope).
I strengthened existing friendships (I hope).


All of it.

OK that is a lame answer. Choosing the best, I include:

Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 Mile. Early in the year it was this finish that confirmed to me what I could do. I would build on it.

Grandeur Fun Run. Storheim's local little ten mile, 4,000 foot uphill party. Raining, muddy, tons of fun - as advertized.

 Millwood 100. The exquisitely painful and joyful (See Alma the Younger) hundred mile monster lurking in the heart of the Wasatch. I did it. I love being able to say that. I did it. Stuff like this is a gateway drug to the hard stuff: Barkley and Nolans. Wait, what?

Lone Peak to Pfeifferhon Traverse Loop, starting and ending in Draper. It was a 25 mile solo adventure involving a climb to Lone Peak via Big Willow Cirque. After the summit I traversed the ridge to South Thunder Mountain, then followed Lightning Ridge to Chipman Peak, then traversed to the summit of Pfeifferhorn. I exited to Red Pine/White Pine trail to LCC, then ran the road back to Draper. This was significant for me because the Beatout route over the same terrain was my first major hike in the Wasatch, several years ago when I was a fat hiker. That first time, the terrain terrified me. As a runner, I experienced one of those Rocky Mountain highs John Denver sang of when I tap-danced over granite boulders and trod grassy in-betweens.

Pony Express 100 Mile Endurance Run. Meltzer says: "Winning never gets old". For me, it was an entirely new thing. Will it get old? Stay tuned.

Frary Peak Hill Climb. A tiny little uphill battle race out on Antelope Island. I won it, barely. So far, Meltzer is right.

Antelope Island to Fremont Island. With Jim Skaggs and a group of die hards, I ran across the Great Salt Lake to privately-owned Fremont Island. We ran in a snow/rain storm over the flattest of flat exposed sandbar. Rumors of wild boar on the island kept us on our toes (we didn't see any) and we laughed the entire way out and back.

I cannot wait to start the new year. I am excited to see what friends do, and to offer my support and encouragement. I prefer not to tell people what they cannot do. I don't ask why they would want to run a hundred  miles or climb over the mountains. I know why. It's the how, where, and when that interests me.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Year In Reflection

by Craig

Like taking any mirror selfie, writing a year-end report always comes out better in my head than on paper. Thinking back now it’s easy to hold on to all of the disappointing results and allow them to weigh on my confidence going into 2014. But the optimist and core ultrarunner in me is still always looking forward and I know that everything I went through this year will be for my benefit next year. So this report will be focused on the amazing and not the disappointing.

2012 was a very successful and quite selfish year for me. I knew as I was going through it and at the end much of my year had been spent wrangling many of my friends into tagging along or crewing/pacing me on several of my personal adventures. I made a commitment to make 2013 more focused on my friends’ accomplishments and less on my own. I’d like to believe I did a pretty good job of it, but there is still a part of me that knows I could have done more.

In January a very tiny person came into my life. For being so small Jennilyn is a giant in determination, running ability, and suffering. She can also be a little mean. In only a few runs she was a central spoke in our community wheel of runners and quickly bounced to the top of “I’m going to lead the way in making everyone suffer at my amusement”. Needless to say she was immediately one of my best friends. Jennilyn is a very focused runner with grandiose goals that she often keeps close to her chest. She does this because running, for her, is very personal, and her goals and successes are also deeply personal. She has very little interest in being in the limelight. Just ask her to interview on camera and you’ll know what I mean.

Jennilyn came to me twice this year to help her achieve two big goals. The first was her attempt to become the first woman to run the Utah Triple Crown. A course that was well within her abilities, I was invited along more as tour guide and videographer, than to offer any real support. What transpired was my fourth time doing the Triple Crown, the two of us laughing and chatting for hours on end, and even getting a little scared of the weather descending South King’s. She went on to put up a monster time and set a standard that will be tough to beat. It was truly an honor for me to be there and witness how strong she is in the mountains, especially on technical terrain.

Later in the year she asked if I’d like to tag along and pace/crew her on her attempt to set a women’s FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the 100 mile long White Rim trail of Canyonlands National Park. As is my way, I asked if I could just pace her the whole 100 miles, to which she graciously agreed. She ended up being my anchor for that run for more than 65 miles before I was able to be of any real benefit to her. I dealt with stomach issues for over 30 miles. Luckily, as is my way, I fully rallied that last 20 miles and was even able to really help her the last 15 or so. Her time of 21:54:30 will be a tough standard to beat, I can tell you that. Ultimately, I'm grateful to have been there to witness her first 100 and set a new FKT.

I’m not sure I can recall how many times Matt Williams has dropped everything to crew, pace, or just show up to a race or adventure run in support of me. He’s probably invested more money in my running success than he has in his own. Without a doubt he is the most selfless person I know. I committed to him that if I ran a respectable enough time at Buffalo Run 100 in March that I’d pace him at the Bryce 100, line-to-line. What would transpire would define who I really wanted to become as a runner and set the standard for the outright best moment of running for me in my entire life. It would take nothing short of a miraculous adventure with close friends to beat what happened at Bryce.

If you haven’t read the race report, understand that what me, Matt, Scott, and Josh did at Bryce was monumental. Running 100 miles, line-to-line, together is nearly a statistical impossibility. Our goal going in was to run together for as long as possible and then spread out as people got tired and needed to fall off the pace. My personal commitment was to stick with Matt the entire way, as it would be his first 100 miler. To none of our surprise we were all still together at mile 33. And then still together at the turn-around at mile 50. I remember coming out of the aid station at Pink Cliffs (mile 55) telling the boys that unless something major happened to one of us that we’d go the full distance together, something that still seemed impossible at the time. Finally, at Blubber Fork (mile 75) we knew we had it in the bag. Fast or slow, walking or running, we would go the full distance together. We crossed the line, hand in hand, and all fell into tears with the joy of our accomplishment.

Bryce 100 redefined me as a runner. Because of that running with friends and being a part of their accomplishments became more important to me than my own. Sure, I’m still driven to run fast and test myself, but none of those accomplishments, whether in the past or the future, will hold as much value for me as simply the time I get to spend in the mountains or desert with my friends. Our collective success is what matters to me now. We don’t have to be running together to share it, we simply need to be there for each other, to support each other, for it to hold such great value. And going forward, I know that my failures in running and racing will always be less important than watching the successes of my friends. With that lesson now firmly embedded in my running character I look forward to 2014 with all the optimism in the world.

Let’s go get it Wranglers!!!

Thank you to my sponsors who have been more than gracious to me this year. 
Altra Zero Drop shoes - by far the best running shoe ever made.
Ultraspire - hydration at its absolute best.
Gnarly Nutrition - electrolyte drink additive and recovery powder that is sent from the running Gods. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Monsters in the Shadows

-Zac Marion

As the early morning casts its shadow across the valley, my mind is taken to years past when childhood imaginations ran wild with thoughts and even occasional sightings of monsters and wild things lurking just beyond the light. Time has faded away the fears of fangs, claws and fictional beasts, replacing them with equally daunting grown up monsters.

Just this morning, while traveling to meet up with some great friends for a run, I reflected on driving that same route in similar conditions a year ago. The jagged ridges and peaks had cast equally terrifying shadows as these mountain sized monsters lurked in the darkness of a pre-dawn glow. Their intimidating switchbacks, never ending hills and rough terrain was a far cry from the comfort of my road running. Trail running had become the creeping monster literally hiding in the shadows.

Over the course of three years, I had worked myself from extremely unhealthy to an extremely mediocre road runner. I enjoyed my mind numbing rhythm. I enjoyed my attention to pace. I enjoyed the same routes with houses and stop lights that never changed. I was comfortable in knowing what was coming. Aside from the occasional side cramp, there were no surprises and nothing to fear.
I had only really been on one trail, and just a handful of times at that. It was a 9.89 mile out and back route with a grand total of 500ft of elevation change. It was probably the hardest run I did through my training, and the slowest. I never found a steady rhythm. That ridiculous climbing was messing up my pace. All the twists and turns had me lost. And day to day, the trail was constantly changing on me. I never knew what to expect or even knew where I was most of the time.

I was afraid of what I couldn’t succeed at. I was afraid of these seemingly insurmountable tasks. I tried to hide under the comfort of my road running, but I knew they were still out there… haunting me.

But how do you conquer your fears? You face them. Head on. You peel back the covers and peer into the dark corners and shadows. You accept what is or is not there and you stand up to it. You struggle and fight until the beast has succumbed.

It’s funny how personal reflection can be the night light that exposes those fears for what they were. Fear is just your imagination and personal intimidations getting the best of you. I look back on what I originally feared in trail running and ironically they have now become my favorite aspects of the sport.
It’s nice to get lost and forget about everything else, excepting what the trail will bring you. All of the curves and dramatic elevation changes are character that makes every trail experience unique. And it’s something that ought to be enjoyed because whether it is mud, snow, erosion or fallen trees, it will not be the same when you come back tomorrow. I have rarely experienced a greater reward than getting to the top of a peak and peering down 3,000 ft below and looking at the miles of ups and downs that it took to get there.

I look forward to today’s adventure as I get closer to those dark shadows that draw me in. It’s a new day in a usual place. A place where I can run and play where the wild things are.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

White Rim 100 - A Pacer's Story

by Craig
This is tough for me. How do you tell a story that isn't yours to tell? A race that wasn't yours to run? As a pacer everything is about the racer, but when you are 'pacing' the full 100 miles it becomes a race of your own, with all of the ups and downs that go along with running the full distance. And this wasn't even a race, but an attempt to beat the current Fastest Known Time (FKT) on a significant trail in southern Utah.

Jennilyn Eaton, a Salt Lake City local, had been planning for some time to attempt a women's FKT of the 100 mile long White Rim trail in Canyonlands National Park. A couple of months ago she invited me along for the full ride, hoping to help her run faster end to end. I'm sure she was relying on my experience in races and long adventure runs to get her through the "tough miles". She had never run 100 miles before, but had put up solid performances in the 50 mile and 100k distances. Going into the run she was looking fast and strong. But now I'm wandering over to her story. You'll have to see the video to get the full details on her experience (forthcoming).

I didn't make a big deal about my running 100 miles to anyone prior to leaving because I figured it wasn't mine to share. I knew if she wanted to make a big deal of it, she would. I also knew she wouldn't. For Jennilyn this experience was about something deeper than just an FKT, it was personal and defining and I didn't want to tread on that.

I haven't been to Canyonlands since I was a kid. I couldn't tell you anything about a national park that is close enough to be almost a day trip. What I did know was that the route had a casual 12,000 of vertical climbing, most of it runnable. I also knew it was entirely a dirt road with about seven miles of pavement. It seemed fast and I was optimistic that her aggressive goals were achievable. For me it would be about hanging on for the ride. I would need to have a good day to be of any real help to Jennilyn, as the course would test not just my endurance, but my speed.


We started our run at 6:20am at the bottom of Mineral Basin. In the first two miles we had an amazing switchback climb of over 1000 vertical feet. And then a long 18 miles of gently rolling uphills until we dropped into the Schaefer Trail inside of the park proper. We took it easy, had great conversation, and cruised along in the morning light. Our crew (Jennilyn's husband Ben and Matt W) would periodically stop to take video and photos, but there was no planned aid stop for the first 20 miles. It was a long way to go without stopping, but turned out to be a very wise decision. I felt great and looked forward to the amazing views ahead.

Running pavement early on - mile 18
Dropping into the canyon via the famous Schaefer Trail is like falling into a world of Wonderland. The entire landscape changes; hoodoos, arches, and islands of floating rock mesmerized us as we rounded every bend in the road. It was now nearing 11am and starting to warm up. My stomach was turning a little south and I was having problems eating. Jennilyn was pulling ahead at times, her focus solely on her goal and not me - right where it should be. With each stop (about 10 miles apart) I would take a little longer while she would go ahead. Mile after mile I felt like my condition was worsening and she would continue to pull ahead. My focus was completely on helping and being there for her, so I would push to catch up, sometimes catching up a mile or so before our next aid, other times coming in a few minutes behind her. At mile 56 I finally started feeling better and caught up with her just as her stomach was turning the other way. She couldn't eat and started getting low blood sugar. Our aid stop at 58 was focused on getting us both strong again and we left in good spirits.

 Just before dropping into the switchbacks on the Schaefer Trail

Looking down at the Schaefer switchbacks

 Not feeling well around mile 45

Running on the moon

I was finally in a position where I felt like I could be an asset to her. We talked and laughed as we made our way towards Murphy's, one of the two remaining large climbs. We ran smooth and climbed strong and found ourselves at the top of Murphy's - mile 66 - eating pickles (Jennilyn, not me) and other goodies before starting into a long 15 miles of rolling downhill. Jennilyn pulled ahead for a while before she got very sick again. Now she was unable to keep anything down. I had been running an even pace, still dealing with some tummy issues and a diaphragm cramp, yet my focus changed to keeping her moving and upright. We were well up on her goal time and could take extra time to get her right, but at mile 80 we had to spend a bunch of time trying to get her feeling better without success. Most people would have laid down and either waited till they felt better or quit. Jennilyn got pissed for having puked on her shoes and took off running faster than I could keep up. I did catch up (more like she waited for me) four miles later and stayed with her the rest of the way. By this time I was rallying and felt strong in the cool night air. I did have my first ever puke-while-running experience just before mile 88. I sure wish that would have happened 40 miles earlier because I came away feeling like a million bucks. Unfortunately for Jennilyn, her throw up sessions did not leave her feeling better, but even worse and she had to push through regardless. Amazing.

We finished the run just after 4am in a total time of 21:52:33.
 We just ran 100 miles

 Satisfaction that it was over

I spent my day doing everything I could to keep up with her. At my lowest points my mind would wander to the possibility of having to give up and hand off duties of pacing to Matt or Ben. My fear of failing Jennilyn drove my ability to not lose her and catch up when I felt horrible. It guided my attitude and shored my emotions when I needed to be there when she was having her lows. More than anything it allowed me to truly savor the success she would have in this accomplishment. I'm proud to have run 100 miles on such a beautiful course. More so I am honored to have witnessed Jennilyn accomplishing a goal she has had for herself for so long. It was truly amazing to watch.

Thank you to my sponsors whose gear continued to exceed expectations. And to the other companies whose gear was also incredible. I ran in and ate the following:
Altra Zero Drop Lone Peak shoes - I never took off my shoes, never felt the need to.
Ultraspire Revolution Vest - While I didn't use it the first 40 miles, it literally saved me the last 60.
Gnarly Nutrition Boost - This water additive is the best thing to happen to me in ages. So amazing.
Vfuel Gels - For long distance running, there is no better gel.
SPOT GPS Tracker - I carried the new Gen3 the full 100 miles and never knew it was there.
Injinji Trail Socks - Normally I change socks at 50 miles. Not this time. 

Head over to in the next few days to see an interview with Jennilyn as well as the feature video.

**All photos by Matt Williams

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gnarly Nutrition Product Review

I'm not all too finicky about a lot of things in my life - brand of peanut butter, tooth paste, what kinds of socks I wear for running. But other things, like my shoes, hydration system, and running related nutrition I'm very critical of and refuse to settle for brands that I know I either don't like or I know don't work well for me. That's why, even though other offers have been made, I'm only currently sponsored by three companies - Altra Footwear, Ultraspire Hydration, and Gnarly Nutrition. I feel it's important to share my story of getting involved with Gnarly and why it is now a staple in my diet.

I was approached by a climbing friend of mine and was asked, as a runner, if I used any post-run protein drink as a recovery method. I explained that I had tried some from time to time, big name running brands like Hammer and First Endurance, along with the general stuff you can buy in bulk from Costco. What I didn't like about any of those brands was that they were made with artificial ingredients that always seemed to upset my stomach. And for the most part they simply didn't taste very good. His excitement in my lack of commitment to any brand was a sign that he knew something good I didn't. A short while late a meeting had been set up with Eli and Joel.

That first meeting in my office at work I knew I was dealing with a legitimate and amazing company. They understood runners and athletes in general. And they seemed to appreciate what I was doing in regards to my goals, my philosophies about running, and my attitude towards the whole industry. So they gave me some sample products and sent me off for several weeks to test them. Within 2 weeks I was hooked and I'll explain why.

I was provided with two products at the time: Gnarly Whey recovery powder (chocolate) and Gnarly Boost, a hydration additive meant to enhance water in a bottle or reservoir.

The Whey recovery powder is meant to be mixed with 8 oz of water or milk. One of the great things about
this product is that it is made with real chocolate and to be honest, it doesn't matter which you mix it with, it tastes equally well with either. My favorite thing to do is throw in a bunch of mixed frozen berries and blend it for a chocolate berry smoothie. The taste alone is enough to dedicate me to the product, but the reality is that I have felt a literal difference in my recovery after using it. It's no secret to runners that recovery is vital and protein, in one form or another, should be taken withing 20 minutes of a hard workout. I will attest that Gnarly Whey has played a significant role in my recovery from longer runs and hard workouts.

But my favorite product of all is the Gnarly Boost. This small bottle will supplement 10+ 20oz hydration bottles, depending on how heavy you want to make the taste. It comes in a very mild citrus flavor that works both as a nutrient and a thirst quencher. With all natural ingredients if offers an average amount electrolytes, but is heavy in vitamins and trace minerals. Key ingredients include a massive amount of B12, B2, and Potassium, things never found in other electrolyte drinks. Most runners will make up calories in their food and gel intake, so hydration is more about electrolytes and fluid intake. When you couple all of those things together everything can really come together to equal perfection.

Now, after several months of running with Boost I can honestly tell you that I absolutely hate running without it. The times when I've been out of stock my runs have suffered. I've actually had to recalculate how I race so that I can have access to it throughout the course because I know how critical it is to the success of my racing. I know this, Gnarly Nutrition has changed the way I run for the better. If you want to check them out, and I suggest you do, visit them at You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 Pony Express Trail 100


The Pony Express is fast if you want it to be. There are no obstacles on the course, only miles of well-graded dirt road heading West over Dugway Pass, past ancient geode beds and Black Rock monument, to the turnaround at Fish Springs reserve. The race starts at the top of a hill, so runners almost cannot help themselves from starting fast. And that is perfect for a quick warmup in the freezing cold October desert morning.

I have been running for two years. The 2011 Pony Express 50 was my first ultra distance race. I finished in a respectable 8 hours and 30 minutes. Two years later I came back to run the hundred mile as a test of how far I had come as a runner. Inspired by the legendary 15 hour finish of J.A. at the 2011 PET 100, I wanted to see how fast I could cover one hundred miles on foot. For most of the year I had been running up and down mountains for training, culminating in my second Wasatch 100 finish. After Wasatch I changed my training to flat, long runs close to home. I needed to get faster if I was to approach the aggressive goals I had for Pony.

Early Friday morning my father drove me to the Lookout Campground where the race begins. Director Davy Crockett sends runners for both the 50 and 100 mile races out in waves according to their pace. I was to leave with the last group of runners at 8 AM. Despite missing a turnoff in the dark, my dad got me to the check-in with plenty of time to prepare for the day of running. At the tent Davy handed me my number and shirt, while I noticed the winner's trophies displayed on the table. I turned away quickly, not wanting to get attached. Although I was confident, there was no doubt I had competition in a handful of experienced and fast runners, and nothing was guaranteed.

A few minutes before countdown Davy had the small group of runners gather for last-minute briefing. Afterward I jogged over to the van for last-minute preparations when I heard my dad shout from the start line. "Matt they are starting....Three! Two! One!...." So yeah I missed the "gun". It wasn't the first time. When I finally was ready everybody was gone down the road. I ran past my dad, instructing him to meet me in five miles. It was very nice to start with no hydration pack or hand-held bottle. I felt light and springy. During the first five miles I caught up to and chatted with Jen Richards, who was seeking to bring down her previous year's 50 mile time under 8 hours. Of course she would do it by 20 minutes.

 Jen Richards and Cherri Resinski, women's 50 and 100 mile champs 2013

I ran with Kendall Wimmer for a few minutes, and we discussed out strategies. He was going for the
 50 mile win and boy did he bring it. He had a close call with his nearest competition later in the day, even offering aid to him in the last 10 miles, then leaving everyone in the dust for his first ultra win.

 Kendall Wimmer, 50 mile champ

After Kendall I caught up to and ran with Mark Hammond for a few miles. Mark put down an impressively fast Speedgoat 50K finish this year, plus a respectable Run Rabbit Run in the Hare group. Mark's parents were supporting him from their comfortable sedan. I made a note to watch for that sedan throughout the day to know where he was behind me. Phil Lowry was behind me but with his many 100 mile finishes I was never sure how far back he would stay. Finally I caught up with Kelly Agnew, a fellow Davis County runner and very experienced ultra finisher. I gave him a nod and thumbs up.

 Super Runner Kelly Agnew

 Army Guy Super Hero Phil Lowry
I met my dad at 5 miles and he had my hydration pack ready for me to slip on without breaking stride, then I instructed him to go 20 miles and wait for me. Then I had the best 20 mile run of my life. The morning was perfect. My plan was to get to Simpson Springs, at mile 16.4, in two hours, then keep a steady sub 8 pace as far as possible, and as my body would allow. I was aiming to reach 50 miles in 7 hours, which would allow me to cover the back 50 miles in eight hours (4 hours per every 25 miles).

I arrived at the Simpson Springs Corral in 2:02, only 8 minutes faster than two years prior when I ran it as a newbie with no experience. However, I was feeling calm and confident about how my day was going. I told myself I could run fast and strong, but also have fun and relax. And that is what I did.

When I got to the top of that long 8 mile downhill stretch leading to the ancient riverbed, a bunch of endorphins must have kicked in because I was loving every moment and I just wanted to run fast. I wanted to see my friends who had started ahead of me. Francesco and Travis, two super Altra dudes, were running their first 50 mile distance. Garsh dang-it, it was good to see them. This was a two-jump day.

I am not a fruitarian, but all the energy I had just may have been due in part to all that fruit I ate in the 3 weeks leading up to this race. I think there is something to it. I also stayed away from fatty foods in the few weeks leading up to Pony. Then, the evening before, I took my family out to a steakhouse and treated myself to a juicy New York steak. I believe that a high protein meal with some fat the night before says to the body "Hard times are comin'."

Also drawing me down the road was the excitement of seeing Aaron Williams and his crew of pirates working to get his first 50 miles. The Williams folks are good, fun people. I was happy to see him doing well and having fun with his family. These are memories they will smile about for years and years.

 Kim Brown en route to another 50 mile finish. Matt Williams is cool.

Aarrrrron Williams, Kristyarrrrn Williams, Jen Richards, Kim Brown

Dugway Pass is the only hill in the Pony Express. I ran up. Davy Crockett was at the top by himself and I could barely understand him. He had lost his voice. But I did understand when he said the next downhill will be a nice recovery run into Black Rock. He was right. I picked up again after a lull in my energy leading up to the Pass, and ran well but not terribly fast toward the half-way point. I also had passed every runner that started both races and was the first to show up at Black Rock. My dad was still crewing me and I had him go out three miles ahead and he would have a drink ready for me. I reached 50 miles in 7 hours and one minute. I needed a break so I walked the next half mile to settle my stomach. The run out to Fish Springs and the turn-around at mile 58 was slow. Heat had finally wore me down and my stomach was hurting. I turned around without any fanfare, then a few miles out began to see the runners behind me as they ran toward the turn-around. I did not see Kelly, so I assumed he had dropped. Also, I had not seen Mark's parents' sedan since the morning so I assumed he dropped too. Phil came running toward me looking terrific, maybe 4 or five miles behind me - a little too close for comfort. Cherri was also running well out toward Fish Springs. When I arrived at Black Rock 2 I could smell and see the delicious cookout food on the grill but my tummy would have none of it. My wife and boys had taken over crew duty and she had hot noodle soup ready for me as I walked out.

The sun went down and the moon had taken its place as I made the run back to Dugway Pass, much slower this time. My aggressive goal of finishing in the 15s was slipping away. I remained optimistic and thought that with the sun down I could make up lost time. I just needed to get to that pass and then I could blast downhill to the final 17 mile stretch. From the pass I did get to run fast. It felt good to run into low sixes down to the valley floor, but it was too short. For the final 17 miles I got into a run, walk, run pattern. Sometimes I could really pick it up and run for a good stretch but I was fading, and worrying about someone caching up to me. On that long, straight road I fell prey to the illusion that a runner was stalking me just a mile or two behind. A vehicle headlight that was 7 miles away looked like a headlamp approaching fast. I wondered who was behind me. On his way to the finish at the corral, Davy Crockett stopped to say hello and see how I was doing. I was surprised to hear tha Kelly was still in the race and was about 5 miles back. I missed seeing him somehow on the run back from Fish Springs.

With the finish drawing near, a sub-16 hour finish was out. I then went for the sub-17. As I usually do in these races, I picked up my pace the closer I got to that bright single light in the middle of the desert. Up one final long hill, I was relieved to see glow sticks marking the turnoff to the corral below. The run down seemed much longer now than when I had run out earlier in the morning. No matter, I was there and there was nothing to stop me. Russ Smith recorded my time as 16 hours 52 minutes and 55 seconds, then recorded the moment on digital film:

I have never won any race, that I can remember. It was sweet. It was nice to win, but what I am really happy about was covering 50 miles in 7 hours and feeling rather well doing it. That opens up a lot of possibilities for me. I know how far I have come in two years, and that makes me happy. Davy brought out the pony trophy and I could then look at it, hold it, and savor it. The Pony Express Trail 100 and Davy Crockett, and those associated with them will always occupy a place among my finest memories of this life.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dugway Isolation 50k - Race Report

by Craig

So I'm a liar. I said in my last post that I was done with race season. That wasn't all together true. This past weekend I ran the first annual Dugway Isolation 50k. My plan was to run the entire race with my brother Brent, but that isn't quite how it worked out.

Hanging from the start/finish guns during a training run

The course is three loops, approximately 10 miles long (the first two loops have a bonus lap around Little Davis Mountain) and 1800 vertical feet of climbing. It's called the Isolation 50k for a reason because it is on a military base in the middle of the west desert of Utah, literally about as remote as you can get. There are three different race lengths - 20k, 30k, and 50k. Because it was the first year racers could bump down to a lower distance before or even during the race. There were about 25 people total who ran between the three races.

Everyone started off pretty conservative. There is a 700 ft climb in the first 1.25 miles of the race and Brent was smart enough to walk most of it as he would have to do it another 2 times before the day was out. I ran the whole thing just to prove to myself I could do it and waited and shot photos at the top as people came by. Brent was moving well and many of us stayed together as the course descended down single track toward Little Davis Mountain. Once we hit the back half of the course the racers spread out and other than a couple of other people around us, Brent and I found ourselves alone. After doing the first of our bonus loops we thought it might be a good idea to get the 2nd one out of the way so that we didn't have to worry about it on the next full lap. While it was a good idea from a strategy perspective, all of the vert was starting to take it's toll on Brent. By the time we were coming around to finish the first full loop (about 13 miles at this point) Brent was hurting really bad and was not super confident about finishing out the whole race.

Everyone at the start

As we ended the first loop and starting the climb into the 2nd one Brent confirmed his inability to go the full 50k and told me he would be short-cutting back around to the start to complete the 30k distance. He then told me to run ahead and find one of our other friends to run with the rest of the race. While I was bummed for him having a bad it was kind of nice to be able to take off and run fast for a while. So off I went up the hill at a nice job. About half way down the back I came across Josh who was emptying out his shoe. We ran together for a while until he needed to hit the POP, so I went on ahead. As I came around to finish circumnavigating Little Davis Mountain I could see a few other 50k-ers running across the open flats to the last couple of miles of single track. They were all walking, weird. It wasn't long and I was coming up behind friends Colin and Canice (who was there to hang out and run a free lap). They told me 3rd place was right in front of them and that Jen, who was in second, was only another 10 minutes up. I was feeling good so I took off.

When I dropped off the last bit of single track towards the road I could see Jen up ahead approaching the start/finish aid station. She was still there when I arrived and after a quick bit to eat we left together. It was fun to run with her. She is a very strong racer and a good friend. It was nice to chat about our race and have fun for a bit. Part way up the climb, however, she told me to push on ahead and catch up with Aaron (who was leading). I wasn't really interested in winning the race, but I thought it would be fun to run with Aaron and help him push to the finish.

Aaron cresting the top of the first big climb

He was moving well though and I didn't feel like I was catching up until I came around a corner and saw that he was only a couple of hundred meters away. Without pushing any harder I just maintained a running pace, especially when I saw him slow to a walk and before long we were running together. He was hurting. He had been pushing pretty hard the whole race and it was now catching up to him. When we got onto the flat tank road together he really started to slow and then stop because he was now cramping and needed to stretch his calves. I continued on at a slow pace hoping he'd catch up. And then the most wonderful thing happened; as I approached the Little Davis Mountain climb there was a pitch black wild Mustang only 50 yards ahead. I've seen them before, but never that close. It was beautiful as it trotted off south into the desert. Absolutely amazing.

When I finished the climb up Little Davis I looked back and Aaron had dropped back considerably. Now my competitive juices kicked in and I figured if no one wanted to run with me I'd push hard to the finish and see what kind of gap I could put on them. I only had about 4 miles left, which meant I didn't have that big of a cushion. If I started cramping (which I did) and Aaron started feeling better he could definitely catch up and pass me for the win.

Running down awesome single track

As I crossed the flats to the final single track section I took a look back and couldn't see anyone. It was at that point I knew I had the win in the bag. My legs were cramping (I needed some Calcium but forgot to bring antacids) but with periodic short stops to stretch I was able to maintain a pretty good pace to the finish. It was fun to be the first ever winner of a race. Jen had passed Aaron somewhere in the last few miles and she finished about 10 minutes or so behind me with Aaron coming in another 5 minutes after that. Brent was pretty disappointed and had left a while earlier, but it was fun to run with him for a while and see all of my friends out there.

Aaron, Jen, and me. Top three

The first 13 miles took me 3hrs. The last 18 miles took me 3hrs and 7min. It was fun to really open things up and run fast the 2nd half of the race. It's a tougher course than it looks on paper, but doing three laps wasn't as tough as I thought. The race is desolately beautiful, fun, and well organized. And I can promise you it will only get better next year. Thanks to all of the people who made the drive out, to my friends who I got to see on the course, and congratulations to everyone who finished any of the three distances.

Friday, September 27, 2013

End of a Season

It's now Autumn and for me race season is officially over. Snow has begun to settle on the upper peaks of the Wasatch, the Uintas are certainly socked in by now, and my plans for the next few months are based around helping a friend on an adventure run and cruising local trails.

The last few weeks since Wasatch have been a lot of fun. I've spent most of my days finding my way to the tops of Wasatch peaks, some repeats, but a few new ones too. I thought I'd share some photos and words from my recent adventures.

Up Tibble Fork on the way to Mt Baldy

Looking back down Tibble Fork and a beautiful sunrise

Cruising down the east ridge of Mt Baldy

Helping prepare for a race on Dugway Proving Grounds

On the course

Running Box Elder Peak

On the summit. Super windy

One of the most beautiful sunrises I've ever seen

Running back down to the trailhead

There were other runs - a trip up the Pfeifferhorn, two days cruising Corner Canyon trails, and a few other casual runs. This is how I can only hope the rest of the year will go for me. Happy trails everyone!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My 2013 Heaven & Hell

With a bunch of good friends running this year, I was really looking forward to being out there on the course for 24+ hours taking in the experience that is the Wasatch 100.  Training had gone relatively well, but the week prior to race week I had a number of major personal life "experiences" happen that left me with MAJOR anxiety all week.  I won’t discuss what was happening, but needless to say I felt completely unprepared to deal with the mental challenge that goes along with a hundred mile race so close on the horizon.

Real quick, special thanks to Matt & Alicia Williams.  They host a big BBQ the night before the race each year and once again allowed me to crash on their couch.  It’s definitely nice being just a few minutes from the start line in the morning and not having to worry about a long commute.

Pre-race with Scott and Davy Crockett (photo by Mark Kreuzer)

The most noteworthy thing at the start line was the heat.  It was about 80 degrees at 5 am with noticeable humidity for Utah.  Having done essentially no heat training this year, I started getting a little worried.  I started out running with Scott again this year and was able to spend the first few hours with him.  It’s always nice being able to run with friends.  Just below Chinscraper he stopped for water at the spring and I forged on ahead.  I got to Francis Peak aid (mile 18.76) in relatively good shape considering how much I’d been sweating, albeit about 12 minutes slower than last year.  I quickly refueled then went back to work.

After Francis Peak I went into the zone!  I love being in that place where my headspace is on-point and the miles keep clicking by.  I hit Bountiful B (mile 23.95) and was greeted by the smiling faces of friends Kelli & Scott Stephenson who were working the aid.  They got me everything I needed and sent me back out quickly.  Back into the zone!  Hit Sessions (mile 28.23) still down about 12 minutes from the previous year, but I was feeling great and everything was clicking. 

Immediately out of the aid I almost puked.  I wish I could’ve puked since I’m sure it would’ve made me feel better, but I have an iron stomach and I’ve never thrown up on a run - training or racing - ever!  It’s a blessing and a curse I guess.  I’d made a rookie mistake at Sessions and filled one of my bottles with sports drink… a type I’d never tried before.  My stomach hated it and I was thus reduced to running to the next aid station on one bottle of water, just as the heat was rising and exposure was beginning.  I started getting dehydrated which left my stomach unhappy and would stay as such for the remainder of the race.  I blamed it on the sports drink, but it was my own damn fault.  Never try something new on race day!

Between Swallow Rocks and Big Mountain (photo by Lori Burlison)

Swallow Rocks (mile 34.91) was awesome as usual.  I spent time downing a full bottle of water before refilling.  My pace slowed a bit but I got to Big Mountain aid (mile 39.4) still only down about 20 minutes over last year, and only down 1 pound on the scale.  Yes!  I was encouraged but dreading what was ahead.  I was reduced to basically a diet of gels and GU Chomps as nothing solid was sitting well in my stomach.  I spent a few minutes with my family (Matt was there too helping me out) at Big Mountain then headed off into the hottest section of the course.  It was ugly.  I was slow.  My knee was bothering me.  Blood pressure got low.  Breathing was labored.  Then I hit Lamb’s Canyon (mile 53.13) to see my crew and meet up with my first pacer, friend Chantele.

Running into Lamb's (photo by Brenda Greenwell)

Next huge mistake was about to unfold.  I’d planned a quick sock and shoe change at Lamb’s which I thought was brilliant!  I had a few very small blisters, but this was the best my feet have ever held up to this point in this particular race.  So I messed with a good thing and went from Drymax to Injinji’s on the sock front, and switched out my Altra Lone Peak 1.5s for the original Altra Lone Peak 1.0s.  With material in between my toes now spreading my forefoot even more, both the inside and outside of my toes were rubbing my shoes, thus leading to bad blisters later on.  Idiot!

This one explains how hot it was.  Can you say sweat? (photo by Mark Kreuzer)

The climb up Bear Bottom Pass with Chantele was terrible, the descent into Millcreek was even worse since my IT Band started flaring up.  I walked nearly all of Millcreek road (which I’ve mostly run in years past) and constantly complained to Chantele.  I constantly kept talking about dropping at Millcreek.  Negativity filled me.  I didn’t think I could run 40 more miles with the shape my knee was in.  I arrived at Upper Big Water (mile 61.68) and decided I needed to get my head straight, so I sat for a bit.  Friend Brian Beckstead happened to be there, which was concerning considering he’s faster than me.  Scott also came into the aid while I was there so it seemed like his race was coming along well on target.  Lucky for me, Brian’s pacer Heath also happened to be a PT and he worked on my knee for about 10 minutes.  Between him and the KT tape I’d later receive at Brighton, my race was saved.  Brian encouraged me to come along with him as he was determined to at least get to Brighton and re-evaluate from there.  I obliged to the whisperings of both he and Chantele and jumped out of that chair to get back out on course.

Picking up my first pacer, Chantele, at Lambs Canyon (photo by Brenda Greenwell)

To Brighton not much really happened.  Still couldn’t eat solids, still had a crappy attitude, knee still relatively hurt (although not as bad as before), but I just plugged along and listened to the positivity radiating from Chantele.  She was always encouraging, always positive, and did an awesome job for her first time pacing.  I can't say enough good things about the way she dealt with my general moodiness.  This also happened to be her longest trail run to date, so a big congrats to her as well!

Once you’re at Brighton (mile 75.61) you get a sense that you’ll finish even though the toughest 25 miles of the entire course are in front of you.  I was nearly 2 hours behind last year now, but I didn’t care.  I was just happy to now be focused on enjoying myself and throwing time goals out the window.  I was determined to press on and finish this thing.  Jeremy & Leslie Howlett were there with encouraging words and Leslie KT taped my knee for me.  I also saw good friend Jennilyn rushing in right as I was heading out.  She was super encouraging and gave me a much needed boost.  With my dad in tow the rest of the way, we left Brighton and I was in a much better mood now.

Into Brighton (photo by Brenda Greenwell)

The descent into Ant Knolls (mile 80.27) sucks but the pancakes they have there serve as excellent motivation.  Had my usual sausage wrapped in a pancake, which happened to be one of only two solid foods my stomach was able to handle all day (go figure), then headed back out.  Pole Line Pass (mile 83.39) came and went, the long stretch between Pole Line and Pot Bottom (mile 91.98), which include the Dive, the Plunge, and Irv’s Torture Chamber all went relatively smooth, so to speak.  My knee was in absolute agony through there, but I tried not to complain and knew I just had to GRIND!  The new finish from Pot Bottom to Soldier Hollow was surprisingly good.  It included several flattish sections that gave my knee some reprieve.  Then the long road around the golf course allowed me to knock out a 7-ish pace into the finish, dropping my dad in the process.  I arrived to friends and family and it was the most satisfying 100 mile finish I’ve ever had!  Hands down.  My time was 3 hours slower than last year, but the trials I was up against this year far exceeded any I’ve ever experienced at a race in my running career.

The elation of finishing (photo by Brenda Greenwell) 

I’m extremely proud of the Refuse2Quit boys.  Matt ran the second half with Craig (report here), MVH plowed through a tough day like it was nothing, and Scott battled some issues through the night but pulled out an epic finish to his race (report here).  You guys are my heroes and it gives me perspecitve hearing about everyone’s personal demons they fight through.  Makes my terrible day seem not so terrible after all.  Thanks to all the other family and friends that supported me throughout, especially Chantele for her pacing duties, my dad for crewing and pacing (always an amazing pacer), and my mom for crewing all day.  You guys are a huge part of the reason I love doing these events!  I’ll be back next year to pace my dad at this one (assuming he gets in with 3 draws) but I won’t be tackling it myself.  Time to look for something different next year.  Probably less racing and more fun-with-friends kind of stuff.  We’ll see what time holds, but for now I’m ecstatic to say I crossed the finish line this year!

Post-race recovery (photo by Mark Kreuzer)