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.