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.