Saturday, May 9, 2015

Into Less Dense Air, the Ben Lomond/Willard Peak Expedition of 2015

If you have never climbed the face to the summit of Ben Lomond Peak in Weber County, Utah, be prepared for a unique experience.

Prologue –

Our extensive planning for this expedition began last Tuesday when Misty threw out the invite to summit Ben Lomond and Willard peaks the hard way, up the front face. 
Our planned route
There wasn’t any snow remaining, the weather looked to be perfect, why not.
So plans were made, gear assembled, support crew fully staffed, and five of us made the climb on that fateful day last Saturday.  Misty Alessandri, our fearless leader, Curtis Thompson, our resident drug dealer, Corey Vigil, our Postal Service representative, Forrest Stuart, master roofer, and myself, just a hanger on and wanna be expedition member.
We knew that this climb would be arduous, difficult, breathtaking in more ways than one, and a hell of a lot of fun.  Nonetheless, we felt we were up to the task that lay before us.
Our route was carefully planned through many many years of route finding, looking up the mountainside, and just generally saying to each other “let’s go that way”.
We gathered on that fateful Saturday morning at the North Ogden Gravel Pit trailhead.  An inauspicious start to be sure, but it was convenient for everyone and close to town.  Looking over our gear, I could tell that we were definitely ready to go.  Everyone had their hydration packs, an assortment of gels and other foodstuffs (I use that term loosely), appropriate clothing (for the most part), and a sense of comradery that made us more confident and sure of ourselves than we had a right to be.
We had meticulously calculated that this trek would take us about 6 hours, 37 minutes given our level of fitness, the distance, and the prevailing winds.

The Journey –

We began our epic adventure (a way overused term) promptly at 6am or so.  Leaving the trailhead just as dawn was breaking.  We trotted and hiked easily towards the North Ogden Divide Road, then beyond that along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, knowing that we would be able to establish our base camp in less than an hour.
We arrived at our base camp location and stopped to decide which way would be the best to go as we headed up Thompson Canyon. 
Near Base Camp
We could hear the snowmelt rushing down the canyon and a few of us wondered if we would be able to make the climb up through the rushing water (I just made that last part up, but it sounds good).
As we left base camp and trekked towards Camp #1, we bantered back and forth, traded ribald comments, and generally were in good spirits. 
Starting up Thompson Canyon photo: Misty Alessandri
Little did we know that by later that morning, we would be rethinking our decision to make this trek.  We climbed on and made it to Stuart Spring in good time.  We stopped for a drink of the clear, cold water, ate some breakfast (or lunch, I don’t remember), and carried on towards Camp #1.
Add caption
We made Camp #1 about one hour into our expedition, and since we felt no need to actually camp (plus having no actual camping gear with us), we carried on, and began the dangerous climb up Alessandri Rockfall.  We knew this portion of the climb would probably be the most dangerous.  Nothing but a huge, very loose scree field made up of big rocks, big, very loose rocks, and a 45 degree slope.  We spread out across the face as best we could so that if someone did kick some rocks loose, those below stood a better chance of avoiding being crushed, buried, or otherwise damaged.
Heading up Alessandri Rockfall

Nearing the top of the rockfall

During this climb, we did set off a couple of rock avalanches that, had someone been below, would have resulted in someone getting a scrape or two. 
Eventually we made it through Alessandri Rockfall and to our Camp #2 location. 
Camp 2 location
Once again, since we had no camping gear, and it only took a couple of hours, we pressed on up Vigil Ridge.  Vigil Ridge isn’t particularly difficult except that it’s about a 30 degree slope at 8500’. 
Although we all knew that we would be trekking to high elevations, none of us thought to take along supplemental oxygen.  Stupid us.  We were all feeling the effects of oxygen deprivation when we noticed a huge storm bearing down on us.  There was very little in the way of shelter along this ridge, but we did manage to take cover while we were graupeled (look it up) on for the next five minutes or so.  Once the vicious storm had passed, we again headed upward.  Our next milestone being the Farka Step.
Hunkering down waiting out the vicious storm.  Note the snow on Misty's hat 
The Farka Step involves a rock scramble of about 20’-30’ that can’t be avoided.  If one were to fall off this step, they would be looking at a fall of 30’ or so, enough to kill you, or at least make you hurt a bit.  Now I’m a chickenshit when it comes to stuff like this, so I was a bit worried about going up this, but I figured if everyone else can do it, so can I.  Somehow I managed to make it up and over and lived to tell the tale.  After going over the Farka Step, it was a short little hike to the summit.  We had made our first objective of the day, and it had only taken us three hours (plus or minus).
Once we made the summit of Ben Lomond, our first comments were “holy crap, there’s a lot of snow up here”. 

Yours truly on the summit
Looking along the ridge over to Willard Peak, most of the trail was covered in snow, but the trail over by the peak itself was clear.  So after the requisite pictures proving we made the summit, off we went, along the ridgeline towards Willard Peak.  This was a bit of slow going, and we had all sorts of snow to cross (let the postholing begin), but we did get over to the clear trail and even managed to trot a bit in the process.  As we rounded a corner along a particularly steep slope, we saw a huge snow drift blocking our path.  Knowing that if we traversed and someone slipped, they would slide to their doom (to the tune of several hundred feet) we elected to climb up and around that snow field.  Needless to say, this added a bit of time, what with climbing up, then boulder hopping, then back down to the trail.  It was at this point that we collectively decided that Willard peak wasn’t getting bagged today.  Indeed, we were looking at a substantial increase in our time.
Willard Peak in the distance.  Ridge running time.
We headed along the trail on the west face of Willard towards Inspiration Point.  Once we made the saddle between Willard and Inspiration, we looked out over Willard Basin and Curtis was the first to say “we’re screwed”.  We weren’t really screwed, but our original plans went flying out the window.  Nothing but snow, lots and lots of snow.  Now during the summer, we would just go downhill towards a small lake, catch the Mantua Road, and continue on our way.  Going down that slope in these conditions was out of the question.  Steep slope of snow, probably 10’ feet deep, potential postholing, potential of getting hurt.  Yep, not going that way.  So on towards Inspiration Point we went.  Our thinking was that at Inspiration Point we might be able to at least follow the road, buried though it was.  Plus, following the road made for a less steep descent. 
Looking at Willard Peak from Willard Basin
At this point, we had covered less than half of the distance we needed to cover, we had spent double the time that we had planned covering it.  The outlook was looking bleaker and bleaker with every passing minute. 
Trekking across Willard Basin
Oh wait, no it wasn't really, just a lot more work and time than we had planned on.
We began our descent into Willard Basin using a combination of the road, and just going straight downhill.  At times the postholing was hip deep.  Corey postholed to his hip once and got his foot stuck.  He had to dig down to his shoe to free his leg from a certain snowy doom.  We did think about just leaving him to his fate, but opted not to.
Meanwhile, we were scanning for the best, easiest, and quickest way across the basin to the road.  We considered three options.  One, just going down to the stream at the bottom of the canyon and following it out.  Two, following the road as it traversed around the south side of the basin.  Three, going straight down into the canyon, crossing the stream and straight up the other side to the road.  We tossed option one since we didn't know if we would cliff out at some point.  That would not be good.  I argued for option two, since it involved less climbing, just a long traverse on snow.  This option was vetoed as well.  Option three was a straight down descent to the creek, through snow, crossing the creek, and ascending 700’ up the other side.  Very steep on both sides, but the far side was snow free and that appealed to us.  So down through the thickets, thorns, and snow we went.  On the other side of the creek, a steep ascent to the road.  At least this part wasn’t snowy and didn’t have as much vegetation.
Finally, at about 12:30-1:00pm we made the Mantua Road.  Although snow covered in places, we were able to make reasonably good time in the places that were snow free.  We were thinking that we might need to take that road all the way to Mantua, but once we made the trail turnoff, we knew we were home free.  At last, snow free single track. 

Sweet single track
Now we had nine miles of blissful, downhill single track.  At last, we were able to actually run.  Needless to say, the rest of the run was pretty uneventful, down we went, through the trees, descending the switchbacks, enjoying the scenery, the beautiful day.

Postlogue –

We finally made it to the gravel pit in Perry at about 3:30pm.  It took us fully 9.5 hours to cover just over 20 miles.  Yep, we didn’t set any speed records on this “run”.  We were all beat, tired, thirsty, hungry.  Forrest’s wife Pam met us with a cooler full of beer, chocolate milk, Gatorade, and also brought two Papa John’s pizzas.  Yeah, we devoured those pretty quick.

Words of Wisdom –

Sounds like a great adventure doesn't it?  And it was.  We had fun, we saw places that very few people see at that time of year.  We got to experience something other than the standard trail run.  However, things could have gone horribly wrong in a heartbeat, necessitating the need for rescue, perhaps a long cold night out, severe injury, or worse.  What kept us from that and made our journey safer?  Several things.  First, we are all in very good shape to be able to just travel that distance.  Second, we are all experienced at moving quickly through the backcountry, regardless if there’s a trail or not.  Third, we were all familiar with that area of the mountains.  All of us had been up in that area numerous times.  Fourth, we made good, smart, collective decisions on which way to go.

Here's the Strava -

Some bonus pics

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Life's twists and turns

Tomorrow I start a new job.  Yeah, I know that I told everyone that I was going out on my own with full time race directing, but sometimes life throws other options in your path that are too enticing to pass up.
Since January, I've been lining up races, either looking to buy or starting new ones.  Things have been going pretty well in that department.  In June I will be taking over the RD duties for the Logan Peak Trail Run.  Starting next week, I have a weekly trail series starting here in Ogden, the Ogden Citizen Trail Series.  The Antelope Island Buffalo Run saw its biggest turnout ever with 854 signed up and about 770 showing up to race.  I now have a new website to better integrate the various events I'm doing now.  I'm still working on a 25K/50K race on the Good Water Rim Trail, although that's going to be delayed for a few more months.  I'm also looking at a couple of other races.
So, overall, things were looking pretty good.  I just might be able to make my house payment occasionally.
My last day at my contract job was Feb. 27.  I met with my boss, I told him of my plans, he wished me well and mentioned that he was a bit jealous.
The first week of unemployment, or self employment, found me working about 50 hours trying to get things lined up for the Buffalo Run, and working on these other things.  At the end of the week I had forgotten to send out my four required job applications in order to collect that unemployment check.  I hurriedly sent out four resumes for four positions to two different headhunter websites.  that was on Sunday March 8.  I really wasn't expecting to hear anything back.  I had put high salary demands, not sent cover letters, or any of the usual things you're supposed to do, because I didn't really care.
Well, that's when things start to get interesting.  That Tuesday I heard back from one of the headhunters.  She told me about the position, said that my qualifications looked perfect for it and could she present me to them.  I said sure, go ahead.  I've been presented numerous times over the past couple of years and it has never resulted in anything.  I fully expected the same thing.  She called me back the next day and told me that they wanted to interview me.  I told the headhunter of my schedule, that these next two weeks I was basically in full on panic mode with race stuff but here was my schedule, the rest of that week, MTW of race week, or they would have to wait until after the race.  She called me back and asked if I could go in Monday.  Sure, why not.  So in I went for about half a day.  The interview ended up going really well.  Things just clicked, I liked the people, the job looked very interesting and would definitely keep me hopping.  I told the headhunter that I'd like to pursue it if they were interested in me.  She called me back later that day, told me that they really liked me and could I come in again to meet with a couple more people.  I reminded her of my schedule and I ended up going back in on Wednesday morning.  Met with a couple more people, still liked what I saw and let her know.  She called me back that afternoon and said that they wanted to make me an offer and that it would come in either that day or Thursday.
Well, Thursday I was out on the island course marking, setting up race stuff and generally getting ready for the next couple of days.  Also, no internet access and sporadic cell phone, so naturally I didn't hear anything.  Friday morning I was out on the island, looking out over the Great Salt Lake, watching the sun rise, drinking my coffee and enjoying the calm before the 100 mile madness started and my phone rings.  It was the headhunter telling me the details about the offer.  In a word, it was too good to pass up.
The next thing was to set a start date.  I mentioned that my kids and grandkids were coming out a week after the race and I wasn't going to be at work while they were here, so a start date of April 6 was agreed to.
So, I start a new job tomorrow morning.  Added bonus, it's about 10 minutes from my house.  If they have locker and shower facilities, I'll be running to work.
If you're wondering what my job is, Manufacturing Engineer at JBT Aerotech in Ogden.  Full time, direct employee, full benefits.  Something I haven't had in a couple of years.  You know the jetways that you walk down to get on a plane?  Yeah, they're made right here in Ogden.
On an additional note, after I accepted the offer, I had calls from one other company wanting to talk to me and another headhunter wanting to talk to me about positions.  It's kind of like a couple that tries for years to get pregnant, gives up and adopts, and a month later she's pregnant.
So, full time job, additional races to direct, I'm going to be a busy little boy.
I guess the moral of the story is to remain flexible and keep your options open.  You never know what's going to just drop into your lap.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pickled Feet 12 hour race, it was a reasonably good day

Prerace - 
I've been wanting to get up to Boise and run one of their local races.  So many of the Boise trailrunning scene come down to Utah and run my races so it was time to return the favor.
I decided to run the Pickled Feet 12 Hour just as a last long run before I got out and give Salt Flats 100 another go.  Salt Flats is one of my key races this year.  As a result, I didn't have any real high expectations.  I knew I could get at least 50 miles in 12 hours provided things went went well, and I thought even 60 was possible given my effort at Antelope Canyon a few weeks back.  I even harbored this fantasy of a win if I had a really good day.  I always harbor fantasies of winning races, but that's all they ever are, fantasies.  Keep in mind I have never won a running race in my life.  Also keep in mind I'm 56 years old and my "fast" days are behind me.
I drove up Friday afternoon, hung out, drank beer, and ate pizza with a few Boise runners I know, watched the 100 mile, 24 hour, and 48 hour runners do their thing.  It was a good time.
Went to bed in the back of the truck around 11pm and slept pretty good.
Race day - 
The 12 hour day race started at 6am on the dot.  The weather was cool and windy, but not bad.  We started in the dark but I managed to forget a headlamp.  I managed to grab one from Emily, the RD just as the race started.
The course is an odd shaped lollipop that's a measured 2.5 miles.  A short section where all the runners pass each other, and a loop that the runners can choose which direction to go.
When the race started I found myself in the lead.  Now I've managed to do that in the past, but it's always short lived.  This time I felt pretty good, just dropped into an easy pace and managed to keep the lead, at least for the time being.  When we reached the "Y", I went into my race leader fantasy mode and figured that all of the runners would go right.  I went left and sure enough, no one followed.  Now I had the trail to myself.  I thought I would really pick up the pace since no one would see me and be tempted to follow and just see where things went.
Well, I met the other 12 hour runners on the back end of the course, and carried on.  I managed to finish the first loop in just over 23 minutes and was in the lead still.  I thought "this is weird", but was somewhat buoyed by the fact that I still lead the race.
Meanwhile, the rest of the day was pretty boring.  We had a cold front roll through early in the morning.  Very windy and a few sprinkles, but it cleared off after that and warmed up a bit.
My laps were very consistent in the 23-26 minute range.  After about 6-8 laps, I realized I was still in the lead.  It's hard to know exactly since runners can switch directions on every loop.  I did that some, but then settled in to going just the same direction.  I did know that there were a couple of other runners that were in the hunt, but I wasn't sure how far back they were.  This meant I was running scared.  Still, I kept the pace reasonable, not pushing, but not letting up either.  I finally found out from a friend that I was in the lead by at least a lap, or 2.5 miles.  Not too bad, so far.  Others started noticing that I was doing reasonably well and were cheering me on.  My typical response was to remind them that there was still time for things to go horribly wrong,  I kept waiting for things to do just that, for my legs to get tired, my mind to wander, to just want to take a walking break.  I resolved that I would run every lap I could regardless of how I felt.  The only time I would walk was occasionally through the timing/aid station area, or if I stopped by my makeshift aid station.
When I got close to the 50K mark I thought that maybe I could PR that distance.  I hit it in 5:04:35.  Dang close to a PR.  Since I still felt strong, I set my sights on a 50 mile PR.  I last set a PR at that distance way back in 2010 with an 8:59.  So not tremendously fast.  Needless to say, I was super excited to hit the 50 mile mark at 8:40:14.  Who knew I could still PR.  Doing that just fired me up more, especially since I still felt strong.  I was still in the lead by at least a full lap.  I did catch up with the guy running in second and we compared notes and I was definitely up a lap, plus he was starting to flag a bit, walking bits and pieces here and there.
Photo courtesy Jo Agnew

It was a this point that I thought I really did have a chance to win my first race ever, and possibly set a course record in the process.  As I went through the timing area on one lap, I asked Emily what the course record was, she told me on the next lap that it was 65 miles and change.  I mentioned that I thought I had a shot at it and she encouraged me to go for it.  Meanwhile, I just kept up a steady pace, running as close as I could to the same pace I started with.  I knew I was slowing a bit, but I never entertained any thoughts of walking while out on the loop.
Now the 100K mark was getting closer.  My previous PR was an 11:45 I ran at the Kettle Moraine 100K way back in 2004.  When I finally did get to 100K, my Garmin told me the time was 10:55:06, 50 minutes faster than that previous PR from over ten years ago.  Holy crap!
With just over an hour left, I opted to hit the long loop one more time.  I knew that the win was pretty much there, the only thing hanging was could I get a course record.  I figured at my current pace, I would without too much problem.  Once I finished that last long loop, I switched to the short .38 mile loop that allowed runners to maximize their mileage.  I managed to get a bunch of the short loops and finally called it quits with about 3 minutes left on the clock.  I had the win and the course record with 67.24 miles completed.
Aftermath - 
I finally sat down and quit moving for the first time in 12 hours.  Grabbed a beer and just enjoyed the moment.  I ACTUALLY HAD WON A RACE.  I have never done that.  I ACTUALLY SET A COURSE RECORD.  I have never done that either.  Almost a week later and I still can't believe that it happened.
I have never considered myself as having any real running talent.  I like to run, I do pretty well when I train hard, but most of all I have a pretty good time regardless of how I do.  I have noticed that I am slowing down just a bit.  Here I am, 56 years old, a grandfather, winning a race.  This race was one of those few races that we all have where everything just clicked, the stars and planets aligned and things just went right.  It is something that I will always remember.
Drew Adams, the 2nd place male, and myself.  Photo courtesy Jo Agnew

Fueling -
I used Tailwind, Ultragen, and bacon as my fuel sources.  Mostly Tailwind with about 600 calories consumed.  One dose of Ultragen at 320 calories, and about 5 pieces of bacon at I don't know how many calories.
Gear - 
Since this was a loop course with an aid station every 2.5 miles, I only carried a bottle sporadically when I wanted to get fueled.  For shoes I wore my Altra Olympus the entire time.  Love those shoes.  I ended up with one small blister and I might lose one toenail.  Not too bad considering.
Training - 
I'm not sure where I found this race effort, but I have to give credit where credit is due.  I've been spending a lot of time in the gym at Bomber Athlete.  Joel is a fellow ultrarunner and has been kicking my ass all winter in the gym.  I think it's working.  With the mild winter we've had, I've also managed to log a lot more miles than I usually do during the winter months.  Speedwork helps too.
Thanks and other stuff - 
Here's the Strava link to the race.
I need to mention a couple of other Utah runners that were there, Kelly Agnew was there to defend his 24 hour title.  Although he didn't set a course record this year, he handily won after comtemplating a DNF five miles into his race.  Davy Crockett was running the 100 mile event, and stomach issues forced him to take a 6-hour downtime.  Most other runners would have hung it up.  He came back out and finished.  While it wasn't a fast time, he did complete it.  That says a lot to his perseverence and toughness.
Many, many thanks to Emily Berriochoa, the RD and her crew.  This was a very well run race.  Aid was constant and plentiful, timing was superb and accurate, everyone was super friendly.  I loved it.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Antelope Canyon 55K, first race of the year

Spoiler alert, let's just say I had a pretty good day at this race.

I've been training hard all winter.  With the weather being reasonably conducive to running outside (keep in mind I hate cold weather), I've been able to really rack up the miles.  In fact, I have more miles this year to date than I ever have since I started keeping a running log, like 8-9 years.  Couple all of the running with my strength work at Bomber Athlete, plus weekly speed sessions, and I felt pretty good about where I am so far.
Antelope Canyon 55K was to be where I would be able to gauge where my training was.  I checked out the course elevation profile, looked at last year's results and kind of put a goal time in my head.  Last year's results showed that the winner of the 50K ran it in 7:38.  Now for those that don't know, a 7:38 is really kind of a slow time given the amount of climbing in this race, as in not much climbing.  So there had to be another factor that resulted in a slow time.  I had heard rumors of copious amounts of sand on the course, but didn't really pay much attention to them.  7:38?  For a 55K?  Heck, even in my old decrepit state I could run it that fast or faster.
Went down Friday with a couple of friends, stayed at the Lake Powell Resort with a bunch of other HUMR's.  I was told the resort was completely full with runners for the race.  Given that this is the off season, I imagine they were pretty happy to get the extra business.  Had dinner with friends and hit the hay.
Toby with a nervous smile before her first ultra
Got up Saturday morning, got ready, and caught a ride to the start.  Met up with friends again, said our hi's and all of the sudden we were off.  We didn't line up or anything.  Matt, the RD said go, and off we went.
A little bit of prerace action

I immediately noticed that I was roughly middle of the pack.  My usual place.  I figured I would move up some as the day went on, with a finish somewhere in the top third.  Again, my usual place.
Did I mention I heard rumors of sand?  Holy crap, there was sand, and more sand, and more sand, and still more sand.  Like miles and miles of sand.  Ever tried running in dry, loose ankle deep sand?  Yeah, it's slow, it's tough.  Nontheless, I adjusted my gait a bit, shortened my stride, didn't push off on my toes, and was able to keep a steady pace without wearing myself out.
The always happy and upbeat Andrea
My race plan was to evaluate the first couple of miles, see how I felt, then decide if the day was worth really pushing, or if I would just take it a bit easier.  So after a couple of miles, I noticed I felt really good, the running was easy, breathing was easy, I was happy, so time to push the pace.  So many times I just cruise a race thinking that I'm saving some energy for the end miles.  Today I thought I would really push and see where it led.  If I blew up late in the race, so be it.  I would learn from it.
As the miles wore on, I did find myself passing quite a few people, but I really had no idea where I stood in the pack.  I did manage to keep a couple of faster runners in site for a few miles, but eventually that ended as they kept pulling further and further away.  Meanwhile, I was just having a good time running by myself.  No one else around, just keeping the pace a notch above what I usually do.
Shortly after I arrived at the Horseshoe Bend aid station, I met up with a couple of other runners, Kara and Eric, and we kept each other company for the next ten miles or so.  Lots of fun, all running at the same pace.  This ten miles had no trail for us to follow.
Horseshoe Bend, yeah, we ran right along the cliff edge
It was all cross country through sandstone and sagebrush, going from flag to flag, from flour marker to flour marker.  It was nice at times to have three sets of eyes looking for course markings.  We had to stop a couple of times to look for the next marker.  After a bit of that, we ended up at the very edge of a 1000' shear cliff that dropped down to the Colorado River.  Horseshoe bend in all its glory.  It.was.stunning.
Didn't get a chance to suck my gut in before the pic was taken
The best thing is, we got to run right along the edge of the cliff.  Pretty cool stuff.  I managed to snap a few pictures, but mostly just looked out in awe.

Eventually, we made our way away from the cliff and headed for the next section of stunningness.  After the Water Hole aid station, we dropped into Water Hole Canyon.
Kara, the women's 55K winner descending into Water Hole Canyon

Me next
This is a slot canyon and at some points, you did have to turn sideways, it was so narrow.  We had to climb at ladder up about ten feet at one point.  It.was.stunning to run through this.
After running through Water Hole Canyon for about a mile, we made our way up a steep sand hill and back out into the open countryside.
Eric's turn for a picture in Water Hole Canyon
 Now it was time for some straight-line running, downhill, along a powerline (kind of boring and not very scenic), in yet more sand.  Thank goodness it was downhill.  I felt really good here and really opened it up, putting a bit of distance between me and my two running companions.  After this section of downhill effort, there was a crappy section of uphill running, in yet more sand.  I did manage to run this entire uphill mile without walking a bit.  A testament to all of the strength training and speedwork this winter.  It was the top of the hill that I took a wrong turn for a couple hundred yards before I was yelled at by some other runners.  Yep, haven't gone off course at a race in a long time.  This bit of off course running now put me behind my two running companions, but I was hoping to catch back up.  So once again, time for more sand running.  Did I mention there was a bit of sand on the course?  Yeah, a lot, like fully one third of the course was ankle deep, dry and loose sand.
Got a bit narrow in spots

Yeah, we climbed this ladder
Eventually I made it to the Page Rim Trail.  This is a trail that encircle the town of Page, AZ.  Page sits on the top of a small mesa and this trail meanders along just below the rim of the mesa.  The 55K runners had to make one loop of this trail before heading for the finish line.  Well, by now I was starting to get a bit tired.  We hit this trail at around mile 20.  That meant we still had about 12-13 miles to go.  The good thing was, it wasn't sandy, it was nice hardpack single track, very runnable.  The bad thing is that it was very runnable.  When you're presented with a flat trail late in the race, when you really want to just walk for a bit, you fell obligated to run the damn thing because, well, it's runnable.  So I ran, and ran, and ran.  I did manage to catch a couple of people on this section, but I did notice one of the women ever so slowly gaining on me.  I knew I wouldn't be able to hold her off, but I was going to make her work for it.
I left the last aid station with 6.9 miles to go and figured 1.5 hours given my current "running" pace.  Yeah, I was starting to slow down just a bit.  This is the point in a race where I usually just kind of throw in the towel and cruise it in.  This time I decided to see just how deep I could dig to keep a run at a decent pace going.  It was tough, really tough.  My calves were wanting to cramp, the legs were tired and sore, my breathing was kind of ragged.  I wanted to walk at every uphill opportunity, no matter how small the uphill.  I had to really tell my self to keep running.  I think this is what's called the pain cave, that point where you just withdraw into yourself and focus on the task at hand, no matter what you feel like.  About two miles before the last aid station, Toby, one of the ladies I traveled down with, passed me.  This was her first ultra and she was doing really well.  If you knew her story, you would know just how well she was doing.  Very tough lady.  Anyway, we chatted for a couple fo seconds and she motored on ahead.  I was glad to see her doing so well.  About a quarter mile out of the last aid station, the lady I was trying to stay ahead of finally caught me.  I thought, oh well, I tried.  As I came upon the last aid station, I saw that she went into the canopy.  I thought here's my chance to get that place back.  I filled a water bottle really quick and bolted.  I knew that the finish line was less than a mile away and if I could put some distance between the two of us really quick, I might have a chance to stay ahead.  I could see the finish line in the distance, so I took off as fast as I could, in other words, not very fast.  I dropped off the mesa we had been running around and ran as fast as I could. I did manage to hold her off for that last 0.7 miles.
I managed to cross the finish line with a time of 6:13.  Not quite my goal time, I did want a sub 6-hour time, but I was happy with it.  I had pretty much laid it on the line to run that fast and I was spent.  As I was standing there, I asked the timers what my placing was.  I figured somewhere in the top 20-25.  When they told me I was 10th, I didn't believe them.  I don't ever place that high in the standings, at least I haven't in several years.  So yeah, that made the effort all that much sweeter.  7th place male.  Really happy with that.  No one who finished ahead of me was older than 42.  Yep, grandpa kinda took it to the kids today.
So the final result show me with an 8th place finish, 6th place male out of about 90 starters.  No one over the age of 42 finished in front of me, so yeah, I'm really happy with my time and certainly my placing.  I certainly wasn't expecting that at all.  This bodes well for my upcoming season provided I can keep up the training, and indeed bump it up substantially.
So what did I do differently to get there?  Well, like I mentioned, specific strength training, specific running, and a different metal attitude.  One where I left most everything out on the course.  It felt really good to push hard.  It was uncomfortable for most of the race, but we're always told, get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I certainly was this time.
I got the chance to see plenty of friends running the race as well, and cheer them on.  I always enjoy the social aspect of these races.
Fueling - 
Basically I didn't fuel the entire race.  I ate one gel, about four cups of coke, and a bottle of Tailwind drink.  I intentionally did that for a reason.  I figure that when I run a marathon, I don't fuel much, why should I treat a race that's just a bit longer any different.  Not fueling as much certainly gets me through the aid stations quicker.  I probably drank 60-70 oz. of water as well.  My stomach was fine.  It did start to get just a bit queasy the last few miles, but nothing worth slowing down about.  The only change I would have made  would have been to take some electrolytes and maybe one more gel late in the race.  I think that's why my  calves wanted to cramp up the last few miles and that bit of energy would have been nice to have.
Shoes - 
I wore my Altra Olympus, no gaiters, and I had very little sand in my shoes.  I attribute this to the slight change in my gait when I was running in the sand, more of a flat footed gait.  Seemed to work for me.  Plus I never seem to get much dirt and sand in my shoes.
Gear/clothing - 
The weather was perfect for this race.  High's in the low 60's, cloudy most of the day, no breeze.  I wore shorts, compression shorts, a short sleeve t and a long sleeve t.  I had light gloves on most of the day as my hands can get cold when it's in the 70's.  That choice was perfect.
Race critique -
Did I mention anything about the insane amounts of sand on the course?  Yeah, there was a lot.  For the most part I enjoyed the course.  The first few miles weren't anything to write home about, running on sandy atv roads, trash strewn about, but once we headed for Horseshoe Bend, things got a lot better.  That section coupled with Water Hole Canyon were my favorite parts by far.  The trek around Page on the rim trail was also pretty nice.  Very runnable, scenic views of Lake Powell, the surrounding desert, and just a nice trail.  I would recommend this race for anyone who likes desert running.  Matt Gunn does a great job with any of his races, and this one was no exception.  Aid stations were very well stocked with everything you could want during an ultra.  The volunteers were great, very helpful.  The Navajo tacos at the finish line were good and a nice change of pace for post race fare.  Plus Matt had plenty of good beer at the finish line.  Hard to beat that.
The completely awesome finisher's coffee mug
It was indeed a good day.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Restaurant review time

How many of you can spell restaurant without thinking about it?  Yeah, I have to think about that "au" every time.
So, I thought I would write a short restaurant review.  It has absolutely nothing to do with running other than food is fuel for running.
Karen and I usually go out for dinner on Friday's.  It's our date night and we've been doing it for literally decades.  We're not big fans of chain restaurants.  We prefer our local ones that have one or maybe just a few locations.  We do have our favorites but if a new place opens up, we're game to try it.
Over the years we've found a lot of really good places to eat....and some not so good places.  It's all part of the fun.
Anyway, a new restaurant opened up in Ogden.  I saw a post of fb from a friend who had visited and I thought we'd give it a try.
Blue Lemon just opened their fifth location in our fair city.  I checked out their menu online and it sounded good.
It's basically a cafe style place.  You stand in line to order your food at the counter.  Once you've ordered, you're given a electronic locator so a server can find you.  They bring your food out to you once it's ready.
So what did we have?  Well, I had the chipotle BBQ sandwich on wheat and Karen had the fish tacos.  We also ordered a basket of sweet potato fries.
Mine - The flavor was good, although I would have liked a bit more meat.  The veggies, lettuce, tomatoes, were fresh.

Karen's - her fish tacos had a combination of shrimp, cod, and salmon, as well as the usual veggies.  She liked the flavor, but wished the fish had been a bit warmer.  There was some concern on her part about the spicyness given the description on the menu, but that was not an issue.  The best thing she liked about the tacos was that the fish was grilled, not fried.
Sweet potato fries - These did leave a lot to be desired.  While the sauce was good, think a smokey, chipotle tasting fry sauce, the potatoes were a soggy mess from being undercooked.  Karen even came across one that was somewhat raw.  Not good at all.
Cost - About $35 for two meals, a basket of fries and two sodas.  We both thought the price was a bit steep for the amount of food and the atmosphere.  We've paid about the same for food just as good in a nicer atmosphere.
So, what was our overall impression?  When ever we go to a new place, we ultimately ask each other, "would we come back?"  Well, we both agreed that we would like to try something different on the menu next time, so we'll be back.  They do have a breakfast menu and some of those items looked like they would be good to try.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2015 Is Looking Good

Well, my running schedule for 2015 is shaping up nicely.  A fair number of races like usual and throwing in a few adventure runs as well.  So, here it be:
Jan. 31 - Kahtoola Snowshoe 25K
This will be the fifth time I've done this race and the third time for the 25K.  Last year I actually podiumed.  First time I've ever managed that.  Let's see if I can do it again.
Feb. 21 - Antelope Canyon 55K
This is a new race for me.  A bunch of HUMR's are going down there, so it should be a pretty good party.  Not to mention a run in warmer weather and dirt.  Yay for dirt!
Mar. 20-21 - Antelope Island Buffalo Run
My big event for the year.  Not running it, but running it.  Numbers are up from last year so I'm thinking there could be 700 out there on race day.  This being the 10th year, we'll have a live classic rock band, locally made finisher mugs and hopefully even more homebrew.  Guess I'd better get busy on that.
Mar. 28 - Pickled Feet 6 Hour
I've never run this one but it's been on my list.  Up in Boise, it'll be fun to get together with the Boise crew.  I have a goal for this race in terms of miles, but I'm not stating it here.
Apr. 24 - Salt Flats 100
I'm one for three at this race.  Last year I dropped at 80 miles when an epic 500 year storm hit the course.  Yeah, I have some unfinished business here.  All of my training and racing year to date is focused on this one.
April 2 - June 4 - Ogden Citizen Trail Series
This is a new race series that I'm trying to get started here in Ogden.  Weekly, every Thursday evening at 7pm.  5K/10K ish.  Cheap entry fees, no shirts, just a good time racing on the local trails.  Stay tuned for more info.
Early May sometime - Zion Traverse
Not sure of the exact date yet, but looking early.
May 23 - Timp Trail Marathon
One of my local favorites.  Always a good time and usually a muddy mess.
Jun. 27 - Logan Peak Trail Run
Another of my local favorites.  Awesome scenery, tough, runs like a 50K.
Jul. 24-26 - Speedgoat
I swore off the Speedgoat 50K a couple of years ago.  My thinking was that this race always beat me up and I never ran a decent time.  Well, Karl went and added the uphill mile the day before and the quadbanger on Sunday.  So what did I do?  Signed up for all three.  Sometimes I'm not real bright.
August is kind of up in the air right now.  Not entirely sure I'll go run El Vaquero Loco again, although I love that race.  I might be doing some pacing at Tushar Mountains too.  Or maybe I just stay home and concentrate on training for my key race the next month.
Sep. 11 - Wasatch 100
THE RACE for the year.  Guaranteed entry for me this year.  I've put in my time and have my six finishes.  No more lottery for me.  Yay!  This is the key race for me for the year.  All of my training will culminate here.  After last year's 29:40 finish, I'm fired up to go faster this year.  Hopefully the trail running gods are kind and let me do that.
Sep. 25 - Bear 100
I imagine I'll be pacing someone here.  I love to go help crew and pace at this race.
Nov. 7 - Good Water Rim 25K/50K
This is a new race I'm putting on down near Castledale, UT.  Very cool trail right on the edge of a canyon.
Nov. 14 - Antelope Island 50K/Mountain View Trail Half Marathon
My fall races on the island.  Always a good time.
I have some other adventure runs on the agenda, I'm just not sure when at this time.  These include Kings Peak, finally, Teton circumnavigation, and the Wind Rivers.  Hopefully I can make all of those.
That's it.  Lots on the agenda.  I'm sure I'll see all sorts of you local runners out there on the trails and at races.
I'm already planning 2016.  That year looks to be epic.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Do something different

Well, it's 2:00am.  I'm wide awake and can't get back to sleep.  I knew the minute I woke up to go to the bathroom that there wouldn't be anymore sleep.  That's happened a lot lately.  My brain is firing away with thoughts coming thick and fast, work, running, family, friends, more work, more running, more family, more friends.  It doesn't end unless I can shut things down.  Usually I just get up and play some mind numbing game like solitaire on my phone.  That tends to get my brain on a single task and shut down all the wildly firing synapses.  Usually that works pretty well.  Tonight I decided that I wouldn't do that just yet.
As I lay in bed with my deluge of random thoughts (anyone with ADD will understand), one that kept going through my head was to do something different this time.  I always play something different.  I always write about running on this blog (it is titled Jim's Running Adventures, duh) something different.  I tend to keep thoughts and things that bother me to my self and not really share with others, conflict avoidance and all something different.  Quit writing in this blog and go back to something different.
I'm a lousy writer.  I'm an Engineer by training and demeanor.  That means that my writing is technical, dry, boring.  I don't have a way with prose.  I have a couple of friends that I'm envious of because they.can.write.  They can put it out there, make a point, be both funny and profound.  I wish I could do that.  Not because I want everyone to think I'm an awesome writer but because I want to be able to better express my thoughts, both in writing and verbally.  I just have a hard time with that.  Usually I know what I want to say.  I go over it and over it in my head.  It's all so logical and makes sense, at least to me.  Instead, what comes out tends to be verbal garbage that makes very little sense unless it involves numbers or how to make or fix something.  It's incredibly frustrating to me and I know it is to my wife.  So I'm trying to do something different.  Maybe I can.
So, in my effort to indeed do something different, here are my thoughts.  Because of my Engineering demeanor, I have to put them in an organized list.  I'm not necessarily anal about things like that, but it does help to organize my thoughts somewhat.
Thought #1 - I want to cut this short and go back to bed.  I'm lazy like that.
Thought #2 - My job.  What the hell.  I've been in my current position for the past 15 months.  My title is Project Manager, but it's not really that much of a project management role.  It's a contract position.  That means it's temporary, pays hourly rather than salary, and I have to buy my own benefits.  I was hoping that perhaps it would turn into a direct position, but it's looking as though that won't be the case.  In fact I may be out of a job again in the next couple of months.  That sucks...again.  I've been applying for position after position over the past two years.  I've had countless interviews.  Many that I thought went very well for positions that I thought would ideally suit my strengths, training, work history, etc.  Nothing has come all.
Thought #3 - Not being able to find a job makes me feel like a loser.  I left a perfectly good job at ATK for a position that I thought would be that "something different".  Different line of work, different industry.  Well, that ended after a couple of years.  What am I doing wrong?  Why won't people hire me when I'm clearly the best candidate for the position?  Am I too old?  Do people think I'm over qualified?  Yes, I have been told that.  Do people think that because of my experience that they can't afford me?  I've been told that as well.  Obviously my current approach to job hunting is not something different.  But what?  Do I get some training and change careers?  Or get some training to enhance my current skills?  I.....don't.....know.  Why can't someone just give me the answer?  I'm always hearing that to get a job these days you have to "network".  Hell, I know huge numbers of people through my running.  So to all of you that I know (or don't know because I'm lousy at remembering names), check out my LinkedIn profile.  Maybe you need someone with my skills.  Maybe you know someone that's looking for someone like me.  Who knows?  Can't hurt to ask.
The thing is, I need to figure out what I want out of my work life.  Do I want the corporate job?  It pays a wage, benefits, vacation time, etc.  There's a lot to be said for that.  I have no illusions about job security.  I never have over the past 30 years.  I've always figured you make your own job security through education, training, job skills.  Yeah, how's that working out for you now Jim?  It's not, I thought so.
Thought #4 - I want to cut this short and go back to bed.  I'm lazy like that.
Thought #5 - I'm running out of writing steam and want to call it a something different.
Thought #6 - Maybe I should do something different on the job front and buy a business.  I do have my race directing business that's been pretty successful so far.  Trouble is, I can't quit my day job and do it full time.  Something about paying bills.
Thought #7 - Maybe I should grow the business I have now.  I've kind of been trying but these days the race field is getting really crowded.   I love directing the races I do.  I love watching people crossing the finish line.  I love having people come back year after year because they like my events.  I don't want to start any new events unless I know they can be financially successful.  Making money, that's kind of the point of having a business.  Must.banish.negative.thoughts. I would like to find some races to buy.  Trouble is, I have no idea how to go about that.  Ideas anyone?
Thought #8 - This one is going to take some effort to write.  Many different thoughts here.  What to say, how to say it, do I put myself out there, how much do I put myself out there, by writing this will I open myself up to ridicule?  Will family that reads this be upset or concerned (don't be, I'm not airing dirty laundry)?  By nature I'm a pretty private person with my personal life.  My lovely wife obviously knows me and I can open up to her.  I have a very, very few close friends that I feel safe with and can open up to.  Other than that, I put on my happy face and go about my business.  The good thing is, my happy face is pretty genuine.  I'm a happy, optimistic kind of guy.  To me, the glass is usually have full....of good beer and a solid adventure run in a beautiful place, or playing with my grandkids and spending time with my family.  That stuff makes me extremely happy.  And the only reason it's not full is that I've already drank half of it and I'm working on the rest.  I'm stalling, trying to gather some thoughts for the next push.
I hesitate to write the next few sentences because I didn't let my friend know, but one of my very close friends is going through a difficult period in her life.  I spent some time with her just listening and being supportive.  One of the main things she kept coming back to was that she had to be true to herself and not live a lie.  Yes, it may hurt a few people for awhile, but in the long run things will be better.  I'm stalling some more, trying to gather thoughts in a coherent manner.
Anyway, what she said caused me to start thinking more deeply about my life than I have in a long time.  Maybe that's why I couldn't get back to sleep.  Am I living a lie?  Am I being true to myself?  Is that selfish?  Should I be selfish?  Good grief, my hands are shaking as I write this, it's hard.  Maybe I'm just cold, we do turn the thermostat down to 58F at night.  More later on being true.
As I get older and get beyond middle age and into old age (holy crap!), I often wonder about a legacy.  For the vast, vast majority of us, we will be forgotten within two generations of our death.  How's that for a happy thought at 3am?  I know very little about my great grandparents.  What do I want my great grandkids to remember about their great grandpa.  What do I want my grandkids to know and remember about me?  Here's what I think I want to be known for.  I have no illusions about being remembered more than two generations past my death.  I have done nothing that remarkable in my life except raise two wonderful children that I love more than life itself and somehow manage to remain married to most wonderful woman I have ever met.  Yeah, I haven't done anything profound enough to change the world or make it a better place for humanity.  So, I want to be known first for being kind and thoughtful in word and deed.  There's a lot to be said for keeping your mouth shut and your thoughts to yourself, especially if it's negative.  I know a lot of people are of the opinion to just say what's on their mind regardless of the consequences.  Instead, say a kind word, do a kind deed.  I have a somewhat hard time with this.  It's not that I'm evil, it's just that I tend to hesitate to offer that helping hand, or that kind word.  My plan to do something different is to do more.
Second, I want to be known for being fun to be around.  Life is hard enough and short enough to not have fun.  I want to be able to make fun of myself, I want to have fun with my life.
Third, I want to be known as a loving husband, father and grandfather.  To me, there isn't anything much more important than that.
Fourth, I want to be known for being that friend that people can rely on.  To lend a helping hand, offer a shoulder or ear, drink a beer with, just have some fun adventures.  I deeply treasure my close friends, and I really need to tell them that.  I grew up moving around every few years, and I've moved around quite a bit during my adulthood.  As a result I never really developed very many close friendships.  Now that I've hopefully moved for the last time, I feel like I'm putting down some roots.  Some of those roots are the friends that I now have.  So do I tell those that I consider my close friends that they are indeed my close friends?  There's a danger in that they may not feel the same way.  My initial thought is to not say anything.  Why open myself up to possible rejection.  Still, I think it needs to be done.  Hopefully I can grow a pair and do it.  So many more thoughts here.  Do I write them down and share, or hold them close like I always have.
Fifth, I want to be known that even someone as ordinary and unremarkable as me can accomplish some pretty hardcore shit.  To be truthful, that just flames my ego :-)  I'm not into death defying things, I'm scared of heights (I've got a pilot's license, go figure), and the possibility of severe injury or death scares me too.  Pain hurts.
Thought #9 - More on being true.  Karen and I had a conversation last night about why do we remain married to each other.  The obvious answer was that we both love each other.  But what exactly does that mean?  Obviously this topic has been written about for centuries, but it's different when it's personal.  So, am I being true to myself when I say that I'm married because I love my wife?  I've thought about this a fair amount over the past several days and I came to the conclusion that, yes, I am indeed being true to myself.  I would rather be with her than anyone else I can possibly think of.  Yes, we both have our faults that annoy the hell out of the other, but when it comes down to it, yep, she's the one.  So in the "do something different" category here, I plan on doing the same thing I have been doing because it's working.  Yay!  Something's working!
Thought #10 - Holy crap, this is becoming a book, no one is going to read this thing through, too damn boring.
Thought #11 - My train of thought just left the station and I'm still on the platform.
Thought #12 - Oh yeah, here it is.  Nothing like a senior moment.  There are a few reasons I'm writing all of this crap down.  I can't sleep because all of these thoughts are in my head.  Perhaps by vomiting them up, I can get some relief in my brain.  For some time I've wanted to try and write something a bit more profound than just the usual running garbage.  Dry race reports and adventure run reports with a  few scenery pictures thrown in.  All designed to show just how awesome a runner I am and the awesome adventures I have.  And I have to admit, I am kind of looking forward to reading any comments once I post this.  Once again, it's an ego thing.
Thought #13 - One of the other "do something different" things is to ask more for help.  I really enjoy helping out, but I have a very strong tendency to just do things myself.  I was raised that you should be able to help yourself and help others as well.  As a result, I tend to not ask for help, it's hard for me to admit that I need some help.  When offered, I tend to reject help, I can do it myself.  It's not really an ego thing, just a personality trait I have.  Or maybe it is an ego thing.  I don't know.
Ok, now I'm running out of steam and thoughts.  That's probably a good thing.  Last thought, it's after 4am, the alarm is set for 5am because I am at the gym at 5:30am, do I stay up or hit the sack for a short nap.  Ok, staying up, maybe I'll check Facebook.  Wait, wait, wait, one more thought.  I'll probably have a crap ton more thoughts after I post this, or wish I had worded things differently.  Oh well, it's posted.