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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review

So it's running look back time.
2014 was a pretty good year running-wise.  I finally went below 30 hours at Wasatch after eight years of trying.  I also notched my sixth finish there, thus ensuring me of guaranteed entry for as long as I want to run that race.  No more lottery for me!!  So, that was my big running effort for the year.
For the ninth year in a row, I ran over 1900 miles.  Only three of those years were below 2000.  For 2014 it's looking like I'll log close to 2200.  Not my biggest, but not the least either.  Additionally, Strava shows that I logged a little over 231,000' of vertical gain.
In the racing department, I, as usual, ran a bunch of races.

January - My first race of the year was the New Year's Revolution Run.  Five hours of indoor laps yielded 29+ miles.  Once again I ran the Kahtoola Bigfoot Snowshoe Festival 25K.  I had my best finish ever there, coming in 2nd male and 3rd overall.  Podium finish, I'll take it.  My third big run of January was my Good Water Rim adventure run.  Stay tuned for a race there later in 2015. 
February and March were kind of lacking in the race department.  I did RD the Buffalo Run for the 9th year, and it probably was the most organized it's ever been.
April - Ran the Zion 100 for the second time.  This year Karen attempted her first effort at crewing me.  She was pretty nervous about it, but she did fantastic.  Organized, got me what I needed, kicked me out of the aid stations, and never got lost.  My time wasn't the greatest.  28 hours and change.  Really really slow over night.  Three weeks later I attempted to run the Salt Flats 100 again.  I failed miserably at 80 miles.  The weather did me in at that point.  We had an epic 500 year storm hit about dark and it never let up.  The race start was under six inches of water when it had been dry the day before.
May - May brought the Timp Trail Marathon once again.  One of my favorite local races.  I just ran it with Curtis and we basically moseyed.  No time goals, just the goal of having a good time.  At least it didn't rain this year.
June - In June I ran three races.  The first was the Bryce 50 Mile.  Wow, scenery overload.  This was a new race for me to run and it certainly didn't disappoint.  My time was nothing to write home about, but I really didn't care.  It was fun to spend the weekend at Bryce with my wife and sister-in-law, do some hiking after the race and just relax for a weekend.  The second race was the Kettle Moraine 100K in southern Wisconsin.  I've run this race before and did reasonably well at it.  Scored my first age group hardware here.  I managed to score age group hardware again with a 2nd in the 55-59 age group.  The third race was my usual running of Logan Peak.  I've run this race a bunch of times and it never disappoints.
July found me just training.  No races at all.
August - I ran El Vaquero Loco 50K again.  One of the most scenic races around, it's 31 miles of high country running through the western Wyoming mountains.  My time wasn't the greatest, in fact it was substantially slower than in 2013, but so what, I had fun hanging with the HUMR crew for the weekend. 
September - Ahh, Wasatch 100, my goal race for the year, the one I train for.  This was the year I was officially gunning for a sub 30 hour finish, and I got it.  29:40.  That time fired me up for the 2015 version to go even faster even as I get older.  I had a great time this year.  Everything went pretty much according to plan.  I was a bit slow for the first 75 miles, but managed to make up all of the lost time over the next 10 miles and pretty much cruise it in.  It was still hard but knowing that I had a sub 30, barring unforeseen circumstances, just put a smile on my face.  My second major event of September was to return the pacing favor for Breein, one of my friends.  She has paced me several times, but I finally got to pace her at IMTUF 100 in Idaho.  She did great and the weekend with friends was too much fun.
So that's it, my year.  I've naturally got big running plans for 2015, so the miles are starting to ramp up.  What's tentatively on the schedule?  Well, I'd like to do a few adventure runs so the racing my be cut back a bit.  Having said that, here's the tentative race schedule.
Kahtoola Snowshoe 25K
Antelope Canyon 55K
Pickled Feet 12 Hour
Salt Flats 100
Timp Trail Marathon
Logan Peak
Wasatch 100
I'm thinking about throwing in Capitol Reef 100, but haven't fully decided yet.  It's the same weekend as Hardrock and I'd like to go out there just to hang out for a few days.  Hmmm, that's the same number of races I ran this year, maybe my racing isn't going to be cut back.
Possible adventure runs include:
Zion, Teton Circ, Kings Peak, Wind Rivers, and possibly the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier (bucket list item).
Other plans include helping others meet their running goals by pacing, crewing etc., putting on a couple of new races in addition to the ones I do now.  Maybe I can get enough races going that I could do that for a living and quit my day job.  That would be awesome.
As far as running goals for 2015 go, I do have some that a few people know about.  We'll see if those come to fruition.  I am getting older and I like to play the age card with my running and blame getting slower on my advanced age, but I still think I can go faster.  Maybe that's just my 18 year old brain trying to cash checks my 56 year old body won't allow.
As far as a job goes, I was gainfully employed for the entire year, but I am looking for a different position since the one I'm in now is a temporary contract one and could end at any moment.  So, if anyone knows of Engineering, Project Management, Production Management, Quality, or anything similar, or has contacts etc., let me know.  There's a reward for any info that leads to me getting a direct position.
Outside of running, my goals include learning new things such as how to card and spin wool, maybe take a programming class or two just for fun, and getting my PMP certification.
So there you have it.  I hope to see a bunch of you out on the trails, at races, or where ever you may be.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pacing and crewing duties, IMTUF 100

This past weekend I had the chance to do something that I really like to do, but don't get much of a chance to do.  Pace and crew friends in their 100-mile races.
Several of us drove from Utah up to McCall, ID to crew and pace a couple of friends, (Breein Clark and Jeremy Achter) at the IMTUF 100.  This race is a seriously tough, remote, and long race.  It's advertised as a 100-mile event.  We think it actually runs around 108-110 miles total.
the race starts and finishes at Burgdorf Hot Springs.  Think very rustic, no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing in the cabins.
I got up there around 8:30 Friday evening, found the cabin we were staying in and moved in.  The rest of the evening was spent drinking beer and engaging in high school age humor.  In other words, fun.  We did get to bed at a reasonable hour though since our runners had to be at the start at 6am.  No moon or clouds at night, and being well away from the city lights meant that the stars were absolutely spectacular.
I didn't sleep too well, but neither did anyone else, so 5:15 came pretty early.  Up, make some coffee, get our runner ready and walk to long 50 yards down to the starting line.  Once the runners started, we headed back to the cabin, ate breakfast, loaded up all of our stuff and hit the road to the first place we could see our runners.
It's a rugged trail out there.
It was a beautiful day for anything, the sun was out, it was warm, and the leaves are turning.
We first met our runners at about 13 miles in.  They were both doing well and we got them fed, hydrated and out.  After that, we had several hours to wait, so we headed into town to grab some lunch and harrass people on facebook.  Then, back out to the aid station at 33 miles. 
Upper Payette Lake
Feed and hydrate our runners, get them what they needed and kick them out again. 
Just waiting for our runners at the Upper Payette aid station
Jeremy and his pacer Mike heading out from Snowslide aid
Next up was the aid station at 47 miles.  Here, runners were able to pick up their first pacer.  Both Breein and Jeremy still were doing very well.  We got both of them out in short order, then headed for the next crew aid station. 
At Lake Fork, Breein and Jeremy switched their pacers.  Aric had paced Breein for this section and Mike had paced Jeremy.  Now it was Jared (Jeremy) and Harrison's (Breein) turn to take them through the night.

Breein looking happy and good at Snowslide aid
The section from Lake Fork back to Upper Payette Lake was supposed to be 25 miles.  We figured around 8-9 hours.  Nope, that didn't happen.  Both runners took right at 12 hours and the actual mileage was closer to 35.  That helped from my perspective since it allowed me to get a bit more sleep.  I did manage to get around 4-5 hours of sleep while sitting in a nice warm truck.
Jeremy showed up first at around 8:30 and picked up Mike as a pacer for the last 15 miles.  Jeremy looked really good other than being tired.  Breein didn't roll in until around 11:15am.  I had gone for a short run down the dirt road hoping to find her and Harrison and I did manage to about 3/4 mile away.
Breein getting ready to head out with Aric from Snowslide aid
Breein still looked pretty good, was actually running sections but also looked pretty tired.  At this point the offcial distance was supposed to be 88 miles.  What we figured was that it was over 90.
We got Breein squared away and the two of us set out for the remaining 15 or so miles.  Over the first four miles or so, she moved very well, running long stretches, chatting.
Random log cabin we came across in the middle of nowhere
Then we hit the steep part of the climb.  And it got warm.  And there was no breeze.  And Breein doesn't do well in the heat.  Still, she plugged away and eventually we made it to the final aid station.  Ice in the pack, under her hat, and half a beer and we were out.
Stomach was still bothering her, but she kept everything down.  By now we were traversing along a ridge and the scenery was gorgeous.

Now we had the final eight miles or so, and it was all downhill.  Awesome, easier running......oh wait, some of that downhill was steep and very rocky.  I'm glad she had some poles to use.  I kept an eye on the watch and the mileage and tried to push where I thought I could and back off when I needed to.  About a mile or so from the finish we met up with Harrison.
Showing off her finisher's belt
He ran in with us, taking pictures and chatting.  Breein ran across the finish looking strong.  Final time, 35:15, good enough for 7th female.  I'm super proud of her.  She never once voiced anything about quitting.  She was determined to keep going.  One tough lady.

I'm thinking about running this one next year.  Gorgeous scenery, really hard race.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sixth time is a charm

Prologue -
Ten years ago I moved out to Utah for a job.  I had already run a couple of 100 mile races and had heard of the Wasatch 100.  I knew it was one of the toughest 100's in the country.  I also knew that if I was going to live in Utah I would have to run it at some point.
I ran my first Wasatch in 2005.  It was a lesson in reality.
I DNF'd at 61 miles due to being cold, really, really cold.  2006 I was better prepared for the cold, but I wasn't prepared for the asthma that dogged me for the last 25 miles.  I think my pacer thought I was going to die at some point, but I finished.  It was brutal, but I finished.
Since then I've always had it in the back of my head to finish with a  sub-30 hour time, but it wasn't until last year that I really had that as a goal.  Last year I came so close, finishing with a 30:06.  This year was going to be the year....I hoped.
All my fueling and drinking strategies worked really well last year, so I planned on repeating it as much as possible.
I had my pace chart setup with last year's splits and my usual optimistic splits for this year.

Aid StationDistanceAltitude2013 Actuals2014 Goal Out2014 Actuals
East Mountain Wilderness Park0 mi.4880 feet5:005:005:00
Francis Peak18.4 mi.7500 feet9:349:309:49
Bountiful B23.81 mi.8160 feet10:5810:5511:08
Sessions Lift Off28.16 mi.8320 feet11:5911:5512:10
Swallow Rocks34.61 mi.8320 feet13:5013:4514:10
Big Mountain39.07 mi.7420 feet15:0614:5515:31
Alexander Ridge46.90 mi.6160 feet17:1717:0017:42
Lambs Canyon52.48 mi.6100 feet18:5918:2519:11
Millcreek60.94 mi.7660 feet21:4621:0522:05
Desolation Lake66.02 mi.9170 feet23:4323:0023:56
Scotts Pass71.15 mi.9910 feet1:040:201:18
Brighton Lodge74.63 mi.8790 feet2:321:402:54
Ant Knolls79.13 mi.9000 feet4:393:404:49
Pole Line Pass82.31 mi.8925 feet6:055:106:07
Staton North87.28 mi.7658 feetN/A6:257:34
Decker Canyon93.89 mi.5910 feetN/A8:009:10
Soldier Hollow99.96 mi.5509 feet11:0610:0010:40

I have to get my outfit together, this is important

I was somewhat nervous because I didn't think my training was where it needed to be, yet when I would check my training log, I had more miles in than last year.  That helped alleviate some anxiety.
Weather?  Weather is always a factor at Wasatch.  Last year was very warm, even overnight and up high in the mountains.  this plays to my strengths.  Cold weather does not.  this year the weather looked to be similar to last year, just a bit cooler.

Race -
Start to Francis - 0-18.4
As usual, the start came way too early for me, but oh well.  I managed to get caught in several conga lines.  These frustrate the hell out of me, but also serve the purose of keeping me from going out too fast, so I just went with the flow and didn't really worry about passing anybody this early.  Unfortunately, I got caught way in the back of the pack.  This meant I would be slow right out of the gate and possibly not make my goal times.  Could be a problem later.
The trek to Francis was pretty uneventful.  I felt fine, the sun came up, scenery was beautiful as usual.  There were a couple of folks a Cool Spring like last year, handing out Gatorade and water.  There was a guy at the top of Chinscraper cheering and ringing a cowbell.  He had gone up the night before.  I'm always glad to get the longest and, to me, most difficult climb out of the way early.
I got to Francis about 15 minutes behind last year's time, and 20 minutes behind my goal.  Not an issue at this point. 
The HUMR's were running this aid station and it was wonderful to see a bunch of friends there.  I would see many of them later as several were going to be pacing other HUMR's later in the race.
HUMR Nation running the Francis aid station
My fueling strategy here was to get my Ultragen, drink some Coke, grab my burrito and baby food and get out.  I ate my burrito as I left and began the trek to Bountiful B.

Francis to Bountiful B - 18.4-23.8
Let's just say this isn't my favorite section of the race.  In fact, I rather don't like it at all.  Forest roads follwed by a steep climb and it's not fun.  However, I actually didn't do too bad thru this section and made up some of the time I had lost going to Francis.  I actually was faster than last year thru here.
Quick stop here and i was down the road again.

Bountiful B to Sessions - 23.8-28.1
I have had some bad spells thru here in years past.  Today was a bit different.  I felt pretty good for most of it.  Managed to run a few of the miles with Curtis and Ryan.  As we were coming up and over a slight rise, we saw something totally out of character for the race.  There along side the trail in the middle of nowhere at 9,000' was a living room.  Yep, recliner, rug, bookcase with books, end table and lamp, and Matt Van Horn sitting there holding up signs for runners. 

Coolest.thing.ever seen during Wasatch
 One of the coolest things I've ever seen at a race.  Anyway, about mile 26 I could feel myself start the mental descent into race purgatory. 

Showing my wife the picture of Matt
That point where you get a case of the "I don't give a shit", you want to call it quits, your legs hurt or are tired or both.  the thing is, there's nothing you can do about it except ride it out.  When you've done these things enough, you realize it's just part of the deal.  You will feel low at some point.  Well, this started just before Sessions and lasted for about 10 miles.  I just kept going. 

Sessions to Big Mountain - 28.1-39.1
Eventually, about 1-2 miles past the3 Swallow Rocks aid, I felt myself come out of my funk.  It was strange to just be able to feel my mood lift, my legs feel stronger and less tired.
anyway, I came into Big Mountain feeling pretty good.  Karen was waiting for me, had my next pack ready to go, got me my food, forced me to eat plenty and kicked me out.  Just what I wanted her to do.

Big Mountain to Lambs Canyon - 39.1-52.5
this section is mostly downhill and you'd think that would make it easy.  Nope.  There are some uphill sections, you're running thru here in the heat of the afternoon and exposed.  The downhills are steep and have large quantities of loose rocks.  Still, I managed to really make up some time here.  Like 20 minutes faster than last year.  About 2-3 miles before Alexander, Rayn lauck caught up and we had a good time running together.  About 1 mile out of Alexander, Curtis Thompson cuaght up to us.  I had been trading back and forth with these two since the early miles and it was fun to run a few miles with them, see how they were doing (great), just chat about stuff going on etc.  We all went into Alexander together and left a few minutes later.  the run down the pipeline trail is always kind of drudgery, not scenic, mostly uphill and still warm.  About a mile after leaving Alexander, however, I felt great and pulled away from Ryan and Curtis.  Usually I walk most of the uphills along here, this time I was running.  Good times.

Lambs Canyon to Brighton - 52.5-74.6
Karen was waiting for me at Lamb's and had everything ready to go.  I think I spent about 10 minutes here.  The least amount ever.  I also picked up Breein, my first pacer for the race.  My goal was to get to the top of Bear Ass Pass before dark.  I was leaving Lamb's about 10 minutes later than last year and I wasn't climbing quite as strong and had to turn on the headlamp about .5 mile from the pass.  Oh well, I felt good and we kept going.  Along here we saw Matt Van Horn again at the Lamb's Canyon trailhead.  This time he was dressed as a homeless guy holding a sign that said "Will work for ultra entries".  Pretty funny stuff.
Rolled into Upper Big Water (Millcreek) around 10pm, sat down, ate some food, pulled on some warmer clothes and got out.
The climb to Dog Lake went well, strong.  Dropped down to Blunder Fork, then up the trail to Desolation Lake.  This is always a steep rocky grind, but there has been some serious trail reqork going on and with a couple of switchbacks and smoother trail, we made pretty good time.  Got into Deso and got out after a bit to drink.  The climb up to Scott's Pass took about the same amount of time as last year, so no worries.  It was a lot windier across the ridge this year, and a bit colder, but for the second time, I stayed out of the tent at Scott's.  If you go in, it's warm and inviting and you stay longer than you should.  I drank some Coke and left.  Along this section I always stop for a couple of minutes, turn off my headlamp, lay down and enjoy the stars.  I also make my pacer do it.  I love to run out here at night and part of it is just looking at the wonders around you, even during a race.  The moon was alomost full and looked gorgeous peeking out from the few clouds that were out.  The run down to Brighton took about the same amount of time as last year.

Brighton to Pole Line Pass - 74.6-82.3
I stayed at Brighton entirely too long, about 20 minutes.  I wasn't wasting time, just trying to get lots of food down.  I love having scrambled eggs here, something I look forward to.  Once again, Karen had everything ready to go for me.  I picked up my second pacer here.  Jackie is training for her first 100 (the Bear) and had never paced anyone before.  Breein just told her that I knew what I was doing and to just watch and learn. 
Telling my wife I warned Jackie about pacing me
Jackie actually did a fantastic job of pacing.  She would be in front setting a pace just a bit faster than I would have and I kept up.  Exactly what I needed.
Brighton to Pole Line went well.  Faster than last year, but I felt better this year.  I saw one thing I saw that made me happy.  I had seen Andrea Martinez sitting at Brighton with a bum knee talking about dropping.  Now this chick took second last year and is a good friend of mine.  As Jackie and I were descending into Ant Knolls, she comes absolutely flying by with her pacer, all sorts of happy.  She had her knee worked on by a PT and a chiro and was feeling great.
Got into Ant Knolls about ten minutes behind last year's time, no worries, I felt great.  Made the climb and descent into Pole Line Pass only two minutes behind last year, that made me feel really good knowing that I had at least caught up to last year's time.

Pole Line to the Finish - 82.3-100
This section was way different than last year.  No dive or plunge, no Irv's torture chamber to deal with, mostly downhill dirt road.  I had 4:50 planned for this section as a time.  I ended up running it in 4:30.  The downside to this section was the last few miles were on a well graded, exposed hiking/biking/horsey trail that meanders along Deer Creek Reservoir. 
Coming down the road from North Staton aid
Not my favorite section and it seemed to go on forever.  Eventually we got to the trailhead, made our way up the little bit of paved road and across the finish line.  For some reason I really like finishing this race in the morning rather than the afternoon.

Aftermath -
I felt pretty good this year for the entire race.  I only had the one low point and ran pretty steady the entire time.  Not sure I like the new section from Pole Line to the finish.  It seems kind of anticlimactic to have an "easy" 17 miles after being put thru the wringer the previous 83.  I'd like to see some changes that will throw some more stuff at us later in the race. 
Shoes-I wore my Altra Lone Peak 1.5's and Injinji toe socks the entire time.  Never changed shoes, never changed socks.  Not one blister was to be found and I think I'll only lose one toenail.  That has to be a new record for me.
Food-I pretty much relied on my drop bags.  I had a dose of Ultragen (320 calories) in every drop bag.  Put a bit of ice in it and it's easy to drink.  I did have a PBR at Big Mountain and a half a turkey sandwich.  As usual, the PBR made me smile and put me in a happy place.  I did have frozen burritos in every drop bag as well, but after eating the first one at Francis, I wanted nothing else to do with them.  I also put a container of mini ravioli's in my drop bag at Upper Big Water.  I did a few gels from the start to Francis.  Those worked fine, but no gels after that.  Scrambled eggs at Brighton are always a hit with me, as is the sausage at Ant Knolls and Pole Line Pass.  Lots of Coke was drunk.
I never felt sleepy to the point of doing the drunken sailor march down the trail, probably the constant intake of Coke had something to do with that.
Oh, my time.  29:40:24
One other thing.  This was my sixth finish and my golden ticket to bypassing the lottery from here on.  Yay!
Many thanks to my wonderful wife Karen for her help crewing this year.  She's never crewed me at Wasatch and she did it perfectly.