Bryce Canyon 50 miler…

Disclaimer:  Before I dive into this head first, my goal here isn’t to provide a reason for people to say, “that’s not for me”.  My experience, I’m sure, will be different from yours in many ways, so think of this more as a, “I’ll do my best to make sure that isn’t going to be me”.  Done correctly, it could be one of the most amazing adventures in your lifetime.

Until this past weekend, I had never ventured down to the Bryce Canyon or Zions National Park area in all my nearly 31 years in Utah.  If you live in this state, or have the opportunity to visit here, do yourself a favor and add these to your bucket list.  The views will leave you speechless.  The hoodoo’s are so mysterious and incredible, how they stand the way they do is fascinating, simply put.  The mountain goats are fearless as they scale the slick mountain sides and approach the roads to graze with zero cares in the world.

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The day before the 50 mile run, we ventured into Zions National Park for some views, a little hiking (not sure if that was a good or bad idea before a 50 mile race), and an escape from reality, which was desperately needed at the time.  On the way there from Panguitch, UT, we made a stop at one of the many rock shops on the way to the National Park.  They sure do love their rocks down there, as I’m sure they have an abundance of many different kinds in the surrounding area.  We grabbed a couple souvenirs, some for the family, and pressed on to the park.  Needless to say, if all the roadside shops pass you by, and you make it through without stopping at at least one of them, you have far greater self control than us…either that, or I’m very sorry you missed out.

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Zions did not disappoint..besides the $30 entrance fee (which ultimately we’d pay anyway to be able to continue to enjoy things like this for many years to come).  The weather was a little on the hot side, but made for a perfect, clear day to see as far as the mountains would allow.  How some of the sights and formations are created on this earth are mind bending.  The lines, curves, and colors that have been created over the years on the rocks and ranges are gratifying.  At one point, we pulled the car over to snap a couple photos of a small mountain goat family picking some leaves off a nearby tree.  They surely made sure to keep a couple eyes on us while we were there, but after a short while, they made their way back up a steep mountain face and carried on with their day.

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Later that day, we made our way to the race expo by Ruby’s Inn.  The expo had a fire going, where people could roast marshmallows to make one of the world’s best desserts known to mankind.  The drop bag station was lined with everyone’s bags of survival for the following day, and vendors where lined up showing off their products for the runners/spectators to demo and purchase.  Each race entry came with a meal ticket that was attached to the race bib, and the expo had a few different options on how to use your ticket.  We ate, spent a few minutes putting together our drop bags for the next day, and made our way back to our motel room in Panguitch (say what you want, I’m fairly certain our motel has been featured on Cops, on numerous occasions).  That night, we watched the movie “Everest”, which may not have been the best choice, seeing as how it was based on a group of people trying to survive the elements of nature, but in an exact weather opposite scenario from what we were about to run in the next day.

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The next morning began at 3:00 A.M., an hour later than the previous weekend when we got up for the Utah Valley marathon, so that was a treat!  Got ready and made our way to the shuttle buses, where we heard that out of the 212 runners that signed up for the 100 mile run, over 100 runners had taken themselves out of the race, voluntarily and involuntarily, due to the heat and exhaustion.  It left us with an uneasy feeling right out of the gate, but we had pre-race adrenaline flowing so the idea of getting a DNF was at the very back of our brain.

We reached the start line with a little under half an hour before the start, which to me was perfect.  I love not having to stand around and stare at my watch, counting down the minutes until the gun goes off.  Once it was go time, we all spent about the first mile or so in a single file line until the trail opened up.  It was interesting beginning a race this way, and I’ll tell you right now, looking back, I was not 100% mentally prepared for this race.  I was far from ready from having the aid stations spaced anywhere between 8-11 miles apart.  I wasn’t ready for the altitude difference in what I normally trained on, and I surely wasn’t ready for anything the next 12+ hours was about to have in store for me.

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(Above) Course map and elevation of the trail.  Over the entire duration, over 10,000 feet of elevation gain.  This graph makes it look so silly….but was not silly.

For the first few miles, I was having some shin pain that made itself noticeable after the Utah Valley Marathon the week before, and as I’m now writing this, I am beginning to realize I don’t always make the best decisions in my life, and my planning skills are sometimes poor.  I probably shouldn’t have logged 26.2 miles the week before attempting my first 50 mile race.  So, fast forward to aid station at mile 22.5, the sun has been doing serious work the last couple hours, and we’re all feeling it.  I had 1/2 a can of Coke, and it was maybe to date, the best 1/2 can of Coke that has ever touched my lips.  But, with the shin pain present, I think I made the mistake of asking if anyone had an ibuprofen.  A kind lady gave me two, and I threw them down not thinking that 3.5 miles later, I would regret it, severely.

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Around 26 miles in, I found myself hunkered in the shade of a bush-tree, feeling incredibly dizzy, which led to me laying down and clearing my stomach in 5 valiant, very aggressive upchucks.  My wife made her way back down to see what I had going on, told her my tummy was a little angry and I needed a rest.  We had moments before, passed a lady passed out on the side of the mountain, who was requiring some help.  As I laid there, a man from an aid station came running down the trail, looks at me and goes, “you’re an ugly girl”.  I looked up and laughed, and he said he was looking for a woman in distress, we told him she was about a mile further down, and he headed back down.

Mile 33 aid station.  The stretch we just ran was nearly an 11 mile gap between aid stations, and if I could put a pin in it, this is where the main event commenced.  Upon arriving at the 33 aid station, I was feeling the worst I’ve ever felt in, almost ever.  Dizzy, exhausted, and apparently, getting dehydrated.  Over the course of the day, my body had taken in over 8 liters of water.  Apparently, 8 liters wasn’t enough, and the heat in the high 80’s, low 90’s, probably didn’t help either.  The volunteers at the aid station made me a cup of pickle juice with ice cubes, and at the time, the worst thing I think I could have drank.  But looking back, it may have been responsible for leveling me out….momentarily.

Well, that didn’t last long.  Mile 34ish, there I am again, in my mile 26 position, laying on the side of the trail.  Up to this point, Lacey and I had ran the entire race together.  But, at this point, without a small break, I wasn’t moving on.  She said we should go back to mile 33 and call it a day.  Now, this just wasn’t going to happen.  For me, I didn’t have a problem with that outcome, but she had logged crazy mileage during her training, and with all that had happened the week prior, with her grandma passing, I know she was there with a purpose.  She had a set of wings on her to help her finish, and I knew she could do it.  I told her to go on, and I would make my way back down to 33.  She didn’t believe me, and I’m pretty sure she knew deep inside, I wasn’t going to go back.  But, she pressed on, and I pressed my lifeless body further into the dirt on the side of the mountain.

As I laid there, I truly thought if I didn’t move, I would pass out.  I had a bag of amino acid powder in my backpack, so I took it out, dumped some into my mouth, and took a few good pulls of water from my Camelbak, and pulled myself together.  Stood up, joined into another pack of runners for the next few miles, and tried to keep my eyes on the prize.

Well, the last 3-4 miles until mile 42 were without water.  Mainly due to me taking those big rips from the bladder back on my trail bed I created back on mile 34.  Every corner I took, I would imagine the aid station on the other side, and for all those 76 corners I feel like I took, the aid station continued to hide.  But, in what I believe was the 77th corner, there it was.  I had never been more excited to see a tent in my entire life.  I reached the station, headed straight to the water area and filled my bag up.  I took a couple minutes to catch my breath, and paced back and forth by the trail.  One of the nurses approached me, and asked if I was ok.  I said I felt awesome, that was a lie, and I told her I needed to lay down for a bit.  As I laid there, I got the mile 26 feeling, which required me to lay back up, found a tree, did my best Tim Tebow kneel impression, and had another upchuck session.  The outcome on this session was much different from the previous, as the previous I stayed alert and didn’t fully come to with an IV connected.

As I began to think a little more clearly, I was covered in a blanket, sitting in a folding camp chair, with 3 aid station members watching me.  I was shaking, supposedly my color was poor, and they kept saying the word “dehydrated”.  I laughed.  I was so confused.  They asked if I had anyone there I knew, and I said yes.  Normally, I wear glasses, because I’m practically blind.  But, I saw a girl with the same calf sleeves Lacey was wearing, and I was surprised, because I thought Lacey was way ahead.  I was like, “right there, that’s my wife”.  The aid station worker called her name….which was Emily, and told her to come over.  As she approached, I realized Emily was actually Emily, and not Lacey.  With all these facts in front of us, this wasn’t looking good for me.

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Once the IV was nearing it’s end, I asked the crew if I could make my way to the finish line.  Their reaction time in telling me my day was done, there wasn’t a delay.  My bib was pulled, and I ended up taking a truck back down to the finish.  Game over.

Lacey was able to finish the day with her first 50 miler under her belt.  How excited and proud I am that she was able to accomplish such a crazy feat on a day like that, was amazing.  She probably could have ran farther, she says she couldn’t have, but I’m sure she could have.  She’s the toughest girl I know, and will continue to be a running legend in my eyes.

It sounds so ridiculous at first, but even though I didn’t cross the line, I got to see and experience so many different things that I never thought I would ever see or do.  An ultra marathon on any resume is impressive.  Any run, ANY run, is impressive.  Whether a mile around the block, or 42 miles until you pass out by a tree, enjoy every mile.  Look around and see all the things you’re running by.  Enjoy it.  As bitter as I am about not finishing, I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to be there with my lady and all those other crazy runners who thought that day was perfect for another run.

A DNF is an interesting addition to my highlight reel, one I’ll never try to forget, and to be quite honest, I wish I remembered more of it.  God bless the volunteers at aid station 42 for bringing me back to life, or for keeping me alive, either way, I’m grateful for each and every single one of them.

I had a riot, and I’ll make my way back to conquer that monster soon.  Until then, I will cherish every drop of water I have readily available, and never take it for granted for as long as I live.

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Pacing for Utah Valley Marathon 2017

Had the chance to get my very first pacing experience yesterday for Beast Pacing @ the Utah Valley Marathon in Provo, UT.  I was the 4:25:00 pacer, and it was quite the experience.

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I’ve had some memorable experiences with pacers in the past who have kept me on track to meet/exceed my goal time for a race, and I thought the world of them for it.  The mind will tempt and tease you at parts in a race, thinking if you just go a littler fast for X amount of miles you’ll finish WAY ahead of your goal, and you end up huffing and puffing and walking because your body overdid it way too early.

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Being set on a specific time was at times pretty tricky.  I told everyone at the start, that at each mile mark, I would be calling out a number (ex. -4 or +2) and the meaning behind the minus and plus was we were either over paced (-) or under paced (+) and the next mile would reflect those numbers.  Started with about 22 people in the cluster, so for those first few miles, it was pretty packed together.  There were about 6 guys and 3 gals that hung by me pretty good the duration of the marathon, which made it more enjoyable being able to converse with them to make the time go by.  I had an extra salt tab about 15-16 miles in, and one of the 50 year old’s running with me was mentioning he thought he was beginning to cramp.  I passed the salt tab his direction, hoping it would ease his possible dreadful home stretch later on.  About 2 miles later, he was saying the symptoms were hardly noticeable now, and whether it have been mental or the salt tab was actually doing work, he was feeling better.

The views throughout the canyon were incredible.  I’ll never get sick of our mountain ranges here in northern Utah.  You just can’t beat them, anywhere.  I’m very biased, having lived here my entire life, but show me a flaw in our views if you can find it.  The day was a little cold at the start line, but once the race started, the cold didn’t exist any longer, and it surely didn’t take long to wish it was still cold either.  The sun would periodically hide behind the ranges, but about 80% of the race was in the sun, making for a few extra cups of liquids throughout the stations and the internal prayers to the higher powers to be gentle and prolong any cramping/exhaustion until post race.

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The last 2-4 miles are the killer on this course.  Not so much the elevation +/-, but the way it plateau’s and goes on, forever.  You stare down the road of the finish for easily at least 2 miles, wondering if the sights you see are truly even existing.  There is a building right before the finish line, with a huge banner on the top, that says “Finish Strong”.  If you are finally close enough to read it without squinting, and can see the logo of the Utah Valley Marathon on it, the overwhelming feeling of relief sinks in, knowing you did it.

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I get goosebumps just reliving all my finishes across those timing pads.  Being able to work and train so hard to accomplish your goal, something you at one point never, ever would have thought you could do, continues to be a reality, finish after finish.  All the cheering, the crowds, your fellow runners and your supporting cast, without all of them, the experience just wouldn’t be remotely close whatsoever.  The volunteers, the race directors, and the law enforcement monitoring the streets while the race moves on, there are so many hidden factors going into your big day, that I tend to overlook when I’m sitting on my couch, saying forget today’s run, I’ll just run tomorrow.  They are out there, while they could be doing anything else in the world, but they are there helping people enjoy a day they worked incredibly hard for, and they are there supporting, ensuring you have the best possible experience you can.

Many thanks to everyone who has, continues, or considers volunteering for one of these events in the future.  Ultimately, it couldn’t be done without so many moving pieces coming together.

Finish time:  4:24:04

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Loved every single minute of it.

A week of long runs, that I’ve thoroughly missed

Being back into a pair of running shoes was something I missed for those couple of months battling through that confusing injury.  I’ll take waking up sore, and missing toenails, over watching people log miles in my daily commute, any day of the week.

I was flipping through some activities on RunKeeper this morning, looking at some of the training runs I have been able to check off for this weekends upcoming Utah Valley Marathon, and the following weekend’s 50 miler down in Bryce Canyon.  Having been off the training for so long, not quite sure how the 50 miler down in Bryce is going to go.  But, it’ll be a step at a time and worst case scenario, it goes MUCH slower than I hoped for, but the views will be an experience in itself.  I’ve personally never been to Bryce Canyon before, so this will be exciting regardless.

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2017 Ogden Marathon with my better half

What a beautiful day in Ogden, UT for a marathon!

A race, that last year was easily one of the worst marathon experiences of all time, to yesterday, being one of my favorite marathons ran to date.  The morning was pretty chilly after we got off the bus at the starting line, but it was less crowded in the waiting area around the fires than in previous years.  Might of had something to do with the last few years weather being unpredictable, cold, rainy, and very comparable to the Armageddon.

My wife and I were able to start and finish this marathon together, finishing with a time of 4:04:01.  We stopped and took a few pictures along the way, ran at a pace to hold a conversation, and were able to actually enjoy the views without huffing and puffing and hitting a wall while attempting to set a PR or BQ.  At the finish line, we jumped into the air and landed on the finish pad at the same time.  Hopefully the photographers at the finish line were able to capture this special moment for us.  Below is the photo our family was able to take of the two of us finishing.

Home run Ogden, thanks for the memories.

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50 miler training log (update 5/29/17)

Day 1, 2/27/17 – Today was the first day of training for the Bryce Canyon 50 mile race that will be held on June 17th, 2017.  I have been averaging roughly 30 miles/week leading up to this training stretch.  And to be honest, I feel nowhere remotely close to how I felt at this point in time last year.. not in a good way. 30 years old has made me realize my body is in control, no matter what my brain says…at times I guess.  Pain and soreness I have never felt before surprises me every few days.

I had ran 13.1 on Saturday morning, 5 miles yesterday (that was pain filled for about 3 miles of it) and then the program I will be following from Hal Koerner called for 6 miles today.  Moving forward, Monday is normally the day off, as this program calls for the long run on Saturday, followed by another mini long run Sunday (ex. this weekend is 15m on Saturday, 9m on Sunday).

This training will test tolerance, and patience.  Lots of pain, lots of sleep, lots of early mornings until June.  Ready or not.

3/26/17 – From the 27th of February until now, I was only able to log 54 miles due to an injury that came in like Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball.  Today was the first time I have put any miles down since March 7 while on vacation in Hawaii.  I was completely miserable in Hawaii, with all the beautiful beaches and roads to run on, my ankle/leg had other plans in store.  I will be sadly very behind on the schedule for the 50 mile run in June, but at this point, I am just hoping I can begin to start logging miles!  I have been comparable to a hibernating bear the last 3 weeks.  I know the scale knows it, and my waist on my pants knows it.

3/28/17 – Awoke this morning at 0154 and could not for the life of me get back to sleep.  Got out of bed, laid on the couch to see if that would trigger sleep-land again, but no luck.  After rolling around for an hour and a half, figured I might as well get up and get a run in before I headed into the office.  And by run, it’s more of a pain jog at this point.  Pace is hovering between 8:50-9 minute miles.  The pain isn’t so much on the anterior shin/tibula area at the current moment, seems to now be completely focused in on the ankle.  And boy, is it a burner.  Was able to put in 4 miles outside before having to head in and shower before work.  It was about 38 degrees this morning with a slight wind gust heading home.  As weird as it may seem, I thoroughly enjoyed just getting out and moving around, I have had cabin fever on the couch lately.  Not sure how religious I will get with the bright and early headlamp runs before work, but it sure was a great change from what I have been used to the last couple days.

3/30/17 – Yesterday we ran a trail run for the Wasatch Trail Series in Draper, Utah.  I opted for the shorter distance @ 3.85miles, as my leg continues it’s successful efforts in maintaining a steady dose of pain throughout my daily existence.  The run for a little over 2 miles was basically an incline from dirt hell.  Throw in some horseshoe tracks, horse turds, and deep rutted paths, and you got yourself this trail run!  Lots of people showed up turns out.  Apparently this series hadn’t ever seen a turn out like this before, as the race was set to begin at 6:30pm, but it didn’t actually start til 6:50pm due to people still registering…which makes no sense to me, as any other race that has ever existed has never held the trigger on the gun due to, well we are still waiting for people to finish registering.  Race start time, 6:30pm means, in the most simplest English, the race, will begin, at 6:30pm.

That being said, it wasn’t all that bad.  It was a nice change of pace/scenery.  It’s hard not to get caught up in the competitive mindset while in the corral at the start line, but it’s quite simple to take it easy when your leg is basically hanging on by the tiniest fibers of human matter in it’s current state.  That aside, just being outdoors with a pair of running shoes on my hooves was enough to keep a smile on my face.

Trail running surely takes running to a completely different realm.  Watching your footing while pounding the pavement is far from watching your footing while on the trail.  One single moment of empty mindedness can result in quite possibly the most horrific, gruesome, sprained/compound fractured ankle of your lifetime.  Finding myself focused on the individuals in front of me didn’t last too long, for had my attention stayed on them, I would have awoke at the bottom of the mountain covered in trail rash with missing teeth.

With about a mile to go, there was a creek running right down the middle of the trail, with no seeable way around.  Coming up to it, I recalled a chapter from Hal Koerner’s ultra marathon book, where he talked about finding the “easy way”, “dry way”, or neck of the body of water in the way of your run.  He talked about watching people run down/up the water line to find themselves far off trail and their final decision was the same as anyone who came to the water: go through it.  As my right foot submerged the ice cold water up to my shin, I laughed at the squishyness as I was heading back up the hill.  For not having really made my mind up about running this until the day of, it turned out to be quite the enjoyable time.

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3/31/17 – After work today, I met up with Sean Wayne with Active Myotherapy in the Ogden BDO to have him do some work on my ankle/leg.  I had never experienced the graston technique before, and boy was it painful at times.  Not sure if the legs will see any mileage this weekend in hopes that this thing magically disappears sooner than later.

4/6/17 – Road block.  Saw Dr. McMillan today, I’ll be in a boot for at least 3 weeks to see what exactly is going on with my ankle.  Most likely will end up getting an MRI after the 3 weeks to get a better idea on what I’ve been working on here.  Ultimate depression status at the moment.

4/23/17 – I have been in a walking boot for nearly 3 weeks.  The pain that was present was affecting my normal walking and I finally tossed in the towel.  At the current moment, there is still a little bit of pain in the medial shin and ankle, but nothing quite what it was back on the mornings in Hawaii where every walking step was like someone was pushing little needles into my ankle.

But, because I am stubborn, and a male, I did go on a 3 mile treadmill run on Friday night, and a 4 mile run yesterday morning that was very slow, but like I’ve said before, just being on the road was such a great feeling.  Hopefully whatever it is, it’s making it’s way out, or fixing itself.

5/4/17 – Did a 6.2 mile run today…after I took a short nap when I got home from work.  After a week like this has been, maybe my mind was just cooperating with my body more than usual lately and allowed me to get a runtherapy session in.  Since probably the beginning of March, today was by far the best I have felt during a run.  There is still discomfort in my ankle, and the runs I have been on lately hover between 8:30-9min miles, but I am just trying to ease back into the fight and hope I never have to go through anything like this again.  As of today, there are 44 days until the Bryce Canyon 50 miler, and by how these last few months have gone, if I do end up running it, it won’t be setting any records, that’s for sure.

5/15/17 – The past two weekends I have fortunately been able to run a 20 miler and a 12 miler, and let me just say, it’s sucked super awesome.  I thoroughly missed long run Saturday, waking up before the sun wakes up an getting outside.  I whine and complain about it superficially, but deep down, it’s what life is all about.  This upcoming weekend is the Ogden Marathon, and I will be running under my little brothers name, because he came down with an injury that has put a damper on his training and shot at his ultimate redemption and taming the beast known as the Ogden full marathon.  If it shows any signs of rain/hail/snow, I’m out.  Ain’t happening again, not after last years near death experience.  No way, no how.

5/29/17 – Well, long runs are back!

Was able to run the Ogden Marathon on the 20th, was able to knock down 21 on Friday night, and 13 miles yesterday morning.  Still am far, far from where the fitness level used to be last year at this time, but I’ve said it a lot lately, just being back out on the road with music in my ears and a pack full of water & CLIF shots, I couldn’t possibly ask for anything else.

6/11/17 – Got to be a pacer for the Utah Valley Marathon yesterday, and it was a treat!  I was given the pace time of 4:25:00, finishing @ 4:24:04.  I give high praise to the pacing elites who can dial in consistent sub 4 hour marathons when they pace.  It’s truly an art, a science, a God given talent if you will.  If you ever follow a pacer, from here on out, I will surely thank and bless them for their assistance, because at times, it’s nerve racking realizing individuals are counting on you to help meet their goal.

Next weekend is the big day, 50 miles down in Bryce Canyon National Park.  I’ll be taking this week off to nurse my soreness from yesterday, but ultimately, very excited to be able to be a part of a race you couldn’t have bet me I’d be signed up for 5 years ago.

50 miles, here we come!

Off the blog for a bit, back for more.

Haven’t logged in in quite some time to log any news/updates.  So far for 2017, we have a couple things in store thus far:

I will be a pacer for the Utah Valley full Marathon on 6/10/17, which will be a fun little experience.  I’ll be working with Beast Pacing for the event, anywhere between 4-4:25hr is what I am slated for with them.

The following week, will be the 50 miler in Bryce Canyon, in which the training starts tomorrow!  Just got done typing up the training schedule for it, and boy is it amped from a marathon training schedule.  It’ll be different to add in a mini long run the day after the long run on Saturday’s, so we will see how it goes.  Total weekly mileage for the schedule ranges anywhere from 43-76 miles, 54 miles IN THE FIRST WEEK!  Hoping for the best, looking forward to new challenges and milestones for 2017!