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.

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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Ogden Marathon 2017

PRAY FOR SUN

Well… here goes nothin’.

My little brother had bought a full marathon bib, and due to an injury, he is unable to run the marathon this year.  It’s sad, because I know he wanted to redeem himself from when he tried to run it 3 years ago and had a bad outing.  He asked if I wanted to swoop on it and give it a go, I told him no, but he said yes, so no meant yes, and now I have his entry.

Two weekends ago I knocked out twenty miles, and 12 this past weekend to taper, so we will see how all this goes.  I haven’t been on any kind of schedule due to my walking boot and injury since the beginning of March.  My runs have been hovering in the 8:30-9:30 minute mile range, and the leg still just doesn’t seem right.

YOLO.

REVEL Big Cottonwood Canyon marathon 9.10.16

The 2 minute bathroom break that will haunt me..

Well, had this one on the radar for a few months now, sure came up fast.

First glance at the elevation chart, your knees begin to ache just thinking about the initial drop for the first few miles.. but like most elevation graphs lately, when the hills rear their ugly head, they are unexpected and you pay for it dearly.

Race gun time was 0645 today, little bit of a chill, but perfect start to a race.  Bigger pool of runners than the races we have been running lately.  When the clock started, just watching the crowd flood the gate was the kind of stuff you get out of bed for in the morning.  What a rush!  Hundreds of people with the same exact goal, run the fastest time their body will allow them to run.  Around mile 4, I was running by a fellow who called out my name, turns out it was a buddy I went to preschool all the way through high school with, named Bert.  Bert ran this race last year and ran a 3:03, but he was hoping to sub 3:00 this year.  We chatted a bit, caught up, talked about how horrible the Ogden Marathon was this year, but I told him I was going to start slowing my pace down because I was getting kind of greedy with my average pace. . . but actually I was getting winded from talking ha.  He took off, and I didn’t end up seeing him again til about mile 21-22.  I never checked, but I’m sure he hit his mark for the day.

Miles 22-25 were horrific.  I was fine on air, fine on hydration, but my body was trying to call it quits on me.  My legs were tightening up, knees cooling like concrete, and then my brain began attempting to take over and convince me to walk.  I was watching my watch tick away minutes faster and faster every single step I took, and my goal time of a sub 3:05 was getting dimmer and dimmer.  It wasn’t until about mile 24 that I began to realize the time I seeked before the race started was out of the question, but with an old PR of 3:32, I started to talk to myself and dropped all the woes and sorrows on the side of the road and picked the pace up to finish strong.

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Running through the finishing gates was exciting, having set a new PR, a PR that years ago I never would have thought I’d be able to run what I did today, was enough to put a smile on my face.  I was pretty pissed off for a bit while I waited for Lacey to cross, knowing I was SO close to getting my BQ time, but when I saw Lacey cross @ 3:27 and achieving her goal and getting her BQ time, I was overcome with joy and happiness, knowing how thrilled she must be with her progress and accomplishing a goal that months ago was a wish, and today became reality.

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I’ll find that BQ someday soon.  But until then, I’ll enjoy the moment and remember my personal journey and how hard I have worked for moments like this.

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Finish time: 3:09:46

Utah Valley Marathon 2016

What a crazy morning/last night.  I had been searching this week for a bib for the Utah Valley Marathon and was coming up empty handed.  I had one lined up until Friday morning, when the guy wrote me and told me he would be giving it to his friend instead.  I was crushed.  I had heard a lot of good things about the Utah Valley marathon, very scenic, the hills are enjoyable without blowing your knees out, and the aid stations are spot on (the last 3 aid stations had popsicles, can I get a whoop whoop?!).

Got a message last night saying that someone was injured and couldn’t run the race, asked if I wanted the bib.  I was ecstatic.  I had gone the whole day trying to think of what I was going to do, since I had mentally told myself the whole week I was committed to laying down 26.2 this weekend.  The catch on this bib..I had to meet the individual at 2:50am in Provo…which is an hour and 20 minutes from my home.  I was in for a treat, but I didn’t care because I had been searching and finally it dropped into my lap.  So, went to bed around 8:30pm, awoke at 12:28am and knew I wouldn’t be getting back to sleep, so I got up and got my stuff together and played with the dogs until I had to go.

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Since I was there so early to meet the individual to get the bib, figured I might as well jump on the first bus going up, because that’ll never happen again.  Check off the list!  The bus ride up the canyon was interesting.  I couldn’t see out the windows, complete blackness (probably would have helped if I had my glasses).  Seems there is always that one person on the bus, who is speaking 50 decibels higher than everyone else, who talks about all the races they have ever done and thinks their advice will change lives.  Oddly enough, they always seem to be within arms reach of me, so I get all the info without having to hold a conversation.  Brilliant!

I took my thermal blanket and laid by a fire pit when I got off the bus, laid there for about an hour an 20 minutes before getting my stuff together.  The view from up there was amazing.  The sun rising right before the gun went off was perfection to say the least.  Right off the bat, I knew it was going to be much more enjoyable than that silly Ogden Marathon was 3 weeks ago.  The hills right out of the gate were quite enjoyable, very easy to get carried away, which I think was one of my issues in the Ogden, so I made sure to dial it back and contain some energy for the final miles when I know I always need it most.  I was right in front of the 3:25 pacer (I actually will meet him later on) most of the race, being able to hear him talk to his group, his name was Ben, real nice guy.  It was nice to have them right behind me basically the whole race, without worrying about staying with the group, but enough for me to know I had to keep my pace up in fear he and his militia would pass me.  They were holding a 7:47/mile pace, I hung around a 7:43/7:44 pace, just enough to walk through the aid stations and still keep a few steps on them.

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I was speaking with a younger fellow for 5-6 miles as we ran together.  He was saying he was going to try and run a 3:15 today, told me to stay close and we would get it done.  He was telling me about the Mt. Nebo marathon in September, apparently he knocked out a 3:19 in 2015 there, says its pretty low key and very fast.  Caught my interest immediately, but I think its the week before or after we have the Big Cottonwood Canyon marathon, so I don’t think that’ll happen this year.  He ended up falling behind around mile 13, which was sad because he was keeping my mind off the running.  The hills in the canyon were very deceiving..on the elevation chart the website provided, I was in the mind set that this thing was going to be declined and I wouldn’t have an issue finding that notorious sub 3:30 time that I have longed for since last year.  Those hills, were beastly.. whenever there was a slight decline, I never took it for granted, picked the pace up a little, knowing that a incline was within striking distance up ahead.

Ok.  So mile 18, 3:25 pacer is right on my ankles, he gets along side of me and says, “you’ve been holding a pretty good pace this whole time, I need a favor from you.. I don’t think I can hold mine any longer, can you take the sign and finish this thing up?”  If I wasn’t sweating before, I immediately became saturated.  He looked miserable, exhausted, and out of breath.  I told him I’d certainly try, but I told him if it looked like I was slowing down, I’d hand it off to a fresher set of legs.

This…was…insane.  I was actually pretty stoked, but the huge crowd he had at the start, was down to 2.  They both ended up falling back, and I was left holding a sign all by myself.  This sadly came to a close a little after the aid station of mile 24, I had become Ben, pretty sure it was contagious by the passing of the pace sign.  There was a guy who basically sprinted by me, looked like he just joined the race at the aid station, I gave it what I had to catch up to him and asked him to take the sign and finish this thing off.  I told him the pace he needed, and how I had got down to about a 7:51/mile, so there was just a little ground to make up.  He ended up finishing in 3:23/3:24 ish, so that was a good feeling when he told me.  In between mile 24 and 25, there was 2 ambulances tending to 2 runners, one looking completely out of it, the EMT’s were holding him up, asking him if he knew where he was, his name..the other was lying on his back, which was sad, because dangit, the finish was closing in!  They were right there!  I felt really bad for the both of them, having gone all that way to be slowed by their body overtaking the race.

The home stretch was a JOKE.  That road, is worse than Grant Ave in Ogden.  This, is no lie.  The home stretch, makes Grant Ave look like a short walk around the block with the dogs.  I passed a Costa Vida, asked a cop if he would run inside and get me a burrito, he asked if I was serious, and I wanted to say yes.  There was no Costa Vida burrito consumed this day, sadly.

The finish stretch, there was a guy in front of me that I could tell was picking it up to finish strong, so the whole time through the gates, I was yelling at him saying, “don’t you dare let me pass you!”  Ended up giving each other high fives as we got our medals around our necks, said our congrats and put this one in the books.

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I ate a half melted Creamie at the finish line, and to this day, it is the best thing I have ever tasted (I’m sure the next one will taste even better).  Well played Utah Valley marathon, well played.

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Finish time = 3:34:41

-UTAHBEARDEDRUNNER

Friday 6.3.16 pace run

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Happy Friday!

Had a 6 mile pace run this afternoon on the training schedule.  I want to try and pay more attention to the pace runs this time around, I feel like I kind of just looked at the mileage and ran it last schedule for the Ogden Marathon.  But, with the sub 3:05:00 Boston qualifying time requirement for my age group, I need to really take the schedule more seriously this time around.  For the most part, it felt good.  I was pretty winded near the end there, probably didn’t help having the sun out in full force this afternoon.  I was sweating more than Mike Tyson in a spelling bee to say the least.

Well, tomorrow is a 13 miler.  Going to try and knock it out early before the sun shows back up again.