Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Grand Canyon 50k: Injury? What Injury?

The week leading up to this race, I wasn't sure if I was heading to the Grand Canyon to run a 50k, or if I would be making the drive to work the race as a volunteer.

The previous weekend, I was forced to drop from the Spruce Woods 100 due to an excruciating injury to my hip flexor. It was a devastating turn of events that cast a dark shadow over the balance of my race season. When I returned home, I walked and monitored the hip, but there was nothing to suggest that I would be running any time soon.

Finally, 2 days before the race, I was able to trot down the trail a little bit without any serious pain. The following day it felt even better. So I decided to see how a 50k would feel.

Off to the Grand Canyon we went!

As most people know, the weather in Utah, Colorado and northern Arizona has been rough this spring. Winter has been reluctant to release it's grip on our region and we've had chilly, wet weather for the last month. But I didn't expect actual WINTER weather in Arizona. In May.

Tent Campers at the Start Line

On race morning, we woke up to 6 inches of fresh powder and freezing temperatures. In May.

Because I was nursing a questionable hip, I was actually happy about the weather. It crushed any remnants of pressure that I might have felt to run a fast race. This course wasn't going to be fast. It allowed me to get into the right mindset for what I was trying to do. I needed to go easy, enjoy the day, and stay healthy. Pretty simple objectives.

Walking to the Start Line

My race was a point-to-point course. We were supposed to be shuttled out to our starting point, then dropped off so we could run back. Because of the weather and the poor road conditions, Matt Gunn (the Race Director), decided to change the course to an out-and-back format. I totally loved the idea because it makes for a more social environment, and one of my primary goals was to have fun.

Matt Gunn Giving me Grief for Racing on a Bad Hip

A quick side note: It's worth mentioning that Matt Gunn puts on some of the most amazing races in the country. Part of his success is due to the rugged, scenic and remote locations that he has us run. Places like Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. This comes at a price, because remote courses are prone to bad weather, poor communication, and a host of other characteristics that make it difficult to produce a trouble free event. The weather threw a kink in Matt's plans, but I think he did an amazing job of pulling it all together. Happy runners is the only thing that Matt cares about. He's an incredible Race Director.

Starting Line

Our race was set to start at 8:00 AM. After a quick race briefing, we were off to play in the snow.

The race starts with a steep climb that goes on for a little more than a mile. Because I was there to run a casual, leisurely pace, I decided to run the entire hill. Seems like something I would do.

By the time I reached the top, my heart was about to burst through my chest cavity and my lungs were on fire. We're running near 9000 feet above sea level. That adds a bit of difficulty to these long ascents.

After hitting the top of the hill, we have about 14 miles of downhill running. Not steep downhill running. Just slightly downhill running. The kind that still requires a bit of effort to build speed.

Mile 4, Outbound

We would be dropping about 2000 feet of elevation on the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Slowly, we worked our way to a warmer environment. The snow began to fade a bit, replaced by wet, muddy trails.

We hit the first aid station at 5.5 miles. I ducked into the tent and started chatting with the volunteers. I run all of Matt's races, so as a side benefit, I know almost all of the repeat volunteers. Aside from wanting to exchange pleasantries, I also wanted to force myself to take my time. Chatting away at aid stations helped achieve both goals.

As I headed out to the next aid station, I caught up with some runners and chatted as we cruised down the trail. I kept monitoring my hip, but there was no sign of pain. I was cautiously optimistic, but a bit of worry was still floating around in my brain.

As we dropped elevation, the snow continued to fade.

The Squaw Aid Station was at mile 9. When I got there, I saw my truck, covered in mud, parked next to the tent. I wasn't expecting Jo to be there, so it was a pleasant surprise. As it turns out, Matt had put Jo (and my truck) to work, shuttling supplies around the course. We just happened to be at Squaw at the same time.

Coming into Squaw

I messed around at the aid station for a bit, once again, chatting with the volunteers and giving Jo an update on how I felt. After a few minutes, I pushed on down the trail.
Getting Better and Better with Every Mile

Before reaching the Stina Aid Station, we hit a steep incline. I wasn't expecting that at all, but then again, I had neglected to look at the course details before I started the race. I made a mental note to be better prepared next time.

I knuckled down and hiked to the top of this relentless hill. Once I topped out, I was greeted by the Stina Aid Station. This would be the last aid station before the Rim. I walked into the tent, found an empty chair and sat down.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time hanging out and chatting with the volunteers. Runners were coming and going, but I was happy to be relaxing.

For the first time in quite a while, I was just enjoying the experience. There was no pressure and I was just having fun. I realized that this is why I fell in love with trail running to begin with. I'm sure there's a lesson in there somewhere.

From Stina, we head toward the Rim on some exceptional single track. It was warm out, the ground was dry and the sky was blue. It was a beautiful day to be running in the woods along the Canyon.

By now, returning runners were heading back toward me on their way to the finish. We greeted each other the way trail runners do, passing along encouragement and compliments. I even stopped a few times to chat with friends as we met on the trail.

Competitive Kelly would have been counting running as they went by. I caught myself when I got to 4, and reminded myself that I wasn't racing, I was just running.

A Runner Seeing the Grand Canyon for the First Time in Her Life

Sharing A Clark Griswold Moment with Keena DeLay

I eventually found the turnaround point where I marked my bib with a big blue "X" to prove that I had made it. I took a few minutes to enjoy the Canyon, then turned and headed back.

I had enjoyed the downhill run getting to the Rim, but now I had to pay the price for all that "easy" running. I started my long uphill push to the finish.

Getting back to Stina seemed to take forever. Part of that is probably because I stopped so many times to talk to friends as I encountered them along the way, but that's always time well spent.

Getting Back to Stina Aid Station

Jo just happened to be dropping off supplies at Stina when I got there. I was excited to see my bride again, so I lingered for a while, giving her a thorough update on my race and my condition.

Here's the abbreviated update: I was having fun, I felt great and I love this course.

Hanging at Stina with Jo and Cherri

After screwing off in the aid station for way too long, I was practically kicked out. It was probably time to head out anyway.

I left Stina and started my way down that steep hill that I had just climbed a few hours earlier. It felt much better this time.

Leaving Stina

As I made the climb back toward the finish line, the trail deteriorated. Where there was once snow, there was now mud. Lot's of it. And water running down the trail like an endless gutter. Footing was a bit tricky, my feet were saturated, and I was having a blast.

I made it back to the Squaw Aid Station pretty fast. I hopped inside and pulled up a chair. I remembered that Jo and Cherri had stashed a PBR in there for me. When I sat down, one of the aid station workers walked over and put it in my hand. How can you beat that kind of service?!?!

Seems Like an Appropriate Time for a Beer

After the PBR was polished off, I thanked the volunteers and hit the trail. There was only one aid station between me and the finish and I wanted to get headed that way. 

Jo Just Kept Popping Up Everywhere!!!

The trails kept getting worse as I made my way higher, pushing away from the Rim. It had warmed up, well above freezing and the snowmelt was wreaking havoc on the trails. Finding runnable ground was nearly impossible.

I made it to the final aid station and hung out for 4 or 5 minutes before heading off. I thanked the volunteers and hopped back on the mucky trail for the last 5 miles.

By now, it ALMOST sucked a little bit. I was moving SO slow because of the mud and my feet were getting cold from running in icy water for so long. But despite that, I was still having a lot of fun. I couldn't conjure up a foul mood, no matter how hard I tried.

After a LONG uphill slog, I finally made it to the top of the hill that we had run up earlier this morning. I knew the finish line was a little more than a mile away. All downhill. I aimed my feet that way and bombed downward.


I crossed the line in 8th place overall. I was uninjured and happier than I had been at a finish line in a long time!

I learned a lot from this experience, but the most important thing I took away from that day was a reminder that I do this because it makes me happy. It's easy to lose sight of that when the need to compete clouds my judgment and steers my goals. I enjoyed every step of that race and had a big dumb smile on my face all day. That's a lesson I want to hold on to.

The course turned out to be 36 miles long, a bit of a stretch for a 50k, but that's alright. It just gave me more miles to enjoy. And it gives me confidence that I can run again, without too much concern about re-injuring myself. I needed that boost going into the rest of my race season.

I want to thank Hammer Nutrition for fueling me, Topo Athletic for putting great shoes on my feet and my wife for being so damn awesome. And thanks to Matt Gunn for putting on the best trail races in the West.

On to Bryce Canyon in three weeks. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Spruce Woods 100: What Happened in Manitoba?

"Eventually, competition and adventure wane, and I enter my ibuprofen phase. Tweaky hamstrings and achy knees restrict mileage, but I continue running for health, sanity, and the ritual of a Sunday trail run with like-minded buddies. We discuss the nagging injuries that bedevil us, and remember the good old days when we were kings." - Don Kardong

Granted, that quote is a bit dramatic for my situation, but whenever a runner is sidelined due to an injury, the deep introspection sets in. Doubts cloud an otherwise confident mind. It forces a complete evaluation of where a runner is in their career and how much longer they can hope to remain at their current level of competition. It forces an evaluation of how much longer running will even be viable.

Whether we want to admit it or not, it also inspires fear.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself. Let me tell you how I got to this point...wallowing in my self pity, waxing poetically about the injustice of injury.

The Spruce Woods 100 landed on my race calendar because it's in Manitoba, Canada. I worked in the area for about a year and I grew to enjoy the rolling, rocky prairie and the people that lived in this part of the world. Canadians have a reputation for being extremely kind and polite, and this is especially true in this part of their oversized country.

I also chose to race in Canada because Jo had never visited the country before and I wanted to share this area with her so she could get a glimpse of where I spent a year of my life. I wanted her to have the full "Canada Experience".

Jo and I drinking Molson Canadian and Watching Hockey on a FREEZING Day in May...Canada!

Spruce Woods is in its second year and is still a small, local race. The course is made up of three, 33.5 mile loops. It's primarily Nordic ski trails, similar to what we have with the Ice Age Trail in the US. It's a sharply rolling trail with very little flat ground, but it's all runnable.

I won't lie...I wasn't expecting freezing temps in May. Spring is usually well on its way by this time of year. As expected, the Canadians were deeply apologetic for the inconvenience.

Temp at the Start...which was NOON!

Pre-Race Optimism

The cold temps were made worse by howling winds that rolled across the prairie with nothing to stand in its way. We were assured the terrain on the course would give us a wind break, so I was eager to get moving.

I knew I would be competitive in this race but I had very modest expectations. I planned to run the first loop at an easy pace, then develop a strategy for the rest of the race. Running out front wasn't part of my plan, but seemed like a natural thing to do.

I locked onto the leaders and matched their pace for the first mile, making small talk as we bounced down the trail. We were running a very relaxed pace, but we were still dropping the rest of the field quickly.

Reluctantly, I began to pull away from the other two runners. I wanted to stay close to them, but I also wanted to run my pace and generate a bit more body heat.

Finding myself running alone, I fell into my subconscious zone, hit cruise control and let my mind detach from what I was doing. I was snatched back into reality when a massive bear burst from the brush right in front of me and dashed across the trail. Startled, I watched him evaporate into the woods, like only a bear can do.

I'm pretty sure he said "sorry" before leaving.

The course was far more challenging than I expected. I had expected a much flatter running surface, but flat ground was scarce. I prefer a hilly, or rolling course, because it spreads the work to a wider range of muscles, which slows fatigue. The course I got was better than the course I imagined. I was pleased.

I was running well and I felt great. When I came to long, straight stretches of trail, I would look back, hoping to see other runners. They were gone. I had built a much larger lead than I had expected and this worried me a little bit.

I wasn't opposed to winning the race, in fact, the thought was pretty appealing. But this isn't a goal race and I didn't want to push any harder than I needed to. I slowed my pace even more, hoping to cut some distance on my lead, and maybe even let another runner pass me so I could use them to meter my pace.

Even my most modest calculations suggested I was well on track to break the current course record. I liked the idea, but not at the cost of an overtaxing run. I was content to take whatever result felt natural and comfortable. At that moment, I was at a very pleasant, easy pace.

Then something strange happened and everything unravelled in an instant.

As I launched myself up a sharp incline, I felt a tug at my right hip flexor. I didn't think much of it, because my hips usually start to bug me at this point in a race, then the pain fades until it's completely gone. All systems normal!

On the next hill, the hip started to burn. This wasn't a normal feeling and I was beginning to get concerned. When I got to the top of the hill, I stopped to stretch a little bit to see if that would fix it. At first it seemed like it did, so I went on my way, running an easy pace.

Then the pain returned.

Annoyed and in pain, I decided to walk for a few minutes. I had a huge lead and fixing this problem was more important than being out front. After walking a quarter mile, I resumed my run.

The pain returned.

At this point, I could no longer ignore the reality of my situation. The pain was acute, it was real and it was getting worse. I was forced to abandon the idea of running so I could walk to the next aid station and make a decision when I arrived.

After 4 miles of walking, the pain got worse. I still hadn't been passed by the 2nd place runner.

By the time I reached the aid station, I was practically dragging my right leg down the trail.

I've DNF'd before and it was always an agonizing decision. This time was different. My day was over and it was completely out of my control. There were no other viable options. I could NEVER look back on this and wonder if I made the right decision. I made the only decision.

I arranged a ride back to the start line. When I got there, I found Jo's car, but no Jo.

I talked to the Race Director, and of course, he said he was sorry.

I hobbled around, asking people if they saw Jo, but she was MIA. Then I saw her walking toward me from the course. When she saw me, the panic set in, thinking I had arrived under my own power and she had missed me. The worst possible mistake for a crew chief and one she doesn't make.

I explained my situation, we loaded up in the car and headed to the hotel to escape the cold.

Treating ALL my Wounds

I've been injury free since 2010 and started to think those annoyances were behind me. It's hard to take something seriously when you're so disconnected from it.

There's never a convenient time to be dealing with injury, but the timing couldn't be worse for me right now. This is the year when I finally got selected for Western States. This is the year I'll be running the Grand Slam. This was supposed to be MY year. Just typing that makes me feel petty and selfish, but it's nearly impossible not to feel some tinges of resentment. I'm human. Being injured proves that point.

While I type this story, it hasn't even been 24 hours and I really have no idea what my situation is...or will be. I don't know if I'll be running again this week, or even this year. And it's that uncertainty that bothers me. I've lost control of my plans and my goals, with no confident way, or defined path to restore it. I think that's why runners get so frustrated when they're hurt. Everything is out of our hands.

Time will tell the true story of what happened in Manitoba and what it will mean for me. Time spent differently than planned, or desired, but time is always the answer when these things happen. Let's just hope it's time that passes quickly.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

2015 Zion 100: Ultra Running 101

This was my fourth running of the Zion 100, and the fourth iteration of the course. I really enjoy this race, but that's not why I keep coming back. I return every year because I've never run this race in a satisfying way. It's a nagging little pain that returns every spring, prodding me to go back to Zion and try to figure this thing out. And every year, I fall a little short.

To be fair, I've never run this race on rested legs. I always show up feeling a little battle worn and banged up from some other race that just had to be run. This year was no different.

I decided I would run this race as an easy training run and I planned to nab a sub 24 hour finish. I wanted to take some time and play with my 100 mile nutrition strategy, mess with my pacing, and work on my gear selection. I didn't feel any pressure to do well or make an attempt to compete. I just wanted to enjoy the journey and learn a few valuable lessons along the way.

It was return to the lessons taught in Ultra Running 101. We all need a refresher sometimes.

After a quick race briefing, we lined up at the start and were sent into the desert at 6:00 AM. Sunrise was 40 minutes away, so we ran into the darkness, heading for the first big climb.

As I said earlier, this is the fourth iteration of this course. Every year, Matt Gunn, the Race Director, has made changes to improve the course. He's deleted road sections in favor of trail, he has changed the sequence of the trail sections to take advantage of daylight running in tricky areas, and this year, he eliminated an entire section of the course in favor of a series of challenging trail loops in the desert valley. All of these changes have consistently improved the course and the race. It's always exciting to see what Matt has in store each year.

For the first mile, the runners messed around trying to fall into the right place in the pack of bobbing headlamps. I placed myself deeper in the pack than I normally would and coasted down the trail at an easy pace. I fell into place alongside Danny Widerburg, a friend from the Wasatch Front. Danny and I frequently fall into place together in races and I was happy to see we had found each other again.

Danny is a great running companion because he cracks me up and we feed off each other through our inappropriate banter, salacious commentary and seemingly believable lines of BS. I like to think we provide a tremendous amount of entertainment for those around us. Either that, or we deeply offend those around us. It really depends on your sense of humor. I like to think we're hilarious.

Flying Monkey is our first big climb. We hit it and settled into the conga line, moving up to Smith Mesa. Danny and I were in full banter mode by now, putting on an impressive, impromptu comedy display for each other. Several times, I was forced to stop to catch my breath. Not from the climb, but because I was laughing myself into a fit of hysteria. I think my abs were getting more of a workout than my legs during the entire ascent.

Near the End of Flying Monkey

Historical Fact:

Flying Monkey gets its name from a very literal source. During the Cold War and through the development of the American War Machine, the mesa above Virgin Utah was used to test ejection seats for fighter jets and spacecraft being developed by the US government. They had developed a rail system that they used to launch these devices off the mesa to ensure that the designs were effective and kept our pilots and astronauts safe. Because pilots and astronauts were expensive, they used live monkeys to simulate the occupants of these devices. So yes, they literally launched monkeys off the mesa, hence the name "Flying Monkey".

Legend suggests the monkeys didn't like this practice, but would be quite compliant for their first test run. Assuming the monkey survived, they were rarely interested in any subsequent tests and would frequently beat the crap out of their handlers before relenting for another ride over the cliff.

Coming UP Flying Monkey

We hit an aid station near the top of the mesa. We grabbed some supplies and pushed on.

When we topped out, we ran a 6 mile loop of rolling jeep road. Danny and I were still running side by side, finding new people to offend with our banter as we slowly worked our way further toward the front of the pack. I think people were letting us pass just to be rid of the sound of our voices.

After finishing the loop, we hit the same aid station for a second time, then started back down the Flying Monkey trail to the valley floor.

The descent was really more like a "somewhat controlled tumble", mixed with a few calculated footsteps. We've always come off the mesa on a paved road, so this was my first descent on Flying Monkey and it was....exhilarating? That sounds appropriate.

After hitting the valley floor, we headed across the desert, working our way to the Dalton Wash aid station, which is where Jo would be waiting for me.

Danny had fallen behind me a bit, and I assumed he was giving English lessons to one of the foreign runners. Providing them with his broad vocabulary in English slang and treating them to a series of his best body fluid stories. Or maybe just explaining why the American government used to fling monkeys off the cliff behind us. Either way, I was somewhat concerned about foreign relations at that moment.

 Rolling Into Dalton Wash

Jo handed me a fresh pack, loaded with my gear and race fuel, as I handed off my depleted pack. I gave her a quick update, a kiss and we were off again, headed to Guacamole.

Getting to Guacamole requires a long, tedious climb on a dirt road. It's a big piece of vertical gain, but it comes easier than the other big climbs. We ran, walked and shuffled our way to the top.

Top of the Mesa

We're greeted by the Guacamole aid station as soon as we top out. The aid station was manned by friends, so I took an extra minute to talk and laugh with these great people before pushing out onto the slick rock trail around the top of the mesa.

The Guacamole loop is 7.5 miles of aggravating rock and sand. It's an impossible trail to get a rhythm going and you're constantly shifting gears to cover the variable terrain. It's mentally and physically frustrating.

Danny and I got separated at the beginning of the loop for reasons beyond my control, so I ended up running the loop solo. I caught back up with him at the aid station before making the descent back into the valley.

Leaving Guacamole Aid Station

Leaving Guac, we headed back down the dirt road to Dalton Wash, where Jo would be waiting for me. This is a LONG gradual descent, which made for easy running and an opportunity to share a few more laughs along the way.

Dalton Wash Aid Station

Danny and I coming into Dalton Wash

Again, Jo and I swapped packs, kisses and a few words before I headed back to the trail.

Leaving Dalton Wash, I crossed the highway and headed toward Gooseberry Mesa. The path to the base of Gooseberry takes a rolling trail across the desert floor. This is mostly jeep road all the way to the start of the climb, also known as Goosebump.

Danny and I had got separated during the desert crossing. While I would see him a couple more times during the race, we were destined for different paths for the rest of the race. (imagine sad face here).

The Goosebump climb has officially reached "Legendary Status". Trail runners will frequently measure other climbs based on how it compares to the Goosebump. If it's "as difficult" or "more difficult" you know you're in for a tough day.

 Dragging my Butt to the Top of the "BUMP"

The Goosebump Aid Station marks mile 35 of the course. It was getting HOT and I was tired from the climb. I took time to fuel up and hydrate before heading out on the 12.5 mile slick rock loop across the mesa.

Introducing an Australian Runner to the Idea of Race Day PBR. He Approved of the Idea. Reaching Across Hemispheres to Make Runners Happier. 

Like I said earlier, I was using this race to play with pace and fueling. I was taking in slightly more calories while maintaining a slower pace. I felt really good, even after the biggest climbs and despite the heat.

Gooseberry Mesa slick rock would put a dent in that.

I had forgot how much I disliked this 12.5 mile loop. The undulating terrain frustrates me to no end and the constantly changing surface demands intense focus. This is hard to pull off with a beer in your hand.

After 5 miles, we hit an aid station and then do a quick out and back to the Gooseberry Point. The point has a ridiculously awesome view, that I totally ignored because all I wanted to do was get off this mesa. I punched my bib with the hole punch (tied to a bush) and headed back out to the aid station whence I just came.

I loaded my pack up with ice at the aid station, chatted briefly with a few runners, then headed out to finish this frustrating loop.

Gooseberry is designed to be a mountain biking trail, which means that the trail is designed to take the rider over every rolling, twisting, technical natural feature available. The fastest or most efficient path is never a consideration. The only consideration is complexity. As a runner, it's a maddening burden.

But on I went. Cussing mountain bikers the entire way.

View Heading Back to the Goosebump Aid Station

Coming to Goosebump at Mile 47

I came and went from the aid station quickly because that loop had taken longer than I had hoped for. I had built in plenty of extra time into my race plan, but I didn't want to eat into it this early.

Leaving Goosebump, we run down a 6 mile stretch of dirt road, heading to the Grafton Mesa Aid Station. This road is an easy run, with some gentle rollers scattered throughout, but it's a challenge because of the vehicle traffic. The dust is tough to deal with and the traffic not associated with the race tends to be less than interested when dealing with the runners o the road.

Coming Into Grafton Mesa Aid Station

Jo was waiting for me at Grafton Mesa. We made a quick pack swap and I headed down the trail toward a descent to the Grafton Cemetery Aid Station.

This trail is pretty runnable and somewhat shaded for a while. The trip to the Cemetery Aid Station was enjoyable and it felt fast. I didn't need anything when I arrived, so I checked in and headed right back out.

From the aid station, we make a daunting climb back to the top of Grafton Mesa. By now, I had been running alone for a while. I was picking up spots, but none of the people I passed felt like chatting, so I pushed on.

I missed Danny.

The sun was fading fast on my return to the Grafton Mesa Aid Station. Jo had packed a headlamp for me when I last saw her, so I dug it out and strapped it on.

I was looking forward to a cold night of running.

My fueling and pacing strategy was working out well. I felt good as Jo handed me a fresh pack, so I just rolled right on through without stopping. I glanced at the aid station and realized I must have just gained 5 positions as I headed down the road toward the Goosebump Aid Station for the final time.

It was cooling off fast as the night settled in. When I got to Goosebump, I met Jo at our truck and made a few wardrobe modifications for night running, grabbed a fresh pack and headed off the mesa.

I was at mile 68.5 and was feeling strong.

The descent off Gooseberry is a monster at night. It's too steep and technical to run and the dust is so thick, it obliterated my vision in the beam of my headlamp. It's faster than the climb up, but not by much.

When I reached the bottom, I began a 7 mile trek through the desert valley, headed for the Virgin Desert Aid Station.

I've been on this rolling trail before, but never when I had 70 miles on my legs. The constant climbing and downhill pounding was deeply frustrating and exhausting.

My mantra devolved to "This is Bullsh**!!!".

I managed to pick off four more runners before getting to the aid station, so that helped the pain to subside.

I checked in at Virgin Desert and started out on the first of three loops that I had to run before heading to the finish line.

Each loop was color coded. Red, White and Blue. Before heading out to do a loop, we had to check in and get a bracelet that matched the color of the loop. This was helpful for those of us who have already lost our ability to reason.

The Red loop was the shortest and easiest, only 5ish miles of decent terrain. It went pleasantly fast and I stopped back in to the aid station, got my white bracelet and head back out again.

The White loop was a bit more challenging and slightly longer. The only encouraging thing was that I passed two more runners along the way. I was fantasizing about the end of the race and just wanted this to be over.

I proudly finished my loop and grabbed my blue bracelet. I had plenty of fluids and Hammer gels to get me through the loop, so I didn't waste any time.

The Blue loop was the longest and definitely the most challenging. A lot of that challenge was probably mental, as it usually is at this point of a 100 mile race. I powered along, running when I could and walking when it was the only sound choice.

I checked into the Virgin Desert aid station for the final time, handing off my blue bracelet with a big grin.

I ducked my head into the aid station and saw Danny. He looked relatively decent and I was happy to see he had made it off the mesa alive and well. We exchanged a few words and I pushed on.

Danny MAY have been crying when we parted ways. I can't say for sure, but it's highly likely. The separation anxiety was tough for both of us.

I had a 6 mile jaunt through the desert before reaching the finish line. Again, this was a familiar trail and I felt right at home as I cruised along.

My watch told me that I would definitely make it under 24 hours, but not by a very large margin. But enough of a margin that I could go as easy as I wanted. I just needed to keep moving in the right direction, which isn't always a guarantee.

I left the trail and hit the highway for the final mile to the finish. I was feeling great!

Crossing the Finish in 23:39:39

It was close to 6:00 AM when I finished and the 50k runners were lining up to start their race. This provided a large and enthusiastic crowd to cheer me at the finish. It was a nice touch.

It wasn't my fastest time at the Zion 100, but it was the best I ever felt and I had the most fun. The course is better than ever and Matt is doing a great job of nurturing this race along.

My increased fueling and reduced pace taught me a few valuable lessons. My education isn't complete, but I took a few big steps in the right direction.

I was also testing out my new trail shoes from Topo Athletic. The Runventure is a brilliant trail shoe that proved to be perfect for this terrain. They worked flawlessly for this 100 mile race and I plan to employ them extensively in future races. I urge people to keep an eye on this brand and give them a try. They're becoming the premier trail shoe on the market today.

Once again, I need to thank my beautiful and tireless wife for crewing me through another LONG 100 mile trail race. She's the reason I can do what I do and I wouldn't even bother with it without her. She's simply awesome.

And I want to thank all my sponsors for their continued support. Especially Hammer Nutrition, Topo Athletic and Gear:30. It's great to have the confidence of good people and good companies!

Next stop...Manitoba Canada to conquer the Great White North and 100 miles of trails in the wilderness!

Happy Trails!