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!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Zion 100: A Day of Redemption

"Being defeated is often a temporary condition, giving up is what makes it permanent." - Marilyn vos Savant

That quote has been burning in my brain for 11 months and now was my time to show that I hadn't been defeated.

While lying in my hotel room after my DNF at the 2012 Zion 100, I made a promise to myself that I would return to this race and finish what I started. Zion was my first DNF and it had a profound effect on me and I went through a lot of emotions in the weeks that followed. I questioned my decisions, my strategies, my ability and my commitment to running. 

But I never questioned my decision to return.

I was relentless in my pursuit of this finish line. I planned and trained all winter, I visited the course, I ran several sections with the Race Director and I spent countless hours perfecting my race strategy.

I had never been so focused on a single goal and when race day finally rolled around, I felt prepared but still nervous. I don't think that ever goes away.

I had developed a very conservative race plan that showed a finish time of 22:45. I wanted to run the race much faster, but I was deeply concerned about blowing up or falling victim to dehydration like I did in 2012.

Sometimes it's hard to set the ego aside and allow myself to drift further into the pack, even if it's the smart thing to do. Preparing myself mentally for this race was as hard as the physical preparation.

Jo and I toured the course and aid station locations the day before the race. By now, I knew the area very well and this exercise helped me mentally prepare for what I was about to do.

Jo and I on Smithsonian Butte Road

After reviewing the course we headed to packet pickup at Smith Mesa. Matt Gunn (RD) set this up at an amazing vacation rental that had beautiful views of the park and the sounding area. It was a stunning location. Matt goes out of his way to make this race inviting and memorable.

Having my picture taken for the search and rescue folks

The race began at 6:00 AM at the city park in Virgin, UT. We showed up early, got checked in and mingled with other runners.

Me and Rob Goeckermann checking out our pre-race weight

Local running friends, Harrison Fluman and Jim Skaggs

A few minutes before the race start time, we all began to get in place. Lining up for any 100 mile race is a bit nerve wracking. It's difficult to process the emotions, but one thing is clear, once we're off, we'll be out there for a LONG time. The thought is daunting.

Here we go...

I started the race with my hydration pack, filled with Endurolyte Fizz and I only carried a few chewable Perpetuem tabs. My first aid station was 10.6 miles out and my goal was to reach aid in 1:55 and have my pack dry by the time I got there.

The pack was dry, but I was 15 minutes early.

Stripping off my pack, getting ready to hand it to Jo

I had covered the first 10 miles much faster than my plan, but I was feeling really good and decided not to worry about it.

After leaving the aid station, we had 7 miles of rolling desert terrain before reaching the ascent to Gooseberry Mesa. This is a climb with 1200' of gain in one mile. It's a brutal climb and this is where the field really starts to spread out.

There's no other way to describe this...it's a bitch!

Making my up the "Goose Bump"

Cresting the top, headed for aid

After getting to the top of the mesa, we're at the mile 19 aid station. We'll hit this spot 3 times in the first 58 miles of the race.

I refilled my pack, got a fresh bottle of Perpetuem and rolled out onto a 12 mile loop of rolling slick rock trail.

Nice to be back on flat ground!

When I left the mile 19 aid station, I was 20 minutes ahead of plan. That was all about to change.

I made a huge mental error and miscalculated my distance on this loop. I simply forgot how long it was. I was taking my time, trying to ease into the early miles so I could preserve my legs. When I got to the next aid station, I realized my mistake when the volunteers said I had 6.5 miles left on this loop. CRAP!

I suppressed the panic and began to run with a purpose. By the time I finished the loop, I had burned through the time I had built up, and was now 10 minutes behind my race plan. I wasted 30 minutes screwing around on that trail.

Coming into mile 31 aid, 10 minutes late

I was still feeling great, but now I was upset with myself for making a mental error. I had to get that under control so I could focus on the things that mattered.

From the Goose Bump aid station, I had to run 6 miles of dirt road to the Grafton Mesa aid station. These were fairly easy, rolling miles and I was enjoying the run while I took in all the beauty of Zion.

I was settled down, happy and totally focused again.

On my way to Grafton Mesa aid station

Arriving at the Grafton Mesa aid station, I had made up 5 minutes and was still in great shape. I loaded up on my Hammer fuels and headed out as fast as possible.

Note: The girl behind me in this photo is the former winner of the Kettle Moraine 100 miler and is a beast on the trails.

Coming into Grafton Mesa at mile 37

After Grafton, I had a brutal 15 mile loop before returning to this same aid station. This loop takes us down a steep descent to the valley floor, then back up a tough climb to Eagle Crags. From there we turn around and head back down into the valley, run along Grafton Road, then head up a 1000' climb to Grafton Mesa before heading back to the Grafton Mesa aid station. This is the point that a lot of runners ended their day. But not me...

I made it back to Grafton Mesa and was still feeling great. I was now 30 minutes ahead of my race plan and began to have visions of an early finish. The remaining miles were budgeted very conservatively and I knew I could make my finish time unless something really began to fall apart.

I also made a mental note that things COULD fall apart, so let's not get cocky.

From Grafton, I headed back to the Goose Bump on the same 6 miles of dirt that we had run on earlier. It seemed much longer this time.

Despite knowing the course very well, I kept wondering where the aid station was. After a while I began to hear cow bells off in the distance. I got closer as the cowbells got louder. I was beginning to swell with anticipation as I rounded a corner, expecting to see the aid station...AND? NOPE! Cows, wearing actual cowbells!!! Who ever heard of such a thing?! I was a little deflated, but had to laugh.

Coming into the Goose Bump for the final time. Mile 58.

I had given myself 12 hours to reach this point in the race. I got there in 11:16 and still felt pretty strong. I decided to get ready for my night running at this point and loaded my extra layers, headlamp and other necessities into my pack. I was going to see Jo again in a few miles, but if we happen to miss each other, I needed to be prepared.

I bombed back down the Gooseberry Mesa and made my way across the desert floor toward Dalton Wash Road where I would begin the climb to the Guacamole loop.

At this point in the race, I'm rarely seeing any other runners. But as I neared Hwy 9 in Virgin, I saw I was being chased by two men and they looked pretty strong. When I reached the highway, I had to head to the right, toward Dalton Road. 100k runners head to the left, toward the finish. These two guys headed left to end their day and I was all alone again.

Jo made it to Dalton Wash just ahead of me. This proved to me that it was a good idea to load up for the night run. We filled my pack, got a fresh bottle of Perpetuem, and I headed up the grade to Guacamole.

I won't see Jo again for 20 miles, so this was an important stop for me. A lot can go wrong in 20 miles...

Loaded with gear, heading up...again

The climb to Guacamole was uneventful. Boring really. I didn't see any runners, and if it weren't for the frequent markers, I wouldn't think there was a race going on.

I got to the Guacamole aid station, fueled up and was ready to head out. I stopped before leaving so I could ask about the route back out. I was unclear on the course after finishing the 10 mile Guacamole loop.

Here's the exact conversation:

Me: Where do I go after returning here?
Volunteer: You go back out the same way you came in.
Me: Down Dalton Wash?
Volunteer: Yep!
Me: I didn't see any runners headed out on my way up.
Volunteer: All the lead runners are still here. Nobody has headed out yet.
Me: Gotcha. So back down Dalton, then head right toward Flying Monkey.
Volunteer: Yep! Take a right at the highway.

This exchange will be important later...

I made the loop around Guacamole and had a lot of fun. I had run this section in training, but it had been rerouted a bit to manipulate the mileage. About halfway through the loop, it got dark.

If you read my Antelope Island 100 race report, you'll know my headlamp was lost through tragic circumstances. I was elated and appreciative when my buddy Leon took pity on me and replaced it with a newer, much nicer model. Thanks Leon! It worked great and I managed to keep it from falling into poop!

I finished my loop and headed back down Dalton Wash Road. As instructed.

At this point, a lot of runners were heading up. We exchanged greetings, like trail runners always do. The further down the hill I got, the less lively the runners were. By the time I got to the bottom, it was nothing but Zombies.

And...as instructed...I turned right on the highway. It wasn't long before I felt like I had screwed up. I kept looking for signs, markers, something that would direct me to the mile 83 aid station. Nothing.

I knew I was screwed when the finish line came into view. I decided to go to it and get directions. I had no idea what else to do.

When I got to the park, I quickly found Matt and asked where the hell the aid station was. He was shocked to see me. I explained the mess and confusion as quickly as possible and we began to run toward the aid station, back the way I had came.

I urged Matt to get back to his race but he insisted we run there together.

Bonus miles! I sincerely can't recall a race where I didn't get lost.

Finding the mile 83 aid station

Matt handed me off to Jo while I explained the obvious. I got lost. Nothing new there.

I was now over an hour ahead of my race plan. I loaded up and rolled out without sampling any of the whiskey or jello shots at the aid station table.

And this is where things got real.

It was time to make the ascent up Flying Monkey. I had done this during the day and it was scary. This is an 1100' ascent with a lot of exposure and its very technical. And I had to do it in the dark.

As I climbed up the mesa, I began to get exhausted and I was feeling dizzy. I had to maintain total concentration to avoid falling off the cliffs. I forced myself to stop and rest several times along the way. I kept looking up at the lights that mark the route and I was astonished my how slow my ascent was and by how much climbing was left to do.

The wheels ALMOST came off the bus.

After more than 2 hours, I had finally covered the 6 miles and found Jo waiting for me at the Smith Mesa aid station at mile 89. I was exhausted.

I didn't even bother to waste time. I never stopped, but handed my pack to Jo and kept moving down the trail. I had a short out and back section and would be back in 3 miles. I asked her to have my gear ready when I got back.

I came back through and grabbed my gear from Jo. It was cold on the mesa so I sat in the truck for a minute before heading out. A little warm air would make the last 8 miles more bearable.

I was totally wiped out but I only needed to cover 6 downhill miles and 2 miles through the desert before I had this thing wrapped up.

I headed to the finish with renewed energy.

On the way toward the finish, I took the time to reflect on everything that had gone wrong at this race in 2012 and everything that had gone right this year. There are a lot of lessons in those experiences and I made a point of processing each one.

Coming to the finish line

Happy to be sitting down

I finished in 21:44:02, an hour ahead of my race plan. In all of my finish line fantasies, I had envisioned a huge celebration with hugs and cheers. It was a little more subdued than that, but I was elated nonetheless.

There hadn't been a day that had gone by without me thinking about this race. It ate at me for almost a year, and a result, it forced me to evaluate a lot of things. When I DNF'd last year, I was devastated and felt hopeless. But in hindsight, I now realize it was the opposite. Failing to finish actually provided me with hope. It also forced me to slow down and reorganize my approach to ultra running. It's obvious now that I'm a better runner for the experience. But it took a long time for that to come into focus for me.

With Zion behind me, I can take those lessons and move toward other big goals. But for now, I'm going to take it easy and enjoy my accomplishment. I'll run a couple of road marathons for training and get ready for my next 100 mile adventure.

I want to thank Jo for another amazing performance. I could never make it without her taking such great care of me. With her at my side, I always have an advantage over the competition.

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you all out on the trails soon!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Amasa 15.5 Mile Trail Race: More Fun in Moab!

I run in Moab frequently enough that people know me. By people, I'm mostly referring to hotel clerks and bartenders. Which makes sense, because after breaking down my monthly operating expenses, these are two areas that always blow the budget. One more than the other. 

Deciding to run the Amasa Trail Race made perfect sense because it was neatly nestled on a weekend in between the American River 50 miler and the Zion 100 miler. When I signed up for Amasa, it was a 14.5 mile trail race, which works out well between the two ultras on my race calendar. It's a distance that won't overwork my body, yet it will help my legs remember what to do when we run up and down the mountains. At some point, shorty before the race, the Race Director realized it was actually a 15.5 mile race! I considered making a big deal about this by whining about my training plans and having to cover the unexpected distance...but then I remembered I'm a trail runner and we don't whine about an extra mile here or there. 

I was also happy to have Jo joining me during this race. It seems she's usually crewing for me during an ultra, or running a shorter distance during the same event. But in this race, she was lining up for the same distance, thereby, becoming a direct competitor. She too would have to be crushed by me! I love her dearly, but it's race day!

Bib number 145? Random...

I won't lie. Let me rephrase that...I WILL lie, but not about this. I had big plans for this race. BIG PLANS! I know it seems counterintuitive, because it's a weekend between two big ultras, but this is a race that I had planned to do really well at. It weighed heavily on me as the race grew nearer and nearer. I had studied the entire field, researched race results, evaluated the course conditions, checked weather forecasts, and trained for a solid race. I had ever reason to expect a podium spot. 

Failure is healthy.

Me and my bride before the race

I would never advertise that I wanted to place in the top 2 or 3 of a race, and I never shared my plans with anybody except Jo. I kept my plans quiet as I toiled away with my little secret.

My plans failed to account for one fact. A fact that should be burned DEEP into my brain by now. The fact that I do some stupid stuff sometimes. In fact, the use of the word "sometimes" is being too kind. I do stupid stuff with an alarming amount of frequency.

Securing a position in the very front of the start. One of many mistakes today.

This race features three distances, 6.5 miles, 9.5 miles and 15.5 miles. We all start at the same time and follow the same course for the first several miles.

If I was smart, I would lay back until the shorter distances peel off, then I would get serious about my day. My ADD and OCD would never allow such a thing, so I ended up racing every runner in the field.

The first few miles of the race were a gradual incline on Jeep roads. A mixture of slick rock and sandy roads. Very typical terrain for races in Moab and I fell right into a rythym that I'm familiar with. I don't wear a GPS when I race, but I knew I was running a bit faster than I should, so I slowed a bit around mile 3.

Heading to the top of the first ascent

Jo, memoralizing her feeling about the first climb! 

There is only one aid station on this course and the runners in my race hit it twice. This is also the point in the race where the 3 distances part ways. As we got to the aid station, I passed without stopping and made the turn onto my trail. I was the ONLY runner heading that way. I didn't know if I was leading the race or if I was dead last, but I was suddenly alone.

This section of the course is a lollipop loop that takes us around and over a large rock formation before returning us to the lonesome aid station we had just passed through. The terrain varied wildly. This is the toughest part of the course.

After some meandering, rolling terrain, we started a rapid and ridiculous descent off the mesa.

 View prior to litterally dropping off the cliffs

The trail sort of ends at a chute that takes us down a boulder strewn cliff. After some internal debate about the viability of the course markings, I descended this nasty little hill.

We go down THIS!

Jo's friend Angie, debating the implications of the descent.

View from halfway down

After coming off the mesa, assuming you're in one piece and can still move, we ran along a sand laden jeep trail. This was loose, red rock dust that bogged us down like dry beach sand. Not fun...not fun at all.


View of the course through the valley

After circumnavigating the rock formation, we had to head right back up that ridiculous rock chute that we had recently, run/ slid/ fallen down. Not an appealing situation.

Back up from where we came!

After finishing this loop, we returned to the (only) aid station on the course. I stopped and topped off my bottle with HEED and headed right back out.

The rest of the course details are sketchy because I rarely found myself on the actual course.

Somehow, between the final aid station and the finish, I got lost 3 times. I'm pretty well known for getting off trail and wandering around, so it came as no surprise to me at all. There are no course markings that could prevent this from happening. It just happens. Like lemmings rushing into the sea, or whales migrating south, or DC electing a crack smoking mayor...it's just something that I can't explain.

The first two times I got lost, it was relatively minor and I recovered within a reasonable amount of time. The third time I got lost, I seemed to have perfected it because it stuck. I ascended all the way to the top of the adjacent mesa (slowly) before realizing I was WAY off course. I had suspected my mistake early on, but my brain failed to take the situation seriously and we continued to amble through the desert like Moses trying to free his people.

In all, I calculated 45 minutes of diversion. A huge mistake for a guy that had planned to do some damage at this race. But in all seriousness, who cares? I was out running, having fun and I was in Moab.

This was me for at least 45 minutes
(Thanks JC. You were dead on!)

I eventually rounded the mesa and could see the river below, and I knew the river led to the finish line. AND...I knew this was going to be a lot of technical downhill running, which I love!

Peering down at the Colorado River

After getting lost, I had resigned myself to something less than a great finish. I was a little irritated at first, but quickly got over it. I made the best of the situation by bombing down the cliffs toward the finish.

I sailed down the mesa, cruised along the last flat section and hammered the final hill to the finish.

I was greeted by Chris Martinez, the Race Director. We exchanged greetings and I lunged into the details about my day and why I had taken so long to finish. He was clearly worried when he learned I got lost so many times, but I assured him it was due to my own dumb ass. He seemed to accept this easily enough.

As I started to head to the truck to grab a drink, Chris stopped me and handed me an award for 3rd Male Overall. I was stunned, expecting to be WAY out of the awards after being lost for so long, but I'll take an award any day!

I settled down, relaxed and waited for Jo to finish her race. While exchanging war stories with other runners, I saw Jo WAY off in the distance, coming off the mesa. She was still running and looked good on the technical downhill.

Jo coming to the last short climb to the finish!

Jo finishing the race!

When Jo finished, Chris awarded her the trophy for 3rd Masters Female! We're both leaving with HARDWARE!

Finisher's medals and awards!

Last week, after running the American River 50, I featured a hydration pack from Gregory Packs that I had used during the race. Gregory was kind enough to send me a sampling of their full line of running gear, and I am kind enough to use it and comment on it in return.

This weekend, I used their handheld bottle during the race. Let's face facts, when you buy a handheld, you're really buying the carrier and maybe the lid. Nobody cares about the bottle.

The carrier fits very well and I like the Velcro adjustment for the strap. Most other bottles use a buckle and it tends to loosen up during the run. This bottle carrier cures that problem. But I do not like the very limited storage in the carrier. It's smaller than every brand I've used and would be a problem during a 50 or 100 miler due to a lack of storage. I also really dislike the zipper on the storage pocket. It zips from the bottom to the top, which means you're opening the BOTTOM of the pocket while running. If you have a few items in there, they can slip right out onto the trail.

I also wouldn't use the lid again. It evidently has a pressure release feature and my Endurolyte Fizz creates pressure in the bottle. As a result, the bottle would randomly release a full stream of my drink like OLD FAITHFUL! I sprayed Fizz on at least 3 people and I shot myself in the eye twice.

I do really like the way the carrier releases from the bottle. It has a small buckle that unsnaps and the carrier slides right off.

For the most part, Gregory is doing good stuff in the realm of hydration for trail runners. It's definitely worth checking out on your own.

Gregory Handheld

While the weekend wasn't everything we had hoped for, it was still a weekend in Moab and that's pretty tough to beat. If I could run anywhere, I think this place would be at the top and I always have fun here.

The next week will be focused on resting up for the Zion 100. I'm not planning a fast 100 miler, but I do have some lofty goals for that race and want to be fully prepared to meet them. But as you can see from this race, stuff doesn't always work out!

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you all out on the trails soon!

Happy Trails!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

American River 50: An Asphalt Assault

 I decided to run the American River 50 for the same reason I had decided to run the JFK 50. It was pure curiosity. Both races draw an enormous field of runners and both races get a lot of positive feedback. When I hear a high volume of hype about a race, I simply have to check it out for myself.

As a result, Jo and I found ourselves flying to California so I could run this race and develop my own opinions, based on first hand knowledge.

I was using this race as a training run and I didn't have any high hopes for a PR or a top finish. I had just run the Antelope Island 100 miler 2 weeks prior and could feel some lingering effects. I'm also 2 weeks out from running the Zion 100, so I didn't want to do anything that would jeopardize my ability to perform well at that event.

The field for American River was capped at 850 runners, which makes this the 2nd largest 50 miler in the country, right behind JFK. The AR50 and JFK can get away with these huge crowds because neither race spends much time on actual trails, so there is ample room for a massive field of participants.

In the days leading up to the race, I had been traveling extensively for work, hitting 7 states between Wednesday and Friday. I was a bit worn out by the time I made my way to California and I had not been getting much rest and I certainly hadn't been eating well.

For my pre-race meal, we hit a local brew pub and gorged on beer and pizza. This is a standard routine for me before most ultras. Nothing new, or out of the ordinary. However, while eating, I commented that my pizza tasted a bit odd. In retrospect, I should have stopped eating right then. I didn't and paid the price later.

The race kicks off at 6:00 AM, so I was out of bed by 3:00. I felt unusually crappy when I woke up, but a few cups of coffee seemed to help and we headed to the start.

Before the race, I felt little waves of nausea sweeping over me. They came and went quickly and it had me a bit worried.

The start line in Sacramento

The race began for before sunrise, but because it started (and persisted) on a paved surface, there was no need for a headlamp.

Right before the start

There was a huge crowd lined up for the start, so I found a spot about 1/3 of the way into the field and figured I could go out easy and move up toward the front after I got warmed up. I continue to try this little trick at each race in hopes of using my position in the pack to slow my pace in the early miles. It almost never works because my patience and Type A personality almost always force me to get up front early.

We're off!

 Despite my rough morning, I was feeling REALLY good right from the start. My legs felt loose, my breathing was great and I was moving up through the field at a pretty impressive pace. For the first few miles, I was running at a 7 minute pace. When I realized my folly, I slowed down a bit and focused on the big picture.

The first aid station is William Pond, at 8.16 miles into the race. It took me about 1 hour exactly to get there, which seems a little too quick for what I had in mind for the day.

As I got to the aid station, Jo was standing about 200 feet from the aid table and handed me a full bottle of Perpetuem. I grabbed it from her without slowing down, passed right by the aid station table without stopping. Jo and I have this aid station stuff figured out!!

If possible, I never plan to stop at the aid stations because I can carry all my nutrition with me. For this race, I schedule only one stop at the midpoint and this stop is meant to give Jo time to refill my hydration pack. This strategy shaves off a shocking amount of time during my races. I think as a general rule, ultra runners aren't aware of the total amount of time lost during aid station stops.

William Pond Aid Station

The picture below gives you a great idea of what the AR50 running surface is all about. A lot of trail runners tend to run on the shoulder where they can find a softer surface, but I spend most of time on the asphalt.

Coming into mile 8

After noticing the large crowd of spectators and crew members, I decided to give them all a rare treat. I took them to the GUN SHOW!!!

Who am I kidding?! I'm 132 pounds! If I have "guns" they're of the BB variety!

Goin' to the GUN SHOW!

Headed out, feeling AWESOME!

I wasn't going to see Jo again until mile 22. I was running well ahead of my planned pace and feeling really good...until mile 16. This is when my stomach full of questionable pizza began to revolt. It started with killer heartburn then transitioned into stomach cramps. I slowed my pace in an attempt to settle the turmoil in my belly and kept my eyes peeled for a portable toilet. No luck!

I was happy to see this sign.

Painfully coming into mile 22

I handed my hydration pack to Jo and asked where I could find a toilet. I was totally deflated to learn that this aid station didn't have one to offer. I pondered my situation and decided to press on until I found one.

Before heading out, I told Jo to take her time getting to the next aid station because this leg of the race was going to be painfully slow until I remedied the issues with my stomach. I wasn't scheduled to see her again for 9 miles.

As I rolled out of the mile 22 aid station, I was struggling with a powerful urge to puke. This urge would fade, then be replaced with a strong need to find a toilet. My pizza was looking for a way out and it wasn't picky about the route.

Fortunately, I found a public restroom about a mile down the trail and took full advantage of it! When I reached the aid station at mile 27, I had another very eventful pitstop. I was still 4 miles away from Jo and I began to spring back to life and regained my speedy pace.

I began passing the runners that had been streaming by me during my little bout with stomach problems. I was running with a vengeance toward the front again.

Granite Bay marked the 50k distance

When I pulled into Granite Bay, I scanned the crowd for Jo but couldn't see her anywhere. I milled around for a minute before deciding she wasn't there. I checked my hydration pack and my bottle of Perpetuem and decided I had enough to make it another 9 miles, where I would see Jo again for fresh supplies. My consumption had been minimal during that leg of the race because of my sour stomach. I pushed on.

I learned later that we had missed each other by about 1 minute. Jo had heeded my advice and took her time getting to Granite Bay because she knew my pace had slowed. She had no reason to think I would bounce back so well. The whole mistake rests on my shoulders and I'm sure there's a lesson in there somewhere.

While waiting for me at Granite Bay, Jo was able to see some of our friends roll through the aid station.

Gordy Ansleigh Pushing along and looking solid!

Betsy Rogers working on a 50 mile PR!

Jo eventually realized we had missed each other and she hustled down to Rattlesnake Bar at the 41 mile mark. She made it to the aid station just as I started to roll out. I spun back around when I heard her call my name and we quickly topped off my hydration pack and she handed me a fresh bottle of Perpetuem. After a quick kiss I was off!

Up to this point, it had been mostly overcast and comfortable, but now the sun was finding its way through the clouds and I began to warm up rapidly. Additionally, this section of the course contains all of the serious climbing. I began to sweat heavily and feel a bit overheated. It's funny to think I was literally freezing my ass off in my 100 miler 2 weeks ago. By mile 45, I decided it was time to go shirtless for the rest of the race. Sorry Hammer Nutrition. You got 45 miles of exposure, I owe you 5 more.

I had heard rumors about this section of trail and expected it to be far more challenging. It's times like this that I really appreciate living and training in the Wasatch mountains. I made the ascent without too much trouble.

As I began making the final climb, I could hear the finish line party in the distance. This spurred me on and made my feet feel a bit lighter.

The final climb was lined with spectators, so I made every effort to run the hill and earn their cheers. It mostly worked.

The ground finally leveled off, I turned a corner and could finally see the finish line up ahead.


Bearing down for a strong finish

Crossing the line!

I finished in 8:32:28, in 90th place overall. Nowhere near a PR, but that wasn't the goal for the day and I was happy enough with my time.

I gathered my medal, my finishers jacket and my meal ticket and went on a hunt for a cold beer and a veggie burger.

Finishers Swag!

Jo and I found a nice spot in the shade and enjoyed the finish line festivities while we waited on friends to wrap their day up.

I really wanted to see our friend Laura finish the race. Over the years, Laura has developed a long history of strong races at the AR50 as well as Western States. She grew up on these trails and it shows in her results.

Laura Kulsik looking strong!

Gordy Ansleigh qualifying for the WSER once again!

I specifically waited on Gordy so I could yell "HEY! Aren't you the guy that used to be Gordy Ansleigh!?" He got a good laugh out of that.

Jo feeling Froggy near the finish.

 Once again, Jo did an amazing job. If they gave out awards for the best crewing effort, she would be at the highest ranks of the elite level. It's always entertaining to see other crews watch how we do our thing. Every race is like a clinic on crewing and Jo is the master.

A few weeks before the race, Gregory Packs had sent me a hydration pack to try out. I had used it in a few shorter runs so I could get a feel for it. It has a very comfortable fit and I like having it on my back. The pockets in the front are very functional and allow for easy access while running. I was very happy with the pack for 50 miles and will definitely be using this pack in more races. If you're in the market for a new pack, I would encourage you to check it out. And if you ever carry trekking poles for hiking or running, this pack has a pocket specifically designed to carry them. It's perfect for my summer assault on the Colorado 14'rs.

My Gregory Pack

If I had to compare the JFK and the AR50, I would say American River is the better race. They're very similar, but the AR50 is more scenic and I think the volunteers and aid stations are a bit better. Having said that, I'm not a big fan of either race. It's like comparing a smashed toe with a smashed finger. I don't want either one, but it's fair to make a comparison.

Jo and I will be heading to Moab next weekend for a short, but challenging trail race, and this time, we'll both be running! Then the following weekend will take us to Zion for my 2nd 100 miler of the year.

I hope to see many of you out on the trails in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading!

Happy Trails!