May 11

Inaugural REVEL Mt Charleston Marathon Review by Steve

Inaugural REVEL Mt Charleston Marathon Review

Many marathons I have done have left me saying, “I loved that they did this…” or “This was a nice extra item they gave us.” When you do a number of races, you notice the little things, the extras that runners come to appreciate at races. Maybe it’s an extra piece of swag, a quality race shirt, free photos… the list goes on. The REVEL Mt Charleston marathon had ALL of those little things in one race.

In full disclosure, I am a REVEL ambassador. I will do my best to give an objective review.

The race is located in Las Vegas, NV. It is predominantly run down Kyle Canyon road, just outside the city among the Mt Charleston area. It’s a great downhill marathon for runners hoping to get a new PR or qualify for Boston. I was hoping to qualify for Boston myself. I need to run a marathon under 3:10 in order to qualify. I knew going into the race this would be tough but I felt it was within the realm of possibility. I was going to go for it.

Volunteering at the Information Booth at the Race Expo

Volunteering at the Information Booth at the Race Expo

The pre-race expo was small and efficient. You get to test your chip at the expo to make sure everything is working properly and to work out any kinks. There were a number of visual aids with information about the race. I was working the information booth for part of the expo to assist folks with questions. There were some nice vendors at the expo as well. They have some fun photo backdrops at the expo for people take pre-race pictures with their bibs or signs saying things like “26.2”, “13.1”, and others.

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The swag was excellent. The t-shirts are great quality and you have the choice of tech shirt, tri-blend, tank, short sleeve, or long sleeve. They also included a nice REVEL beanie, gloves, and a mylar blanket in the bag. Those are more of those little things that they did to make the race more comfortable for the runners. Your check bag was already tagged and ready to go. Very efficient.

The next morning, the buses were on time and the loading was smooth. The buses were really nice actually (more little touches). The start area wasn’t as cold as I anticipated at the upper 30s. Leading up to the race, I was actually more worried the temperatures would be too hot. The sun was coming up and the scenery is beautiful up there in the Mt Charleston area. It was perfect to get more of those pre-race photos.

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George, Rychen, and I at the start. The scenery makes a nice background!

As the race began promptly at 6:30am, snow flurries began to fall. I couldn’t believe this was Las Vegas in May! It was beautiful and the temperature felt great. I settled into a comfortable pace on the downhill. I didn’t want to push too hard while also not actively trying to brake. I wanted to keep loose within the pace I needed to BQ.

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Snow Flurries! Photo Credit: George Okinaka

There were some great motivational signs along the way. There were also plenty of race photographers to capture those race moments. By the way, they give the race photos for FREE! I love when races do this. The photographers get paid, runners get great photos, they share those photos on social media promoting the race, and everyone wins. A number of people got a kick out of my race singlet, hehe.

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Rawr! Run for your life!

The first half of the marathon has quite a bit of downhill with some small inclines (I can’t even really call them hills) at miles 1, 4, and 12. The second half of the marathon is mostly smooth downhill to the finish.

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I was moving along great through the race. I kept my pace where I wanted it. I saw my friends from Desert Dash and Triple Dare race companies at a couple of aid stations along the way. Seeing them really lifted my spirits. I hit mile 20 at the time I wanted to be there. Unfortunately, that’s where things went bad. I was fading. I made it through miles 21 and 22 decently but the next few crushed me. My quads were destroyed. I couldn’t get them to move how I wanted. It was a bit demoralizing to see the BQ time slip away. At that point, I just wanted to finish. I knew I had a PR and that was great but I wasn’t super concerned about losing a minute here or there.

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I ended up finishing the marathon in 3:15. This is a 10 minute PR for me. It was a great feeling. I wasn’t too down on myself about not getting the BQ because I knew it was going to be tough. My plan going into the race was to go hard for the BQ at the risk of possibly blowing up. I still finished with a great time (for me) and I’ll give the BQ a shot again in the future.

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Picture taken in front of their cool backdrops

At the finish, the announcer was outstanding. He had tons of energy trying to motivate and cheer on runners across the finish line. The medal for the race is really great quality. It’s a nice big piece of bling! Runners that really love the medals should look into adding this one to their collection. The race also provides a cool little postcard showing your time and placements (more little things). They had the fun backdrops again at the finish to take post-race pics. They also had pizza and pie (I love pie!) at the finish! Seriously!

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For now, I’ll be recovering my sore quads and getting ready for the next race! I’m also enjoying the REVEL race pics. They got those out to the runners fast (another little perk)!

If you’re looking into doing this race, it could definitely be a PR course for you.  Make sure you’re ready for the downhill. Train it! You’ll have a great race with all the little extras REVEL provides. From beginning to end, the organization of this event was excellent. Hopefully you don’t think my review is overly biased. I have been actively checking on feedback from runners about this race and it has been overwhelmingly positive.

Apr 25

Get outside and run!

We all need to get outside and run! рџ™‚

On average, Americans spend 91 percent of their time indoors or in a vehicle. Just 7 to 8 percent of their time is spent outside. These were the findings of The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS) which measures variation in human exposure to pollutants.

The findings do not bode well for Americans’ health because levels of pollution indoors are a lot higher than those outside and can cause serious health issues. They also are notable because researchers believe being outside has positive health effects:

“Research published in the Journal of Aging Health shows that getting outside on a daily basis may help older people stay healthy and functioning longer. Participants in the study who spent time outdoors every day at age 70 showed fewer complaints of aching bones or sleep problems, among other health-related problems, at age 77 than those who did not head outside each day.”

Being outside is thought to have benefits for people of all ages. These may include:

Greater optimism
Enhanced mental health
Improved attention spans
Stronger immune systems

getoutandrun

Mar 25

Red Rock Canyon 50k by Steve

 

This is an ultra that was once run by elites like Scott Jurek, Hal Koerner, Nikki Kimball, Karl Meltzer and more. Not many people know about it because this was long ago when there were far fewer ultra events in a year, especially not in the winter months. Las Vegas is perfect for that.

The event is put on “Fatass” style. Fatass style is generally a low key event with the motto, “no aid, no entry fee, no awards, and no whining.” A group of like-minded individuals getting together to run a course self-supported without expectation of awards. Many of the current ultra events started out as Fatass runs. Many of these events’ courses were grandfathered in to current regulations. Unfortunately, the Red Rock Canyon 50k course never had that done so it remains low key.

This event is actually one of the ultrarunning’s oldest ultras at 21 years.

The event has a unique entry system. The details are generally spread by word of mouth. You basically have to know someone to find out where and when to go.

Last year, due to a schedule conflict, I could only do part of the course. Many runners are encouraged to come out and enjoy the comradery and at least do a good portion of this great course.

This year, I wanted to do the entire 50k. I felt like I needed to do it out of respect to its history.

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Getting the rundown on the course

I show up and greet the group of other runners milling around the area. It was a pretty good turnout this year. We socialize until we reach a general consensus that this is everyone that is going to end up coming today. The organizer, my friend Eric, shares an overview of the course, offering maps. I already know the route.

“Nature’s arena has a way of humbling and energizing us.”

― Scott Jurek, Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

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A couple older photos of mine of the Calico Hills area

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It’s a beautiful run through the Calico Hills area to Sandstone Quarry. Then, we go over to White Rock Loop, which is one of my favorite trails in all of Las Vegas.  We do a couple of loops at White Rock. One is clockwise then one counter-clockwise. After that, we return the way we came.

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Snow on cactus?!?

The weather was perfect that day. It got a little cool around the backside of White Rock loop. There were patches of snow on the ground. It’s funny to see snow on cactus in the desert.

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The best way I can describe this 50k is smooth. It went about as a smooth as an ultra can go. That might be surprising for running 50 kilometers with no aid, but I knew that going into this. I was prepared. I ran most of it with my buddy Josh (it was his second 50k) at a good but comfortable pace. I really enjoyed my time out there on the trails, taking it all in. When I finished, I wasn’t completely wrecked (maybe I should have pushed harder) but very satisfied with how the day went. At the end, there were no awards, no t-shirts, and no swag. It was just friends and fellow runners sharing some good food, experiences, and commending each other on their efforts. That’s good enough for me.

This is an event I will continue to go out of my way to make sure it is included on my race calendar in the future. Interested in running it? You’ll have to ask to find out the rest of the details. 🙂

Jan 13

Post 100 miler Thoughts – Running Without a Goal

I haven’t blogged since I completed my first 100 mile ultramarathon in October. I found myself in an interesting position. I had accomplished something I had set my sights on a long time ago. It took me years and lots of work to achieve it. Now I’m left wondering what’s next. I don’t have a running goal. I feel like I’ve always had a goal in running.

I still want to run forever.

“I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.”

― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I’ve had some great runs since the 100 miler. I’ve attached a few pics from my runs. I had fun exploring and taking photos.

Leaping Through a Slot CanyonВ Sunrise at Lone MountainВ Calico Hills at Red Rock Canyon

More of my photos can be found on my Instagram.

I did the Ragnar Relay in Las Vegas with some friends. I had some great paces on those runs. This was a good event at the time because, as a non-competitive team, there’s no pressure for a time goal. Just do your best and have fun as a team. This was a good sign because I was still uncertain how my recovery from the 100 miler was going.

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Later that month, I ran the 30k at Desert Dash’s Trails of Glory. I considered the marathon. I’ve run the marathon before and wrote about it in a previous race report. I wanted to run the marathon. But, I just didn’t think my body was recovered enough for it. So, I ran the 30k. AND, I ended up winningВ the 30k!! That was a great experience and a lot of fun to podium. My friends teased me a bit because I had voiced my concerns about lack of recovery from the 100 miler before the race. Still, when I finished the 30k, I had nothing left. I knew I made the right choice in not doing the marathon that particular day. Desert Dash’s race experience was top notch, as usual.

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A little over a month later, I ran a 50k, which I’ll go into more detail in another post (with less delay between posts).

Surprisingly, I’m enjoying running without having any particular goal I’m driving towards. I’m enjoying some nice runs and races.

Scott Jurek put it well:

“The longer and farther I ran, the more I realized that what I was often chasing was a state of mind–a place where worries that seemed monumental melted away, where the beauty and timelessness of the universe, of the present moment, came into sharp focus.”

― Scott Jurek, Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

Oct 23

Pony Express 100 miler – Steve’s first 100

The Pony Express 100 was my first 100 mile ultramarathon. I decided last year that I wanted to do a 100 mile ultra and I spent all of 2015 leading up to it getting ready for this race. I ran multiple 50 milers earlier in the year, then I dialed things back a bit to let my body heal. A couple months before the race, I ramped up the training again. As the race approached I became more and more nervous. 100 miles is a REALLY LONG WAY. The longest I had done before was 100k (62 miles), and I now needed to do 38 more miles than that.

This 100 miler has an interesting format. The race takes place on dirt roads on the old pony express route (I’m sure you figured that part out). Participants provide their own vehicle and crew. The crew vehicle leapfrogs the runner along to give aid. The actual race only has a few aid stations and check in points. This format makes it great for first-timers like me. I had ample access to aid. This also makes it so friends and family can be a direct part of the race for their participants. I had my friends RJ, Josh, and Paul to crew/pace me. I realize this was a huge sacrifice in time, energy, and cost on their part. I deeply appreciate it.

I didn’t realize the logistics involved in a 100 miler. I had to make sure the crew was all briefed on their duties, the route, and timing. I had to make sure I had a vehicle and the right gear/equipment. We were also camping at the start the night before so I had to prepare for that. Plus all the normal items to pack like race clothing, nutrition, etc for a very long run.

The Pre-Race Crew Pic

We pulled up to the campground at the start line late Thursday night. It was a beautiful evening. The stars were amazing that far away from civilization. I didn’t sleep too well, as I suspected, given my nervousness. Also, there is a staggered start for the race to break up the crew vehicle traffic and have everyone finish within a certain time window. I was starting at 8am (with the faster group, although I wasn’t sure I belonged in that group). The others started at 5am, 6am, and 7am. So I kept getting woken up by runners starting, not that I slept much anyways.

The Pony Express

The race began in usual ultra fashion, laid back and without much fanfare. Off we went. The beginning of a 100 mile journey. The weather was fantastic in the morning. The first 13 or so miles were downhill. I settled into a pretty quick pace alongside the eventual 100 mile winner Curtis Eppley and Peter Van Horn. We had a good chat as we ran. My crew settled in a routine but quickly decided it would be prudent to top off the gas tank in the vehicle. This was fine since it was early in the race and I didn’t need as much aid. Curtis’ crew kindly took a few of my things to help me out along the way. I love stuff like that in the trail and ultra running community. People are willing to help each other out and want to see everyone succeed.

Running with Curtis Early(photo credit to Lara Roundy Eppley)

Eventually my crew returned and Curtis took off and I ran by myself through long stretches of the pony express trail. It was beautiful out there. You could see so far. There were very few man-made items along the natural landscape. There were some cool historical monuments along the way. The biggest hazard were the hunters flying down the road without regard to how dangerous it was to runners or how much dust they created for me to choke on while I ran. All the crews, volunteers, and everyone else associated with the race were very respectful keeping their dust and speed down as they approached runners. Some of those other drivers were scary, especially at night.

The View

I was going faster than I should have. During the beginning of the 100 miler, I ran a sub 2 hour half marathon, then a 4 hour marathon, then a 9 hour 50 miler, I PR’ed my 50k, and then PR’ed my 100k. Apparently, my first 50 miles of the race were nearly as fast as the winner of the 50 mile race. Yeah, it was a fast start to a 100 miler for me.

Cruising Along

About 50k into the race, my feet started to get a bit sore. I was still cruising though. By this time, I had Josh pacing me and things were going great. At first, I was hydrating with plain water or water with Nuun. I was consuming gels and Mamma Chia squeezes. I quickly got sick of the gels. Literally, my stomach was getting upset. I ate some ginger candy (with real ginger) and that helped settle things. I didn’t want to go back to the gels though. I rotated through coconut water, fruit, and chia squeezes. That seemed to work well. When I got to Blackrock aid station at mile 68, I had some hot broth that really helped.

Running with Josh(photo credit to Matthew Van Horn)

After about 50 miles, I started rotating more walking alternating with running. Most of the race so far I was in second or third (to my knowledge). I yo-yoed back and forth with Melissa Soper, an amazing ultra runner that went on to take first place woman. At the aid station at mile 33, Melissa and another runner Philip, left the aid station before me. I wasn’t stressed about it. I was content to run my own race. There was so much race left to run. I was focused on getting through it and my own issues (my stomach at the time). There was also a lot of sun exposure along those long straight dirt roads. The temps were fine but the sun took its toll even on this desert runner from Las Vegas. The sun was almost always on my left side throughout the race so I ended up with a funny sunburn only on my left arm and only on the left side of my face/neck, haha.

Pain Face

As I got to Fish Springs, I saw Phillip and his RV (sweet crew vehicle) on the side of the road. He was in a chair with his socks and shoes off. I asked him if he was okay and if he needed anything. He said he was having blister problems. Ouch. After checking in at the turnaround at Fish Springs, and re-applying some anti-chafing product (to avoid problems of my own), it had become dark and we headed out into it. RJ started pacing me at this point. Not far out of Fish Springs, we saw no sign of Philip or his RV as my crew leapfrogged ahead. Last we saw of him, he didn’t look like he was going anywhere anytime soon. Later, when we had cell service, we saw they hadn’t recorded a check-in for him at Fish Springs. We theorized that his foot issues were bad enough to warrant a DNF so he packed it up and drove off. We figured I was second or third as I kept changing places with Melissa.

Melissa and I got to Blackrock aid station (mile 68) at nearly the same time. I stopped for soup and she left quickly (smart). Sitting in the chair at the aid station was a bad idea for me. I did NOT want to get up. Paul was an awesome crew member and rubbed my sore lower back muscles. Eventually, I forced myself back out on the course. I felt really great after the soup but the feeling didn’t last long.

Having some soup

The miles in the 70s were the toughest for me. I started a long incline up to Dugway pass. I just didn’t have it in me to run at this point. Everything started hurting. My feet, calves, back, hips, glutes, and quads all hurt. Every step hurt.

Pain

I knew my crew was getting tired too. I was worried about them. I wanted them to get some sleep in shifts. I felt bad for how BORING the race was at this point too. We were walking along at as quick of a power hike as I could muster for so long. RJ traded pacing duties with Paul who hiked with me for a while. I was glad when I would get to vehicle and see a crew member or two grabbing some rest. I still felt like I wasn’t eating enough. Just some fruit and coconut water? I didn’t think that was enough fuel but I couldn’t risk another upset stomach. The night temperature was pleasant. The stars were beautiful and it was quiet. I had some negative thoughts though. Should I quit? Is this worth it if I have to walk the rest of this thing? I had come so far though. RJ had previously done the math that if I could maintain even a 15min/mile average, I could finish under 24 hours, which was my goal. That was a nice thought but that was such a long time away. Being out there walking so long was not appealing. When I hit mile 74, I realized I had a whole marathon left. When I hit mile 75, I realized I had one fourth of the whole race left. I was so negative even though I tried to tell myself to be patient. There I was in a world of negativity and pain.

But… I kept going.

Paul kept hiking along with me trying to be positive. We kept hiking up to the top of Dugway Pass, which felt like it would never come. Once I got to the top, I was so happy. I could run! I ran down the other side and kept going for a while. I pepped back up and did more running alternating with walking.

RJ started pacing me again. Before the 100, I was worried if I would get really loopy late in the race. I don’t think I got too bad. I heard some noises in the bushes and I got really drowsy at points as I watched my headlamp beam bob in front of me. I didn’t have any crazy hallucinations though.

Josh started pacing me. Now, Josh meant business at this point. “Let’s run,” he says. “I can’t,” I replied. “Sure you can. Let’s run a quarter mile.” “Okay.” And on it went. Josh kept pushing me, trying to get all the running he could out of me. I tried not to get too frustrated because I was in pain, and I knew Josh was trying to help me. He knew better than I did what I was capable of. He kept prodding just enough to get more out of me.

Now in the mid-80 miles, Josh and I were approaching another runner in the distance. His name was Kyle Emery and he had started at 7am. I knew, as far as placement, that I was still ahead of him because I could see him and I had an hour buffer. Still, it was nice to have someone to chase after. Eventually we caught up to him and it appeared he was resting in his vehicle and really struggling.  After we passed him, I kept running to put a little distance between us so he didn’t get any ideas about chasing me, hehe.

As I kept going, we saw more vehicles ahead. We ran by Melissa who was sitting in a chair being tended by her crew. I asked if she was okay and they said she’ll be fine. Josh and I got really excited because this now meant I was possibly in second place. I saw Melissa getting up and Josh and I took off! I don’t know what came over me. I had energy and motivation. I was excited and wanted to run. It felt like I was flying! Although I checked my splits later and I was running 9-10 min miles. I suppose that pace is kind of like flying at 86-96 miles into a race. The crew vehicle would move up for aid. I would wave it off. I wanted to keep this rhythm. I couldn’t stop (because I didn’t know if I could start again). I had to ride this wave. We just kept going, kept waving off the aid vehicle. Josh and Rychen ran alongside me. Everyone was pumped. We saw some other runners and their vehicles as we passed by. We saw Melissa’s crew vehicle pass by me, turn around, and head back. Hmmmm maybe she sent her husband up to see how far ahead I was? As he drove by, I did my best to look like I was running as fast as possible and showing no signs of slowing down!

Coming in for the finish

Finally, with a few miles left, we reached a hill and I had to slow down. I kept looking behind me as I hiked up that hill to see if anyone was coming. Nobody was catching up. I was so excited to be so close, but, seriously, a hill at mile 99? What’s up with that? I felt the anticipation building as I rounded that final corner, and ran down to the finish! What a feeling! I had accomplished this goal I had worked so hard for so long to accomplish. It was incredibly difficult. In my most optimistic projections, I thought a finishing time of 22:30 would be great if everything went right. I ended up finishing in 21:42! I thought maybe I had finished in second but Davy Crockett, the race director, told me I was third. Apparently, Phillip had really taken off and done well after he tended to his blisters rather than dropping and took second. I was so happy with third overall. I did not anticipate finishing so well. I got that 100 mile buckle too! It sure was nice to finally sit down with a cup of hot chocolate at the end and take my shoes off. To my surprise, no blisters or toenail problems! I wore the Altra Lone Peak 2.5s for the whole race with Injinji trail socks and it really helped.

Finished

I have so much more respect for the runners that compete in the 100 mile distance now. It was more difficult than I could have imagined.

Thank you to my family, crew, friends, trail and ultra community, volunteers, Davy Crockett, and all others involved in the Pony Express 100!

Buckle and Medal

Running Gear: Altra Lone Peak 2.5 shoes, Injinji trails socks, Pearl Izumi shorts, Ink n Burn shirt, Ultimate Direction handhelds

Nutrition: Water w/ Nuun, Mamma Chia, GU gels, Coca-Cola, fruit, ginger, PB&J, C2O coconut water, and hot broth.