Jul 11

100 Mile Ultramarathons Starting on Fridays

Unless you’re an elite ultramarathoner like Rob Krar, Timothy Olsen, or Anton Krupicka, your 100 mile ultramarathon may cross into two days. Most 100 milers start on Saturday and finish on Sunday. In the spirit of Saturday marathons, here is a list of 100 mile (or more) ultramarathons that start on Friday:

Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance RunВ – Utah – September “100 Miles of Heaven and Hell”

The Bear 100 Mile Endurance RunВ – Utah – September “36 Hours of Indian Summer”

Hardrock 100В – Colorado – July “Wild & Tough”

Kodiak 100 Mile UltramarathonВ – California – September

Badger Mountain ChallengeВ – Washington – March

Zion 100 Trail RunВ – Utah – April

Monument ValleyВ В Utah – March

Grand Canyon UltrasВ – Utah – May

Bryce Canyon UltrasВ – Utah – June

Capitol Reef 100В – Utah – June

Note: Zion, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon are all done by Ultra Adventures.

Salt Flats 100 Mile Endurance RunВ – Utah – April

Pickled Feet Ultra RunningВ – Idaho – March

Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail RunВ – Wyoming – June

Pony Express Trail 100В – Utah – October “Running in the Hoofprints of History”

Antelope Island Buffalo RunВ – Utah – March “Run Where the Buffalo Roam”

 

These two 135 mile ultramarathons start on Monday but do involve some Sunday activities like race check-in:

Badwater 135В – California – July “The World’s Toughest Foot Race”

Arrowhead 135В – Minnesota – January

 

Do you know of any other 100 mile ultramarathons that start on Friday? Please let us know!

Jul 02

Monmouth-Independence Mini-Marathon Preview by RJ

Let me introduce you to the greatest 2.6 mile race in the world held on the best day of the year (that it’s also my birthday is no coincidence at all): the 4th of July Monmouth-Independence Mini-Marathon.I grew up in the town of Monmouth, OR, population approximately 8,000, and went to a high school that was shared with the adjoining town Independence, population approximately 7,000 (both have since grown slightly, but are still below 20,000 combined). Located about 15 miles southwest of Salem, it’s not sticks, but there’s not much going onВ there either (15 years later, there’s slightly more going on, but still not much). Monmouth had one stop light (it now has a second) and Independence still only has one. As a kid growing up there it can be a little boring without much going on. But the one thing thatВ theВ joint communityВ does do is 4th of July. And it does it big.

The crowning event of the Western Days (yes, days, like three or four of them, depending on which day of the weekВ the 4th lands on) celebration is the Grand Parade, which starts at noon in Monmouth and runs for about three miles toВ Riverview park in Independence. 15 minutes prior to the start of the parade, for the 42nd year in a row, the 2.6 mile Mini-Marathon will be held.

The mini-marathon is simple. It starts at Monmouth City Hall, has no turns, drops 47 feet in elevation from start to finish, has cheering crowds multiple people deep on both sides of the road the entire race and finishes at Independence City Hall 2.6 miles later. It’s a foot race. And it attracts upwards of 500 runners or more every year. In a word, it is awesome.

In 2008 this race represented the first miles I had ever run. 17 marathons, three 50 milers, a 50k and three half-ironmansВ since would have never happened if I hadn’t been so disgusted with myself for how wrong I was about my state of health and conditioning at the time. The 2009 raceВ was the first time I actually prepared for and trained for a run (if only for a month) and from then onВ IВ was hooked. TheВ rest is history.

So if you are ever find yourself in the Willamette Valley (or want to be), make a date with the mini-marathon on the 4th of July.

Here’s a quick (because it’s a short race) preview:

You’ll start at City Hall (where my extended family has sat for nearly all of those 42 years). When the gun goes off you’ll immediately pass the city park, full of booths, food and a water fountain on your left. Mom and Pop businesses line the street of the next block before hitting the grocery store, the bank and finally the town’s one stoplight. Run through the light and smell the sweet smells of the local Burgerville (make a note to come back for a strawberry milkshake) as you run up a slight incline before dropping most of the 47 feet. Then it’s around a sweeping S-curve you go, past the little league baseball field and the fire station to your left. You’re halfway there and as you reach the Les Schwab tire center little kids will hand you cups of water.

Entering Independence you’ll pass Mendi’s Pizza. Make a note to come back here and eat. Seriously, make a note. And come back here and eat. The high school is now on your left after which you’ll come to the light in Independence, the Roth’s grocery store on your right. Another quarter mile and you’ll be running downhill again for the remaining elevation drop and then it’s a straight, flat shot to the finish line. Trees line the street and provide some much wanted shade as your heartbeat races and you’re gasping for air. 11th street, 9th street (be sure to run through the lady’s sprinkler here), 6th street, you can see the finish now, just four blocks away. As you reach 2nd street you run through the corral and through the finish line, rewarded with apples, cliff bars and water. You’ve completed your mini-marathon.

If you’re like me, you immediately turn around and make your way back to the starting line where the rest of your family is sitting enjoying the parade,В encouraging the runners behind you and stopping every so often to catch up with friends and families of friends youВ haven’t seen in aВ while.В It’s an all-around great race, low in cost, high on fun and worth the trip to Monmouth, OR.

Here’s the link: WesternDays

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RJ (849) and the extended family runners from the 2009 race (no more current picture was available at time of publishing — we’ll work on that)

Jun 25

FlipBelt Gear Review by Steve

At the Utah Valley Marathon expo, I saw a product called the FlipBelt. After the race, I went home and did more research on the product. Additionally, someone at my local running store told me about this product. I have a few frustrations with my Nathan pack and have been looking for something better.I decided to check it out and I am glad I did.
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FlipBelt and Nathan’s pack
I will use a product like this when I am out for mid-range run. This is a run where I need to bring some gels and a handheld, but I don’t need to bring a full hydration vest.I also use it on long supported runs like a road marathon with plenty of aid stations. I pack the gels that I know my body does well with in case the race doesn’t have the type of gels I prefer. This ensures I’m covered in case I need a gel between stations or if the race doesn’t have enough.
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Running with Nathan’s pack at the Utah Valley marathon. I didn’t realize the pack was sticking out, looking like a fanny pack. How embarrassing.
I have been using a shadow pack by Nathan. It is a pack that you buckle on and tighten with straps. Nathan’s shadow pack (I hate to call it a fanny pack 😉 is small and fits about five gels when fully loaded. It fits keys no problem. I can only fit my iPhone in it if I remove the case. With only a couple gels, it fits small and snug against my body. However, when I pack it with five gels, it sticks out quite a bit (see below) and is a bit bulky. This bulkiness can cause it to jostle on runs. It is annoying to have to adjust it on runs. There are some harder edges on the pack you have to be careful with so they don’t rub or irritate you on a long run. Also, the tightening straps on mine are getting old. I have to tighten them quite a bit then I have a bunch of extra strap I need to wrap around somewhere. Overall, it has been a decent pack. It has served me well despite my few complaints.
Enter the FlipBelt.
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It is a belt with no buckle. You step into it to put it on. I am often the guy that is between sizes. I was worried I would end up with one too big or too small. However, it fits me just right. It’s tight enough to be snug without being too tight and it isn’t too loose. It hugs my waist nicely. When I run, it doesn’t move at all. No bounce. It easily fits five gels and can fit more. You insert the gels into opening on the sides of the belt. Then you flip the belt around so the openings are against your body. The FlipBelt does not have any hard edges to rub. It is quite seamless and smooth. The material is actually quite soft. The FlipBelt easily fits my iPhone with the case still on. It also fits keys and has a little clip to help with this or anything else you might want to clip to the belt. It should really fit most items you would want to bring with you on a run. I think the FlipBelt looks better on than the other bulky fanny-esque pack. It looks like it’s part of your running outfit. I’m excited about this product and looking forward to continuing to use it. I will update this review if any issues come up as I use it.Picture
You can check out the FlipBelt website for some of their videos on the product. They also have sizing information and a FAQ section. The belt also comes in a number of colors. As pictured, I went with the black one.Feel free to post any questions or comments about this product below.
Jun 17

2014 Utah Valley Marathon Recap by Steve

As I examined the elevation chart provided by the Race Organizers, I was excited to see the sloping downhill trajectory of the course as it wound down scenic Provo Canyon, and thought this could potentially be a great PR race. I learned that although there is significant downhill, there are also a few rolling hills along the way. Elevation charts can be so deceiving sometimes.The day before the race, Utah Valley Marathon puts on a nice little expo. I love expos! I don’t know if anyone else does. I like to go to every booth and see what they have. I chatted with some very cool people from the Saints and Sinners half marathon, which we did last year. They remembered us! They gave me a free shirt. I also stopped to chat with the folks at the Phoenix Marathon, another very cool Saturday marathon. They have some really cool swag. If you’re looking for a marathon in AZ, you should definitely check them out.

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Saturday, I got up around 2am (with that “Did I even sleep?” feeling), got ready, and headed to the marathon buses just after 3am. By coincidence, I saw my friend Matt at the parking lot and we headed up to the starting area. The temperature at the starting area was in the 40s, which is cold to this Las Vegas runner. I had just left 100+ degree days in Vegas! Fortunately I brought some cold weather clothing. They also had some nice fires to warm yourself by.As the start time approached, I shoved all my warm clothing into my drop bag and headed over for a picture with the Marathon Maniacs.
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I lined up near the pacer for my goal time and we were off! The views along the course were beautiful. Running into Provo Canyon you see beautiful farmland, Deer Creek reservoir, Provo River (my favorite) and Bridal Veil Falls. There was a small glitch at the mile 7 aid station. There were no gels! One of the runners near me was visibly upset. I always pack my own because you never know what will happen. For example, maybe I’ll miss grabbing gels or they won’t have a flavor that appeals to me, so I try to carry enough to get me through most of the race. In the beginning, there are some speedy downhill parts. I stuck near my goal pace. Even after the first hill, I was still going strong. After the half, I was doing great. I was on pace for a PR. Then, after the rolling hills around mile 14, my calves started cramping up. I’m not sure exactly why. I personally think it was due to the intense downhill followed by hills, then downhill again, then hills. Switching gears dramatically like that seemed to take its toll. At this point, I was just trying to maintain near my goal pace as I waited for the calf issues to (hopefully) clear up and a second wind to arrive.A wind arrived but not the one I was hoping for! We got hit with a headwind towards the end of the canyon. The headwind frustrated my race further. Nonetheless, I kept trying to maintain hoping circumstances would change. 
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As I watched my PR slip away, I became discouraged and lost motivation to dig deep and finish strong. I guess I could have saved a few minutes off my time by pushing harder. The last few miles were tough. You can see the finish line 1-2 miles away from you but it seems to take forever to get there! Nonetheless, I finished with my second best marathon time.

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It’s a strange feeling because although I finished with my second best marathon time, I felt like I didn’t execute as well as I would have liked. I felt like I executed better at the Seattle marathon even though my time was not as good. The finish line is great. I loved seeing my friends and family cheer me in to the finish, and it gave me a boost to sprint to the end. Utah Valley has a very cool large medal for finishers. Their race shirts are also very nice.
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The finish area is fun with lots of nice recovery items, a PR bell (which I didn’t get to ring, lol), free massages, and even bounce houses for the kids. I opted to get my sore calves rubbed with Deep Blue at the DoTerra booth.
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This isn’t the end though. They also have a Kids 1k! I love when races do this. It was even free! A great way to promote fitness for children. My two oldest kids had a blast running the 1k and they got to finish at the same finish line with the marathoners. They also gave the kids some nice medals.Overall, it’s a great marathon. If you’re looking for one in Utah, check it out. The organization is solid. It’s a beautiful course. We were graced with some great weather. The medal and shirt are fantastic. Yes, it’s mostly downhill but there are some solid hills! Feel free to post comments or questions about this marathon below.
Jun 06

Desert Dash Trails of Fury 50k Recap by Steve

I have done a bunch of Desert Dash trail events before. They put on trail running events around Las Vegas. They put on great events with a friendly, relaxed, family-style atmosphere. It’s the type of atmosphere that encourages runners to take a seat after a race, relax, and enjoy the company of their fellow trail runners. They do a variety of distances at their events from 5k to ultramarathon. They also have some more novel challenges like their Dirty Vert race where you race up trails in Bootleg Canyon and take the FlightLinez zip lines down. They also do dirty double races offering races in the day and evening plus an award if you do both. If you are looking for a trail race in the Las Vegas area, I highly recommend Desert Dash. They also do group runs on some of the local trails. The folks at Desert Dash have always been good to me. For example, at one of their races, Rob (one of the Race Directors) knows how much I like running buffs and showed me the Altra buffs they had just got in and gave me one!
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The Trails of Fury 50k is located in Cottonwood Valley, just outside Las Vegas. The 50k consists of 3,800 ft. of elevation gain. The trails themselves can be technical (they’re often rocky here in Vegas). The trails at the race were superbly marked. Let’s just say that if I didn’t get lost (which happens to me from time to time) then they’re well-marked. The course was open to the public during the race and I ran into quite a few mountain bikers. Most were courteous in letting me by.

One asked if I was doing a 10k.

I responded, “50k!”

His eyes got big. “Woah! What is that like 29 miles?”

“More like 31 miles.”

Beards & Buffs

“Way to go, man!” he yelled as I was almost out of earshot.

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The morning really started out great as I drove to the starting line. In my rear view mirror, I could see a beautiful sunrise. This seemed like a good omen for the day. The race started at 6am. I was concerned about the temperature in Las Vegas during late May. The high the previous weekend was 101 degrees. В The high the subsequent weekend was 99 degrees. However, it turned out to be much better with temps starting in the 60s and a high in the 80s. В В 

There weren’t very many of us doing the 50k and there were some registrants that appeared to be running late. All the other distances would be starting at a later time.

We started off with one runner going much faster than the rest of us and he would end up winning by a very healthy margin. I settled into exchanging 2nd and 3rd place with another run for the first 9 miles or so.

There were some absolutely spectacular views of the area. The morning sun with the rich vibrant colors of Cottonwood Valley had me looking at awe at my surroundings. Those are some of the best trail running moments. I wish I had a camera but taking a picture would almost ruin being in the moment and just experiencing it alone. I had to settle for mental pictures in these instances.В 


I kept on top of my fueling throughout the race. I brought some GU gels with me and consumed the Island Boost at each aid station. The Island Boost worked great. It includes coconut water and my body responds well to it. I only wish I had brought some salt with me (as I will mention soon).  Also, at about mile 8, the other 50k runner nearby, Frank, offered me a key lime sugar cookie his wife made. Key lime cookie? Heck yeah! It was great. Props to Frank’s wife.

As I approached the aid station near mile 11, I noticed another runner in the distance.

“Is he running the 50k?” I thought to myself.

Sure enough, he caught up by the aid station. At this point, it became 3 of us running for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place.

As I approached the aid station, I didn’t notice a beautiful white mustang until he was right next to me on the trail! I knew there were wild horses in the area but did not expect to encounter any, especially like this. Fortunately, one of the aid station volunteers took a picture!

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This race has the BEST spectators!
The aid station volunteer informed me there was a herd just down the cliffs near the aid station. I couldn’t miss this! Sure enough, I ran over (in the wrong direction) to go look and saw the herd. One of my fellow ultrarunners, later chastised me (partially in jest) for taking the time to do this during a race, but I simply could not miss seeing these wild horses. Cottonwood Valley is one of the few places in the US that still has wild horses.

As I left the aid station, despite the exhilaration of the unique experience, I fell into a low. I was feeling worn down and things were heating up. I began feeling cramps/nausea. I quickly fell back to 4th.

I remained in 4th as I entered the main aid station. Rob reminded (warned) me, that I was currently out of medal contention. My friend Joseph had finished his 10k and enthusiastically greeted me with a high five. I used the restroom, got fuel, and mentioned my cramps. Joseph started suggesting some salty items. I opted for the pretzels. As I finished up, Joseph pointed to the distance at the other two 50k runners and said, “They’re right there. Go get them!” 

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After the aid station, my stomach felt much better. I made a mental note to grab pretzels at every aid station after that. The next part of the race was a smooth downhill and I cruised. I caught up to the other two runners by the next aid station. I refueled quickly and left the aid station in 2nd place.

After a couple miles of downhill, the next 6 miles after that were a mostly uphill grinder. The heat intensified. The three of us were trading places between 2nd, 3rd and 4th. We were all running low on water and fuel. At one funny moment, the three of us were clustered together and we all just started walking. I was in front and asked one of the other runners, Mark, if he wanted to pass. He chuckled and said, “Nope!” As we approached the end of this grind, Mark took off. At first, I let him go. Then, I didn’t want him to get too far ahead and out of sight, so I started running again too. We got on a smooth downhill that I have run plenty of times in this area before. I felt great and picked up the pace. 

My Garmin stopped keeping track of distance around mile 23 but kept tracking time. This had never happened to me before but I knew the course well so it wasn’t a huge concern.

Mark and I arrived at the aid station at approximately mile 28 at about the same time. This was my chance. I fueled as quickly as I could and bolted out of the aid station! I grabbed 2nd place and refused to give it up. I tried to keep out of sight of the other two runners but on the last mile I could see Mark running hard in the distance. Fortunately, I had enough of a lead to hold on to 2nd place. I was ecstatic!


I wasn’t planning on pushing myself as hard as I did in this race but I couldn’t resist the competition. I was glad for the experience.

After arriving to the finish, Rob informed me that I had won the raffle! I won a free massage from Thrive Massage that I would sorely (pun intended) need after a 50k.

But it doesn’t end there.

I had signed up for the dirty double.

Wait. What was I thinking?

I returned later that evening to run the Moonlight Madness 5k. With a relaxed pace, I completed the 5k (making a total of 55k for the day) and was rewarded with a sweet Trails of Fury pilsner glass.

The whole event from beginning to end was an exceptional experience.В