Jul 14

Capitol Reef 50 Miler by Steve

When I first looked at the elevation profile for the Capitol Reef 50 miler, with its 6,700 ft of gain and 8,600 ft of vertical loss, I felt that it would be easier than the Bryce Canyon 50 miler I had recently completed. I was so wrong!

This race takes place near the beautiful Capitol Reef National Park. If you decide to participate in this event, make sure you plan some time to enjoy the park and its hikes.

Hickman Bridge

Cassidy Arch

The camping near the event provided great views too.

Camping

That View

Early Saturday morning, we shuttled to the start. The early morning temperatures were chilly and I hoped it wouldn’t get too warm later in the day.

Early View

For the first 10 miles we climbed quite a bit, including one rocky climb that was about 1,000 ft climb over a mile. We were taken to the top of Aquarius plateau, the tallest plateau in North America, at over 11,000 ft. The views were amazing. We ran through forests of aspens and grassy meadows. We were treated to mountain lakes and river crossings. There were moments where the course would take us along the rim of the plateau to see amazing views over great distances.

Rim View

Now, why was this course so brutal?

There were significant climbs. These mountain ultras have plenty of climbing and this one is no exception. Even late in the race, there’s still a few little steep ones near the end when I was hoping it would be, “all downhill from here.”

You spend a lot of time at altitude. Some courses you climb and go back down. This course has you climb and continue to run at that altitude. Fortunately, I didn’t get altitude sickness (although I heard about some that did). Still, running at that altitude for someone that lives at an altitude just over 2,000 feet really fatigued me as the race wore on.

The course is very rugged and technical. There were a lot of large rocks. This made it difficult to run at times. You really had to pay attention and be aware of every step. Also, there were many times when the trail was not clear. I had to find the next flag, cairn, or trail marker to know where to go next. This delayed me many times. Sometimes it was advantageous to travel with other runners because you would have many eyes looking for markers. It was true backcountry trail running.

Rocky Rim View

This was the first year for this race and many of the runners I chatted with were surprised by its difficulty.

I felt like I was doing well throughout the beginning of the race. It was tough but I was cruising along. I really enjoyed chatting with so many experienced Utah runners out there. As the race wore on, I became really fatigued. I struggled but I hung in there. I remember pushing along with another runner that was struggling and we commented how nobody was catching up to us. Everyone was struggling!

I hit a low point after mile 37. I was feeling cooked and it didn’t help that the mosquitoes would bother me when I slowed down. I used a long sleeve white shirt, a bug band, and bug spray and those bugs still loved me! Once I got to the aid station at mile 44, I just wanted to be done. Maybe it was the fact that I was returning to lower altitude but things start to click again mentally and physically, and I was able to run well to the end.

Personally, I thought I had a poor race but to my surprise, I had come in 14th place! I was so happy to be done. It was a humbling experience.

Mountain Lake View

 

Gear: Hoka One One Challenger shoes, Injinji trail socks, North Face Better than Naked shorts, Champion tech shirt from Target (aww yeah!), Patagonia Houdini jacket, Nathan Hydration pack, TAUR trucker hat.

Nutrition: Nuun Hydration, GU Roctane, Mama Chia, Coca-Cola, and some fruit from aid stations.

Jun 02

Mojave Death Race by Steve

When I signed up for the Mojave Death Race, I thought I was getting into an easy fun run type experience. The race involves 20 teams out in the Mojave desert. The relay legs are made up of road bike, mountain bike, road running, and trail running. I had no idea how fierce the competition would be for this race.

Around 3am Saturday morning, Josh (a great trail runner) and I carpooled out to Primm, NV to meet the team. We picked up Chad along the way, whom I met that morning for the first time. Chad is another local runner and Ragnar ambassador with great speed. We met up with the rest of the team at Primm. Joseph, another local runner and Ragnar trail warrior, and Matt, crazy Australian runner, were there to round out the runners. I met Rich (our cyclist and team captain), Rob (road and mountain biker with penchant for long endurance rides), and Donovan (an amazing mountain biker who can also kill it on the road). This completed our team, The Running Dead. We had a sweet team RV so we would be riding in this race in style. We tossed our stuff in and carpooled out to Nipton, CA, a small town where the race would begin.

Matt had said that based on the competition from last year, he was confident we could win this race. The race began at 6am on a warm Saturday morning. It was already warm in the morning? The forecast said temperatures would be over 100 degrees. Chad started us off and I could tell right away this would be a tough race. These people were fast!

In the beginning we bounced around between 6th and 3rd. Matt seemed a little bummed out as the first place team, with one of the top local cyclists, was pulling away significantly. Still, we decided we would continue to give it our best and hope for at least a podium position in 3rd place.

I got ready for my first run, which was a 9.1 mile road run. By this time, it was hot outside. I put some ice in my hat and in a bandana around my neck. I was amped up for the run and I took off. I ran my first mile in 6:20 and my second mile in 6:35 then suddenly someone passed me! It turns out a nationally ranked track athlete from Cal State was running the same leg as me! He must have been doing 5 minute miles! I cranked out my run in the heat. The heat really started to wear on me by mile 6. I poured some water on my head and pushed through.

Mojave Desert Running

Mojave Desert Running

Fortunately, I passed someone else on my run and retained my team’s position in the race. Later, in Baker, I saw on the world’s largest thermometer that it was 102 degrees!

World's Largest Thermometer

We kept giving it our best (and later we were glad we did). Our cyclists were amazing. Shortly after this, Rob crushed a long 34 mile ride in the heat. I knew that a guy that loves doing long endurance rides would have no problem with this kind of adversity. Later Josh had to do his 8 mile run in the heat. The heat was so intense, it got to the point that we didn’t even want to step out of the RV into it, let alone race in it. We kept giving Josh water to pour on his head and I gave him some ice to put in his hat as our team continued along the sufferfest.

We were back and forth, just trying to hold onto 3rd or 4th. As night approached, we were in 4th place, hoping to get back 3rd and hold it for a podium position. The temps began to cool off. Then the night came…

As Rich, would later say, we should adopt the Army’s motto, “We own the night.”

I also thought that much like our team name…

We don’t stop, we keep coming, we don’t slow down, we are relentless…

We’re coming for you…

We are The Running Dead!

Zombies

As I relaxed in the RV, Rob raced through his mountain bike leg, taking back 3rd place. By this time, the second place team was 45 minutes ahead of us still! Chad and Joseph tore through their legs. The second place team remained 40 minutes ahead. Such a huge gap.

Matt, Josh, and I completed the next three legs. I ran hard on my 6.5 mile leg but I had to be careful because I had another 7.5 mile leg next. By the time we finished our legs, we were only 20 minutes behind second place, Team Nuckin Futs. Wow! We were really gaining. We also found out that 4th place, Team Riff Raff, was only 10 minutes behind us and pushing hard.

Donovan, who had already done so well on 3 legs, got ready for his 4th leg, a mountain bike leg. He was tired but he said to me, “This is my stuff right here. On the mountain bike.” I knew he would kill it. When Donovan got back, Rob was amped for his mountain bike leg and declared he would beat his projected time.

I got ready on a quick turnaround for my third and final leg. I didn’t get as much recovery as I would have preferred. My legs were tired but I had to get this done. As I got to the exchange, I saw the college runner there. I casually asked if he was doing this leg and he was. He asked me what team I was on and he said, “Oh. So you’re the runner I’m about to pass.” Wow. I can’t believe he В just said that. The pressure was on. I told Rich that I was running against their elite runner and we could lose some time and our position. Just then, I saw Rob riding into the exchange. I ran towards the exchange, В grabbed the GPS baton out of his hand and took off. I pushed hard during that uphill 7.5 miles. I was motivated. I ran hard despite my tired legs and my lungs burning with the dust of the Mojave desert. I kept checking over my shoulder to see if anyone was catching up to me. I knew that each mile I stayed ahead, was extra time I could give my team. Finally, when I got to 7 miles, I kicked towards the end. YEAH! I was all like:

Shall not pass

I handed off to Matt, who took off. I told my team what happened and that they likely gained some significant time on us. Sure enough, shortly after, we saw the headlamp of the college runner coming towards the exchange. He handed off to his track coach, who took off hard! We had to warn Matt!

We jumped in the RV. We could see in the track coach’s face that he was pushing hard. He wanted this. We caught up to Matt and warned him that 4th place was chasing him hard. The big Australian charged down that leg with a ton of heart. As we leapfrogged ahead, we couldn’t believe our eyes. 2nd place, Nuckin Futs, was right there! We had pushed so hard to keep 3rd from the 4th place guys that we caught up to 2nd place. We told Matt they were right there! As Matt passed and brought us into 2nd place, the RV erupted into cheers!

Chad was next up. He was nervous. The pressure was on. Just like me, he didn’t want to be the guy to give up a position. At the next exchange, all the teams waited to see how things sorted out. Who would arrive next? Matt arrived first. Joseph and I cheered and everyone else at the exchange was dead silent. Chad took off with a fury.

As we pushed ahead to make sure our runner was okay, we heard a distance noise. A train was coming! The train was going to cross right in front of Chad. We couldn’t believe this. We could lose all of our lead if the runners bunched up at the train. It was dark and we couldn’t see how long the train was. It seemed to go on forever. Fortunately it passed and Chad hadn’t made it to the tracks yet so he wasn’t impeded.

Ahead at the last leg, Rich had no idea what had happened. He was trying to get a little sleep waiting for his last leg. We rushed ahead and woke up him up with the news. We were now in second with a slim lead. Two other teams were gunning for us and it was coming down to this. He got ready in a flash and Chad came flying in. Chad was exhausted from the effort. He looked at his watch and we realized, in an immense show of heart, he had run faster on his last leg than his first. Rich was off and we waited for the next team so we could tell Rich how much of a lead he had.

I saw the college kid there at the exchange and couldn’t resist saying, “You didn’t pass me, by the way.” He laughed and said, “I was trying to get in your head. I made up some time though.” He certainly did get in my head. He motivated me. The track coach laughed and said he really wanted to pass Matt and was pushing hard. The coach asked me where I ran in college, and I replied, “I didn’t run in college. I just do this for fun.” hehe

Riff Raff came in 8 minutes behind us and took off. We went ahead and told Rich how much of a lead he had. He was pushing hard and I could see he was as stressed as we were during our legs. It looked like we had 2nd but you never want to say it until it’s actually happened. We went ahead to the finish line. As we waited so close to the finish, we heard a familiar noise.

A train?! Again?!

Rich came riding up and the race officials yelled at him not to try to beat the train. He couldn’t do it anyways. The lights came on and gates came down. Once again, the train seemed to last forever. I think the conductor looked like this:

 

Trollface

 

Just kidding, but it felt like the trains were trolling us.

Eventually the train passed, Rich was still in the lead and he cruised across the finish line. We all cheered! As Matt later remarked, “This is the proudest I’ve ever been of coming second!”

It was a memorable experience. Our team was great. Nobody bickered. It was great making new friends too.В Everyone was uplifting and a great time to be with. The whole relay took about 22 1/2 hours.

Looking back, every little bit we pushed… it all mattered.

Dec 16

Elemental Running Winter 12 Hour Run

Finish Pic

Pardon the crazy hair and crazy eyes 😉

1st Place! It feels great to win one. There wasn’t a large field of competitors but you don’t expect too many in an ultra race unless it’s a really prominent one.

This was my first experience doing the “time” race format, as opposed to distance. I like the race style. I knew exactly how long I would be out there. I had to just keep going for the allotted time. I would definitely do one again.

This was also my first time exceeding my previous distance record of 50 miles. Before the race, I decided I would shoot for 100k.

The course was an approximate 2 mile (mostly flat) loop at a park in Las Vegas. People feel differently about looped courses like this. Yeah, the course gets boring lap after lap. The nice thing is that I was able to fall into a rhythm as I ran the loops and just focus on continuously moving forward. I also liked having access to all my fuel/gear at the aid station every 2 miles.

Elemental RunningВ put on a great event. There was a nice variety of food at the aid station, including hot food. There was always staff on hand. I liked having the big clock next to the timing system counting up towards the end of the race. The race director, Jimmy, said anyone could come out at any time to cheer or pace me. My family came out to cheer and run with me a bit. I must say Jimmy really went above and beyond offering to cook some food for my kids at the aid station (which the kids readily accepted). Very cool. The race environment was really good.

Race Swag

The race and winner swag were cool (pictured). I like the shirt with the date 12/13/14. The stocking was a nice touch. The snowflake medal doubles as a Christmas tree ornament too.

Medal

The day provided fine race weather with temps in the 50s. There was a bit of wind but not too bad. It’s a great December race if you’re looking to escape the cold and/or snow up north. I ran in shorts, long sleeve tech shirt with a short sleeve tech shirt over it, buff, and gloves.

At the beginning of the race, everyone lined up at the same time for all the races. There was a 3 hour, 6 hour, and 12 hour race. Everyone had the same style bib too so I didn’t know who was doing what distance. This didn’t matter much to me because I had my own goal in mind and planned on running my own race.

I really fell into a rhythm running along the loops. I had my audiobook going and just enjoyed a day out running at the park. I kept on top of my hydration by rotating my handheld bottles with water and water enhanced with a Nuun tab. I never felt dehydrated.В  I mixed up the fueling with gels, Honey Stinger gingersnap waffles, and Mama Chia seed pouch drink. It worked well and I never felt sick, which was a huge help.

After about 6 hours, I had run over 50k, but I was concerned I may not be able to keep my goal of 100k. Nonetheless, I would do my best and would surely exceed my previous distance PR of 50 miles. Around this time, the race director informed me that I was in first place. “Wait? What?! Me?!?” A couple of local running buddies, Josh and Rob, also showed up to run with me. I’ve never run with pacers before. They were a huge help. I didn’t want to disappoint them by barely being able to maintain a light jog so for a while, we maintained a pretty good pace even though I had so many miles on my legs already. Another runner quipped, “No fair, you have two pacers!” It felt good to be well supported.

We chatted and ran. It helped pass the time. One pacer, Rob, had to go and another, Khanh, showed up shortly after. My family showed up and did a loop with me. Josh had to go and Khanh stuck with me until the end (he was there for 18 miles).

I focused on each loop and was pleased to see how much closer I was to the 12 hour finish after each lap. A few hours before the end, I asked the race director how close the runners were behind me. One was less than a loop behind me (about 1.5 miles) and another one was more than a loop behind. They were both still running strong. At one point, I got the two of them confused and thought one was right on my heels! This motivated me to pick up the pace and stressed me out a bit because I wasn’t sure I could maintain it.

I was getting so tired. So many things hurt. Feet, calves, quads, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, etc. I had to ask myself how much I wanted to win. Do I really want to win this? If I want it, I’m going to have to earn it. Nobody is going to give it to me. The other runners aren’t just going to stop. I need to keep pushing, moving forward, and giving it all I have.

I even said it out loud. “I really want this. I really want to win. I can’t deny it.”

I kept the focus. Each lap I would ask how close the runner behind me was (always the same distance). The race director said that each lap the other runner would ask where I was. He was after me. He certainly wasn’t going to make this easy. I kept moving. I minimized aid station time towards the end, grabbing a gel as quickly as I could.

The last couple laps, it was apparent that I had the win as long as I kept moving. I was elated. It felt great to finish with the win. The second place runner finished only one lap behind me. The third place runner finished only two laps behind me. Both ran strong to the end.

Award

Officially, I did 61.76 miles. Just shy of 100k. Of course, my garmin had a bit more than that with tangents, restroom breaks, and aid station stops. I’m happy. 🙂

Believe it or not, I felt like I could keep going. I actually thought I was supposed to do another lap. Maybe I’m ready for a 100 miler?

Nov 25

Trails of Glory Marathon

This race takes place in Cottonwood Valley near Las Vegas, NV. It takes place in the same area as Trails of Fury,В which I have written a race report about too.

The weather was beautiful for the race. It was clear skies and a high in the 60s. This weather is quite different from the 30k I did at Trails of Glory last year which included cold, rain, and an impromptu stream crossing when a wash started flowing.

The first part of the race is mostly downhill passing by the “duck tree.” This is a joshua tree, which has grown over the course. Folks have decided to hang rubber ducks on the tree to remind runners and bikers to duck under the branches.

Duck Tree

Close up Duck Tree

This explains the big inflatable duck at the start/finish area and the duck on the shirts.

Big Ducky

The trail then passes through the small town of Blue Diamond and then west onto the trails. The next section of trails is where I have seen wild burros a few times. I didn’t see any this time though. Below is picture I took on a previous trail run in the area. The burros are hiding in the shadows there.

Wild Burros

After about 5 miles begins about 17 miles of overall uphill. The elevation gain isn’t tremendous (1,600 ft) compared to some mountain ultras but it’s relentlessly gradual. It doesn’t always look like you are running uphill but you sure can feel it.

The uphill culminates at the top of aptly named “Satan’s Escalator,” which you then head down to finish the race on some smooth downhill trails.

This is a great Las Vegas trail race put on by Desert Dash. The event actually sold out this year. If you are considering this event for next year, make sure you sign up early. I love seeing all the local trail runners at these events either racing or volunteering. There’s such a great feeling of camaraderie and encouragement. The finish line area was fun with places to relax and a food truck (with some great chicken tacos).

Medal

A side note: apparently there was someone on the race course trying to sabotage the race by changing/removing signs. I saw one marathon signed turned backwards and heard the 12k got re-routed a little bit. I have no idea why someone would go out of their way to disrupt people that are out trying to have a good time and better themselves. Also, something like that is dangerous. A person may only bring enough fuel for their distance. If they get lost out on the trails, it’s not safe. Fortunately, everyone was okay.

Personally, for me it was a good race. It could have been better and certainly could have been worse. I’m learning more about what I need in terms of recovery between races. In retrospect, the five weeks I had between the Pocatello Marathon and the St George marathon was perfect. However, doing this marathon two weeks after the Bootlegger 50k was taxing. I guess that’s the price of wanting to do so many races. Some runners can race every weekend at a high level. I’m learning that I need more recovery.

I ended up finishing 5th overall, the 4th male (just out of reach from the 3rd place award). I was 3rd place in my age group. I finished 4 minutes, 45 seconds behind the 3rd place male. So close.

Hey there

 

The photos (with the exception of my burro photo) have been provided by Desert Dash as you can see by their logo/watermark. I received permission to use these photos on my blog. I love it when races provide free photos for their runners!

Nutrition: Nuun Hyrdration, GU, and SaltStick tabs.

Gear: Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Grip Handheld, Injinji trails socks 2.0, FlipBelt, and Brooks Cascadias.