Jan 05

Dead Horse Ultra 50 Miler by Steve

Dead Horse Ultra

I wanted to finish out the year with another 100 miler. My friend, Josh, and I had been looking at the Chimera 100. However, things weren’t falling into place to be able to do that race. There were moments when Josh was in, but I would be unsure. Then, we would switch places. When it comes to running 100 miles, you need to 100% committed to the goal or it’s going to be too easy to quit… and at some point you will want to quit.

The Chimera 100 passed by and I ended up choosing the Across the Years 24-hour race at the end of December (hence the name of the race). This worked out well because it takes place in Arizona. I have wanted to do something to raise money for the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention since I lost my teenage nephew, Deven, last year. My brother’s family lives in Arizona so it seemed like the perfect event. I decided I would raise money for this charity along with doing the race.

I would encourage you to check out the fundraiser page here: afsp.donordrive.com/campaign/deven

I’ll post a recap of that event afterward.

This left my race schedule with an opening in November. A lot of friends from Vegas were doing the Dead Horse Ultra in Moab, UT. The 50 miler was perfect timing on my schedule.

Before the race on Saturday, I thought I would leave late Thursday to head to Moab, sleep in late to get a good long rest, and then get up early Saturday. I have trouble sleeping the night before a race anyway.

Well, that didn’t exactly work out.

Dead Horse Point

I left later on Thursday than I wanted to. At least I arrived in time for a beautiful sunrise at Dead Horse Point. Then, I had trouble sleeping Friday. Oh well, it’s a learning experience, right?

Friday I checked into the race, got my bib, a fun-looking Dead Horse shirt, and a sweet Dead Horse trucker hat. It was fun hanging out with a lot of friends from Vegas for a bit on Friday when I wasn’t trying to sleep.

Saturday morning, we carpooled to the start and it was cold for those of us that are used to Las Vegas temperatures. I used layers like arm sleeves because I knew it would warm up later in the day.

Cold!

When I was researching the course online, it looked fairly flat and fast for a 50 miler. The course also looked like it would be beautiful and a lot of fun. I was hoping to break my PR from my 50 miler at Autumn Leaves even though this would be a more difficult course. I felt like I had improved enough since that race to make that goal.

I started out the race going pretty fast but I was feeling comfortable so I went with it. The slickrock out in Moab, UT was a lot of fun to run on. It made for an interesting winding course. The views along the course were absolutely amazing. It’s such a privilege to run in a place like this, nestled in amongst Arches, Badlands, and Dead Horse Point.

Early on in the race, I jammed my toe hard into the slickrock. That hurt! There was no give in that slickrock. That toe still has some numbness even as I’m writing this post.

At one of the early aid stations, I cruised into it and did a grab ‘n’ go after checking in. At this particular aid station, you had to make a left-hand turn, run into the aid station, head back the way you came, then turn left again back on the course. I encountered a friend of mine at that turn. Rather than head towards the aid station, he just kept following me. Fortunately, I corrected him, telling him to turn towards the aid station. I don’t know if he would have been disqualified for not checking in but I didn’t want him to take that chance. I would hate to have that happen. I believe runners should help each out, even while racing.

As I got to the halfway point way too early, I knew I had started too fast. Funny enough, some friends of mine running the 50 miler came into the halfway aid station around the same time. I wonder if they were thinking the same thing.

One odd thing I noted was that the section to the halfway point was an out-and-back and there was no check in or verification (like a hole punch in the bib or sticker) to ensure a runner ran the whole thing rather than turning around early. Still, this was the first year of the 50 miler so I guess they wouldn’t know there would be a lack of verification also.

I hit a rough patch at this point. I was just grinding along through it. A few of my friends passed me up. It was nice when they encouraged me. After a little while, I started to pick it back up and feel good again. I caught up with my friends, Doug and Josh, near the 30 mile mark. We bounced around a bit until we all settled in and ran as a group.

We ended up running the rest of the race together! We all went through ups and downs for the rest of the race. We talked, walked, and worked through it. We traded off leading the group.

I love this shot!

One thing I did not anticipate was the toll running on all that slickrock would take. Towards the end of the race my feet, hips, and legs were sore! The toe I had jammed early on in the race was throbbing at this point. Still, we were all feeling it and we kept pushing on.

As the end of the race approached, we had to make a decision. Do we all want to finish this race together or should we battle it out for the finish? It was unanimous. We all wanted to finish together. Unfortunately, a couple miles out from the finish, I had a rough patch. I was running low on energy and couldn’t quite keep up. I encouraged the other guys to move ahead. Most times when I approach the end of the race I can dig deep and push to the end. This time, I just had nothing left.

I figured the other guys went ahead and finished since I had fallen so far behind. They deserved to finish before me. I cruised along slowly towards the finish.

When I got to the finish area, Doug and Josh were there waiting for me. It was such a cool gesture. Crossing the finish line with them was such a special moment that I won’t forget. It was better than the competition.

It reminded me of the quote:

“The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other,… but to be with each other.”
― Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Plus, I beat my PR too!

After finishing the race, I was spent and took a little nap on the ground, haha. Once I got up, I had some of the famous enchiladas that Mad Moose events offers. They were excellent! I may need to do another one of their races just for the enchiladas.

The finishers’ awards were cowbells, which many of us put to good use ringing them as other Vegas friends and new friends we met on the course came in for the finish.

I would recommend this event to anyone looking for a unique trail run. Mad Moose did an exceptional job with organization. The landscape is beautiful and the location is perfect with opportunities to check out Arches, Badlands, and Dead Horse nearby.

Nutrition/Hydration: Nuun Active, Honey Stinger chews/waffles, and GU gels. I had some really good cherry coke at one of the aid stations too.

Gear: Altra Lone Peak 3.0, Salomon Ultra Vest, Nike Dri-fit tights, Drymax socks, Patagonia shirt, Desert Dash Trail Junkie hat

Nov 17

Tushar Trail Marathon by Steve

Tushar Trail Marathon by Steve

Andrew and I felt a little out of breath just walking up some steps after arriving near the starting line. That was definitely not an encouraging feeling when you’re going to be running a marathon the next day with about 7,400 ft of vertical gain and the course has a peak at 12,000 ft altitude in the race. The starting line was at an altitude over 10,000 ft already.

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What a beautiful place to run, though! The scenery was absolutely breathtaking (pun-intended). The Tushar mountains in Utah are truly a unique place. This race is put on by the great people at Ultra Adventures/Grand Circle Trails. They always put on quality events.

We had a nice big group of runners from Las Vegas up for the race. Many of us camped out before and after the event.

Great camping spot!

Great camping spot!

I really didn’t know what to expect out of this course with so much climbing and altitude. I wasn’t sure how spending that much time at altitude would affect my ability to run. After looking at the course and other runners’ times from previous years, I estimated I would finish between 6 and 7 hours. I would be happy with that.

Our friends Brad and Jared started earlier than us Saturday morning because they were running the 93k… and because they’re much tougher than me.

Still, we had a nice group of folks at the start line for the marathon and half:

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Also, I got to take a picture with Timothy Olson (Western States 100 course recorder holder), who happened to be standing near me:

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Before the race, Andrew was teasing me about taking off from the starting line. I assured him that with all the climbing in this race, I wasn’t about to break into a sprint off from the start. Once the race began, we ran together for a bit, and then Andrew took off! I didn’t see him until the end of the race, haha.

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My friends Josh and two Matts (two guys with the same first name Matt, hehe) ran together for a while at the beginning. Then, it was just Josh and I. There was so much steep climbing. Practically the whole race was either climbing or descending. This is the only race I’ve used trekking poles for just about the entire thing. Still, the views during the race were fantastic.

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Going up

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My favorite pic from this event

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…and up some more

There was a bit of rainy weather but nothing too bad.  Josh and I were cruising along well. When we got to about 9.5 miles, we knew it was time for the big climb up to Delano Peak. This was a tough… long… steep… climb to 12,169 ft with a serious lack of oxygen. We just kept putting one foot in front of another (with the occasional stop for a picture) and eventually made it to the top.

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After all that climbing, I was hoping to push the pace on the downhill. However, the downhill was very technical so it wasn’t easy to get as much speed as I had hoped. After a bit more climbing (of course), Josh and I ran through a beautiful wooded downhill section with terrain that we could move a bit faster on.

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Later at about 19 miles in, I was starting to fade a bit. Josh was still feeling strong so he pushed ahead. I don’t know if it was the altitude, my training cycle for this race, all the climbing, something else or a combination of things, but I just couldn’t muster up a strong finish (unlike my race at the Cuyamaca 100k).

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Naturally, this race would end with a climb up a little ski hill to the finish. I finished in 6:19:55, which was within my goal time. I didn’t have an exceptional race but it was a solid effort on a tough course.  It was nice to see how well our group of Vegas runners performed at the race with five of us finishing in the top 20. Andrew finished 4th!

Coming in for the finish!

Coming in for the finish!

I’ve probably already written too many words about this event because the real story about this race is in the photos from the course.

But wait, there’s more!

After Andrew and I finished the race and recovered for a bit, we decided we would try to find Brad and Jared at an aid station to possibly crew and/or pace them. Matt offered to give us a ride over to an aid station we thought Brad or Jared *might* be near within the current time frame.

As we drove over, we saw some really cool scenery we missed by not running the 93k, which has tempted me a bit to go back at run it in a future year.

As we pulled into the aid station and got out, Timothy Olson (who won the marathon) got out of his vehicle. He asked me where the aid station was and I pointed the way. I congratulated him on winning the race and he asked me how my race went. He’s a really nice guy! He was there to crew his wife, who was running the 93k.

We walked into the aid station together and Brad showed up at almost the exact same time! Perfect timing! Brad wasn’t sure if he was hallucinating when he saw Timothy Olson and me walking into the aid station at precisely the right time. Brad had another friend there (on bike) to help crew/pace. We quickly decided that Andrew and I would pace him [Brad] to the next aid station, his friend would ride ahead to the next aid station, and then he [the other friend] would pace Brad to the finish.

Although Andrew and I had recently run a tough marathon, we were able to keep up with Brad in the middle of his 93k for the next 6.2 miles. Hopefully we helped him. I think it’s nice to have some new encouraging company for a bit just to help break up the monotony.

Had to stop pacing for a bit to get this pic

Had to stop pacing for a bit to get this waterfall pic

When we arrived at the next aid station, we gave Brad’s friend an update on his status. He then gave us his keys so we could get his car (and ourselves) back to the starting line. He gave us directions back to the starting line. Andrew and I hopped in his very nice luxury SUV and then I said, “You know… a complete stranger just handed us the keys to this car.” We then proceeded to follow the directions back to the starting line and got lost in the process. We eventually made it out of the wilderness area, pulled over at a gas station in a small town and asked for directions. We began to follow the directions… and promptly got lost again. Good times driving all around the dirt roads crossing the Tushar wilderness area.

We eventually made it back to the start/finish line area (even looking at the maps I’m still not sure what we did). We realized, even with our accidental detours, we were there a bit too early for Jared and Brad to come in so we decided to head back to the campground for a bit. We pulled up in our newly acquired vehicle. A few over our friends quickly came marching over (apparently they were going to tell us to move because people kept trying to park in their camping spot while we were gone). Then they saw it was actually us.

“Where did you get this?!?”

“Some guy we just met handed us the keys. Seriously.”

Later, we headed back over to the finish area. During the time we waited, we were so inspired watching those runners come in. The cutoff for the race was approaching. Due to the difficulty of this distance, many great runners were close to the cutoff. We heard about a bear sighting, course markers being removed by hunters and subsequently hurriedly replaced by race staff at night, and groups of runners banding together to make it to the finish as a group. It was amazing to see their joy and relief at completing this race.

Jared and Brad came in with plenty of time before the cutoffs. It was so impressive to see them conquer that course.

If you’re looking for a race to really challenge you, this is it. You will be handsomely rewarded with the beauty of this area and the accomplishment.

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Good job!

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Oct 24

Cuyamaca 100k Race Report by Steve

Cuyamaca 100k by Steve

The day before the race I was so angry.

I woke up Friday morning feeling an oncoming sickness. I had trained so hard for this race. I had a great training block. This race, above all others this year, is one where I wanted to have a good performance. This race was my potential lottery ticket for Western States 100 and the last points I needed for the CCC lottery.

I was so frustrated. Numerous friends reached out with various remedies and immune system boosters. I tried them all. I was so grateful for their willingness to help, their empathy, and their kind words.

My friend Kelly and I drove out towards Cuyamaca State Park later that Friday. Kelly was to be the crew & pacer for my friend Josh and me during the race. We took the scenic route through the Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Berrego Desert State Park, and eventually Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. I enjoyed the beautiful landscape and changing scenery. At one point, I was so tired I wasn’t comfortable driving anymore so Kelly took over. This concerned me because I figured my body was drained of energy due to fighting whatever sickness I had.

Josh and I had put a good amount of thought into this race. We looked up strava activities, race reports, pictures, and asked other runners about it. We put together our goals and strategy based on this information.

I didn’t entertain the idea of skipping the race entirely (DNS). However, I was coming to terms with the fact that the dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish) was a very real possibility. My goals before the race were to finish under 12 hours (this was my A stretch goal and I wasn’t sure this was a possibility before I felt sick), finish under 13 hours (B goal, a reasonable goal within my abilities, I felt), and finish under 17 hours (C goal, to get the Western States 100 lottery ticket). I put those goals out of my mind given how I felt. At that point, I just wanted to finish in less than 17 hours or at all.

We (Josh, his wife and child, Kelly, and myself) camped at the park the night before the race. It was a really nice place to camp! Check out that view:

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Stonewall Peak in the distance

Usually I’m antsy the night before the race and have some difficulty sleeping. Not this night. I was exhausted. I got my stuff ready for the next day and went to bed early.

Early Saturday morning, we headed over to the start to check in and got ready. We got some nice swag! We got a long sleeve Patagonia shirt (sweet), some cool looking arm sleeves, and a hat. We nervously got ready and settled into a position near the starting line that we felt was appropriate for our running level. I told Josh that if I was struggling because I wasn’t feeling well to feel free to push ahead (I ended up telling him this more than once).

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The race started right on time and we were off! I knew the first section was speedy so I tried to set my pace at a comfortable level even though I knew it would seem like a bit too quick of a start for a 100k ultra. I passed some people to try and get a bit of space on the singletrack. I don’t like being bunched together. Josh wasn’t as aggressive as passing people as I was, so he fell behind me a bit.

I rolled into the first aid station, checked in, grabbed some watermelon, and headed back the other way (it was a little bit of an out and back). I saw Josh coming in as I was leaving so he was not far behind.

The course is made up of three different loops from the start/finish area. The first loop is 31.8 miles and includes Cuyamaca Peak. You get different colored wristbands at the start/finish area corresponding to the different loops. Their trail markings match the color of your wristband too. The race was well organized and marked.

I kept cruising along although I felt the idea in the back of my head that I could crash at any moment from being too tired due to the illness. Whenever I felt some fatigue, I wondered if the crash was coming.

I arrived at the Green Valley aid station feeling fine. It was another brief stop. I was consuming gels and Honey Stinger chews at this point. I realized this year (thanks to Josh) that I haven’t been diligent with my fluid intake on long training runs and races. I took the time to analyze my fluid intake and improve on it during the training block leading up to the race. I used water and Nuun in my bottles. I felt like keeping my fluid and sodium intake on point would be a huge help.

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Next up was the climb to Cuyamaca Peak. It was a grind of a climb. The grade wasn’t too bad until near the peak. I alternated between running and hiking and felt like I was doing decent. There were photographers on the way up so I had to pretend like I was running at times even when I didn’t feel like it, haha. I ate a Honey Stinger waffle before the peak and was glad to nearly be there. As I got to the peak aid station, someone squeezed sponges with wet cold water on top of my head. I gasped for air. It was cold and invigorating! Another volunteer came to get my bottles and filled them. Such great service! I grabbed some watermelon, a cup of ginger ale, and a cup of coke. Then, I was on my way. I have been working on being efficient in aid stations and I felt like I was doing a good job of this! On the way down from the peak, I saw Josh again. He was still close behind. I also saw American record holder for the 100 mile distance, Zach Bitter, getting looked at by medical for a gash on his forehead. I guess he fell on the technical trail after the peak. I felt bad that he was out because he probably would have put up a really fast time.

Boy, that descending section after the peak sure was technical! I figured it was because when I looked at peoples’ splits before the race, they weren’t fast even though there was a significant amount of elevation loss. I skipped around the rocky twists and turns of the trail hoping not to fall. Fortunately, I survived and made it to Paso Picacho aid station. At this point, I knew I was slowing down. Here comes the crash, I thought. Kelly was at the aid station and hooked me up with some more fuel for my pack. I had a Mamma Chia squeeze, told Kelly that Josh wasn’t far behind, and I was off.

Well, I thought I was off. I totally spaced a turn on the course shortly after I left the aid station. Fortunately, another runner yelled out to me and told me I had missed the turn. “That could have been really bad!” I thought as I turned around and headed back onto the course, thankful for a kind fellow runner. Moments like that make me appreciate the ultra trail running community.

It was only 3.6 miles to the start/finish area, completing the first loop, so I plodded along. Josh caught up to me before we got to the start/finish area. When we got there, I changed bracelets for the second loop, grabbed some more gels, watermelon, and coke. The day was warming up and I was not looking forward to the next climb up East Mesa.

I didn’t feel so bad that I wanted to quit. I just didn’t think things were going to get better or I would do well. Josh and I left the start/finish area together. The climb up East Mesa was steep. I couldn’t get even get a decent hike pace going. Josh pushed ahead of me. I couldn’t even muster the energy to pretend to run for a photographer at that point, haha.

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When we got to the top of the mesa, I started running again. It was beautiful up there with the tall grass and scenery around us. I caught up to Josh and we ran together. I have no idea what happened but I started to feel really good. Josh and I exchanged leading. I tried motivating Josh (and myself) by telling him that we were actually a good deal ahead of projection for our goal of finishing under 13 hours. It helps me to realize in tough spots that I’m actually doing well in a larger context.

Feeling good

Feeling good

A mile or so before the next aid station, I looked behind me and Josh wasn’t there. Apparently he was cramping and locked up a bit. I was moving well as we came into the next aid station. Josh came in shortly behind me. It was a Florida Gators themed “Gator aid station.” The volunteers there were awesome. Again, they took my bottles and filled them for me. They handed me an ice pack that I put on my neck. I was hungry! I grabbed cups of ginger ale, coke, mountain dew, and M&Ms. The mountain dew was really good at that moment! I’m not normally a big mountain dew drinker. I also grabbed an apple sauce squeeze that I really enjoyed. I thanked the volunteers for being so awesome and headed out.

Josh told me to go ahead to the start/finish area (our next step) because he had to take care of some things. I was also going to let Kelly know he could pace Josh, and I would go out alone for the 3rd loop. It was only 4.8 miles there but there was another steep (but smaller) climb. В I got through that section feeling much better. I knew the hardest parts of the course were behind me.

When I got to the start/finish, I told Kelly that Josh was struggling so he should pace him and that I would be fine alone. I grabbed some supplies, Kelly shoved my headlamp (just in case) in my pack, and I received a new bracelet for the last loop. I was feeling conflicted. I didn’t want to leave Josh while he was struggling but I now realized that I had a shot at finishing under 12 hours. I decided that Josh had Kelly and I didn’t think there was much more I would be able to do for him. In retrospect, I realized I missed a golden opportunity to be the unsympathetic pacer (and thankfully so) that Josh was for me at the Pony Express 100 miler, hehe. Oh well, maybe next time. I felt good, I had a goal, and I had to make this count. Still, I had 18.2 miles left of a 62.8 mile course (I had already gone 44.6 miles, to do the math for you).

I put my tunes on and headed out onto the gradual uphill grinder for the next section. I was trying to calculate the pace I needed to finish in less than 12 hours. It’s tough to do math when you have “ultra brain” going on though. I just tried to keep my overall mile splits around 12 min/mile given the uphill grade, although the last couple of miles before the next aid station were a bit steeper! Suddenly, I could see a couple of runners behind me moving fast. Where did they come from? Then, I could feel some cramping in my legs and my hamstrings felt like they were vibrating with twitches. Not good. Then, I could hear the music blasting from the aid station. I pumped my arms in the air to the music as I got into the aid station. The volunteers cheered and were enthusiastic. They told me the runners behind me were pacers whose runners dropped so they were looking for someone to pace. There actually weren’t any other racers close behind, whew. I grabbed the trifecta of ginger ale, mountain dew, and coke again. I saw they had pickle juice and one volunteer offered rice balls. I hadn’t tried either before in a race. I tried them both and jokingly said, “Race day is the time to try new things, right?” I was getting a bit loopy. The pickle juice was nasty but my cramping ended up going away! The rice ball was great! I thanked everyone again and headed out.

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The next section had some rollers and I couldn’t quite get the speed I wanted. Things were looking really close and I would need to pick it up if I wanted to finish sub-12 hours. I kept a good attitude though. I got to the last aid station. They helpfully asked what I needed and I just said, “I can’t stop long if I want to finish under 12 hours,” grabbed a cup of mountain dew, and left. A volunteer escorted me across a paved road enthusiastically complimenting me on the quick aid station stop. I looked at my watch. I had one hour, three minutes to run 6.8 miles to the finish. I needed to go under 9:30 min/miles on my last 6.8 miles of a 100k race to finish in less than 12 hours. I knew there was some downhill on this last section. I need to push hard. So, I took off.

I ran keeping the pace within range for my goal, with a couple sub 9 min/miles. I passed a couple runners. One complimented me on my pace that late in the race. It felt good to move up a little in the results close to the end. As I ran, doubts crept into my mind. What if the course is longer than I think? Am I hurting by running this hard for nothing? I pushed those thoughts aside knowing that I would be frustrated if I barely missed my goal without giving my all. I came to a sign that said there was one mile left. I had about 10 minutes left to finish in less than 12 hours. I hoped it was really just one mile and not any bit further, like 1.1 or 1.2 miles! Relief and excitement came over me as I saw the finish line! I pushed hard as I saw it was a close one and I finished with a time of 11:59:19! I did it! I ended up taking 12th place overall. I was incredibly happy with the result.

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I complimented the race director on a well-organized race, well-marked and beautiful course, and some very fantastic volunteers. I was so impressed. I chatted with my friend Smitha from Running With SD Mom blog. I chatted with other runners I raced with and some I knew from Instagram. I was probably pretty silly because I was so pumped from the race and had ultra brain, for sure. I apologized to one of the runners I passed shortly before the finish because I know how frustrating that can be. He actually thanked me because he said I motivated him to run harder and he ended up finish sub-12 too because of it. Overall, I was pretty wiped out. I knew I had given it my all. I hobbled around getting food and drink to replenish.

Soon, Josh and Kelly came running in. Josh still finished in less than 13 hours despite some struggles. A very impressive first 100k for him! We both ended up with a lottery ticket for the Western States 100 and the points we needed for CCC.

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If you’re looking for a 100k race (and possibly a Western States 100 qualifier too), I highly recommend this race.

Gear: Altra Lone Peak 3.0 shoes, Injinji socks, Patagonia Strider Pro shorts, Salomon ultra vest, Desert Dash Trail Junkie trucker hat, and an old tech tee from Target (hehe).

Nutrition: Nuun tabs, Honey Stinger waffles and chews, Mamma Chia squeezes, GU gels, Hammer Enduralytes, watermelon, ginger ale, coke, mountain dew, M&Ms, apple sauce squeeze, pickle juice, and a rice ball.

Oct 06

Beyond Limits Running Summer Marathon by Steve

Beyond Limits Running Summer Marathon by Steve

The Las Vegas summers are very hot. It’s difficult to get in quality training sometimes. I either have to run really early in the morning or late at night. If I go out during the morning, sometimes I can’t run too long because of the sun and heat exposure. I also like to escape to the nearby mountains for cooler temps.

After the Squaw Peak 50 miler, I was looking for a new event to keep me motivated through the summer. Due to the heat, there aren’t many local events in Las Vegas during the summer months.

Fortunately, Beyond Limits Running was putting on a summer series of runs. I’ve never had the opportunity to run one of their events yet, and I wanted to check one out. On a bit of whim, I e-mailed the RD last minute and asked if I could still register. They were very accommodating. I signed up for the “Nocturnal Sins” marathon, which is part of their Hallucination Summer Night Race Series. It looks like they had a lot of fun with the naming and themes of these races.

When I got to the park on the evening of the race, I saw a lot of familiar faces. The race was pretty low key. There were a good amount of runners there but not a ton.

The race distances were made up of a 3.6 mile loop course. I don’t mind looped runs too much. I just zone out and run.

Beautiful Las Vegas Sunset

Beautiful Las Vegas Sunset at the Start

It was still really hot out for this run but at least the sun was setting as the race was getting ready to begin. I would need to stay on top of my hydration and do what I can to handle the heat.

The half marathoners, marathoners, and 50k runners all started at the same time. A few folks tore off the starting line. I settled in near the front at a comfortable pace. It was too hot to push hard this early.

The loop around the park was nice. There was a mix of paved path, sidewalk, and gravel. It twisted around a bit. My GPS was reading a lower mileage than what I should have seen, but the race director assured me he had wheeled the entire loop. It made sense my GPS would be off with the meandering routes and sharp turns within the loop.

The aid stations were great. I had everything I needed to keep going. I took precautions to make sure I always had plenty of fluid. I used lemonade-flavored Nuun in my water to keep my electrolyte/sodium level on point too. I would put ice in my hat and bandana after every lap, also dipping them in cold water. I feel like this really helped.

After a few loops, I found out I was in first place by a good margin! That was a nice surprise. I did my best to stay loose and enjoy the evening. I enjoyed chatting with the other runners out there. You end up seeing folks on a regular basis during these looped races.

I kept my routine going and my pace steady. I chatted with folks at the main aid station. I said that I might be on track for a sub-4 hour marathon, which I thought would be nice given the heat and my relaxed pace. The race director Ken said that I should get going then and shooed me out of the aid station, haha.

I love these desert summer nights in Las Vegas. The nights are still hot but the contrast from the heat of the day with the direct sun to the evening leaves them feeling relatively comfortable. Of course, the many lights of the city creates a certain magic.

As I pushed to the end, I knew it would be close to four hours for this marathon. I ended up finishing 4:00:20. Ken started cracking up when he saw the time. I knew he was thinking about that extra aid station time. I laughed along with him. I wasn’t concerned about the time. I was happy with how things went. I got in a good workout and I had a great time. Oh, and I took first place too!

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After finishing with Race Director, Ken

After finishing the race and recovering for a bit, I was feeling better. My friend Iris was still running the 50k. She ran a further distance than me because she’s much tougher than me. The ultrarunning ladies are the toughest group you will ever have the fortune to meet!

I offered to pace Iris on the last loop of her 50k. We ran together and had fun chatting. I knew she was hurting by that time so I tried to keep her mind off of it. It was still hot out and she was getting hungry. We talked about how good watermelon sounded at that moment. If you have never eaten watermelon during an ultramarathon, particularly when the temperatures are baking the air around you, you haven’t experienced how truly good it can taste. I said that I should have grabbed some before that loop to hold it in front of her as encouragement to finish that last loop strong. I’m sure that would have been motivating in a cruel way. Nonetheless, Iris finished strong with a great time, and she was the second place female in the 50k!

Here’s a pic of their unique placement award and medal рџ™‚

Award, Medal, and Bib

Award, Medal, and Bib

Overall, I enjoyed my experience with Beyond Limits Running. I hope to do more of their events in the future. I’m glad they put on these summer night races. They’re perfect for those of us in the Las Vegas running community that toil through our training in the summer months.

Gear/Nutrition: Altra Torin 2.5 shoes, Injinji socks, Patagonia Strider Pro shorts, basic tech top from Target 😉 , Columbia Freezer Zero Neck Wrap, Nuun trucker hat, and Ultimate Direction Jurek grip handheld. I ate Honey Stinger chews, GU gels, Nuun tabs, some banana, and watermelon (of course).

Aug 30

Squaw Peak 50 Miler by Steve

 

Squaw Peak 50 Mile Race by Steve

This race wasn’t on my radar until the race director for Desert Dash brought it up to our group of trail and ultra runners in Las Vegas. A bunch of us agreed to do it. I was looking for an ultra about that time of year and it would be fun to run it with a bunch of friends.

After injuries and scheduling knocked some participants out, four of us (Josh, Maia, Natalia, and I) remained to do the race together. It was Josh’s first official 50 mile race. He had done Grand Canyon R2R2R before this. Maia has done tons of ultras. It was Natalia’s first mountain trail ultra, but she has done other ultras including a 100 miler. We carpooled up to Provo, UT as the race would be starting at Vivian Park.

Packet pickup was nice. We got a cool shirt, some socks I really like (wrightsocks), and some other items. The meal was pasta and pie (I love pie!). There was a presentation about the race and course. The race director spent quite a bit of time raffling off items. Some people got some really cool stuff like hydration packs, water filtration systems, altra gift cards, trekking poles, and more. I got a RooSport pouch, which I was interested in trying.

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The course boasts 14,000 +/- ft of elevation gain and loss. Among all that climbing is the infamous climb I had heard about named “Bozung Hill” after the race director. I was really looking forward to this course. It’s an older ultra I had heard good things about from friends. I had also heard variations of it being the hardest 50 miler in Utah and one of the hardest in the US.

I felt good enough leading up to the race. I had a good run at the Trails of Fury 50k. I enjoyed the company of my friends heading up to the race.

All of us before the race

All of us before the race

The morning of the race was cool and comfortable. Although the forecast was projecting some of the hottest weather ever for this race, being from Las Vegas, I wasn’t sure how bad their hottest weather could be.

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As I was milling around near the start with Josh and Maia, the race suddenly began while I wasn’t paying attention. I realized I was too far into the back of the pack. I didn’t want to get onto the single track behind too many people and be unable to pass. The first section of the race is on a nice paved path by a creek.  Josh and I thought we would run together for much of the race and started hurrying towards the front. We ended up running by Natalia who had the opposite issue, saying she had accidentally started too far towards the front. We ended up in a reasonable position by the time we hit the first stretch of single track trail.

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That first climb on the single track was tougher than I thought it would be (probably because I was focused on Bozung Hill). My plan was to hike through the uphill sections and power the downhills. I was optimistic about my plan and goal time of finishing under 11 hours. About 4 miles into the race, Josh and I got separated on the single track. I figured some people just got in between us and he would catch up at the next aid station.

Why isn't everyone else smiling?

Why isn’t everyone else smiling?

After the first few aid stations and a couple of climbs, Josh still hadn’t caught up. With these races, it’s tough to stay together anyways because you never know how they will go, but I was still surprised.

Almost time for some downhill

Almost time for some downhill

After about 14.6 miles, I hit the first downhill hard. I wanted to push it but stay comfortable. I remembered from the pre-race briefing there was a turn that is easy to miss coming up. They said if you miss it and stay on the dirt road, you just add a bit of extra distance. I passed a couple runners as I was charging the downhill. Then, further down the road, I saw these same runners emerge from some single track off the road. I had missed the turn! I asked them what distance they had on their watches and I had, in fact, added a little bit of extra distance to my run.

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Eventually, we hit some paved road and the day started to really warm up. I really didn’t like the paved road. It had some rollers and I walked more than I should have. In retrospect, I should have just cruised along it at an easy pace. I guess I still had that “walk the climbs” mindset from the bigger climbs earlier in the race.

At the aid station at the end of the road, I saw my friend Curtis, whom I ran with at the Pony Express 100 (he took 1st) and is local to the Utah area where the Squaw Peak 50 is held. I was surprised to see him. I figured he would be much further ahead on the course. He said he wasn’t able to keep anything down. My heart went out to him. Before I left the aid station, I went over and gave him a hug. He told me to go out there and crush it. I thought it was really cool of him to say that. It says a lot about his character that rather than focus on himself and the tough time he was having, he had encouragement for me.

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The heat was affecting quite a few runners. It was slowing me down some but it wasn’t too bad. I am used to warmer weather. The humidity was causing me to sweat a bit more.

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I got to the mile 33 aid station after another climb. I saw Curtis’ brother, who was waiting to crew him, and told him what happened. I found out later that Curtis ended up dropping. Also, there was still no sign of Josh at this point. I grabbed my trekking poles out of my drop bag. Having my poles reinvigorated me for the climbs ahead. I started the next section of the course with renewed determination.

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The course as a whole really has some beautiful views. I love seeing the Utah mountains and running through the trees.

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As I approached the mile 40, where Bozung hill is supposed to be, I could see it coming. I knew that big climb up ahead was where I was going but I don’t think my mind wanted to accept it. Another runner, Kendall Wimmer, ran by me and confirmed that was indeed where we were headed and told me a little bit about where it would lead directionally.

The climb was just as tough as advertised. I dug in my poles and maintained forward progress. I refused to stop moving forward because I was afraid it would be too hard to start moving again or I might topple over backward because of the steep grade!

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After the climb, I was running low on water. I ran across some snow fields on the way to Windy Pass aid station. The aid station was so remote that they used horses to bring the supplies up there for the runners. I got there and drank a lot of fluid. I thanked the volunteers profusely for being there. They were so nice!

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I really wanted to crush this last downhill with 10 miles until the finish line. As I began the downhill, I became frustrated because it wasn’t the buttery single track I was hoping for. I slipped on patch of snow causing my poles to fall out of my pack (I carried them to the end), walked through an avalanche area, and had to be careful on some areas with rock scree. I felt too fatigued to do a better job on these sections of more technical downhill. It was frustrating to see my goal time slip away.

Runners know that if you push too hard early in the race, you pay for it at the end. However, I also know that if I don’t take a chance and push it, I won’t know if I can sustain it. I went for it and it didn’t quite work out how I planned and that’s okay.

There was a beautiful field of flowers as I neared the end. I ran across a nice grassy meadow. Then, the last aid station was before the last 3 miles of the course on pavement (ugh). I cruised slowly along the pavement, a little uncaring because I missed my goal time. I just wanted to get to that finish line and relax.

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I’m smiling but everything hurts and I’m dying haha

I kept looking behind me. A couple runners passed me near the end. I was annoyed with myself for letting it happen. I told myself I didn’t care. Then I was annoyed with myself for not caring, haha!

Throughout the race I was expecting Josh to round a corner behind me at any moment. As I looked back, I saw someone that I thought was Maia in the distance. If she beat me, I would never hear the end some good natured teasing within our running group! I picked up speed and darted around a corner like a ninja, hoping she didn’t see me. I pushed to the end and kept looking back to make sure she wasn’t catching me. I was warned the course is always over 50 miles, so I wasn’t surprised when I finished with 51.2 miles.

At the finish, I was tempted to joke around with Maia and act like I had been finished for SO LONG when in reality I had only come in 40 seconds before her. I asked if she saw me and she hadn’t. If she had, it would have been ON! Looking back at the Strava Flyby of the race, Maia had a really strong consistent race. She ran a much smarter race than me and took 5th place female.

I finished in 11:33:10. It wasn’t quite what I wanted but still a very solid run. I probably should have adjusted my goal a bit for the record high temps for this race. I got a cool wooden finisher’s medal.

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Josh ended up coming in later. We found out that he was not feeling well. I guess he had a tough first half of the race, and then rallied to crush the end of it.

Natalia took a bit longer. We were concerned about her since it was her first mountain trail ultra on a tough course. However, she came into the finish in her usual style with energy and infectious happiness.

Overall, it was another great experience running an ultra through some new mountain trails.

Everyone at the finish with the RD. He liked having "the Vegas group" there.

Everyone at the finish with the RD. He liked having “the Vegas group” there.

Stuff I used: Nuun, Honey Stinger waffles, GU gels, Mama ChiaВ  Squeezes, Gin Gins, Endurolytes, Patagonia Strider Pro shorts, InkNBurn shirt, Desert Dash Trail Junkie hat, Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0 pack, Black Diamond Z trekking poles, Injinji socks, and Altra Olympus shoes.

A refreshing visit to Bridal Veil Falls the next day!

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