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.

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.

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.
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.


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.
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.В 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.В 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 butВ notВ 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.В

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.


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.
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.

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!
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.


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!


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!”В


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.В

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

Jun 04

2014 Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Preview by RJ

I’ve been fortunate enough to run the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon each of the last four years and was able to pace Steve for the first 12 miles in what would be a new PR for him in 2013 (which he then lowered in Pocatello later in the summer). Unfortunately 2014 will not be my fifth due to schedule conflicts, but with the race less than three weeks away now, we wanted to give a brief overview of what to expect on June 21st.The folks at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series changed the course in 2012 and it has remained the same ever since. In my opinion there’s good and bad tradeoffs to the changes, but they are what they are, so here we go:The race starts in the heart of the Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle, Key Arena (may the Seattle SuperSonics rest in peace) and a ton of museums, carnival rides and other activities for all ages. It’s also convenient to use the monorail to get to the starting line if you don’t want to walk from a downtown hotel. Which brings me to the downtown hotels. If you haven’t already booked one, good luck. I hope you have a steady income or available credit. And be sure to budget for parking if you drive.The starting area is a good set up. Lots of port-o-potties in different locations to move people through as quickly as possible and nice open areas to walk wherever you need to go. Get yourself to the starting corrals and get ready.

The firstВ 2-3 miles are run through downtown Seattle. Growing up in a small town and now living in a city where the tallest building is seven stories, I love this part of the run. Lots of people line the sides of the road and there’s a great atmosphere. Don’t be surprised if your GPS starts doing weird things as the height and proximity of the buildings cause your satellite reception to go in and out.

After a few more miles through some neighborhood streets you’ll hit the shores of Lake Washington at about the 10k mark. Enjoy the next 12 miles. They. Are. Awesome. At Mile 8 you’ll enter Seward Park and take a loop around the perimeter. At 10.5 miles you’re out of the park and running back up Lake Washington Blvd the way you came, This is a nice shady tree-lined bike path with the water to your right. Out in the distance is the I-90 bridge you’ll be crossing in about 5 miles. But before you get there, there’s something you need to see and experience and feel. Turn your music off, take your earphones out and appreciate this (take a minute, grab a tissue, and watch…I’ll wait):

You can also go HERE to learn more about Wear Blue: Run to RememberВ (watch the video on their home page also…but be sure to grab another tissue).Back to the race. After a short out and back, you’ll make your way onto the I-90 bridge around mile 15. Have I mentioned yet that the race has basically been flat to this point? The bridge run is approximately three miles out and three miles back in and for me, it’s been the make or break section every year. So much can happen here because it’s so unlike the rest of the course. A few things to be aware of:First, the weather. Up until this point you’ve been running through downtown or along tree-lined streets and paths. You’re completely out in the open on the bridge. Second,В if it’s a sunny day, you’re going to be hot. If it’s windy, there’s no hiding. There’s downhill and uphill sections on each side of the bridge and before you hit the turnaround point and immediately upon arriving back at mile 21 you’ll run through tunnels which have a terrible camber to them. There’s no hiding from that either.Running back towards downtown you’ll see (and then come up on, and then pass by) CenturyLink Field (home of the Seahawks) and Safeco Field (home of the Mariners) and then you’re in the final stretch to the finish line. But don’t think you’ve made it yet, because when you make the final turn to the finish line you get to run up one of the steepest hills of the entire course before crossing the tape and receiving your medal. Really, I don’t know how or whyВ they can’t find a better way to finish.

The finish area is not set up as nicely as the starting line. You have quite a long way to walk to get food, meet up with family in the reunion area, buy overpriced gear and listen to a band who was popular, well…back in the day, let’s say (wow, did my personal opinions just get exposed there? My apologies).

Overall, the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is an above average race to run, if you don’t mind sharing the course with 25,000 runners and can put up with a few less-than-stellar characterists that have been mentioned here.

Good luck, have a great race, and let us know how it went. We’d love to have you submit a post-race review for us!

Below is the official Course Tour video (ignore the mile markers in the video. I don’t know who put this together, but they’re not even close).

May 12

Labor of Love Marathon Recap by Steve

I approached this marathon much differently than the others. First of all, I ran this marathon on a whim. I was originally planning on a Saturday long run. However, I thought it would be nice to have a new course safely laid out, fuel placed along the way, and a few extra miles. I showed up on race day with cash in hand for the marathon.В

It’s nice to add spontaneity to life.В

This race takes place in Lovell Canyon among the Spring Mountains. If you enjoy desert mountain scenery, you will appreciate the views. I thought it was actually quite lush as far as a desert setting goes.

The course runs along a winding and hilly paved road. The road wasn’t shut down but there were very few cars using it. It’s mostly an out-and-back course with an extra turnaround near the halfway point to round out the mileage to 26.2. The road could use a repaving but that isn’t a big a deal to me. Overall, it is a tough course with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain. The high temperatures (80s/90s) didn’t help either. It probably isn’t going to be your PR course, but I don’t think the goal always has to be a new PR.


My goal for this race was simply to get in a good workout. I strapped on my heart rate monitor and did my best to keep it in a low zone throughout the race. Keeping my heart rate in a low zone was tough on some of the climbs. I forced myself to slow down or walk to get my heart rate back down. Mentally, I couldn’t let it bother me when people passed me or get lured into racing hard. In the end, I accomplished my goal of getting a good workout. I didn’t push too hard and felt great the next day.

Calico Racing always puts on a solid event. Everything flowed well logistically. The volunteers and support were great. It’s not a huge event, so if you prefer races with fewer participants, this is a good one. I really like the shirt and medal too.В

If you’re looking for a well-organized, challenging, low-key marathon in May (and in Nevada) this one is a great choice. Other distances offered for the event include 5k, 10k, half marathon, 50k, and 50 miles.В

As always, if you have questions or comments about this particular event, feel free to post something below.