Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Black Canyon Trail 100k, 2015!

This had to be the most epic Ultra-Marathon I have ever been involved in; the elite participant field was stacked, scenery to die for, not to mention the hype and excitement surrounding The Montrail Ultra Cup .  I had no shot finishing in the top two, a guaranteed ticket to Western States.  The BC100k is a point to point race starting in Spring Valley, AZ and finishes near New River.
I kept my race week nerves on ice until Thursday, packet pick up, and the screening of the Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfes fastest know time (fkt) on the John Muir Trail.  From the moment I woke up on Friday, I was bouncing off the walls.  I was trying hard to not be overly annoying to my wife, who was days away from her first ever half marathon.  The weekend was set.
When we arrived to Mayer High school, in Spring Valley Arizona, Tim, Giles, Cristain, Brian and I sat in the car silent for a few minutes.  Finally the silence was broken and we begin our last minute preparations.  Race check-in was held in what I believe was the schools cafeteria.  I was surrounded by many great runners as well as friends.  We snapped a few photos before heading to the starting line. 
Adam B, Tim, Giles, Cristian, Me, Adam L
Nate and I

The race starts with one lap around the high school track.  Dave James, a phenomenal runner known for starting fast, belted from the start.  It was amazing to witness.   As I rounded the track I watched the elite group and looked to find Cristian (The Matador), and sure enough he was with them.  We left the track and headed out along a paved road.  
We were only on the road for a few miles before hitting the Black Canyon Trail (BCT).    In familiar fashion Tim, Giles and I set a steady pace.  We had a lot of catching up do.  Since Tim moved to California, I don’t get to chat with him much besides sharing text and few social media post.  We talked and ran. 
The miles were flying by and every turn offered more spectacular views.   There is a significant windmill near mile six, as I pointed it out, I imitated a drunken superman: I flew to the ground as, Tim, Giles and a female runner watched.  It took me a second to get up.  No pain.  I was just stunned at how quick I hit the ground.  I regrouped and we pushed on stopping quickly at the first aid station.   

Photo Credit.  Bret Sarnquist  Early on

Tim.  Amazing views
I snapped lots of pictures as we cruised up and down the hills on the pristine single track.  It was beginning to get warm, the forecast called for a high of 85 degrees.   We soon arrived at aid station 2, mile 12.9.   Tim left the aid first.  I took my time and tried to get some solid food in my stomach.  I ate a few tortilla and been rolls as well as boiled potatoes and salt.  Thomas Orielly, great runner and family man, and I left the aid station together. 
Thomas and I Mile12.9

I could see Tim up ahead.  I decided to pick up the pace a bit and catch him.  We took turns leading as wound down the single track.  It was thrilling to see, the Sunset Point rest stop, above us on the trail. I have traveled along the I-17 freeway hundreds of times in my life time.  I am an Arizona Native:  I love this state and I am still discovering hidden gems.  BCT is now one of my favorite trails. 
Tim and I hit the Bumble Bee aid station a few minutes apart.  I soaked my bandana with ice water.  I was feeling the heat and wanted to keep my body cool.  I put my soaked bandana on my head and headed back out on the trail.  Tim waited for Giles who was just coming into the aid station.  

There was a steep hike ahead of me as I left the Bumble Bee aid station. Along with a few other runners, I hiked and snapped pictures; I told myself “don’t work, have fun.”  I started off taking a gel every 45 minutes.  By this time I could only stomach half a gel at time.  I was depending heavily on Tailwind, it was working well, but I was still unsure if it could really take place of the both calories and electrolytes.  I was only mixing it half the strength recommended. I was feeling good considering being a little nauseas and very hot.


 I ran every downhill and flat.  I hiked all the hills, even the little rollers.  I begin passing runners and was feeling indestructible.   I turned my cell phone from airplane mode to on, and sent Brian a text let him know I was 4 miles from the aid station.  He was waiting for us all at Glorianna Mine (mile 24.)
 Ultra sports live was covering the Race and had cameras set up at various spots on the course.  I knew one was Glorianna Mine.   I had told my wife, mom, and a few others I planned to get on camera so they could see me.   I sent a mass text when I was 1 mile away from the aid station, and my family was able to see me.  I’m just a regular mid to back of the packer, but I am proud of what I do and wanted my family to see me in action
I was actually feeling a little delirious at Glorianna Mine, and in being clumsy, I drop my bottle and my hat.  Brian had my bladder full of ice cold water ready to put into my Ultimate Direction Anton Pack.   I had only been carrying two 22 ounce bottles up until now; one with water and one with Tailwind.  It would be 8 miles before the next aid station, Black Canyon City.

It was now the hottest part of the day, I was all alone, but so mentally focused.  With 110 ounces of water on hand, I continually soaked my bandanna, arm sleeves, and shirt.  A few years ago I read a race report by Pam Smith.  She said to run like a Porn Star:   Stay wet and lubed.  This saved my race.   Jamil Coury, the race director, posted a picture early in the week of a river crossing at mile 35.  I hit the marathon mark at 5 hours 34 minutes, and all I could think of was the river. 

 I got a surprise/blessing at mile 30, give or take, when I came to a small river crossing.  I took my pack off and sat down in the ice cold water; it felt so good, I splashed water on my face to cool down.   I left the river with a renewed energy, mind, body and soul.   My energy levels rose and I begin hitting some 7/8 minute mile pace on the flats and downhill sections.

It felt so good to sit and cool off
The Agua Fria

Jeep road along the course

The only out and back section on the course is going down into the Black Canyon City aid station at mile 37.9.   It was refreshing to see runners, and get an idea of where I was in the race; I was back of the pack status for sure.   As I ran into the aid station, I saw Lillian, Tim’s wife.   She told me that he had dropped and Brian had left to get him. 

I asked about Giles.  He had also dropped.  I felt a lump in my throat.  I love those guys; they are like brothers to me.  I sat down; I was very hot and could not talk since my throat was so dry.  Lillian and Mikaela got me gum and a breath mint, it helped immensely.  I tried to calm my mind and work out details. Should I leave without Brian?  

Photo: Lillian Widener.  At Black Canyon City Aid. 

I sat while the aid station crew filled my bottles with water. Lillian and Mikaela talked with me which raised my spirits; thank you both so much.   I was ready to get back on the trail.  Brian, who was a few miles away, text me “RUN, I will catch up.”  I left the aid station like I had just started the race fresh, in hindsight it was probably a mistake.  

 I passed runners heading up the hill, many of whom commented how fresh I looked.   I was feeling strong; I had run the first 20 miles very conservative.   When Brian finally caught me, to start his pacing duties, I told him how I was feeling and we pushed ahead.   We talked; I was curious about all my friends how they were doing, including Cristian, Adam, Mark, and Nate.   Everyone seemed to be doing so well.

It took me nearly as long to run the last 20 miles as it did the first 40.  BIG LESSON LEARNED

After a good stretch of climbing we hit a long downhill section; I opened it up, and tore down the hill like a crazy man passing runners.  Brian soon urged me to slow down.   He was right but I think I had already done some damage using up a lot of energy.   We reached a remote aid station with only water, I w as need of solid food.   
As we made a turn on the trail we saw Cristian, I was surprised to see him, and he was hurting and moving slowly.  He said his feet were hurting.   Cristian and I, with Brian pacing, begin working together putting one foot in front of the other.  The next aid station, Cotton Wood Gulch, mile 46 was a few miles away.  I figured once we got there we could regroup and start making up time.   
At Cotton Wood Gulch, my stomach begun to turn, I was dry heaving, begging for chunks to spew from my mouth.   I sat down, and was disappointed to find out the aid had no more ginger ale.  (This was a remote aid station only accessible 4x4 so no harsh feeling towards the the race or volunteers)   One of the aid station workers offered me some mint gum, and it seemed to do the trick.  As I sat trying to gain my composer, many of the runners I had passed, running down the downhill like a madman, had now caught up and left the aid station.  I felt like such a fool, I am still learning what works and does not.  We left the aid station as the sun had begun to set.
With headlamps on we pushed on up the trail.  I was moving slower and I could fill fatigue in my muscles and pain in my right foot.  The pain was excruciating.  It felt, bruised I thought, or maybe a hair line fracture; I begin to lose my mind a bit.   Brian did his best to keep me focused

I know Cristian was hurting also, but he never said a word.  He is a way better runner then I will ever be and I respect the hell out of him.  Moving slowly, still jogging mostly the smoother section of trail, we came to the last river crossing of the run.   I dowsed myself with water, it was so refreshing, I wanted to lie down and fall asleep.   
I was in Death March Mode. W/ Cristian  Photo: Brian Soto

My goal of a 14 hour finish was gone, I was now chasing the 18 hour cut off.  I told Christian, “we're going to finish this thing together; we’re going to get our F’ing buckles.  I swore I had fractured my right foot; I could barely put pressure on it.  Brian, was feeling good, and often said “Hey guys, I feel good, look I can do jumping jacks.”   I wanted to punch him at the time, but now I am grateful.  He kept us moving. 

 Other then my right foot screaming at me, I felt fine and it drove me mad, as runners passed.   I started to cry, I was having the race of my life until mile 43, now I was sobbing uncontrollably.  I am a competitor. Not that I had a chance to win the race, but was literally having the best race of my life and my tank was not on empty.  I was just unfortunate to have pain in my right foot. 
I soon had no choice but to pick up a walking stick.  I didn't think it was cheating sense in many races runners use trekking poles; so I really hope that doing this was not unethical, I love this sport too much to cheat or not play by the rules. It’s what got me through many tough miles and finally to the last aid station, Doe Springs, (mile 58.7)
Only four miles left and I was literally ready to fall asleep; I sat in a chair negotiating a ride back, but Jamil’s dad would not hear of it. I finally willed myself out of the chair and Brian, Cristian, and I continued on. I run four miles nearly every day at lunch but four miles after 16 hours or so was daunting.  Brian convinced me to take it half a mile at a time.  Finally the lights and finish line were in sight. 

I was filled with so much emotion, happy to have finished, but I was also thinking about my wife: she was trying to sleep in preparation of her very first half marathon, while wondering how I was doing.  This sure can be a selfish sport.  

I absolutely loved this trail and race; Challenging and Spectacular views.  

Thanks again to Brian Soto.  Mad respect!  Also to Cristian “the Matador” You helped get me through some dark times out there.  Tim and Giles, friends for life, The Three Amigos!

Side Note:  I got 3 hours of sleep before dropping my wife off for her first ever half marathon.  The IMS.  Then I took my baby girls, 7 and 4, to run their first 5k.  I actually had some discomfort keeping up with them.
Team Flores IMS 2015

My Baby Girls
Celebrating my Wife's First Half Marathon
more Trail Porn

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 IS HERE: Castle Hot Springs 22Miler - Thunder Bird 50k Recap

Two Thousand Fifteen!  Can you believe it; Crazy how time flies.  The year started off great, especially after having one of the most relaxing Christmas and New Years seasons ever.  It was so nice to not have to rush from house to house.   We got to spend some quality time with the kids, and actually enjoy our home, which we have been in just over a year.   
Okay, okay enough of the mushy stuff.  Time for the RUNNING SH%%!
Having fun at the ARR Castle Hot Springs Run.  Photo Boston Brian Soto

I Started off the year again with the Castle Hot Springs 22 miler; 3rd year in a row.   I love this race/run; Low key, great peeps, scenic, and challenging course.  The myth is that your finishing time for this race is your marathon time.  I tied my time from last year finishing in 3hr 45 min and change.  The whole mood was different this year, I put no pressure on myself, and in turn had a blast running with Brian and Manoj. We ran, talked, snapped pictures, and just had satisfying run.

Lake Pleasant in the background. 
Boston Brian Soto and Monoj.  We had a blast.

One of many down hills.  Lots of rolling jeep roads.

My wife Liz is training for her first half marathon.  (IMS on 2/15/15)  It’s been fun seeing her progress and also getting to run with her.  The only tricky thing is when we both have a long runs scheduled and we have no sitter.  So I took advantage of my mom’s offer  to watch the kiddos and set it up so Liz could join me at the Thunderbird 50k (TB50k).   Liz has run some trails, although she prefers the road, we were both looking forward to this run. 

The TB50k is a fun, fat ass style trail race, put on by Marc Thompson of the T-Bird Trail Runners.  I have wanted to run it the last few years but opted out due to being signed up for the Coldwater Rumble 50K (CW50k) the weekend after.   But this year instead of racing CW50k, I am working an aid station, and was finally able to partake in the TB50k. 

Giles, Me, Matthew

Having a Blast.  

Toward the end of the second segment, I had a strange feeling, and decided to look at my cell phone.  There was a text from Liz.  She said she had fallen and hit her mouth on a rock. She was also worried she may have done damage to her teeth.  My heart sunk a bit.  I yelled out to Giles, who I was running with from the start, what had happen.  We pushed the pace finishing the second segment.  When we got to the aid station I fully expected to see Liz.  But she had not checked back in. 

I let Scott, who was working the aid station, know what had happen.  He said he had not seen Liz.  I called her cell, and as soon as she answered, I asked where she was and if she was okay.  What a trooper.  She had regrouped and was going to finish her mileage on the road.   She encouraged me to finish my run.  I triple checked with her before heading out on segment 3.

Segment 3 was a 3.2 mile lollipop type loop.  When I got back the aid station, also the start and finish line, Liz was sitting on the picnic table icing her lip.   I immediately hugged her and asked her a million times, which I could tell annoyed her, if she was okay.  She was in good spirits even with the blood on her lips, cheek and t-shirt sleeves.  I told Marc I was done for the day.  I am grateful to Scott Lump and Marc Thompson for making sure Liz was okay.   The trail was very rocky, but the weather was perfect for a trail run.  I’d like to go back next year and complete the 50k course.  For now Liz will stick to the roads.

Liz "wifey" and I.  She was in good spirits. TUFF. PROUD OF HER!!

So up next, I got the Black Canyon Trail 100k.  Part of the Montrail Ultra Cup series.  Super Excited!  But the one that I cannot get off my mind is Zane Grey in April.  REVENGE.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Unveiling the Colossal Vail 50/50

This is my second time participating in an inaugural event. So far I am 2 for 2.  I don't only mean finishing the races; I mean well put on races that have the feel of a race that's been around for years.  They inaugural Colossal Vail took place on Saturday November 15, 2014 in Vail, Arizona on the Arizona Trail.  Vail is 25 miles South of Tucson.  50k and 50 mile race options were available; I chose the 50 Mile option.
   When Tim, my good running buddy and doctor from California, and I arrived at Colossal Cave Park it was dark. I could only see the lights near the packet pick up table.  I had already got my swag bag the day before, so all I needed to get was my bib.  A few minutes before 6:30 am, the race starting time, the mile 50 mile race participants gathered together at an imaginary start line and listened to instructions.
I was excited and slightly nervous but not my typical bouncing off the walls nail biting self.  Life had been busy, and I really had no time to truly stress or over analyze the race; this was a way for me to unwind and get some relief from the stress of everyday life.   I feel so free when I am running.
Right out the gate we started climbing on what is probably the most significant climb of the whole race.  The sun was rising and the views of the park below and all around became more apparent.  I was running smooth and keeping a good pace, the course was as advertised, single track, with gradual climbs, descents, and awesome views. The first 16 miles flew by. 
Some of the great views.
Early on Photo by The Diamond Alexander Team.

With the turnaround approaching, at mile 17.4,  I saw the top two runners on their way back. Shortly after seeing them a small body of water appeared and I was surprised to see men fishing.  The men fishing stole my attention from the trail and my right foot caught a rock causing me to fly forward landing on my hands.  Had I had my hand held water bottles my hands would have been protected, but honestly, I love my Ultimate Direction Anton Vest 2.0.  I think I should start wearing the weight lifting gloves my wife got me.  Hey, Karl Meltzer wears them.
I shook off the fall and continued down into the aid station. I grabbed some fuel and headed back out.  By my estimate, I was in 13th place.  Around mile 21, I found myself in pain.  My right knee was hurting.  I resigned to walking and running short burst.  My thoughts of an 11 hour 50 mile begin to fade.  I was in a dark place mentally.  I begin talking to myself and finding ways to keep myself motivated to finish.  I was glad to see the next aid station in the distance.
The aid stations really boosted my spirits.  Hearing the cow bell from a quarter mile out and the volunteers encouraging and enthusiastic voices boosted my moral. The mile 30 aid station had such a great vibe and some great motivational posters.  My stomach felt good but my legs and knee still hurt.  I was more than halfway through the race.  It was going to be a long afternoon and possibly evening.
This Guy DNF
Aid Station Motivation..
The four miles to the next aid station felt longer then the whole first sixteen miles.  When I got there I was happy to see Giles.  Giles paced me for my first 100 mile race, and knows me well.  I am forever grateful to have him as friend, crew, pacer, and fellow runner.  Giles helped me change out my shoes and loaded me up with gels.  After sitting for while I knew it was time to get up and get back out on the trail.  I had 19 miles to go, 9 1/2 out and back. 
In a way, it was refreshing to be on a new trail and loop.  The race consists of two out and back loops.  The afternoon had warmed up.  My stomach was now starting to bug me and all I wanted to do was sit down.  When I reached the turnaround I did sit.  The park rangers had and ice chest which I sat on while I chatted with them.  They offered me a canned Gatorade which I chugged; I only had 9 1/2 miles left.
The temperature begin to drop as the sun begin to set.  I was glad I had kept my gloves, arm sleeves, and head wrap.  Running through the dark of night does not bother me much but with tired and heavy legs I walked many portions I’d normally run.  I was afraid to fall. 
About two miles or so from the finish is a designated camp site.  I noticed early on that a group of Boy Scouts, or a similar type group, was camping out. As I came close, I could see the flicker of camp fires.  I then heard a loud drum that echoed.  It was eerie but kind of cool at the same time.  I gathered some sort of storytelling was going on.  My GPS watch had died and my phone had a low battery.  In a way this was a blessing because I had been burning a hole in my wrist watching the time and feverishly estimating my finish time. 
The race had a 15 hour cut off.  But I wanted 13 hours or less after adjusting my goals to my ever slowing pace.  With the finish line in sight, emotions overcame me, and I enjoyed the moment in the shadows before crossing the finish line.  I was greeted by Tim, Giles, and a few race officials. I had my finisher glass filled with ice cold chocolate milk; it was wonderful, a first, and a new post race treat I will now make part of my regimen.  The Colossal Vail 50/50 is one heck of a RACE.  53 ½ miles give or take, 12 hours 41 minutes and some change.

Some great Single Track
A little technical portion

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reflection... Last 6 1/2 months

I have been slacking on my blog.  My original intent was to update at least bi-weekly, but life is busy. I have had a lot of hobbies/interest over the years but the one that has been constant is running.  I have been addicted since 2011.  I have had some ups an downs, mentally and physically, but it is still a passion burning deep inside of me!  I love it..
My last post was about the Javelina Jangover.  But prior to that was my April Zane Grey report.  I have had some adventures in between. Here is a quick look. 

Kristen Steele's Birthday Run. 5/25/14 Competitive Loop, White Tanks  21 miles.  Good Times.  Kristen is a sweetheart and a friend to all.  She is very inspiring. 

In between loops. Giles, Michelle, Kristen, Haley, Mike and others 

Mt. Ord run near Payson.  Adam Livingston set this up.  Such an awesome time with good people and passionate runners.  Got to officially meet some of my social media buddies!  15.1 Miles 4,004 Feet of gain.  This was such a fun day

Working it.  Thanks to John Aka Trail runner guy for the photo

The Start.  You climb the whole way up!  4,004 feet.

Enjoying the Summit Views with  John, Rick, Kevin, Brian and Me.  Photo by Adam L.
View from the top of Mt. Ord

Arizona Road Racers (ARR) 4th of July Race.  ARR puts on awesome races.  I PR'd 4 miles in 26:12.  4th age group and 56th out of 687

Erik , Cristian "the Matador", Me, and Boston Brian Soto

The Wife and I.  I think she likes me.

Flagstaff Family Trip,  Hiking Humphreys Peak Trail.  The kids had a blast.  Even when the monsoon rolled in.  Love my wife and kids.

Humphreys Hike.  The kids rocked it.
Aravaipa Vertigo 31K.   24th out of 67 3hr 45min.  This was one of Insomniac Series Races.  I needed to finish the race.  I helped with my confidence.  It was a warm night. That ended with a crazy electrical storm. 
At the Aid station.  Photo by M. Sager

Photo Finish W/ Boston Brian

Mogollon Monster Training Run.  I joined this group of well accomplished runners on an epic run to see the first 18 miles of the MOG106 Course.  We got a little lost and ended up running 21 miles.  I lagged behind, but got to run with some great runners I look up too.

Jamil, Bret, me, Nathan, Angela
Early Climb

On the Trail, seriously considering this race next year.
Javelina Jangover 50K.  This was one week after my MOG100 Training Run.  And I felt Good.  12th out of 43.  I also ran my fastest 50k  5:27:37 

Chris and I Before the Race. 

Start of the 75k

All of us glowing after the race.  Adam L, and John S. 

Pacing and Crewing for Cristian "The Matador" Rios at the Mogollon Monster 106mi.9/7/2014 This race is a beast.  Had a great trip with Chris. Chris is one heck of a guy.  He loves his family is very passionate about running.  We camped out and were ready to crew and pace.
Unfortunately a crazy storm shut this race down early.   Cristian was in 8th Place at 50 miles.  I was very proud of him.  Crewing is hard.  I have so much more respect for crews/pacers.  I had no clue.  Wish I would have got to pace.  Its all good.  This race will grow and be a classic.  Maybe I'll run it next year.

Chris Lopez Photo

Before the Start.  I was prepping for crazy weather ha.

Cristian heading out after 27 miles.  8th place and running solid.  He left me hanging.  hey he was focused.

Enjoying my Playground in the Estrella foothills. 

My Next run is this Saturday, November 15.  The Colossal Vail 50 miler, in Vail Arizona.