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. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Javelina Jangover 50K 2014

Aravaipa Instagram Post

Bad ASS shirt
Anytime rain is in the forecast for a race my mind drifts back to last year’s Zane Grey 50 Miler.  That one still stings.  But for the Javelina Jangover 50k I was looking forward to the rain.  The lower temps and a run-able course made my mind spin with thoughts of a PR. But I had to remind myself, not to go out to fast!

My wife and I carpooled to McDowell Mountain Regional Park with Chris, a fellow runner and accomplished bow hunter, and his wife.  We got to the park, picked up are bibs, and begin to get our gear ready for the run. I was excited to be back on the Pemberton trail, last time I was there was for the JJ100.

Looking West from the parking lot
Looking East Near the Start line
The skies were beautiful, any direction you turned to look you were in for a treat.  I snapped a few photos, caught up with a few friends and eagerly awaited the start of the 50k.  The 75k runners were off and the 30 minutes between the start of their race and mine felt like seconds.  I was nervous, but in a good way.  It begin to rain a few minutes before the gun went off. 


My Garmin has had a crack in it for a while now, so with the fear of it being water damaged, I had it in a zip-lock bag.  So after hitting start I tucked it in my pocket and patiently headed out onto the trail.   I was running blind so to speak and enjoying the rain. The thick storm clouds covered up the moon so my headlamp was definitely needed.  I kept a good rhythm.  Finally the rain subsided and I took my watch out of my pocket and placed it on my wrist.  I was at mile 5 and very happy about my pace.   


75k Start
The electrical storm was amazing as flashes of lightning lit up the whole sky. I overheard one runner counting down the roar of thunder.  I laughed, when a rod of lightning flashed over the McDowell’s, and another runner yelped “YOWZA.”  It really made for an awesome backdrop, and I was grateful that it was off in the distance; I was enjoying the race and did not want it to be called off due to weather.


The 50k consist of two 15.4 mile loops.  You run the first clock wise and second counter clockwise.  As with JJ100, this was one of my favorite features of the race since you can see the leaders and watch the race unfold.  Also it is motivating to cheer on other runners and also get words of encouragement.  I ran nearly every step of the first loop. 

As I entered the aid station I quickly handed off both of my water bottles to be re-filled.  My wife, who I am so glad made it to the race, brought my drop bag over to me.  I decided to change my shirt.  I was soaked and it felt good to put on a fresh shirt.  I was grazing over the aid station table while also explaining to her how I had fallen with less than a mile to go before the end of the first loop, when she interrupted me and said “stuff your pockets and go!”   I was caught off guard but also flattered.  She was right, the clock was running.

I left the aid station in good spirits and confident knowing I was on pace to smash my 50k personal best of 5:54:32.   I was running steady but feeling fatigued.  My hips and knees ached.  I attribute it to the 21 mile training run on the Mogollon Monster 100 course the weekend before.  I would not change a thing, I had a blast up in Pine, and was having a solid race so far.  I caught up with Chris and we begin to chat and run together.

 It was nice having company.  Chris asked if I had turned off my head lamp off at all.  I hadn’t but decided to try it.  After my eyes adjusted, Chris and I, spent the next few miles hiking and running under the moonlight.  It was cool and made the experience that much more enjoyable.  After falling a second time, I turned my headlamp back on. 

 The last 4 miles consisted of running surges, walking, and my world famous dry heaving.  Soto and Widener brothers know what I am talking about. It’s funny how seeing the finish line gives you a second wind.  Suddenly I had a little more pep in my step and crossed the line in 5:27:37.  Good enough for 12 place and a 26 minute 50k PR.

 So glad I decided to run this race.  I don’t think I will run JJ100 this year, but will be back one day to chase a sub 24 hour finish and a Western States lottery ticket.  (As of writing this only 30 spots left)


I love this sport

Me and Chris Lopez

Ran the Jangover and had to get Hungover...










Monday, April 28, 2014

2014 Zane Grey 50 Miler

 Due to Extreme Weather the Race Ended up only being 33 Miles.  I only made it 17.

The Zane Grey 50 Miler is a race I have been dreaming of running since I crewed for my buddies in 2012.  I have the utmost respect for its history and lore of it being ruggedly tuff.  Per the Website its “Regarded as the toughest, roughest and most beautiful 50 mile trail runs in the country. It runs point-to-point along the Highline trail from Pine to Christopher Creek, Arizona”

Early on race week I begin to hear chatter of a huge storm set to roll in the Saturday of the race.  As the week went on, the talk of a more substantial storm lit up Facebook.  I begin to worry a bit. I was constantly checking for updates.  This added to the anxiety I was already feeling for the race under normal conditions.  “It’s the afternoon heat that gets you” I heard over and over while planning for the race.  Now I had to plan for cold weather.

I packed long sleeves, gloves, beanies, extra socks, wind breakers, water resistant jackets and ton of regular running shirts as extra layers.  I chose to use a 4 dollar Wal-Mart poncho, which is a step above the 99 cent ponchos, for my rain/severe weather barrier.
At 10:45 am on Friday, the day before the race, an email was sent out warning runners, crews and pacers the National Weather Service had issued a hazardous weather condition report.  The race would now have 50k and 50 mile options.  There was also the possibility of the race being stopped completely at 50k if the weather was as severe as promised.

My buddies and I arrived at the starting line about 4:15 am.  The Pine Trail head parking area was filled with cars and eager runners.   It was about 52 degrees; 8-10 degrees warmer than expected.   I chatted with many friends and other runners.  Some who mentioned they had already shed some layers.  I had on three layers.  I was tempted to shed my jacket but decided to keep it on and deal with being a little uncomfortable. I was at the back of the pack when the race started.

I followed the line of headlamps, walking and shuffle stepping along the trail.  Soon it spread out enough I was able to run a steady pace.  It was really dark even with the many headlights that illuminated the trail.  No one tried to pass.  Everyone seemed to be working in unison.  On cue the darkness began to slowly subside and as we reached the top of a climb and I heard someone say “look at the sunrise.”  It was beautiful.
When I arrived at Camp Geronimo (Mile 8) I had both my water bottles filled and immediately took cover under a tarp so I could put on my rain poncho. I did not realize how wet I was. It had been drizzling a few miles before Geronimo.  The rain was now in full force. The poncho flared out and Hung like a dress.  It hung just above my knees.  I quickly decided to pull the back end around my waist and tie it.  Then I rolled and tucked the front flap under it so it would not flop around in the wind.  Perfect I thought.

I told Tim I was heading out.  I left Camp Geronimo and hiked the climb searching for a spot to pee.  When I returned to the trail Tim and Giles were just rounding the Corner.  Giles jokingly said I looked like a samurai and pointed out that he looked like a flasher with the rain coat he was wearing. Giles, Tim and I stuck together.  We talked nonstop about the weather.  Mud caked our shoes as the rain seemed to be blowing from all angles.  This was when I first begin to feel cold.  I knew moving was the best bet if I wanted to stay warm. 

I could not believe my eyes as hail fell and blanketed the forest.  The trail became icy and wet. Although it made for slick and slippery footing I was glad the mud was no longer caking the bottoms of my shoes.  Excitement and adrenaline fueled me and I picked up the pace.  I splashed through mud and ice; I was having fun.  But I was also more noticeably colder. The poncho did not cover my  arm so my sleeves were soaked through.  My shoes were soaked but my feet felt fine, it was my hands I was worried about.

I arrived at Washington Park (mile 17) around 9:40 am.  I was 20 minutes ahead of the cut off.  An aid station worker took the water bottles from my vest.  I fought to get my wet gloves off.  Mark Hellenthal, who I am so grateful for, offered me his gloves.  I told him I had some in my drop bag. I frantically looked. I could not find them. Mark, who I think was watching me, said he would grab me the extra pair he had in his car.  I begin to shiver.  My head was clouded and I begin to panic.  I needed desperately to get moving.
This is the part I know I will have nightmares of about.

My original plan, i thought of a mile before getting to Washington Park, was to stuff my bag of dry clothes under my poncho and wedge it under my vest straps and leave the aid station.  Instead I stared at it and unfortunately decided to go ahead and change into a dry top. I took off my poncho which was a big mistake.  I immediately begin to shiver uncontrollably.

That’s when P. Olsen popped his head out of the U-haul truck I was leaning on, and said come in here its way warmer.  I was dazed everything around me was in slow motion.  Mark arrived with the gloves and I thanked him then crawled into the back of the U-haul truck.  J Thompson was also in the truck trying to get warm.  All three of us agreed how shitty the situation was.  I tried to make light of it.  Having there company gave me hope that I could continue on.
I quickly shed my shirts and put on a two more; a compression top and a long sleeve.  I Looked out of the truck and was glad to see Tim and Giles.  Tim was wasting no time and heading back on the trail.  I told him I would catch up.  I desperately needed to get moving.  I put on my poncho and the gloves Mark had giving me.  A volunteer snapped the clips on my Race vest.  She also grabbed me a piece of PB&J.  I inhaled it.  I was 10 feet away from leaving the aid station when I looked at my poncho and was unsatisfied how it hung and blew in the wind. I knew that I would get soaked. I was already so cold and delirious.  I absolutely could not remember how I wore it earlier.  (I pulled the back tight around my waist and rolled the front up)
I decided to get back into the bay of the U-haul truck.  I was shivering uncontrollable.  Joe Galope (Race Director) looked into the U-Haul and said there is a car going to the Fish Hatchery.  He then asked for bib numbers, but then he turned away.   He never told me I had to stop.  I could have jumped out of the truck and continued on.  But in my miserable state I said “Joe, who do we give our numbers to?”  I then returned the gloves to Mark.  I told him thanks and to please offer them to someone else.  I was not going to continue. I could not stop shaking. I hurried to catch the ride. I was eager to feel the warmth of a car heater.  Me and 4 other runners piled into a minivan.  I was immediately devastated and felt ashamed for wanting to be warm. 

When I got to my hotel I sat in the tub as the warm shower water “rained” on me.  Red mud collected near the drain.  It was a nightmare.  I could not cry.  I played the last few minutes at the aid station over and over in my mind.  Eventually I got up and got dressed.  My buddy Tim, who I made trip to ZG with, was still on the trail.  I wanted to see him finish.  (Prior to leaving Washington Park I heard the finish line would be at the Fish Hatchery Mile 33)

My heart cheered and broke every time a runner finished.
Tim Widener you are a beast.  Many congrats to all my running friends who finished.  Also shout out to all who fell short.  The weather conditions out there were by far the worst I have ever encountered.

In the end, my first Zane Grey was as epic as I Imagined.  I can’t say the trail kicked my ass.  The weather is what did me in.  I failed to properly prepare.  I have been told I made a smart decision, and possibly avoided injury or sickness.  There is a lot left to be discovered.  

50K May Challenge?  Will see..... Need to set a new goal soon. 

This does not do the storm Justice

Icy and muddy trail

Me looking like a weirdo.

Crazy Weather

The day After.  WTF

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Running in the Center of the Universe Podcast Interview (Javelina Jundred)

I recently had the honor of being a guest on the “Running in the Center of the Universe” Podcast.  The show is hosted by Ashland Dave.  I have been listening to the show close to 3 years now.  What draws me to the show is how real and down to earth Dave is.  I like his running stories and perspective on life.  I think he is a straight shooter and shares the same love I have for running.

I have emailed the show several times to comment and share my opinion on various topics.  When I mentioned to Dave I had completed the Javelina Jundred (JJ100) I was asked if I would like to be a guest on the show.  I did not hesitate to say yes.  After a few months the interview took place on Wednesday April 16, 2014.  Here is the link.  Running in the Center of Universe Podcast

I will be honest, I was nervous; it was my first Podcast interview.  It was exciting to re-live the JJ100, which was my first and only 100 mile race/run to date.  Reflecting on it really made me think about how running has shaped my life the past 4 years.  It has become a part of my everyday life.

I am 7 days away from toeing the line at the Zane Grey 50mi miler in Payson Arizona.  I am beyond excited and nervous.  I like the idea that I am so nervous.  I think it is important to continue challenging myself.  I don't update this blog as much as used too.  Life has been super busy juggling family, work, and running.

Thanks again Dave. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Elephant Mountain 50k, 7 Miles short...

It was only 7 more miles to finish, but I decided to drop at 24.  To be honest I was hurting , both knees were screaming, and my heart was not in it.  This was my fourth ultra DNF.  
 Those that know me well can attest to how sensitive and emotional a person I am.  My running reflects that. I made a rookie mistake at the Coldwater Rumble 50k at the end of January.  I will call it my zero drop flop.  I went from Hoka shoes to a zero drop Altra shoe. For those not familiar I will describe it as going from platform shoes to flats. I love the Altra's, but instead of the slow transition, the shoes went straight from the box to my feet and on the trail for a 50k. I paid for it greatly.  I have been sidelined with and injured foot.  
Enough wining.  I wanted to run Elephant Mountain since it's inception. I signed up Tuesday, the last day online registration was possible.  It all felt backwards for me.  
But I will say this.  What a wonderful course and trail race. Yes there are tons of rocks, but there are also lots of areas where you can run and make up time from the short and gradual climbs.  The elevation charts made me more cautious then I needed to be early. But with the few weeks of little to no training I was grateful that there was no hands on knees climbing. 
This was a great race, trail run.  
I have no regret for dropping.  I was physically and mentally not ready.  It was a great training run with friends.  In the future I hope to return and finish this course.  Out of respect for the trail and for Aravaipa!  
Now and again we all need a good butt kicking to refocus!