Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2017 Arizona Rock 'N' Roll 1/2 Marathon

Roll 'N' Rock nah man Rock 'N” Roll.

I have been asked every year since I made it known I was a runner, 2011, if I was going to Run the Arizona Rock 'n' Roll (RNR) Marathon. I have always had interesting excuses. Some legit. Like its always the weekend before the Coldwater Rumble, an ultra race at Estrella Mountain Regional Park, put on by Aravaipa. Its basically my back yard so how could I miss it. But also i stayed away because it seemed like it was a huge corporate race with too many people.  But my opinion has changed.  Yes it has.  IT WAS FUN!
the wife and I race morning

I singed up for the RNR Marathon close to a year in advance. The price was just to good to pass up. I was also in a bit of a fog mentally, and needed to change things up. I love trail ultras, but I was in a rut, I thought a road marathon and Boston Qualifier race would get me moving. That was until I was inspired to go for a big ultra. I paced my buddy and Chris at the Mogollon Monster. The race is 100 miles with about 20k feet of gain. It was such a magical experience. It made me want to tackle a challenge I had talked about for awhile, the Across the Years (ATY) 24 hour run. It was dream come true, my first sub 24 hour 100 mile run. The RNR was 2 weeks after and I thought maybe I could somewhat recover enough to run it.

Looming in my head, was a tiny stubborn voice, you could still run the marathon. My intention was to fully support my wife in her third half marathon effort and did not want to distract any attention away from her race. Recovering and trying to give her room to get in her last 2 weeks of training I hobbled around and contemplated what to do. I knew I could tough out the marathon, but why torture myself, knowing the half marathon 13.1 miles, would be a challenge on tired legs and could still be enjoyable. I finally threw in the towel and settled on the half.

I dropped my wife off at the Y race morning so she could go to the race with he running group, crew, gang. I know she enjoys running with them and I know how fun it is to share a passion for something with friends. So I drove to the starting line alone with many thoughts going though my nervous mind. The morning before while cleaning my garage I stepped on a board and punctured my left foot with four nails. Not super deep, but punctures, and my foot throbbed. I walked around painfully. i was upset.  I would make my decision on what to do race morning. 
punctured foot, four nails.  

Foot bandaged up and a baggie in my pocket with ibuprofen I set my mind on running he half marathon. Soto was running late as normal and met me at the back of corral one minutes before the start of the run. It was not as cold as I anticipated. Which was a good thing.  The weather turned out to be perfect. Overcast and cool. The first mile was so uncomfortable. I told Soto I was going to drop. I was surprised he was chilling with me. I think he was there just for fun also. We were right behind the 1:45 pace group. Finally my foot went numb, either from the pounding, or it just accepted that I was going to be running. The miles past steady. I was having fun.

I gestured to each band we past, waved at people holding up signs, and just talked Soto's ear off. It was around mile 7 or so I could feel the muscles in both my legs aching. I was still surprised I was hitting sub 8 minute per mile pace 2 weeks after running 100 miles. Around mile 9 there is decent little climb. But you get a great view of Papago Mountain. I thought It was a beautiful backdrop. Like Soto said, “if you go up you must come down.” I allowed my self to push downhill portion on the road.
under the balloon and DEEZE Nuts

We passed the Phoenix Zoo and were almost on the home stretch. I pushed my pace will crossing the bridge over Tempe Town Lake. I could see the finish. I gave a full out last effort and gave a fist pump at the finish. Paparazzi, aka race photographers, were everywhere snapping photos. I posed for a few with Soto, a few solo, and with my wife when she finished her race with a PR. I shivered. It was cold. we all walked sore and stiff like. It's a strange walk, but also a good one, knowing that soreness is from accomplishment.

I was so overtaken by how many people run this event.  Seeing all the support from family and friends tears of Joy, many people made a dream come true.  I will do this or another big Marathon again. But my heart will always be with the Trail ultras!

As I write this I have decided to go see a doctor for my foot. My tetanus is up to date but Id rather be safe then sorry.

If all goes good be running the OracleRumble ½ marathon on January 28th.

My finish time at the RNR half was 1 hour 40 minutes and 28 Seconds. 479 out of 10,278.

Brian, Liz, and I

Gotta have a beer after a race, even if its a light one

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Across The Years 2016/17 24 hour, 1st timed event, 1st sub 24 hour 100 miler

It is crazy to me how time can fly by and yet stand still at moments. Circles. Running 1.05 mile circles is how I decided to end 2016. It’s also how I started 2017. Almost 4 days removed from my 24-hour timed race, Across the Years, I am still on cloud 9. What A Rush. No cliff hangers here. I met my goal of running my 1st sub 24 hour 100-mile race! My cheeks are a bit sore from smiling. I’m hobbling around a bit, but it does hurt oh so good. 
My 2nd 100 mile buckle. 1st sub 24 hour
The day before the race, I meditated and envisioned myself on the run. I repeated “I will not stop moving, I will not stop moving. No Pain no rain will stop me.” I knew ATY would be cold, but in checking the weather, I was bummed to find out rain  was in theforecast. Being under prepared for weather cost me dearly while attempting my first Zane Grey 50 miler. I have vowed to never let weather stop me again.
I over packed, two rain coats, pretty close to all my running socks, two pairs of warm up pants, ski mask, beanies and so on. It’s funny to see the pile of stuff I didn’t use. But there was no way I was going to let being under prepared get in my way. I knew this race and course would be the perfect setting for me to run faster and possibly farther than I ever have.
Across the Years offers a few options which include 24, 48, or 72 hour races as well as a 6-day event. Each participant can do what they please with the time allotted. I chose to participate in the 24-hour race that started on December 31st. I was nervous that I would not be able to focus with this race following so closely behind Christmas. It actually helped. The business surrounding Christmas kept my mind so occupied I didn’t have much time to second guess my training or let doubt creep in.
The race kicked off on December 28th. I spent a little time at the race each day soaking it all in, calming my nerves and observing. I saw that many runners kept their fluids and nutrition on the curb or on a table near the track/path. I liked the idea of being able to run light and not have to lug around all your supplies like in a trail ultra. Soon it would be my turn.
The night before the start of my 24-hour race, the plan was to lay down, relax, and hopefully sleep. Why did there have to be a UFC fight on? And why did my stubborn ass decide to watch it. Not that I have anything against Rhonda Rousey, but I was glad the main event was over in 48 seconds. I turned the TV off and closed my eyes with hopes of meeting the sandman sooner than later. The sleep was a bit restless and I ended up awake before my alarm had the chance to startle me awake.
I went straight to the bathroom. While in the bathroom I heard a rhythmic patter. It was raining. Based on the reports I had seen, I thought for sure it was going to be clear until around midnight. I text Brian, who was working at the main aid station. He soon shot me a response. “Stop worrying.” So then why did he send me pictures puddles and mud? He made up for it with some good advice. He suggested I wear an old pair of shoes to start out in until the course dried up. I packed 4 pairs of shoes in my bag instead of the three I had been rotating in training.
My wife offered to drive us to the venue. With kids in tow, me in the passenger seat listening to Eminem, we headed to the race. I put my head on the dash board and let myself have an emotional moment. It was about a fifteen-minute drive from my house to the race. I was glad to see the rain had subsided when we pulled into the parking lot at Camelback Ranch Park. This is the spring training facility for the Dodgers and White Socks; awesome facility. My mind went somewhat blank; it was time to shake off the nerves as I neared the point of no return.
I put my supplies in my tent, which I had set up a few days before. It was there strictly to house my gear and a place for me to change if needed. I had no plans of napping or sitting for any extended amounts of time. I showed Chris and my dad my tote with supplies. It was a mess. I apologized. Chris, Brian and my dad offered to stay the duration of the race as my crew. My aunt Terry and Uncle J showed up just before the start. It was the first time they had come to see me run since I was in high school. I was ecstatic having and knowing many of my family and friends would be at the race cheering me on.
I was in a Porta John when I heard the pre-race briefing. No panic. I took my time and made it to the starting line. My goal was to not run faster than 10-minute mile pace and run no slower than 12-minute mile pace as long as possible. This plan worked and I kept it steady for the first few hours. It wasn’t until the 4-hour turnaround, that I was able to let that the monotony of the looped course finally out of my mind. I did not anticipate it would take that long. At ATY you change directions every 4 hours, and believe me the change in direction is very welcomed.
I love and hate my Garmin Fenix 2 watch. Seemed like I could not stop looking at it. Id pull up the sleeve of my shirt to see the pace, mileage and time, then pulled my sleeve back over. I relentlessly did this over and over and over. I wanted to just run on feel and maybe I could have. But what if I went way too fast. I am sure I wasted energy doing this, but it was a relief and motivation to see how steady I was moving.
Around mile 27 or 28 I noticed my left knee hurting and It was getting painful to run. I have had this happen before and have had to muscle through it. But I never had it happen so early in a run. I was just under 50k, about 31 miles. With 70 miles left. It was too soon for this to be happening. My wife had just done a lap with me, I told her of my pain. She asked if I wanted some ibuprofen (vitamin I). I said yes. I had been eating so figured and hoped it would not mess with my stomach too much.
I told her to have it ready by next lap. Halfway through the lap I got a text asking if I had brought Aspercream. I had, so I text back its location, somewhere in the tent. When I got back to my crew, I saw my buddy David, he gave me a big hug before I took a seat. Tim and his family had also arrived. I had one heck of a cheering section. I was surrounded and felt very much in spotlight. I rubbed the Aspercream all over the front and back of my knee. This was the first time I sat down since I started the run.
After getting back on the track, I was so surprised on how well the combo of the cream and vitamin I had worked and I was soon back to my walk run method and keeping up my pace. I had no rhyme or reason to my method. But this combo was the key to my success. Leading up to the race I worked on my walking. Keeping a 15 minute per mile walking pace is not as easy as it may seem. I am so glad I worked on this. The combo of walking and running kept me within the 12 minute per mile pace.
Going into this event, I knew that every second was going to count, and that my execution would have to be flawless. While volunteering at the Desert Solstice 24-hour Track Invitational at the beginning of December, I watched closely. I could not match these elite athletes training, but I could learn some tricks. They never stopped moving regardless of speed. They would toss their bottles at us or their crew, and give orders to what they wanted. They never lingered at the food table; they grabbed and went. They ate while they walked or jogged. Constant and relentless forward progress! If I could somewhat mimic that I knew I could be successful.
My fluids included water and Powerade and I had a bottle designated for each one. My crew and even my aunt and wife, did a good job of keeping these filled and ensuring I was drinking. I switched off and on from water to Powerade. Not having to stop at an aid station to have my bottles filled up saved me so much time, it really did. I would toss the empty and grab new. Just like I had seen at the Desert Solstice Race. But it would seem at one point I was not drinking as much as I should be.
Moving into the early afternoon I was in a groove and feeding off the continued cheers from my family and friends. It was also a boost when one of them would join me for a loop. My wife, daughter’s, dad, Brian, Chris, Tim, and Giles all ran a lap with me. Thank you all. When I did not have company as I rounded the course reaching the spectator/crew area, I made it a game to try and spot my family and friends each loop before they spotted me. At one point I pointed to my mom’s suspicious red cup and sang “Red Solo Cup.” Time was passing and it begin to feel dreamlike as new phase of the race begin with a beautiful sunset.
It seemed to get dark quick. My pace was still steady and I was in reach of my goal. I continued eating and drinking. The food available at this race is amazing. I have never eaten so much at a race. The solid foods were agreeing with me. I ate an egg sandwich, pumpkin pie, chili, pizza, and even drank a few smoothies. It was nice. Besides water and Powerade, during the duration of the race I drank one can of Mountain Dew, a few Dixie cups of Ginger Ale, two Dixie cups with some sort of smoothie and about four Red Bulls.
Although I felt okay and seemed to be drinking enough, I was not peeing. I began to make more of an effort to slowly increase my fluid intake without over doing it, too much too soon. I was having such a solid race; I did not want it ruined by bonking due to dehydration. I had hit 50 miles in a little over 10 hours., a personal best. I was excited I was halfway done. But I knew better then to count my ducks before they hatch.
The mind plays many tricks in an endurance event. People asked me what I thought about? Not much really. I tried music, but it really did not help much. The thing that most kept me moving was the site of family and friends each lap. Of course my life would flash before my eyes now and again. The darkness of the night was making me feel a bit lonely.
As midnight approached, my pace had begun to fade a bit and fatigue was creeping in. With the thought of the New Year on my mind I found a bit of energy and had 3 solid laps. I was still averaging a bit over a 12 minute per mile pace. I thought about partaking in the countdown to midnight, but my race and goal superseded that thought. I was not sure how alcohol would affect me.
I sent my wife a text a few minutes before midnight telling her I loved her and Happy New Year. As midnight struck I was in the dark, somewhat alone, but feeling so free. I was living my dream and ringing in a new year while putting my mind and body to the test. I was tired though.
Loud bangs echoed as fireworks filled the sky form the surrounding neighborhoods. I pictured people hugging, kissing, drinking and partying. As I ran toward my crew, seeing them for the first time in 2017, I hollered “Happy New Year’s” as they flashed smiles and waved at me with Budweiser beer in hand. Brian and Chris joined me for a New Year’s lap. It was strange to feel so alive and then to start feeling so numb. The highs and lows were coming more frequently now. Fatigue was setting in.
I kept on moving, passing more milestones and getting closer to my goal. I changed socks and shoes a few times before settling on my Altra Repetition’s. The cushion felt good on my beat up feet. I started the race with my Altra Lone Peaks then changed to my Brooks Ghost 7. I love running shoes. I had some hot spots on my feet, but ultimately knew there was no way to keep my feet dry with the inevitable rain that was coming.
I think it was about 3:00 am in the morning when the rain slowly moved in. I was not cold at all. I was actually warm and had it not been for the rain I wouldn’t have put on a jacket. The course was slick and the puddles that had earlier dissipated begin to fill as the rain turned from a mist to a steady flow.
Running any sort of consistent tangents became impractical. Although my feet were soaked, I tried to avoid the big puddles. I zigged and zagged on the narrow path even jumping on the curb in some locations. The course was decently lit and it was not necessary to carry a headlamp. There were some dark turns that made me I wish I had one. The gloomy night dampened my spirits more and more. I began to feel cold for the first time. I don’t know why it bugged me so much, but I was irritated by the thought of not seeing the sunrise because of the stupid clouds. I remembered how much of a boost it gave me during The Javelina Jaunderd  in 2013.
I was tired, my feet fucking hurt and I could hardly jog.
I carry my emotions, which prompted Chris to jump out of his seat. He said he was going to join me for a lap. He told me later he could see that I was in a very dark place. He began talking to me, telling me to forget the pain. He told me to remember why I was out there. He said. “you can quit or do what you came here to do.” Something like that. But it was the punch in the face I needed. I thought about my family. I thought about all my friends who had shown up to show me support. I thought about the how much I feared failure.
With considerable effort, I pushed myself to move a bit faster, I cursed, fucking / shit / mother efffer. Thankfully my pace did pick up and the fear of not making it was gone, but I still needed to attack every step and lap. I continued cursing.
With only 3 laps to go, to get 100.78 miles, I saw my wife pull our van into the parking lot. I could not wait to see her and the girls. And as I completed that lap, I saw my wife and daughters on the edge of track. I was excited to see them. I had two laps left. Then one.
On my last lap I left it all on the line and ran as fast as I could. It hurt, with each step my hips seized, my thighs burned, but glory awaited me and crossing the finish line was all I wanted. This was a timed race, and I may have been able to hobble another lap in the 45 minutes that I had left. The truth was I had accomplished what I set out to do. Run a sub 24 hour 100 miler.
So I decided to end it there, 100.78 miles. I High fived, hugged and celebrated. I got my BUCKLE. It is a beautiful buckle.
What a wonderful event. ARAVAIPA, THANK YOU!
To Brian, Chris and my dad thanks for staying up all night with me. Chris, Thank You for shooting straight, being brutally honest, and helping get my mind back on the prize.
To everyone who came to see me run loops. Thank You from the bottom of my heart.
I have grown with each race and accomplishment. But this finish feels different. A maturity that I have been needing for a while now. Taken lessons learned and applying them. Focused training. Letting the ego go. Patience and determination. Not that I was not determined before. It’s just knowing this sport is a huge puzzle and all the pieces got to fit. You can't short cut any aspect of it.  
feeling good

Fighting some inner 

The girls having fun in the grassy area a few days before my race

My wife and kiddos celebrating with me
My Crew. My Dad, Chris and Brian

Blister action

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Reflection Eternal

I stumbled across my blog the other day.  It’s not that I forgot it existed, it’s just that I had not thought about it in a long time. The craving to write and create used constantly pull at me, distracting me from work, family, and at times turning me catatonic and oblivious to the world around me.  Social media technology, having everything at my fingertips, seems to have taken its place in a world and time where being wired 24/7 is not looked at as an obsession, but second nature.  I am not a couch potato.  I live an active lifestyle. I run, I work out. But I am guilty of not being able to unplug!
Why is this bugging me.  Idk?  I just feel at times I wasting to much time in fantasy instead of living and pursuing.  I am always thinking about the next big adventure.  But I also crave the stimulation of a good podcast, movie, show or an audio book. I also know I feel the pressure and have suffered from “FOMO.” The Fear of Missing Out.
The Ultra Marathon seen is bursting at the seams and it’s hard to keep up. I want so bad to be all up in the mix of it all.  But I got to also stay grounded and keep a balance for both my budget and my family.  I know there are times I am physically with them, but mentally gone.  Its tough.  I love them very much, but its hard when that voice in my head is calling me away.
I have never shied away from being honest or even sensitive in my writing.  Sometimes I feel I expose too much.  But that’s why write.  To get the shit off my chest.
So in looking back it’s hard to believe my last blog post was from May of 2015.   I had finally finished the Zane Grey 50 miler.  I was so obsessed with that race and after finishing I was so mentally and physically exhausted. I remember afterwards wanting to just disappear.  In way I did and in a way I didn’t. I was happy that I finished, but was left feeling empty. 
That summer I went on to win the Arizona Road Racers summer series for my age division. The summer series consist of (4) 5k races and (1) 4mile race.  They have a point system based on your top 4 performances.  It sure was a nice change of pace and it brought back many memories of my high school cross country days.  I enjoyed all the accolades I was getting. I prided myself in bringing home a medal from each race; especially since at these races only the top three in each age division received a medal.  It made me wonder if maybe I should give up on Ultra Running and just stick to short races considering the success I was having. 
In August of 2015 I went on my first ever hunting trip.  My buddy Chris invited me to join him and his father up near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  There was zero cell service.  That was longest I had gone without being able to use my phone; 6 days.  It was amazing to unplug.  I felt so free.  I experienced so many new things on this trip.  I can’t lie, in my many ways I felt like a kid being exposed to the outdoors for the first time.  
Just the idea of keeping everything so simple, form the meals we ate, to our sleeping arrangement. No tents.  Just a tarp over our cots.  Waking up early to a HOT cup cowboy coffee. Spitting out coffee grounds.  Bushwhacking through the forest scouting for deer.  Sitting in a blind and nearly shitting my pants when a deer discovered us, snarled, and ran like hell.   This defiantly upped my outdoor game. But it also opened up a flood gates of thoughts in my brain.  I had not a felt that type of inspiration in a long time.   Throughout the trip Chris and I reminisced on our past ultras as well as what the future held for us.  It felt so good to be dreaming and making plans.
I am not going to reflect on every event since my 2015 Zane Blog.  Although I do have unfinished drafts/race reports from Black Canyon 60k, Zane Grey 2016, Grand Canyon Rim to Rim,Humphreys hike, and even pacing Chris at the Mogollon Monster. I need to finish that blog; it was SO AMAZING!
I guess I am writing this as a reminder to myself to disconnect now and again.  To remind myself to not only dream, but to live it.  I need to be engaged in my family. I need to set a good example.  I want to see my kids grow and make their lives extraordinary.  I hate the rat race. but it is what it is. 
I am running consistent again and I have really been enjoying it. After a challenge from Chris, to not just talk about goals but pursue them, I signed up and will be running Across the Years (ATY) in a few weeks.  I choose to run the 24-hour race starting on December 31st.  I know this will not only test me physically but mentally.  This will be my first timed race.  1.05 mile loops. Excited! Nervous! Anxious!  Going to be fun!

Humphrey Hike With Liz,Brian and Giles

Chris with his Mogollon Monster Buckle

Road Racers award 2015

Rim to Rim

Monday, May 11, 2015

Zane Grey 50 Mi. 2015. A love affair.

Running into the fish hatchery, My wife directing me to my gear.  Or was she telling me to finish my laundry?

Normally I'm dying with anticipation to get a blog out soon as a race or big run is over, but I have been so mentally and physically exhausted; finishing the Zane Grey 50 miler this year was a dream come true.   I had obsessed about this race since 2012 the first time I witnessed it first hand while crewing for my good friends, Tim and Giles. 

I registered for 2013 race as soon as registration opened.  Unfortunately a few weekends before the race, tragedy hit my family, as my father-in-law suffered a massive heart attack.  He was taking off life support and was buried on the day of the 2013 race.  I vowed to run the 2014 race in his honor.  I DNF'd that race, I made a huge mistake of underestimating warnings of a huge storm, causing the race to be cut short at mile 33. That day my race ended at mile 18, Washington Park.  It hurt so bad, and I did nothing but obsess about this years race.  I have purposely not read any race reports, with the exception of my buddy Tim's, so I could have a clear perspective when I tell my story.

Even now as I write this, I am not sure this will serve it justice.  Life has been crazy since the race, but here goes a quick write up.

Morning of the race I carpooled with Tim, Giles, Brian, and David to the start.  I put my ear buds in, and loudly listened to P.O.S, reciting the chorus  "no one will ever be, like me."  P.O.S mixes grung, metal and rap.  It got me pumped and I was ready to face my fears; my love affair with Zane Grey had to end. 

Tim, Giles, Brian, and I posed for a picture and shared last minute words of encouragement.  I was so nervous I dry heaved and lost a bit of stomach acid.  I shook it off and begin going over my race strategy.  I needed to be alone so I got lost in the crowd of runners anticipating the start. I did not get to lost, I ended up next to Scott Lump, another good friend, we wished each other good luck.

I started off just in front of the mid Pack runners.  I was cold at first but had layered perfectly, I did not have to stop to remove any clothing, I simply pushed down my arm sleeves.  I moved steady, just above my comfort zone, keeping my breathing in check, but not slowing down. I found myself ahead of a lot of guys I knew would finish before me, when they finally passed, I did not try to keep up, I had to run my race.

Aid station 1, Geronimo, seemed to come upon me very quick.  I filled up my water bottles, I had made sure to drink a full bottle before I got there, and once they were filled up I took off on the trail.   Last year at this point I was soaked and cold as sleet begin to fall, and soon turned into hail.  From training runs I knew the next section very well. I found myself running and talking with two men from Tucson.  Both are ultra vets, each with ten plus 100 miles completed, and their stories helped make the miles fly bye. Washington Park, the 2nd aid station of the race, was my big target. I DNF'd here last year.  

At Washington I reloaded gels from my drop bag and left the aid station with a huge smile on my face, I knew In my heart I would finish the race.  I kept my pace steady, I did not want to get cocky, with lots of race and challenges ahead of me.   I was now on a part of the Arizona trail I had never seen before. Beautiful views, lush grass, trees, and ankle twisting rocks.  This was the Zane Grey I had heard about for years.  My legs were now showing signs of fatigue but my spirit was still fueling my desire to keep putting one foot infront of the other.
Thanks Melissa for the Photo.  I was a happy RUNNER.  leaving Washington Park

I was moving slower now, but still feeling good,  I was glad I had started off strong, and built a cushion; I would not have to worry about cut offs, even if I walked the rest of the race.  
I started talking, hiking, climbing, and running with a guy from Nevada; I believe his name was Joe. We had many things in common, especially young kids.  Like me, he had been contemplating what was next as far as ultra-running.  Ultra-running can be a very selfish sport with all the time you spend away training.  I am grateful for my wife and kids support, but I think I owe them more of my time.  

With unstable footing, tall grass, and the constant up and down climbing on the way to Hells Gate (mile 23.5) I began to labor and I breathing getting harder. 
At hells gate I sat on an ice chest,   Complete exhaustion had come over me, I had to get back up and keep moving to keepy legs and body for stiffening up.  My wife, kids, Dave, and a few friends were waiting for me at the Fish Hatchery; and I did not want to let them down.  
I got to the Fish Hatchery about an hour and a half before the cut off.  I ate, changed my shoes, shirt, and tried to describe the first 33 miles to my crew and friends.  The storm was rolling in, I put on my waterproof coat, and after about 20 minutes (way to long) at the aid station it was time to go.  
 Fueled by the bean burrito, Chris Lopez dad gave me, I left the Fish Hatchery.  I felt a little lonely, and kind of wished I had a pacer, but I knew in my heart this was one journey I had to conquer on my own. 
The trail from Fish Hatchery to See Canyon is so beautiful, although at this point in the race, the climbs absolutely suck.  I don't wear headphones or listen to music during races, but I made an exception this time, and listened to an audiobook on my phone. Without a pacer to talk to you, it really got me through some rough patches and took my mind off my aching legs, empty stomach, and tired eyes; I needed caffeine.

When I got to See Canyon I drank about 3 cups of Mountain Dew as well as a few of Ginger Ale.  I was was glad to be reunited with Joe again, who to my surprise was at the aid station. We hiked hard enduring more steep climbs.  The storm was in full effect pouring cold rain.  It got dark fast, the trail was now slippery and muddy, and huge burst of thunder shook the mountains. I was a bit scared, to be honest, but pressed on;  my wife, kids, and my friends waiting for me at the finish line. 
 The mud begin the cake my shoes and I started having flashbacks to last years race.  The strap on my headlamp came loose, and with frozen hands I could not fix it, so I held in my hand like a flashlight.  My feet were completely soaked as I navigated the slippery trail.  I was kind of hallucinating, as I imagined huge rocks, to be cars, fully expecting to see the finish line.  
When I Finally I saw the lights of the finish line, I was so relived, my right hand was numb and throbbing, I had lost my water proof glove while messing with my headlamp.  A man appeared encouraging me on, he said "you got 30 seconds to the finish, well, the way you moving maybe one minute." I was overcome with joy, I screamed "Fuck Yeah." I saw my buddy Dave, who snapped a picture of me, then I saw my wife and kids.  They were huddled under a canopy, trying to stay dry.  I could not appreciate their sacrifice at that moment,  all I wanted to do is get in the car, I was freezing.  I stripped naked behind my van and immediately put on dry clothes and jumped into the back seat of the van.
Tim and Giles were in the van with the heat blasting, I was hypothermic, coughing, and my emotions were in an up roar; excitement, sadness, hunger, and the thought of  "holy shit I Finished Zane Grey."  

Tim and Giles had missed the cut off by a few minutes, my heart went out for them. Brian was still on the course and was about 45 minutes behind me. He got to the van completely soaked and wanted nothing more then to get in.  The drive home was sort of quite as both Brian and I tried to thaw out.  
It was a dream come true for me, I will be proud of this one for a long time, my love affair was finally over.  Zane Grey you hurt me, you challenged me, I love you and I hate you.  
I know this is a blurry account.  I'm still processing this one, pinching myself,  I am not sure what's next?
A big Thank You to my wife for being there to both support and crew me.  David Collier, for always believing in me; I will be there when you do your first fort ultra brother.  Tim, Giles, Brian, and all my other crazy friends out there on the trail.  Salute!!

Getting Ready

one of many climbs

crazy footing

2nd half of the course. 


about to cross the finish line

My Kids enduring the cold and rain, waiting for me to Finish.  They Photo bombed Jon Roig's Photo

Waiting for my Jacket and Rock.  I was DONE

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