The Ultra Experience

Here's to the adventures of my life which are usually ultra marathon trail running or backpacking but may include other trips, experiences, thoughts, opinions, or pretty much whatever I want. As co-founder of Altra Footwear my life and adventures seemingly revolve more around developing and promoting the best footwear in the world...and I love it!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Zion Traverse 2014

Could a 50 mile run be more enjoyable?!  I got a call on Wednesday April 2nd from Ben Corrales about a group heading down on the weekend and doing this route.  I've wanted to do this for years and needing a big training run 3 weeks prior to UTMF, this fit perfectly into my schedule.

A group comprised of myself, Ben, Amy, Seth Hales, and Matt Connors set out a little after 7am from the East Entrance.  Weather was cool but comfortable and we chatted for much of the first couple hours.  We had the luck of being crewed by Shay throughout the journey.  He met us at several sections along the route.  And the route was spectacular!  The trail couldn't have been better and the scenery was near overload.  I felt great all day.  The cool whether including a couple of random light snow flurries followed by 55 degree sunshine was a perfect mix.

Towards the end the pace picked up and I made a surge up the last climb.  I couldn't believe how good I felt after running 50 miles.  Incredible.  Ran the route in 11 hrs 46 min.  Thanks to the rest of the crew for letting me tag along.  The only runs I've done that compare would be R2R2R or The Uintah Highline trail however I think this was the easiest.  Having Shay crew made the difference!  Highly recommend the route.  Incredible.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Antelope Island 50, 2014

Buffalo Run Festival!  You know the season is upon you when Jim Skaggs annual race festival occurs.  Its not "are you running" but "which race are you running".  However I haven't done this one for a few years.  Mostly because the out-n-back section KILLED me last time.  However, this year was different.  Came off the Moab 55k very well and with 5 weeks before UTMF, I was primed to run well!

The starters pistol was replaced with The Lord of the Rings classic Gandolf line of "Run You Fools!"  and off we went.  Scott Jaime and Pablo immediately took off and disappeared.  I settled in with Harrison and Zac Marion with a large chase group a few minutes back.  There's never much to report the first 15-20 miles.  There was the typical yo-yoing of placing but all was well.  It was surprisingly not getting any warmer.  As the sun came up, so picked up the wind.  Heading back to the start at mile 19, I choose to keep my warm clothes...however I couldn't find my drop bag.  I looked for several minutes but I knew there was a half dozen guys within a few minutes of me.  I could have looked harder but I ended up leaving the aid station with nothing.  A little frustrated, I kept on.

I knew that the next aid station was less than two miles away.  All I had was 5-6 oz of water which I downed before I got there.  In preparation for the long out-n-back section I snagged 2 gels from the aid station and kept truckin.  I was definitely a little thrown off by not having my drop bag but I knew it wasn't a big deal.  All I had was 4 gels and an electrolyte drink in there.  Missing that was no biggy, but it weighed on my mind.  I was caught by 2 guys around Lower Frary but after taking both gels, re-hydrating, and taking salt I found myself back in rhythm heading into the Ranch mile 33.

The confidence I received from getting to my drop bag was huge.  I ate some food, grabbed my stuff, and was off.  It was the best I'd felt all day.  I soon found myself passing a couple guys and moved into 3rd place with the 2nd place guy only a couple minutes up.  After 6-7 miles I began to slow down.  Given I had been running for 40 miles but I just couldn't seem to get that next gear.  2nd place was now only 1 minute up but I had no energy left!!  I tried to catch up on nutrition having done the middle 2 hours of the race off of only two gels...but it was too little too late.  Harrison was right on my tail and I quickly went from closing in on 2nd to falling to 4th.  I yelled in frustration at Mtn View aid station, mile 44.  I didn't have the energy and 2nd & 3rd place were pulling away...

So I kept at it with a manageable pace.  With the pressure off and no visible sign of anybody behind me I just coasted.  A needed pep talk from Erik Storheim and a glass of coke at mile 46 and I'd say those last 4 miles were wonderful!  Although I faded a bit those last 8-9 miles I finished feeling great and actually BEAT my pre-race goal time of 7:19 (I don't wear a watch when I run so I had not idea what my time was...).  I finished 4th in a time of 7:14.36.  Best part of the race?  Watching Ari, my 4 year old son, run to me as fast as he could!!  I carried him draped around me those last 40 feet.  When I finished he asked me "Daddy run fast?"  "Yes Ari, Daddy ran really fast!"

This will be a race to remember for me.  Despite a few set-backs I beat my goal time time by 5 minutes, set a huge 50 mile PR (1 hr 20 min PR), felt great almost all day including the finish, feeling prep'd for UTMF, saw tons of friends, Altra shoes EVERYWHERE!, tested a brand new Altra shoe that performed amazing (Paradigm- see below), and generally had an amazing day on the Island.  Prop's to Jim Skaggs and all the Altra employee's on the island (Zac Marion- huge comeback to finish right behind me in the 50.  Seth Wold- new course record on the 25k.  Ashleigh Jameson- first trail race! Brian Roberts- for still running despite having the flu all week. And Leslie Howlett for her 2nd place 50k).  Also thanks to my wife, parents, and boys who came to the finish line.  Life is good!

Altra Paradigm.  Launches May 1st.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Moab Red Hot 55k 2014

Its been 7 years since I last ran this event.  Bad memories of starting out too fast, getting lost with Eric Storheim for an extra 3 miles, suffering in for the last 10 miles, and week long soreness from the pounding.  However ALTRA is now a sponsor for this event, so a little representation was in order.  That along with my aggressive Spring schedule and I figured I needed a long early challenge.
I was surprisingly relaxed at the starting line.  It was fun seeing so many great people at the start.  The ultra-community is pure goodness.  I had no watch and my plan was to just run.  In the back of my mind I wanted to run a sub 5 hour race but really treated the race like a tough training run.  Ran most of the first 6 miles with Seth hales, Zac Marion, and Matt Conners in a rather raucous conversation.  I skipped the first aid station having taken more water than necessary (training for UTMF) and found myself alone.  So with a few tunes I kept going.  I stopped several times to take pictures through this section as I found myself alone through incredible terrain.  I was BUZZED and loving it.  At aid station 3 I took several minutes to reorganize my pack a bit and refill my bottles adding my favorite juice (Generation UCAN).  I felt great and knew that this run/race had plenty more enjoyment to dish out!
So I powered along feeling oh-so-good.  On the climb up to mile 20 I relaxed a bit not quite knowing my fitness level (wished I would have pushed harder here).  Ran quite a bit with Altra lover/wearer Matt Muncha who was gushing over the Lone Peaks (rightfully so but I was running/testing the new Olympus's which performed beyong my already high expectations).  Once on top I was again BUZZED and took off down the mountain (see below photo).  Got a little humbled on a couple of the steeper rollers but seemed to pick up steam all the way to the finish.  I think the last 4 miles were the fastest of the day!  I had no issues what-so-ever and was on such a high for most of the race.
I ended up 25th overall with a time of 4:52.   Results here.  Seems like a terrible spot for a race I feel like I crushed but that's how competitive this race has become!  I finished with a shout of joy and plenty of energy.  I enjoyed this year so much more than 2007...and intend to come back.  Its also given me quite a bit of confidence knowing that I never really pushed my limits on this race yet I still ran super well.  Even had enough energy to go hiking with my boys in Arches that same afternoon.  Good day, great race, and happy for Spring to come!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Almighty 2014 Race/Adventure Schedule

Well it's that time of year to start bragging of upcoming feats of strength, wishful epic adventures, and basically let the testosterone shine forth out of the cold dark depressing winter.  This is that post for me....

The year that is newly 2014 will be as epically awesome as any year on record.  The newest and most exciting adventure for the Beckstead clan is that we are expecting our 3rd child on July 22nd!!  What was a surprise baby will be welcomed with love, excitement, and probably lots of bruises from two rambunctious older brothers.

In terms of outdoor adventures, they are as follows:
March- Antelope Island 50
April- Ultra Trail Mount Fuji 100 (yep, a 100 mile race circumnavigating Mt Fuji in Japan!)
May-? Probably the local favorite of Timp Trail Marathon
June- Squaw Peak 50
June- Second annual "Fly fishing trip of awesomeness"
July- Baby!
August- Uintah backpacking with my 4 year old
September- Wasatch 100 (revenge with the goal of finishing regardless of time...)
?! Grand Canyon Double crossing- dying to get back to the big ditch

I also have business trips planned for Germany, Taiwan, Japan (+ race!), and Canada.

So overall a pretty awesome year. Add in some epic training runs, mini adventures with my boys, exciting new footwear projects, and a couple dozen single fly fishing days and 2014 will be one big party!  Testosterone to hit 22 miles over the frozen Alpine Loop...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Gear of 2013

So I thought I'd throw out some "Brian's Gear Awards 2013".  What do these awards mean?  Nothing.  However I've really enjoyed these products over the last 12 months and I thought that I would give them some love!

Award #1- Food

This is a split award.  I've been using two new products that have absolutely blown my mind.  The first is VFuel Gel.  Its amazing not only in quality but also in taste.  I mostly use the Peach Cobbler but word on the street is that they are coming out with a couple new flavors for 2014!  Why do I love these so much?  Well, the gel uses no frustose, low caffeine (10mg), and the secret sauce of MCT oil.  For more info check out

The second food find is MetaSalt.  Its packed with goodies.  I've felt that most salt tablets lack salt or trace minerals.  This has both PLUS gastrointestinal items like, black pepper, peppermint, licorice, and ginger.  This pill is amazing...

I have had ZERO stomach issues since using these combined two products and ran some great races with them.  Highly recommend both products.

Award #2- Hydration

UltraSpire wins this award hands-down but in particular is the Revolution Pack.  As someone who hates bladders, has no butt so waist packs drive me nuts, and handhelds are inefficient (there's good data showing an increase in heart rate & respiratory rate with handhelds compared to packs, and thats with the pack carrying 3 times as much gear...), I LOVE the Revolution.  A 26 oz water bottle, everything you need up front and extra storage in the back, its great.  If needed, I can carry 1 handheld on long hot sections, even store it in the middle back pocket for efficiency.  Props to UltraSpire!

Award #3- Socks

Drymax.  The material olefin is amazing, particularly when its coated with Teflon (ePTFE is Teflon...)!!  The Maximum Protection Running sock is incredible.  I think the max trail is too heavy for me but I've never blistered in this sock with Altra shoes!  3 blisters.  Coming from a traditional shoe and wool sock that prevented me from EVER going over 40 miles without blisters (rarely over 25 miles without blisters), its amazing that that I've done 3 100, 3 100k, 4 50 milers, etc etc without a single blister.  The downfall is the $30 price tag.  I train in the Trail Running lite (no ePTFE coating) and race the Max Protect.

Award #4- Shoes

Runner's World Editors Choice and the last 4 years life project.  My Altra Lone Peak 1.5 are amazing.  Yes I'm biased, but they sure treat me nice!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lackluster 2nd half, Wasatch 100 2013

What's overall been a great year of running for me in 2013, the second half has been quite lackluster.

Since Devils Backbone in mid-July, I've been in a huge running rut.  I had the best early season racing of my life but by mid-summer I was burnt out mentally and majorly work-stressed.  Had a 3 week stretch with 20  I decided to treat it as a taper and run Katchina Mosa 100k to try and get my butt in gear.  Although I finished, running most of the race with good friend Roger Smith, I didn't want to be there.  It was really odd.  In years past I've felt physically burnt out but this was totally mental.

I ended up having a couple really nice weeks of training in late August.  Several runs up Timp that were frankly special.  I hoped that with my early season success I could maybe squeak a fast one at Wasatch.  Looking back on it, it was wishful thinking at best but mostly stupid.  I wasn't mentally there and should have throttled back for a finish rather than shooting for a time.

However, I felt great the first 45+ miles at Wasatch.  I started conservatively with an updated watering plan due to the heat that had me feeling great all the way through Big Mountain.  Ran a long section with Craig Loyd and generally had a grand time!   I should have seen the warning signs earlier while seeing great runners like Christian Johnson, Seth Hales, Jay Aldous, and Greg Norrander call it a day.  I was in and out of Big Mountain in a matter of minutes and excited by how good I was feeling.  I pushed through the heat passing 6-7 more runners and still feeling good.  However I only took 40 oz of water through this section and it frankly wasn't enough as I ran out of water a couple miles before Alexander.  I started to feel a little queezy heading into Alexander Ridge but nothing unusual.  I was still right on pace for sub-24 hours when 5 minutes out of the aid station I hit the wall...bad.  It was really odd but I just couldn't move.  Golden Harper who was pacing me did what he could but I can't even explain it...I lost all energy.  It seemed to come out of no-where!  It was frustrating.

By the time I got to Lambs I was a mess.  I was down 8 lbs at weigh in, then I emotionally broke down.  It was pretty bad, I can't even explain it but after 90 minutes of sobbing, getting ice on me, cot laying, and eating, I decided to call it quits.  I went to the car and my wife asked me again if I was absolutely sure I didn't want to give it another shot.  My wife is an amazing women!  Maybe a little crazy for loving me and then sending me back out there...but I really did want a finish...and so after 2 hours at Lambs I continued on.

I felt ok going up the road but I was having all sorts of mechanical issues.  My water bottle broke...but I ended up seeing BJ Burlinson on the trail and he swapped me (big thanks BJ!).  I didn't take a headlamp and decending Bear Ass Pass was problematic.  Luckily my pacer Heath Thurston had a small handheld flashlight but heading up the road I ran out of energy again.  Putting one foot in front of the other was so difficult and I was miserable.  I sat at Millcreek for an hour contemplating whether to quit or not.  After an hour I decided I was done.  I hadn't pee'd since before Swallow Rocks, I was moving incredibly slowly, felt horrible, and mentally didn't want to be there. 

However, friend Roger Smith came along.  He took a while but somehow convinced me to keep going...again!  I left with a mental determination to get to the finish.  It didn't take long to doubt this decision as the climb out of Millcreek was incredibly slow and painful.  I had to stop several times to sit down along the trail.  Finally at Blunders Fork I decided for the 3rd and final time, that I was done.  It was a sad realization and a horrible parting from Roger but I mentally couldn't push through.  Whether physically I could push through or not we will never know but I was done.  Heath was incredibly supportive and we slowly made our way down Blunders Fork where we called my wife who was waiting at Brighton.  The records say I DNF'd at Brighton but I didn't even make it that far.

Nearly a month later I don't regret my decision.  My previous DNF at Bear 100 in 2008 was a huge regret but somehow this one, given life's circumstances, seems justified.  Given my emotional, physical, and mental health, it was the right decision for me.  I love Wasatch 100 and for the first time in 7 years I didn't run Brighton to the Finish (2 finishes and 4 pacings).  I intend to be back next year though as this race is truly special.