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!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Belated Squaw Peak 50 and Timp Trail Marathon 2014

So a very late double posting of my two hometown races.  Both of which I love!!  We'll start with Timp Trail Marathon:

My only goal was to go under 4 hrs.  Weather was good and the field was stacked.  From the start the lead group took off.  I intended to start out faster than usual but I lasted less then two miles with those guys!  I found myself in 8th place which is where I stayed for the first half of the race.  The run to Grove Canyon always goes by quickly.  Its basically the run from work to home...so I do it all the time.  Turns out that I was moving pretty quick on race day though.  I downloaded and used Strava for the very first time and set the course record from Dry to Grove Canyon!  

 I moved up Grove Canyon better then ever before (this was my 4th time running this race).  I was feeling confident about my sub 4 hour finish but found myself still in 6th place.  Up and over the beautiful meadows and down Battlecreek I go.  I purposely backed off heading down Battlecreek knowing that I had two more descents.  Curly Springs was as muddy as ever..yuck.  Slip and slide and up I went.  Once on top it was time to put the throttle down!  But I couldn't get my legs moving...  Stomach was fine, energy was fine, but my legs were dead.  I'm not sure if it was the fast start or fatigue from UTMF but I didn't have it.  

I pushed where I could and gave everything I had from the rock pile to the finish but alas I finished just shy of my goal at 4:02:39.  I was surprised to not see a single runner from the top of Grove to the finish.  Nobody caught me and I didn't reel anyone in.  With the 9th fastest time EVER on the course, I finished 6th.  Fast year with some great runners.  I'll be back next year and probably every year after!  I'll get my sub-4 there sooner then later.

Squaw Peak 50:
8th time running this race.  Its an annual pilgrimage for me now.  I'll need to explore other races at some point but its so convenient being 15 minutes from my house and such a beautiful course.  Having run only 8-9 times in the previous 2 months (nearly all races-- Antelope 50, UTMF, Timp Trail), I didn't have super high expectations and was planning on just cruising along for a fun run.  I enjoyed chatting with the front pack for the first two miles but made sure I was well behind once we hit the singletrack.  I made my way up to Hope Campground with ease taking it easier then ever.  I wanted to run sub-10 hrs but with no watch I just was having fun and listening to my body.  I found myself in 15-16th place heading down into rock canyon but by the time I hit Horse Mountain it seemed like I passed 3-4 people.  I chatted with nearly everyone and encouraged all the early starters.  I was having such a good time! 

The long descent into Hobble however was tougher then usual.  I'm typically pretty smooth and quick on the descents but i wasn't feeling it.  Story of the day, if you aren't feeling it, back off and save it for later!  The road was miserable.  I definitely wasn't feeling it over that 4 miles of asphalt.  By the time I got to Sheep Creek, Mile 30, I was a little frustrated.  I started slow and had still felt terrible from mile 20 to 30.  Whats up with that?!  I ended up sitting down for 5 minutes and just ate a bunch of food and chatted with the always awesome Addict II Athlete guys.  Finally I left and within a mile was feeling much better.  Ended up running strong into Little Valley, Mile 33, where I ate and drank for another 5 minutes.  The spring was not flowing at Windy Pass so I tucked away an extra bottle of water behind my shorts and was off.  I was feeling better then I had all day!  I seemed to be picking up momentum leaving Little Valley and easily ran almost every step of the initial climb.  By the time I got to Bozung Hill I was flying and passing people.  Bozung Hill seemed the easiest of my life (see Tenshi Mtns from UTMF) as I put my head down and powered through. 

I entered Windy Pass, Mile 41, feeling like a million bucks!!  Lots of friends and familiars there that kept me pumped.  Those last 9 miles I flew!  I couldn't believe how good I felt.  Ended up passing 2 more people on the trail down.  I was super happy with my time and effort as I ended up running 9:28.27 for 5th place (3 guys in front of me took a wrong turn at mile 34...).  Ran in Altra's new Paradigm.  Yes its a road shoe but at 34mm stack height and only 9 oz, it is awesome.  I loved this shoe for Squaw.

Another year another Squaw.  Happy happy happy.  Now time to do some fishin' before I get ready for a new baby Beckstead and then Wasatch 100.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ultra Trail Mount Fuji 2014

What do you do with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?!  Take full advantage!  That's what I did at Ultra Trail Mount Fuji.  Zanna was able to come along which was so much fun.  I'll make the report quick but I'll make no bones about it, this was the most difficult race of my life.  Imagine taking all the climbing at Wasatch and consolidating into 50 miles.  The steepness of the terrain was unbelievable.  I'll never complain about chinscraper or the plunge and dive again!  Its got nothing on UTMF.  Then between these monster climbs is 5-12 mile road sections.  It was brutal.  There was a 12 mile section which took me 6 1/2 hours!!!  And I was passing people.  The Tenshi Mountain range was epically monstrous and I was grossly under prepared for it.  Imagine going up and down 12 straight Bozung hills at mile 70 (Squaw Peak 50 reference).  I've never run a more difficult 12 miles in training, let alone at mile 70.  Ouch!!

I wanted to DNF after the Tenshi mountains, I was so exhausted, but was committed to getting a finish no matter what.  It flipped my 28 hour race (I was on split at mile 65) and turned them upside down.  I didn't eat anything but aid station food the last 40 miles...long rests, a massage, a lot of walking, and even a "oops, what the heck just happened" 90 minute nap at the mile 97!!  But I got to the finish.  34 hours and 27 minutes, 175th place, and my proudest ultra finish!  Only 59% of starters finished out of nearly 1200 starters. The race was brutal and at 169 km/105 miles it is the farthest I've ever run.  I learned a lot about myself out on the mountain and overall had a wonderful experience!  The Japanese people are such a tough yet generous people.  I've never seen so many volunteers or a better organized race.  Truly amazing.  Thank for the experience!
Zanna and I with Cherry Blossoms and our hotel in the background.  Beautiful!
Pre-race Dinner
Pre-Race Prep w/Nick Clark, Takashi (Japanese Altra distributor who ran STY), plus Rei and Masa our crews
Starting line with over 1200 over runners
Seconds before the start with Nick Clark
Mile into the race running through Cherry Blossoms
4 miles in with views of Mt Fuji
Entering A10, Mile 87
Leaving A10.  Feeling much better!  



Wow, I just finished that thing...
  Feels so good to me done!  Beautiful

3D Map of Course
1 minute video following Nick to his 10th place finish
The Altra UTMF Racers/Crew!  Awesome team

Sunday, April 20, 2014

UTMF Prep

Flying out to Japan today and everything is prep'd! The Ultra Trail Mount Fuji has a few reroutes that will make the race 105.7 miles this year.  Adding 6 miles seems cruel.  Longest race of my life, as if the 28,000 feet of climbing wasn't already intimidating enough...


Fitness level is solid although a touch weak on the climbing side of things.  However I'm in the best shape I can remember during the the month of April with solid long runs and tune up races. Had a little arch flare-up and a head cold last week that put a damper on my taper but I nipped that in the butt quickly (see below).


This is going be be a huge adventure and I can't wait for the challenge.  The race entrance list is daunting with names like Hara yoshikazu, Sebastian chaigneui, Anton krupicka, Altra athlete Nick Clark, Gary Robbins, Brendan Davies, Dave Mackey, and glen Redpath, etc etc etc.  1600 people in this Ultra!  I have a solid plan for a 27-30 hour finish as I won't be competing for the win among that international field.  Heck, I've never done a 100 miler this early in the season let alone such a tough one in a foreign country but I have the best gear in the world to help, a Japanese crew, my wife will be there with me, and life is good!  Off to conquer UTMF!


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!