Friday, November 5, 2010

Javelina Jundred 100 Mile Endurance Run

Javelina Jundred 100 Mile Endurance Run

Team Midget Pornstar, We Go All Night Long

2009 ended with Ironman Arizona and as I started to plan my 2010 race schedule I thought with a little hard work I could do a 50k. Maybe even make a push at a 50 miler if all went well. I knew I was going to take the year off from triathlons and just focus on running. I wasn’t sure if I should just roll right into training for a fifty mile run and keep my Ironman fitness or take a few months off and build back up for a late year Ultramarthon. nine marathons, a 50k, three 50 milers, and a R2R2R trek later I was packing for my first attempt at the 100 mile distance. It was simple; I had 30 hours to cover 101.4 miles on the Pemberton trail in McDowell Mountain Park. Just like every adventure as a kid, I would pack some supplies and head out with a predetermined time I would need to be at point B by. And so my epic journey began.

I took Friday off to rest and make sure I had everything I would need for my two day adventure. I made sure to fill up on some good food and hydrate well. I watched movies and tried to nap to no avail. Around 8 I headed to bed and spent the next few hours tossing and turning just waiting for the 3am alarm to sound. It wasn’t that I was scared more that I just wanted to get started.

With about 4 hours of sleep I woke up and started my prerace routine. I like to get some food and water in me to get the body going. I tend to have many bathroom breaks prerace so the more I can do in the comfort of my own home the better. I rechecked my supplies, made a final bathroom stop, wrote my motivational phase on my hand, and lubed up. Julie picked me up at 4 and I could tell by her smile that my Jalloween costume was going to be a hit. We loaded up my supplies and headed out on the 40 min drive to McDowell Mountain Park only needing to stop one time for a bathroom break.

Yep thats a pink TUTU

As we pulled into the park I was full of excitement and fear. I knew it was going to be a long day but Julie kept it positive and we just chatted away. I really never had any concerns about whether I was going to make it. Just about how much pain would be involved? I had long ago made up my mind that as long as the course was open I was going to keep moving forward. This meant if I decided to drop 12 hours in, I would sit in a chair at the finish line until the 30 hr cutoff. At that point you might as well just keep moving. We pulled into the Pemberton parking lot where Julie dropped me off and I went to look for my crew. It was freezing so I quickly put on a few layers of clothing as headed to check in. I recognized the Team Midget Porntstar shirts I had made for my crew and was greeted by Andy and Tiff who had volunteered at check in. They helped me move my stuff to camp where I met up with the rest of the team getting ready to start the day.

Nick and I rounding up my stuff

 As a group we all walked back to check in as the race venue started to come alive. If you have never witnessed an ultra start, it is quite different from marathons or triathlons. People of all ages and body types, smiling and hugging each other. You see old faces that you instantly reunite with. With it being so close to Halloween there were lots of costumes. I even overheard one of my crew say that I fit right in with this group of people. The nerves were now gone as I pranced around in my Tutu loving all the attention TMP was getting.

Carlos Party Monkey the freeloader

As we made last minute preparations to start the race we were continually asked for group pictures of our shirts, my costume, and Carlos the Party Monkey whom would be strapped to my back for the entire adventure. A small countdown and then GO!!

Team MTP minus Andy and Tiff

I was in no hurry to take off so I let a good portion of the 270 or so starters go before I followed suit and started my race. The first 15.4 mile lap was run clockwise which I think is the easier direction. I chatted with some new friends and we all just fell into a rhythm. The aid stations were every 5 miles and with my run four miles walk one plan, it worked out that I would hit one every hour to an hour ten. One of the biggest differences you will find at ultra marathons is the aid stations. All kinds of different foods primarily being highly processed sugars. Not what you would expect but your body can turn them into energy a lot faster but unfortunately they just don’t last very long so you need to continually refuel. I have always gone with the "if it looks good then eat it" rule but I tend to eat way too much sugar and have had a few tummy problems. So I made an effort over the first few laps to stick to my safe choice. A Pb&J square with a stack of nice salty chips on top all washed down with sports drink. I sip water throughout the course so I try and get as many calories as I can in at each aid stop. Graze early and often is an important rule.

got to get my grub on

If you eat a little at every stop then you aren’t forced to try and play catch-up latter. I continued the walk run plan and finished my first lap in around 3:08. I came into Javelina Jeadquarters feeling fresh and loose and a little overwhelmed by my pit crew waiting on me hand and foot. It’s hard for me to let others do things for me when I know I’m capable but I knew I would need to bank any energy I could so I took a seat and let them fill my pack and grab me food. In less than four minutes I was back out on the trail for my second loop which would be ran the tougher counterclockwise direction.

No the wings didnt help

I was feeling amazing and started back up the five mile gradual climb to Jackass Junction or Aid station two. I had finished the first lap about fifteen minutes faster than planned so I told myself I would have to walk four miles instead of the planned three on this lap. It’s very hard to stick to a walk plan when all you want to do is run but I’ve seen how well this plan works for me so I stuck to my guns. In the ultra world, Javelina is considered one of the flatter courses but has one of the largest dropout rates. This is caused by few things: the entire course is completely runnable so many go out too fast, there is no shade at all and temps are over 100 degrees typically, and its 7 laps so you get plenty of chances to drop out.

Feeling great

 I was well aware of all of these so I made a plan and was going to stick with it. If I felt good after four laps and wanted to start pushing it then I would but my only true goal was to complete the 101.4 miles in under the 30 hour cutoff. So as I finished my second loop I was still fresh and excited that the day had been going so smoothly. I finished the loop in around 3:35 and went thought the same routine with my crew who had me back on the road in minutes. If you sit down and start to get comfortable it makes it that much harder to get going again so I made an effort to just get in and back out.

Getting back on the trail

We were blessed with cool temps as I later found that our high was just over 80 degrees. A little breeze and with my Mobens on I was cozy all day. By this time everyone had fallen into their own pace and there was an excitement as you passed the people going the other way. People really seemed to get a kick out of my costume. I was called an angel, butterfly, princess, and fairy. More importantly it brought a smile to their face and for those few moments let their mind wander to something other than the pain or even worse the “boredom” of ultrarunning. I had run across Joyce the first lap who is the Race Director for Calico racing which is by far my favorite set of marathons. We got a chance to run together and chat a little. I was also able to apologize for calling her the Calico lady as she ran past me at the end of the first lap. I knew her name, but my brain wasn’t working fast enough to process it. She made sure to point out that it had been on the first lap so being tired wasn’t a viable excuse. It really makes me smile when people can take shots at me and we can all smile 45 miles into a race. That went on as we ran the third lap in and once again TMP took over. This was the first time I went to my camp and actually sat down to regroup.

Only my second blister ever

We fixed a blister, got me a warm top, some new socks and shoes, and my headlamp. A few stretches and I was off for my final solo loop. I was actually getting kind of worried because up until this point the day seemed pretty easy. I felt fresh and really had no pains so other than the small blister and a little chafing, which I jumped on quickly, the day was perfect. Lap three was 3:50

Ed had a different costume for each lap

The fourth lap was once again the harder counterclockwise lap and as I started back up the climb I felt some stiffness in my knee. It’s been a pretty normal thing so I just kept trying to stretch it out and keep moving forward. By this time my stomach was starting to go south too. Nothing crazy but it just seemed time to start taking in the chicken broth and soda and move a little away from the solid foods. I had stayed away from the sugars so my plan was working on all levels. I started grabbing ginger ale which helps to settle your stomach, coke which will give you a sugar and caffeine boost, broth which is full of salt to help with cramping, and some fruit or chips at each station just to keep the calorie intake up. The sun had gone down so I turned on the headlamp and just kept plugging away. About halfway through the lap I could tell my small knee problem was defiantly an IT band issue and it got to where I was lucky to be able to run more than 30 sec without pain. So I power walked when I had to with little running spurts every few minutes. The last few miles of this direction are pretty rocky so I just took it slow. I knew I was going to pick up Mary for my 5th lap and just conceded that I was going to have to walk the last 40 miles. As I made it back to JJ headquarters I let them know what was going on and assigned each of them a task. I needed to get my feet looked at as the small blister had grown a bigger juicer twin brother on the other foot. With a 4:15 lap my pace was slowing but all in all I was still happy.

Our sunset

There wasn’t much they could do for IT band so after fixing up my feet I decided to try the foam roller. We packed up and Mary and I headed out for my fifth lap. I tried to run a little and I could tell it was getting worse. I knew I had a long way to go so I didn’t want to push it making it any worse. We walked most of the first nine miles or so until we made the last turn which leads you to a 6.25 mile slight downhill back into camp. I really felt bad about not being able to run, but Mary insisted that it wasn’t a big deal. I decided to see if I could run again since it was a slight downhill and found that the knee didn’t seem to hurt. I was able to move pretty well busting out a few sections at a 7:40 pace. When we reached the crew I was pretty excited to see that the 5th lap was 4:20 and with the amount of walking I was impressed. It gave me a big boost as I had even contemplated not taking the finisher buckle had I needed to walk the last 40 miles. I’m not sure why but I just kept telling myself that if I walked that much of it I didn’t deserve it. I came to suffer and in my eyes I was taking the easy road. I know this will sound weird to most but I wanted to look at that buckle and know it was the hardest thing I had ever done. At this point it just seemed to be just like every other long run but well supported and with great friends. Mary ran and got me some Tylenol and Kata and I set off for my 6th and final full lap.

We started back up the slight climb as we chatted. I wasn’t really in a talkative mood and my feet were starting to hurt. I had some run spurts but the knee was starting to go south again. It was a pretty uneventful climb to the aid station. By this point in the race it’s far too hard to think about the 26 mile you have left so I have found it best to break it up into aid station spurts. Just a few more five mile jaunts. As we pulled into the first aid station on this loop I planned to sit for a few minutes. It looked like a hospital there. I was by far in better shape than most. Many had not planned for the cool nighttime desert temps. Forced to bum a garbage bag to run in. One runner was hunched over refusing to move while her pacer just did what he could to warm her up and get some calories in her. There was no way she was going to finish. I knew if I sat long I would tighten up so we were back on the road in minutes. Out of the corner of my eye I caught the black marker on my hand that said “you hate to fail”. I try to write a small phrase on my hand for big races that will spark a memory and mostly just remind me that I get to choose to suffer. So many people in this world don’t have that choice, and it just is a little reminder that no matter how bad I feel it could be much worse and I don’t quit. Before I knew it we pulled into the second aid station. I saw Honey who is a stellar ultrarunner and has helped over the past year with all types of advice as I got into the sport. I dumped the dirt out of my shoes and refueled. Kata was very supportive and after a few minutes I could tell they were both about to kick me out of the aid station. I was up and moving again knowing that I had five more miles than a final nine mile lap and I would be done. That five miles was probably the lowest point of my race. It was mostly downhill in the dark on loose rock. The perfect storm for a runner with now two bad IT bands 88 miles into a run. You also see runners coming at you with a glow necklace on showing that they were on their final lap and would make the turn back to camp at the first aid station. As we ran into camp I was so excited that I didn’t even sit down. I grabbed some water, DMB and Tiff, and we headed out for the final nine short miles.

Why is she looking at me all crazy

At just under five hours for the 6th lap I was starting to really slow down. I’m not sure if it was knowing I was so close or the sun coming up but I seemed to get my second wind. I was able to run again for the first mile or two. I was smiling and had a good 10 minute runners high. Once it past I just put my head down and did what I could to cover the final few miles. This time I was wearing the necklace and I could see the look in the face of those on their 6th lap. Knowing that you are that close to the finish adds a boost. I didn’t want to talk much but inside I was smiling. We made the turn and headed back to camp. With less than a mile DMB started telling me how proud she was of me. By this point I really didn’t care about much. I never know what will affect me but out of nowhere she said “you just ran 100 fucking miles” and I almost lost it. I held it in as we crested the final hill and put my head down as I ran past my team. All 7 of them ran me in and I crossed the finish line in just under twenty seven hours to cheers and hugs.


 People cried, pictures were taken, and I tried to thank everyone who had taken time out to help me finish the race. My entire crew had also volunteered for most of the day on Saturday helping others to achieve their goal too. After receiving my buckle I hobbled over to have my blisters drained one last time. More pictures were taken and we made our way back to camp. Once I stopped my body just shut down and I was forced to shuffle. I had 12 people keeping an eye on me and making sure there was nothing I needed. I tried not to complain as these people had already given so much. I was truly proud to have such a group of friends.

Thank you all again

We headed off to grab some breakfast and then I passed out in the back of Andy’s van for the ride home. They stopped and got me some ice and then helped me up the two flights of stairs to my townhome. I was a mess and in pain. I plopped down on the couch with a remote in one hand and my buckle in the other. I was now comfortable calling myself an ultrarunner and more proud that I heard some comments about my friends being more interested in ultras. I don’t think there is anything cooler than to motivate others to experience life.

The shuffle

As I started to recover over the next few days and hear everyone’s account of the race my memories were strengthened. With each Facebook post or races report I was reminded of the true reason this race will always be close to my heart. First, much like my Grand Canyon adventure this experience was more about the time I spent with my friends. I know they may not think they played a big role but a large portion of the people I know that didn’t finish tried to do it without a crew. Only 137 people finished the race and knowing that you have people depending on you goes along way. I can honestly say that at no point during the race did the thought of quitting ever cross my mind. When failure is no longer an option you will really be amazed at what you can accomplish. I was also told by lots of people on the course that every time they saw me I was full of smiles and looked very strong. Funny I thought the same about them. In ultra running there is a comradery that I haven’t really found anywhere other than the military. Sometimes you chatted, sometimes you even handed out a fist bump or hug, but every time you passed someone you made eye contact. Nothing needed to be said but at that very moment you knew that you felt like shit, but so did he or she. Misery does love company and when you know everyone is suffering it makes you feel a little better. The ultra community is small enough that you will start to see many of the same people. Facebook friends that you have never personally met now become family. Experiences like these build a friendship that will last forever. My favorite moment was the 25 min conversation on what car we all drove. It was a brag fest, just not in your typical fashion. It wasn’t how extravagant of a ride you had; it was how long you could drive the crappiest car as to save a payment each month to be applied to another travel or race. These were my type of people. I am an ultrarunner. BTW the girl from the aid station that I swore wouldnt make it went on to finish. Sometimes you have to dig deep.

100 miles for just a buckle

For all my friends getting ready to run their first race I am also working on a list of the more specific things you will need to know. I wanted to keep the report shorter for those who don’t need all the behind the scene mumbo-jumbo.

Catra a FB friend
Needed more lube
Look at those feet.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My quest for the 50 State club!!

My quest for the 50 State club!!

* are marathons I’ve ran. Others are my choice for that state. Blank means anything will work.



*Arizona- *RnR, *Desert Classic, *Sedona, *Buckeye, *Ironman AZ


*California- *LA, *RnR San Diego, *American River 50, *Headlands 50, Tahoe Triple (Sept), Catalina Eco (Nov), Surf City (Feb), Big Sur (May), Western States 100, Badwater 135

Colorado- RnR Denver (Oct)



Florida- Disney World Goofy Challenge (Jan), Run with Donna (Feb)

Georgia- Savannah (Nov)

Hawaii- Kona (June)


Illinois- Chicago (Oct)


Iowa-Okoboji Marathon


Kentucky- Louisville (Oct), Kentucky Derby (April)


Maine- Mount Desert Island (Oct)


Massachusetts- Boston (April)

Michigan- Detroit (Oct)






*Nevada- *Running from an Angel, *Running with the Devil

New Hampshire-

New Jersey-

New Mexico- Baatan Death March,

New York- NYC (Nov), Ironman Lake Placid

North Carolina-

North Dakota -

Ohio- Air Force (sept), Flying Pig (May)

Oklahoma- Mother Road (Oct), Route 66 (Nov)

Oregon- Portland (Oct)


Rhode Island-

South Carolina- Myrtle Beach (Feb)

South Dakota-

Tennessee- Flying Monkey (Nov), St Jude Memphis (Nov), RnR Country Music (April)

Texas- RnR San Antonio (Nov), Dallas White Rock (Dec)

Utah- St George (Oct), Park City (Aug)


Virginia- Marine Corps (Oct)

*Washington- *RnR Seattle

West Virginia-



Out of country Races

- Ironman Canada, Ironman Austria

-London, Berlin, Dublin, Great Wall, Big 5, Comrades,

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Devil Went Down to Nevada and Just About Laid the Smack Down on My Ass!!!

Running with the Devil Marathon adventure report

So I thought I’d write my race report while it’s still fresh in my head. That and the fact I called in sick and have some free time to put my thoughts on paper. I’ve always had a fascination with the Badwater Ultramarthon,135 miles trough Death Valley in the middle of summer. Sounds like a good time to me. It’s not that I’m gluten for punishment I’m just looking for my breaking point. After reading the course description “Most race organizers go to great lengths to ensure their races are held in ideal running conditions; 40 degrees, light breeze, overcast. Many aim to make their courses flat and fast, or even downhill to facilitate runners to smash their PR. Not this one! Held in summer in the middle of the day thru the dry Mojave Desert, athletes will be challenged to contend with extreme heat and unrelenting rolling hills as they traverse this spectacularly scenic course” I knew I had to give it a shot.My own little Badwater.

I stumbled upon Calicos’ race sight late last year in an attempt to choose a marathon other than Rock and Roll Arizona for the 3rd time. Running with the Angel was in Lake Mead and being a smaller marathon, it was much cheaper. For $150 I got two nights in a hotel and my race entrance. I signed up and headed to my first Nevada race. It was a fun, but tough course, and I fell in love with the smaller marathons. It was also described as the sister event to the Running with the Devil. Its ran on the same course just at different time of the year. Fast forward to Friday June 25th and I was headed back to Lake Mead.

I’ve had a pretty solid first six months of 2010. Six marathons, a 50k, 50 miler, and a R2R2R two day crossing of the Grand Canyon. I had no worries of coving the distance but knew with a 10am start and average temp of 114 this wasn’t a race I could just show up for. Living in Phoenix affords me plenty of opportunities to get some heat training in. I logged more than half of my weekly 50 miles at 4pm. I did miles of running up National mid day to try and prepare for tough conditions and the heat; testing the best outfits and cooling techniques. I settled on a long sleeve cotton t-shirts and shorts. The cotton shirt acts like a swamp cooler keeping the sweat close to your body and actually keeping you cooler. The dri fit shirts we usually run in actually do to good of a job pulling the sweat away from your body. I was informed that the trick to staying cool was staying damp.

Bumper to bumper traffic sucks!!

After the five hour drive I got to the hotel just in time to check in, grab a couple beers, and meet some new friends. There is a 50 mile option and the Ultra runners are pretty easy to pick out. It’s a hodge podge of race shirts and most of them have some type of alcohol in hand. Beer, wine, mixed drinks; you name it someone had one. We got to chatting and I was invited to the buffet with a group of eight mostly from Texas. They were all Devil regulars that meet up at different races throughout the year. We headed to the Buffet and it was seafood night. Since I’m still on the vegetarian kick I ordered an omelet with fries, toast, and hash browns. They all had plates of crab legs. I asked one of them why anyone would eat something like that the night before a race and the response I got: “Because it looks good”, good enough for me. We chatted and then decided to head down to packet pick up which was 15 feet away.

Seafood buffet the day before a race?

I checked in and picked up my number saying a quick hi to Joyce the Race Director and then headed off to throw some money into the slot machines. Around 8 I headed up to my room and forced myself to watch TV until midnight.

Best packet pickup ever

Since the point of the race was to run in the heat, the marathon didn’t start until 10am. I couldn’t sleep past 7 so I headed down to gamble some more then drove 5 miles into town to grab some breakfast and a toothbrush.

Never know till you ask

 I got down to the race start 9ish and parked twenty feet from the start. The 50 milers had gone out at 7am and there was also a 5k option so the park was full of excitement. People were covered in sweat and proudly sporting their finisher medals. I was meeting Mitch, A friend I had meet at Angel in Jan and who I have run 5 different races with this year already. We chatted and milled around until the 9am weigh in.

Weigh in and a cool down pool

 We were required to weigh in and show that we are able to carry the minim amount of required water. Our weight would be checked at the halfway point. Depending on a percentage of body weight lost, there could be consequences from being forced to wait until we regained the weight all the way to being pulled from the race. It all started to sink in as we headed over to the starting line. The last 3 years the temp has averaged 113 and the predicted high was going to be 105. I had been making comments about how we should get a partial refund due to the cooler temps which I knew would come back to bite me in the arse.

Just before the race started

 As we lined up I saw just about every running outfit you could think off. Your normal running outfits all the way to people covered head to toe in white get ups.

Mitch even had a handheld mister he planned to run with. Joyce gave us some final instructions about the course and the seriousness of the race. She ended with “so basically just don’t Fuck around” and a few seconds later she said go and we were off.

I had expected the heat but had completely forgotten about the hills. It’s close to 3000 total feet of climbing over the 26.2 miles. I have since looked back at my comments from the Angel race and all I had written down was “holey hills batman”. One of the guys took off like a bat out of hell. He was tall, very tall and in basketball shorts and a baseball cap. We all laughed and said we’d see him in a few miles. A group of 5 of us seemed to be around the same pace and ran the first 3 miles together. Mitch said something about not feeling it as we rolled into the first aid station. I was one of the few that was wearing a camelback so I really didn’t need to resupply. I dipped my handkerchief in the cold water and was off again. The rest of the group needed to refill on the water so I just settled into my own pace and kept on moving alone.

Passing the first aid station

 I was slowly picking off people and was about a mile from the turnaround when the tall guy went past me going the other way, He was walking but we was still in first place. Another mile and I counted that I was in 10th or so. I made the turn and refilled my water and weighed in. I was the same 185 pounds from the morning. Sweet, I was doing great and started wondering if I could make the top 5. I made the turn at 2:03 which was pretty good for my planned 5hr race. I had gone 3:46 two weeks before at the San Diego Marathon so I wasn’t surprised at how good I felt. It was also all uphill the first half so I was ready to fly back with thoughts of maybe even going under 4 hrs.

I started the trip back and realized that even know I was the same weight, I had weighed in at the turnaround with a full camelback on. I’m not sure how much it weighed but I know I couldn’t lose more than about 7 pounds before things would start to really go south. I couldn’t figure out where everyone was from the first pack I had ran with. It was almost 2 miles before I came across them. I wondered how I had put almost 3.5 miles on them in just under 2 hours. I had kept a strict eye on my pace and I was picking people off because they were slowing down. Two miles from the turnaround there is a big hill before you get back on the main road for the ten mile jaunt back to the finish. There was a hottie in front of me and I was working hard to run her down. But damnit, she just wouldn’t walk enough for me to reel her in. Just as I was about to catch her I would have to take a short walk break and off she went. Damn her, lol. Right before the turn I ran into Mitch. He looked great but said he was going to walk it in. He was just passed the 10 mile marker so I was about six miles ahead of him. I wished him luck. He’s run over 60 marathons so he knows what he needs to do. There was a bucket of water at the turn and I wiped down my face and body and got my top wet.

Ten miles to go

It was a three mile run until the next aid station and that’s when things started to go downhill. I had run almost all of the race up until that point and I started to go downhill pretty fast. I never was really hot but my stomach started feeling funny. The downhill never really came and it started to really heat up. This race was just another training run for a tough 50 mile race I have in three weeks, so I decided that I’d shut it down and take it easy. I usually have a walk/run plan as most of these races have been training for my ultra marathons. I can run the entire marathon but when you have a 55 mile run week you can’t really afford to miss any time to recover from running hard for 26.2 miles. By mile 20 I was in survival mode. I’m not really sure what happened but I was going south very quickly. My stomach felt weird and it was hard to take full breaths. My top was bone dry within moments of getting it wet and it started to get windy. I passed the turnaround for the half marathon and finally started to see people again. I had been playing leap frog with the same guy since the turn around but wasn’t sure why other people weren’t catching up to me. I ran into Casey who was running the half and we ran half a mile or so together. I needed to walk again and just decided I was going to walk the rest of the way in. I really felt weird and the hotter it got the less I seemed to be able to eat. I took in about double the calories I would in a normal marathon but the energy still wasn’t there. The last six miles only had one aid station and I started to really get scared. I sat down on the side of the road as I could tell I was going downhill fast. It didn’t make me feel any better so after 30 seconds I got up and managed to make it to the aid station. I asked if I could sit down as they replaced my warm water with ice. I was crappy, tired, and pissed that they didn’t have cola on the course. Flat coke can do some amazing things and as I sat there all pissy they asked if I needed anything. I said, “I sure wish you guys had soda” and one of the guys opened a cooler and pulled out a couple of two liters. I guess sometimes you just need to ask. I sat in the aid station for five minutes with my feet up sipping on the coke. I contemplated dropping out but decided there were enough people on the course if something went wrong I’d survive. As I went to stand up I noticed that my legs were covered in goose bumps. I figured it had to be from the wind on my sweat (I later found out that it was a sign that my body was shutting down and using its energy to cool my core). It was a long mix of run/walk to the finish line. At 26 miles you make a left turn and head down the hill to the finish. The guy I had been playing leapfrog with was all of the sudden running back towards me. He asked if this was the right way and I told him “yes”. I knew he had been working hard to beat me but with the turnaround he had run back to me and now we were even again. I told him to get going and he looked at me funny. He got the idea and as he ran in front of me he thanked me. I told him he had worked hard to get in front of me but it wasn’t going to be a free ride so he better get his ass moving; he smiled and took off. I have a rule that I don’t pass people in the last .1 mile of a race. If I can’t find the energy to pass you in the race, I’m not going to go flying past you in the last seconds. I ran through the finish line in 5:08ish and grabbed my metal. I had planned to head back out as I needed some more miles for the weekend but that definitely wasn’t an option.

I grabbed some fruits and drank everything I could find for the next ten minutes. I sat down and chatted with some of the other racers. 20 minutes after I finished I weighed in and was still down 11 pounds. I usually take six or so Advil in a race just to take the edge off. I’ve been chastised about how bad that is for your kidneys, so I decided to not take any for this race. I was in quite a bit more pain than usual but it was a different type of pain. All I can say is I felt really hung over. I’m not sure how to describe it but something definitely wasn’t right. After an hour I jumped in the car and decided to drive back to make sure Mitch was alive. I heard that a few people dropped out including the tall guy who was winning. I found Mitch with six or so miles to go. I talked with him and he seemed to be doing ok, so after a quick stop to thank the volunteers at the last aid station I headed back to the hotel. I grabbed some food and took a warm shower and headed down to the bar. Around 8 pm my friends from the 50 miler and Mitch all started to come back in. I was well on my way to tipsy land. Next thing I know, it’s 3am, we are on our 3rd Jaeger bomber after two martinis and who knows how much beer. I headed back to the room to grab my chap stick and decided to call it a night.

I found out the next day that it took Mitch 10 hours to cover the marathon course. He was up all night getting sick. One of the guys from the Texas group had to pull out at mile 37 of the ultra marathon and get an IV. My 5:09 was good enough for 11th out of 39 finishers. I was only eight minutes out of 5th. It looks like a few dropped so even though I had a rough day, it wasn’t as bad as some of the others.

I will say it was another exciting adventure; I met some new friends and was able to work hard at another goal. I don’t know that I have a desire to do another heat race anytime soon. Thankfully endurance athletes are blessed with short memories.

Next up, Headlands 50 in San Francisco on July 17th.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It took two days and 52 miles to run to the other side of a big hole and back.

Our R2R2R two-day Grand Canyon Crossing.

The Grand Canyon

After a few hours at work on Friday I headed over to Kata and Nick’s house to depart for our little adventure. I met them there around 1 pm and we transferred our supplies into their SUV. We were in good spirits, but really had no idea what we had signed up for. Last year Mary had talked about how tough her one way crossing was but yet it sounded like she had a blast. Kata, Nick, and I were all invited in on the adventure 6 weeks out. Rooms on the North Rim sell out almost a year in advance and we were only able to sneak in when someone else from the group dropped. We set off on the five hour drive chatting about what we are about to attempt. I found reports of the mileage being 20 to 24 miles each way. Our group was made up of triathletes not ultra runners so we were not really sure what to expect. We stopped for some gas and then made a final push to the Grand Canyon National Park entrance. We got the chatty guy and it took us over 30 min to get through the line. Damn, we should have picked the middle lane.

The group setting up camp.

We met up with Dan and Mary at the campground. Spirits were high and we watched as Mary ran around like a little kid saying hi to all her friends that were in town just for this one adventure.

Kata was much faster then Nick

 We set up camp and enjoyed a few beers and then headed to the cafeteria for dinner before we hit the tent. This is the first time I got a chance to meet some of the others in our group. I’m horrible with names but they seemed cool and I figured I would not see them much since we would probably break up into smaller groups.

No they didnt come in adult sizes. Boooo

A few S’mores and then I was off to bed. This was my first time being the person out camping that was actually trying to get a good night’s sleep and I don’t think I’ll go drink in a campground again. I could hear everything the people around me were talking about. They weren’t loud, but when your nerves are already in a fritz, any little thing can keep you up. I crawled into bed around 8:30 and finally got to sleep at about midnight.

The plan was to rise at 3 and leave by 4 for the short drive to the trail head. It was freezing but by far the coolest sky I have ever seen. Crystal clear, pitch black, and more stars than I have ever seen in my life. You could even see the Milky Way cut across the entire sky. I could have left then and been content with my trip. Of course that’s not how it ended. 4:00:03 and we were ready to leave. There must have been some miscommunication because all of the sudden all the cars except for Mary and ours were gone. Mary had done the drive once, a year ago, so we had a short, mini panic attack trying to find a map and figure out where we were to go. Problem solved and at that point we made a pact to just enjoy our weekend and not worry about what everyone else was doing. We parked the car and started the mile or so walk to the trail head.

Hold me Nick im scared.

It was 29 degrees and we were all filled with excitement.

After a quick check of the supplies we headed down the trail. It is seven miles or so of downhill switchbacks and the plan was to walk them. It would serve as a warm up but also save our legs for the long weekend ahead. It’s hard to run downhill and the consequences of catching a toe and falling were not an option.

You could just start to see the GC as the sun came up.

As we walked down the trail the views got better. Dan climbed on every rock like a kid. I had to pee every 20 minutes.  Kata, Nick, and Mary tried to prepare themselves for two full days with Dan and I. As the sun rises you are treated to some views that I’m sure are pretty hard to come by. I’m not a big nature person but I was pretty impressed.

This was a couples pic but Mary doesnt like heights

About halfway down the trail we shed some clothes and got ready for the final push to the bottom of the canyon. After about an hour we could see the Bridge crossing the river which would lead us to our first main stop, Phantom Ranch.

You can see all the switchbacks we had to run down

We walked through the tunnel and onto the bridge feeling like we had accomplished step one of our goal. The next thing I hear is Mary yelling “mule’s run” and I took off.

The first bridge

I wasn’t sure if it meant turn around and run for your life or let’s try to beat them across the bridge. They have a mule train that you must pass one time each day and they have the right away. Once we realized that we could not make it we turned around and ran for the tunnel to get back to where we could let them pass.

"Do you know what a Mule is?"

After they cleared us we did a short jog to Phantom Ranch and fueled up with one of our many snacks. We topped off our water and started across the canyon. It’s eight or so miles across and we planned to add the extra mile or so to stop by the waterfall. It was cool but not something you could swim in. It did however make a great place for lunch, at 9:30 am.

Lunch time

We ate and chatted and just enjoyed each other’s company. Then we packed up and headed back out on the trail. The next section was five miles or so of running along the river; a real fun place to run. We took turns leading and at times ran hard or just decided to walk and enjoy it. No one really cared about the pace, we just kept moving forward.

Crossing the Canyon floor was a blast

On the way down the South Rim I had recognized Katie from American River 50 and Facebook. She was with a group of four from the Coyote running team from Cali. We ran with them for a mile or so as they offered some great ultra running advice. I didn’t recognize Jimmy Dean without his facial hair but could tell this was a group of pretty strong ultrarunners. They were faster than us but we used this as motivation to move forward. We played catch-up up the entire North Rim with them. Just as we would finally catch them, off they went.

One last push, six or so miles of steep climbing, one mini meltdown, and I heard the clapping of people as I hit the top of the North Rim.

There were at least 15 people in chairs hooting and hollering for us. They even had a cooler of beverages and anyone who does endurance sports knows what a cold coke can do to bring some life back into you. We were all beat and just ready to get a shower and dump our packs. Oh wait we had a 1.75 mile jaunt to the room and through snow, ahh crap.

Please let this be the top!

 We walked some, we ran some, and I paid Mary $5 to walk the last bit with me; I was done. After checking in we reached our room and the GPS said 26.2 on the dot. Day 1 turned out to be a marathon. I can’t describe my true feelings when I finally dumped my pack and stinky clothes, without losing the PG rating of this report. We had no hot water and I had to wash each body part at a time as it was far too cold to stand under the ice cold water for more than seconds at a time. You also learn real quickly where you missed the bodyglide. Since we had to carry everything it was back on with the stinky clothes and off to grab a beer.

We are off to get some beer

We had made pretty good time so we decided to hit the Saloon for that beer we had been talking about all day.

Our bar for the next few hours

We chatted about our adventures that day and really just enjoyed each other’s company. After round two the legs didn’t hurt quite as bad and we commented on the effects of alcohol at elevation. Each time someone new walked through the door we all cheered and invited them to have a drink with us. Most just looked at us like we were crazy and went one their merry way. Well we ended up at five beers and two shots each and decided it was time to head over to our dinner reservations.

Lets get it on

 The North Rim seemed to be the meeting point for senior sightseeing so we did get lots of weird looks running around half tipsy (ok we’ll just call it drunk by this point) in compression gear and running shorts. We were shown to our table and with a quick slide down the hand rail I was ready for some grub. When our waiter showed up I quickly realized this wasn’t my normal type of restaurant. Bow ties and slicked back hair give me the creeps. He was a very nice young man and did everything he could to keep us happy.

Its funny the looks you get when you tuck your running shorts in

 We ordered some more drinks and chatted with the other four girls who had done the crossing as a separate group. Dinner took around 90 minutes to arrive so with my A.D.D. I was off to find things to keep me occupied. I met a younger couple from Canada at the table next to ours and sat with them for a good twenty minutes. They had the happiest baby I have ever seen. You could poke him and he would giggle like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. They asked if I had children and I explained that I was not a big fan of kids. Next thing I know she hands me seven month-old Ben and I’ve got some stranger’s kid in my arms. They both warned me that he likes to grab onto things and pull. I reminded them I don’t have any hair so I should be ok. She reminded me that I still have lips and ears so just to be careful. After a few minutes I handed Ben back, as I didn’t want to be the tipsy guy who dropped the kid on his head, and I was off to find some more fun.

Thats Ben with his Kung Foo grip. He's got moms hair.

 I found our Coyote running group outside and pulled up a chair for some great conversation. Sounds like it was a good conversation but I cannot remember any of it. Maybe we drank a little too much. I saw that the food had arrived so I ran back inside, slid down the banister one more time, and scarfed down my food. I can’t really tell you if the food was any good because by that point all I wanted was pizza. We finished our conversations, paid our bills, and all headed back to our rooms for an early bedtime of 8 pm.

Our dinner group

We hopped in bed and I heard a knock. Mary needed to grab some of her stuff out of my bag and we all jumped up like it was time for round two. Luckily Nick played the parent as Kata and I were ready to go streaking. Man, did I say “maybe” we drank a little too much? Kata lost a contact and just as I was getting ready to get up to help them find it I was out. I woke to a weird slurping sound and wasn’t sure if I should play dead or make a smart ass comment. I sat up to see Kata drinking out of her camelback. She reminded us that we had a return marathon in the morning and with the amount we had drunk, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get some water in our system. So all night we seemed to wake each other up slurping up all the water we could find.

Lets do work son!!

3 am and I hopped into the shower. A 30 minute, warm shower was just what I needed. Kata and Nick got up and we repacked our bags, threw on some warm clothes, and headed out to meet Dan and Mary. Our group of five was going to grow by two with the addition of Rebecca and Kallie (two of the four girls we had dinner with). As we walked to the trail head there was that familiar aurora of excitement. We all knew that we were in for another hard day but there wasn’t anything we could do about it. We finally hit the trail head and just kept going. We walked the first half just chatting away. It was still chilly but we just seemed to really enjoy each other’s company. Each of the four runners from the Coyote group went flying by and this day we were in no hurry to try and run anyone down. We shed some clothes and then decided it was time to do some work.

Yes we have to run down that

 I had taken the following day off from work so I made myself a promise that if I was going to sit around and do nothing all day that I would be damn sure I had a reason too. We ran the second half of the North Rim decently. I’m sure we were holding sub 8 minute miles and our only concern was not to trip. We reached the first water stop quickly and stripped down to our warm weather running clothes.

Dan cant read

 Mother Nature unleashed the furry on us with a bug smack down like I’ve never seen before. Ever tried to balance on a shoe, naked, trying to get your shorts on, without stepping in the bushes, while you were dive bombed by 1000's of gnats?

The super fast but very nice Coyote Group and Nick

 It was not a pretty site. We regrouped and then held a pace line for the next eight miles or so to Phantom Ranch. This was our last meet up with the Coyote group and Jimmy made sure to tell me to try the Lemonade. OMG it seemed to be the perfect mix of sour and refreshing. After two days of bland bars and gels it was a mouth orgasm to say the least. FYI one glass is perfect; two makes your tummy hurt. We ate lunch and took a few group pictures and were back on our way.

Our day 2 group

 A short mile hike to the final bridge crossing and a four hour climb lay ahead. The smiles and laughter were all but gone. Rebecca had been pretty excited about her M&Ms and that was about the last smile we would see for hours from anyone. We walked and walked and walked and walked and finally I heard Dan yell “this is the halfway point”. We had all kind of split up and were making the assent up the South Rim individually. It was just one of those times where we all needed to dig deep and find something to get us up the hill. Switchback after switchback we just kept climbing. About ¾ of the way up we stopped for some food and a quick rest. I almost blew chunks when I took my last gel. Sometimes they just don’t seem to sit right. One last 45 minute push to the final rest spot. Dan and I reached it first and we cheered for each person who came around the corner. We were lucky to get a grunt or wave since EVERYONE was exhausted. We had one final regroup; we refueled, and started the final two miles to the top. The last mile is a very steep set of around 12 switchbacks and Dan and Mary were climbing like champs. I heard someone yell “the finish is right here” and it gave me a boost; just enough to get to the spot where Dan had said the finish was. I was later told he was pointing at the finish when he said it so I kept walking and saw Kata and Nick start running. I’m smart enough to know that if you’re running at this point it must be for something good so I took off. I made the turn and saw the four of them. I took off running as fast as I could and was finally at the top. Rebecca and Kallie were seconds behind me and the climb ended with one of Kallie’s patient hops over the final step.


 We all hugged and congratulated each other. We had someone take our group photo and it is by far the happiest any of us had been all weekend (well maybe other than the Saloon). We sat and enjoyed our accomplishment for a few moments and then made the mile and a half walk back to the car.

We were all DIRTY

I don’t know if I have any desire to make this journey again. I’m not a person who really is all that into nature. I love to be outdoors but at the end of the day, we ran across a big hole in the ground. I had only gone for the physical challenge but I can tell you a few things for sure.

I have a bond with those six other people now that many will never experience. At some point every person was weak and at some point they were strong. We didn’t need to prove anything to each other yet we used each other to push ourselves. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with some motivation.

The three hours we spent in the Saloon will rank in my top 5 most fun memories. We did nothing special but hung out and had a few beers. I don’t think anyone who wasn’t there will ever understand but any outsider would have surely thought we were a family.

This trip was an adventure. It had highs and lows and everything in between. It was physically difficult, but was by far more of a mental test. It took everything we had to keep moving forward and finish the day. It reminded me of my childhood when I was able to run all day. Somewhere along the trip to adulthood we lost something. The ability to head out the door with some supplies and only a time to be home by. As children you don’t know that you are supposed to rest, or worry about nutrition. You didn’t cut your workouts short to get home to watch TV. I can remember more than once where I even changed the time on my watch to prove that I wasn’t late. (It did work two times before my mom caught on)

If I could sum up what I learned from this entire trip in a few words they would definitely be: get out there and experience life.

Until my next adventure…..