Wednesday, May 27, 2015

40th Birthday 40 K

You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.
                                       C.S. Lewis

Lamar in back, Jake and Willy in front.
This Is The Place Race 5K, about 1984.

I won the first distance race I entered.  Or at least I won my age group in the "This Is The Place Race 5K" in about 1984.  I was around 9 years old and entered it with my Dad and my younger brother, and there are only a few things that I remember about the race:  I remember we threw on our short shorts and striped tube socks.  I remember my Dad running with my younger brother and telling me to run ahead, as fast as I wanted.  I remember hitting "THE WALL" (or what I thought was the wall, which for me as a 9 year old in a 5K is about mile 2.2) and crying... thinking I might be lost on a dirt section of the course in which I couldn't see any other runners ahead or behind me.  I remember pushing through that wall until I could see the finish line, when another kid my age caught me in the last 100 yards, but I outkicked him to win my age division by .5 seconds.

Terrace Days 5K, short shorts were definitely in.

I do remember how cool that medal was, how good the cookies we had after the race tasted, and how much fun I had with my Dad and brother.  It was the one and only photo finish of my racing career (I think I won a few distance races later, but nothing like that first 5K.)

On your marks...get set....
I turned 40 this year.  Turns out I'm growing old, whether I like it or not.  You are, too.  But running certainly makes me feel not-so-old, or at least it makes me feel somewhat capable athletically.  For my 40th Birthday, my wife arranged the perfect birthday party with friends and family, party favors, karaoke, a photo booth, etc. It was perfect.  But in order to somehow make myself feel not as old...I decided to hold my own race, with the finish line at my Birthday Party.  A 40th Birthday 40K! My wife was none too happy about that, telling me I'd be stinky and in too much pain and too tired to be any fun at the party.  But I figured it would be a good way to prove to myself in some insignificant way that I hadn't yet lost it, that my age was just a number, young at heart, blah blah blah, and it would be a fun novelty with which I could mark this milestone.

I asked my fellow Orange Trail Monkey Sam to come along... he's a good sport when it comes to this kind of thing:  Up for a silly challenge, keeps you entertained on the road/trail, runs faster than I do but is good about slowing down to my pace, self deprecating and blunt and obligatorily pokes fun when things get challenging or silly (which they always do).  His greatest talent is that he is incredibly adept at overemphasizing the word "DUDE" in 99% of all conversations.  Perfect running buddy!

Sunset Sam
More importantly, he's a good dude, who, okay, let's just say it, would let me win the race.  I could recapture some long forgotten glory from my younger years with a race victory!  Never mind the fact that it would be a 2-man race in which the faster runner would yield to me!  A win is a win!  Right?  Sure.

When it came down to it, Sam let me out-kick him to the finish line, just like my 9 year old self did back in the day. I broke through the finish line tape to cheers and claps and an incredible party in my honor with friends and family (And if anyone is in need of a good pick-me up or confidence builder, I highly recommend rigging a race with a party at the finish line for yourself!  You will smile about it forever!)

I don't think anyone at the party cared that I won! In fact, other than that first 9 year old race, I really don't think I've cared what place I've taken in most races. It doesn't really matter. It may be different if I was competing for real, or if I had the discipline to train and compete in that way. What it comes down to is pretty simple. I love to run.  I love the mountains and trails and roads I get to run on.  I love to challenge myself, the little accomplishments that happen when you just show up.  I adore the people I get to meet and run with, and seeing the amazing things they do only inspires me to work towards different goals and milestones, to climb the mountains in my path (both figuratively and literally).

Do I hope to win another race someday?  Sure.  But in the end, I'm really just racing myself.

40th Birthday 40K.  See you at 50.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Foreign Trail Monkey - 2014 Running Year In Review

Oh the places you'll go!
by jake

February 2014 - Edmonton, Canada
Frozen Trail Monkey running in the Great White North
I was feeling a little left out of the 2014 OTM year in review, even a little envious of all the people, places, miles and milestones of the last 365.  To be honest, however, it was not for their lack of inviting me out.  I could easily blame missing running with the trail monkeys on a number of things this year...too much travel, too much work, not enough time, other responsibilities (coaching, church, xbox...whatever!), too cold, too hot, too early, too late...whatever the reason, I checked all those boxes!  I think I only went running with any OTM two or three times in 2014.  A nice New Year's flu even kept me out of the early morning New Year's Day run in it's not the most promising start.

March 2014 - Jade Mountain, Taiwan
Having a moment of relief alone from the top of Jade.
"Covertly" circumvented the ranger station to get to
the top of this fairly restricted mountain range. 
The ranger was in the shower while we quietly
tiptoed through the check point. 
May 2014 - Tokyo Sunrise
Ran around Tokyo before the city had
come to life.  Beware of traffic that drives on the left
side of the street!
May 2014 - Tokyo - Imperial Palace
More from the early morning
But I still did my fair share of running in 2014!  And in some pretty unbelievable locations and destinations! Full Disclosure: I'm not nearly as dedicated to the Ultra-Distances and Peak-bagging extremes as the other OTM.  I do love to challenge myself on the trail and the road, love the views from such great heights, appreciate our close proximity to the unmatched terrain and scenery of the Rockies, and the sense of accomplishment when you do reach a summit for the first time is truly an emotional high.  No matter what your running goals, your speed, your ability, age, or where you are.  Just get out and run!  You'll feel better, you'll be happier, you'll make good friends.  There's always the next year, the next race, the next training run, the next step to look forward to... 
April/July/September 2014 - Portland, Maine
Running in the land of lobsters, L.L. Bean,
and Stephen King.
SLC Winters are cold enough for me!

August 2014 - Land's End, Los Cabos, Mexico
While the OTM ran the Quest for King's Marathon, I was
in Mexico, Running in the sand and surf!

October 2014 - Grand Tetons, Wyoming
Family Trip! 

November 2014 - Mount Namsan, Seoul, Korea
Even the leaves are raked into decorative piles
at this Urban "mountain" in the middle of Seoul!

November 2014 - Seoul Olympic Stadium
Flo-Jo, Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner Kersey, juiced-up Ben Johnson, and now me. Early Saturday morning I snuck into the Seoul Olympic stadium and had a rainy solo run on the '88 Olympic track. I think my 100M times were about double theirs, but it was awesome to run around in an Olympic stadium all by my selfie, well before sunrise. To boldly go where no OTM has gone before...

Here's to celebrating the year in running in 2014 and looking forward more similar adventures in 2015! I hope to see you on the road or the trails, wherever you may be!  Even you, Sam.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Quest for King's Marathon 2013

Three Trail Monkeys, running on a trail.
One somewhat slow.  One very fast. One fairly sick. (left to right).
And on this day, all three had success in one way or another.

Signing in at the beginning of the trail,
about the only time all three of us were together.
The Quest for King's Marathon is our annual trail run to the top of Utah's highest point, and it is our favorite run of the year.  Or at least the run we look forward to the most.  This year was no different, and the 13 miles from Henry's Fork to King's Peak and back are now familiar to us, although being familiar with the trail is the blessing and bane of this route.  It is good to know the route, to know where you are going, to be well aware of what challenges are there on the trail.  It is also daunting to know how difficult it is to breath at this altitude, how tedious the boulder fields are between Gunsight Pass and Anderson Basin, and how easily the death march of the last 6 miles can trip you up.

Before getting into any particulars, it must first be said that Steve killed it.  He started strong, he held his strong pace and he finished strong, improving on his best time from a year ago by 48 minutes.  He ran like a monkey possessed.  And for that, we salute you.

Blurred Sam.
There is one stretch of running on this trail that captures everything fun about trail running.  It's about 6 miles in, you've just completed the boulder trail and have passed Elkhorn Crossing.  It's about a four mile stretch in a clearing, you can see the top of King's peak, the sun is rising and the trail is perfect.  You're note yet in total pain, you've hit your stride, and the elevation hasn't slowed you yet.  It really is a perfect moment.  We all separately commented on how great this section of the trail was, even though we all hit it at different times.

Best part of the run. Stepping towards Gunsight Pass.

During a long distance trail run, there are challenges you know you will encounter before beginning.  Running at high a high elevation, you know it will be difficult to breath in some stretches.  Running for long stretches by yourself in the wilderness is a mental hurdle at times, and a perfect respite at others.  The large boulders that litter the trail jump out and grab your toes, you know that a sprained ankle is there at any step.  These are the things that can plan for, hurdles that you are aware of before the run and hopefully control.

Steve Descends, just in time to say hi and bye to both Sam and I.
There are also things you cannot control, and you simply have to deal with them.  You sometimes have to deal with elevation sickness, stomach/G.I. issues, or simply hitting the proverbial wall.  And once you are 10+ miles up a mountain, there's no way to tap out, you have to fight through whatever those challenges may be.  Steve overcame everything that was in front of him, as his awesome finishing time obviously indicates.  Sam had some stomach challenges, and despite the nausea and feeling much less than his best, he finished with a very good time.  Jake didn't have enough time for proper training leading up to this race, but was happy to just finish.

So, another successful summit of King's peak, another great day on the mountain.  Thanks to the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers for hosting this officially unofficial race,

Sam hopping his way to the top.
From the Top.  Of Utah.
The OTM were here.

Leading the pack down the mountain.  My daughter saw this photo and
asked "what is he going to do with his hairdo?"

Sam and Steve had never had any type of energy drink before,
and we hid 3 cans of Red Bull in the river at Elkhorn Crossing.
So we got a caffeine induced boost to help us close out the last 6 miles.
No wings, but at least it was a push to the finish.
Sam didn't feel so well after the run, and pizza was the last thing he wanted.
This was just before he puked.  The boy scouts had occupied the Men's restroom.
So he made it to the women's restroom.  The entire restaurant heard him heave a few times,
and it scared everyone away.  We had the whole restaurant to ourselves after that.
You can try that trick if for some reason you need to empty a restaurant.  Four or five
loud dry heaves tend to scatter people that are trying to eat.

Steve's Trail stats, by far the fastest of the Monkeys and the only time worth posting.

Steve's Time  6:19:34
Sam's Time  6:54:28
Jake's Time  7:27:00

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Spartan Beasts! By Andrew and Jake

Andrew brought his game face.

I was lucky enough to do the Utah Spartan Beast for the second year in a row, but this time I brought along a different running buddy to tear up the course with me.  My son Andrew entered the Spartan kids race, and so we've given him the highest honor we know....we've dubbed him a full fledged Orange Trail Monkey.  Or at least I have.  I'll have to check with the other OTMs to get this cleared.  Here's his report on the Spartan race, which is infinitely more interesting than what I would report on, which mainly would consist of how hot it was, how crowded the trail was, and the backlogged nightmare walk that made up about 3 miles of the course in which you couldn't run but had to trek along with the herd in a single-filed-traffic-jammed trail.  So I'm mailing in the Spartan Race Report and instead letting Andrew tell you all about a truly awesome race day:

After the race and the showers
When we were driving up to the Spartan Race I felt excited and nervous because it was my first Spartan race.  The Spartan Race is a 12 mile long military obstacle race it’s very, very muddy. The Junior Spartan is a one mile race with smaller obstacles (that are not as dangerous) for kids under 12 years old.  I was excited for this race because I knew it would be hard and I knew it would be fun, and I didn’t know any other kids who had done it before.  When the race was about to begin, I was so happy and scared, my heart was pounding out of my chest.  I was all by myself because my dad was running in the adult Spartan Race.  But I knew I could do it.  And I knew it was going to be awesome and dirty.
Before the shower
After the shower
Once you start running, the first obstacle you run into was wooden towers that you had to climb over.  Next were some skinny planks that were elevated off the ground, and you had to walk across them without falling off.  If you fell off you had to redo it.  After that you had to army crawl underneath wires, but the ground wasn’t just dirt, it was SOOOO muddy.  My white shirt turned brown.  My white socks and underwear were turned brown too.  Then there these huge mud hills you had to climb, slide down the other side of the mounds into waist deep mud puddles.  I even jumped down one of these and splashed into the mud puddle.  Now you were not just muddy, you were soaking in mud.  Then there was a long run up a hill, and down a hill, with some more mounds of dirt, and wooden board towers to climb over, and then you ran past the start and got to do the whole thing again.  It was so cool.

After the race you had to shower with frozen water, which really wasn't a shower but just garden hoses that you sprayed your body with.  Even though we tried to get clean there was still mud everywhere, even after we got home.

The hardest obstacle on the kids’ course was running up hill in the super summer heat.  Like my friend McKinley says, “Oh my gosh freakin heck!”  (She’s only 2!)  My favorite part of the kids’ obstacle course was getting SUPER muddy.  I loved running in this race because it was a great experience, it was challenging, fun, oh my gosh freakin heck awesome, and I want to do it again next year and maybe even some day do the full Spartan Race with my Dad.

Tired, cut, muddy, and bruised but not broken!  WE ARE SPARTANS!  AROOO!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Race Review - Fountainhead Off-Road Half Marathon June 2013

One thing I love about traveling is that it allows me the opportunity to run in places I otherwise would never have visited.  I look for events in places I will be traveling on the off chance that I may get to run a race in a new (new to me, anyway) land.  This last week I was in Virginia for a tradeshow, and it just so happened that the Fountainhead Off-Road Half Marathon was being held, and I likes me a good trail run.  So sign me up!

I was nursing a foot injury...a leftover gift from the Salt Lake City Marathon that I ran in about 6 weeks ago,  a distance I was far from prepared to run.  I have some recurring tarsal tunnel syndrome from this race (which is like carpal tunnel, only in your ankles/feet) and so my runs have been limited and painful.  I know that to properly heal this thing I need to rest, go about 6-8 weeks without running at all, but right now it is too nice outside to stop's prime running season!  The other Trail Monkeys are running quite a bit and making me feel like a sled, so it may be hard to get any real rest in.  So until I am practically unable to run I plan on getting out and feeling good for the first three or four miles, then feeling horrible about my pace and upset that my body isn't keeping up.  Plus, I've already registered for a few upcoming trail runs, so I'll keep giving it a go to see how my tarsal tunnels hold up.  If I have to walk a bit, no one I know would see me walking or moseying along, right?  Not in Virginia, anyway.  My dirty little secret.

After an incredibly late dinner the night before the race (at the Dog Street Pub in Colonial Williamsburg.  The Salmon Burger is phenomenal, if you are ever there) I made it to bed about 1:30 AM, and had to wake up at 4:30 AM to drive 2 hours north to get to the race venue in time.  That's 4:30 AM Eastern time, which means on my internal clock the wakeup bell rang at 2:30 AM.  Awesome.

My Selfie at the starting line was photo-bombed by some high school kid.
This 16 year old in the hamburger and fries shirt took 4th in his age group (29 and under)

A few notes about the race:  The website describes this course as "Fountainhead Regional Park is situated along the banks of the Occoquan Reservoir in Western Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. The 10K and half marathon race courses are beautiful and consist mostly of hiking trails (including the Bull Run Occoquan Trail), horse trails, and old dirt roads. Competitors will run over rocks and roots, through several streams, and up some hills." 

The Occoquan Trail.  Rocks, roots, streams, hills...and even
a chainsaw obstacle at one log jump.
The trail was soft, muddy, and nice, very different than the harder and drier trails that I'm used to seeing in the Wasatch Mountains.  There were only a few hundred runners, so you never felt crowded.  The photographers from Swim Bike Run take some of the best race photos I've ever seen (check out their work here).  It felt more like a big group of friends getting together to run rather than a stuffy and/or nerve racking race event (in other words, it was fun rather than competitive).  The trail was never flat, you were always either going up or down, but never level.

I learned a few things during this race as well:

Sleep the night before the night before race day is just as if not more important than sleep the night before the race.  Nerves or travel or kids sometimes keep you from getting much sleep on the night before a race, so make sure you get good sleep the night before the night before the race.

Humidity kills - I hydrate quite a bit before a race, but in this type of climate, coming from an arid desert, you should really overkill the hydration.  I felt like my sweat had sweat.  By mile 6 or 7 it looked like I had just gotten out of a pool.  The forest cover kept out the sun, but trapped the humidity under the canopy, and I was drenched. Humidity is more challenging for me than elevation. Pictures to prove it:
HUGE head shot.  sweaty.
Taken at one of the many old graveyards along the trail
Trail Runs are so much more fun/engaging/challenging than road runs.  I hadn't run a trail in a while, and this was just what my psyche needed, and my knees, and my foot.  It engages you differently than road running.  You can get into a groove and sort of check out while running on the roads, zone into a trance and not really think at all.  Trail running is a different kind of zen, in which you must be one with the trail, bouncing over rocks/logs/stumps/roots and changing every step to reflect your trail.  Pay attention or pay with a sprained ankle.

IT Band issues suck.  I was content to run mile after mile thinking that increased mileage increased my strength enough, but as I was compensating for my foot pain and ended up with my first ever IT Band issues.  I did some of the strength exercises from Strength Runner (Video link here, these exercises are GREAT when it comes to overcoming IT Band issues) and built up some strength that kept the IT Band pain from becoming a long term problem.  The IT band pain wouldn't have just gone away with more running, but I am certain the Tarsal Tunnel Pain will.  Or at least I hope it will.  No?  whatevs.

Running in new places where you don't know anyone just reminds you that we're all friends on the trails.

Can't wait for the next trail run, or the next road trip, or possibly both.  Hopefully there will also be a Salmon Burger in your future, wherever you are.