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2010 Update

Things have been going pretty well lately. I haven’t updated this site in quite some time because, frankly, I was bored with it. I have preferred to microblog on Twitter and Facebook which is quicker and easier. Having said that, microblogging has its limitations. In particular, one can’t really say much in 140 characters and this doesn’t go very far in describing an experience. So I’m going to try to do a better job at keeping this site up to date.

So here is a quick update on what’s been going on lately. In the beginning of January I ran the Red Rock Fat Ass 50k. This year only six people entered the RRFA although all finished the race. Unfortunately, this is quite different from years passed when turn out was high and the race attracted elite runners like Josh Brimhall and Ian Torrence. Fortunately for me, no elite runners showed up so I ended up winning the race. More importantly, I bested my time from last year by 20 minutes.

In February I ran the Pemberton 50k for the second consecutive year. I ran faster than last year; however, I was a bit dissapointed in this performance. At the time I was still dealing with some plantar fasciitis issues which slowed me down, but I couldn’t help be feel a bit unsatisfied. A couple weeks before this race I started working with Ian Torrence as a running coach. Not coming from a running background I didn’t really feel I had a good training plan and usually decided on my daily run about 10 minutes before I started.  Ian has run over 150 ultramarathons, 49 wins, and is extremely well regarded in the community. So far this has been going great. It’s nice to have a plan in place and the varying workouts have been paying off.

Last week I ran a local 50k in Bootleg Canyon which is about 15 minutes outside of Las Vegas. I was a bit apprehensive about paying to run where I run every weekend, but it was also difficult to pass up a race where I didn’t have to travel. At least I didn’t have to worry about getting lost. This race ended up being my first DNF, did not finish. Everything was going pretty well. I had completed two 12.5 mile loops and only had another 6 mile loop to go. I was actually feeling pretty good and was making decent time, 4h 25min for 25 miles, but I just didn’t feel like running any more that day. I didn’t see any moral victory in covering the same ground for the third time that day and I was bored. For me, this race was more of a training run in getting ready for a 50 mile race, Zane Grey, later this month so it wasn’t any big loss anyway.

Besides that there isn’t too much to report. I think I’ll be taking a day trip to either Zion or Death Valley pretty soon so I’m going to force myself to keep my promise to updating more regularly.


Grand Canyon part 3

Everything has been going reasonably well lately.  I’m doing well in all my classes and everything is going well with work.  My running training has been going particularly well.  So far this year I’ve knocked off over two and a half hours from my 50k best time.  More recently I’ve been doing longer runs on the weekends as well as speed work during the week.

Despite all this, I’ve felt a little down lately.  It’s not that anything bad has happened or that I’m really depressed.  I’d say malaise more accurately describes my attitude.  Stress about what to do with working out my schedule with work and school may have something to do with this sentiment; however, I think more than anything I have been craving adventure.  I’ve had the feeling of the world enclosing around me like the walls of that trash compactor  in the Death Star from Star Wars.  After my friend Bruce and I postponed a hike we had planned for Saturday, I called a local ultra runner, Casey, about coming along on his Grand Canyon rim-rim-rim run.  Since he was going alone he was glad for the company.  

Friday afternoon we drove over to Williams Arizona which is about an hour outside of the park.  When we arrived there was a fair amount of snow and it was freezing outside.  This was a little worrysome to say the least.  The South Rim was another 1000 feet higher in elevation and, therefore, about 5 degrees colder, Oi Vey.  Moreover, when we got to the North Rim the weather could be even worse.  We kept positive about the run but realized there was a chance we wouldn’t be able to do it.  

We woke up at 2:30 a.m. and were on the road by 3:00 a.m.  We saw three huge elk along the roadside and luckily they decided to not dart in front of us because Casey didn’t see them until I pointed and said “holy shit”.  The weather really started looking bad as we entered the park.  Later we both admitted we would have turned around and went home right there if either of us were alone.  The wind was whipping snow flurries across the road and we were shocked by the cold as we got out.  All our gear was ready so all we had to do was grab our packs and get going.  This was a good thing because I was freezing my but off and may have bailed if I had time to think about it.

With our headlamps and flashlights illuminating the trail in front of us we descended below the rim about 4:10 a.m.  Things started looking good for us almost immediately because we were protected from the wind below the canyon rim and we warmed quickly as we jogged.  The snow on the trail didn’t effect our footing at all.  However, we took it easy.  Hitting an icy spot and spilling over the edge would have ruined the day pretty quickly.  Before I knew it we were pulling into Indian Gardens 4.5 miles into the run.  We filled our bottles and set off again still in the dark.  I was in front and set a moderate pace taking advantage of smoother parts of the trail and slowed on more technical parts.  Casey said we were making good time.  Now I didn’t know Casey all that well.  I’ve met him a few times and we seemed to like each other well enough; however, I hadn’t exposed any of my idiosyncrasies to him.  I figured this was as good of a time as any and said we need to keep a good pace so Gollum (yes Gollum from Lord of the Rings) doesn’t get us.  I think he pretended not to hear me because there was dead silence after that.  

About thirty minutes after leaving Indian Gardens I turned off my headlamp.  Although the Sun wasn’t up I could see well enough to not trip and fall flat on my face.  We got to Phantom Ranch a little after 6:30.  The camp was lively as people  were lining up for breakfast.  We got our normal strange looks as we filled our bottles with water and powery substances and sucked on energy gels.  I guess my orange tie-dyed spandex gaiters didn’t help us either.  

The next couple of hours were pleasant.  We chatted, enjoyed the scenery, listened to the rush of Bright Angel Creek, and kept moving.  I was feeling great and knew I had plenty of fluid because I was urinating pretty often.  We filled up yet again at a water stop about 7 miles past Phantom Ranch and prepared ourselves for the death march up the North Rim.  We noticed the snow line was pretty low on the north side of the canyon and we were pretty sure we were going to encounter significant amounts of snow.  Indeed, we started seeing snow along and on the trail just after Roaring Springs which is still about 2500 feet below the North Rim.  We couldn’t really do anything else than keep going and turn around if things got too ridiculous.  The dusting of snow on the canyon walls was absolutely beautiful.  I decided last minute not to take my camera but I regretted this decision.  It would have been worth carrying the camera 48 miles just to get a few pictures up on the North Rim….sorry.

While we did encounter quite a bit of snow, it wasn’t nearly as bad as we feared.  I led the way and de-virginized the fresh snow on the trail.  (I’m pretty sure I heard it say daddy.)  The snow was about 8 inches deep in the worst areas but only a couple most everywhere.  This probably slowed us a bit and it seemed like forever before we finally reached the North Rim, our turn around point.  We didn’t stay long because we were getting cold not moving.  There was no water available anyway so there wasn’t much reason to linger.

As we descended the North Rim the footing was better than I had expected.  I picked up the pace a bit and my gangster theme music, that Eminem 8-mile song, played in my head.  Yes, I felt pretty tough.  As my gangsterosity passed, I only know a few lines of the song, we passed another group of crazy people marching up the North Rim on their own double traverse.  I stopped long enough to say hello and find out this group of six was from Tuscon.  Continuing on the snow was much slushier than it had been on the way up.  This made for some serious puddle stomping.  Pretty fun for a runner living in the Mohave Desert.  It got pretty slick in a few places and the drop off only a couple of feet away suddenly jumped to the forefront of my mind.

Soon enough the snow faded away.  I was feeling really good but Casey was having some foot problems.  This slowed him up a bit, but this was fine by me because it gave me an excuse to stop and enjoy the scenery.  The snow on the canyon walls was just so beautiful.  It was is the StayPuff Marshmellow Man exploded into a fine mist of marshmellow bliss all over the canyon walls.  Again I apologize for not having photos to share.  

Soon enough we were back at the water stop at the Pumphouse Residence.  Literally this is a little house once owned by a park worker and artist named by Bruce Aiken.  When he lived there his children would sometimes bring lemonaid to hikers passing by.  Growing up IN the Grand Canyon? unbelievable.  

By this time the ibuprofin Casey took was kicking in and our pace picked up significantly.  Amazingly, I had almost no soreness and was plenty well hydrated (By this time I had urinated about 11 times, pretty annoying).  The walls of the canyon gradually narrowed and we soon dropped below the Great Unconformity (distinct line where sandstone meets granite and metamorphic rock that represents 1.2 billion years missing from the geological record).  I pointed out my favorite rock.  It is at the end of one of the six foot bridges on the North Kaibab Trail.  It’s actually a slab of rock that rises about 30 feet and is 20 feet wide.  The verticle banding of this gniess (pronounced nice) rock is just amazing and we stopped briefly to admire it.  

We didn’t waste too much time back at Phantom Ranch.  I sort of wanted to stop in the store for a beer but I figured this probably wouldn’t have been the best idea since we still had 10 miles and a 5000 foot climb up the Bright Angel Trail.  Throughout the day I had been eating 1 gel pack about every 45 minutes.  This seemed to be working well because my energy was up and I felt good.  As we prepared to set out from Phantom Ranch I realized my calculations were incorrect.  More accurately I didn’t calculate the number of gels I needed I just grabbed a handful and threw them in my pack.  I wasn’t worried about it.  I planned on saving it for Indian Gardens and hoped my energy held up.

We jogged for a bit to the foot bridge over the Colorado River and on the trail parallel to it.  Once we started up the canyon, however, we sort of zoned out and powered up the trail.  We passed several hikers and reached Indian Gardens about 1h 40 min after leaving Phantom Ranch.  At this point we only had about 4.5 miles to go.  I downed my last gel I had been saving.  Casey offered me more but, of course, my pride wouldn’t allow it.  After 12 hours of eating nothing but powdered sports drink and gels I didn’t really feel like another one anyway.  Plus I still felt pretty good and knew I could suck it up for the final climb out.

I glanced my eyes off the trail long enough at the Three Mile Rest Stop to spot a mountain goat grazing.  This was pretty cool to see and the tourists freaked out when I pointed it out to them.  I don’t remember much of the rest of the trip.  My blood sugar level was probably pretty low.  Guess it could have had something to do with getting up at 2:30 am and running across Grand Canyon and back.  

A few yards below the end we ran (figuratively) across a guy who was planning on doing the double crossing the following day.  We relayed the water stops and where there was no water and assured him the snow wasn’t a problem.  We reached the trailhead 13 hours and 26 minutes after we started.  This was about an hour faster than my previous time.  It felt great ending in daylight and I was dumbfounded by how good I felt.  After my previous two double crossings I was pretty wrecked.  Guess all those extra miles and speed work lately are helping afterall.  We ate and got back to Vegas about 11pm.  I enjoyed one of my friend Shane’s homebrews when I got home which thouroughly put me to sleep.

4/1/2009 News and Commentary

News for April 1, 2009

1)China looking to become world leader in “erectric” vehicles.  Makes a lot of sense.  They have the capital and industry to implement it quickly.  US companies are struggling to stay viable and catch up to Japanese in fuel mileage battle.  China is way too far behind in combustion/hybrid technology so they are just bypassing them.  Additionally, this is a good sign that China is serious about curbing it’s air pollution problem.  Drawback for China is that electric (sorry erectric) cars may not be the answer.  Power still has to be generated.  Plus the cost and inefficiency of the transmission is a problem.


2)Don’t think Obama will be saying “I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul” as Bush did on first meeting with Putin.  I really hope we can find some common ground and stave the Cold War posturing that has been building over the last several years.


3)Major infiltration of computer of Dalai Lama’s network as well as 103 other countries.  This is scary stuff.  The article mentions that they aren’t certain it’s China; however, China has had documents that could have only come from this spy network while detaining people.  This network could even turn on cameras and microphones over the internet….I got to get me one of these.


4) Feel good story of the day


5) Great article on how people are abandoning boats along coasts.  I can’t help but thinking that someone would take these for free instead of them being trashed.


6)Shamwow huckster beats up hooker.  The title is it’s own punchline.

The Smoking Gun:

7)Miss Universe visits Gitmo? First, why the heck did she even go there.  Maybe they figured they’d bring her in as a sort of treat for all these years of injustice (not all innocent but we have to admit we locked up innocent people and tried to throw away key).  I’m guess the bad guys were conflicted…they wanted to kill this infidel, but would she be one of my 72 virgins?


Just an Update

Hello everyone,

Everything has been going well lately.  Nothing too exciting to report so I thought I’d just give a quick update on what’s going on.  I’ve been training pretty hard getting in shape for this summer.  I have a three sided plan to get ready for some big stuff I have coming up.  First, I have been losing a little more weight.  I decided to do this using the logic that the more weight I lose, the less I have to carry.  Ten pounds of fat is like carrying a ten pound weighbelt.  Second, I’ve been continuing the speed work I started in January.  This includes doing timed miles on a jogging track at a nearby park and hill repeats.  Yes hill repeats are running up and down a hill for you non-sleuthing types.  I think this speed work is paying off pretty well.  My mile times have been getting faster and I seem to be able to power up hills a little better.  I only recently started the hill workouts so I’m hoping that improves even more so over the next few weeks.  Lastly, I’ve been doing longer long runs on the weekends.  The last few weeks I’ve done long runs Saturday and Sunday of approximately equal time, 2.5-3.5 hours.  This also seems to be helping and will provide a pretty good foundation for this summer.

So what are all these plans I’m eluding to?  First, I’m entered in the PCT 50 mile run down in San Diego on May 9th.  I plan on doing another Grand Canyon run coming up in April.  For two years I’ve been thinking of doing this adventure run out in the Sierras, Evolution 100k,  that I want to do this Summer.  Finally, I’m getting close to making the commitment to running the Leadville 100 mile trail run this August.  This would be quite an escalation for me as a runner.  This race is known as one of the toughest of the 100 mile endurance runs because the course averages about 10,000 ft over it’s entire length.  I’ve always done pretty well at elevation, however, so I’m no too concerned about that with the proper preperation.  The crux will be finding time to log enough miles to be ready for over up to 30 hours of locomotion.  

School has been going well this term.  I’m taking a couple online classes because I couldn’t fit any regular classes into my work schedule these few months.  What is one to do though.  That whole eating and paying the bills thing seems to always get in the way.  I’m taking an African American history class as well as a modern literature class.  Unfortunately no engineering classes this term.  They aren’t offered online and the labs involed, as I said earlier, didn’t fit into my schedule.  Lately I’ve started to put together another blog that will provide trail running information around Las Vegas and possibly other areas after that.  I haven’t had much time to work on it much and it’s all very preliminary.

Anyway I’m beat tired and that’s about all that’s going on now.  Hope all is well with anyone reading this.

Pemberton Trail 50k


Trail Head Sign

Trail Head Sign

So I’m getting off to a decent start here for 2009.  I ran the Fat Ass 50k on Jan. 3rd and shortly thereafter decided to run the Pemberton Trail 50k on Valentine’s Day.  I was originally looking to do something in March but this local runner, Josh, said he was doing it so I figured it would be nice to have a familiar face at a race.  

I drove down to Phoenix Thursday night after work.  I met up with my buddy Lee (not Buddy Lee of the Lee Jeans commercials) for a few beers and crashed at his house.  Friday I got up and went to Scottsdale to work on a paper for school and put myself out like a piece of meat for the cougars of Scottsdale.  For you cretons a cougar is an attractive older woman, who has taken all her ex-husbands money because he slept with some young broad, and is looking for a young man to spoil.  Well at least that’s the kind of cougar I’m looking for.  Okay I’ll try to stay on topic.  After lunch with buddy Lee and old Mark Watratz I drove northeast to the Mcdowell Mountain Park where the race was being held.

View from campsite

View from campsite

The area north of Phoenix is really pretty.  There are a surprising number of mountains in the distance and, of course, the giant Suagaro Cacti are magnificent.  After scoping out the park I went back  to town and do some more studying.

A few hours later I got some food and headed back to the park to set up my tent.  There were a couple of other racers there with their tents setup.  This girl from California, Ashley, was cooking some food; and Dave who rode his bike up from Phoenix with all his camping stuff on his back.  I was pretty impressed with this guy because he packed up all his gear after the race and rode the 35 miles back home.  That night was way colder than I expected.  I had a hard time warming up and when I finally did and started to doze off this family showed up making all this noise with their camping trailer and their bratty ass kids.  Oh well, that’s about average for a campground.

The morning was butt cold.  The race director started a fire that we stood around trying to stay warm.  People started showing up slowly and then all of a sudden the parking lot was packed and bustling with racers and family.  I didn’t strip off my clothes I had over my running clother until about 10 minutes before the race.  It finally got light just before the 7am start time, and all of a sudden the race race had begun.  Several people were still jerking around oblivious to the race directors repeated announcments the race was about to begin.  Oh well, I guess they got the message when everyone started taking off.  There were about 175 starters, some of which were running the two loops as a relay with a partner.

I warmed up pretty quickly except for my hands were freezing for about a half hour. Morning in the desert is beautiful.  The pink hues on the mountains and the distant landscape looked exactly like a water color painting.  This course was quite a bit flatter compared to the other races I’ve done.  img_0007 Before the day was over, however, I realized that flatter didn’t mean easier.

I started out pretty quickly and I knew I should have slowed but it’s just so hard when you are running smooth.  My training had been going well leading up to the race so I just decided to go with it.  I got to the first aid station, about 5 miles, in about 45 minutes.  I didn’t feel strained whatsoever so I watered up and up and quickly moved on.  The course rolled along like without much fare for the next several miles.  I played cat and mouse with a couple other runners as we passed each other several times.  I was still making good time by when I reached the 10 mile aid station, 1hr 40 minutes.  At this point the course was mostly slightly downhill and very smooth.  About 2 miles before the end of the first lap I knew I was going too fast.  I slowed down a bit in an effort to save myself for the second lap.  Still, I finished in about 2h 13min.  At least I knew I was going to destroy my previous  best time of 5h 55min at 50km.  Soon after I began the second lap I knew this last 15 miles was going to be tough.  Despite running well, I really wasn’t feeling all that strong that day.  I had to escape in the bushes for a “pit stop” in about the same location on each of the two laps.  Not being one to chalk such a freak occurance as mere coincidence, I decided the only logical explanation is there is a great disturbance in The Force in this particular area.

At some point between laps somebody must have used their mountain building tool and made all the hills 3 times larger.  On the first loop I powered up all the hills barely noticing them.  I thought I was golden when I reached the first aid station on the second lap.  Just 10 more miles to the finish.  For some reason I remembered the bulk of the hill being on the first third of the course but this wasn’t the case at all.  I still had about 3 miles of tough going before things eased up.

By some miracle, I reached the last aid station in just under 4 hours.  Although I was hurting quite a bit I knew I could suck it up for another 5 miles and finish strong.  I knew I wasn’t going to equal the time on my first lap, but I was happy with how I was doing so far.  My optomistic goal was to break 5 hours and I was pretty sure to do that.   This race was totally different than anything I had done before.  Because this trail was flatter, I ended up running about 99% of the time.  I really wasn’t used to running at a constant speed for such an extended time and this threw me off a bit.  My legs were really burning over the last 11 miles or so.  However, most of the hills weren’t significant enough to warrant walking up.  A few times I just had to slow down and walk if only for a few seconds.

I picked up my pace gradually over the last 5 miles and really gave it all I had through the finish.  I just didn’t want to leave anything out on the course.  Well I guess there was also the slight hope that some hot runner cougar, with the legs of a 17 year old soccer player, was waiting at the finish line, and was so impressed by my studly finish that she’d totally fall for me.  What?? wierder things have happened.  

Oddly enough, the pain in my legs only intensified when I stopped.  I was actually in a fair amount of agony for a while.  Eventually, the pain subsided some and I enjoyed the homemade chili and watched the other runners as they finished.  My friend Josh won the race in 3h 30min.  The young lady, Ashley, that I met the night before camping was the first woman finisher in 4h 15 min.  I ended up in 30th place out of the 170 or so starters.  However, 5 of the people that placed ahead of me were actually relay teams.  

All in all, it was a good run on a wonderful day.  img_0004

Running With the Devil Marathon

This summer I decided to try my first road marathon. My
introduction to running has been abnormal to say the least. Most
runners start with 5ks then 10ks and maybe a half marathon
(13 miles). Then possibly a marathon (26.2 miles) on a flat course
after a couple of years of training.

My approach was to skip all that normal build up and dove right
into the longer distances. In fact I even bypassed the marathon and
went right into an ultramarathon. My first race was a 50k (32 miles)
trail run that had about 10 times the elevation change of an average
road marathon. A year later I did my first 50 mile race after only
beginning running about a year and three months earlier. I’m not
pointing this out to brag, in fact most running experts and coaches
would consider this approach foolish if not dangerous. On the other hand, I’m not sure if I would have stuck with running if I followed a more traditional path. I really enjoy trail runs because I get out in nature and away from the worries of day to day life.

Although I prefer trail running I was semi-interested in attempting a road marathon. I was thinking of the San Diego Marathon but decided I didn’t want to run with thousands of people and travel so far. More than anything I just couldn’t get excited over any events I looked at. In short they sounded boring. Finally one came along that caught my eye, “Running With the Devil” it was called. Better yet it was being run at Lake Mead National Recreation Area right here in Las Vegas. As I looked into it more the race website set itself apart from other marathons that try to run under cool conditions on flat surfaces so runners can get a personal best. The “Running With the Devil” on the other hand had over 2800’ of elevation change and better yet it was scheduled for the end of June in Las Vegas. Moreover, the race begins at 10 am so most runners will be forced to endure the hottest part of the day. Not most people would look at all this as reasons not to do the race. For me, however, they started to make things sound interesting. I figured why run a boring regular old marathon, let’s spice it up a bit. 

So I signed up. I was already in pretty good shape from the 50 miler in May. Living in Las Vegas I had run in the heat a fair amount. I felt that it I could handle it as long as I took it slow and kept hydrated. In the couple of weeks before the race I did some training runs in the heat and felt okay. Mentally I just tried to accept the fact that I was going to have to suffer through it.

The last sentence proved to be more true than I had bargained for. Not to say I was taking the race lightly but I had just run twice the distance with almost three times the elevation and under pretty hot conditions. I started to toy with the thoughts of turning in a pretty decent time. The first 10 miles of the race went pretty much along these lines. It wasn’t that hot yet (the hottest part of the day in the desert is late afternoon around 4-5 pm) registering about 100 at the start of the race. From mile 10 to 13, the turn around point, things changed dramatically for me. First, I started to really feel the temperature. It was getting warmer but more importantly the asphalt was getting hot and radiating heat back up. This seemed to have a doubling effect on how hot it felt. Additional a huge downhill at mile 10 led to an even bigger uphill up to the turn around. At the turn around I did the mandatory weigh in (to make sure you don’t lose too much weight) and heading back. My time was around 2 hours 20 minutes which isn’t great but not bad under the conditions. If I could equal that I’d have an okay time. Little did I know what a pipe dream that turned out to be.

Besides the heat I actually felt pretty good. I could run at a pretty good pace on the few flat sections and downhills and keep an okay pace uphill; however, as it got hotter I progressively had to walk more and more because I could feel I was overheating. This is pretty much how the rest of the day went. When I got to the top of the huge hill at mile 17 they had an inflatable pool. It took about 2.4 seconds for me to decide to get in. I was so eager I was half way in before I remembered I should take off my shoes. The folks at the aid station sprayed us with ice cold water out of a garden sprayer. I really didn’t want to get up but I knew I had to get back going.

The last 9 miles were pretty brutal. It pretty much went
like this. I’d pick out a spot in the distance and decide
to run to that spot before walking again. I’d get about
half way there before I gave up and walked. It was
actually a little frustrating. I really wasn’t tired but it was
so hot, about 108 at this point, I could literally feel myself
overheating. Given my slow pace this cycle seemed to
go on forever. I was glad, however, that I recognized
my limitations in running in the heat. I saw several runners
looking really bad and even saw the ambulance going by
a few times.

Finally I reached the finish. I was pretty much glad for it
to be over. A couple of friends met me at the finish line
with a cooler of beer. It took about a half hour before my
stomach settled enough and I could help myself to a well
deserved cold one. I figured I drank about 2.5 gallon of
fluids out on the course but this was still not adequate to rehydrate. My time, 5:40, was pretty dismal for a marathon but not too bad under the conditions. The high for the day at Lake Mead was 112 and it sure felt like it. I think this race will constitute my career for road running. It was pretty boring in my opinion. The constant changing terrain and beautiful scenery of trail running is more for me.