About one year ago today I was thinking I was on to something great. I wasn’t.
Eleven months ago I was looking for a new job. I found several. One in particular was holding onto my heart, and despite the logistical pieces of it all, I hoped secretly it was the one that was going to come through. After the Patriots made a dramatic comeback to win the Superbowl, my wife and I boarded a plane to fly 3200 miles away to Bangor, Maine.
I know...how do you even say that city? We arrived in the morning in February to temperatures I didn’t even recognize. We grabbed our rental car and drove the hour drive to Mount Desert Island, the home of Acadia National Park. We crossed the anticlimatic bridge to the island and I scanned the horizon feverishly for every morsal of positivity I could find to hopefully convince my wife this was the right move. The job was already ours, it was just a matter of us saying “yes.” We met the hotel owner, the new President, saw the hotel, did the dinner deep dive and it even snowed. In three days we saw almost no other humans in the town of Bar Harbor. It was insanely cold, the hotel was closed and in full disarray, and 90% of the national park was closed for the winter and inaccessible. It was the hardest pitch imaginable.
In the airport in Bangor on the way back to Phoenix, I called the President of the company and told him we were taking the job. He jokes today he never thought we would say yes.
Life on an island
We came to Bar Harbor, Maine in early March. March 6th to be exact. And as it turns out, that was about the temperature too.
It's not warm here. It's windy. It's brutally cold on some days. And not "oh you just came from the desert' cold. More the "even the Mainers are bundled up like they are going to the top of Everest, not the 12 ft to the grocery store entrance." In fact, most people seem to just leave their cars running in the parking lots of stores and go in and get what they need.
But now having seen some of the winter, spring, summer and now winter again, its clear life here is more about your attitude than about the temperature. From my office in the hotel I have this beautiful view of Agamnot Park right in town on the water. As soon as a spring day peaked through the clouds and it creeped above 55 degrees, people started coming out of the stores and seemingly nowhere, to just go sit in the grass and enjoy the beautiful afternoon. As the spring progressed, I found myself texting my wife that the afternoon was supposed to be really nice, lets go see a new part of the island.
And so we would. And as the summer progressed, we took every one of those opportunities that came our way. We weren’t moving this far away from our Arizona family to sit in our houses or sit in my office. We saw a ton of the island, visited the communities, went to events, tried a lot of restaurants and all the shops. We met a lot of people. I just started walking up to people and introducing myself as, “Hi, my name is Jeremy. I just moved here from Phoenix and don’t know anyone here.” That usually sparked at least a conversation about the weather. We had family and friends visit from all over the country, all summer and into the fall, which helped greatly as both excuses to try new places, but also not feel so far removed from everyone. The move to New England has allowed us to see so much more of our family that is in upstate NY and Vermont. Now a seven hour drive away versus 60. And because of that the kids have seen their grandmother 3 times these last 10 months instead of 3 times in five years. Its a big give and take with the move, and while there certainly is some major takes (my brother and his family in AZ, Jen’s parents and friends in AZ), the gives (my parents and sisters are in New England as well as dozens of others) are helping to offset it all.
What’s Maine Like?
I’d never stepped foot in Maine before I interviewed here in February. I was from Vermont and like any self respecting New Englander, you never went to another New England state because the assumption was always, “Well, I’m from Vermont, what does Maine have that Vermont doesn’t have?”
Turns out, quite a bit and its not even all that similar. The New England spirit is the same, a collective pride in self reliance, independence and general hardiness that even when not vocalized, it’s tangible in how people talk about just about anything. Coming to Bar Harbor there is an immediate and palpable spirit of community and an immense amount of pride that people hold for the town and the island (MDI for short) in general. We could live here for 30 more years and still not be considered “locals.” People are involved, they treat people with respect (expect on Facebook but that’s pretty normal) and you get a real sense of “it takes a village” now knowning many of the families here on the island. When you go to just about any family event, it’s not just the mom’s with the kids. Almost every event you’ll find both parents there for their kids. While you can certainly find that in Arizona if you look hard enough, the neighborhood feel was always something that was missing in my 16 years in AZ. Here, we know a significant portion of the community, and it seems, they know us. “Oh, you’re the family from Arizona?” There is a certain amount of charm to that, and while eventually I’m sure seeing someone we know every time we go somewhere will lose that small town charm, for now it’s quite reassuring and leaves us with a feeling of belonging. Even if we’re not quite sure yet we do.
A few observations about the island and Maine.
There are no brands on the island besides a Circle K, one Subway and a Hannaford grocery store. Well, I actually consider that a positive. Especially the lack of a Starbucks.
There is literally ZERO traffic. The human wall of traffic in the summer is a bit much at times, but generally, it’s a breeze getting anywhere.
There is literally ZERO crime. Well, maybe not zero, but it’s pretty close. Some locals think it’s a gang riddled spot that requires National Guardsmen to be ordered in because some pumpkins were smashed on Cottage Street, but that’s small town life. It’s basically The Sandlot in the summer here. Or Gilmore Girls. Totally looks like Gilmore Girls. Not that I watch that show...
There is literally ZERO chance you’ll get a pizza delivered to our house 6 miles from Bar Harbor. Better stock up, NO delivery available.
There is not a single Taco Bell on the island. It’s a “treat” to go to Ellsworth and even that’s a KFC combo. Which we all know is not the same as a real Taco Bell.
There are no Mexican restaurants worth spending a dollar at here on the island or in a 50 mile vicinity. And that’s a brutal adjustment. In fact, I haven’t met a single Mexican since I got here. Which helps explain the challenges.
Oil is wicked expensive to heat your house and since winter is not December 21st until March 21st as that stupid calendar tries to trick you with, it’s a bit more than the wickedly expensive AC bill was in Arizona. But the winter here is just as long as the summer in AZ, so that’s pretty much a wash.
Maine has an excise tax for your vehicles along with your registration. If you own a newer vehicle, its going to hit you for around a grand to register it. Our property taxes are 33% more than in Phoenix. So that’s also not particularly fun.
But you know what is?
We live in one of the most beautiful places on planet earth. Literally and without an ounce of sarcasm or exaggeration. We were so fortunate to find a great home right in the middle of the island and in the town of Bar Harbor. I have a 10 minute commute to work, and am able to take Dean to school each day as it’s a couple blocks from the hotel. When he is older, he could literally just walk through town to the hotel after school. Our home has much more space and land than we had in Phoenix. We have a huge backyard and a forest to explore. Our first day we moved in a deer (later named Blueberry until we realized there are a billion deer here and it was a different deer every day...) stood in our lawn eating the grass. A flock of the same wild turkeys come by every morning and we have cardinals, bluebirds and all kinds of wildlife constantly in our yards. It’s incredibly peaceful and relaxing just being home.
Acadia National Park is all around us and where I run 99% of the time. It’s a wide open national park with access (trail head parking lots) in dozens and dozens of places. You just drive down the road, grab a parking spot and start from a new place. There are over 120 miles of trails over 20 some mountains carved out between inlets and sounds of the Atlantic ocean, and deep, clear lakes and ponds. You climb a 40% grade granite cliff and are granted access to a 360 degree view of the island and the park all around you. It’s remarkable and as the seasons progress, every mile is new all over again. Not once has it gotten old, and not once have I tired of any of the miles. It’s an incredible place to live and for that, I’m happy to pay the premium in taxes for the privledge to live in this community.
There are a million other incredible reasons why living here in Maine has been a positive change. None of which totally cancel out the challeges that come with leaving behind my brother, his wife Jeanine and their three awesome kids that our kids were so close with. Jen’s parents now don’t get to see their daughter and grandkids when they want and that’s difficult for everyone involved. We miss our Arizona friends greatly, and because of them we return to them in our minds in these blistering cold days in Maine or the month where it just decided to rain every day. For now though, we’re at least enjoying Maine and what it has to offer. The kids LOVE Maine, and have met so many great kids here they have become fast friends with. Dean has quite possibly the greatest Kindergarten teacher ever in Ms. Pickers, he absolutely loves going to school and for that we can only be grateful. If the school wasn’t so amazing in Bar Harbor, our entire feeling of Maine would be so much different.
The Zane Grey Obsession Continues....
The Mogollon Rim. Photo by Andrew Pielage- www.apizm.com
It's easy to be lost sometimes. Buried amidst a world of high speed activity, stress filled lifestyles and the ever climbing necessity of improvement, being lost is sometimes natural.
We go from one thing to the next. Thanksgiving to Christmas. Spring Break to Summer Break. Empty checking account to pay day. Starving to bloated. Happy to sad. Every day brings a new day and with that new challenges, new changes, and new views of what needs to happen.
For nearly two years it's been a non-stop whirlwind of change. Married. Honeymoon. Rented a house. Said rental went into foreclosure. Auction owners tried to evict us. I extorted them for payment to break our lease. We get pregnant. We buy new house. Start a new website with John Vaupel & Jay Danek. (www.trailrunningclub.com.) We have baby. We prepare for Mogollon Monster 100. We direct Mogollon Monster 100. We still have baby. Still have house. Still working all the time. And apparently I still have a blog.
Yet the Monster has come and gone. And the void that remains leaves me lost in what to do next. Immediately I volunteer to motivate and train our hotel staff to run the P.F. Chang's Half Marathon, something I'm passionate about but realistically didn't have time for. When I should be putting a hold on my ambitions to focus on traditional household husband things like siding, lawn care, organizing shelving, etc. I'm out signing myself up for more time consuming projects. Yet I can't help myself. I don't have ADD but I cannot just sit around. As great as that can feel sometimes.
I need to be involved in something.
I need goals.
I need ambitions.
To fill a part of that void I signed up for two races the day after the Monster finished. The Cave Creek Thriller 30K and the Zane Grey 50M a ways off in April 2013. I haven't run hardly a lick since my son Dean was born but now with the race behind us (for now) I should have more time... My training "program" the last three months consisted of a 30 mile training run on the Mogollon Monster 100 course on a Saturday.
Rest for 6 days.
Repeat on a different section the following week. I would run 20-30 mile long runs every weekend for 8 of the 10 weekends of August/September in preparing for this race in both training runs and course marking. Some went well...others were miserable death marches.
Yet somehow, towards the end of the summer, leading right up to the race I started to feel stronger. Not strong, but stronger. Last Tuesday I covered 16 miles on the Highline Trail for course marking for the race and on the return trip I pushed the pace, hammered the hills and came back into Washington Park feeling great. I drove up to the top of the Rim and ran another two miles along the General Crook Trail marking it along the way and somewhere on the way back, as the sun was coming down, still slightly poking through the tall Ponderosa's I felt like I was cruising down the trail on a bike. Nearly 7,500 feet up, it felt like sea level and I was off. It was short distance but a big boost to my confidence. Running hasn't felt that "easy" in a long time.
So the race is over. Planning for next year is ongoing and constant. Ideas flood into my mind in an ever rotating display of improvements and projects. Never submitting to mediocrity, my aspirations always at least reach for something greater. That will never change but leaves me pulled in another direction, a constant tidal pull bringing me back out to sea every few hours, every few days. As welcome a distraction as unwelcome. Focus on one thing, one specific goal has become very challenging with so many aspects of the race I'd like to change while also focusing on work, family, and training (not in that order necessarily...)
With the race over though it does allows me to focus on running again. My son is three months old now, bigger and stronger and stroller ready. We can train together and focus on the Zane Grey 50M in April and get back to running with Jay Danek. I've missed our reckless descents down Bell Pass at breakneck speeds and the much faster pace Jay trains at than I would running solo. His big ambitions, goals and training regimin rub off on me and I need to get back to that.
I have big plans for Zane Grey, my favorite race to hate in all of running. Yet ultimately...my favorite race. My brother distinctly remembers my putrid attitude following my horrible experience back in 2011 where I suffered through a death march the final 17 miles. All of which were self imposed through my own stupidity, poor planning and newly found arrogance.
This time around though, I'm smarter, I'll be stronger, and I feel like that's my home turf now. I've run the Highline so much now in preparation for the Mogollon Monster I know so many of the in's and out's of the trail. I know it's a whore of a trail. An unrelenting beast waiting to eat up the first runner that succumbs to the heat, elevation, exposure, manzanita, or those few rocks out there. The last time I was arrogant. I had been running 50K's like they were 5k's. The 50M was a near regular event for me, at least once a month. I had run a wickedly hard and vicious Superstition Wilderness 50M the month before and felt that Zane Grey was just a stop at the ice cream shop in comparison (incidently, during that delusional Superstitions run the first seeds of the idea for the Mogollon Monster we laid).
I made a cardinal Ultrarunning sin. I did not respect the distance.
Zane Grey is one of the toughest 50 milers in the country. I don't care which one you compare it to. There may be "harder" ones but there is no debate that this is towards the top of the list. Nobody leaves the Highline saying, "That was easy." Nobody. Most leave in a near crippled state saying, "I'm never coming back."
Which any Zane Grey veteran likely say's in their head, "See you next year."
I'm not overlooking the distance this year. I'm focusing on this race and this race only. I'm not going to go out and do all these fat ass random runs through the desert. My off course adventures that end up eating up every ounce of my energy. I'm training for speed, stregnth and endurance. I'm not just looking for an improvement over 2011. I want to knock several hours off it.
I want to go sub 10 hours.
At Zane Grey.
I know. Ridiculous right?
Anyone just ultrastalking me can look at my past results and will be wondering, "How in the world are YOU going to run sub 10 hours at Zane Grey??!"
It's 2:24 better than I ever have run there. Ever. I have zero statistical data to back up that kind of time. My fastest "official" 50K on there is 4:54. I barely ran 10 hours on a flat,loop course.
BUT...I know what I can do. I know what I'm capable of. I know I've never even gotten close to pushing boundaries on speed or training. I've always skirted by with just enough training to keep it from being a full on death march. I ran Cascade Crest 100 last year topping out at a 52 mile week. I get by because I'm a strong hiker and I can run downhill. I've always been weak on the flats and actual "running", as ironic as it sounds, and that is what has kept me plateaued, just off the cuff and from taking that leap to the next level.
My problem has always been that I could hinge back on the "I don't really train excuse" for my less than stellar times at races. It's always been a side joke with my running friends but ultimately it's just an excuse. I'm capable, I can make the time, I just have to put the work in.
So I will.
And when it comes down to the line, come April, on the Highline, I'll really see where that takes me.
And if sub 10 hours doesn't happen at Zane Grey...well look for me at the finish line. I'll still make it there. It just might not be as pretty.
The Monster has officially consumed me.
Consumed everything around me.
Now just a little over three weeks away its down to the wire on planning this monstrosity. What started as a pipe dream over some maps almost two years ago has nearly become the dream.
A one hundred mile wilderness run through some of Arizona's most beautiful terrain was the goal from the start. I had a ton of help from local ultrarunner Jeff Jones on designing the course and creating one that is both challenging and logistically possible with the unique challenges that comes with a 2,000 ft. escarpment between aid stations. I sparked the idea on the tail end of our Superstitions Wilderness 50 Mile adventure and Jeff took off with it like a kid in a candy store. My original idea to create a hundred in Arizona where people would come, run and leave with a whole new idea of the state, showing that it was more than "just a desert." It started Jeff off in a tirade of ideas that resulted in nearly 500 emails over the next year.
What we came up with amazes me with each long run spent on the course. Weekend after weekend, I've driven the 100 miles from my house at 4am to arrive at the trailhead to run the course. Mile after mile I fall more in love with the area, the terrain and every God forsaken rock that hits the bottom of my sole. I've run some sections of the course a half dozen times this summer alone, others just a few times, but in all, I've traversed that Rim as much as anyone probably has at this point and now just a few weeks away...I can't wait to see what everyone has to say about it.
The challenging thing about directing a race is not fully grasping what it is that is "hard" for other people. Every race bills itself as a certain adjective leaning one way or another. "Hardest", "Toughest", "Fastest" something or other. Even the Zane Grey 50M race this race shares part of the course with has for years been called, "Toughest 50 Miler" which for many has been a debatable, none wishing to debate fresh off a ZG finish. This race, the Monster, will likely be one of the toughest endurance feats many of the entrants will have taken on at this point. I know this because of what I have experienced on other courses, what others have when running this course and how revered the Zane Grey course is in general. It's going to be hard. Really hard.
But what is "hard?" Hard to me is the Lean Horse 100. Running a flat surface 50 miles, then turning around and running it back?! That is a hell of a lot of running. Keys 100? Indiana 100? Javalina 100? I've paced the last couple years at Javalina Jundred for 30+ miles and while it's probably the most FUN race atmosphere and an event I look forward to each year...I'm extremely hesitant to ever run it myself. Because I feel it's extremely hard not having a major climb plopped somewhere in there or having to repeat the same thing over and over again. Across the Years this past year I hit 50 miles and quit out of sheer boredom. Terrible I know and something I'm probably going to go back and rectify but that day, running loops...I just couldn't get myself into a groove and really enjoy it. It was one of the hardest 50 miles I've done and I didn't climb 12 feet...
So how will everyone feel about the Mogollon Monster 100? I have compared a lot of hundreds trying to determine how it will be met once the first race is completed. I've spent countless hours on the internet reading all 88+ other hundreds websites, maps, elevation profiles, crew access, past times, cutoffs, etc. There's only about a dozen races with more elevation gain or outright by the numbers is "harder." Of course there are the Hardrocks, Wasatch races with the climbing but also taking into account the average elevation of each mile, terrain, technical nature, weather and all the other factors that makes a race difficult and challenging some are tougher than others for different reasons. I feel this race has them all to put it in a class that will challenge even the most seasoned ultrarunner. That wasn't the goal in designing the race any more was the extra 6 miles some kind of masochistic attempt at one upping anyone. It's just the way it panned out that way.
So after hundreds of hours of planning, hundreds and hundreds of miles on the course, and over eighteen months of constant planning we're almost there. The buckles are in the mail, supplies filling my garage, volunteers committing and contingencies being finalized. Planning a hundred mile race was a dream, an incredibly ambitious one I'm finding out, but one that I'm determined to see through successfully. Runners are coming from all over the country, pacers and crews with them. We'll all be in Pine, Arizona come Friday morning and I'll be there standing up among them for the briefing. A moment I can't believe is almost here, a weekend of determination, stubborness and drive coupled with beautiful, surreal & majestic. I can't wait to be on the other side of the finish line to see each of the runners come through successfully. To be able to shake their hands, congratulate them and hand them the infamous belt buckle that all non-runners feel is so insignificant.
20,000 feet of climbing.
One hell of a challenge completed.
You won't find a more rewarding experience anywhere.
San Tan 50K - February 4th, 2012
Am I even wearing shorts here??
My first "race" since the Cascade Crest 100 last August...I've been running but haven't raced anything since then. With this race being the only race I've ever dropped from I didn't want to miss it and going into it I felt really strong, fast and ready to "race" a 50K versus simply finishing through a dismal last ten miles suffering to the end. Jay had me convinced to shoot for a 4:30 finish despite never beating 5:36 in a dozen previous 50k's...so that's what we went for.
That's a 4:37 min/mile pace photo...that's called "proper pacing."
Three ten mile laps make up the course with a steep out and back on each one totaling 4,300 feet of climbing total. We shot for a goal of 90 minutes per lap and after one lap we were 3 minutes ahead of pace. Wearing the Minimus 110's for the first time for a run over 20 miles (see: stupid) the second lap was less fun and my feet really started to feel the pounding after 15 miles. Luckily I had my La Sportiva C-Lite 2.0's ready at the start of lap 3 and I told Jay to go ahead as I changed my shoes. I was still on pace going into lap 3 but running solo I struggled to maintain a 8 minute mile pace and was soon passed by Paulette (this is the last time she passes me I swear...ok, I can't back that up. She's fast) and then Chris Fall from Tucson. Getting passed when you're feeling down always sucks, drags you down but at the same time brings me back from feeling like garbage because I got so pissed Chris passed me I picked it up going into the last climb. My feet and calves were trashed from the 110's (extremely regrettable choice) going down the last two hills but I got a boost seeing Jay and the others on both the out and backs and knew that I was assured at least my place in the top ten and finished the mile strong, albeit cramping so bad I nearly collapsed at the finish.
Is that a Mogollon Monster 100 Shirt? Yes...yes it is.
In the end I finished in 4:54, a personal best in the 50K by 42 full minutes. I guess I could be disappointed by missing my "goal" by 24 and really struggling the last lap but it's still a good improvement and gives me at least an idea of where I stood and stand before Mesquite Canyon.
The event itself was a lot of fun, much more fun than last year when I was sick. I really like the course itself and realize more and more how much I love out and back courses and seeing other racers on the course while you are running. Often, especially on one big loop courses, you see the same 3-10 runners the entire race as you all switch positions. With a course like San Tan I saw every single person (almost) the first couple laps and knowing many of them it made it so fun to cheer each on and hear them cheer us on. I don't think I will miss this race again, it's a classic to me.
It was also fun to meet Jerry Armstrong from Boulder, CO who contacted me on Dailymile.com and asked for a ride to the race. I picked him up and got to hang with him pre-race and he went on to run really strong and capture 3rd place as he passed Jay & I on lap 2. Great runner, puts out some cool video's and always fun meeting fellow runners from other areas. He wrote a great race report on is blog here: http://www.jerryarmstrong.blogspot.com/2012/02/san-tan-scramble-50k-race-report.html
Grand Canyon- Tanner Trail Route - February 11th, 2012
Tanner Trail...you have to look hard to see the guys...
I was really excited for this one. Four times I've been down in the Grand Canyon, all four times running or hiking the R2R2R trails. While that is an incredible trip each and every time I was excited to see a different part of the Canyon. I had this opportunity when a few WMRC members invited me along for a 30 mile route that was to take about 10 hours...I didn't need to hear another word. I was in.
Colorado River along the Escalante Trail
Andrew Heard, Art Bourque and John Pearce started out with me on the Tanner Trail head on the eastern edge of the Canyon. The trail was steep, icy and covered in snow at the top and it switch backed its way all the way down until the Colorado River came into view. Writing about the Grand Canyon is hard for me, it takes someone with real writing talent to be able to fully encapsulate what really "is" a run in the Canyon. The walls pull you in, the Canyon goes from narrow and claustrophobic to massive and belittling. You lose control of what you previously thought you had control of. You become a part of it.
Art lead us along the Escalante Trail all morning, dipping down to the Colorado to refill bottles, then seemingly back halfway up the Rim towards what for miles looks like a dead end straight into the walls of the cliffs. Running along the ridge, the Colorado a thousand feet straight below, you look up ahead trying to see where the trail possible could be going. Not until you reach the cliff wall do you realize that it does in fact scale the cliff all along its edge, precariously close to the edge, drawing up the details of your life insurance policy you hope to God you kept paying.
Boucher Point starts the downhill towards the Colorado one more time before entering Seventy Five Mile Canyon. Art describes a story when he was 33 and on this route alone, in 105 degrees, and completely lost. Having already passed a dozen spider trails off into the unknown, unmarked, I can see how easily someone can be led astray. Art takes us up the canyon and right away we climb above what becomes this majestic canyon, twenty feet wide but fifty feet tall, taller with each step deeper up the canyon. Art purposely leads us up the trail past the real turnoff, a scree trail down into the depths of the slot canyon, nothing remotely resembling a trail but more of an avalanche zone. No human rightly would have left a worn path for that. Nobody.
Art leads us down the precipice, down climbing our way down the hundred feet to the canyon bottom, an ant among the giant walls. Running down this dry riverbed, the walls tight around us, hovering high above us. It was like nothing I'd seen before and it would only truly be the beginning.
Andrew stirring up the spirits in an Anazazi ruin.
The trail continued it's steep ascents and descents, rock climbs up Fifty Foot wall, passed along the Colorado several more times providing for ice cold foot baths along the way. Continually the trail would wander random directions, running in random directions to go in the direction we needed to travel. We took the Grandview Trail out of the Canyon that day, a 4,000+ foot climb up the Rim that went on for a couple runnable miles before turning into a staircase leading straight up the chute, a leg burning, energy sapping assault on some of the steepest, most aggressive trails I've experienced. Art hammered the climb like it was his last climb of his life, absolutely crushing Andrew and I, leaving me sapped for the last three miles and 3,000 feet of climbing. Up to that point I felt great, strong and capable. That quickly turned into weak, wobbly, possibly the next victim in a Grand Canyon fall to his death. The trail narrowed, the elevation climbed and in turn the terrain became ice, snow and rocks covered with ice and snow. Climbing up the pace went from a reasonable 20min/mile to the dreaded 30min/mile to a few minutes later...58. Never...I'm using the word "never" here...have I ever wanted to just plain sit. Sit down. In the snow. And just lay there. My legs didn't hurt. My feet were fine. Everything was fine. There was simply nothing left in the tank. I was so tired, the trail so slick with ice, every imprint of a shoe with Yaktraks on it I wanted to scream. Wouldn't those be convenient right now...
I've been in this mindset before and never stopped but plodded along until I found a good section of untouched snow. With Andrew behind me a bit below I knew he would be struggling just as much in this snow with the footing being so slick and wrote, "This Blows!! :)" in the snow. Just writing it made me laugh thinking of Andrew coming up the trail and seeing that. I headed up the cliff, found a seat on a tree branch and regrouped. Put down my last gel, put a long sleeve back on, gloves and hat now that we were back in the upper elevations and waited for Andrew to come on through. He wasn't far behind and within a couple minutes he was there and we pushed our way to the top where Art was waiting for us with a big smile on his face, standing among the tourists there for a view of the big "Hole in the Ground."
John would come on through about 45 minutes later on his own. He had taken a wrong trail, back tracked, found the trail but spent a few nerve racking moments working through the fear of being lost in the Canyon. A veteran of the area he ultimately made it out, with a story, but made it out.
Two weeks later I'm still thinking about this route, the Canyon and the great time I had with Art, John and Andrew. It's never just another run up there, it always have me leaving thinking grander thoughts, bigger dreams and totally blown away and waiting for the next adventure there.
Grandpa Jim's 50K - February 18th, 2012
Jay on the 8B...still complaining about his knee. "I don't care if the bone is through the skin. We have 28 more miles to go. Eat a gu or something..."
Yes...this is my third 50K in three weekends. Just the way it panned out on the schedule and I didn't want to skip any of the three. Grandpa Jim's 50K runs through my backyard, literally, and covers some serious climbing along the way so I wanted to make it, donate some money to the cause and see how it goes.
Atop of Squaw Peak, Jay complaining about his compound fracture. Cry baby.
I could go into a full on race report here but this post is long enough already isn't it? I agree. I'm taking the lazy way out. So go read Jay Danek's race report, we ran the whole thing together and finished in 6:32 tied for 2nd place. If there is such a thing as "placing" in a somewhat unofficial race. Either way I count it and it continues my domination at Fat Ass races that don't count with very few runners in it. Yeah, I'm really good at those kinds of races. Borderline elite really. (see: 1st Place at Tom's Thumb 50K, 5 total entrants. Still wondering when La Sportiva is going to start sending my free shoes...)
Sean, Jay and I at the Dreamy Draw aid stop halfway through.
Jay coming down North Mountain after we got our fix of radiation.
So in the end...three 50K's in three weekends netted 93 miles, 21,000+ feet of climbing and 21 hours of running. In between each week I ran a whopping 50 miles in the other 18 days...I'm getting dangerously close to a full sponsorship from WalMart or Wendy's. It's a battle right now, really just the paperwork that needs to be worked out at this point. If nothing else I should earn some kind of special shirt for "Laziest Training Program in Ultrarunning." The week leading into Grandpa Jim's 50K? Two miles pushing a stroller.
Eat that Anton.
Top of Shaw Butte. We started that morning on the other side of the far peak that morning. True story.
Next up...Mesquite Canyon 50k on March 11th. I'm going for a 4:30, I don't care if that's 66 minutes faster than I've ever done it.
Limits are for cowards.
I say that because I'm always so far behind on updating this. So much happens, so little talked about, so much missed. Or is it? You tell me. Did you miss me? Didn't think so. Funny thing is, I started this website and wrote in it for months and months and never even told people I had it. It was an outlet of sorts, a place to consolidate my thoughts, my aspirations, my frustrations and a place to dream. It still is but as life piles it on more and more with each passing week I feel more burdened by the internet and all it encapsulates. Good and bad.
So for the sake of my dozen loyal readers...ok, just my Mom. Here is an update on the Arizona trail scene, my unrelenting mission to run myself into the ground, and why Monsters are better in the form of mystical beasts than in aluminum cans.
This is going to be very random. Probably weird. I can't guarantee you'll enjoy any of it. But you clearly have nothing else going on right now or you wouldn't be reading this. Buckle up. I just slammed a Mountain Dew.
Running Circles Around Monotony
After running Cascade Crest in late August I didn't make it to another race after that. I missed Man Against Horse, skipped Cave Creek Thriller, passed on Pass Mountain and bailed on McDowell Mountain. All races I planned on running going into the very week of the race but never actually signed up. Why? No idea. One is definitely spending the money on a race I wasn't totally thrilled about. Sure, the guys always have great shirts but I have dozens of race shirts. Running 31 miles just didn't appeal to me all that much and I was becoming more and more interested in the 25-30K distance. So with each passing day I'd gain more confidence and yet never actually test it. All the while I was training for the Mogollon Monster 100 test run on December 10th. After that was snowed out and postponed until May I was really bummed. So how do you go from running a mountain 100 to two weeks later signing up for a 24 hour race on a flat, 1 mile loop? Again, I'm compulsive...and I like to try new things.
Across the Years is a classic of classics. Lots of history, lots of extremely talented runners. A totally different breed of runners than what I've come to know as "ultrarunners" but no less talented or unique. So how was running around in circles for 24 hours? No idea. I made it 7 miles before I knew I had doomed myself into a full day of boredom. I hit 22 and thought maybe I'll just jump into the little trail side lake and drown myself. Mile 34 came around and I started walking just to talk to someone new that I was coming around the circle and hadn't yet met. By the time I reached the 45 mile mark I had lost every ounce of motivation to continue. I'd walk it in with my good friend Honey and I called it a night. 50 Miles. 10 hours. That's enough for me.
Physically I felt great and actually felt even better as I reached the 50 mile mark. I simply did not have the heart to continue, I had no goals, signed up for the race that morning. It was fun, I met some great people and would certainly recommend the race to someone else that likes the flatter courses or loves timed courses. Me? Probably won't do it again for some time. Like next year.
Castle Hot Springs 22 Miler- Jan 7th
Paulette cruising down the road
Another race in the series that Arizona Road Racers puts on along with the Mazatzal 18 Miler. This one is 22, all roads and circles through a remote area of central Arizona and one I'd not visited yet. It was a small group but not unsurprisingly the same 40 people I see at every trail race or ultra. I was excited to see how I would handle actually "running" 22 miles straight and with the 2500 feet of climbing it did add another element of difficult to it. I finished it in 3:16 or so with Paulette which was good for 7th or 8th. It's a pretty low key, non-competitive type race so not sure anyone was racing, I know Paulette and I weren't. Just a nice day out in the desert. A classic Arizona race, I'll be sure to make it next year as well.
Superstition Wilderness 50K - January 14th, 2012
Weaver's Needle coming up to Parker Pass
I love the Superstition Wilderness. Just on the eastern edge of the Phoenix metro area its so accessible and visable for many residents but nearly everyone is clueless in what is held behind the mountains hovering over the city. Behind that wall of rock is a 180 mile network of wilderness, completely replete of people, as inhospitable an area as you can find in this country and as unforgiving as it comes. Yet with that comes a beauty that isn't matched by many places either. The rock formations, the varied vegetation, the sunlit canyon walls as the sun rises over the mesa. The desert is a beautiful place if one just gives it a chance, opens their eyes and welcomes the experience.
This year we had a group of nine taking the loop around the western and most frequented (see: Runnable trails) trail systems. The course climbs a total of 4,500 feet in exactly 31.1 Garmin miles while passing several ridges, steep descents, big climbs and fast, winding, single track.
We had the National Trail Champion David James, Angeles Crest 100 winner Paulette Zillmer, stud thru hiker/ultrarunner Anthony Culpepper, fresh off his 5,000 mile/9 month loop from Arizona to Montana and back. My friend Michael Duer from Tucson, who I ran with in our friends 50 miler up Mt. Lemmon last year made the trip with his friend Sarah, both great, fast ultrarunners. Jon Roig returned again, always up for anything unreasonably difficult, with so little apparent effort it makes me want to double my monthly mileage after every trip with him. Jeffrey Bryant, the "old guy" of the group who claimed he would be falling behind but was always right on our tail. Then my brother Noah who put in 5.5 miles of running since August came out and ran the 25K first half. Pretty standard for him, knocked it out and kept up with us the entire time. Always impressive no matter how many "off the couch" adventures he does with me.
We all finished in about 30 minutes faster than last years time, all smiles and only 9 of us were bloody when we finished. The rocks are unavoidable, catclaw your worst nightmare and you can't get away from any of it. This year felt a little less overgrown, maybe less rocky? I could be delusional though as I run on rocks every day and I'm more used to them than most. Usually when I take people to the Superstitions they love the utter beauty of it but can't wait to get done because the area is so technical. It's Arizona. What's NOT technical here?
Old Dudes Rule
Like how I snuck Scarlett into this post? She's always relevant...
STEFAN BEHR 71
RICHARD BUSA 73
ROBERT CALABRIA 70
JEAN-JAQUES D'AQUIN 71
EDWIN DEMONEY 73
JOHN DEWALT 73
EDWIN FISHMAN 71
WOLFGANG GEISTANGER 72
AARON GOLDMAN 74
RALPH HIRT 71
SHERMAN HODGES 70
GRANT HOLDAWAY 75
BILL HOLLIHAN 73
DON JANS 71
LOU JOLINE 71
BUDDY JONES 72
DICK KAMINSKI 70
RICHARD LAINE 70
LEO LIGHTNER 70
LINK LINDQUIST 70
CHRISTOPH LUX 78
ROBERT LYNES 72
JERRY McGRATH 70
FRED NAGELSCHMIDT 70
STUART NELSON 70
DAN PIERONI 70
RAY PIVA 74
JOHN PRICE 71
EPHRAIM ROMESBERG 75
SAM SOCCOLI 70
KARSTEN SOLHEIM 73
BERND SPRING 70
WALT STACK 70
OJARS STIKIS 72
BEECHAM TOLER 70
MIKE TSELENTIS 71
DIETER WALZ 72
ROSS WALZER 71
JONATHAN WILLIAMS 86
EDWIN WILLIAMS 70
TOM WOLTER-ROESSLER 78
CARL YATES 70
IRIS LEISTNER 78
HELEN KLEIN 75
BARBARA MACKLOW 74
ELDRITH GOSNEY 70
Know what this list is? This is a list of everyone over the age of 70 years old that has completed a 100 mile race. It's an unofficial list compiled by ultrarunner Dan Baglione whom I met and ran with (walked...) at the Across the Years race. One of the many interesting guys and girls out there with a massive running resume that makes you want to quit your career, and become a running vagabond to try your best to catch up to his accolades by the time your his age. He's one of the many guys like Karsten Solheim, and others that are over 60 and still rocking it hardcore. The beauty of Across the Years is the depth of dedication these people have. I met a guy from Washington, Fred Willet, who has the body of a 57 year old (his age) as you would expect. A nice round belly he's worked hard in earning yet he was pounding out the miles with a consistency anyone would be excited about. After a while of running laps I saw Fred, shirtless, in the mid afternoon of his SECOND day and sparked up a conversation with him. He's 57 and he plans to run a sub 3 hour marathon when he turns 60. Amazed and honestly a bit surprised based on his outwardly non-in shape appearance I asked what his current marathon time is.
"4:20 but I walked a bit so I could practice for this."
Somehow after a few more minutes of running and talking with Fred I no longer had a shred of doubt that he would accomplish this. One story after another I hear from one person after another about determining something they want in life, setting that goal and by God, sticking to it until they reach it. I know Fred will do it, he's just that kind of guy. Later that afternoon, several hours later I was running past Fred and as I passed him I said as I tired, "Fred! I'm fading here!"
Fred's reply? "The HELL YOU ARE!" A command with such a definitive tone you can't deny it. You're right Fred. I'm not tired. To hell with fatigue. I'm going to go faster.
It was worth another five laps of effortless running.
Many people I work with or I know use age as an excuse or reason for being as out of shape, unhealthy or incapable of certain things. They can't do this or they can't do that because they are "old." Which often or not is late forty's or fifty's. Hardly old.
"Oh to be young again."
"I remember when I was young and could do that."
All of it.
I do half my training with a 52 year old mother of 3 that has run Hardrock and races ultras all the time. Dave Mackey is the 2011 Ultrarunner of the Year. Older than almost every other Top 5 runner out there by a decade. Karsten Solheim (on this list) is still hammering out 100's and he was born a year or two after Moses. My point is, I'm not skinny because I run and my coworkers aren't fat because they are old. I'm fit because I train not because I'm skinny and my coworkers can be every bit as in shape as they want to be. Nothing is stopping them but themselves. Age is irrelevant. This list proves it. These people aren't "crazy," these people are living their lives as they want to, as they should and as they deserve to. Good for them, I hope to be in their shoes later in my life.
The Mogollon Monster 100
Kind of nuts that the trail is kind of like this...
I'm going to go out on a limb and make the statement that directing a 100 mile race is harder than RUNNING a hundred mile race. It's a lot of logistics, planning, organizing, budgeting and bureaucratic nonsense.
And I love it.
As much as it takes, the hours of planning, I know this race is going to be something special. The trails are amazing, views incredible and I'm confident the pieces are going to fall into place. I was disappointed after we had to postpone our trial run in December but now look forward to the May 5th running in weather a good bit more similar to the September date. Prior to that I plan to make several trips getting video of trail sections, additional photography, marking and planning for the coming race. With each big 100 selling out, going to a lottery, I think it's going to help the Monster fill to it's 100-125 capacity the first year and give everyone a good sized competitive field. There is a lot of interest, my email inbox remains filled and the offers to volunteer keep coming in. Check out the race website www.mogollonmonster100.com for more info. I'm the proud owner of a GoPro Here 2 so look out! Video's coming soon!
So What's Next???
Training buddy Matt dominated with a 4:24...he's a road runner my ass.
I ran this race last year with a wicked cold, 103 degree temperature and bailed after the 25K mark. My only DNF. Ever. Kills me to this day. I have to return. I'm going back. http://www.getoutgetlost.com/1/post/2011/2/san-tan-scramble-race-report.html
Next after that the following weekend is the 12 hours of Camelback, a maniacal redundancy up and down Echo Canyon for 12 hours or until you fully tear each ACL. So I'll try to make it to that...
Following weekend is the Grandpa Jim's 50K. Up Cholla, down Echo. Over the roads to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, up Squaw Peak, around Circumference Trail and across the Trail #100 to the North Mountain Visitor Center. My home ground. My trails. My Mountains. If I don't win I'm going to become a professional badminton player. Ok, I won't do that but I train on these mountains, can hammer the super, super technical descents and hope to do really well at this event.
Two weeks later I'm running a 55 mile backcountry Superstitions run with Jeff Jones and a few other brave souls. Repeat of last years run plus a few miles to retain the original route. I have my reservations about a few of those sections and repeating them again but ultimately I just love the Superstitions too much and have a hard time saying no. It's my heroin.
The following weekend (I can see my overall times plummetting about now..) is the Mesquite Canyon 50K. This hopefully will be my third straight year running it, lots of climbing, great collection of runners. Competitive, hilly, technical, hot, snakes, boulders. Should be just as exhausted at the start as last year following a Superstitions run but I don't want to miss it so I'm already signed up.
After that? Who knows? A beer under the sun at a Spring Training game?
Let's hope so.
Keeping up with this website is as hard as some of the runs I do. So here's to catching up.
Iron90 Fitness Challenge
My work signed up for a fitness challenge a couple months ago called Iron90 (www.iron90.com) and about twenty people signed up. We all purchased a heart rate monitor, started tracking our calorie intake, exercising regularly and every month we have a fitness challenge between companies in this challenge. Each company has to select a representative to face off and then they cannot go again in another company vs company event. The first event was a 1 mile run holding your average heart rate in Zone 3. Which for me was averaging 153 or under. I ran a 7:19 minute mile averaging 153 to win the competition. Yeah me.
Everyone at work thought it was incredible. A major victory. A turn of the tides. I guess. Seems a little unfair though really when the people I went against were not regular runners and I barely beat another person by only 8 seconds. PLUS, the next challenge is a 1 mile hill climb up North Mountain. Fastest time to the top wins. I'm now unable to compete in it since I did the 1 mile run.
Yet, it's still fun to go try. I ran over to North Mountain and met some of my coworkers (they met at 8am and people didn't show up because it was "too early." That's the spirit...)
I ran down North Mountain at a 4:18 pace the entire way. I think had I finished the full 1.0 mile I could have kept it. I made it to .71 miles where I saw my coworkers and it was 3:48 on my watch. Whoa. I almost went over the edge three times on corners, nearly killed a Hispanic grandmother coming around the corner who yelled something at me and in general was basically morphing down the mountain. Usain Bolt can eat it. White Man Run Fast.
Yes, I know Bolt isn't a Native American so the stereotype doesn't work. We're moving on. I should double check my Garmin and make sure I'm not crazy. But pretty sure that's a legit time. Don't believe me? Race me down North Mountain. Or I'll challenge on on the Matanuska Peak Challenge course in Alaska. 14 miles. 18,000 feet of up and down. It's brutal. Those crazy bastards run straight down this scree field. Full speed. Reckless abandon. Let it happen.
Registration opened for the inaugural Mogollon Monster 100 on ultrasignup.com. We had 9 people sign up the first day, four from Washington D.C. It was a great start and since we've had a few more sign up. Being right before Christmas I'm not sure everyone's stoked to drop a few hundred extra on running and once everyone figures out their race schedule I'm sure we'll have a lot more entrants and am confident we'll fill all 100 slots. The last few times I've been out running the trails someone has stopped me and asked me if I was the race director for the Mogollon Monster 100. Bizarre. Actually, beyond bizarre. Once I was wearing the shirt so that makes sense but not sure how it happened aside from that. I'm sure TMZ has been scoping out my coffee shop. That would explain everything.
Anyway, it's nice to see that the race is drawing interest and people are talking about it. Some people I think are hesitant with it being a first year race and I can understand that. Given the amount of time and energy I'm putting into it I don't know if it's going to run as a first year ultra though. Hopefully it runs like it's been done several times with the experienced crew we have and the knowledge of the area from past Zane Grey races and the numerous times we've all run up there. We'll see, there is plenty of time for planning and I have a lot of great ideas, new ideas for a lot of areas that should make the event a great success. If not, well, at least we know where the thing lives now with this picture of it's cave. Thank goodness we figured that out...
Superstition Wilderness 50K/25K
The Superstition Wilderness is just that: A Wilderness. It's wild, it's rugged and it's incredible. I spent a lot of time out there this year and it started with the Superstition Wilderness 50K which brought out a good group of about 10 for a very challenging 50K route that took several almost 8 hours to complete. The footing it always in question, trail can be difficult to follow but it is relentlessly breathtaking in scenery as the course completely encircles the Weaver's Needle before returning to the First Water Trailhead. My wonderful wife will once again take anyone back from the Peralta Trailhead back to their vehicle if they choose to put in 18 miles versus heading back up the ridge for the final return. The course is amazing, weather is perfect in January and if not, who cares? I'm going regardless. January 7th, 7am Start time from First Water Trail Head. firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to join us. We run as a group, or at least with a partner. Everyone carries a map. Only aid is at Peralta Trail head. Mile 18. Be prepared to get scratched up, probably fall, and fall in love with the area.