Category Archives: Friends

Zane Grey 50 Mile: A Humbling Dose Of Rocks, Heat And Hills

Us At Mile Eight (Photo Credit: Kelly Gaines)
Us At Mile Eight (Photo Credit: Kelly Gaines)

Is it really the end of April already?!  It must be because last weekend was our trip to Arizona.

The planning for Zane Grey 50 Mile started with Brian mentioning we should do a run to celebrate his birthday.  It took all of two seconds to get on board, what a fine way to celebrate a milestone birthday (or any birthday for that matter).  He promptly went about finding a race and soon announced to us that he had picked ZG50, I knew very little about this race but what I did know was intimidating to say the least.  One thing about Brian is that nothing scares him, I admire that!

Our training went well, we did a decent number of miles, threw in some hill repeats, and worked a few flights of stairs.  What I didn’t do was all the other stuff I’d planned on, leg strengthening, core exercises, speed work, etc.  But, on the whole, I felt in decent shape heading into last weekend’s race.

A couple of days before the race, we got an email from the race director, it started like this:  Dear Zane Grey 50 Entrant, This weekend’s weather forecast is for exceedingly hot conditions on race day, 15 degrees hotter than the average high temperature.  Normally this race feels very hot to runners on a average day.  So with an added 15 degrees of hot Arizona sun, conditions will be BRUTAL.  Plan accordingly!” Oh boy!

When we touched down in Phoenix on Friday, it was hot.  As we left the airport, the car thermometer was reading 100 degrees but by the time we got to Payson, it was in the 80’s.  Saturday morning, the race got underway at 5AM, if it was going to be warm, it sure wasn’t evident at that moment.  Paige and I started toward the back of a relatively small group of starters (126 runners).  The beam of our headlamps cut through the dark exposing the large cloud of dust kicked up by the runners ahead of us.  We wound our way through the trees up a steady incline.  There was some chatter among the runners but we mostly ran silently in anticipation of the miles that awaited us.  It didn’t take long and we had run ourselves out of the cool valley and toward the edge of the trees where the early signs of a sunrise began to show and the temperature was also noticeably warmer.  We passed a few people before falling in with a couple of runners named Honey and Jon who seemed to be long standing friends with a lot to catch up on – it was a mesmerizing conversation to listen to with names of familiar people, places and races scattered throughout.  Time passed quickly and soon we were rolling into the Geronimo aid station at mile 8, Kelly and Caleb were there to greet us.  Brian was keeping with his plan to push hard early on to get some miles in before the heat got bad; he had been through the aid station 20 minutes before us.  We topped off our bottles and headed into the next section.

By now, the sun was up and it was starting to get warm.  We kept moving at a steady effort but the pace was slower than I would have anticipated.  The trail was tough with lots of rocks, some roots, and a perpetual up and down.  We were in pure unadulterated snake country and with the temperature now quite warm, I was on high alert.  Few things drum up the adrenaline like the potential for a snake spotting and this trail was 100% potential.  Every foot placement required some level of scan prior to landing, it was exhausting.

The course was strikingly beautiful and I often caught my glance wandering to the horizon, hung up on some feature of the landscape before catching myself and looking back to the trail in front of me, this trail wouldn’t be very forgiving if I drifted off for long.  The next AS was Washington Park (mile 17) and as we rolled in, I could see Kelly and Caleb sitting atop a small hill above the actual AS.  We waved as we passed to fill our bottles and as we started toward her, I could see Brian laying in the deep grass with Caleb.  The early push or the heat or the toughness of the trail or, more likely, a combo of all of these left him wondering how smart it was to continue on to the next section which was a long one through very hot and exposed terrain.  With very little convincing, he was on his feet and ready to roll – that’s what I’m talking about!

We spent much of the next 3+ hours trying to keep the pace up as much as possible but it was still slow going.  The footing combined with the steep and never-ending hills kept us hiking as much as running.  Several times we came across cool and fast moving streams which we fully took advantage of by rinsing off our faces, splashing water onto our arms and dipping our hats – it was really quite an amazing experience.  The heat was in full swing by now and when we hit the next stream crossing, Brian decided it was time for a plunge.  He laid himself down, right smack in the middle of the stream and started splashing around like a kid at the pool, it was hilarious!  Time was starting to get tight and we were keeping a close eye on the cutoffs.  Brian wasn’t feeling good at all and decided that the Hell’s Gate AS (mile 23) would be where he called it a day.  After a quick refuel, we said our goodbyes and got back on the trail, not wanting to waste any valuable time.

The next section was the hardest, hottest, and longest of the day – 10 miles of relentless hills, rocks, and sun.  We ran when we could, hiked when we needed to and tried to keep moving as best we could.  The streams kept coming and we never missed the chance to cool off.  Eventually, we made it to Hatchery (mile 33).  It was at this AS that one of my favorite memories of the day took place.  Paige, a normally quiet and gentle girl, has a most impressive ability to burp like a champ.  At the AS, she was drinking some warm soda and, as we were heading out of the AS, she let one rip which didn’t surprise me but it clearly took unsuspecting bystanders off guard.  One of those in range happened to be Joe Grant (an elite runner) whose head snapped toward us with a  look of shock.  Paige apologized but it was unnecessary, this chill ultra runner was more impressed than offended and replied with a chuckle and a “its all good.”  I just looked on with pride, that’s my wife.

The next section is a bit of a blur, very much like the last section except hotter, tougher and longer : )  Our pace was holding steady at something between slow and slower but, at this point, I was happy to be moving forward and making the cutoffs.  At home, we normally knock out 10 miles in 80 minutes, no problem.  It was a whole different story here, taking us more than double that amount of time.  I was trying to drink as much as possible and I ended up drinking all of the 90 ounces of water I was carrying with me by the time we got to the next AS.  When we did finally reach Canyon AS (mile 44), Brelly was there and full of energy – what a welcome sight!  We took a minute to sit down while volunteers helped get our bottles and packs filled.  It finally hit us, we were nearly done and no longer in danger of missing cutoffs so we could relax and enjoy the cooling temperatures and remaining daylight.  We put our headlamps on and got back on the trail.

It didn’t take long before I realized that my hopes to relax and take it easy over the last six miles were lost on Paige.  She is strong and when she gets focused on the finish, I know I just need to tuck in behind her and try to keep up.  As the final fingers of light faded, we reluctantly switched our headlamps on.  We were making pretty good progress and started passing a few groups of runners.  Soon, the “one mile to go” sign appeared and shortly thereafter, the sound of the finish line could be heard.  We had run the whole day together and finished side-by-side.

This is a classic, “old school” race that lives up to its reputation in every respect – well run, beautiful, and tough.  I love spending the whole day running through beautiful country and feel so fortunate to have such a compatible partner to share the experience with.  I’m happy to report that we didn’t see a single snake.  As is often the case, I can’t account for most of the day but the highlights were clearly coming into the aid stations and being welcomed by the friendly volunteers, seeing Kelly/Caleb (and eventually Brian too), and the contented feeling of having struggled through the ups and downs of the day to finish healthy and happy with my Paige by my side.  You can read her race report HERE, its got more pictures and is much more entertaining.

Javelina 100 Mile Run: A Party Disguised As A Run

At The Pre-Race Dinner
At The Pre-Race Dinner (Photo Credit: Brian)

Two years ago, I ran Javelina (read that report here) and absolutely loved it!  This year, when Paige and I were deciding what races we wanted to do, we quickly decided that Javelina would be our target race for the fall.  Well, its now fall and last weekend we ran Javelina Jundred.  Friday morning, we flew to Phoenix and met up with Brelly at the airport.  With Caleb entertaining us in the backseat, we drove to the hotel in Fountain Hills to check in and get some lunch.  Packet pickup and the pre-race dinner started at 4PM and we didn’t want to miss any of the action so we soon headed out to McDowell Park where Javelina Jeadquarters were already buzzing with activity.  The number of entrants was much higher this year versus the last time we were here but it still had the same awesome vibe.  We quickly found a few familiar faces and checked in.  After snapping some pictures and milling around chatting with friends, the Coury brothers provided a quick pre-race meeting chock full of info.  It felt good to be there.  After a most delicious dinner and some more socializing, we headed back to the hotel for our final prep.

Brian And I Doing Our Best "Juan" Pose
Brian And I Doing Our Best "Juan" Pose (Photo Credit: Kelly)

Race day, the alarm went off at 3:30AM and, surprisingly, I felt pretty rested and awake.  By 5AM, we were on our way to the start of my fifth one hundred mile race and the second that Paige and I have run together.  After getting our stuff set-up and dropping off our drop bag, we took a couple of pictures and were soon underway.  The night was cloudy but the temps were perfect so I started in a short sleeve with arm warmers that could be removed if/when it warmed up.  Starting toward the back of the pack, it was slow going through the first two miles and then Paige made her move, the first of many throughout the day.  For the next several miles, she was pushing past clumps of people trying to get to a place where we could run our pace, I just followed, which would be a theme for the day.  As we made our way around the first loop, I was happy that it felt so familiar and was everything that I remembered – runnable  and beautiful.  They moved the aid stations around some and added one more for a total of three on the course plus the main one, this turned out to be a nice change.  We finished the first loop fast but it felt comfortable so I tried not to worry that we were going out too fast.  We didn’t stay long but made sure we had everything we needed before heading out on our second loop, counter-clock-wise this time.

Finishing Up Loop One
Finishing Up Loop One (Photo Credit: Kelly)

In this direction, its a gentle up hill for the first several miles but it didn’t feel like it as we ran nearly all of it.  One of the many great things about this race is the ability to see everyone from the front of the pack to the very last runner multiple times throughout the day, so we got to say hello to all the Chicago peeps as we doubled back, everyone was looking fresh and in good spirits.  We cruised through the second loop nearly as easily and quickly as the first, again, my tendency was to worry it was too fast but it felt easy enough so we rolled with it.  Finishing up the second loop, we took a little longer to get in and out of the Javelina Jeadquarters with Paige changing her socks and me messing around with food choices.  It was fun to see some of our crew who were there to support other runners or pace later on in the day; they were a ball of energy and made us feel very cared for (i.e. Kelly and Caleb, Jen, Jim, Terry, among others).

Aid Station Fun
Aid Station Fun (Photo Credit: Kelly)

The next couple of loops got a bit warm with the sun peaking out and the warmth of the afternoon reaching the mid-70s, it felt warm but never hot which made it very manageable.  As the day unfolded, we saw many familiar faces throughout the day and enjoyed being able to keep tabs on how everyone’s race was going.  We finished up a loop around 6PM and were given the news that the latest forecast was calling for significant rainfall after mid-night, not the best news we could have received but at least we could prepare for it.  The amazing Kelly, went to the car and got our rain jackets and had them waiting for us on the next loop.

Getting A Little Pep Talk From Caleb
Getting A Little Pep Talk From Caleb (Photo Credit: Kelly)

It was dark now and we were running with our headlamps on.  Running with a headlamp always creates an odd sensation, but not in a bad way.  The headlamp typically comes out after running all day, the temperature has started to drop, the pace has slowed, the sleepiness has started to set in, the legs are tired, … and today was no exception – I love it, all of it!  I don’t know why but my absolute favorite thing about running these races is the night portion.  Somewhere during the wee hours of the morning, I was thinking about this and I started to feel just a little sorry for the race winner, Hal Koerner, who finished so fast that he didn’t even get to experience running at night, poor guy.  I say this, of course, just a little tongue in cheek because I would rather set a course record than run through the night but I would miss the night portion.  Normally, I experience a period of extreme sleepiness around 1AM and it typically lasts for a couple of hours but it can be normally be managed fairly well with coffee or soda but I had been fighting this feeling periodically throughout the day and when it hit at 1AM, it was a force to be reckoned  with.  I could hardly keep my eyes open and my body was trying to force me to sleep, sort of like someone was hitting the manual override button and I no longer had control.  I have been packing 5-Hour Energy in my drop bags for a couple of years but have never resorted to trying it.  I decided it was time and within minutes of ingesting the life giving liquid, I was feeling significantly better – the stuff really works!

The rain came early and by 10:15PM, we were huddled under a tent at an aid station putting on our rain jackets and moving our headlamps under the bills of our hats for protection from the rain and thought, “here we go.”  Fifteen minutes later, the rain let up and we were able to take our jackets off for a while longer, though the next time we put them on, it would be for the duration of our race.  The night didn’t get as cool as it did the last time I ran this race and with the rain, that was a very welcome thing.  Still, we saw runners who hadn’t prepared for the rain and were unable to move fast enough to keep warm – that’s tough situation to be in but thankfully, we were both moving well and protected inside our jackets.  As we finished our sixth loop, we were given our glow-in-the-dark neckless which signifies the “bell” lap.  We headed out and, after shaking out the stiffness that had quickly moved into my legs during the AS stop, we ran most of the way to the first aid station.  After a quick bottle refill, we were back on the trail which had now been soggy at best and shoe sucking muddy at worst for the past several hours.  The next section was the rockiest section of the trail, it was still pouring rain and we decided to walk through the worst of the rocks to make sure we didn’t take a fall on the slick rocks.  Two runners came up on our left as we navigated this section, it was Daniel and our friend Jim who was now pacing his cousin.  We’d been playing leapfrog all day with Daniel.  We stuck with them for a while and then Paige suddenly picked up the pace and took off.  Jim look at me and said, “well, you better go with her,” or something to that effect, I knew he was right because she was feeling good and could ‘smell’ the end was near.  I took off after her and I don’t think we stopped running until we hit the finish-line.  I had been doing some rough calculations in my head and knew I was close to my hundred mile PR but couldn’t remember exactly so I decided to keep it to myself and just keep pushing in hopes of breaking it.  As we crossed the line, several of our crew were there including Kelly and Caleb!  Jamil, the co-RD, came over and presented us with our buckles and congratulated us.  They Coury brothers put on amazing events but more importantly, they are just amazing people and this is consistently seen in every interaction with them.  As it turned out, we didn’t quite best my PR but it was within seconds and if you factor in that Javelina is actually 101.4 miles, I suppose it is a PR of sorts.  Paige, on-the-other-hand, broke her PR by 5+ hours, I was simply in awe of her all day, she went out there prepared and executed the run flawlessly.

And, We're Done!
And, We're Done! (Photo Credit: Kelly)

I want to send a shout out to Brian who had a fantastic race and shaved hours off his PR as well.  We had such a fun time with all the Chicago crew including some new friends.  A huge thank you to Kelly for being such an amazing crew person all day and for the others who stepped in to help as well.  Other than fighting with the periodic sleepiness and a slightly touchy stomach, I felt pretty good most of the day.  Despite feeling good, it was all I could do to stay with Paige for the majority of the day.  Two Dunmores ran Javelina this year and it is undeniable that my wife was definitely the stronger Dunmore … at least on that day : )  (You can read her race report here.)

Somewhere On The Course
Somewhere On The Course (Photo Credit: Vens)

Fifty Miles In Less Than Eight Hours

Des Plaines River Trail RacesWe meant to sign up months ago but didn’t, and missed the first two price break points.  Then we went back and forth as to whether or not to run the race or volunteer instead.  Eventually, we went with our original plan, paid our dues and ran the Des Plaines River Trails 50 Miler.

Our training has been going really well and I’ve been running between 90 and 100 miles a week without much thought about it.  I still look forward to every run and my body is holding up remarkably well. Paige and I do most of our runs together, which I love, then I try to sneak in a few extra miles whenever I get a chance – I need the extra training just to keep up with her.  Going into the race, we felt good but with Javelina just three short weeks away, our plan was to take it easy and use it as our last push before the taper.

The day started at 4AM with coffee and final packing.  A short drive to the north suburbs brought us to the race headquarters.  We checked in with Ian, Maria and Adrian before running into Terry (one of the RD’s for the race) and quickly started seeing familiar faces – I love the racing scene, so many friends all in one place.  Back to the truck for final prep and then to the starting line.  The day promised sunny skies and warm temps but, at that moment, it was dark and cold.

We started off at a conversational pace chatting with friends.  The first section was a short out and back which allowed us to see everyone who was running.  Then we settled in to a quick but comfortable pace and got serious about what lay ahead of us.  As the sun rose, we could see just how beautiful the trail was that we were traversing.  We found our “spot” in the group and moved silently through the early morning hours.  We passed through the first couple of aid stations without stopping.  I have been dealing with a tight hamstring for the past week and thought it might be a problem during the race – it was tight but so far, okay.  We chatted here and there but mostly just ran.  Eventually, we would stop to refill our water bottles, grab some grub and then keep moving.  We got word that Paige was the second place woman – oh boy, the pressure was on.  Soon, we passed the first place woman but she wouldn’t have it and quickly passed us back and then disappeared – with our target race just three weeks away, we happily let her go and kept to our plan of running a relaxed race.  The trail was unbelievably flat but incredibly gorgeous!!  We had run a portion of this trail once before with Ed but it was in the dead of winter and it was icy and windy that day which left a less than awesome impression – today, it was making a very different impression.

Finish Line Photo Courtesy Of Bill Thom
Finish Line Photo Courtesy Of Bill Thom

The middle section of the race was uneventful, our emotions were even tempered, there were no deep pockets of dark to overcome, our bodies seemed to be fine with what we were asking of them, our energy remained high, the weather cooperated fully, … we were happy to be spending the day running.  This section was also an out and back section which is really nice, especially on a wider trail, because it allows you to see everyone a couple of times throughout the day.  The day went fast and soon the end was near.  It was clear that we were running a decent race and the flat terrain was lending to a fast time but its not over till its over so we kept after it.  As we crossed the line, we both looked at the clock a bit in disbelief – 7:43:47, a significant PR for both of us.  I don’t want to overlook the flat and smooth nature of the trail but as Bill Thom reminded us, “you still covered the distance.”  He was right, we had covered the distance and it was good for second place woman and seventh place man.  As you might guess, we were happy with that.  We headed to get post-race massages, change and then to get some grub.  After congratulating several of our friends as they finished, we said our goodbyes and headed home feeling quite happy with the day.

It was awesome to see so many friends either running or as volunteers.  Thank you to Ed, Terry and all the volunteers that made the day so easy and fun!  As we go into Javelina, my confidence is high.  I feel good about my fitness and the next three weeks should prove to be the final touch to an awesome training buildup.

Where’s Geof?

Mr. and Mrs. Dunmore
Mr. and Mrs. Dunmore

It’s been a while, a long while, since I last posted but I’m still here.  After the wedding/honeymoon, we have been readjusting to normal life and right about that time, summer decided to make an appearance in Chicago so we’ve been trying to take advantage of that too.  We’ve been doing some running, went to my 20 year high school reunion (yes, 20 years!), took a short camping trip to Wisconsin with some CHUGs, went to a Dunmore family reunion, and then, baby Brelly decided to be born.  Its been a fun and exciting time for us.  In short, married life has been awesome!

As for our running plans, we’ve committed to two race with a couple of others tentatively lined up.  Yesterday, we signed up for The North Face 50 Mile in Wisconsin in September.  In November, we will be heading to Arizona for the Javelina Jundred.  Those are the two focus races with the others mixed in there to serve as long training runs.  It feels good to finally have a plan roughed out, just two weeks into our training schedule for Javelina and I’m already starting to feel like a runner again.

More to come…soon…

Ice Age Trail 50 Mile, The 2011 Edition

Post-Race w/Paige
Post-Race w/Paige

I actually started on time this year, so it was went better than last year right from the start : )  The race last year saw all sorts of bad weather but this year was nearly perfect for running.  The temperatures for the day reached into the mid to upper 50s with overcast conditions and while it was a bit breezy in exposed areas, most of the trail is through heavily forested areas that provided plenty of wind block.  There were a few showers but nothing that amounted to much and the trails stayed in good condition all day.  Leading up to the race, my preparation had been steady but minimal so I had expectations of focusing on having fun rather than going out hard.  Paige decided to run the 50K version of the race (her race report can be found here) so I was on my own but early on, I saw fellow CHUG Ed Kelly and latched on to him for the next several miles.  It was great catching up with Ed and there was plenty catching up to do.  Somewhere before the Rice Lake AS, we got separated and I settled in with a train of unknown runners for a bit as we cruised along the single track.  This section is one of my favorites in the area with a lot of rocky sections, some steep inclines and all single track.  Brian and Kelly were at the Hwy 12 AS with the pups, seeing them is always a lift.  I felt good and the easy pace early on was paying off as my energy held steady and my body remained strong.  At some point during the middle section, I ran into Jack, a friend from Iowa City.  This race is turning into our annual reunion of sorts and I always look forward to it.  I was getting reports from folks along the trail that Paige had had a great race and finished third in her race – wow, she’s getting fast!  When we hit the Horserider’s AS, Brelly was there cheering on runners along with Deanna, I stopped to chat for a minute and grab some food.  Then it was off for the Emma Carlin turnaround.  I was feeling the miles, but holding together pretty well for this late in the race.  I decided I was going to push it a little on the way back, it was only nine miles back so even if I blew up, I knew I could still finish.  I passed a few people but mostly ran alone.  It felt good to be moving a little faster and I was started to get excited to finish so I could see my soon-to-be-wife and hear about her race.  I finished much stronger than last year even though this year’s time was a few minutes slower.  Paige was waiting there at the finish and I quickly got the story of her race before heading to join the others in the post race festivities.  This has always been a fun and well run race but it seems to get better each year.  Congrats to my (now) wife on her awesome race!

Mancation

Who Is This Guy?
Who Is This Guy?

What happens when you have some of the best friends around?  You get two bachelor parties!  Rob was working on a weekend “mancation” but, unfortunately, it didn’t work into everyone’s calendar so Moffett put together a bachelor party here in Chicago for those who couldn’t make it.  He was rather coy about the plans for the night but gave me a rough timeline and a dress code – casual.  All day, he had been walking around with a smile on his face – taunting me, he knew what we were doing and I didn’t – I was starting to get nervous that he had something wild planned but I tried not to show my fear.  He, Teague, Ainsley, Chris and I left work on a Friday and headed north on the Red Line.  We got off in Wriggleyville and headed to dinner at Rockit.  We sat down to and awesome dinner with lots of laughs before heading to THE EVENT.  This is what Moffett had been referring to all day but was still unknown to me.  He was using all sorts of “code” words that eluded to widely interpretable things but I still had no idea was THE EVENT actually was – he could see me squirming and he loved it!  We loaded ourselves into cabs and headed to THE EVENT which turned out to be the Golden Gloves Championships.  Ahh, now it all made sense!  We had awesome seats and, with a lot on the line, the action was furious!  We finished the night at a local pub – it was a most fun and greatly appreciated evening!

Sheriff Cotter And The Posse
Sheriff Cotter And The Posse

For those who could make the weekend getaway, affectionately called Mancation, it took place the following weekend.  I had a packing list and an airport arrival time – the rest was speculation on my part.  I met Brian at the airport at 4:30AM on Friday and there he let me in on the details for the weekend.  Moab, UT for jeeping, rafting, camping, biking and whatever else came up – sweet!  I LOVE Moab and I’ve never been there in the spring!  Brian and I picked up a rental car from the Grand Junction airport and headed to meet the rest of the crew at some trailhead off the highway (that’s how they do things in the west).  Rob, Tom, Ben and Wyn were there with Rob’s jeep and a brand new rental jeep (it had less than 200 miles on it).  After some very masculine hugs, we each picked out a mustache (Rob had brought costume staches because, afterall, what is more manly than a mustache?), I donned my wig, they pinned a sheriff’s badge on me and Sheriff Cotter was born.  The day was gorgeous and having just come from the longest, crappiest 6 months of Chicago winter, it felt good to be baking in the warm desert sun!  We rounded up the posse and hit the trails for an afternoon of rock crawlin’!.  We did the 7-Mile trail just north of Moab – it offered the perfect mix of good views, challenging terrain, and variety of trail.  After some bone jarring, dust eating and hair raising trails, we safely made it back to the highway just in time to return the rented jeep back in Moab.  The trip was off to an awesome start.

Wyn, Rob, Brian, Me, And Tom
Wyn, Rob, Brian, Me, And Tom

From there, we dropped off one of the cars and took the scenic route to Deadhorse Point, a picturesque overlook where the Colorado river has carved a horseshoe shaped canyon – it was magnificent especially as the sun lowered and finally set in the sky.  We ate like kings with wild caught smoked salmon, pulled pork sandwiches, beans, and a champagne toast.  With the sun down, we enjoyed the evening for a while longer and then packed up and headed to Tom’s “tent”.  Way up at the end of Castle Valley, Tom has a plot of land with a semi-permanent slice of heavy.  Over the years, he has slowly added to the property and it had been a few years since I was last there but it was the perfect spot for our mancation.  He built a two level wooden platform with the first level the size of a large room and the second level serving as the porch.  They then erected a good sized hunting tent over the first level, complete with: a kitchen sink/counter (no running water but very handy with ported water), a propane stove, a utility table, some camp chairs, a wood burning stove, and some other conveniences.  The final touch was “the bucket” which was placed just out of site from the tent and provide some of the most scenic views ever for taking care of your business.  That night, we slept out under the stars on the porch.

Brian Was Up Early Snapped Wyn And I Sleeping
Brian Was Up Early Snapped Wyn And I Sleeping

Morning brought another gourmet meal with breakfast burritos, fresh fruit, juice and french press coffee.  Next up, rafting on the Colorado river.  We headed into Moab where we picked up our vessel for the trip and secured it to Tom’s truck with his and Wyn’s ingenious transporting apparatus, even the guy at the rental place was impressed.  The day was warm and we were all itching to get wet.  Most groups hire a guide but not this group, we got a map and some guidance from the lady at the store and headed out – it was going to be an awesome day.  We drove to the point where we planned to end our trip and left a vehicle behind and then headed up river to the spot we intended to begin our trip.  With gear loaded, we launched ourselves off the sandy bank and into the river.  With Tom at the stern position, we practiced some maneuvers and away we went.  Even though it was a little cold for a swim, the river wasn’t nearly as cold as I had expected.

On The Colorado River
On The Colorado River

We paddled, took in the views, snacked on gummy bears and drank cold beverages while letting the river do much of the work to carry us on our journey.  Coincidentally, Bethany had a conference that weekend at a resort right on the river so when we got there, we paddled up to the dock and Rob and I ran up to see if we could say a quick hello to the LEWIS! family.  The conference had wrapped up for the day and they had left for an adventure of their own so we didn’t get to see them after all.  Back on the river, Brian spotted a beer floating passed and claimed it was unopened – I had my doubts but we paddled to catch up with it and before you know it, Tom was drinking a river chilled Tecate.  For the most part the river felt pretty lazy but at a few different points, it offered up some white water and we eagerly headed toward the bumpiest parts.  The day passed quickly and soon we reached our pull out spot.  Wyn and I stayed with the raft while the others drove to get the vehicles we left at the starting point.  After loading the gear, Rob, Brian and I headed back to the tent while Wyn and Tom returned the raft.  We had set out the solar showers and the sun had done its work so we setup a spot off the end of the porch for an outdoor shower.  Nothing feels quite as good as getting clean after a full day outside especially when your shower stall has no walls and the sun is beating down on you.  The boys had thought of everything on this trip including a hand-cranked blender and it was Mexican night at Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Rob mixed up margaritas and we ate chips with salsa and guac while Tom got a fire going.  Everything was delicious, a little too delicious and it didn’t take long before the combination of my inexperience and a relatively empty stomach joined forces against me and I had to call it an early evening.  The boys were quite understanding and didn’t pick on me (much).  The morning was supposed to be our biking adventure but I wasn’t feeling up to it so we lounged around camp and took a little walk around Tom’s property.  It is a rugged and beautiful place.

The weekend went by way too fast and it was hard to say goodbye but with a fresh shower and lunch in our bellies, we headed to the airport.  I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for the friends I have.  The guys did an amazing job organizing, not one but two, very fitting (and totally awesome) tributes to the end of bachelorhood – thank you gentlemen!

Utah, You Are A Good Friend Indeed

sittinginarchesThis past week, Paige and I made the trip west to see the Salt Lake Crew.  We flew in on Thursday morning so that we could use a free ticket and get there in plenty of time to drive down to Moab for the Red Hot 55K on Saturday.  All went smooth with our flights and Rob and Rina were there to pick us up from the airport.  After a loving greeting from Lucy, we were off to get some lunch at Pago, what a great way to start a visit.  We spent a lazy afternoon catching up and ended the day in Park City at the High West Distillery – absolutely delicious!  Friday morning, we got an early start down to Moab, we had decided to rent a car so we could get down there early enough to do a hike in Arches National Park – it turned out to be a great decision.  We arrived at the park shortly after noon and had the place to ourselves.  We covered several trails in the first half of the park with Delicate Arch being our final destination.  This was my second time seeing the great arch but it was Paige’s first and, despite the missing sun and blue skies this area is known for, it was glorious!  The hike in was fun and, like the rest of the park, it was empty with the exception of a couple of people who overlapped briefly with us.  We were getting hungry and looking forward to meeting up with the LEWIS crew at the condos we had rented for the weekend so we wrapped up our hike and headed into town.  We stopped at the Moab Brewery for a most awesome chicken burrito and an equally delicious oatmeal stout.  Then after picking up our race packets and a quick grocery store stop, we were on our way to our weekend home.  The condos were amazing, especially when you consider the price per person – what a steal!  We said hello to everyone already there including LEWIS himself and got ourselves settled in.  The first condo was full so we ventured over to the second one and found it empty, we naturally took the master suite and the accompanying guilt too.  The rest of the crew trickled in – first the Vukins, then Bethany, then Zoe and Billy, and finally Rob and Rina.  It felt good being there, especially with such a great group.  We talked race strategy, and generally enjoyed each others’ company.  Soon the crowd started to dwindle as people went to bed so we did the same.

Pre-Race With Ben
Pre-Race With Ben

The next morning was windy and wet despite moderate temperatures.  We loaded six of us into the Prius and drove to the starting line.  It was a big group forming but we quickly found several familiar faces including Krissy Moehl and Bryon Powell and starting chatting it up.  Paige and I planned to run together and take it easy, so we were quite relaxed.  The forecast was spot on and the race started in the same wet and windy conditions they predicted.  The first mile was uphill and we settled in to a gentle pace but somewhere toward the top of the climb, Paige took off and it was all I could do to keep up – she does this from time to time.  We were moving pretty quick for the next several miles and rolled into the first aid station (AS) feeling pretty good after passing quite a few runners.  The next section was pretty exposed and uphill again, we were both feeling pretty good but eventually, a small crack appeared in my mood – nothing too serious but the wind/rain combo was wearing on me.  The second and third aid stations came and went and the first half of the course was behind us, now we began the second and more challenging half.  Immediately the red rock exerted itself on us… we fought back.  We climbed and almost scrambled at times but pressed on.  We were now in a group of runners that we would pass and then they would pass us, back and forth.  Eventually we made it to the highest AS on the course where runners were dropping like flies.  We made a quick stop and thanked the crew for their help but then moved on, Paige even quicker than me.   We began a relatively steep decent on the hard rock this area is known for and, if you’re not careful, it can really beat up the legs.  We took our time but still found that we descended faster than most.  The course is beautiful but this section is extra gorgeous, even on a gray day.  I was feeling reasonably good at this point and we were moving along fine though very comfortably.

Paige And I Finishing The Moab Red Hot 55K
Paige And I Finishing The Moab Red Hot 55K

After a lot of ups and downs, we made it to the final AS and did one final refueling before heading into the last section which was pretty runable relative to what we had just crossed.  We started passing runners and fell into a nice rhythm.  After spending several hours in the wind/rain, we were looking forward to being done.  As we approached the final stretch, I could hear my name being called from below, it was Rob and Ben waiting for us near the finish.  The last mile is all downhill and we made good time.  We finished the race 12 minutes faster than the last time I ran this course which made me happy.  We soon learned that Ben had placed 10th overall and Bethany had finished second woman, both in the 55K race.  Others in our group also finished well in the 33K race.  We got some soup and hung around for the awards – what a fun day!  I am so thankful that Paige and I can do these things together, she is a most amazing running partner (not to mention that she will soon be my wife)!  Back at the condo, we showered and ordered some pizza.  That night we all hung out, eating, drinking, talking and swapping tales from the day – it was fantastic and the pizza… out of this world!

Landscape Arch
Landscape Arch

After a yummy breakfast at the condo on Sunday morning, people began parting ways – some were going cross country skiing, others heading back to Salt Lake City, and we were heading back to Arches.   Having explored several areas in the first half of the park, we headed to the Devils Garden.  With our cameras and a snack, we began our hike.  With each passing minute, our surroundings got more and more gorgeous which is saying a lot because the whole area is amazing!

I'm Not Gonna Lie To You, It's Gonna Get Weird, "Two Pencils"
I'm Not Gonna Lie To You, It's Gonna Get Weird, "Two Pencils"

After several jumpers and a few hours of hiking, we were back on the road to Salt Lake City.  During the ride back, both Paige and my legs got stiff and sore – I’m sure it was a combination of the race and all the jumper’s we did but never-the-less, we were both walking a little gingerly.  That night, we hit up a Salt Lake classic, Red Iguana which is always a Mexican treat!  Monday we took Lucy for a short run around Liberty Park before having brunch at the LEWIS household.  What a great bunch they make with their newest addition, Ada, who is a complete joy – thanks for a fun day!  Tuesday, we finally got to ski – Paige and Rina opted for cross country while Rob and I went downhill skiing at Park City Mountain Resort.  The parking lot was full but once we got up a little higher, we had the place to ourselves.  We skied most of the east side of the resort but the highlight was definitely the Jupiter bowl which had great snow and was completely empty.  We went hard and probably got close to 20 runs in before the day came to an end.  Dinner was quick as we had tickets to the Banff Film Festival that night.  Rob put together a great concoction of left overs that was healthy and tasted quite yummy!  Fifteen minutes later, we were sitting in the theater waiting for the festival to begin.  There were three nights to the festival but I have to believe we saw the best one, it was awesome!  My favorite was called The Longest Way which documented a walk across China in time lapse photography.  Wednesday, we had a relaxed morning at R&R’s place before packing our stuff and trying to squeeze in one more hike before catching a plane home.  We ended up at Red Butte with sunny skies and warm temps.  With a hike under our belts, we grabbed a quick sandwich at Caputo’s Deli which really hit the spot!  Unbelievably, we found ourselves back at the airport.  Thank you to the entire Salt Lake Crew but especially to Rob and Rina for hosting us for the week.  I can never get enough of you guys or Utah.

Windburn Six In The Stix: 2011 Edition

Windburn Six 2011: Before The Race
Windburn Six 2011: Before The Race

Thank you to the CHUGs and especially to Brelly for offering such world class events – for free, no less!  Last Saturday was the the second edition of the Windburn race and it was quite different than last year.  The temperature this year was 28 degrees at the start versus the zero degrees we faced last year – the sun wasn’t shining but a definite improvement!  After some brief comments from Brian, around 50 of us headed out on our first 2.28 mile loop.  The snow was loose similar to last year but it felt like it may pack down over the course of the day unlike last year.  It took a couple of hours before it really felt good but once it did, we were able to move pretty well.  The format of the race was a self-supported timed event with the goal of running as far as you can in the six-hour time limit.  My hope was to run at least 25 miles at a bare minimum and the whisper goal of 30 miles.  We were moving okay through the first couple of laps and it was clear that we would meet my initial goal even if the footing didn’t improve.  As we started to spread out a bit, we could see who was having a good day from the get go and his name was Jimmy O.  Paige and I planned to stay together, as we often do : )  After two laps, we made a pitstop in the shelter where we had set up the “aid station” to grab some water.  Brian was there chatting it up and supporting runners as they passed through.  After a long bout of bronchitis, he was still taking some time to recover and opted not to run – it must have been hard for him to watch as we ran but he never let that get in the way of having a fun day.

Windburn Six 2011: Crossing The Bridge
Windburn Six 2011: Crossing The Bridge

We fell into a rhythm, plugging along and stopping every two laps.  I was using Ramen noodles for my nutrition plan – the warmth felt good and it was quite tasty too!  With two hours to go, I was starting to feel a bit worn out.  This was our furthest run by several hours and my body finally realized it.  Its a funny thing, when you set out to do a six mile run, that feels like enough.  When you set out to do a six hour run, that feels like enough.  The mind is an amazingly powerful thing.  It didn’t take long and I started to feel better and the final hour was perhaps our best of the day.  As others slowed (all except Jim), we were in a groove … literally, the snow was packed in a tiny grove around the edge of the path.  After our 12th loop, we were past our goal for the day and Paige decided she was done.  I decided to stretch out the legs and see how many more miles I could get before the cutoff.  I got a full loop and then two small loops (each a half mile) for a total of 30.6 miles.  As I came around the final loop, Paige had decided to do another small loop as well.  I was happy with the day and felt amazingly thankful that I am healthy enough to be able to pull off such a run on relatively minimal training.

We ended the day staying at the Brelly B&B and eating a delicious meal at Moretti’s!  It was such a fun weekend, it really got me excited for the upcoming running season!  Congrats to Jim and Jen for their respective wins, to Brian for another successful event, and to all the runners who came out for an awesome run!

All Is Quiet On The Blog Front

2010 SchmoopiesThe past month has been a blur despite my blog silence but… a good blur.  Since our recent engagement, my focus has completely shifted to all things wedding.  Yeah, it surprised even me.  What I can say is that it is wonderful and I am loving every second of it.  On top of that, we had a visit from our good friend Kalina.  Then we got  busy with the holidays.  Our holiday party season started out with the second annual Brelly shindig which, not surprisingly, was awesome.  Torey and Charlie hosted the CHUG holiday party the next week, their place was a perfect cozy setting to mingle with our favorite CHUGs and some new faces too.  Everyone brought fun eats to share and we had a white elephant gift exchange which landed me a CHUG ornament for our Christmas tree!  The following weekend, Ben and Sarah had us up to Marengo to help decorate the “shoe tree”.  We all brought a pair of old running shoes and after a delicious breakfast, we headed out to the tree.  The tree was more elusive than we expected and some of us had to toss our shoes multiple times before they found a branch to hang on to.  The next week lead us up to Christmas.  Friday, we headed to Iowa and to a huge amount of snow!  After a wonderful dinner followed by opening presents with my family, we went to see the Festival of Lights.  Then it was time to put on our snow clothes and play for a while.  Paige and I headed out to feel the snow under our feet.  The snow was deeper than I remember for a long time and we had a blast!  On Christmas morning, we made a quick stop at grandma and grandpa’s house before heading to see Paige’s family.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves – the food was delicious and the company was great!  Christmas night, we opened our presents to each other.  Paige proved, yet again, to be the best Santa around!  Sunday turned out to be a productive but amazingly relaxing day.

That’s a quick recap of the past month. Somewhere in there, we bought our wedding bands (man, I can’t wait to wear that thing!).  I’m looking forward to getting back on a roll with my training and starting the new year on a healthy note!

She Said Yes!

Our First Dinner As An Engaged Couple
Our First Dinner As An Engaged Couple

Having waited as long as my excitement would allow me to wait, I reached out to our friend Sande Culhane to get the engagement ring buying underway.  Sande was the jeweler for Brian and Kelly and happens to also be Kelly’s brother-in-law’s sister.  After perusing hundreds of engagement ring photos, I narrowed it down to a dozen that I liked and sent them to Sande along with my thoughts regarding what I thought would be the perfect ring for Paige.  She took in everything I said, looked at all the pictures and with her incredible skill, she quickly guided me to the absolutely perfect ring.  From there, things unfolded very quickly and I scrambled to schedule an exclusive lunch with Paige’s father, John.  Lucky for me, John was available for lunch the next day and with the cover of “I have a random day off and wondered if you would like to have lunch tomorrow, just the two of us… and I’m not mentioning this to Paige,” we had our date.  Upon arriving at his office, I noticed that my predominate feeling was raw excitement rather than feeling nervous.  Sitting across from John, I wondered if he knew what was about to be asked of him.  Not by chance, the conversation quickly turned to my affection for his eldest daughter whom I intended to marry, with his blessing.  John’s response could not have been more warm or enthusiastically affirming.  With her father’s blessing, everything was in place.  After an amazing lunch, I headed home knowing full well that it would be only hours before I proposed.

That evening, as we walked home from work, Paige described a frustrating day at the office while I did everything I could to hide my overwhelming excitement.  “She has no idea what is about to happen,” I thought to myself.  Once home, I convinced Paige to sit with me on the couch for a minute to unwind from her day.  While sitting there, I opened my computer and played a slideshow I had prepared for the occasion.  The slideshow was set to music and incorporated pictures from our numerous adventures together including our very first meeting.  Paige seemed to be relaxing some as the slideshow ended and I moved forward with my plan by reaching behind the couch pillow, dropping down on my knee and asking if Paige would marry me.  At this point, you already know her response.

This past week has been sheer bliss.  We have had such an amazing outpouring of support from our friends, family and family-to-be, we could not feel more loved.  As I sit here looking at my fiance (I doubt I will ever tire of saying that) my mind wanders to a common thought that I’ve had throughout our relationship, “how’d I get so lucky?”