Category Archives: exercise

Antelope Canyon 55K 2016

My friend, Norb, handed me Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on The Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis the night before we were running the Antelope Canyon 55K in Page, AZ. I immediately stretched out on my bed and opened it up.

While reading the Introduction by Warren Doyle, a quote grabbed my attention. After letting it soak in, I read it aloud to Norb because I thought it was fitting to ultras and to what was to come the next morning.

“Don’t fight the Trail. You have to flow with it.”

This sparked an insightful discussion and Norb made the comment that the quote not only pertained to ultras, but to life as well.

This has been what I have been trying to acknowledge and welcome into my life. And as we flow with our experiences, it’s our attitude toward those moments that decide whether life has been positive and fulfilling or negative and frustrating.

I knew that this race was going to be a mental test because of the amount of sand that we were going to run through. The kind of sand that’s deep, loose and that makes you feel like you are losing ground, not gaining, the effort you put in.

It would be extremely easy to get lost and caught up in your goals if you didn’t go into this race with an open mind.

That’s why I had no goals for this race. In addition, it was my first race of the year and first since getting over knee pain at the end of last year. All I wanted was the pure enjoyment of running and flowing with the course.

It didn’t take more than a minute into the race that I could feel sand in one of my shoes. But I expected that and I didn’t want to worry on it so much that it would take away from the experience.

The course was a figure 8 design taking us around Horseshoe Bend, down into Waterholes Canyon and all the way around the Page Rim Trail that overlooks Lake Powell.

For me, it seemed like everything happened beautifully.

We reached Horseshoe Bend as the sun was rising, the slick rock burned red from the fresh rays and painted a reflection of vibrant orange on the Colorado River far below. I wanted to drink the moment longer, but a few glances at a time were all I could afford without risking a fall.

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From there, I found myself in rhythm with another runner as we wound our way along the cliff’s edge, trying our best to spot and follow the course flags.

We arrived to the Waterholes aid station together, but left separately.

Dropping down into the Waterholes slot canyon I was all alone and in complete awe with the geological features. I ran with my finger tips gliding over the smooth and cool rocks to both of my sides. It felt unreal, yet tangible at the same time to sense the passage of time in one moment. Even though I was in a race with hundreds of people, being alone gave off the feeling of this being my very own adventure.

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Climbing out of the canyon the course featured a long desolate stretch with nothing but more sand under foot. I was aware of the build up of sand in my shoes but I didn’t want to stop to dump them just yet. I didn’t feel any issues yet but I knew I should do something soon. So I decided I would dump them after I finished the first loop of the figure 8.

I heard the course was mostly dirt trail on the last loop. I figured it would be perfect and only necessary to have to clean out my shoes only once.

At the mile 21 aid station, I took both shoes off and took both inserts out. I poured out the sand and slapped the inserts on my legs to get as much sand out as possible. I slipped the inserts back in and both shoes back on and was on my way…but I noticed no difference.

I realized that the sand that was bothering me was in my socks. It was enough packed in, that it made it feel like I was running in shoes a few sizes too small. I did my best to push this away from my mind.

Beginning the last loop I was joined by another runner and his presence was just what I needed.

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I knew around mile 26, that my feet were destroyed and that they were only going to get worse. Both of my big toes felt like they were on fire at that point. But sand aside, I was having an awesome time.

We kept together the last 11 miles and were feeding off each others consistent and steady movement. This allowed for the last stretch to be easier than it should have been. Not that it was by any means easy at the end, it was a grind and a battle to keep convincing myself to keep running.

On the last quarter of a mile, I felt that he deserved the better placing of the two of us. When he picked up his pace, I happily watched him cross the finish line from behind.

I was 12th place in 5:37.

After taking my shoes and socks off, I immediately went to the first aid tent. One big toe had a few normal sized blisters and the other had one that was caked with sand and covered the entire inside area and a little bit under the nail.

Overall, this has been the most content with a race I have ever been. Other than a few parts climbing over rocks and one small steep sandy hill, I ran the whole thing. Which was all I asked from my body.

Reflecting back on my race and the others that placed before me, I wondered why people race or run ultras. Each person will have their own reasoning. But thinking on myself, I’ve realized that I do these to go against myself.

Me vs. Me

To see if I can overcome mental and physical obstacles. To see if I have grown and progressed. To see if I have learned from the past. To see if I can kill my old self and transform into my new self.

Obviously I want to improve my times and placing the more I do these races. But comparing myself to others is not how I define my success and accomplishments. I only want to compare myself before the race and after the race. The in between, how I adapt to the elements and persevere during mental and physical low points, is how I measure my personal endeavors.

And as I further to develop myself inwardly and outwardly through running, my hopes are that what I learn will spread to all other aspects of my life allowing me to flow with life, not fight it.

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*Photo credit: Norb Lyle

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step up

My goal is to ____________________________.

Fill in the blank with your goal.

Now tell yourself this as much as you need to:

It’s time. It’s time to step up. I want it and I want it so damn bad. I know it will be tough as hell, but I know that is part of the process. If it wasn’t tough then my goal is too easy. It will be hard and that’s how it should be. The harder, the better I will be on the other side of success. I may fail…many many times. No matter how many times, I will keep working my ass off. Out of failure, lessons learned will be stepping stones towards my ultimate goal. Nothing will stop me. I won’t hit the snooze button because I know the moment I wake up I get to chase my goal, my dream. It will hurt. It will suck. I am ready for that. There may be blood. There will be stinging sweat. I will lose my breath. But when I catch it, I will be a new animal. I am on a fucking mission. I am more than determined. I can be great and I have the greatness in me to achieve whatever I want. I will come out on top no matter what. I’m ready to rise up. There will be times that I feel like quitting. But I can’t. I can’t because this goal…this goal is my life.

“Something deep in the human heart breaks at the thought of a life of mediocrity.” —C.S. Lewis

So, how bad do you want it?…

Rocky Mountain 50K

Sitting at Sweet Melissa’s in downtown Laramie, an excellent vegetarian restaurant that was recommended to me by the guy in the bike shop a few doors down, I was reading an article online about how to race in high altitude, while I was shoveling the best sweet potato and black bean burrito I have ever had into my mouth.

One thing that popped out to me while reading it was that it said to lower your expectations, especailly if you haven’t been training at the altitude of the race.

I live just under 5,000 ft in Buffalo, WY and I run anywhere between that and 7,500 ft.

The race in Laramie began at 8,800 ft. and went to 8,000 ft by the time of the turn around point of the out and back race.

My fingers were crossed that I wasn’t gonna have any issues with the elevation but I had a feeling it would effect me.

Another thing that was in my mind about the race was the overall course profile. On paper it didn’t look too challenging. Since the entire race stayed within 800 ft from the start to turn around point it appeared to just be “small” rolling hills. I even read a runner’s race report from last year’s race and he talked about the same things that I had on my mind. The elevation made it a little hard to breathe and the course profile was harder than it looked on a chart.

Race morning everyone gathered around the start decked out in warm articles to shield from the crisp cold air. After a short speech from the race owner and race director, we set off down the dirt road.

We had about a 2 mile downhill before it leveled out for a mile. I made sure to take it easy right away because I didn’t want the hill to set a faster pace for myself than what I wanted and what I would be capable to maintain throughtout the race.

Just a couple of minutes into the race a guy next to me asked the typical question everyone asks in the first mile, “Where you from?”

“I’m from Georgia but I’ve been living in Buffalo Wyoming for most of the last year.” Then I returned the question.

“I’m from Denver.”

I took a deep breathe, feeling winded already and said “actually I’m not gonna be able to talk because I’m not use to this altitude.”

He said, “me too.” And that was the end of that conversation.

I was running downhill and at very easy clip and I was already feeling like I was out of breath. From that point on I knew I would need to take it a little easier than I had planned.

By the time we got to the flat stretch, I was feeling more settled.

I ended up talked for a few minutes with a few other runners. And come to find out they both are doing the Bighorn 50 miler. But after a few minutes, we each took to our own pace.

After the luxurious flat section, it was really a rollercoast of hills all the way to the halfway point.

The race was on a dirt road with a few miles on a paved road.

Within a few miles of the start, it began to warm up, quickly. I wasn’t expecting any nice weather because my weather app said it would be cool with chances of rain throughout the day.

It ended up being sunny with clear blue skies.

My headband was the first thing to go, followed by the gloves and arm sleeves.

I stuck with my typical nutrition plan. 1 GU 30 minutes into an hour and half a Clif bar with a few S-caps at the end of the hour.

As the course rolled on, I noticed even the slightest incline had me sucking in air. I had to shorten my stride considerably and kept my focus on keeping my breathing steady and not let it get out of control.

I could get my GUs down no problem, but because I had to chew the Clif bars it was taking a lot of precious energy of breathing right. There were times when I would take a sip of water and would be out of breath just from the split second it took to take a mouthfull of water.

So by the time I ate my second half Clif bar, I decided to just stick with GU because it was taking too much energy to chomped away. And with getting that second half down, I felt full enough to be able to finish without feeling calorie deprived or feeling starving.

Runners were pretty well spaced out during the race so it was mostly running by yourself.

I wasn’t expecting a very scenic race but it ended up quite beautiful. Off in the distance was a range of snow capped mountains, which I believe were far enough away to be in Colorado. And in my immediate surrounding area were tons of rock formations that made me feel like I was in the Flintstones.

Not much excitement as far as the running was going. Just seemed like a typical long training run.

As I neared the turn around point, the leader passed me followed by three more runners.

When I got to the checkpoint for the 50Kers, a guy was changing out of his warm clothes and the lead female was leaving.

I let the volunteer mark my bib and then I headed back for the finish. Passing the guy still at the aid station and right away I passed the girl, put me in 5th place. And judging by the time I passed the people in front of me til the point I did pass them, they had a huge gap on me. I knew if I were to pass any of them that meant one of them completely fell apart.

Since the course began at a high elevation than the midpoint, the second half would be more uphill.

The first hill coming out of the turn around, I decided to power hiked for a good minute or two. My lungs just weren’t capable of running up such an incline and maintaining a steady breath. I made sure to keep my pace up as much as possible while hiking, hands of knees and still driving forward as to not lose too much time compared to just easy walking.

And suprisingly I never had trouble getting back into a running groove after hiking. I thought mentally and physically it would be a struggle but I guess my training has been paying off.

Slowly I began passing people that were doing the marathon and also the people doing the 50K still on their first part. We always swapped “good job”s and “keep it up”s.

I think that is why out and backs are my favorite, because you get to see more people than if you were doing a loop or point to point race. Breaks up the monotony.

Almost like the first half, nothing exciting to note happened on the second half. It became I little bit of a mental challenge but I just kept digging and kept grinding.

It was a great relief to make it to the flat stretch towards the end but at the same time I knew I had about a 2 mile up hill to get up to cross the finish line.

I had maintained my place for the entire second half. But just as about I was to start the uphill climb I slowed to a walk to gulped down my last GU. As I was doing that, the guy that was changing at the turn around aid station passed me.

I didn’t let that bother me. I kind of welcomed him in front so I would have motivation to keep running.

He kept pulling further and further away but I still kept chugging along.

I ended up having to take one power hike break up this last stretch lasting for about a minute before running into the finish.

I crossed the line in 4:40 and placed 6th.

My initial reaction was that the high altitude was no joke. In reality, the hills were not significant hills but throw in, or take away some oxygen, and it becomes more of a difficult race.

My goal going into the race was to run around a 4:30. Add a few long piss breaks and the higher altitude and I came out doing the best I could do.

But for some reason I was frustrated. I was frustrated because I feel that I put so much effort into training that I should be placing higher up. It’s frustrating and discouraging a little to not place where I feel I should place considering I train like it’s my job.

As I had four hours to think things over on my car ride home, I realized how stupid it is to feel and think that way. What if I ran the same time but ended up getting third place or even winning, would I feel happier about myself? And I guess the answer would have been yes, in that particular moment.

But that is a bad way to think about things. Placement is just a comparisson to others. Which is a great recipe down a road of unhappiness if you let it bother you.

Running is about being your absolute best possible self in a given moment, not about how you stack up against others. If you constantly compare yourself to others, you will never be good enough for yourself. There will always be someone better or someone with more than you.

My reason for running is the sense of accomplishment and purpose it gives me every day. Not to be better than anyone else.

And the funny thing is that no one cares how fast you did a race other than your own ego. The people that matter in your life are proud of your accomplisment and could care a less about what your time was. But for some reason runners are hard wired to immediately dissect their race seconds after finishing wondering where they could have made up time.

I had to remind myself that this race was just a training run for Bighorn 100. And that I should swim in the achievement of having completed 50K of running.

I actually had one of the most fun times at this race but it wasn’t until a few hours later or the next day that I realized that, unfortunately. I met some awesome people and ran in a wonderful part of the country. What more could I want?

When I got home, I was too lazy to go grocery shopping to cook dinner so I opted for take out Chinese.

My fortune said “Be content with your lot. One cannot be first in everything.”

Smile Plan

This might seem weird or maybe I’m not the only one that does this. And just like every lesson learned while running, it can be applied to everyday life. So if you are not a runner, try and make it a habit of doing this.

Every long distance runner or endurance athlete has a nutrition and hydration plan. I like to take a sip of water every 5 minutes and intake calories every 30 minutes on my long runs or during my races.

But I believe there is a huge gap that many overlook and don’t even think about.

That is the mental plan.

There are a bunch of things that I do to mentally training for and practice during my longs runs and I wanted to share the easiest and most simple thing.

Smile.

Even if you are telling yourself to do it, you still reap the benefits as if something is making you smile. Smiling releases endorphins, which reduces pain, stress and anxiety. And it also makes you more attentive and in the moment, which is a must in really long, all-day events. Otherwise you’ll just beat yourself down thinking about how much further you have to go.

Things are more enjoyable when you smile, even if you are miserable.

Try it on your next run. Maybe try and remind yourself once every 30 minutes or so to do it.

Hell, do it right now and see how much better you feel!

This is me (on the right) and another runner finishing up my first 50 miler:
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When we reached the last aid station with about 3 miles left to go, the volunteers told us that we didn’t even look like we had just run 40+ miles. We were all smiles and laughing even though we actually felt like shit.

So smile! Stay positive, enjoy the moment and be happy

Winter Winds

The winter winds are wearing me down. My mental strength got put to the test this morning and I wanted to throw up the white flag in defeat to the weather.

It’s not very pleasing to be woken up by the wind pounding on the windows and door like it itself doesn’t even want to be outside. It’s a provoking taunt and I really dreaded going out in it.

I don’t mind cold but add “gusts up to 46 mph” to it and it turns a run into a battle.

Sometimes it’s a matter of leaning to one side so you are not blown off the path or tucking your head down and marching forward at a crawling pace but with full force effort which creates inner frustration because the effort doesn’t match the pace.

It’s both physically and mentally draining to go at war with nature sometimes just to prove and/or build the endurance and strength to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.

But at some point in the run I let my mind drift away with the gusts of wind and the resistance was suddenly eliminated. I just accepted what was thrown at me and went with the flow. I was willing to admit defeat at the beginning of the run but at the end I was glad I didn’t give in.

I let my discipline and dedication carry me out the door even though the desire wasn’t fully there, which later in the run the desire eventually was elevated.

When I got back, the first thing I read was:

“Champions choose to suffer…Others avoid it!” -Dr. Stan Beecham

That made me feel even better for getting my run in.

I always like to think that others decided not to run when I did, especially when it is miserable outside. It makes me feel like I am taking that extra step in my pursuits when others would take a day off.

Part of wanting the results we want, we also need to want to struggle. You can’t get what you want without difficulty. Some days it will be tough to get moving on whatever it is that we want, but you just gotta do it. Because if you don’t, then there might be someone out there who will and they will be the ones who get what you want.

Never stop grinding. Never stop moving.

This Ray Lewis video got me out the door and I highly encourage you to watch it when you need the motivation.


To give you an idea of the weather here, this guy sat next to me at the library as I was typing this post up. He fell asleep immediately, haha! But he is a trucker and the highway was shutdown because it is basically whiteout with the snow and wind.
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I could really go for a night with a fire, hot chocolate (extra marshmallows), a giant bowl of popcorn with white cheddar seasoning and a movie!

How do you enjoy your winter nights?

Running Together

Solitude has been one of many enjoyments that I have found in running that suits my nature. Running is my time in the day that I get to disconnect from my phone and computer, from worries and obligations, from books and music, and even from people.

I find balance in being able to clear my head or even collect my thoughts of the day. It allows me the chance to be more aware of my body and surroundings.

This morning on my run I was at my turn around point, high above the town and looking across the small rolling hills that fill the void of Wyoming’s eastern half. The sun was bright and beaming on a fresh new morning.

Something I rarely do, but wish I did more of in certain moments in life, and something I did at that point was I just stopped. I decided to not even think about running or anything else. I wanted the stillness. I enjoyed the stillness. Nothing was audible above the light breeze.

It was a moment I felt completely in and a moment that I wish I could have paused and lived in longer.

It was a moment of solitude that I embraced. But it was also a moment worth sharing.

I have never really been a person that has wanted to run with someone. Finding a rhythm with someone is hard and rare to come by. I have been on many runs with someone where I could barely keep up. They are chatting away and I’m fighting for air in between my own words. And there have been many times where it has been the opposite. I have even been on group runs and have still found myself by myself.

I prefer my own pace.

In those rare occasions where each stride is met in unison and each breath is the same, a unique moment is felt. It’s a period of time that is probably similar to when a band comes together in perfect timing without mistakes after hours of practice or a basketball team that just clicks and makes everything look effortless, and maybe it’s something few actually do experience.

But like I said, those are hard to come by when a pace doesn’t match and things are forced.

And as I stood in the moment of this morning, I thought for a second that another presence would have been nice. And maybe that was because she overslept.

It has been only a few times in the past week, but I have gone on a few runs with someone. The pace has been met. And the conversation welcoming.

Each time I have wished it could have gone on longer or that I could have paused the moment and lived in it longer, just like what I felt on my run today.

My enjoyment in solitude has been matched with the enjoyment of another.

Strength Training: Flutter Kicks

Flutter kicks are next up for strength training!

These will work your abs which will strengthen your core and keep you more upright instead of hunched over while you run.

Also this exercise will work your hip flexors which are like the driving force that connects your abs and legs and will help you run faster.

Check out the video on how to do these. I realize I should make my own videos after trying to find a video to share for this one!

Try and keep your back flat. Also, I like to sit on my hands when I do these. I have a boney butt and that helps take the discomfort away from that.

I count these out. Every time my right foot comes down, that’s one.

Try and do one set of a count to 20, 3 times a week. After a few weeks add another set. Get to doing 3 sets, 3 times a week and do a count of 20-30.

Keep it slow and steady. Don’t just kick like crazy. Make sure to keep breathing and don’t let your feet touch the ground.


Strength Training: Jumping Lunges
February Fitness Challenge: Wall Sits