Monday, December 7, 2015

California International Marathon 2015

photo credit: Ron Little
CIM Marathon
Sacramento, CA
Mileage 26.2
Time 2:35:44
Pace 5:56
Place 59th

Five months in the making, this marathon would prove to be a true test of my fitness. Not often do I get nervous before an event like this, its more a matter of how well I can execute my race strategy. Something about the morning leading up to the start felt different. The threat of rain, high humidity and some of my pre-race routines were a bit off, leaving me with a peculiar feeling. It may have been that or the challenge I set forth over the next 26.2 miles.

My target pace was going to be in the mid 5:50s and I nailed it! Honestly, the first 20 miles went better than I thought, averaging 5:51 through the halfway point and 5:52 through 20. The only reason I slowed during the last couple miles was due to some cramping in the hamstrings and calves due to over-striding I believe.

photo credit: Pete Weldy
CIM is one of the largest, most competitive marathons that is way off the radar for most runners. The course bodes well for those trying to land a personal best, Boston qualifier or for some an Olympic Trials qualifier. Since the trials are in February, this was a last ditch effort to hit a target time. So the nature of this race built up more hype and a greater sense of urgency, which added to the excitement!

I had such a great weekend exploring Sacramento, hanging out with friends, and talking all things running. I want to thank everyone involved with CIM and say what a great event they hosted. Another big thank you goes out to my friends and family for their support and encouragement leading up to and after the race. You guys are awesome!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Mt Baldy - Run to the Top 2015

Mt Baldy - Run to the Top
Claremont, California
Mileage - 7 (one way, up)
AEG - 3,825 ft
Time - 1:17:26
Place - 6th Overall

The name says it all, run to the top. This is a no frills, bottom to top race to the summit of Mt Baldy (aka Mt San Antonio). The first four miles of the race are on fire roads and the final three traverse the narrow ridge line known as the "Devil's Backbone Trail." If that doesn't sound hardcore enough, the trail finishes above 10,000ft with nearly four thousand feet of vertical gain!

This is a big race that typically sells out every year at 650 runners. 2015 was the 50th anniversary of the event and once again drew large numbers and spectators. Following a summer of strength and hill work, Brian, Christian and I decided to see how we measured up on the mountain. Early on I found myself squaring off against some solid cross country runners out of SoCal. As we climbed higher the numbers dwindled, by the time we hit single track I was in a group of 4-5 guys fighting for position on a steep ridge. There was quite a bit of exposure and a few major drop offs into the scree fields below. I felt as though I was racing a 10K on a mountain top and as we drew closer to the peak the cheering became louder and the race more intense. The finish was so tight just a matter of seconds decided 5th from 6th to 7th. It was an all around great day and an experience I'll never forget. Thanks to those who made this race happen and the participants showing great sportsmanship and courtesy on the trail.

Baldy is the third tallest peak in Southern California next to San Jacinto and San Gorgonio, both of which I have successfully climbed. Reaching the top would mean completing the trifecta of prominent peaks in this part of the country. I'll soon be entering marathon season so the high altitude adventures may be sparse until next summer.

Go race to the top!

Boone, Brian, Harold and Christian post race.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Moccasin Run - Navajo Mountain

Moccasin Run - Navajo Mountain
Navajo Reservation, UT
Mileage - 8.2
Time - 1:41
AEG - 4,600ft

When I found out there was going to be an organized run up Navajo Mountain, I was in. Then it was just a matter of figuring out the logistics to get there. The mountain isn't exactly in our backyard. Brian and I arranged the driving and Miguel and Erica managed to get us a tent near the race start.

There were two run options, a 24 mile solo or a 3-man relay, Brian and I teamed up for the latter (even though we couldn't find a third). My leg would be the 8.2-mile ascent, from the chapter house to the summit. Yes, it was tough. Really tough. The elevation, distance and steep grades were all factors, though the loose rock footing may have been the biggest obstacle. Let's just say I would rather run a marathon than do those 8 miles again. After a traditional morning prayer the runners were off! Scrambling through a wash and then over sandy roads to make the initial ascent. Then it was up, and up and up! I tried to hang with my friend Shaun as long as I could and reached the top about two minutes behind. As quickly as it started, my leg was over. It was quite a feat reaching the 10,300ft peak in that fashion, but why do it any other way?

It was an incredible experience and always a pleasure running with the Navajos! Thank you so much for having us and to all the volunteers that helped out with the first annual Moccasin Run.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rock and Roll Marathon - San Diego 2015

SUJA Rock'n'Roll Marathon
San Diego, California
Mileage - 26.2
Time - 2:41:56
AEG - 888ft
Pace - 6:11
Place - 3rd Male
4th Overall

Having the opportunity to visit San Diego, hang out with friends and run a marathon sounded like a great weekend to me. I got that and more over the past few days in Southern California. As far as the race is concerned, I went into it with no pressure as my training has consisted mainly of easy aerobic miles since February. That made my visit feel more relaxed, like an actual vacation. All I really wanted was to run in the 2:40's and see what happens.

Crowds of marathoners gathered Sunday morning outside of Balboa Park and the corrals began to fill. I ran around the park in an attempt to get myself prepped for the next couple hours of running. I honestly didn't know how this one was going to go. Next thing I knew they were counting down the seconds, 3...2...1. Go! I found a nice steady rhythm early on making my way through the streets of downtown San Diego. As the miles ticked off, I gained momentum and moved into the top ten by mile 10. A conservative approach paid off over the next ten miles as they didn't seem that much tougher than the first ten. Then came the big hill at mile 20. I hadn't seen another runner in over an hour, then I caught a glimpse of a guy I knew I could catch, powering up the hill with a new found spark. Then another and another. Spectators were getting excited and someone told me I was in 5th. Fifth place? I was a bit surprised, and didn't want to lose it so I ran faster. The marathon course converged side by side with the half and more encouragement came from several runners. The closer I came to the finish the faster I wanted to run. Soon the finish line was in sight and I coasted in uncontested, though I never looked back.

Third place! Male that was, as I later found out. It certainly came as a surprise, and the race management quickly escorted the top three male and female finishers into the VIP suite at Petco Park for an interview and briefing prior to the awards ceremony. I looked around the room and noticed numerous professional runners and olympians in our company so I just played along. Next thing I knew I was being announced on stage, handed a plaque and bouquet of flowers. I just laughed and enjoyed the moment.

Again, it was a better race weekend than I could've asked for, and I always appreciate all the hard work and volunteer efforts that go into making something like this happen. Best of all was hanging out with Jeff (pictured above) who completed his 112th marathon I believe. Also, a big thanks to Harriet and Ellen for taking me on a tour of Coronado Island.

Toes in the sand, enjoying the sunset at Mission Beach



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Four Corners Road Trip

This trip was a long time coming, though it felt like it happened overnight. On Wednesday I found out that a four day weekend might become a reality, so the planning began. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks were highest on the priority list, so I did an exhaustive search for any type of accommodation in the Moab area.  I may have chose the busiest travel weekend of the year as my search turned up nothing. No hotels, cabins, lodges, or campsites were available. I called the BLM field office and the gentleman told me my odds weren't very good as most established campsites had already begun to fill that week. This almost kept me from going, as an eight hour drive is a long way to go without a place to stay. I went for it anyways.

Friday morning I trained a few of my clients and left Phoenix around 8:00am. From there I made great timing heading up North past Flagstaff and across the Navajo Reservation. Traffic was pretty light and five hours later I crossed the border into Utah, making my first stop at the famous Monument Valley. These iconic formations are the backdrop to just about every Western print or movie and considered to be one of the most photographed places in the West. The crowds kept me from staying longer. That, and the eagerness to find a place to crash for the night near Moab made me keep rolling. I stopped at the visitor's center in Blanding looking for maps and some information about the area. The lady on staff was a tremendous help and guided me towards a nice campground in the La Sal mountains. She forgot to mention it was at 8,500ft and snow fell a couple times that evening. I didn't waste any time in the morning waking up to sub-freezing temps. I packed up quickly, blasted the heat in the car and drove to Arches National Park. 

Double O Arch
One hundred million years in the making, Arches has over 2,000 cataloged natural stone arches within a 75,000 acre park. There's no question why this place was designated as a national park. For the most part, the trails are pretty easy and offer so much to admire around every corner. I felt like a kid climbing around the boulders and checking out the view from either side, framing up different photo angles and sharing in the excitement with other visitors. It's amazing what the natural world can do to the human spirit.  I hiked three different trails, saw over 20 arches with my favorite being Double O (pictured below). Before leaving, I made the surprisingly steep 1.5-mile climb in a driving wind and rain to see Delicate Arch (above). Next to the buttes in Monument Valley, this has to be the most recognizable piece of landscape in the southwest, which the state of Utah proudly represents on their license plate. This may be one of the best parks for a day trip, especially for families. It's a short, scenic drive from Moab with plenty to see for everyone. 

Immediately following my visit to Arches, I drove out to Canyonlands National Park. I really didn't know what to expect. How could you possibly top the last one? How about converging two canyons, each having their own river, with about the same land mass as the Grand Canyon? Add that with unique geologic formations and an endless array of colors as far as the eye can see and you have Canyonlands. I'm really disappointed I didn't allow enough time to stay longer and explore the depths. The will certainly be a "next time."

Grand View Point Overlook - Canyonlands NP

Mesa Arch - Canyonlands NP

Spruce Tree House
 My lodging situation was a bit stressful, as most people know doing things last minute is really not my style. Primative camping during a storm was not my idea of a good time, so I searched for hotel rooms. The closest available site was two hours away in Cortez, CO. The drive wasn't appealing, but a comfortable bed sounded quite nice. Plus, that would put me just 10 miles outside of Mesa Verde National Park and closer to home whenever I decided to go back to Arizona. The rain continued through the night and into the next morning, so I knew my hiking and running with be at a minimum. I was fortunate enough to get out and snap a few photos of the "houses" throughout the park. Mesa Verde is home to numerous ancestral cliff dwellings dating back to AD 1200, most of which are still in tact. The architecture is amazing, the rooms seem to tell a story of how the Pueblo people lived hundreds of years ago. It's easy to see why they chose this area for protection against the elements, natural beauty and abundance of wildlife. I chose to do the self guided tours, simply based on the amount of time I had, and that they opened earlier. Some areas required a permit pass and are only accessible by guide. The national park service is making great efforts to protect this area and all of the ancient features in the park.

Four Corners Monument - Final stop on the trip.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Santa Catalina Hiking

Edge of the Catalinas with Tucson below
Pusch Peak Hike
Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Tucson, Arizona
Mileage 4.47
Time - 2:44
AEG - 2,695ft

My favorite mountain range in Arizona is without a doubt the Santa Catalinas. Bordering Tucson to the north, it appears as a fortress rising up from the desert floor with castle-like features on each distinct peak. I first set eyes on them back in 2008 when visiting friends in the area and said to myself "I must see what's behind those walls." Here we are seven years later and I'm still in awe every time I set foot in the Catalinas.

Bob climbing up Pusch Peak
Bob asked if I wanted to get another hike in this weekend and of course I was game. Considering the unseasonably cool May weather we are having in Arizona I said we should take advantage of it and go south. I looked at a few options and came across Pusch Peak. It has a distinct summit on the edge of the mountain range closest to town and only two miles to the top. Sounds simple enough, right? Only catch is that it was going to require 2,700 vertical feet of climbing in those two miles to get there. It was every bit as steep as we expected and I loved every minute of the climb.  A big payout waited for us at the peak. The far reaching view into the canyon depths and surrounding pinnacles to the northeast and city to the southwest was quite impressive. So glad we made the effort.


Blacketts Ridge with Thimble Peak in the distance
Blacketts Ridge Hike
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
Tucson, Arizona
Mileage - 6.2
Time - 2:19
AEG - 1,965ft

We didn't drive a hundred miles to only hike four, so we decided on a second and drove over to Sabino Canyon for another more moderate trek. I have wanted to do Blacketts Ridge for years now and coupling these two together made perfect sense with a short break in between. This route has all the making of an ideal day hike. Moderate distance and elevation, a well defined route with mostly subtle switchbacks, and finally a great ending point with awesome views of Mt Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Range.

Boone hiking up the Phoneline Trail to Blacketts

One of the brightest Collared Lizards I've ever seen

Pat's Run 2015

Pat's Run
Tempe, AZ
Mileage - 4.2
Time - 21:46
Pace - 5:11
Place - 7th 

The 11th annual "Pat's Run" kicked off Saturday morning just outside of ASU's Sun Devil Stadium. This is a great local event with nearly 30,000 runners and walkers, which just might be the largest road race in the Southwest. This day is dedicated to Pat Tillman, a former ASU football player who died in combat in Afghanistan. The 4.2 mile course ends on the 42 yard line in Frank Kush field, representing his number in the stadium where he played during college.

 So how did the race go? Well, as of Friday I wasn't even sure if I would be participating. Ever since the Phoenix marathon in February my training has been inconsistent without any real structure. A couple minor injuries sprung up as well as seasonal allergies, keeping me from running well these past two months. After a couple treatments and massages these past two weeks, I decided to go for it. All I wanted was to finish under 22 minutes. That meant 5:20 pace or better. In the same fashion as two years prior, a huge pack took off from the start with people dropping off within that initial quarter mile. I felt strong the first two miles and surged to put myself in fourth place at the halfway point. Too early for this strategy, as those high school kids I thought I could drop used me to draft and passed me at the three mile mark. Well played boys. I regrouped with a half mile to go and picked up the pace. I could hear someone closing in and I laid down another surge going into the stadium and the crowd erupted as a footrace ensued as I finished side by side with another guy. His chip time proved to be faster than mine, and I could care less about the actual place, just happy I held my own through the finish chute. After all that, my time was only six seconds behind my 2013 finish.

Thank you Tillman Foundation for another great run and all the volunteers who helped out today!

From their website - Founded in 2004, the Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through educational scholarships – building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hermit to Boucher Trail - GCNP

Hermit to Boucher (Boo-Shay) Hike
Grand Canyon National Park
Mileage - 20.4
Time - 9:30
AEG - 4200 ft

Bob and I resumed our annual tradition of hiking a new trail in the Grand Canyon every April since 2011. We typically spend the weekend hiking to the river and back, then camping at Mather Campground. This year it would be a trip down the Western side of the national park's South Rim in hopes to reach the Boucher Rapids.

We fell just a few miles shy of reaching the river this time, partly due to misinterpreted distances each way and warmer than anticipated temperatures. A twenty mile hike would have turned into a 24-25 mile hike and left us exposed longer and later into the heat of the day. We learned our lesson on the Tanner trail two years ago. By Grand Canyon standards, twenty miles isn't all that long, except Boucher is a rough one with steep, uneven terrain. A few areas required hands on for scrambling up and down the "trail." Somehow we managed a pretty good pace throughout the day, even with numerous stops. There were three significant climbs over those ten miles, the nice thing was that they were spaced out, offering time to recover before ascending again. Fatigue didn't set in until we were finished, and it hit Bob and I hard. I felt like I had just run a marathon. We were so wiped out, on the bus back to the GC village all we could think about was a hot shower and getting some pizza at the Maswik Lodge!

I think each year our trip gets better and better. Knowing the best time of year and familiarizing yourself with the park is key to making the experience as good as you possibly can. Over the years we have noticed improvements, including new bathrooms and parking areas. The market is top notch and staff is always helpful. I'm excited to get back up there!

A view of Whites Butte and the narrow canyon where we are headed.

My favorite view from the hike, near Boucher Creek
Enjoying some shade and the view into Boucher Creek

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spring in the Sonoran Desert

I stayed in town this weekend and set out to run the trails both Saturday and Sunday.  I chose two different areas north of the valley. Saturday I ran a 10-mile out-and-back on the Gooseneck trail, starting from Tom's Thumb trailhead. Talk about smooth! This trail is like running on a nice, crushed gravel walkway with very little elevation gain or descent. I think I averaged close to a 7:00/minute mile pace for most of the run.

I took the advice from my buddy Ryan and started a 14-mile loop on Sunday from the Apache Wash trailhead in north Phoenix. He said to run the Ocotillo/Sidewinder loop, so I did exactly that. This trail system was developed just a few years ago and has quickly become a weekend hotspot for mountain bikers. Not my preferred trail companions, but they have just as much right to be there as anyone else. Unseasonably warm temperatures made for an early start, even at 6:30am there were numerous people out and ready to go. Another reason I wanted to get off the pavement and into the desert was the early rattlesnake activity happening this year. I was hoping to see some up close in the more remote areas of the preserve. After I finished my run this morning I had pretty much given up...until I began driving away from the AW trailhead. I spotted a diamondback in the road with oncoming traffic approaching quickly. I made a u-turn and threw on my hazards, then I jumped out of my Jeep and stood in the road to deter the cars from running him over. I was excited to see my first rattlesnake this year and even happier to get him to safety.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Kiss Me I'm Irish 8K

Kiss Me I'm Irish 8K
Westgate Center
Glendale, Arizona
Mileage - 5
Time - 27:22
Pace - 5:30
Place - 2nd Overall

I was supposed to be in Boston this weekend and had every intention of running a St. Patty's Day race in the city. Plans changed and I found myself out in Glendale Saturday morning for a nice alternative. They offered a few options in distance from 1 to 17k, I chose the 8k and decided to make a nice tempo run out of it.

My plan was to run 5:30 pace and see what happened. Ronnie Buchanan (overall winner), and I ran the entire race together and managed to lock in that pace with a negative second half split. Around mile two I made a comment about the effort feeling pretty good, which it did until the last 1-2k. My legs are turning over great, yet something isn't quite right internally. Possibly allergies or a lingering respiratory issue, I'm just not certain. Whatever it is, my lungs aren't able to supply my working muscles with oxygen and once again I was out-kicked at the finish.

There were quite a few issues at this event, especially with the course, so its a good thing I didn't take it seriously. It was fun, and I met some great people. Perhaps some new running partners.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Phoenix Marathon 2015

BMO Harris Phoenix Marathon
Mesa, Arizona
Mileage - 26.2
Time - 2:41:28
Pace - 6:10
Place - 14th Overall

Six months of training went specifically into this race, and unfortunately the wind called the shots today. My goal was to finish in 2:35-2:36, after turning Southbound around mile 14 I knew my second half split wasn't going to be pretty. It was a bummer because I came through the half marathon mark in 1:17:30, right on track.

The wind picked up and my mile pace became worse than the uphill sections when taking the blustery conditions head on.  I had a hard time recovering from the labored running and couldn't seem to get my pace back down to 6:00/mile. In a nutshell, that was the story of the second half. Finishing the marathon felt good, especially given the conditions and a calf problem that concerned me over the last couple days. This was the first time I actually worried I may not complete a race before it even started.  Not the right mind set for a PR.

Best part of the day was hanging out post race with friends and sharing the experience. I love hearing everyone's story! A few changes to the event from 2013 that were less than ideal, but overall, a great race from the Phoenix Marathon.

Finish chute - photo by Pete Weldy

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Chinese New Year 5K

Chinese New Year 5K
Papago Park
Phoenix, Arizona
Mileage - 3.1
Time - 16:13
Pace - 5:13
Place - 1st Overall

I had another scheduled time trial before the Phoenix marathon to zero in on my pace and leg speed turnover, and this was the only 5K in town. My goal time was 16:30 with an average pace of 5:20 per mile.  I came across the finish line slightly under this as I believe the course was short, possibly only 3.0 miles. My watch actually said 16:08 so there may be some discrepancy there. This 5K felt more like a cross country course than anything. Rolling hills, mixed terrain, ninety-degree turns, you name it.  I'm not going to hold the time to heart, it just felt good to dial in further.

My good friend Yolanda was in town from, well, whatever city she currently resides in. Anyways, she ran a good race and finished second female overall. She was pretty pumped about that! Perhaps the most excited of all was her mom that finished her second race to date and ran faster than the previous 5K back in January. Well done ladies! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lost Dutchman 10K - 2015

Lost Dutchman Marathon, Half & 10K

Prospector Park
Apache Junction, AZ
Mileage - 6.2
Time - 34:30
Pace - 5:34
Place - 1st Overall

All I remember about the 2012 Lost Dutchman marathon was grinding out the last few miles of rolling hills. Yet I was excited to run the 10K, which is ironic because it covers the last 3.1 miles of the marathon in an out-and-back style. Why would I put myself through that again? Oh how time forgets. Looking back, the reason I had such a hard time at that time was lack of preparation. Too little base mileage.

These days I am much more dialed in, focused and relaxed while racing. So much so that I was within 2 seconds of my target time. My experience with this event has definitely turned around for the better, not just because I took home the win, because the course is actually fun if you make a mental game out of running those ups and downs. Not only that, staring down the road at the Superstition Mountains has to be one of the best views of any race in the country. Prospector Park is gorgeous and the perfect place for a mid-sized running event.  Thanks for a great race Lost Dutchman Marathon!

Prospector Park, looking East at the Superstitions

Monday, February 2, 2015

Xterra McDowell Mountain 2015

Xterra McDowell Mountain 15M
McDowell Mountain Regional Park
Fountain Hills, Arizona
Mileage - 15
Time - 1:34:02
AEG - 1,160ft
Place - 3rd Overall

Third time's a charm for the win, right? Not even close. For starters, I've been under the weather for most of January so it didn't come as a surprise when I was sucking wind running uphill. Outside of that, I just finished the interval phase of my marathon schedule and my legs are pretty taxed. Let's not take away from the performance of the overall winner and runner up, those guys put down times I'm not sure I could even contend with, even at 100 percent.

There's something that really draws me to this race, which is why I've run it three times in the past five years. I like the distance, course layout, smooth surface for desert standards, the fast finish, beautiful scenery and the post race fun and prizes Xterra dishes out. The two biggest takeaways from this event were my improvements in leg speed turnover and staying mentally tough enough to run hard while suffering through those early miles. Besides the first minute or two I ran this race completely solo, something I've become used to in the marathon, and I attribute that ability to stay focused to training alone without music or distractions.

A big thanks goes out to Shannon Linder for continuing to put on a great race and all the volunteers taking time out of their Superbowl Sunday to help. Now its time to sharpen up for the Phoenix Marathon in less than four weeks.

An unusually foggy morning in the desert. 

A beautiful sunrise would soon follow.