Never Give Up: The Zion 100

Some memories have a significant impact on you and your future. For me, last year’s DNF at the San Diego 100 was one of those memories. It humbled me and forced me to be honest with myself and my abilities. But it also lit a fire within me and became the catalyst for a rematch with the 100-mile distance, and I chose the Zion 100.

Ever since Monument Valley, I’d been experience some significant hip pain that had derailed my last 3-4 weeks of training. I’d gotten a few massages and met with a running doctor to help diagnose and fix the issue. I was physically feeling about 75-80%, however, mentally I was at 110-120%, so I figured I could hit the start line of Zion at 100% (of sorts).

Zion bound

C and I left San Diego early Thursday morning and arrived in Springdale, Utah, around 2:30 p.m. We checked in at the Pioneer Lodge then went into Zion National Park for a while to do some exploring before heading to packet pick-up which was at the start line in Virgin. We didn’t hang around too long. My nerves were kicking in and I just wanted to get some dinner and get some rest. I knew the next day was going to be a long one.

Zion National Parl

C and I in the park the day before the race.

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Zion 100 Course Map

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Zion 100 Elevation Map

Race day

There’s an energy at the start of a 100-miler that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and the Zion 100 was no different. Both the 100-milers and 100K runners took off at 6 a.m., and just like that it was on. My second attempt at a 100-miler was underway.

As I approached the first big climb, Flying Monkey, the sun was just beginning to rise. I got up FM with no issues, hit the aid station up top and set out on the 6-mile loop atop the mesa.

The scenery up on top of the mesa was amazing – a completely different landscape than the land below. Oh, and the views from above were jaw-dropping.

Zion 100

Beautiful sunrise as we were going up Flying Monkey

I descended Flying Monkey with no issues and hit a nice stretch of Jeep road and was able to run most of it, before hopping on some single track and working my way to Dalton Wash Aid (mile 15).

C was anxiously waiting for me at Dalton. She knew that by now I’d know how the day was going to go. Once I got there she asked how I was doing – my response was simply “I made it to here.” I knew if I wanted to have ANY shot of staying in this thing, I had to focus exclusively on running from aid station to aid station.

After a quick pit stop I began the climb up to the Guacamole Loop, where runners would be treated to nearly 8 miles of challenging slick rock. It was impossible for me to get a rhythm going up there, so I just enjoyed the views and tried to keep moving as best I could. I finally made it off the mesa and back down to Dalton Aid 2.

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View from the Guacamole Loop.

Once I got there, I noticed my pacer and good friend Tony from San Diego had arrived and immediately jumped in to help C out in crewing me. I wanted to take a few extra minutes to rest up – my hip already wasn’t feeling great and I wanted to recharge for a minute.

Neither of them let me, and before I knew it was back on the trail.

Going up

After crossing the highway I headed toward the infamous Gooseberry mesa. In my research of the race, I knew this climb was going to be a beast. The climb gains 1,500 feet. Fast. Sprinkle on some serious exposure to the sun and a subpar hip, and 1,500-foot climb felt like I was climbing Whitney.

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Me coming up Goosberry. What. A. Climb.

Once up to the top I came into Goosebump Aid, refueled, and then set out on my last solo loop across more slickrock to Gooseberry Point and back to Goosebump #2. I got back a little before 8 p.m., but not before taking in one of the most amazing sunsets I’d ever seen.

Zion 100

Unreal sunset from atop Goosberry Mesa. One of my last photos before my phone died.

By this time I was only an hour ahead of the cutoffs. Definitely not where I wanted to be. I picked up my pacer, Tony, and we headed out into the darkness toward Grafton Mesa. Running with him was a huge breath of fresh air and though we weren’t moving fast, we were still moving. We arrived at Grafton Mesa, downed some soup and headed on through. Grafton was a breaking point for a lot of runners, many of whom were still sitting around waiting to get picked up.

I’d be lying if I said the thought of dropping didn’t cross my mind. I hurt from the start, I had yet to get into a rhythm, and now I was furiously chasing cutoffs … all with 45 more miles to go.

Before I could turn that thought into any more than just that (a thought), Tony said “You ready, G? We gotta go.” And just like that, we were back on the trail and off toward Cemetery Aid Station (mile 57.5).

After a mix of single track, slick rock, climbing, and then a huge descent off the mesa, we arrived at Cemetery Aid with 45 minutes to spare. After another quick in/out we were on our way back up. The climb up was the hardest and most challenging part of the day night for me (so far), but Tony did a fantastic job of keeping me moving.

This was also about the point in the race where I DNF’d in my 100-mile attempt last year (around mile 60). Tony knew this – and though we weren’t saying much at this point, he did say this:

“You’re about to be on the other side of what you know you’re capable of. It’s all new after this.”

In a weird way, hearing that gave me a spark that I hadn’t had most of the day. It was true; I was now further into a race than I’d ever been. What a rush.

The way back was a serious grind, and making cutoffs was still a top priority (talk about a feeling of added stress!). We were in and out of Grafton Mesa #2 within 5 minutes and got back to Goosebump Aid #3 by 4:45 a.m.

By this point all I could think about was how bad I wanted off the mesa. Upon leaving Goosebump I got my wish – in the form of a 1,500-foot, pitch-black descent down Gooseberry.

I’ll leave most of the details of it, but just know that I was in a dark place (both literally and figuratively) by this point.

A change of scenery

After getting off the mesa, we had to get to the Virgin Desert Aid station by 8:30 a.m. The stretch was tough, but we got there by 7:45 a.m. My hour buffer was fading.

Fast.

Once you hit Virgin Desert Aid, the style of the race changes. Runners were now faced with a series of challenging desert loops. In prepping for this race, I had thought that if I could just “get to Virgin Aid” that I could spend some time getting re-energized before hammering the loops out, but being up against cutoffs, I didn’t have that luxury.

C was waiting for me at Virgin Aid and would be responsible for pacing me out the rest of the way (25 miles). Tony had done a phenomenal job keeping me moving overnight, knowing that I was hurting and not in a good spot. He was able to keep me on pace, and focused just on the next aid station. It was a night I never thought would end – but, like all things, it did.

For the record, Tony wasn’t unaware of what was going on at all, either. He knew we were crunched for time, had a long way to go, and that I was starting to fall apart. (He had dug deep and finished the SD 100 last year, so he knew what it took to get to the finish – and what I had yet to go through).

The red, white, and blue

By now my mental state had gotten a lot worse, and I was seriously rationalizing a second DNF in my head.

“Well G, you made it 76.5, farther than you’d ever gone – but it’s just not going to be your day. You weren’t 100% when you started … and you’re paying for it now.”

This “inner monologue” slowly started to leave my head and now C and Tony were hearing it … but they weren’t having it. They both knew me well and weren’t ready to have a repeat of last year.

And just like that, they switched roles. C was ready to go and after 5 minutes we were out on the Red Loop, a 4.7 stretch of rolling desert single track … with a cutoff of 9:15 a.m.

A snail’s pace is probably an adequate comparison to what I was churning out at this point. I asked C every 3-5 minutes “how much distance have we covered? Do you think we’ll make the cutoff?”

C, being the ever-positive person she is, assured me we were doing great and that we could make it.

I apparently thought otherwise. I began walking, saying I had “given it my best effort, but it just wasn’t going to happen.” We came in at 9:10 a.m, the cutoff was 9:15 a.m – and I didn’t think I could go back out.

I thought it was 9:15 a.m.

An aid station worker who had taken notice of me when I first came into Virgin Desert Aid came over and said “Don’t get too comfortable buddy, the cutoff is 9:30 a.m. You have to get back out there. You’ve come this far. You’ve got to keep going.”

He took my red bracelet and replaced it with a white one, to signify I was about to start the second loop.

And again, just like that, we were off.

The white loop (mile 81), was a bit longer with more rolling hills … and it was getting hot. I was kicking out salt bad and knew I was on the verge of losing control of my nutrition, but we slugged it out. All thanks to C.

It gets a bit overwhelming when you start to think that you’re within 20-30 minutes of not being able to continue on, which is exactly where we were at when we returned from the white loop.

Mile 87.1

Time in/out: 11:10a.m./11:22 a.m.

Cutoff:            11:30 a.m

The same aid station worker that had kept me on course earlier found me again and offered me more words of encouragement and advice. His support, along with C and Tony’s was hitting me hard, but I was falling apart. I hadn’t stopped for more than 5-10 minutes since mile 47.5. My hip was on fire, my feet were all blistered, and my nutrition was in the tank. I was a mess.

Even with all the support I was ready for a DNF in my head. But my crew didn’t let me act on that thought and sent me back out. I had more than 3 hours to go 7 or so miles. But like I said, I had fallen apart. I was walking/shuffling along at a dismal pace, and things were looking bleak.

The blue loop was also the most exposed (and challenging) of the loops, and the sun was just roasting us. We had caught up with a few other people who were in the same boat, wished them well and continued to shuffle along.

Zion 100

A view from the blue loop

C did an unreal job pacing me, knowing just when to talk and when to let it ride. When to let me vent and when to tell me to man-up. It was a delicate balance and she managed it well.

In my head I thought that IF I could somehow get back to Virgin Aid for the last time by 1:30 p.m. that would give me 2.5 hours to finish, and at the pace I was moving at, I thought I MIGHT have a shot.

But 1:30 p.m. quickly passed, and I was still out there. I watched 1:45 and 2 p.m. tick by as well, before getting returning to Virgin Aid for the last time at 2:18 p.m.

Mile 94.

That was it. I came into that aid station to drop. I was dehydrated and distraught. I thought I had left it all out there and came up short. There was no way I could go 6 miles in less than 1 hour 45 minutes based on how I had been performing for the last 12 hours.

It wasn’t possible. Not to me.

I walked in and sat down, ready to make my announcement, but before I could, the aid station volunteer dumped an entire cooler of ice water over my head, and said “Hey buddy, you look like hell, I know you feel like hell – but YOU. CAN’T. STOP. YOU GO FINISH THIS THING! YOU’VE COME TOO FAR TO QUIT!”

His statement was matched with Tony handing me two new water bottles and C pulling me back out on the course.

This was it. We were going for it.

The ice bath was reinvigorating – and the support from my crew and the aid station worker helped stoke a fire deep within me. I was 94 miles in. I had 1 hour 35 minutes to give it everything I had.

And so I did.

For the first time since miles 10-20 I started running. As hard as I could. I’d tell C to “Go” and we’d run as hard as we could, walk and repeat. Tony had parked near mile 97 and was stressed to the max, he knew I had fallen apart and my pace was bad.

Until he saw C and I come around the corner. 3 miles down in 35 minutes. Some of the fastest miles of the day for me were miles 94-96. I had 3 miles to go – and more than an hour to get there.

I gave the next few miles all I had as well, and came across the finish line in 33:25, side by side with C, Tony, and my friend Corina, who had hung around to watch me finish.

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Finishing my first 100-miler

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Handcrafted buckles were awarded to all finishers. After two years, I finally got mine.

I couldn’t have done it without the support of C, Tony, Corina, the aid station worker, and my fellow runners. It truly was a life-changing experience. I learned more about myself during this race than I ever thought possible, but most importantly, I learned to never give up – in running or in life.

Zion 100

The gang at the finish. I wouldn’t have finished without them.

Take care,

G

Race Recap: The Monument Valley 50

Monument Valley

It’s hard to believe it’s been two weeks since C and I road tripped to northeast Arizona for the Monument Valley 50. The weekend was amazing, and not just because of the race. In fact, even though we logged 24 hours in the car on a trip that lasted less than 60 hours total, we both agreed that we’d do it again in a heartbeat.

We took off from San Diego bright and early, at 3:30 a.m., and hit the road. This was total déjà vu for me, having done a similar middle-off-the-night departure to get to the Antelope Canyon 55K just a few weeks prior. But lucky for me this time I’d have company, both in the car and on the trails, as C was coming along to pace me for the last 15 miles of the race as training for her pacing duties at Zion.

As much as I enjoy road tripping alone, having C along for the ride was a complete blast. We made great time and were through Phoenix before either of us knew it. From there, we were northbound for a few hours, before heading through Flagstaff and on to Monument Valley.

We lucked out and snagged a last-minute cancellation at a hotel called The View just a few hundred feet from the race start/finish line. After checking in and dropping off our bags, we decided to make the most of the daylight we had left.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley as the sun set the night before the race.

Monument Valley

“Well, I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now.” Just kidding! I’ve got the Monument Valley 50-miler tomorrow!

After a nice meal at the hotel and an evening walk to take in the scenery and look at the stars, it was off to bed (except for when we got up and to look at the stars again at 3 a.m.).

Race Day

Monument Valley

Monument Valley 50-Mile Race Elevation Profile

Monument Valley

Monument Valley 50-Mile Course Map

Monument Valley

Sun rise at the start line

Prior to the 50M/50K start, runners were treated to a Navajo Prayer Ceremony at the start line and then, promptly at 7 a.m., were off on our way.

I thought that Running Antelope Canyon a few weeks prior had given me a pretty good idea of what to expect, but since the Monument Valley area had been hit by extreme weather during the past two weeks, I knew it was best to take anything I thought I knew about the course conditions, throw it out the window, and prepare for a long, tough, sandy day through the Navajo Nation.

Monument Valley

Sunrise somewhere near Mile 4

With less than 60, 50-mile runners, the pack thinned out fast, and runners were able to experience the area’s beauty on their own. As I trudged along through the sand, it quickly became apparent that I was going to get, way, WAY closer to the monuments than I had originally thought. By mile 9, I knew this was going to be one of my favorite races to date.

Monument Valley

Near Brigham’s Tomb

Monument Valley

Sandy conditions for miles

The weather that hit the area earlier had helped “pack down” some of the sand, but most of the miles between Brigham’s Tomb Aid (mile 9) and Hogan Aid (mile 22) were still a challenge. I hit Hogan’s Aid for the first time in around 5 hours, feeling pretty good overall.

From Hogan, the 50-milers would do a series of loops, all of which passed back through Hogan before heading onto the next. The first loop (North Windows) took runners out on some of my favorite singletrack of the day. The views were simply unbelievable.

Monument Valley

Running beneath the monument

After North Windows, I cruised came through Hogan before heading out on the Arches Loop. This 9.5 mile loop was incredible … and sandy. But mostly incredible.

Monument Valley

Is this the Sahara? No, it’s Monument Valley.

Monument Valley

Ear of the Wind

I returned to Hogan for the final time at 3 p.m. and picked up C, who was planning to run the final 15 miles with me. We headed off to Mitchell Mesa – which would be the biggest climb of the day at mile 40.

(Sidenote: To the group of volunteers at Hogan Aid, kudos on running such a great aid station. With runners hitting this aid station multiple times, I estimate they saw somewhere between 800-1,000 runners. Every time I came through food and support was plentiful and spirits were high. One of the best aid stations I’ve ever ran through. Thanks again – you all were great!)

Heading up Mitchell Mesa was tough. The trail up was really technical and slow going, but once we got to the top, the views we got where the highlight of my day. Words don’t even do it justice.

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The view from the top of Mitchell Mesa

At the same time I was up there, I noticed a local Navajo man up there … ON HIS HORSE. I couldn’t help but stop and ask how he got up there with that horse. He smiled and simply said “the same way you two did.”

Monument Valley

We weren’t the only ones on top of Mitchell Mesa …

I had a lot of interactions with the local Navajo throughout the day, each of which was an incredibly memorable (and positive) experience. Talking with them about their land, its beauty, and its history was a once in a lifetime experience that we all enjoyed.

Coming down Mitchell Mesa was a lot more fun than going up, and before I knew it C and I were back to Hogan Aid for the final time. Just 3.2 miles were left until the finish. I’d been out there a little more than 12 hours and was feeling pretty thrashed … yet I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.

Having C out there as my pacer was fantastic. She did a great job keeping me moving and helping me forget about the pain. Definitely a natural!

Together, we knocked out the final 3 miles and crossed the finish line at 12:53:36 (30/41).

Monument Valley

50-mile race finishers received a bracelet handcrafted by a local Navajo family

The next morning, bright and early, we put about 700 more miles on my Altima before arriving back home in San Diego. Talk about a whirlwind trip!

One that neither of us would change for the world.

Take care,

G

 

Recipe: Healthy Crab Cakes

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a healthy, easy-to-make recipe, so I wanted to remedy that with my Healthy Crab Cakes concoction. I’m originally from the South, and most of the seafood I grew up eating was battered and fried, including crab cakes. They were my absolute favorite seafood dish then, and still are to this day, but I wanted to create a healthier version to satisfy those cravings.

My recipe is an adaptation of a Cooking Light version that I found a couple of years ago while purging my magazine collection before our move to San Diego. I eliminate mayonnaise, use less breadcrumbs, and add extra herbs and spices to enhance the taste profile.

Crab Cakes

Crab cakes with over-roasted asparagus and garlic bread (this was a race week meal for G)

Healthy Crab Cakes

 Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs, divided)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh, flat-leaf parsley (you could certainly use dry parsley instead)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (or other similar seasoning)
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 8 oz. lump crab meat (fresh or canned), well drained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lemon, quartered

 Directions:

  • Combine 1/3-cup panko and next 9 ingredients (through eggs) in a large bowl and stir well. Add the crab; stir gently just until combined. Place the remaining 1/3-cup panko in a shallow dish (I like to use a glass pie dish). Using wet hands, shape crab mixture into 4 equal balls. Coat balls in panko, then gently flatten them to form 4 (4-inch) patties.
  • Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil to the pan; swirl to coat. Add crab patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Serve with lemon wedges, asparagus and garlic bread, or a salad.

Note: While eliminating mayonnaise saves on fat and calories, it can be a little harder for the crab cakes to stick together. The second egg should take care of this, but if your crab cakes are falling apart before you start to cook them, you can add a bit more panko. Overall, I think the taste without the mayonnaise it so much more flavorful and fresher.

Here’s the nutritional breakdown for one crab cake:

Calories: 181

Fat: 7.8g

Carbs: 8.8g

Protein: 16.3g

G ran the Monument Valley 50-mile race last weekend (recap to come), and I was able to pace him for the last 14 miles – what a beautiful and fun experience! We had a fabulous time road-tripping there and back, and can’t wait for our travel adventures in April to Zion for Greg’s 100-mile race and Kauai to celebrate his birthday!

Take care,

C

Race Recap: Slot Canyons, Scenery and Sand – The Antelope Canyon 55K

Antelope Canyon 55K

Coming off my race at the San Diego 50 I was feeling good about getting back out on the trails and putting in miles … which is why I was so excited to head to Page, Arizona, for Ultra Adventure’s Antelope Canyon 55K last weekend.

Well, that was one of the reasons.

The other was to experience first-hand the much-talked-about scenery of the course!

I opted to drive and left San Diego bright and early, at 4 a.m., and arrived in Page around 3:30 p.m. Not a bad drive at all; pretty scenic in parts, actually.

Antelope Canyon 55K

Sunrise over the Mojave on my way to Page

The first thing I wanted to do is complete one of the Trifecta Challenges. The Trifectas are a really cool thing Race Director Matt Gunn has put together. Realizing that these are destination races for many runners, he put together a list of “other must-see areas” while they are in town for their race. In addition to seeing more of the area, runners who participate in the Trifecta are eligible to receive discounts on future races. MORE trails and money off race registrations? No complaints here!

I was most interested in The Cable Trail, which, if followed all the way down, will take you to the Colorado River. Since I was traveling alone, I felt like going halfway down was good enough; I didn’t drive 600 miles to spend race day stuck at the bottom! Definitely an amazing trail.

Antelope Canyon 55K, Cable Trail

A bit tough to find, but definitely worth looking for!

—RACE DAY—

I got to the staging area at 6:15 a.m., got prepped and headed to the starting line. Matt gave a quick pre-race briefing, which included a moment of silence for a fellow runner’s daughter who was tragically killed in a car accident last year. In addition to the moment of silence, purple bracelets were available for runners who wanted to run for Alyssa and her family. I was one of them.

Once the briefing wrapped up, it was time to get busy. The 55K runners were off at 7 a.m. sharp.

Antelope Canyon 55K

Map of the 55K course

Antelope Canyon 55K

Elevation profile for the 55K

The first loop took us out through the desert toward the much-anticipated Horseshoe Bend and Waterholes slot canyon. The first thing I said after taking off was “wow, the scenery out here is going to be amazing,” followed abruptly a few miles later by “wow, this sand is going to make for an incredibly hard run.”

It most certainly did.

Antelope Canyon 55K

Trudging through the sand early on

Since I’m making a more concerted effort to not waste too much time at aid stations this year, I went straight through Horseshoe Bend aid (mile 5) and continued on toward the river.

Antelope Canyon 55K, Horsehoe Bend

Me at Horseshoe Bend

Antelope Canyon 55K, Horseshoe Bend

Absolutely amazing

Standing over Horseshoe Bend was one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever experienced. Billed as one of the most photographed land features in the country, I definitely added to the picture count by snapping 20-30 pictures on my iPhone.

Once I picked up my jaw from the ground, I continued on my way.

One thing that quickly became apparent was the fact that you’d be running on a wide variety of terrain. Running on the slickrock overlooking the river was an awesome experience – but one where I had to stay pretty aware of where my feet were landing so not to injure myself.

Antelope Canyon 55K

Careful!

All went well and I hit Waterholes Aid with no issues before dropping into Waterholes slot canyon.

Runners were pretty spread out by this point, which allowed me to experience Waterholes slot canyon alone. It was an awesome experience. I’d like to try and capture it in words, but I think pictures tell the story better:

Antelope Canyon 55K, slot canyon

Entrance to Waterholes

Antelope Canyon 55K, slot canyon

Somewhere in the middle

Antelope Canyon 55K, slot canyon

Continuing on through

Antelope Canyon 55K, slot canyon

Ladders to get out

Once out of Waterholes it was some fire road, followed by a quick pass back through Horseshoe Bend aid, before heading back toward the staging area. The first “loop” was about 23-ish miles.

The 55K finished up with a lap on the Page Rim Trail, a 10-mile loop of scenic singletrack that encircles the city of Page and gives runners amazing views of Lake Powell and the surrounding area.

Antelope Canyon 55K, Page Rim Trail

Awesome views from the trail

I crossed the finish line in 8:26, somewhere in the middle of the pack. I was definitely happy with the effort and think that I’m improving each and every day.

Finishers’ awards for the 55K were handcrafted pieces of pottery that were each unique – and way cooler than a medal (in my opinion). I also really liked how you got to pick your own award based on which one spoke to you the most.

Antelope Canyon 55K

Awesome finisher awards

But I was given so much more than a finisher’s award. Antelope Canyon gave me the opportunity to run through some of the most memorable and breathtaking scenery in the country, and to do it in support of a fellow runner who had experienced a significant loss. Thinking of him and his family throughout the day really put life into perspective for me.

It should be noted that the runner who lost his daughter committed to running the Antelope Canyon 100-mile race in her memory. It was his first 100-miler. He finished strong and I’m sure his daughter is incredibly proud.

I know I am.

—POST-RACE THOUGHTS—

A week has passed since the race, and I’m still replaying a lot of it in my mind. I’ve also had some time to think more about the event and here’s what I came up with:

  • I loved that Antelope Canyon was not only a race, but an adventure. Using ladders to get in and out of slot canyons, bushwhacking to get to The Cable Trail, running on slickrock overlooking the Colorado River – all of these things added so much to the experience.
  • I’m becoming more and more interested in destination races that offer an opportunity to run through scenic areas.
  • The event was incredibly well-supported, well-marked, and lived up to what it said it would offer on the website.
  • It’s important that we take care of the areas where we run. I really admire Ultra Adventures for living up to their commitment of hosting a zero-waste event.
  • Never … EVER … judge a race by its elevation profile. Running through sand for extended periods of time is really, really hard! Not to mention scurrying across slickrock and climbing up and down ladders.

My experience at Antelope Canyon confirmed one thing: I need to run more of these events to see more of the The Grand Circle. But I won’t have to wait too long; I’ve got two more UA races on my calendar, Monument Valley and Zion.

Zion will be my second attempt at the 100-mile distance … and I can’t wait.

Take care,

Greg

This was my first race as part of the Ultra Adventures ambassador team. For more information on Ultra Adventures races please visit their website. You’ll be glad you did!

Review: ClassPass – The Greatest Invention Offering Exercise Variety

Other than running (and spinning about 7 years ago), I generally have a hard time dedicating myself to a workout regimen. Over the years, I realized it’s mostly because I get bored easily and have a desire to try new things. While a gym membership can provide varied group fitness class schedules, I find it difficult to line up the time a class is provided with when I can actually attend. Enter, ClassPass.

ClassPass

From outdoor bootcamps to indoor barre classes, ClassPass offers a wide variety of group fitness options.
(Photo courtesy of ClassPass)

For $79-$99 per month (price varies by city), you can reserve a spot in boutique fitness classes around your city you’ve been dying to try but can’t really afford individual memberships to. There are thousands of classes available to ClassPass members, including cycling, pilates, yoga, strength training, barre, martial arts and more!

I bought my first month of ClassPass on January 27 (and it renews each month on the same date). I’ve taken 13 different classes so far, and have 2 more scheduled for this week already. That’s 15 more group fitness or crosstraining classes than I took last month. That’s huge for me! I love the variety of studios that are part of the ClassPass network, and the website and complementary app make it easy to reserve classes on-the-go.

ClassPass

(Photo courtesy of ClassPass)

Pros:

  • Ease of class reservation (via the website or the app)
  • Amazing group fitness class variety
  • Option to add your classes to a mobile calendar (iCalendar, Google, etc.); if you schedule your workouts the way you schedule meetings, it’s much harder to cancel on yourself
  • Generous class cancellation policy (up to 12 hours in advance with no charge)

 Cons:

  • You can only take three classes at each studio per month, and then you have to wait until the next month to take three more. If you are WAY into group fitness class variety, then this won’t be an issue. I got hooked on The Rush Indoor Cycling Studio (read my review here) at the end of January and am now counting down the days until my month renews and I can go back.
  • It’s a bit pricey, but when compared with full gym memberships it nets out; so many people pay for gym memberships they don’t use. I’m using this one!
  • It’s not in every city yet, but seems to be in most major metros. Check here and scroll down to the maps section to see if your city is on the list!

Race Recap: Third Annual San Diego 50 and Trail Marathon

Hi there, We apologize for being so absent since the first of the year; January and February have been a blur for both of us. Wedding planning + an insane work schedule has left us both feeling pretty drained. But we’ve still been active!

The highlight of last month for us was running the Third Annual San Diego 50 and Trail Marathon through the San Dieguito River Park. G ran the 50-mile distance there last year (his first 50-miler), and was excited to see how much a year’s worth of training would pay off. C decided to take on her first trail marathon distance this year, and then find G at the Mile 40 aid station to cheer him on for the remainder of his race. Perfect plan!

We decided to carpool out to the start/finish line, and picked up our friend J on the way (he was running the 50-miler with G). After checking in and labeling their drop bags for the Mile 20/30 aid station, G and J took off at 6:30 a.m. for their race. That left me with an hour to pin on my bib, eat a bit more and psych myself up. I had never run the course before, so I had no clue what to expect other than quite the climb at Mile 5-6.

The marathon group took off at 7:30 a.m., and honestly the first 4.5 miles were lovely. It was a partly cloudy and in the mid-40s temperature wise, which is my ideal race start weather. We wound our way around the edges of several farms and began to make our way to the start of the climb up Raptor Ridge. While the climb up Raptor Ridge was strenuous, I enjoyed the challenge and kept pushing until I was able to fly down the backside to the Mile 5.7 aid station.

San Diego 50 and Trail Marathon

The view as I was climbing Raptor Ridge.

Raptor Ridge to Sunset Park (5.7 – 10)

I’ll be honest and say that this stretch of the course got a little boring for me, but I contribute that being so spread out from other runners (very common in trail races, but very new for me) and not having headphones to listen to music. I did, however, see a fox cross the path around Mile 7 and that helped to break up this portion of the race. It also started to get warm as the clouds went away; I kept telling myself that G was out there running twice the distance I was. Basically, suck it up, buttercup. At the Sunset Park aid station I ate a few potato chips, had some soda, and a handful of pretzels, and got back on course.

Sunset Park to the Marina turnaround (10 – 13.1)

Things got a little more scenic once we crossed under Interstate 15 and began to run along the trail overlooking Lake Hodges. The mid-section of this part was fairly rocky and I was so glad G had encouraged me to wear my Hokas for more cushioning. I hit the turnaround in 2:52 and really felt strong despite the direct heat from the sun. I ate a couple of vanilla wafers with Nutella, pretzels, and a quarter of an orange. I refilled my hydration pack with water and started back toward the finish.

Marina turnaround to Sunset Park (13.1 – 16.2)

I ran most of this section with a nice gal in her mid-20s. It was her first trail marathon, too, and we talked about significant others, our dogs, and how hungry we were. Overall, it was good part of the course with the views of Lake Hodges and knowing that the next aid station wasn’t too far away. Once there, I ate half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, drank some soda, and took off toward the base of Raptor Ridge (did I mention we have to go back over it?).

Sunset Park – Raptor Ridge (16.2 – 20.5)

I was kind of dreading this portion again (because I felt so lonely the first time around). A few women on horseback passed me and offered to just take me on to the finish with them. It was definitely tempting, but I just kept running. This was, by far, the hottest part of the course and I noticed my fingers were starting the swell. I knew from crewing G that when that happens that means there is an electrolyte imbalance, but I couldn’t remember in which direction: did I need more salt or more water? I rolled into the aid station and was happy to see our friend T volunteering. I asked him about my swollen fingers and he gave me 2 salt tabs and said I should be fine with less than 6 miles left.

Raptor Ridge – Finish (20.5 – 26.2)

My first time over Raptor Ridge was challenging, but fun. I was humbled by the second trip over it. The backside is a very steep single-track trail to the top, whereas the front side had been wider with a more gradual gain. About halfway up, the guy who would be named the winner of the 50-miler passed me. You guys, he was moving and running the entire way. I was in more of a power hike mode at this point, and had no intention of trying to catch up with him. Running back down Raptor Ridge was actually a lot of fun, and then I made my way back around the edges of the farms and crossed the finish line in 6:36.

San Diego 50 and Trail Marathon

C coming into the finish at the end of the trail marathon.

G’s second running of the 50-mile race

What can I say? I love this race! Over the past year it has become a staple in my training. It’s scenic, close, and provides a little bit of everything in terms of terrain.

That said I hadn’t been able to train regularly on the course for quite some time. Ever since fall of last year, I’d been dealing with a foot injury that completely derailed the latter half of 2014 for me.

However, starting in late November, I slowly started putting in miles again – which included a nice and easy run at CIM Marathon, several back to back long runs, and weekly mileage that climbed its way back into the mid 30’s. While I wasn’t in peak shape – I was definitely getting back on track, albeit slowly.

The goal for the SD50 was to improve over last year’s SD50 race and use it as a benchmark of where I was at physically/mentally going into the 2015 race season.

I’ll spare you the turn by turn details (see last year’s post), but know that once again the course was beautiful, well-marked and well-supported. In fact, this year’s race was even more enjoyable for me than last year’s because I was able to run with so many friends I’d met over the last year at various San Diego races.

San Diego 50 and Trail Marathon

C was able to double back to cheer G on at the 40-mile aid station.

I finished the race in 11:35 – a 1 hour and 21 minute PR for me at the 50-mile distance. Though my pre-race mileage wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I attribute the strong finish to three things:

  • Being on top of hydration & fueling (this was where I crumbled last year)
  • Consistent pacing throughout the entire race
  • Course familiarity (I run this area a lot)

The race was a good one for me. My best ultra so far, actually, and was a real confidence booster looking toward what’s coming up in 2015.

The thing I loved most about this run was that it provided me an opportunity to reflect on how much I’d learned about the sport – and myself – over the last year, and how big a part of my life trail running has become.

Since the SD50 I’ve been quietly ramping up my mileage, incorporating new workouts, and refining my approach to nutrition and hydration – both while running, and in day-to-day life.

San Diego 50 and Trail Marathon

G’s best 50-mile finish: a 1 hour and 21 minute PR!

That said, my 2015 race season is officially underway, and next up is Ultra Adventures Antelope Canyon 55K this weekend.

One thing is certain: It feels so good to be back.

I can’t wait to see how things progress from here.

Take care,

GnC

Review: The Rush Indoor Cycling Studio – Carmel Valley

Let me preface this review by saying that I’ve been a spin class lover for a long, long time. They always provide a tough workout, are the perfect complement to my running, and so much fun. I thought I had tried every spin/cycling class out there until a friend invited me to her class at The Rush Indoor Cycling Studio in Carmel Valley. After my first one-hour class, I was hooked! Think spin meets hip-hop dance class, but on a bike.

The Rush Indoor Cycling Studio

The Rush Indoor Cycling Studio in Carmel Valley is one of two locations. The other is in La Jolla.
Photo credit: The Rush

How is that possible you ask? The concept, created by two longtime, high school friends, was born from an unfilled need to offer boutique-style, intimate cycle classes in a non-intimidating setting. Dim lights, incredible playlists, top-notch instructors and world-class Keiser bikes all contribute to the intense, yet personal experience. Whether you find yourself riding alongside first-time riders or triathlon competitors, all riders are encouraged to stay on pace to the beat of the music. No rider is left behind.

The Rush Indoor Cycling Studio

Different lighting levels controlled by the instructor give The Rush Indoor Cycling Studio classes a dance club feel. Photo credit: The Rush

Classes are either 45 minutes or 1 hour, depending on the type of class, and often incorporate a weights series to help tone the upper body while you’re working the lower body. The instructors are all incredibly positive, knowledgeable, and fun which helps add to the overall experience. From warm up to cool down and everything in between, The Rush promises to deliver a heart-pumping cardio workout that’s second to none. I personally love how the studio feels more like a spa and less like a gym, but the classes are tougher and more fun than most I’ve attended at mainstream fitness facilities.

I just finished up my free trial week (I attended four different classes during that time), and was elated to find out they are one of dozens of fitness studios in North County San Diego that are members of the ClassPass membership I signed up for today. More to come on that, but it appears to offer a lot of flexibility and the opportunity to try so many different forms of exercise each month.

Insider’s Tip: Unless you buy a 6-month membership or have your own pair of cycle shoes, you have to rent shoes each class for $1. Try the class out first, but if you love it, spring for the membership and your very own pair of shoes is included.

In addition to trying new fitness classes, we also recently ran the third annual San Diego 50-miler and Trail Marathon. We can’t wait share our race recap with you in the next couple of days!