RACE #123: AF Canyon Race Against Cancer

I’m still trying to collect my thoughts on this race. Going into the race — I had some pretty high expectations for myself. I’m not sure if I set those too high or what? I was shooting for a 2:30-2:39:59 finish time — something I felt was doable after Drop13 a couple weeks ago. And, that didn’t happen. I was off about 20 minutes to be exact.

But, this race really was a tale of two races. My first 8-9 miles were much different from my last 3-4 miles. Part of that reason was because I tripped on a stupid bump on one of the paved trails and tweaked my knee a bit (I’m fine now). It just killed my pace and mechanics. But, I have to wonder if that was partly my fault as well trying to push too hard throughout the race?

I don’t know? That’s what kind of confuses me.

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The lead up to the race was nothing unusual — except I was sick the first part of the week. But, come Friday I felt fine and was ready to run. I’ve been looking forward to this race all year. I signed up for it on day one of registration. I love the cause, mission and course. 100% of the registration fees go to local cancer research and aide. So how can you not support that?

Cancer has impacted my life on many fronts. My mother is a breast cancer survivor, my Grandpa passed away about 20 years ago from lung cancer and I have had a number of friends who have fought and succumbed to it as well. Especially of late — my friends Meridith (The Dith) and Amy. Both are battling breast cancer.

This race is one race each year that I love being able to focus on these people. It’s not only a time to recognize the survivors, but to remember those that have passed on. I won’t lie, my Grandpa Hansen was on my mind a lot this weekend. The same with my Aunt Mary and Uncle George — both my Grandma’s siblings who died from cancer 20 years ago as well.

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Cancer sucks. There is nothing beautiful about it. It’s no respecter of men. It’s just ugly, ugly, ugly. And, that’s one of the many reasons why I want to run this race every year. Even more so than the beautiful course and canyon you run.

One of the biggest frustrations the past couple of years has been my lost speed. And, I try not to beat myself up about that — especially when this was a course that I ran in 2:12 just three years ago. I really have to work at not beating myself up about that lost speed, because just being able to run … period … is a blessing in its’ own right. Plus, a lot of that lost speed was something that was out of my hands.

So going into the race with a time goal of 2:30-2:40 is tough, because I know what I was once able to do. But, with the recent success of my Whole30 diet and dropping significant weight for the first time in over a year and a half — I’ve been really optimistic about the direction of my thyroid and health in general.

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The goal was to average around a 12:00 minute mile throughout the race. Knowing the canyon was fairly steep and that I could faster than that pace I came up with a game plan to bank some time in the canyon so I could slow down to about a 13 minute mile for the last 4-5 miles of the race. In my mind this sounded awesome and totally doable.

The problem was — I went out way too fast. I felt great and just let my legs get ahead of me. I ran my first mile in 9:39. A great time — for an average. But, when you’re going for an average about three minutes slower than that — it was kinda dumb.

I slowed myself down for the next couple of miles and averaged 10:45 minute miles. I felt great so I just wanted to bank as much time as I could. After every mile I would just add the time under a 12 minute mile to my bank. Around mile 7-8 when we were approaching the end of the canyon I had about six miles saved up for the latter miles and I felt good about hitting my goal.

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I knew coming out of the canyon and running through the golf course would be tough — it always is. And, instead of slowing down a bit to use that time I decided to just run a little past my comfort level. I didn’t want to give up too much time at this point. And, I didn’t.

But, I knew that I would need to slow down soon to save my legs because they were starting to tell me they didn’t like what I was doing to them at the moment. Once we turned onto the Cedar Hills Trail I slowed down a bit, but about 100-200 yards onto the trail is when I tripped on the stupid bump in the paved trail.

I am glad I didn’t biff it (mainly out of embarrassment), but when I awkwardly tripped on it I kinda hyperextended my knee a bit catching myself. It immediately slowed me down. Wanting to catch up back to my space, I stepped aside from the other runners and tried to stretch it a bit and give it a little love before heading back out.

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But, as I tried running back up, it just wasn’t giving me much. It wanted to spasm down to my foot — which was weird. Now, I’m not a doctor (thank goodness), but I felt like I must of just traumatized it some and it just wanted to lock up because of the unfamiliar movement and strenuous exercise.

I mean, that at least sounds right, right?

Either way, I tried jogging a bit, then some run/walk in between stretching some more. I didn’t want to look at my watch, because I knew I was probably killing my time. Which I was. My mile 9 was a brutal 16 minute mile. Any slower and I would have gotten swept off the course at a Disney race.

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At this moment I was facing a lot of thoughts. There was the logical thought — well, this isn’t your goal race, so why kill yourself over it. Then there was the thought of digressed progress from what I gained at Drop13. And, if that wasn’t bad, there’s the whole FatJosh mentality that makes unwarranted appearances at inopportune times. The voice that basically tries to remind me what I used to be and why I’ll never be a real runner.

I quickly dismissed FatJosh. And, I dwelled on my digressed progress probably too long. But, then I started looking at the positives of the situation. For one, I rocked in the canyon and I had good stamina throughout the canyon and the first couple miles out of the canyon. And, the more I continue to lose while on the Whole30 — the faster I’ll get. Plus, the stamina will be there.

My Grandma had a phrase she always said when things didn’t go the way she or anyone wanted them. It was simply, “well, you can’t win them all!” Those words really resonated with me during the race and gave me the perspective I needed. I knew I wasn’t going to hit my goal, but at this point I also knew I couldn’t go further without one either.

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So, I recalibrated my goal. And, it was simply to come in under three hours. This would give me reason to keep pushing, not at exhaustion, but still a push. And, keep me from just simply wanting to walk the rest of the way.

And, that’s what I did.

I also kept the people who I was running for in my mind. All the ones who fought or are fighting cancer. I knew I couldn’t give up and just walk the rest of the way. Especially during this race. They didn’t have an option to fight or not — and neither should I. It was a pretty emotional last 3-4 miles for me — not so much the pain of the knee, but thinking about those who’ve passed on.

I could almost imagine what my grandparents, many aunts and uncles would think about my running. I know they’d be proud of me. My Grandma and Aunt Diane before they passed away told me that nearly daily, especially after showing them my latest medal. I could almost imagine them sitting on the side of the road sitting in their lawn chairs cheering me on while my Grandpa took countless pictures. I know that sounds WAY cheesy, but it really kept that fire going to get me to the finish line.

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I finally reached the finish line at 2:53:56 — about six minutes from my revised goal. It wasn’t what I wanted when I started the race. But, considering the circumstances I was happy to meet that new goal and to just cross the finish line. It was a rough race.

After the race I wandered around a bit and watered up before finding my friends Robert and Marisa near the food. I just kinda collapsed there, stretched out my legs and just stayed there — for like an hour. I was afraid to get up and cramp half way to my car, especially considering if I had to sit down, because my car was in a dirt parking lot.

But, I was just relieved to be done and after downing a bunch of bananas and enjoying the time with a number of friends I eventually made it to my car — where I sat for about 45 minutes more before eventually leaving. I’m like sloth in that regard. I’m hardly ever in a rush, especially after a race.

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Looking back at the race, I am proud of myself for not giving up and continuing to push myself despite the situation. I think if I didn’t go out too strong I might have been fine — even with tripping. I think part of the reason why I tripped so awkwardly was because my legs were feeling heavy from fatigue?

If I hadn’t pushed myself too much I am sure I would have been fine or had a quicker recovery on the course. I really let the excitement of the canyon get to me. I should have ran smarter and more within my abilities. Not saying I shouldn’t have pushed myself, but I really should have had some restraint.

And, I think that’s where knowing where you’ve been to now gets me. Because I know I can run faster. And, you can’t run faster without running faster, right? I need to work on pacing myself not just during a race, but from race goal to race goal. That’s why I am not going to push myself too hard next week or during the Midnight Run in a couple weeks. But, I’m circling the DesNews Half for my next goal race to make a push towards my time goal of 2:20 in September.

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Anyways, a lot of lessons learned from this race. But, more so a lot of emotions remembering loved ones who’ve been affected by cancer, especially the ones that passed on. And, the survivors in my life — my Mom, Dith, Amy and the countless others.

Cancer Sucks. Running is Awesome. That’s all you need to know!


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It might be the Fourth of July weekend coming up — but, I’m still finding some time to run! Normally aren’t many races over the holiday weekend — well, I should say anything longer than a 5K or 10K. But, Extra Mile Racing puts on a half marathon down in South Jordan called the 13 Miles of Freedom.

It was cancelled last year — so this year is technically its’ inaugural run. I wanted to run this last year and I am glad I’ll be able to run it this year. I have no doubt it will be a fun race.

I don’t really have a goal time for this race. I’m just planning on running it for the miles. I may hangout in the back or just leisurely run it. So, since I am doing that I am planning on a couple good strong runs during the week of between 3-5 miles. Do a little speed work since I am in marathon/ultra training now.

But, my next goal race is DesNews — that I want to do well at and have my sights on for a new year best time. Hopefully even sub-2:30. But, I won’t go into that much more, we’ve got about a month until the race and I am sure I’ll blog about that much, much more as we get closer to it.


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If you haven’t caught the new AIIA episode yet — it’s a must! A great, great episode with Coach Blu and Athlete Jeff Smith. I’ve really been impressed with the AIIA episodes, the stories and narratives being shared are EXTREMELY powerful. Beautifully powerful.

There will be a Runcast episode coming out this Friday. It’s been about a month since our last episode. It’ll be a good one. Also, next Sunday, I’ll be a guest on The Park Hoppers talking about Disneyland and some of my experiences running the Disney races around the park. It’ll be a fun episode I’m sure! I mean — we’re talking about DISNEYLAND!

Anyways, catch the latest AIIA episode here …


There are many reasons why I run — the joy, thrill and personal competition is something I love. I love the friendships I’ve made over the years and the people I’ve met. But, running for someone close to your heart, deepens those reasons. It’s hard to put into words. But, it gives those miles extra purpose and meaning. You’re not just running by yourself, but with them as well. Even if they aren’t physically there. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer in early 2012 — I ran for her. My year of running was focused on her. I wore pink shoes and accessories throughout the year. It was therapeutic for both me and even my mother. She showed me what it meant to be a fighter. Her chemotherapy was in the middle of training for my first marathon. When I wanted quit or stop I simply thought of her and how she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t quit. Well, she could. But, she chose to fight. That example gave me courage to keep going. Tomorrow as I run the AF Canyon Race Against Cancer I’m running for my Mom. But, I’m also running for those who are fighting, have fought and will fight this ugly disease. My grandpa, my Aunt Mary, my Uncle George, my dear friend Dith (who will be RUNNING the race with us!), my other friends Marie, Nathan and Emily. Cancer sucks. But, they’ll always have my heart. Now … GO FIGHT! RUN! #afcanyonhalf #race123 #running @afcanyonrun @joshruns180 @josherwalla

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138.45 miles


121.2 miles


774.3 miles


1033.95 miles


1633.05 miles

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