Tag: ultra marathon

It’s time to bet big … on myself

“I don’t like to gamble, but if there’s one thing I’m willing to bet on, it’s myself.”

Beyoncé

When I started running, I had no idea where I was going. I started because I wanted to lose weight and I knew it would help me in that goal. But, beyond that, I had no idea where it was taking me?

Less than a year into my weight-loss journey my trainer, Kevin, challenged me to run a 5K in the midst of a plateau. He gave it to me as a challenge to work towards. So, I put in the work and ran my first 5K. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fast. But, I did it.

But, then something happened. I looked at my results and said — “I can do better.” So, I set out to train for another 5K. One that I could run that would be faster and much, much prettier. And, I did.

So, I just kept running trying to improve. This lead not just in the desire to run faster, but longer. Soon, I had my eye on a 10K which naturally lead to a half marathon.

Training for my first half marathon — I thought THIS would be it. This is the crowning achievement of my running career. The thought of running any further — especially a marathon — was unfathomable. I wasn’t a REAL runner, so I couldn’t possibly do that.

Well, after I ran my first half marathon in July 2011, I ran another and another and another. I got faster and actually enjoyed running 13.1 miles — then I started entertaining the thought of doubling that mileage.

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And, before I knew it I was registered for a marathon. A FREAKING MARATHON! That race distance that only REAL runners run.

Once again, I thought this would be my crowning achievement in running. When I crossed the finish line I could cross off the accomplishment on my bucket list and go back running half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks. But, then something happened — I signed up for more marathons. And, before I knew it, I had run a total of three marathons by the end of the year.

By this time I had a goal to reach 180 races by age 40. So, I kept training and running. Along the way, not only did I enjoy the accomplishment of racing, but I made countless friends and created many enduring friendships. Running was changing my life in nearly every faucet of my life.

But, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. It’s been quite tough at times, actually. Whether it was dealing with my Mom’s breast cancer, the death of close family members or battling my own health issues — the common denominator has always been — running.

Running wasn’t a way to escape reality, but a time I could deal with reality. Running gave me time to process the challenges. It gave me moments of reflection, motivation and inspiration. It was leading me where I wanted to go.

Nearly three years ago I started having problems with my thyroid once again. The health issues took me through a roller coaster of emotions. It was frustration being as active as I was — and feeling fatigued and slower. Not only that but I was slowly gaining weight after a years of maintenance.

But, I didn’t let (or want) those issues to stop me. They couldn’t stop me. I had a goal at hand. Plus, I knew if I stopped I would signaling the white flag of defeat — which I could never do.

So, I just kept running.

I was much slower. And, it took a harder toll on my body, especially in regards to my stamina. But, I was now one of the last runners to finish, but I kept going.

Around this time I looked for ways to keep me motivated. I knew just running wasn’t enough. I had to do something new — something that scare and motivate me all in one.

And, since I knew I wasn’t getting faster, I started looking at longer distances — ultra races. I knew a number of ultra runners who spent their weekends in Utah’s backyard and it always appealed to me. But, running anything longer than a marathon didn’t.

That lack of appeal eventually subsided and I found myself registered and committed to running a 50K. So, despite everything going on with my health — I trained for the 50K around a schedule of marathons and long runs. It wasn’t easy, but I did what I needed to do to prepare myself for the race.

When race day came I was lucky enough to run with some great friends that helped me get through those 30-something miles on Antelope Island. The last half of the race was spent trying to meet cut-off times, dodging stubborn bison and battling the dark after my headlamp died.

But, I made it. And, I earned the title of ultra runner.

The accomplishment felt like crowning accomplishment of my running journey. After spending over 10 hours running 30 miles of dirt trails — I couldn’t think of any reason why any sane person would do anything longer.

Then I remembered — I wasn’t sane.

Within a few months I got talked into running a 50 miler. I wish I could say it took a lot of convincing, but it didn’t. It was the first time I formally met Blu Robinson and Jed Jensen from Addict II Athlete and they casually talked about the 50 miler like a novice runner would about a 5K.

And, like any long distance race I’ve run, I found myself registered and committed to running the Pony Express Trail 50 Miler. The biggest selling point was that each runner was required to be assisted throughout the race. Meaning, I had a car stalking me — stocked full of fuel, water and food throughout the whole race. This basically translated to me that I wouldn’t die.

My training for the 50 miler was no joke. It was tough. I did a number of 20 milers, including one on a treadmill in the middle of the night. Not to mention a number of marathons specifically laid out to help prepare me for my 50 miler.

Once race day came I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I relied on my training and just focused on the goal at hand — getting to the finish line.

There were a lot of ups and downs — physically, emotionally and even spiritually. But, after nearly 17 and a half hours — I got to the finish line. I reached my goal — I ran a 50 mile race. I did something I felt at times nearly impossible, even just days before the race.

But, I made it.


“If you think you can — you can!”

Ronald Reagan

I really fell in love with the longer distances — for a number of reasons. Not only did I love the physical challenge, but I really learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about pain. Because that happens a lot during an ultra race.

I never cried as freely and openly as I did at mile 45 of my 50 miler. But, I learned how to process the pain I was feeling — and control it. Being able to manage and control pain is a remarkable feat and I believe a true test of one’s character. Ultra races were becoming great teachers to me.

Since that 50 miler, I have run a couple more ultra races. A couple weeks after that 50 miler I ran the Antelope Island 50K once again (cutting off nearly an hour on my time — mind you!), in February I ran 40 miles in 12 hours at the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival in Las Vegas and then there was my ill-fated Salt Flats 50K that I DNF’d last weekend. But, if I didn’t fall ill with the flu I would have tackled that beast!

My favorite ultra race so far has been the Jackpot Running Festival, I like the idea of a timed race on a looped course with the goal to see how many laps you can do within that time. Not only do you get an aid station every two miles or so, but you’re literally competing with no one else — but, yourself.

Jackpot has a number of timed races — a 6, 12, 24 and 48 hour race. They also had a 100 miler, marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K, but most of the runners did one of the four timed courses. The winner of the 48 hour race managed over 210 miles.

Yeah, you read that right.

In fact there were nearly 30 runners who ran over 100 miles, including six runners who ran over 150 miles. Mind boggling numbers if you ask me.

I read all of these results as my legs were still recovering from my 40 mile run — and I couldn’t shake the feeling that “I could do this” from my conscience. Every time I dismissed the thought — it just came back stronger. Even when I reminded myself of the pain I experienced at mile 45 of my 50 miler — the feeling remained.

So, I did the only logical thing that came to mind — I signed up for the 48 hour race in 2018.

Yup.

I signed up to run my first 100 mile race.

Typing this makes it feel very surreal to me, even a couple months after doing so. I am running a 100 miles. The thought makes me want to pee my pants out of sheer terror and excitement all in one emotion.

I’ve kept my registration relatively private since February. I’ve told a couple of close friends and family members. Heck, this is the first that my parents are hearing of this news. It’s just been a lot to process and this is a HUGE goal and milestone for me.

I still have my doubts about my ability. And, I am sure others do too. Heck, my parents definitely do, because their fear of my running is that one day my legs will fall off.

But, I have to at least try. I have too.

I have to try.

I have to try.

I have to try.

I’ve journied so far from my first 5K — heck, from the couch itself — that I can’t stop myself now without trying. To borrow a phrase from a favorite song of mine, “If you never try you’ll never know, just what you’re worth.” (Fix You, Coldplay).

When I stepped on the scale back in 2009 to start my weight-loss journey, I started the journey accepting failure — and success. I didn’t know where my decision that day would lead me. I accepted the consequences to my decision to LIVE my life. And, it’s lead me here.

I don’t see this decision any different. I am accepting the possibility of failure with the determination of success. I don’t know what lays ahead for me in the next nine months — but I’m going to find out. I’ve got a training plan in the works that I fill will give me the chance of success come February.

The motto for the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival is “BET BIG. RUN LONGER” — it’s something that’s on their shirts and medals. And, it’s something that I took to heart during my run this past February — especially since I signed up for the 48 hour race.

I feel like I am betting big with this goal. I am betting big on myself. Because, this is a gamble. There’s no guarantee of success, but there’s also no guarantee of failure either. So, I’ve got to place my bet.

But, unlike casino gambling, I can control more variables to my advantage. I can control my effort. I can control my training. I can control my preparations — both physically and mentally. And, I can control the odds come race day. But, with a goal like this, it’s going to take much more than this — in essence, I am not just betting big on myself — I’m going all in.

So, all in it is!

As a reminder of this goal and the needed commitment and dedication I’ve been running with a poker chip on me since I registered for the race. Every run — training and race — I run with it on me. I’ve tucked it in my pocket, but I really should make a necklace out of it to keep it on me better.

But, it’s just this little $100 souvenir poker chip that reminds me of not just the 100 mile goal at hand, but the bet I’ve placed upon myself. I might be a cheesy little emblem, but in the three months that I’ve been running with it — it’s been my reminder to keep going, keep pushing and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I don’t dare say that this will be my one and only 100 miler. I’ve learned from my past that’s just a temporary lie I tell myself on occasion. But, I don’t know? And, I’m not worried about. My focus is simply on the journey in front of me.

This is a journey of a thousand miles. I know it will get daunting at times and there will be doubts. There will always be doubts. But, I know if I just focus on that footstep in front of me, it will take closer to my goal and a place I once dreamt possible.

It’s just up to me to take that next step.


“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”

Stephen King

40 races to my goal …

This past weekend I ran my 140th race. It’s kind of hard to imagine I’ve run so many — it really seems like yesterday I just ran my 1st, 50th and 100th. All pretty significant milestones in my journey to 180 races before my 40th birthday.

Now that I am just 40 races from my goal I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Not that I am not enjoying this journey, but I am ready for some new adventures. I am ready for some running adventures of my own liking — more ultra runs, faster race times and location races.

I’ve planned to crank out a bunch of my races this year so that I can run my 180th race at next year’s Handcart Days Half Marathon — where my 1st and 100th race occurred. It just seems fitting to end my goal where it started.

I still have a number of goals I want to reach after my 180 is done and that’s why I am eager to finish by next July. I want to run less races and more trails, I want to focus on speed work for the races I do run and I want to fall in love with running again and again. I want new challenges and triumphs.

Now all of that sounds like a postcard, but I am excited for the next chapter. But, I am still focusing on the task at hand. My next 40 races. I’ve mapped out most of them from here until my 180th. I am pretty set for this year — except for November (there is a chance I am traveling to Greece to run the Athens Marathon) — which will be figured out within the next couple of weeks.

My race schedule for 2018 is shaping up as well. Well, up to the Handcart Days Half. I am not sure what I will be running after that race. And, I am not too concerned about it at this point.

But, here is what my race schedule should look like (barring any race date changes for 2018) …

The Jackpot Game Plan …

For most people who read the headline above would think … oh, Josh is a gambler. He’s got a problem. His jackpot strategy probably involves sitting hours on end at a slot machine until he wins something — or better yet lurks the slot machines waiting for people to leave to only swoop in and play that machine until be wins.

Needless to say, this is NOT that post. And, I may or may not use that latter strategy while in Vegas. It’s worked for me and I’ve come away $5 richer because of it.

But, I am talking specifically about the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival happening next weekend in sunny (but, I think it is suppose to be rainy?! BOOOOOO) Las Vegas. I will running with my friend Jill along with some St. George friends that are making the hour and a half trip for the race. I am really, really, really looking forward to the adventure.

This will be my third ultra — and third in the past 15 months or so. I won’t lie — I’m kinda falling for the longer distances. My favorite distance will always be the half marathon, but I love the challenges of the longer distances. They’re a different beast. And, they challenge me in completely different ways than any half marathon I’ve run.

Both Jill and I are signed up for the 12 hour race for the weekend’s festival — meaning, we have 12 hours to run as many loops of the 2.38 mile loop around Railroad Lake in Cornerstone Park we want. Sounds fairly simple, no?

Our minimum goal is to get that ultra distance completed — which should be pretty “easy” to do in the 12 hours. But, we both have differing goals. I really want to crank out anywhere between 35-40 miles. Ideally, 40 miles would be AWESOME. But, I’m not sure how realistic that is? So, I am pushing myself to do at least 35 miles.

But, that 40 … that’s what I really want.

I feel like it’s possible for a couple reasons. It’s hard to judge that off of my last ultras, because none of them were looped courses. I feel like looped courses would be easier, because the terrain is fairly flat, I have an aid station every 2.38 miles and I’m not going to get eaten my bears or gored by buffalo.

Because of the looped course, I don’t have to lug my supplies around with me. Which is a BIG plus. This was what I loved about my 50 miler. I can not only bring my own food, but the race itself has some GREAT food available as well. Granted I’ll have to keep all things gluten and dairy free — so that could be a challenge. But, I am not TOO worried about it — I will probably bring my own gluten-free tortillas and bread (in case I need it) along with sweet potatoes and all that jazz.

And, there will be Mountain Dew.

As I did in my last 50K I broke my four year soda celibacy pledge. But, luckily, still kept it out of my daily life. So, the only time I’m drinking it is during my ultra races and distance runs. It really is great fuel — the sugar, caffeine and calories saved my life in November. My body may be going into full cravings as I type all of this.

See why I’ve sworn off soda?

The running goal is simple — start off slow. I am planning on doing my first two laps or so at a nice walking clip. Not too leisurely, but at a mall walking speed that would make my Grandma proud. I know I’ll need to save my energy levels for the latter part of the race, especially when I am between miles 35-40.

I want to finish off strong and even if I am past 40 miles after the first 10-11 hours, I want to finish those last 1-2 hours off strong. I want to finish the race with Jell-O legs. Well, okay, not Jell-O legs — because I don’t want to get around Vegas in a jazzy, but I want to FEEL and BE spent. I want to KNOW that I gave it my full effort.

And, at a distance of 35-40 miles, I am sure I will go away with that feeling. At least I sure hope so?

But, like the last couple ultras I’ve done. I’m not nervous for this adventure. I am more so anxious to just do it. There really is something about being IN the moment during an ultra. The fatigue — both mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually really opens you up. It makes you vulnerable. And, it teaches you.

That is what I am looking forward to the most. And, that’s one of the many reasons why I love these longer distances. I’m not going to win the race — far from it. But, I’m going enjoy the ride and get the most out of it that I can.

VEGAS OR BUST, BABY!


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Running miles and miles and miles while going nowhere fast …

Aw, treadmill running. I hate it. But, you know what? I also kind of love it. But, I hate it. Well, to be honest, I hate that I love it. Because I hate the treadmill.

[I’ll let you wrap your mind around that last paragraph for a second].

I guess what I am trying to say is this — under any other circumstances, I wouldn’t choose to run on the treadmill. But, during the winter when it’s snowing, freezing and being all together miserable — I’m inside running. Whether that’s on a treadmill or on an indoor track. More often than not — it’s the treadmill.

Which, honestly, I am not totally against. How and why? Well, it’s great mental training. I mean, awesome mental training. Last summer when I was training for my 50 miler I ran one of my 20 milers on the treadmill — in the middle of the night. Yeah, you read that right.

The thought was that if I could run 20 miles on the treadmill at a time where all I wanted to do was sleep — then I could run a 50 miler under any other circumstance. And, I guess I proved that theory correct, because I ran that 50 miler despite my circumstances in the last five miles or so.

So, since I am training for the 12 hour run at the Jackpot Running Festival over President’s Day weekend — running treadmill miles help prepare me for 12 hours of 2.3 miles of a looped course. At, least that’s the thought.

I haven’t ran many looped races other than the Revolution Run and Cory Reese’s Bakers Dozen Half Marathon. And, to be honest with you — it’s almost an exclusive trail running thing. Which isn’t bad. But, you see it with a few races in southern Utah within the state — but hardly (if any) up here in the SLC area.

And, there’s probably reasons for that — mainly because we have AWESOME wilderness and trails around the state with plenty of distance to get a 30-50 mile race in. So, these 6, 12 and 24 hour races are fairly non-existent here in Utah — which is kind of a bummer, because I actually like the idea of seeing how many miles I can get within a certain time limit.

But, anyways — enough about that.

I am running Jackpot with Jill for her first ultra and I really couldn’t be more excited. I am excited to he a part of this moment. It was fun being there in 2014 for her first marathon and it will be equally, if not more, fun to be a part of her first ultra.

Having a goal race of this magnitude during the winter months is something I am glad I have. Because, it helps keep me focused. Winter months are hard on me — between the lack of outside running, Seasonal Affective Disorder, short days and — well — the stupid snow — it’s hard to stay motivated.

This past week was tough on me, not being able to get to my 5:30am gym class because of the snow (it took me 30-45 minutes to dig out on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday). And, while I got my miles in and a few home workouts (including the time shoveling) — it just isn’t the same as working out at the gym.

But, after running 15 miles on the treadmill on Saturday any thought of feeling unproductive were swept away. That was tough. Thankfully, I had some good shows DVR’d otherwise I probably would have been a mess by mile 5.

Throughout my run I kept reminding myself that these are “mental miles” and that I need to focus on that rather than speed. As much as I try to focus on “time on my feet” and “mental miles” … I always go back to speed (and the lack thereof). But, speed isn’t my goal right now. It’s about stamina and endurance. It’s about finishing what I started — and just doing it.

That’s the focus.

Plus, I’ve got quite a few races between now and June. I have 19 races before July 1st — including two marathons and a 50K. The goal is to improve my times, but finish them. Especially my longer distance races. Then from July to September the focus is increasing those times with more speed training so I can perform well at the Revel Big Cottonwood Half.

At least that’s goal at the moment.

There’s a part of me that still wants to run the marathon, but I haven’t run the new half marathon course yet — and I want to fly down the canyon because of how fast it looks. Especially since I won’t be running the Nebo Half again this year.

Welp, I am one week closer to Jackpot. And, 15 miles closer as well.

Next week I am planning on another 15-18 miles before tapering some before the February 18th race.

I can’t be anymore excited!

VEGAS OR BUST, BABY!


This kid needed no coaching in taking a picture. He's a natural. #chubbingtatum

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He's doing SnapChat. He's six, he's too young for that, right? #snapchatbabies

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For not having kids, I sure have quite a distorted sense of Dad Humor. #ineedalife

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My niece asked me to draw an eagle, so I gave her a lesson in American history. #muricaaaaa

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RUNNING MILES

63.5 miles

RACE MILES

13.1 miles

WALKING MILES

71.71 miles

TOTAL MILES TO DATE

148.31 miles


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How Joshua is getting his groove back …

First off, I’m no Stella. Thank goodness. I’d make a horrible woman. But, that’s a post for another day. But, after a month from my last race — it’s time to get my groove back.

As I have posted before — I took a couple of weeks off from running. Justifiably so. I ran a lot of miles between mid-August to early November. A couple of 20 milers, a handful of half marathons, three marathons, a 50 miler and then my 50K — my last race.

I was burnt out. I was tired. I was sick of running (GASP! — hey, I’ll admit it when it happens). So I took some time off. Focused on weight and strength training and didn’t worry about my mileage. At all. I was a nice running sabbatical.

But, after Thanksgiving and a stupid cold — I’m ready to get my groove back. I’m ready to get into a stricter routine than what I’ve been holding myself to last month (or not holding myself to). I’m really getting excited about my upcoming running year and as much as I could justify waiting to get the groove back after the first of the year — I’m refusing to play that game.

So the groove comes back now.

The groove is coming back now for a number of reasons. One, because now is the best time to start any new adventure/goal/plan. And, two, I’ve got nothing better to do with my life.

Okay, I lied about that last one. I’ve got plenty to do this month — and that’s why I’ve got to keep myself in line and disciplined. It’s so easy to let yourself go — with exercise, diet and motivation. We’ve all been there.

To help with that a friend of mine and I are working on keeping each other on track. We’re committing to at least two miles on the treadmill and then a new exercise to do each day.

For me personally, besides holding myself to that standard with my friend, I am planning on making the goal of walking on the treadmill any time I’m watching TV. I’m doing this to stay active, but it’s also great ultra training. Great, great, great ultra training — it’s time on my feet.

And, I’ll be doing a few 50Ks earlier in the year so I’ll need that time and training. Nothing prepares you for hours upon hours of endless ultrarunning like hours upon hours of endless treadmill running. I’ll be going to more detail about my training plan later this month — but, I’m not an outside runner during the week (mainly because I’m home only when it’s dark) so I have to rely on the treadmill for my miles.

But, I feel motivated. I feel excited. I am ready to get my groove back. To work on my mojo and get fitter than I was last year so my body can build the stamina it needs to make 2017 a great year.

Go, fight, win!

RACE #136: Antelope Island Classic 50K

Tough things are tough. But, man, can tough things be more than rewarding. That’s kind of how I feel right now. That’s kind of how I felt going into this race. I knew this was going to be tough, I knew it was going to suck at points, but I knew that in the end I would come away with that rewarding feeling that I did something awesome.

I wasn’t planning on running the 50K. In fact, when I signed up I did so for the half marathon THINKING this would be a great way to wind down my racing season, especially two weeks after running the Pony Express 50.

But, then Pony happened aaaaaaand I got the bug. Not to mention my recovery from the Pony 50 was better than expected. My legs recovered faster than I expected and looking at the trail half marathon happening this weekend — I KNEW I could do the 50K. I just didn’t know if I wanted to do the 50K, I mean two weeks after a 50 miler is kinda crazy to do a 50K?!

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Then again — what’s an adventure without those moments of crazy? I tried to temper that itch, but after a couple of days I contacted the race director, Jim Skaggs, and asked him if I could up my registration from the half to the 50K. He more than obliged and before I knew it — I was signed up for the 50K.

The reason why I decided to do the 50K was kind of two fold — one, I knew I could do it, because I ran this last year and, two, I wanted some redemption out on this course. Last year I ran this 30-35lbs. heavier and it took a toll on me. The hills between miles 11-14 were brutal on my body and I flirted with cutoff time after cutoff time. So this year I just simply wanted to do better than laster — I wanted to feel and do better than 2015.

And, for the most part — I did.

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The night before the race I laid everything out on the couch that I THOUGHT that I needed. And, compared to last year I really cut down on what I took with me. I didn’t take my hiking pack with me, just my small back pack. This year I packed with some salt and vinegar potatoes, candy, back up water and applesauce to name a few compared to the change of clothes, shoes and 2-3 bottled water I had last year.

Yeah, I was a TOTAL rookie last year. Bad decisions.

I eagerly hopped into bed and was planning on getting up around 4-4:30am so I could be in my car and at the Island by around 6:30-7am for the 8am start time. But, I woke up at 3am and just stayed up. I wasn’t nervous, just more excited than anything, because besides being another ultra this would be my last true race of the year. More on that below.

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So I just kind of laid in bed for a while reading, checking my Facebook and mentally preparing for the day. I have to say it was kind of nice not feeling stressed or rushed. I just took my time and moseyed on over to Antelope Island to pick up my bib and make my way to the starting line.

Honestly, I could have probably showed up at 7am and been fine. Because I ended up sitting in my car for about an hour waiting for the start. But, it was kind of nice being there earlier than most everyone else because I got first pick of the port-a-potties at the starting line. These were the only port-a-potties along the course — so I made sure to take advantage of them before I starting running.

Before starting I did manage to get out of the car for the prerace instructions and stand at the fire pit with a number of friends who were out there to either race or volunteer. This has always been my favorite part of running. I don’t usually get to see many friends out there (because they’re usually faster than me) so the pre and post-race festivities are usually my favorite. But, it was great to see a few faces I haven’t seen in awhile.

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My strategy for the race was rather simple and it helped having ran the course before. I knew there’d be quite a bit of climbing for the first 14-15 miles of the race so I wanted converse my energy as best as I could the those first couple of miles. I wanted to have enough energy around miles 5-6 and 11-14 where the biggest climbs on the course are located. So I started off slow and focused on a brisk walk while using with my walking rods.

It really was a good strategy because I knew if I didn’t pace myself I would die on those climbs. And, the rods helped because they kept me just above a dead man’s march. This was my first time using the rods and they made a HUGE difference. As long as I was focusing on a rhythm it was like I had a pacer out there keeping me on track. I don’t think I can ever do trails again without them.

At about mile 3-4 the last runner on the course caught up with me. And, of course, we became friends. I was happy for the company, especially know the hills in front of us. So we became instant friends for the next 10-12 miles.

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His name was Jeff and he was from California. This was his 200-something-th ultra and at nearly 70 years young he was still going (his friend out there and ahead of us was older). For the past several years he’s been working on running ultras in every state. He’s run ultras in all 50 states, but now he wants to run five ultras in every state — he’s probably 3/4 of the way done?

Either way — a VERY impressive resume. And, so for the most part I just listened to his stories. Stories about running ultras in Rhode Island, Tennessee, Hawaii and New Jersey. Stories of friends and how aging has impacted their running. And, of course the granddaddy of them all the Western States 100.

We even touched on art and books and just life. It was a great way to pass the time and not focus on the stupid hills ahead of us. I was very appreciative of the company. Distraction is the great pain reliever in running.

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At mile 13-ish I knew we were going to be hitting the hill that nearly killed me last year. The only way to explain this hill is that it’s pure hell. It sucks. It’s miserable. But, there’s only one way to conquer it and that’s by doing.

Last year I would about 5-10 steps before stopping. Not to mention that, but every 30-40 steps I’d sit down and figure out a new way to die so I didn’t have to climb further. It was miserable. Miserable, miserable, miserable. Even Tim Gill who was running with me had the same struggles up that blasted hill.

But, this year I just wanted to do better than last year. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I wasn’t planning on stopping every 5-10 steps. I just wanted to push myself further and take less breaks. So that was the gameplan — as simple and unpremeditated as it was.

A photo posted by Joshua Hansen (@fight4phat) on

I was still running with Jeff at this point, but at the base of the hill as we started the climb I told him I would see him at the top if he didn’t keep pace with me. I just had to go my pace if I was going to conquer the hill I’ve dubbed, “Stupid Steep Hill.” So I tapped into my inner mountain goat and inched up the hill with my walking rods in hand.

I was feeling pretty good when I got half way up the hill. Having probably overexerted myself a bit too much (I only stopped once at that point) I felt a little faint — so I sat down on the hill to eat some applesauce, a little water and a couple Swedish Fish. I needed some quick energy for the rest of the climb and I wasn’t about to pass out in my attempt.

Jeff was about 100 yards behind me as I took my break and informed me he was going to bow out at the aid station. I was bummed to hear that, but he was preparing for a 50 miler in a couple of weeks and he was feeling a cold coming on and didn’t want to risk it. I completely understood and for someone who’s ran over 200 ultras I’m sure this isn’t his first DNF. So I just kept moving forward — well, upward — on the hill.

A photo posted by Josher (@josherwalla) on

As much as that hill sucks — I kept reminding myself that I was much stronger than last year. And, that this wasn’t as hard as Mile 45 was during my 50 miler. I wouldn’t say this made the hill any easier physically, but being in tougher situations mentally does help make it easier to endure.

Before I knew it I had made it up that bleeping hill. I only stopped about three times — and by stop I mean hunched over to catch my breath — but, I felt great, especially knowing the rest of the course was much, much easier from this point on. No more up hill climbs!

Despite that sense of accomplishment I got to the aid station depleted. I was feeling pretty week and knew I needed to refuel. I wanted more liquid than food, but still helped myself to some salted potatoes and a banana. But, there at the aid station I saw staring at me — was a can of Mountain Dew.

A photo posted by Joshua Hansen (@fight4phat) on

Now, for those who know me — I haven’t had soda in nearly four years. I decided to cut it out to help with my running and weight-loss. And, it’s been a big difference. I don’t crave it like I used to, but there at mile 14 after that hill — I needed it. My body craved it.

And, I caved.

Do I feel bad about my moment of weakness? Um, kinda? But, not really. Because it was a total game changer for me — the sugar, sodium, caffeine and carbonation gave me new life. Sure it broke my streak, but it also saved my life — well, okay, run.

And, in the miles after I left the aid station I made the pact with myself that I would continue to not drink soda recreationally. But, during an ultra — totally acceptable. Not half marathons or marathons — just ultras. Because if I made the exception for those distances — I might as well just make Mountain Dew my official beverage of choice. But, ultras are different beasts and the soda made a big difference for me.

A photo posted by Josher (@josherwalla) on

After leaving the aid station I started the descendant down towards the ranch house. I love this part because it’s down hill, but after killing my quads climbing up the other side of the mountain the quads don’t want to give you free reign to cruise down the hill. Plus, the descendant it just slightly past comfortable. Which caused for a semi-fast slow run down the trail.

To my surprise Jeff was right behind me and caught up to me. Even though he had said he was bowing out, he decided to stay out there after talking to the sweepers and aid station. He told me he decided to keep going because he was sick of listening to his whining. I chuckled at his reasoning, because I can totally relate.

As much as I wanted to stay with Jeff and have some company I still felt the need to just keep going at my pace. Part of this desire was from the need to proof to myself that I could do better than last year, but also from the stronger desire that I just wanted to just simply be done. So I kept my pace.

A photo posted by Josher (@josherwalla) on

Once I got to the ranch house the course flattened out so I put away my walking rods and just ran. Well, shuffled. The legs were pretty shot.

But, I knew this was where the half marathon started so mentally I tried to create a new race in my mind. Meaning I tried to forget the previous 17-18 miles and just focus on the 13.1 mile ahead of me. It kinda worked. I still got reminders when I tried to push my legs further than they wanted to, but I just wanted to keep pushing myself as much as I could — because I wanted to do better than last year.

I got to the last two aid stations with about a half hour to give from last year’s time — which made me feel really encouraged. I fueled up with some sips of Mt. Dew, bananas and at Mile 19 some pretzels and M&M’s. I rarely touched much of the food I brought with me — which surprised me. I was bummed too, because I had some Gummy Peaches I wish I had had the stomach for — but, just didn’t.

A photo posted by Josher (@josherwalla) on

At the last aid station I came in right before Jeff — and at this point the sweepers caught up with me as well. We were the last two runners out there. But, at this point Jeff was really done and he ended up bowing out — leaving me out there as the last runner. Which I had no problem with — I just didn’t want to spend that much time with the sweepers.

The last seven miles were actually pretty relaxing. I was slowing down a bit so I took out my walking rods again to help pace me and just focused on the mile ahead of me. It was actually pretty peaceful and in those last few miles I found a good rhythm.

It wasn’t until about a mile and a half (or less) that the sweepers caught up with me. And, quite honestly, I probably would have kept going without them if it wasn’t for a buffalo standing along the trail ahead of me. These were the same sweepers that helped move buffalo standing on the trail so I just waited for them to do it again for me.

A photo posted by Josher (@josherwalla) on

Even with the buffalo moved I still sheepishly crept around it trying not to make sudden movements or looking threatening to it. I know I wasn’t looking threatening to it — but, buffalo can be jerks at times and I just wanted to be safer than sorry.

Once the buffalo wasn’t an issue I spent the last mile or so with the pacers. They had remembered me from the previous year and were astounded by my progress — I was much stronger and faster than last year. And, it was nice to have someone out there see that too.

When I got to the finish line I was first greeted by Robert Merriman who snapped a couple pictures of me. But, then as I crossed the finish line I got the treatment by not just strangers, but friends like the Veaters and Heather McFarland, as I finished. I couldn’t ask for better friends and a better running community to be a part of.

A photo posted by Josher (@josherwalla) on

After the race I grabbed my finisher’s mug and grabbed some buffalo stew along with some water and food to chow down before making the drive home. It was actually a pretty peaceful moment — the race crew left rather quickly including my friends leaving just me there as I ate my chili watching the sun set over the western end of the Great Salt Lake.

In that moment I just thanked God for allowing me that day — for the new friendships — for the obstacles — for the found strength — and of course the ability to do something I absolutely love to do.

While I have grown madly in love with the trails and ultra distances my body is also ready for a change of pace. Mainly, it’s ready for some rest. Especially when you consider that I’ve ran three marathons, a 50 miler and a 50K in the past two months.

So the next couple of months the focus is going to more on strength training and some cross training. I want to hit the weightroom and lower my mileage for a bit before getting back into racing at the start of the year.

But, you better believe me that I’ll be back on those trails next year. I’m already signed up for the Antelope Island Buffalo Run in March.

I wouldn’t miss it.


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So, as I mentioned above I am no longer running the Thankful 13 on Thanksgiving. Why? Well, I am actually going to be working it! I am the volunteer coordinator — for at least the Thankful 13 if not other Runtastic races. Sure I am bummed that I am not running the race, but it’ll be fun still being there and a part of the race.

Basically my job will be getting volunteers for the packet stuffing, packet pick up and race day jobs. It’s a big task, but one I am excited about. I’ve done volunteer coordinating before and know it’s no easy task.

Like I’ve told friends if you can volunteer a few hours on or around race day we’d love your help! You can sign up for specific jobs here. So please sign up if you can. Remember for every hour you volunteer you get 20% off a future race. Meaning five hours equals a FREE race!

So anyways, I flirted with the idea of signing up for the Bakers Dozen Half to replace Thankful on my schedule, but you know what? I’m not. I want the rest. Well, rest from running. My focus for the next couple of months is going to be strength and cross training. I’ll still run, but I’m back off the racing until the turn of the calendar. A decision I feel good about.

This makes my next race the New Year’s Run Resolution on New Year’s Eve at the Olympic Oval. I’m not sure if you count this as a race, because it’s more like a party, but it’ll be a fun way to kick off 2017 — with running and friends. And, not to mention a good way to kick off my marathon and ultra training.

But, yeah, a change of pace I’m excited about. So make sure to sign up to volunteer for the Thankful 13! We’d love your help!

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WE’RE BACK! After a couple months of life and “stuff” (mainly VERY busy schedules, etc., etc., etc.) — The Runcast is back! In this episode I sit down with Coach Blu from Team Addict to Athlete and talk about our Pony Express 50 miler. We talk about the ups and downs and how we got through it.

Hopefully we paint a picture of what it’s like to tackle a beast like this for newcomers to the ultra scene. It’s not easy, it’s tougher than tough — but, so rewarding at the same time.

Give this episode a listen and then make sure to come back next week as Coach interviews me on the AIIA Podcast …


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RUNNING MILES

253.55 miles

RACE MILES

400.05 miles

WALKING MILES

1275.09 miles

TOTAL MILES TO DATE

1928.69 miles

A photo posted by The Runcast (@theruncast) on

Goals for tomorrow’s 50K …

So as some of you may know — I’m running the Antelope Island Classic 50K tomorrow morning — well, okay, all day. Let’s be honest here, it’ll probably take me the full 10 hours like last year. But, that’s beside the point.

This is my third ultra in the past year. In fact this race was my first ultra marathon — unless you count the Utah Valley Marathon in 2014 where I got lost. But, again — I digress. And, after running my first 50 miler a couple weekends okay, I feel fairly versed in the ultrarunning universe (which should read — total rookie).

But, I know what to expect and what not to expect. Especially with this race. For one, it’ll be no walk in the park — though I’ll be mostly walking … in … a state park. And, these beasts are nothing like marathons. I mean what marathon gives you salted potatoes, potato chips, M&M’s and everything not found a whole food diet at every aid station? (this is why I love ultras … taps into my inner fat kid).

I was initially going to run the half marathon, but after my 50 miler and getting the itch for distance I decided to up my registration to the 50K. Having ran this course last year gave me the confidence to know that I could do it again. Being 25-30lbs. lighter also helps. But, just knowing the course and knowing where I can push or hold back helps a lot.

So here I am on the brink of running ultra #3 — and I can’t be any more excited about it.

Like my marathons, I don’t have a time goal for my ultras. Well, I guess I do — my time goal is to finish and not be swept off the course. I came close last year on this course. But, that didn’t defer me from doing this again — because as I mentioned before, knowing the course and being lighter than last year helps.

But, I do goals for my race tomorrow and when I cross the finish line tomorrow afternoon I want to be able to look back and not only be satisfied with another ultra finish, but knowing that I met these goals as well …

Don’t Poop My Pants

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You’re probably laughing at this being on my list, but really, honestly, no joking — this is my goal for any run. Not just race, but run. The worst thing I can think happening to myself out on a run is pooping my pants. Especially, if I couldn’t tell I had, but everyone else around me could. And, I’d like to think that I am not the only runner who has this worry and goal.

When I ran my 50 miler a couple weeks ago this was a BIG worry for me. Forget about the miles of death I experienced late in my race, I was more worried about my bathroom situation, because the only port-a-potties were 50 miles apart. Yep — at the starting and finish line.

And, of course I had to use it about four miles into my race. Luckily for me it was still dark so I walked far out into the desert pretending to admire the scenery before doing my morning squats before burying it like a cat in a litterbox. Luckily, all went well and that was the only time I had to “take care of business” because it was a big deal for me.

Yet, that’s really the only time I’ve gone outside of port-a-potty during the middle of a run. And, with me running more trails I know it won’t be the last. But, it still worries the heck out of me. The whole idea of using it roadside with the full moon out worries me. But, there’s no modesty in ultrarunning and I have to remember that.

So, yeah, don’t poop my pants.

Don’t Flirt with Cut-off Times

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Last year when I ran this race with Tim we came UBER close to 2 of the 3 cutoff times. We were slowed down a bit by an injury which made us a bit slower. To make sure we got the last cutoff we had to book it the 2-3 miles between the two aid-stations. It wasn’t fun at mile 23-25 after having ran all day.

So, my goal is to not even flirt with them this year. I am not TOO worried about getting as close as last year, but I want to stay mindful of them — especially as I am “running” the hills between miles 11-14. That will be my slowest miles for sure.

But, the plan is once I get to the mile 14 aid station I’ll pick up the pace as I descend down the mountain and towards the ranch. That stretch we walked and killed our time. That should put me in a good position to cut off a hour or so from last year’s time.

But, just being used to the course and being lighter than last year will help. I just don’t want the time to have such a daunting presence as it was last year. I want to enjoy the scenery and time out on the trails.

Don’t Get Friendly with Earl

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The picture above is from a few years back at this race. And, if you’re wondering what that buffalo (nicknamed affectionately Earl) is doing — he is pinning a man (who got too close to Earl) against the fence. And, surprisingly, the man came away unscathed (except from probably his underwear).

Anyways — I’m kinda surprised I still picked to make this my first ultra after seeing this. Especially considering I have problems when I see lawn furniture that might look like deer. I have a slight fear of hooved animals — especially when it comes to deer, moose, elk and anything that pretends to be cuddly and lovable when it’s obvious it has alternative motives.

I haven’t had many encounters with buffalo — outside of Yellowstone from the safety of my car, but I’ve kinda clumped them into that same category. .I just don’t want to run into one unexpectedly — anywhere — whether it’s on this run or in life.

Last year I only had one run in with a buffalo that made me feel uncomfortable. It was in the last two miles of the race and this dang buffalo defiantly stood on the trail I had to pass. I stood there not knowing what to do and the buffalo stood there like a jerk knowing I didn’t know what to do.

Then a runner behind us starting flailing their hands and making a lot of noise — at first to my horror — but, then I saw the buffalo simply move on. He didn’t want any part of this runners mojo and he moved on. The runner explained to Tim and I that they’re like cattle and as long as you aren’t threatening them and make noise they’ll move on.

Duly noted.

Now, does that make me a buffalo whisperer all of the sudden? Hell no. Am I still worried about buffalo? Hell yes. If I encounter a cranky buffalo during my race I’ll try that runner’s approach, but I am not sure how much confidence I have in it?

If it doesn’t budge I am not sure exactly what to do next? Do I ask it nicely to move? Do I put on some Celine Dion to get it to move on (I know that would work for me)?

The simple answer is probably finding a roundabout route. But, I’m also praying it never comes to that. I want to enjoy the buffalo — from a distance. And, that’s about it.

Make a new friend out on the trails — but, preferably not with Earl

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I hate to put this goal in the same boat as my goal of not pooping my pants, but this is another one of my ‘every run’ goals. I’m just a people person (if you couldn’t tell). I love meeting new people while out on my running adventures. This is one reason why I love pacing and sweeping — you never know who’re going to meet.

I know a few people running the 50K, but they’re pretty much faster than me — which is fine. I don’t hate them for that (I just hate them for getting to the buffalo chili before me). And, since I am doing this race solo — unlike last year, I’m sure what adventure is ahead of me?

I’m coming prepared to jam out by myself with my killer trail running soundtrack, but I’d much prefer not to use that for most of the race. I want to make some new friends, especially with back of the packers (my people). And, hopefully, when I make new friends tomorrow they’re also buffalo whisperers so I don’t have to do that myself.

Whatever the case is, I’d really love to make a new friend or two out thur on the trails. Trails are so much more fun when you’re out there with people you like.

Especially when they’re not afraid of hooved animals.

Have ULTRA amounts of FUN!

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No matter the race, distance or pace — my goal is to ALWAYS have the most amount of fun possible. I wouldn’t be running otherwise. Running has been a huge blessing in my life that has brought a lot of joy into — so whether I am out on the roads or trails — I’m going to have fun.

And, tomorrow is no different. I’m going to have a blast out there! I’m going to make new friends, see old friends, conquer hills and put my legs on cruise control enjoying the scenery. Is there anything else I can ask for to make it even more perfect? Not much.

I’m ready for this adventure and challenge ahead of me. I know it won’t be easy, but that’s why I love it. I love the challenge ahead of me and I can’t wait to see what lessons lay ahead. But, you better believe me — I’ll be striving for all of that while aiming to have the most amount of fun possible.

That’s the only way I know how to run.

So there it is, my goals for tomorrow’s race. As I stated above, I am excited for this race. I feel prepared. I feel ready. I feel eager. I just want to get out there and run.

People think I am crazy for doing this … and I won’t correct them, because there is degree of madness involved in ultrarunning. But, there is absolutely nothing better than just BEING in the moment and running something that is beyond comprehension to an older self.

5-6-7 years ago this would be unimaginable.

But, here I am.

And, I’m ready to run!

Come back on Sunday for my race pictures and then next Tuesday or Wednesday I’ll have a detailed race report.

A photo posted by The Runcast (@theruncast) on