For the second weekend in a row since my return to the states from my tour of Central America I was invited to participate in an “ultra race” which felt more like an awesome weekends with friends. The travel and stress of racing in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Mexico this winter had tired me out a bit and these “social races” were exactly what I need to help me get ready for my Spring racing schedule which starts with The Fort Clinch 100 on Amelia Island off the Atlantic Coast of Florida.
After last weeks’ win at The Old Man 51K in North Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountain Range to Celebrate Michael Miller’s 51st Birthday I took on a heavy week of training running most of the miles with my Arizona running buddies.
Ken and Stephanie started Beyond Limits Running and BLU, Beyond Limits Ultra, would be there debut as ace directors. Stephanie is a double organ transplant recipient who runs ultras now. I was immediately excited about the chance to travel to California for the weekend and run a race that the Coury Brothers of Aravaipa Running were helping time and webcast. The Friday afternoon before the race after we were all set up we went for a trail run on some hilly old dirt mine roads and soft single-track. When Ken informed me that he had secured a beer sponsor I committed to “the 50.” Which, 50 would be a day of decision? Based on the number of Mexican beer I tasted the night before the race 50K was looking more likely 🙂
Ken is the CEO for the Vegas Boys and Girls Club and thanks to generous donations we would be able to hold BLU on the grounds of the Pathfinder Ranch, a children’s summer camp in the San Bernardino National Forest outside of Idyllwild, California. My good friend and Javelina Course Record Pacer Anthony Culpepper was down from Silverton so this race had all the right factors for a low key fun weekend as he decided over a few beers to “race and win” the hundred. With my first race of the spring two weeks out and Mike Morton recommitting to race me I decided that I would use BLU as my last long training run. I toyed with the idea of 50 miles at Culpepper’s projected 100 mile race pace, but when another Anthony from the UK towed the line of the 50 mile race I thought it would be fun to run a few miles with a fast “ultra newbie” so we took out the pace faster than I had anticipated running. Anthony is an ordained minister from the UK visiting California with his son. His excitement was contagious and we had fun running easy sub 7’s on the loop course. After an hour or so I decided that since I was already running this fast I might as well pick up the pace, have a little fun, and get some speed work in. U.K. Anthony held back and soon I was running sub 6’s and eventually lapped him around the marathon mark. He was struggling, but his son was doing a great job crewing him and he was determined to finish when I offered him the 50K win. 100 Mile Champion Anthony Culpepper would eventually pass UK Anthony and be the first to the 50 Mile Distance.
I was sharing crew with 100 Mile Champion Anthony Culpepper who was cruising right along. Sabrina and Seth Redden are incredible parents. They have five amazing kids, the two oldest of which would go on to PR in the 24 hour race with over a 50K each! (pictured with me below with our sideway ball caps, Ultimate Direction water bottles, and BLU frog t-shirts!) They filled my bottles a couple times with “whatever” as I cruised past. Based on my 2:50ish marathon split I decided that I should probably limit myself to the 50K and I really wanted to have fresh legs so I could go out and run the hilly soft trails with Seth and Sabrina that evening and the next morning. The RD, Ken, gave me the thumbs up, so after an easy 5 mile recovery cool down I took the colorful 50K frog (pictured above).
The course is incredible for first time ultra runners! The support is amazing! I didn’t care for the two small out and back sections that required hairpin 360 degree turns. Most of the surface was dirt road and there was a small ¼ mile loop around a lake. The course was flat, but had some undulation which the runners talking the longer ultras might say were gigantic hills after 24 hours on their feet. The “Beyond” aspect of BLU included a victory/ cool down lake loop after your race in exchange for a sticker with your extra distance. 51.35K for me (picture above) I did two! One with the 50K female champion Crista Rosten and one with the overall marathon champion who chicked all the men even her husband! Great food, cold beer, and very thoughtful awards, were just some of the fringe benefits that Beyond Limits Running put into this event.
Lodging was fun in that we got to sleep in cabins on bunk beds for the weekend. Friday night Jordan Romero shared the story of his childhood mountaineering with us over an old fashion pasta feast. Saturday night we roasted smores around a roaring camp fire. The 100 Mile course was open for 32 hours and it was really neat to get to cheer in the back of the back runners, many of who were buckling for the first time, Sunday before we cleaned up and headed back to Arizona!
Ultras like BLU are why I crossed over into this sport and I am going to make sure to include more of them into my schedule even as I am blessed to have the chance to race now around the world. Small races keep me grounded and remind me that I started this sport because of the people and places, not just the competition and challenge. I am incredibly lucky that my hard work has paid off to give me these opportunities to inspire others and I look forward to keeping this blog updated for all of you to enjoy.
When I started to get fast back in 2009 Eric Clifton offered me advice that helped me achieve things I never thought possible. It was an honor to share the course with Eric at BLU Saturday. He is a class act like so many of the other veterans in our sport and his words of wisdom to me continue to this day. When I passed him once and asked him how he was feeling Saturday he shared: “I have hurt worst, and I am going to hurt worst. I hurt now, but we keep running.” Pain is temporary, but pride is forever.
Many of you know my past pain; this week was the 10th anniversary that my fiancée’s breast cancer metastasized to her brain and lungs. It hurt bad a decade ago when she lost her battle and was taken up to be an angel in heaven. Running saved me from the loss I had to endure at 25. I am so grateful to have a chance now to share my stories with you. Thank you to everyone that is making my running adventures possible, especially GENr8 Vitargo for my fuel and Spira for my footware! Run Strong!