Friday, December 21, 2012

Trail of the Week: China Wall

I do not recommend running with guys this fast... ouch!
This week's post is likely to make some people a bit angry, and that's fine, because the trail I'm posting is somewhat of a hidden gem in the Owyhees that quite a few people know about but seem to have a difficult time finding or figuring out a way to enjoy it.  The route I'm posting up is a very mellow (as much as possible in the Owyhees) 7.4 mile round trip loop to the amazing "China Wall" trail.  Some would prefer it be kept a secret, but I think spreading the word to get more trails and interest in the area would be beneficial and so here we are... To the Canyon and Back.

Go to the left of the pointy rock feature from the parking lot.
Getting the the China Wall is a bit tricky because there is no one trail that takes you right there from the main trail head at the Wilson Creek parking area.  There is quite a few trails that take you in that general direction, and it is easy to get off course and turned around if you are out there for the first time by yourself.  I recommend trying to find a buddy that can show you around if you can.  From Nampa, go south on HW 45 and turn west on HW 78.  Take a left on Wilson Creek Road and proceed south until you are about ready to enter the feedlot.  Just before the feedlot, veer right onto gravel and travel about 1 more mile to the main trail head parking lot where a couple of restrooms are available and a signboard has a map posted.  Upon my last check, there were many free copies of the are map available, but they are not of great detail so use caution to not get lost.

From the parking lot, head east toward the large rock formation.  I recommend that you stay just north of the  feature and follow trail W300.  This is a nice piece of trail with some undulations but is generally flatter than many of the other trails around the area.  W300 will dump you off onto Pigeon Road and you will drop down a small hill and follow the sandy road north.
The view from W300 to the north.

After gaining the small 4WD road you will notice a steep little run-up off to the right that becomes trail W310.  This is a common way to get over to the Reynolds Creek canyon where the China Wall is but I also liked staying on the road and running up and over the small but steep hills on the way there.  You can't really miss the entry into Reynolds Creek canyon and the trail (W600) is really the only way through the steep walled Reynolds area.  Once dropping into the canyon keep a watch out for wildlife high up in the rugged surroundings.  I've seen multiple bighorn sheep down in there and it is truly a sight to see.

From a run in March, looking up the canyon.
Running or biking along the trail at this point is technical and there is some minor exposure as you traverse the canyon on the built up trail surface (hence, the China Wall name).  You will be jumping over rocks and pushing through some minor brush, but all-in-all, it is a truly awesome trail.  At the end of the canyon you'll see a trail leading up to the right and over the rocky, rough, and steep canyon wall.  This exit is a tough little grunt and can be a bit of a hands on the knees pushing endeavor to get up unless you're like the two guys I was running with; in which case, you just slightly slow down and glide right up.

The "China Wall"

This picture is also from the run in March, but this is the way out of the canyon.
After getting up the canyon wall, you'll soon be on the same road you took around to get into the canyon, but you will be at the base of the main Wilson Peak land feature.  You'll take the road back down to the north and follow it until you reach the camp/parking/whatever little area where W400 goes off to the west.  Follow this uphill trail for about 2 miles and you'll soon be back at the trail head and you're car.  I've mapped this route out on Garmin Connect and you can easily combine this with the Wilson Creek and Bingo! loop I mapped two weeks ago.  Click on the links and plan your adventure.  Show me the Trails!

As always, if you take a trip on one of my suggested loops, please post comments and provide any feedback you may have about the usefulness of these trail of the week features.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Morning sky over Skyview... I was speechless.
It was hard to go to work on Monday morning.  Most Mondays are a bit on the rough side, but this Monday was worse than normal.  It was of course, the first day back at school since the Newtown massacre and I have been taking it a bit rough.  To top it off, our school lost a student over the weekend, not one I knew, but it is always hard on the students.  I felt it was silly to try and hide the reality of what happened from the students, I explained that I was feeling pretty sad about the kids in CT and that it was OK and even "normal" if they were feeling the same way.  In the midst of finals and the end of the grading period, as well as the excitement of Christmas break coming, the students were bound to be feeling a bit confused about how they should go about their lives with so much negative things going on.  

Each class I taught received the same speech; that is, in the midst of sadness and negative situations, we can only worry about what we can control.  That in the middle of a negative week, they cannot dwell on the negative things, but acknowledging them is good for the mind, and then letting them go is the only way forward.  There are a lot of bad things going on around, but they should keep their eyes fixed on the good, and fixed on what they need to do so that one negative action from a person does not become more negative by their allowing it to dwell inside them for too long.  Finals are important and one of the things you can control, so focus on doing your best and remember that while we see and hear about the negative things a lot, there are far more good things going on around us that we can see if we are looking at the world in the right way.

I compared this weekend to the attack on 9-11-01 and recalled that our country was facing a difficult time then.  Most of my students were too young to remember much about that event, but I recalled for them the feelings I had that day.  It seemed like there was so much evil, and I kept asking, "WHY!?" but the reality is there is often no satisfaction in knowing why, because actions such as these are so senseless that we cannot be comforted by knowing why.  There was a great deal of questions that followed 9-11 and the overall feeling was that if we let the terrorists control our lives through fear we are letting them win.  In the same way, if we allow the murders of the 20 children and 6 adults to continue to stay in the front of our mind and allow the murderer's actions to effect our actions negatively, we are giving him another small victory.  The goal is not to ignore the negative action, but to acknowledge it, sympathize with the victims, help if we can, and move forward in life taking care of our needs and lives without surrendering to the evil.  

Satan is lurking, waiting for his ploys to bring him another broken heart or lost soul.  God is reaching out to us, to comfort us, pull us up, and cry with us.  He also is still in control, although mourning the attack on the innocent, He can restore us and uplift our hearts if we only reach out to Him during these rough times.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Trail of the Week: Three Bears Trail, Boise Foothills

Judging by the overall success of the first "Trail of the Week" feature, there are quite a few people who want to know where to ride and what they're getting into when they head out.  Today's trail review is another one of my favorite trails, one that until this year I hadn't ridden all that much because it requires a bit of commitment to aim your bicycle that direction in the Foothills.  Three Bears Trail is one of the ultimate downhill rides in the area.  It can be very high speed, but there are enough technical features to keep you alert and off the back of the saddle.  It is rocky in many places, and involves climbing up 5 or 6 miles before you plunge back down to Boise in an adrenaline filled rush.  Three Bears is on the Eastern side of the Foothills main trail sections, and is accessed through the Military Reserve area.  On the Ridge to Rivers map, you'll find Three Bears marked as trail number 26 and it is listed at 4.35 miles in length (almost all of it thrilling downhill riding).  Now how do you get there?

Gaining the top of the Three Bears Trail is no easy feat.  It is most easily accessed via the Rocky Canyon Road but who wants to ride a boring road up to the beginning of a high speed mountain bike roller coaster ride?  My favorite way to get to Three Bears involves starting at the parking area in the Military Reserve and taking the Central Ridge Spur (#22A) to the Central Ridge (#22) and then over to Shane's loop (#26A) which drops you off less than a couple miles from the Three Bears Connnector on Rocky Canyon Road.  Climbing is going to happen, so dig in for a decently long climb up the Central Ridge area until you reach Shane's.  Shane's Loop connects with the lower portion of Three Bears, but I'll get to that later...  I usually continue heading East on Shane's until reaching a signpost that directs you further East to Rocky Canyon Road.  The Shane's Loop segment offers a brief break from the climbing, and the drop down to the road is a bit technical.  Once on the road, you continue climbing for about 1.5-2 miles until you reach a steep access trail identified as the Three Bears Connector.  This is a nasty little slog up to the actual Three Bears Trail and it can be loose at certain times of year which makes it even nastier.  I usually settle in on my granny ring and drop my fork down to steepen up the head angle (one of my bike's many cool tricks) so the climb is a bit easier.  After climbing some very steep sections you finally reach the trail of the week, Three Bears.
Rocky Canyon Road

From the top of Three Bears you have a fantastic view of the valley, Boise laid out before you as the earth falls away towards the city.  In the dark morning hours of my normal riding time, this is a magical view, similar to the view of landing in a city at night on an airplane, except better because your not breathing in recycled air and stuck between two smelly passengers.  Descending on Three Bears is an exhilarating experience.  The trail never gets to that scary steep "omg" level, but it certainly keeps you on your toes.  The rock gardens are fairly regular, and braking bumps and sharp corners abound.  The descent of Three Bears is also broken up by a few uphills that are short and easy if you carry a lot of speed on the downhill sections. Throughout the entire descent, you are treated to views of Boise, if you can look up to view it with your speed induced watery eyes.  After a bit of descending, you'll come to another junction with Shane's Loop (26A).  It is here where you must decide if you want to continue down Three Bears and eventually jump onto the road that leads you back to the Military Reserve parking area, or take a left and go back to the original junction with Shane's Loop and descend via the Central Ridge trails.  I'm split on which is best, but I think I like the Three Bears all the way option the best.

Like so many trails in the Footies, the Three Bears Trail can be accessed through other options and can be linked to other trails.  One nice variation is to continue past the Three Bears Connector trail to 5-Mile Gulch (Trail #2 on the RtR map).  Once here you can climb up a more mellow grade, albeit longer, to Watchman's Trail (#3 on the map) and put together a really nice ride.  At the bottom of Three Bears you'll find a junction with trail #5, Freestone Ridge, which you can climb up (way up!) to another really fun trail called Fat Tire Traverse.  This will take you over to the more central trails like Sidewinder which you could hit and go to the Freeway and back towards Camelsback park or take a ride down Lower Hulls Gulch, or perhaps even go way over to Corrals, Bob's, or Hard Guy.  That sounds like a good one for next week..  Here's the Garmin Course Map, check out the Ridge to Rivers website as well and get out there.  Happy trails!
Screen grab from Garmin Connect...  Check out the link above for more info.

Some days its hard to find a reason to ride...

Like so many others this morning, I'm sitting here thinking about the events that unfolded just a little over 24 hours ago yesterday in CT.  The incredibly painful reality of the situation hit me last night at 9:00 as I watch the news.  I began weeping for the families, the children, the teachers, and the rescuers of that awful scene.  Even now, I fight back tears and choke down the feeling of sheer anguish for them.

Like many people yesterday, I had a normal, if even enjoyable Friday.  I taught my classes, chatted with students, and even got in a great little ride around the lake before going to pick up my kids at their daycare.  When I picked them up, Lisa, the care provider, could barely get out what had happened.  I was horrified but quickly forgot about it as the kiddos and I went out Christmas shopping for my wife.  At the store, the kids were going absolutely CRAZY and I was completely embarrassed as we left the store, my face still red from the frustration of dealing with 2-million kilojoules of energy crammed into two 3 foot tall bodies.

After dinner, we joined my wife at the hospital for a short Christmas party where we all decorated sugar cookies and laughed as my daughter dropped hers, frosting side down, on the table.  We went home and the crazy kids returned so it was off to bed for them and slowly, like frostbite, the reality of the sad news began to settle back in.

We watched the news and the more I watched, the deeper the agony I felt for those who lost their small children.  I asked myself why anyone would do this and I quickly came to the same conclusion that everyone else has, there is no reason.  The tears came full force now, just sobbing for the families, and praying that God was watching over those little ones now.  I hate that gunman, so cowardly in his action, chose to attack the most innocent of society, and then, the ultimate act of cowardliness,  took his own life.  I have no love for this person, my heart burns in anger and my mind is somewhat comforted that he will pay for his actions eternally.  However, it doesn't change the situation that we all are left here to face.  Why?

Still sobbing, I go upstairs and grab my children and the three of us lay in my son's bed, cuddling, me crying while the kids sleep.  My son, ever squirmy, wakes up and begins to think of excuses to get out of bed.  "Ssshhh, let's just lay here for a while" I say.  My daughter somehow can feel my sorrow and pulls tightly into my arms.  I begin crying harder now, wondering if God will protect my children from such evil in the future, praying that he does, and trusting that they are His to watch after, no matter what evil finds them in this world.  After 10 minutes that felt like 10 hours I tuck the kids back in bed and return downstairs.  The only thing to do now is go on with life, there is nothing else to do.  I turn on the TV again and Jay Leno is on.  He appears to be saddened as well, even remarks that they considered canceling tonight's program in light of the events on the day.  Thankfully, he goes on with the show, offering some distraction from the terrible onslaught of news.  After a few minutes, exhaustion finds me and I drift off to sleep.

When the alarm buzzed me awake at 5:30 for my morning workout, there wasn't much thought to the tragedy of yesterday.  I drank coffee, ate some cereal, and worked on a the blog post for my weekly Trail of the Week feature.  After finishing my coffee and clicking "save" on the post, I began suiting up for my ride in the dark cold morning, which for some unknown reason brought the horrible news back into my mind.  Just yesterday I was on a ride, completely unaware the that nation was being bombarded by horrific news of evil.  My mind went back to the images from the news and tears started to well up in my eyes again.  I put the rest of my gear on and went out into the cold.  The air was brisk, but I didn't feel it.  It seemed to match the feelings in my heart.  I made it 2.5 miles before turning around and heading back home.  I just couldn't ride anymore than that today.  Someday soon, we will all be back to normal, but families are crushed right now, feeling a loss that I cannot bear to imagine.  My prayer is for them today, Please God, be with these families.  Put your arms around them and help them to know you are watching these kids in Heaven now, where they wait for their parents to join them.  There is now no fear for them, no sorrow, just the purest joy that we can imagine, the kind of joy we want to feel right now but seem to be feeling the opposite.  Time will pass, hearts will mend, and God, mysterious in His ways, is still good and in control.  He hates evil, and His heart is breaking right here with ours.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Raleigh Furley Review: First Impressions

Its been a few months since I sold off my Surly Pacer and bought this black beast so I felt it was time to share my first impressions of the bike in all its glorious single-speededness.  Originally, I made the choice to purchase this bike with the idea that someday it would make a good gravel grinder and a decent light-touring bike.  I thought about going with another Surly, such as the Crosscheck but I went for the disc brakes and the fact that I could actually sit on this one at my local shop.  It also had some cool features that made me lean towards the relatively unproven bike versus the venerable Crosscheck.

First off that list of cool features was the price.  I was able to pick up the Raleigh for a really reasonable price and would have paid substantially more for a Crosscheck.  I also liked the overall parts selection on the Furley as I wanted to try out singlespeeding right away.  Surly bikes are equiped with OK stuff, but the fit and finish of the stem, bars, grip tape, and saddle were a bit nicer on the Raleigh.  The disc brakes were also a big plus (more on that later) because living in Idaho, I plan on riding up and down some big hills, and I don't want to worry about brakes while I'm going downhill at 30+ mph. 

One of my favorite pictures taken of any of my bikes... I just like it :)
Riding the Furley is fun, period.  It rides predictably, stable but not sluggish, and can carve a corner pretty well.  I don't want to make this a review about singlespeeding, but I will say that riding a singlespeed bike is quite a bit harder, I work harder on the flats than usual, and the hills are no longer just minor blips on the ride radar.  For one thing, the bike is heavy, 26 pounds out of the box.  I won't say thats a bad thing because the reason this bike is so heavy are the reasons that I like it:  burly wheels, steel frame, and disc brakes.  I lightened it up by removing the cheater brake levers and replaced the stock saddle with a bit more performance one that suited me.  Hills definitely are more of a challenge and that has actually been kind of a good thing for now.  I will say, that I think this bike is one that would really shine with a wide gear range drivetrain like the Sram Apex group or a Shimano group with one of the new 10-speed mountain derailluers and cassettes.  It really is a great bike to ride a long distance, and I can see it going on some really long rides in the future in some very mountainous places.

Now for some negatives with the stock setup:
Flatlanders will find the stock gearing pretty slow if they are speedy.  I swapped the stock 18 tooth sprocket for a 16 tooth one just so I could ride my "normal" speeds without spinning wildly in the saddle to go 18 mph.  Another thing to mention is that the brakes.  They are finiky and sometimes impossible to get silient.  The stock Kenda tires are really heavy with wire beads and have terrible flat resistance.  I got a flat every ride with them on, and since I dislike slime for the most part, I went with some Specialized Armadillo tires to use for my pavement commute.  I'd like to get some Schwalble Marathon's for touring this summer, but that's another time and for now its just base miles for fun and relaxation from the daily grind of teaching 9th grade science. 

If you're debating getting a Furley, you should know that there are some negatives; however, if you're like me and value simplicity in a bike with some style and a bit of versitility thrown in, the Furley is one of the bikes on the short list to consider.  If you're like me and have a local shop that carries them, ride it and see if its for you.
"Mr. Furley," as I call him, all decked out with lights, fenders, and road tires to make commuting more enjoyable.  I've had very few flats with Armadillos, in fact, none in over a year of riding on the tires.  First on my Surly Pacer, and now on this bike.  No flats in Idaho with goatheads abound... that's a winner right there. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Feature: Trail of the Week!

Giving my flighty nature and general tendency to move quickly from one thing to another, I hope that I can buck this trend and post a weekly feature one local area trails and loops.  One of the great challenges one faces when trying out the sport of mountain biking is finding suitable trails and navigating along them.  In Boise, its one thing to take on a trail and make a wrong turn, you'll have little trouble getting back where you need to be and often you can seek directions if you find somebody to ask; but in the Owyhees, you're likely to not see any other riders/hiker/equestrians so you'll be on your own.  In no way is this blog guaranteeing that you'll never get lost, however, by taking on routes I feature you'll at least know what you're getting yourself into when you head out.  Enough introduction... show me the trails!

Wilson Peak is at the center in the background.  The road to Wilson Creek is only gravel for a short ways.
I want to start by saying that when you head out on any ride or run in the mountains you need to be prepared and be self-reliant.  What will you do if you get a flat?  What if your bike breaks?  What will you do if you roll and ankle?  Do you know basic trail-side bike repairs such as: fixing a flat tire, repairing a snapped chain, or tightening a loose part?  Go see your local bike mechanic if you don't.  If you're in Nampa, Rolling H Cycles will show you basic repair skills if you ask and bring some cookies for the owner ;)

Parking lot at Wilson
Let's start off this feature with one of my favorite loops in the Owyhees; the Wilson Creek to Bingo Loop.  The overall difficulty of this loop is probably intermediate with some sections that experts will enjoy and be challenged by, particularly climbing up Wilson Creek.  For more information on Wilson Creek in the Owyhees of Idaho, go to the BLM page and click on the map link at the top of the page.  You start in the main parking area and immediately begin climbing on a trail towards the South where W100 exits the parking lot.  For about 3/4 of a mile you'll climb across a couple dips and up some loose sand to the top of a small ridge.  Its pretty steep starting out so if you like a warm up before you begin a climb you may want to consider riding down the road a bit and then coming back to tackle the first hill.

Last little section before gaining Wilson Crk Rd again.
Shortly after topping out the first climb you'll descend a short but fun section until you cross a small drainage and come to a junction where you must go left or right.  At this point you you'll turn left and follow a doubletrack trail East, still on W100.  There is a junction to the right that you'll go past first and then you'll begin the see the canyon carved out by Wilson Creek itself.  Ignore the sign that points to W140 and stay on W100 (Wilson Creek Trail).  This is where you'll begin to feel more challenged technically and if you can ride the whole climb clean to the end then you should stop, pat yourself on the back, and admire what a great mountain biker you are.  The Wilson Creek Trail takes you uphill mostly and you'll pop out back on Wilson Creek Road about 3.5 ish miles into the ride.  Once on the road, turn towards the North and head up the slight incline for roughly a mile until you gain the highpoint of the ride and come the a junction where W500 goes off to the right, downhill towards the East and the Reynolds Creek area.

High Point of the Ride/Run looking back...
Trail W500 is affectionately known as "Bingo!" and you'll see why when you start tackling the two steep, butt rubbing descents in the first mile or so down Bingo!  These are the two toughest challenges on this trail, but the rocks can be a bit sketchy too further down the trail.  If you're on a cross country or trail bike, avoid taking W501 partway down W500.  It gets a bit rough going down W501 and you'll have a bunch more fun on the fast, flowy, and skinny main trail.  W501 does come back to W500 eventually though, so if you take a wrong turn, you can catch back onto Bingo! soon enough.  Enjoy the descent on Bingo! until you come to a dirt road that is labeled Pigeon Rd. on most online map programs.  Take this dirt road straight downhill and stay left at a junction with a branching road that goes off to the right and towards the China Ditch.  After passing the junction to the right you will come to an area on the left side of the road that appears to be set up for camping or other such activity.

You'll find a trail (W400) going up the hill at the end of this circled off area that takes you back towards the start of the ride.  Overall, this loop is about 8.25 miles and is a ton of fun.  It easily can be made longer with different options that I'll post up in future Trails of the Week features.

This is a Garmin course for those of you with a Garmin, however, this particular route is for the W501 option, which is fine on foot but by bike it can be a bear.
Garmin Connect - Wilson Creek to Bingo (501 option)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Darkness is setting in as the Fall fades.

Fall bike riding is by far my favorite activity.  The temp's and the colors all around make it unlike any other season.  Exploring the Owyhees has been on my list of things to do for a while, so with the trails dry and the colors amazing, I was fortunate to experience some of my favorite riding ever.  The Wilson Creek area south of Nampa and just west of the Melba area is accessible and quite rugged.  There is a certain wild-west aspect to it when compared to riding in Boise's relatively tame and over-crowded foothills.

Even the approach to the trails is rugged, at least more so than Boise where your ride often begins with a pass behind the local tennis court and ride through someone's backyard before climbing onto the sandy-sidewalk wide path that takes you further up where the real trails are.  When at Wilson Creek, you pedal out of the parking lot onto a singletrack climb riddled with sand-traps and washouts before taking on some of the rockiest riding one would sanely take on.  You are also more likely to run into a herd of wild horses or even the occasional Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep than another mountain biker.  It makes risk-taking less attractive since the likelihood of someone coming along to help you out is pretty low.  I generally hike-a-bike a bit more than usual even if it is something I'm fairly certain I can ride.  This timidity, however, does not diminish the fun factor, and a more relaxed attitude is sometimes nice.

Just before Thanksgiving, I was able to meet up with a few other riders and show them a loop out in the wilds of Wilson.  We had a great time on our 16 mile ride.  Two of the more roadie-centric riders fell back in love with mountain biking, despite me putting them through a ringer of a ride that highlighted some of the more technical trails in the whole area.  Gary Jenkins and I chatted quite a bit as we primarily rode together and I was quite impressed by his singlespeeding skills and fast descending on a rigid bike.  He's the real deal in terms of die-hard mountain biker.  I felt sheepish with my dual-suspension and 27-gears.  At least he made me feel better by stating that his next bike will probably be a full-squish 29er such as mine.  They at least said they had fun, we'll see if I can actually get them to go back out there again in a few weeks... :)
Gary rocking the rigid SS!

Colors were full still full on.

Gary and Michelle.  Dan joined us, but I didn't come out with a picture that would post online correctly, so he's left out...
The end of Summer was also marked by the sale of my road bike in exchange for a Raleigh Furley single-speed cyclocross bike.  I still don't exactly know why this felt right, and at times I question my thought process, but as a result of down-grading the road bike I've been fortunate to be able invest in some parts for the nearly decade old 29er, my Gary Fisher Sugar-293 courtesy of a great dude name Hal.  Although I was first a bit apprehensive about putting much into the bike, it has shown me that it still has a lot of miles left to give.  This blessing was unexpected and I've certainly been loving the dirt and mountain riding its been providing me.  The sale of the road bike also allowed me to get some quality lights for riding any trail in the pitch black.  I don't really want to endorse them, but they came off of Amazon for a reasonable price but are clearly a Chinese copy of an American brand of lights.  I do have my morals, but when it comes to lights that will allow me to keep riding during these dark mornings, I can't argue with over 1600 lumens for $80.

My old Maglite XL50, 139 lumens.  Runs on 3 AAA's
New light system, one floodlight on the bars and a spot on the helmet.
1600+ lumens with rechargable lithium-ion battery packs.  3 hours of battery life
Night riding has opened up a whole new world of riding, as I no longer have to wait for the day when nothing else is going on so I can make the journey to the hills for a ride.  I can also take on longer pre-work commutes.  These lights are bright!  I highly recommend the investment in some bright lights if your a busy rider with commitments at home and work.  Even though its colder, and the scenery is much different, I am having the most fun on two wheels since the kids arrived and my life changed forever for the better.  It is moments like these below that keep me looking forward to the day my little buddies are ready for their first mountain bike ride.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Back in the saddle again!

Summer heat, crazy kids, moving into a new classroom, and the never ending fence project... just a few reasons why I haven't posted in a month or two.  The good news for those who care is that I'm back in the saddle again, both figuratively in relation to this blog, and literally on my bike.

The highlight of the summer was a big ride in the Owyhees with local Cycling Guru Adam Haynes of Rolling H Cycles, and the LEADMAN Mark Wheeler.  We were thinking about trying a dirty hundie, but decided that 45 miles and 7500' of elevation was quite enough.  Next time we'll shoot for 50 miles and maybe hit 10,000'.  Mark looked fresh after the 5 hour ride, but Adam and I were in the hurt locker by the end.
Sunrise on the way to the big Owyhee ride.  Silver City, ID
At the Silver City Hotel taking a water break around mile 32, Silver City, ID
My Gary Fisher 293 on top of War Eagle Mountain, Silver City, ID
SS, Disc Brakes, Flat Black, Beefy rims and tires equals FUN!
I could try to take the time and summarize the rest of the past two months, but really, the point is moving on with the blog, so I'll spare you the boredom and just let you know that it was a long, hot summer out here in the west.  I managed to squeeze in some other pretty good rides, especially the last Friday before going back to work for the school year.  100+ miles with a ride up Bogus Basin road in the middle of it.  It was a great way to close the summer, and it left me wondering how long I could continue to knock a century each month.   It is something worth considering, but I'll have to make sure I'm taking care of business at home and work before I commit to a 6 hour ride.  The challenge just got a little more interesting as I have simplified my road rig down to a single speed cyclocross bike from Raleigh called the Furley.  It is beyond fun, and brings new challenges to my rides everyday, which, surprisingly, I find very satisfying.  It is not the fastest bike on the road, but you can be riding along at 20 mph and jump onto the gravel shoulder to dodge a car without missing a beat.  Downhill is just awesome, as I have long had issues with fast descents on a road bike (put me on my mountain bike and there's usually no worries); stable and intuitive is the best way to describe the way it rides.

The new bike is really a realization of my goals as a rider.  My primary use of a bike is to commute, but I want to be able to go just about anywhere.  I am focused on completing a number of different rides in the future, none of which is going to be put onto a timeline because I have learned that right now those commitments are nearly impossible to keep.  The Mohican 100 is still a big goal, along with a trip down the Owyhee Scenic Byway (104 miles through the desert on a gravel road), a 100 mile ride in the Owyhee mountains is also on the list, maybe something like the Dirty Kanza 200 or Trans Iowa, and perhaps a bikepacking trip to gain experience for my new lifelong dream ride of the Tour Divide Race.  I'm focused on long, adventurous riding, not so much in going out on a road ride and hammering at 25 mph for 20 miles in a paceline.  I have nothing against that at all, in fact, I will miss being able to hang in the group for the most part on my Furley, but it is very difficult to get away to meet up at a designated ride time with a big group.  Most of my miles are added onto my commute, or fit in within small, limited windows of free time.  I just bought some lights, so I'll be taking on some early morning rides with those.  Of course, I will post a report on the lights and the rides as soon as I can.

I've also been planning on rebuilding my suspension on the mountain bike with Adam.  I just ordered the parts and will be taking on that project soon.  Again, expect to see me update with the results of the project. I've already regreased the rear shock once, but this time I'll be putting all new seals and grease, as well as changing the oil in the front fork.  I decided to forgo any new parts on the fork other than the oil, as I really am not crazy about it, but don't want to drop any cash on a new one yet.  The goal is to move onto a new mountain bike sometime (sooner rather than later would be nice, but unlikely) so I'm not putting much money into the 2003 Gary Fisher at the moment.

It may seem that I have totally foregone any running, but I have been running just enough to know I still can.  It has traditionally been a winter sport for me, so I think that once the cold weather really hits, I'll lace of the trail runners and head back out to the Owyhees.  The reality is that whatever I chose to do athletically has to fit within the context of my faith, family, and career, so I pick and choose what is the most fun and rewarding at that time, and focus on that.  I have never been able to focus on more than one sport, so I have just given up trying and am just living in the moment of the sport I'm into.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The year to not remember...

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."  Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

Two days removed from what I can without reservation say was the hardest year of my life, I cannot help but think of this classic quote from one the greatest writers in the history of the English language.  Just as the classic story from Dickens, there were two distinct worlds with unique characters and events at play, that seemed at odds with one another but in fact were so much the same.  

I found myself this year going between two worlds, each seemingly more challenging than the other.  In the world of education, a third straight year of funding cuts and increased workload for no more pay stretched my mental and physical capacity to the max, while at home, the world of toddlers and honey-do's demanded just as much of my limited resources.  There seemed to be no easy moments, no place existed that was an escape from the demands at hand.  Months went by with no more than 6 hours of sleep a night and a likely average of around 5 hours or less.  Papers piled up on my desk at work, waiting to be graded.  Lesson plans went from "pretty good and challenging" to "eh, okay I guess this will do" to "well, this will keep them busy for a while so I can get my grading done."  At home a fence is still waiting to be stained, after an epic spring day of power-washing it.  Michelle is still waiting for a mother's day raised garden bed to be put in, I promise, it's coming :).  

Of course, something had to give... 50 miles per week of running dropped to 20, then to zero.  My workouts consisted of the occasional longish bike ride and a 3-4 day per week ride to work and back.  My elite state of ultra marathon fitness has diminished significantly, and my goals athletically for the year have been basically wiped out.  That's not to say I've let myself completely go, as I have managed to maintain some basic fitness despite it all.  

Spiritually I have struggled as well, but there has been some good things going in terms of a new men's Bible study group meeting at my new favorite shop, Rolling H Cycles in downtown Nampa.  Michelle and I have been able to meet up with a new couples small group out of our church, and although my daily devotions haven't been great, there is hope.  Its is reassuring to know that Jesus is not a "coat" that I can take off when life gets busy, but rather a complete indwelling within me that I cannot live without.  

There have been some cool moments this spring that would likely make an interesting blog report, but for now I just want to keep it simple.  It was a hard year, that is for sure, but the worst of the storm is now over and it is time to enjoy the summer.  Yeah for teaching!
Myles and Kara at the Exergy Tour, Women's Professional Bike Race;  Boise,  May 2012.  We took the Burley bike trailer up to the top of the queen of the mountain location to watch the women come by.  I got some serious looks from people I passed pulling a 60+ pound trailer up the mountain on a bicycle.  Oh the fun it making some poor fellas feel like the slowest dudes ever.  This picture was taken downtown before we rode up the mountain.  Notice the cowbell in the hand of Myles.  It was one time where both kids were allowed to be as loud as they wanted.  I kept yelling back in to the trailer "More Cowbell!" as I rode around with them in tow.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Graded and Recorded!
This post is more than just about running; although, as I'm comming to find out, it could be very applicable to my new favorite past-time, running rediculously far.  You see, lately I've been struggling with the application of patience to my everyday life, as well as my athletic goals.  It hit me tonight as I was pounding through a stack of papers to grade (typical night when my wife is working her night shift).  Patience is something we all have to learn at some point and I for one place it high on the list of things that are not fun, right up there behind grading papers.  Furthermore, there is nothing rewarding about the process of learning patience; quite frankly, it sucks.  However, it appears that at the end of the process, there seems to be some kind of satisfaction.  It actually reminds me a lot of training at times, although I usually find training to be something enjoyable, there are of course moments where you ask yourself, "why am I doing this again?" 

Ultra runners know the importance of patience.  Push too hard early in your race and a big fat DNF is all you'll get at the finish line, if you even make it to the race.  I'm convinced that 99% of all running related injuries happen as a result in one form or another from lack of patience. 

Cyclists know that patience is also critical when competing at the highest levels of the sport.  "Go ahead, attack 2 miles into the race.  You can sit out front and burn yourself up while we sit back here in the peloton and sip Coke.  We'll even stop for a pee break, and still reel you in with miles to go before the finish and you'll be so tired we'll spit you off the back and leave you sucking wind all the way to the finish." (I'm pretty sure this happened to me early in my bike racing days.)

Aside from the above analogies, I have really been struggling to be in the moment.  It is all too easy to look around at the "Jones'" and wonder, "why can't I find the money to (fill in the blank)?"  There are numerous things that I find myself fancying, idolizing, and just plain lusting over (darn you bike shop!).  I can't even limit myself to things of monetary significance.  Of those things, there's that doctorate degree I'd maybe like to get someday, or maybe a business to own.  Heck, there's even a big part of me that wants to sign up for a 100 mile ultra run this year just because I know I could do it.  But then there's a burning question of "is this really the time to be worrying about that?"  After all, it is true that you are only young once, but this applies more to my kids than to myself.  I have found myself trying to remember daily that the moments I have with my two little ones are precious and limited, yet in spite of this, patience eludes me.  I remember once someone saying: "don't ever pray for patience, because God is good and he will deliver the circumstances under which we need to develop it."  I must have missed that point, and at some point prayed for this development of patience that I'm definitely needing at this point.  Funny though, my children have a head start on me... tonight's bedtime story, "Patience."  My 21 month old chose it.  Amazing how kids can bring out the best in us all.
Bedtime story and an award that will always top any race honor...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Nampa's NEW bike shop!

As much as I loved Cafferty's Cyclery in Nampa, I am so excited to help announce the addition of another local bikery called Rolling H Cycles, also in downtown Nampa.  Rolling H will be a different experience than Cafferty's and I hope both shops can do well.  I will report more on situation in 14 days when Rolling H opens its doors, but for now you'll just have to check out their webpage and as most things these days, follow the progress on facebook...  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Crazy training run story...

Its been about 2 1/2 weeks since the carnage of the WCF50K and I feel that my legs and body are starting to come around.  I have been able to log some good runs, and feel ready to take on training for my next planned race, The Silver City Endurance Run on June 23rd.  I have basically decided to loosely follow Bryon Powell's plan outlined in Relentless Forward Progress with some minor modifications to account for a fluctuating schedule of opportunities to run.  I'll definitely be posting some updates as I get them, but for now, there's not much to report.

The only real interesting thing that happened training wise occurred this morning on my pre-work 6-miler.  I set out from home around 5:45am and less than a mile into the workout encountered an older man walking his giant German Shepperd dog.  The dog was startled by my presence and jumped out towards me where I was running on the road.  The jerk caused the man to stumble and fall down a small, shallow, grass covered ditch between the sidewalk and the road where he apparently hit his head and was knocked unconscious.  I carefully approached and tried to communicate with the man and he did not respond to my shouting.  Immediately, I looked around for a passing car and flagged down a woman and her daughter who happened to have a cell phone.  I explained the situation and asked them to call 911.

By then the man was stirring, but still facing the ground and unable to get up.  Another passing car stopped and the gentleman jumped out and came to help.  We made contact with the man who was obviously very out of it, he didn't recall falling down or know what happened, and he eventually asked to get up.  I was very concerned to try this but thought that as long as we held onto him, he couldn't fall and hurt himself again.  After a few shaky steps up to the sidewalk, the older man appeared to have regain composure and was able to walk off towards his home which he insisted was "right around the corner." 

Obviously, I was a bit freaked out by the whole incidence, but felt I maintained calmness and thought clearly enough to take care of the situation.  For the next 5 miles, I thought continuously about the man and wondered if I should have made him wait for the ambulance.  I guess maybe next time I will have to make the same decision, but will have a bit more experience.  I want to point out that I did not move the man until he was already trying to move himself and I asked him more than once to stay on the ground until some help arrived.  When it was clear that he was not going to do that, I helped him up so that he didn't take another fall.  Talk about a memorable morning on a mundane training run...  If you have any comments about these kind of things, I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Barefoot Experiment: Week 1

I've long struggled with foot related issues due to overpronation which has led to a host of injuries over the years.  Since it appears that I will need to be running gently due to an IT-band related injury from my 1st ultra marathon, I've decided that now is the time I will start trying out this whole barefoot thing; let's just call it an experiment.  I know that it will take many weeks of steady and slow progress so I'm officially committed for the long haul.  The goal of this program is not to be able to run barefoot, but to be able to choose the shoes that I want to run in, not be limited by shoes that are for overpronators specifically.  There just are not a lot of good choices of footwear for competitive trail runners who overpronate, so if I can change my shoe needs through this experiment it will be awesome!
Immediately after my 5 minutes of running on the sidewalk.

Week 1 (1/23/12-1/29/12):
Ran on Wednesday and Thursday in Asics 2150's and green superfeet insoles, Trail run on Saturday in Brooks Cascadia 2 with green superfeet.  One barefoot run on Sunday for a total of 5 minutes.  I've read its better to start off on pavement so you can get some good feedback from your feet.  I used the sidewalk in my subdivision which is relatively free of rocks and debris so I could avoid any punctures from goatheads or small rocks.  As a bonus, it allows me to get a "run" in while my kids are napping.  The high school kid I ran by looked at me kind of weird, but hey, I probably looked pretty silly out there in running pants and no shoes...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rest Week?

One week after accomplishing my goal of surviving the Wilson Creek Frozen 50K, I had to opportunity to head out to the trails for a couple hours.  Not ever passing up on an opportunity to be out there, I decided to head out to Wilson Creek again for a little recovery jog/hike on the 10 mile loop of the 50K course.  Since the race is over, I felt free to explore the trails in whatever way I wanted, not sticking to the "course" and just going where I felt.  I decided that I would head over to the Reynolds canyon again but instead of taking the course, I went up the big rocky hill right off the parking area and then took trail 300 over to the canyon, going basically on the 10 mile "course" but in the reverse direction.  It was a really awesome day.  On the way out there I had to stop for a photo of the hulking Wilson Peak as seen off of Highway 45 as you drop down to the Snake River.

Following my little trip through the Reynolds canyon I went over to trail 500/501 and took 501 up to the top of the ridge where the trail intersects with Wilson Creek road.  From there, I wasn't sure exactly which direction I was going to head, but upon arriving I decided to drop down to Wilson Creek on trail 160 and then onto the twisty trail 100.  One week after the race, the trail was still a little bit roughed up, but there will likely be a quick turnaround for the trails as they are primarly sand and often get washed out by runoff coming down from the Wilson Creek watershed. 

All in all, it turned out to be a pretty nice day out.  My legs feel great except for a nagging pain in my left hip flexor (thanks to 10 lb mud brick shoes last weekend) and my left knee is sore from a tight IT-band issue.  I'll have to take a nap instead of a run tomorrow and ease into next week with some self-therapy on the foam roller and the "stick."  Maybe a few days on the bike would be a good thing.  The primary goal for the next month is to get back to 100% as quickly as possible so that I can slowly build up to a solid block of training going into June.   

Here are a few shots of today's outing... I hope that you find them enjoyable and inspiring in some way.  As always, feel free to leave comments below.  That makes the blog thing a little more fun for me.

The round figure of Wilson Peak lurking near the center, oh the carnage last weekend.  Temps were hovering just below freezing with lots of sun and light winds.  Its amazing what 1 week does for you... Notice the small coyote, or is that a stray dog?

I've wanted to tackle that little rock mound for a while, I just never got around to it.  Today I went straight up that bad boy to begin the run.  Its a nice little rock scramble to get on the tip-top; amazing view though.

Lots of wide open high desert out here.

This is the wonderful little Reynolds Creek that carved out the magnificent little canyon everyone seems to be enjoying.  It is truly a little gem out here in the Owyhees.

Another beautiful shot of the creek.  I just wanted to sit here for a while but unfortunately I was on borrowed time and had to keep moving.  I did hang out long enough to retie my shoes and absorb a little bit of the moment.

I had to do at least 1 self timer shot.  This is the little climb out from the Canyon on Trail 510.
One of the purposes of this little trip was to test out these retro Brooks Cascadia 2's that I got from a friend.  He never really wore them so they are basically new.  Not my favorite shoes, but not horrible either.  They are good shoes for a casual day on the trails such as today.  Can't miss them with that color combo either.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ten reason's to run an ultra

This week I've been reflecting a bit on my first 50K race, the Wilson Creek Frozen 50K, and with the extra time I have due to not running (too sore) I have come to realize a few things... first I'll go into that, and later you can read my top ten reasons to run an ultra marathon.

First off, if the weather calls for rain, wind, sleet, and you are running to the summit of a mountain, take a jacket for Peat's sake.

Next, running in the mud is not fun.  Changing shoes will give you a chance to run in dry shoes for about 5 minutes, and then you'll encounter more mud than before so just leave your dirty shoes on.  Save yourself the hassel of cleaning two pairs of shoes.

Third, you can keep moving forward even when you're sliding backwards down a hill as long as you can reach the sagebrush at the top of the incline.

Fourth, don't bother worrying about the time... thinking about how long you've run and how much longer you have yet to go is a bit overwhelming at mile 12, especially when its taken you 3 or more hours to go 12 miles.  Ouch.

Fifth, when your Garmin flashes low battery just minutes from the finish, you will find another gear and speed up just to prevent your precious data from being incomplete.  Next time I'll just have to run faster so I don't run out of battery juice.

Last, if you think staying up to watch Late Night with Jimmy Fallon will be easier if you make up a silly list of reasons to run an ultra you're wrong.  By now my body is so trained to get up early that staying up late is next to impossible.  I'm writing this after falling asleep at the computer for 3 hours only to wake up at 2:30 a.m. and realize I've missed the show, bummer.

Alright, now as long as I'm reflecting on this past weekend, I thought I'd explore why one may want to run an ultra marathon.  This in no way is a complete list, as there are many other reasons one may want to try and tackle an ultra.  Anyway, enjoy these very serious reasons to run "stupid far" (a quote from one of my high school students I teach).
  1. Running is good for you, running a lot must be very good for you.
  2. Running is fun, except for when its not, then it becomes fun when you're done.
  3. You can smile at the office when your coworkers talk about being sore from their pickup game at the local rec or gym.
  4. Running a 10 miler becomes an short little recovery run.
  5. Its the only time in your life you can eat a whole quart of ice cream, a giant cheeseburger, 6 bananas, and an entire bag of chips and still be in a calorie deficit. (Ok, I exaggerated here, it was only 5 bananas...)
  6. You can look at the odometer on your car and realize that you ran farther this week than you drove.
  7. You will become an expert at removing calluses, blister prevention, and removing band-aids from your nipples without leaving a distinctive band-aid shaped red mark.
  8. You may see strange things, such as a 4 wheeler stuck in the mud as you run by in up to your ankles, mysterious bare-footprints charging up and down a mountain, grown men wearing tight leggings and discussing shoes like the designers on some corny reality T.V. show, surprised strangers who think they are in the middle of nowhere and then find themselves surrounded by hoards of runners showing up in the desert for a "training run," and women in pigtails and/or running skirts who literally can eat dirt and make tough guys look silly all while smiling and then darting off into the sagebrush to "water" the flora without a second thought (this is a combination of several remarkable women I have seen at the trails, not one in particular).
  9. Race directors Emily and Davina at Pickled Feet Ultras, nuff said...
  10. Camaraderie... you will not find any other events out there where everyone is rallied around such a common purpose and will celebrate your success with you in the most genuine way even though you just beat them or vice versa.  Ultra runners are the amazing athletes but even better people.
There you have it.  My list of reasons to run an ultra.  I guess that means I enjoyed the experience immensly and will be trying another one at the next logical opportunity.  That would be on June 23rd at the Silver City Endurance Run to be exact.  Pickled Feet Ultras are sure to put on a fantastic event and the course is designed to take you up to the highest point in the Owyhees, Hayden Peak.  Summiting Hayden has been on my list ever since moving to Idaho 6 years ago, so I cannot possible resist taking on this challenge.  However, you'll not likely find me in the 100k yet.  There is some unfinished business to take care of in the 50K distance first.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wilson Creek (not so) Frozen 50K Race Report

There are times in life where one knows the sensible thing to do but chooses to do the opposite and the consequences are painful and life changing. Competing in the 1st running of the Wilson Creek Frozen 50K was exactly that. Anybody with any sense would have stayed home when the weather report was issued, but ultra runners aren't really known for being very sensible...

If you've been following my blog you may recall some reports from training runs out on the Wilson Creek trails. Wilson Creek is an area in the foothills of the Owyhee Mountains of Southern Idaho and it is known for its great high desert scenery and usually dry and sandy trails. I can testify that running on said trails following the first real winter storm of the year with moderate temperatures preventing the freezing of the mud and in high winds is not advisable, but if you're so lucky as to survive, it becomes one of those memories that will likely last a lifetime.

The race itself is the first of what will surely be many events put on by a new and amazing pair of race directors running the Pickled Feet Ultras group. If you don't know what is meant by Pickled Feet then I will just point you to their webpage so you can see for yourself (such activity is another one of those ill-advised decisions).

As I watched the weather leading into the race week it became apparent that running in the WCF50K would be more of an act of determination than blissful running on perfect trails. Unfortunately, I was more than right... In fact, by my estimation, at least 8-10 miles of the course was completely unrunable mud, and I'm not just talking about, "oh darn, my shoes are dirty" kind of mud... I'm talking, foot sucking, packed up and heavy, slippery, gritty mud that doesn't let up but gets tougher and tougher to run in. In fact, several veteran ultra runners at the finish stated that the course was the most difficult 50k they have ever run. One even mentioned he felt the mud added about 10 miles worth of effort to the race. When you combine the mud with the weather, 15-30 mph gusts, rain, sleet, snow, and bursts of sunshine just long enough to get you sweating so you can then freeze when the clouds roll back in, you have a most epic course to be sure.

Forgive me if you tire of reading boring race accounts, but I'll try to describe the race from my perspective the best I can remember. I would like to thank my new found friend, Tony Huff for taking along his camera and sharing his shots with me. Feel free to scroll through the pictures if you get tired of reading about the nitty-"gritty" details.

The race started at 7:00 am and about 1 dozen runners took off into the darkness in front of the 65 or so participants in the 20 mile or 50K racers. I went out strong but not unreasonable so as to avoid the congestion of runners running up the 1st little single-track climb. After the climb I began to settle into a very comfortable pace and wound up right beside Tony Huff and Ryan Lund. The three of us ran together for awhile and were surprised when some strong runners flew past us. Apparantly they had taken a wrong turn and ran a mile or so off course. Who knows how many others did the same thing, but I was thankful at that moment to have known the trails so well. We eventually popped out onto the Wilson Creek road and that's where the fun really began.

Wilson Creek road is a clay based dirt road that turns to nearly impassible mud when the slightest moisture comes in. When you put 3 or 4 days of rain on the road it is a miserable trek for 4-5 miles until you reach the upper parts of Wilson Peak.

Below, you can see how Ryan's shoes looked after just a bit of the road.

After slogging through as much mud as I could stand, Tony, Ryan, and myself reached the saddle where we head up the out and back to the summit of Wilson Peak. Even on this rocky protrusion there were places where the mud continued to test our mettle. It was hard to see runners already descending when there still was a considerable climb ahead, but nonetheless, I continued pushing. By now, however, my stomach was not feeling great and I decided that I needed to head down as quickly as possible once I reached the top.

At the summit, there is a weather station where a hole punch was hanging with instructions to punch a hole in your race bib before descending. I punched mine and then told Tony and Ryan that I wasn't feeling great and just wanted to book it down. I think they lingered for a few moments but we basically ended up together for the major descent off Wilson. Ryan turned into an animal at this point, either that or I just hit a major low and had to back off because he was out of sight within minutes. Tony and I ran together for the main stretch off the peak, but only because he twisted his ankle and had to slow considerably.

One of the hardest parts about this course is that even though you are heading down the mountain, there are several pitches of steep climbing followed by even steeper downhill running. Tony seemed to be able to handle the ups better than me at this point, but I would catch back up on the downs and we came off the mountain and to the aid station at about the same time. I decided at this point to linger a minute at the station to try and get some nutrition and fluids going and Tony headed on to the end of the 20 mile loop. From this point on, I was running by myself and was facing a low that would last until around mile 26. As if to add insult to my injury, a massive gust of wind blowing sleet and rain blasted us as we made the last descent to get off the main mountain pitch.

After coming into the start/finish area and changing my socks, I decided to also put on dry shoes and a jacket. The jacket paid off but I think that changing my shoes caused my hip and knee to get out of alignment and I started to feel a lot of pain in the joints from the 22 mile mark until the brutal end. A section of trail between mile 21 and mile 24.5 was completely mud. At times I had to grab on to sage brush to move forward through the mess and I was really regretting my shoe change. Afterall, I had about 1 mile of dry shoes and then there was no difference from my original choice. Oh, well, that's an experience that will only help me in future ultras.

After reaching the mile 24.5 aid (Rocky Road) I finally got some stretches of trail that were dry and runnable. The only problem was that after wallowing in the mud for 25 miles I was really hurting and I was trotting downhill at 11 min/mile. This was particularly frustrating because I normally go somewhere around 6 min/mile in many places on this particular downhill. In my head, I was thinking: "run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, but just don't quit." (Dean Karnazes)

I limped into the mile 26.5 aid station in around 6 hours. At this point I knew I was going to make it to the finish ok, and had a little positive moment while I basked in the glow of just completing my first marathon length run. Now I had just 4.8 miles to go and they were the most scenic and runnable of the day. I was able to basically run the rest of the way, although I walked a few of the ups.

It seemed all my attention was focused on putting one foot in front of the other. There was no noticing the scenery, no euphoric moments of bliss, just the simple reality of left foot, right foot, repeat...

It was a huge sign of relief to cross the final stretch of flat terrain before coming within sight of the finish. My legs were dying and so was my watch. The screen flashed "battery low" and all of a sudden I had a spark to try and get to the end before it ran out of juice. I went as hard as possible from about a half-mile out and just barely made it through the chute before the screen on my Garmin went blank. 7 hours, 10 minutes, and 4 seconds was the official time. More importantly, I finished my first ultra and became a marathoner and ultra marathoner in the same day. Post-race there were some nifty prizes for the age-groupers and great food. Emily and Davina put on an amazing race. I couldn't have asked for better organization, volunteers, and course marking.

Props to the winners of some fine Wilson Creek awards. You can't get much more "Owyhee" than these prizes. Great job to everyone that even came out and attempted to run in these conditions. For all those that completed their mission, there are surely going to be some fond memories as soon as the pain wears off. For me, that may be awhile...