Today I was accepted into the 2017 Boston Marathon. While I’ve known for a few months that I would likely get in, receiving the acceptance email has re-stoked my excitement and commitment. It has been a long road since I first dreamed of Boston — a 4000 mile road, as a matter of fact.
On October 5, 2013, I ran the St. George Marathon with my father-in-law, Jerry. This was my seventh marathon; however, I hadn’t run a marathon since the Hoover Dam Marathon in 2009, so I was unsure what I was capable of. The fast course and my preparation combined for a new marathon PR: 3:24:53. After the race, I realized that I could potentially get my time down enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon some day. For my age bracket I would need a 3:05:00 to qualify.
The following year I had mixed results. I had some knee pain in December 2013 which meant very few miles. I was still able to drop my PR to 3:21 at the nice Phoenix Marathon course the following March. I experimented at the Utah Valley Marathon in June by going out fast on the downhill, but it led to a huge bonk and a lot of pain.
Then in the summer of 2014 my exuberance led to a couple injuries. First I strained my calf. Then, after my calf recovered, I strained a tendon in my foot. I still managed to run the St. George Marathon again in 2014, but I had to take it easy due to my sore foot and I got 3:34:18. I took training fairly easy through December 2014.
2015 was a great year. I trained hard all spring without injury and I thought I was on track for a sub 3:05 for the Newport Marathon in May. However, I had some knee pain in the two weeks before the race and then I bonked again and only squeaked out a 3:13:48. Although it was a nice PR, it was a big disappointment as I was really hoping to qualify.
Nevertheless, I trained hard over the summer and was able to finally qualify for Boston at the Mt. Nebo Marathon on September 5 with a 3:04:18. I was ecstatic! However, my hopes were dashed when the Boston Athletic Association lowered the cut-off time from 3:05:00 to 3:02:32 and my registration was rejected. Despite the big disappointment, I still PR’d in every distance 10K or more in 2015, so it was definitely a banner year for my running. I also fit in the Foothills 50K Frenzy in October — my first time running more than a marathon.
After a light December 2015 to heal my calves and knees, I hit it hard again in January 2016. Again I had an excellent winter/spring training regimen, doing three quality runs per week and two or three cross training days. I waffled on which marathon to run, but ultimately selected the local Famous Potato Marathon, which has a pretty nice, slightly downhill course. My marathon went as well as it could have, and I achieved a new PR of 2:58:15, breaking the 3:00 barrier and securing a nice Boston qualification cushion. I ran the Morgan Valley Marathon in late July and nearly broke 3:00:00 again despite the more difficult course (high elevation) and a smaller taper.
Finally September rolled around and I was able to register for Boston on Friday, 9/16/16. I awaited confirmation anxiously all weekend and checked my email like a crazy person. This morning (Monday) the confirmation came through. I was elated and relieved.
I looked up how many miles I have run since the 2013 St. George Marathon: 4000 miles exactly! (OK, 4000.19 miles.) What a number! In addition to the 4000 miles, which took 493 hours 19 minutes, I’ve also done a few hundred hours of cross training.
I think back on all the early mornings, running in the dark, running in sub freezing weather, on icy roads, driving by myself at 4:45am so I can run on a hill, etc. I’m not sure why I do it. Something about the challenge and trying to get a little faster and a little better. Trying to achieve whatever goal is next. At one point I thought that once I made it to Boston I would relax and scale back my running. I doubt that now.
We have some friends who have three children and enjoy camping and backpacking like we do. Early in the summer we set a date to take a little trip with our two families. The date finally came in late August and we set out: two couples and eight children to do a ~2 mile backpacking trip and camp out.
The place we selected was north of Crouch, ID. The Middle Fork of the Payette River flows down a ravine into Crouch, and there are several springs in the area. We were headed to some Hot Springs that were about two miles up a trail in a nice area where a creek flows into the Middle Fork.
We were a bit delayed getting out of town on a Friday afternoon, but after navigating traffic and driving about 23 miles on the road (mostly gravel) north of Crouch, we arrived at our destination.
The trail we ended up taking was the Middlefork Trail.
The trail was pretty flat and followed the beautiful, meandering Middle Fork of the Payette River. There were some spots that were a bit difficult for the kids to navigate, but we got through them.
Fortunately our friends’ children are a bit older and helped out with our little ones. This made the hike go by much more quickly and with minimal complaining from the kids.
Even the baby was happy in her carrier.
We arrived fairly late and immediately set up tents and made dinner. It was 9pm or so when we actually ate. The kids were troopers and fortunately we had raisins and fruit leather that helped hold them over.
Since we have a 15 month old, our family took two tents. I slept in the little tent with the baby so that she didn’t wake up everyone else as easily. She also tends to cry more if she sees her mom (as have all our children), so it was good to separate them. She ended up sleeping really well, all things considered. She awoke briefly at about 1am. Then she woke up at 5am, at which point I just put her in my sleeping bag with me and she slept until I got out of the tent at 7:30am or so. She then took some naps later on.
The other kids also slept really well.
In the morning we ate oatmeal for breakfast and then put our swimsuits on and headed for the main attraction.
The hot springs tub was pretty awesome. It had some cement to make a quality tub. There was a pipe with super hot water coming in from the spring, and another with cold water coming in from the creek. The water flow was adjustable on both of the pipes. Then there was a big drainage pipe that could be unplugged to flush out all the water.
We spent a couple hours soaking in the tub and daring each other to jump in the creek.
We headed out before noon and took a parallel trail which required a couple river crossings, which were pretty fun.
We got back to the car and made it home in time to catch a 4:30pm barbecue.
The fear with a trip like this is mainly the kids. Will they be able to hike without complaining too much? Will they sleep? Will they be safe? Kids almost always love camping, so we’ve found that as long as the parents are prepared, the kids will be just fine. That’s how it turned out this time. Our kids get regular outdoor play time and exercise so they were fine on the hike. We had sleeping arrangements that made for a fairly comfortable night for everyone. Just get them outdoors and things usually work out.
One of my goals is to break 5:00 in the mile again (that is, 1600 meters, which is actually ~9 meters short of a mile).
There’s something about breaking a threshold like a 5 minute mile that makes for an attractive goal. Earlier this year, I was able to break 3:00:00 in the marathon. My main goal was to qualify for Boston, but for some time I had also had my eyes on a sub 3 hour marathon.
While I was still training for that marathon I ran a 5k fun run and realized that a sub 5 minute mile might be within striking distance. Nevertheless, I haven’t done any mile-specific training. Pretty much all of my training has been targeted at improving my marathon time. This includes long runs, temp runs of 4-8 miles, and intervals. The intervals have almost all been 800 meters or longer and at times closer to a 5:40 to 6:15 mile pace.
Nevertheless, I’ve been wanting to test myself in a mile for a few months. I’ve done mile intervals in the morning, but with no competition and doing multiple repeats means that my pace is always slower than my best.
After the XC12K I ran into my former cross country coach, Tracy Harris, who had just finished a training run. He still coaches at the high school a few miles from my house, and I found out that he was planning on a mile time trial in a couple weeks. This immediately piqued my interest.
A couple weeks later I showed up at 7:30pm to run a 1600 with a bunch of high schoolers. I felt a little silly, but I was excited to have someone to compete with. After a couple miles of warming up, it was time to run. I wasn’t very apprehensive until I actually lined up, but once I felt the nervousness I was excited because I knew I needed to be on edge to run my best.
There were actually three groups running, with the fastest running first. I debated which I should join since I didn’t know my capability, but I ultimately decided to join the varsity boys and girls in the first heat. There was a former college runner to pace us, so I wasn’t the only non-high schooler.
The race went really well. My first 200 was at about 37s, and my first 400 was around 74s. My second lap was my slowest at about 80s. Then I began passing some other runners as I quickened my pace back to around 75s for the final two laps. I got pretty light-headed towards the end of the race, but I was quite pleased when I came across in 5:06.
That was just 7 seconds away from my goal! I’m looking forward to doing some shorter intervals and working toward a 4:59. I’m certain that I can achieve it, barring an injury. My PR from high school is 4:34, and part of me is even beginning to wonder about that… but we’ll see how the next year or two go first.
Last week I did another great backpacking trip to Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains. I love the White Clouds and enjoyed the scenery, the challenge, and the chance to spend some time outdoors.
The route I took this year was similar to my backpacking trip to the White Cloud Mountains last year. However, this year I was with a big group of 20 people, including 14 scouts and 6 adults. This is the maximum group size allowed (as of August 2016), and I suspect that the limit will be reduced in the near future. The area was just protected as a Wilderness last year, which led to additional restrictions. My assumption is that more restrictions will go into effect with time.
White Clouds Backpacking Day 1
We left the valley at about 6:30am on Wednesday, August 10. Due to the Pioneer Fire, the road between Banks and Loman was closed, so we took Highway 21 through Idaho City, Loman, and then on to Stanley. We saw the destruction from the Pioneer Fire between Idaho City and Loman. In fact, there was still smoke everywhere and we saw a few burning logs and brush fires.
We arrived at the 4th of July Trailhead and started hiking around 11:30am. Everyone was carrying their food for 4 days, so packs were a bit heavy that first day. It also seems to take a day to get broken in for a good backpacking trip.
We made our way from the trailhead to 4th of July Lake, but besides a short break to let everyone in the group catch up, we didn’t really spend any time at the lake. The climb to the lake is pretty good, and then the trail continues on to Born Lakes with another significant climb to the top of the ridge. The total climb is around 1200 feet. We spent some time on the ridge taking pictures and hiking to a small peak. I also pointed out Devil’s Staircase to the group, which we would be climbing the next day.
We then descended down the ridge on the switchbacks and made our way to one of the farther Born Lakes.
The Born Lakes are a set of 7-9 lakes nestled in Antz Basin. There are a couple big lakes and the rest are pretty small. The first decent sized lake is about 4 miles from the trailhead and the other bigger lake is about 5 miles. We came across a gentleman who didn’t want us there and said there wasn’t room for all of us at the lake we were headed to. He wanted us to hike down Antz Basin and find another spot. We said we’d check it out, and there was plenty of room for us (as I knew since I’d been here twice before). He also said he came there every year. Interesting how some people want to be the only ones to enjoy beautiful areas such as this. They want to come every year, but find it hard to share with others. I understand that most people don’t want to see other people in the back country, but it’s public land and everyone has a right to it. I’m grateful that my scout leaders introduced me to the White Clouds and Sawtooths and outdoors in general, and the benefits that our scouts got from this trip would stay with them forever.
Right after arriving at the lake I started working on catching my first fish. I caught a nice one pretty quickly, which left me satisfied so that I could set up the tent. Some of us also jumped in the lake to rinse off after the 5 mile hike.
After we had set up camp, a ranger came through and made sure our group size was within the limit. He was pretty nice and gave us some instruction on how to properly Leave No Trace. We had reviewed this with the scouts but it was good to go through it again with the ranger.
I didn’t sleep great that night. I was a bit too cold, and I never sleep well camping anyways. I should have worn an extra shirt and some extra socks.
White Clouds Backpacking Day 2 – Born Lakes to Boulder Chain Lakes
After breakfast on Thursday morning we got ready to ascend Devil’s Staircase. Devil’s Staircase is part of the shale ridge located to the north east of Born Lakes. It’s one of two popular ways to pass the ridge without going all the way around on the trail. The other popular way to get over the ridge is by going east from Born Lakes then crossing over the ridge to the south, leading into Four Lakes Basin.
Devil’s Staircase sounds and looks pretty nasty, but it’s really not too terrible. I’ve done it three times now — twice with a full (~50 lb) pack on my back. Still, it has a lot of loose shale and boulders. Since we had a large group, we spread out and attacked the pass about six people at a time spaced a few minutes apart. This worked out pretty well. It helps that Devil’s Staircase is angled up the ridge, so if you’re spread out you won’t be directly above/below other climbers.
Fortunately for our group, we all made it safely up the ridge and down. One of our 14-year-old scouts got pretty scared at one point, but he was able to finish after taking a break and calming himself down.
From the top of Devil’s Staircase, we headed down the other side toward Windy Devil. Some of us dropped our packs and hiked down to check out Shallow and Scree Lakes. Eventually we all made our way around the top of the basin to Windy Devil. At the top of Windy Devil there’s a nice trail which switchbacks down the shale face and leads into the Boulder Chain Lakes basin. (The trail starts right at the top of Windy Devil.)
From Windy Devil there are some nice views of Headwall, Scoop, and Hummock Lakes — some of the upper Boulder Chain Lakes. We were pretty spread out by the time we started arriving at Scoop Lake, so we took a long break there. Some of us decided to check out Lonesome Lake and took a quick side trip up the granite ridge. The views from Lonesome Lake are spectacular and I highly recommend the trip.
Eventually we started to head down toward the lower Boulder Chain Lakes.
We fished and took some breaks, but finally decided on camping at Willow Lake at the bottom of the Boulder Chain.
Willow Lake seemed really cold, but it was worth taking another dip to clean up before bed time.
White Clouds Backpacking Day 3 – Boulder Chain Lakes to Chamberlain Basin
On Day 3 we were ready for a long slog to Chamberlain Basin. Our group set off with high hopes and expectations, but after a couple miles the climb started and some of our boys were bogged down as they made their way up the mountain.
The trail takes backpackers through a lot of forested areas and some meadows. After a mile or so we were graced with an amazing view of Castle Peak.
This is when I realized that the ridge just to the southeast of Castle Peak was the one we would be crossing. It was pretty far up. There’s a large creek crossing and then the uphill begins. Initially the uphill is all in the forest. I don’t like this part very much because I can’t see where I’m going.
Fortunately there were lots of currants (or gooseberries?) on the side of the trail which kept me distracted. Currants don’t really taste great, but they’re alright and it was a welcome challenge to try to find the ripest berries.
Eventually the trail hits switchbacks up the side of the ridge. However, before starting up the switchbacks, another one of the adults and I decided to take a side trip to Castle Lake. We were in the back of the group, so we didn’t get the chance to talk anyone else into coming with us.
We had our eye on the spot where we would approach Castle Lake, but we weren’t sure if it would work once we got there. Looking at Castle Lake from the trail we were at, we were hoping we could approach it from our left. There are some cliffs with a shale face above it that we hoped we could traverse. We dropped our packs, grabbed our fishing gear, water, and some snacks, and headed for the lake. To our delight, we discovered a trail right in the spot we were aiming for that traversed the shale area. Even though there was a trail, it was a little freaky. If I looked down when we were above the cliffs I actually got some vertigo — I think due to the crazy angles and drop-offs.
The trail took us right to Castle Lake, and we hardly changed elevation from where we dropped our packs. It was a pleasant surprise as we expected a challenging climb. Castle Lake is beautiful. Nestled between Castle Peak and Merriam Peak, two thirds of the lake is surrounded by mountains with the remainder opening up to the basin below.
After an enjoyable time at Castle Lake, we headed back out to the main trail. We worked our way up Castle Divide and then down the other side into Chamberlain Basin, where we finally met up with the rest of our group.
Actually, just as we arrived at the first big Chamberlain Lake, we were met by another ranger and a film crew. They were filming for Outdoor Idaho, a PBS series. They interviewed me and my hiking partner and got some footage of the ranger telling us about Leave No Trace principles.
As we wrapped up with the film crew, a few of the guys from my group arrived from camp in their running clothes. They had ran each day of our trip, and thus far I hadn’t gone with them since I was still trying to recover from the Morgan Valley Marathon and the XC12K. However, I was feeling up to it at this time and I wanted to see the upper lakes anyways, so I asked them to wait for five minutes while I headed for the brush to change into my running shorts and drop my pack.
The run was amazing (unfortunately I don’t have a GPS track of it). We saw all the upper Chamberlain lakes and headed all the way to the bottom of the ridge at the top of the basin. It brought back memories as I had once been to one of the upper lakes when I was a teenager (we came over the ridge from Washington Lake but didn’t go far down the basin). It was nice to get a little run in and felt much different on my legs than all the backpacking. I was quite sore as we ran back down towards camp, but it was worth it and felt wonderful.
It was also nice to warm up right before jumping in the lake.
I really enjoyed dinner that night — mashed potatoes and soup. I slept ok.
White Clouds Backpacking Day 4 – Chamberlain Basin Past Washington Lake and Back to 4th of July Trail Head
Our plan for Saturday was to wake up a little extra early and head out in small groups to give the slower hikers a bit of a head start.
The first group of 6 or so headed out at 7:30. I was in the next group at 7:45. The last group left at 8:00.
The hike starts with a gentle incline and passes one of the nastiest looking lakes I saw on our trip — a small lake with no outlet and no apparent inlet. After that lake we got a nice view of the ridge we would have to surmount. It was warming up so we changed into cooler clothes and headed up. At the bottom we saw the group ahead of us, and at the top we saw the group behind us.
As usual, there were some awesome views at the top of the ridge and we snapped some photos before descending down the other side. There was some nice downhill (much of which we jogged) and then a gradual uphill to Washington Lake. I really wanted to do a little excursion to the small lake southwest of Washington Lake, but I didn’t have anyone to go with me and I didn’t want to keep the others waiting.
Our whole group met up at 4th of July Lake and we snapped some group photos. Finally we headed down the last stretch of trail to get back to our cars.
What I Ate During the Backpacking Trip
I thought it would be useful to list what I ate during the trip, since it’s sometimes hard to get good ideas.
I kept breakfast pretty simple: two oatmeal packets and hot cocoa. This was easy as I just needed to boil 2-3 cups of water and I had a warm meal ready.
Lunch and Snacks
I had a peanut butter honey bagel sandwich for lunch every day. I also had the following to supplement lunch and eat as snacks each day: three granola bars, ~1/3 lb trail mix, dried peaches, and raisins or corn nuts.
Mountain House meals are easy but expensive. I used a Mountain House one day.
Another day I used a $1 package of dinner noodles from Walmart. These are just as tasty as Mountain House, but the downside is they have to simmer for 7 minutes. Some of them also use milk, so I had some powdered milk to add as well.
The last day I did instant potatoes and some stew. The potatoes just require boiled water and a $1 package was very filling (2 cups). The stew had to simmer for 10 minutes, but it was very tasty.
I made pudding one night which was quite good. It just requires pudding, powdered milk, and cold water. Mix it all in a ziplock bag.
I also packed in my traditional tortilla chips and a jar of Salsa con Queso, which is not backpacking food at all but was really delicious!
Total cost of food for the three night backpacking trip was about $25. Not bad at all! The Mountain House was about 1/3 of that. I hiked out with a spare package of Top Ramen and two spare granola bars.
The trip was a huge success. There were 20 people in our group and no one got injured or lost. There were no arguments or issues with the boys. Everyone had a good time and carried their own packs the whole way. Some of the boys struggled on the hikes a bit, but they all made it and still got to have some great experiences.
I had a wonderful time. There is something about high mountain peaks and mountain lakes that makes me love going back again and again. I’ve now seen almost every lake in the lower White Clouds, so I hope to hit some different areas next time around. That said, I wouldn’t hesitate to do this same trip again.
Today I was my 34th birthday. What better way to start a birthday than with a fun race in the morning? I ran in the XC12K for the third time and had some fun, along with some painful racing.
(XC12K = Cross Country 12K)
The XC12K takes place every year on the first Saturday of August. I first became aware of it in 2013 when they put a flyer in the packet for the Race to Robie Creek. I ran it in 2013, 2014, then again this year (2016). One thing I love about it is that it’s only $25 if you sign up early!
The ~8 mile course is pretty fun. It starts at Fort Boise then goes right into the foothills. The course has some steep uphill during the first four miles, then some steep downhill and a little uphill in the second four miles. Except for the first and last half mile, the course is all on a trail. There are some fun points where the hills and switchbacks let you see runners ahead and behind you. There are also four water stations, which are nice during the warm and dry August weather.
The XC12K is organized by the Bogus Basin Nordic Team (I think). The organizers offer some prize money as well: $100 for 1st place, $50 for 2nd place, $25 for 3rd place, and $25 to the first runner to hit the top of the first steep hill (at about 2 miles). (All the prizes are for both male and female runners.)
I signed both Cyndi and me up for the 2016 XC12K. This meant we would need a babysitter, and fortunately my mom was able to come to our house at 6:50am so we could pick up our bibs and get ready before the 8am start time.
I was excited for the race this year as I thought I had a chance at a top 3 finish. However, I was unsure of how I’d be able to perform after running the Morgan Valley Marathon last Saturday. I have never ran more than ~7 miles the Saturday after a marathon, and this race would require about 8 at full effort.
To prepare, I did some light workouts in between the marathon and the XC12K:
Sunday and Monday I rested.
Tuesday: 17 minutes on the elliptical followed by a 30 minute stationary bike ride.
Wednesday: 30 minutes on my bike followed by a 1 mile light jog.
Thursday: 4.75 miles with the first three miles progressively faster and the fourth mile pretty hard. It was a mix of recovery and speed.
This was definitely the best I’d ever felt the week after a marathon, due in part to my 95% (rather than 100%) marathon effort and in part to being in better shape. I really didn’t hit the wall in the marathon so my muscles weren’t as shredded as usual.
Packet pick-up before the race was fine. I did a little warm up and Cyndi and I snapped a pre-race photo. We lined up and started running at 8am.
The start of the XC12K was really fast, as usual. I thought I could do the race anywhere from a 6:00 to a 6:40/mile average pace, but I knew the pace would be volatile due to the big hills. I could tell everyone was moving fast and my watch was showing ~5:40/mile pace. I tried to hang back a little, but I also didn’t want to separate too much from the lead group in this relatively short race. After about a half mile I was in about 10th place. However, I started passing a few people and runners especially slowed down once we hit the first big hill. On the hill I was able to get to 4th or 5th place.
The top runners extended their lead and by the top of the first big hill before Mile 2 I could see that I was a couple hundred yards back. I settled into 4th place and the runners continued to spread out, including the space between 3rd place and myself.
At Mile 2.5 there is a steep half mile hill, and I noticed that I gained some ground back on runner #3. I also noticed that my quads were really burning already, and it occurred to me that I haven’t done much hill training lately and I was going to pay for this. I figured the guys around me also had burning quads, so I should just keep going.
There’s a nice section from Mile 3 to 3.5 that goes around a big hill while maintaining about the same altitude. I really enjoy this portion of the course and I was able to maintain or gain a little ground on the runner ahead of me. I also noticed that we were extending our lead from the #5 runner and beyond. Meanwhile, runners 1 and 2 were extending their lead on the rest of us.
At Mile 3.5 there’s a really steep hill. I hit it hard and was able to move into 3rd place part of the way up the hill. I also felt like I was gaining on runner number 2. I was very relieved when the hill crested and the descent began. I was now half way and it was (almost literally) all downhill from here.
I soon felt noticeable effects of my marathon the previous week. My legs, especially my quads, were much tighter than I expected and I was feeling a little weak and dizzy. I focused to stay on my feet and keep pushing the pace. It also got pretty warm as the sun was shining and the temperature was 68F at the start.
In fact, runner #4 was still close behind me and I was scared he’d pass me. I tried to accelerate hard after any curves or uphill sections of the trail. I found my lead slowly, but surely, expanding as we crossed through Miles 6 and 7. I also found that any hopes of 2nd place were being dashed as the second place runner was getting pretty far ahead of me.
Finally we were approaching the end of the race. The last time I checked I had a comfortable lead and I was relaxing a bit. With about 1/3 mile to go I sneaked a peek back and saw 4th place closing the distance and coming up fast. It startled me and I immediately kicked into my highest gear, running scared. I really wanted that $25!
I checked again after 150 yards or so and saw that my kick must have demoralized his sneak attack as he had let up. I was very relieved that I didn’t have to fight any harder, and even more relieved when I could finally stop after crossing the finish line.
My time was about 53:22, which works out to a 6:37 pace according to my watch. I’m not sure my watch was very accurate on the distance though, so my pace may have been slower than that.
I really love the XC12K and look forward to running it in the future. I don’t do many trail runs, and they are generally more interesting than running on a road. I was surprised by the difficulty of the race this year. I really wanted to walk a few times, and the runner behind me didn’t let me take it easy on my pace.
After shaking hands with the guys in front of me and behind me, I got some water and some post-race snacks. Then I started a slow cool down jog as I waited for Cyndi. I headed to my car to grab my phone and I was pleased to see my high school cross country coach, Tracy Harris. I hadn’t seen him in quite a while so it was good to catch up with him.
I doubled back on the course and was able to get some good photos of Cyndi as she finished her race.
We waited around for the raffle and awards. Unfortunately we didn’t win the raffle, but I was quite happy about the $25 cash that effectively reimbursed my entry fee 🙂
Then we headed home where I could finish out my birthday with some presents, yard work, cake, free root beer floats at A&W, processing peaches from our tree, a BBQ, and a fun board game with Cyndi and friends.