Here's the crowd that cheered me through my first marathon (Teton Dam Marathon, Rexburg, Idaho, June 07)

Friday, November 10, 2017

3 Marathons in 3 Days

Years pile on top of you and they are heavy. Work piles on top of you. Injuries pile on top. Sorrows, pain, money problems, heartbreak, depression, and fear. But you keep going. You keep moving forward. You keep running. Sometimes you don’t even know why, but you keep on. That’s what I’ve been doing—keeping going, day by day, week by week, run by run, and marathon by marathon. I look at the number of states I have left, and it looks like I’m probably not going to make it before fifty. But I’m going to keep trying. It may not make sense, but I’m not going to stop. Last time I ran Boston I saw someone holding a sign that read, “Your Reason Matters!” Of all the signs I’ve seen in all the races I’ve run, that is my favorite. That phrase echoes in my head when I get discouraged. Your reason matters.

I’ve run 8 marathons since my last post, and I’m one state away from being half-way done. I just turned 45 years old. I have five years to do 26 states. Considering that I started this 50 states quest 10 years ago, that means I’ve only averaged a little over 2 states per year. Ugh. At that pace, I’ll never make it. But I made a discovery last week that I think is going to help me.

First, let me sum up my races since my last post. I ran the Mowdy Mustang Run in Oklahoma with my buddy Clint from Dallas. It was a humid, hot, muddy, muggy trail race around the ranch, with wild mustangs running by here and there. It was fun to see Clint, and fun to see my son Isaac compete at the National Debate tournament in Dallas. I got 4th overall and 1st in my division with a 4:13 finish. The top three finishers were all females, which was cool. I’d never seen that happen before.

Inaugural 2015 Race

Tarantula at the Mowdy Mustang Ranch Marathon

After that, I didn’t run a marathon for a year. But Deb and I did enjoy a beautiful backpacking trip through the Green River Lakes in the Wind Rivers, and we summited Square Top (Sept. 2015).

Hiking in, Green River Lakes trail.

Looking up at Square Top

Looking down from Square Top

Also, for Deb’s 40th birthday, she wanted to hike the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim, so we did (Sept. 2015). It was awesome! Stunning views, great trail, challenging distance and elevation gain and loss. Add it to your bucket list.

Descending into Grand Canyon from the North Rim
Approaching the South Rim, Bright Angel trail

We also had our most successful hunting season yet: I got an antelope, Ed got a two-point (his first!), and I got a nice four-point.

Nothing says "I love you" like heart-shaped horns
Eddie's first buck

And we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with a trip to Hawaii (March 2016). I presented at a literature conference (AML) at BYU-Hawaii on Oahu, and then we flew to Kauai to relax and celebrate. And by relax, I mean we snorkeled, did some trail running, hiked the absolutely breathtaking Hanakapiai Trail, and took a scenic helicopter tour of the Napali coast.

Hanakapiai trail, Kauai

Napali Coast from helicopter

I gained some weight pigging out in Hawaii, but I signed up of the Leadville, CO race and that helped me get back on track (June 2016). This was by far the most difficult marathon I’ve run. This challenging, up and down trail summits Mosquito Pass at 13,185 feet! It was an unusually hot day. I got dehydrated, and I turned my ankle on the way down. I bonked worse than I ever have at about mile 20. I sat down at the aid station and tried to refuel. The next section was downhill, and I cramped so bad I had to sit down on the trail, mosquitoes swarming around me. Another runner gave me some salt pills, but I never could get past the cramps. I had to walk the last 5 miles, and finished in 6:15. It was beautiful, but brutal.
Finish line, Leadville trail marathon
My son Isaac graduated from high school and received a mission call to serve in the India Bengaluru mission for two years, so we took one more family trip before he left, to Escalante, UT and had a blast hiking Spooky and Peekabo gulch (June 2016). It was hard to see him go!

Spooky Gulch, Escalante, UT.

Isaac at work in India
In August (2016) we took a Pacific Coast road trip, visiting Crater Lake, Cannon Beach, San Juan Islands, Seattle, Coeur d’Alene, and the Hiawatha bike trail. We had a great time. I ran a marathon at our first stop, Crater Lake. This was a beautiful run around the deep blue water. Super scenery! I finished in 4 hours, 10th overall.

The marathon loops breathtaking Crater Lake

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, OR
For our backpacking trip this year, we did the Sawtooths (2016). Gorgeous!

Sawtooth range, above Twin Lakes
I also took the 90 minute Table Rock summit challenge in the Tetons (Sept. 2016). Made it with two minutes to spare. I love the view of the Tetons from here.

Just sitting here, enjoying the view from Table mountain
My sister moved to Indiana, so for my next race I visited her and ran the Tecumseh Trail Marathon. This was a beautiful, winding, up and down race through the autumn leaves (Oct. 2016). Took me 5 hours.

Ed got a nice 3x4 and my brother got a four-point this fall (2016). Eddie's buck hid in the trees for hours before we got an opportunity. Eddie showed amazing patience lying prone for hours.

I love hunting with my boys
My brother's first buck
Spring of 2017 I ran the Grand Ridge trail near Seattle. I drove all day, got some chowder, put some on ice, slept in the truck, ran the marathon, then drove home all day, and arrived with some of Wally’s chowder for Deb. Her favorite. The race was a beautiful, soft, trail through the moss-covered trees of the Cascade mountains. I got 3rd place with a 5:37 finish. A lot of elevation gain and loss in this race.

Grand Ridge trail, Issaquah
I did a 20 mile training run up the Hilgard Basin trail in Montana (Sept. 2017). Great trail, quiet mountain lakes all to myself.
Hilgard Basin trail, MT
Our backpacking trip in 2017 was to the Uintas. Gorgeous country.

Hiking buddies, Uintas
Deb in her happy place
Spread Eagle peak, Uintas
So, now for the discovery I mentioned earlier. I was looking for a marathon to run this fall, and I found a series of trail marathons in the mid-Atlantic area. I have never run back-to-back marathons before. I rarely even train on back-to-back days. But it sounded like a fun challenge, and a good way to get more marathons done, to run multiple marathons in a row. So I signed up to run the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) marathon in Maryland on Thursday, the GAP Trestles marathon in Pennsylvania on Friday, and the Barnum Rail Trail marathon in West Virginia on Saturday (Sept. 2017). I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know how my legs would hold up. I ran the first race by walking a quarter mile, then jogging three-quarters. I did this for the whole race along the beautiful rain trail, and finished in 4:56. I drove to the next race start, slept in the back of my rental SUV, and ran the second marathon in 4:36 by walking one-tenth of a mile and jogging nine-tenths. Surprisingly, my legs felt good. I drove to the next start, slept in my SUV, and ran the third marathon in 3:41, taking second place. I was amazed at how good my legs felt during this race. It was almost like the other races helped me get ready. It was weird. So I gave it all I had on the third race, trying to catch the guy in first place, which I couldn’t do. So, I got three states done in three days! This was encouraging to know that back-to-back marathons are an option for me. Maybe I’ll reach my goal after all! Maybe.

Thursday race, GAP marathon, Frostburg, MD
GAP Trail

Friday race, GAP Trestles marathon, Meyersdale, PA

Trestles trail

Saturday race, Barnum, WV

Barnum road

I visited the Flight 93 memorial. Inspiring place!
Stopped by Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water house
So that's it for my recent marathon adventures. Not sure exactly when my next race will be, but I only need one more state to be halfway done. I haven't given up on my 3-hour goal quite yet either. I just signed up for my local Teton Dam marathon for 2018 to see if I might make it happen there, or at least get a PR. I've got six months, so I better hit the road. See ya!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

2nd Boston, 1st Place at Home, and 1st 50K

Boston Marathon, April 2014
The energy at the 2014 Boston Marathon was powerful. 36,000+ runners entered the race--more than any other year besides the 100th anniversary--with an attitude of resilience and defiance after last year's bombing. With such a large field, it took me seven minutes just to cross the starting line after the gun went off.

I was a little under the weather during the race with a sore throat, but managed a 7:15 pace until the Newton Hills. I slowed down quite a bit, and the last mile was a slog, but I finished in 3:28, about 10 minutes faster than when I ran Boston five years ago. Fans came out in droves, and it seemed more than serendipitous that an American, Meb Keflezighi, won the race--first American in 30 years! I was thrilled to be a part of it.

It was, however, a whirlwind trip for me. I left for Boston on Saturday, arrived early Sunday, went to church, visited the expo for packet pickup, ate at Giacomo's (their sautéed broccoli appetizer and pumpkin tortellini is a must!) then I ran the race Monday, and went straight to the airport from the race. I toweled off in the airport bathroom with wet wipes, changed clothes, got on my flight, and was home by Tuesday 4:00 a.m. Maybe I'll do it again in five years, if I can qualify again.

Expo and packet pickup.
Giacomo's Ristorante: long line, worth the wait.
Done! Wearing the shirt from my last race reminds me that I can do it.

Teton Dam Marathon, June 2014
Registering for the Boston Marathon in the fall motivated me to train during the winter, but the real race I was training for was my hometown Teton Dam Marathon. I didn't run it in 2013, but I registered almost a year in advance for 2014's race, determined to put in my best time. I have been trying to get to the point where I can run a 3-hour marathon, but haven't been able to do it. (I eat too much.)

After the Boston Marathon, it was pretty clear to me that I wouldn't be ready to run a 3-hour race this year on the Teton Dam course, so I adjusted my goal a little and set it at 3:10. I ran up summers hill so many times while training. That is the key to getting a good time on the Teton Dam Marathon--be ready for the gradual uphill from mile 18-23. I was ready. I knew I could keep a 7:10 pace on the rest of the course, but could I keep it up on Summer's hill? Nope. I couldn't, but I did my best.

It helped to have my family in the minivan leapfrogging me as my support vehicle. My kids were jumping out and running along with me to hand me my fluids so I didn't need to stop at aid stations. They were also pumping music and telling me how many people were ahead of me. Ten at first, and I picked them off one by one, and by the bottom of Summer's hill I could see the leader and I managed to pass him on the hill. That motivated me to keep it up for the rest of the race, but I was looking over my shoulder for the last couple of miles.

I didn't reach my goal of 3:10, but I came in first(!) at 3:13. They gave cash awards this year and I scored in three divisions: 1st overall, 1st in masters, and "King of the Hill" (fastest runner up Summer's hill.) Taking home some cash was a fun surprise!

Mile 25 with a faithful member of my support crew.
Approaching finish line with help.
Did I win?
Couldn't have done it without these guys.
Not too hard to make the local paper.

Sierra Vista Trail 50K, March 2015
The 3:13 at the Teton Dam Marathon took something out of me. I didn't do much serious training during the summer, but enjoyed jogging consistently with Debbie. We enjoyed a beautiful backpacking trip through Yellowstone's Bechler Meadows at the end of the summer, which would be a fun trail to run in one day with a group and a can of bear spray each.
Backpacking Bechler with Deb
Once fall hit, I started eying a few different races, but couldn't find any that fit with my schedule and my finances. We had to replace our water main and that put a strain on my budget. So I didn't run a race in the fall, but hiked all over Idaho deer hunting. Once the weather got cold, audiobooks kept me on the treadmill. I finally saw a good deal on a flight to Albuquerque and signed up for the Sierra Vista Trail 50K. I trained fairly consistently with following routine:
M:     1 mile warm up
         3 miles of speed work
         1 mile cool down
         strength training

W:     1 mile warm up
         8 miles of pace work
         (usually between 8.1 and 8.8 mph)
         1 mile cool down

F:     Distance work at a comfortable pace
        (Usually 10-20 miles)

Four weeks before the race I did a twenty miler, and then three weeks before the race I did another. That's the first time I've done two twenty milers a week apart. Even though this was an ultra-marathon, I didn't put in any runs longer than 20 miles.

This was my first 50K. The race was a beautiful high desert trail along the base of the Sierra Nevadas. The weather was perfect. I didn't have a very firm time goal, but was hoping to average 9-minute miles. Didn't quite manage that, but finished in about 5:20, fast enough to take 8th overall among the small field.

I actually enjoyed the pace and distance. 31 miles at a comfortable pace is easier than 26.2 trying to run fast. My ankles took a beating though from the rocky, uneven ground. All the travel time getting to and from the race allowed me to finish Don Quixote on audiobook. Loved it! I'm now working on writing a play based on one of the stories within the story.
Water main, big pain (in the wallet).
Sierra Vista Trail 50K Start.
So, what's next? That's what everyone asks me these days when they see me. "When's your next marathon?" It's funny how we peg people. Strangely, I don't really think of myself as a marathoner or distance runner. It's something I do because it motivates me to keep in shape, and I'd rather be audiobooking while running than reading while sitting on my butt.

Anyway, my next race is the Mowdy Ranch Mustang Run in Oklahoma in June. My son qualified for the National Debate Tournament in Dallas, and I'm going down to watch him, so I thought I might as well find a marathon in the area, right? Since I'd already done Dallas (sorry, Debbie), I looked to the nearest neighbor and found this good looking inaugural trail race at Mowdy Ranch in Oklahoma on the same weekend. Perfect.

Just in case you didn't get a Christmas card from us. :)

Oh yeah, and you might get a kick out of this Local News 8 video of the Teton Dam Marathon (notice something missing?), and my brother's biased reply below--if only my bro could have used "hometown hero" a few more times, and I love the intentional typos:

Jim -

We need to talk!  This is ridiculous.  Here is how the report should have gone:

Making Dreams a Reality: Hometown Hero Wins Teton Damn Marathon!

Father of five boys, determined to run 50 marathons in 50 states by age 50, is well on his way to making all of his dreams a reality! 

This year's Teton Damn Marathon winner, Jim Richards, has been training for years to become Rexburg's hometown hero.  In 2007 Jim started training for his first marathon in an effort to shed a few pounds.  Now, just 7 years later, Jim has run 25 marathons, including the Boston Marathon (twice) and the Teton Damn Marathon (7 times!).  On his bucket list: win his hometown marathon. CHECK!

But Jim's accomplishments don't stop there.  In the last 20 months Jim has successfully set his personal record marathon time of 3:12:20, finished a grueling Florida Ironman, and completed the historic 2014 Boston Marathon. 

With 15 states under his belt, Jim Richards has proven to the world (and to himself) that it is better to set a goal and strive for it than to set no goal at all.  Will Jim actually be able to run 35 more marathons in 9 years?  According to Jim that is the wrong question to ask.  Instead, Jim would ask, "what is my next marathon, how fast can I finish, how can I prepare, and how can I enjoy the journey?" 

Think of it!  7 years ago Jim weighed nearly 200 lbs. and had never run a 10k.  Now, he is Rexburg's 160 lb. hometown hero!  He has inspired his children, siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews to "try" running and many of them have now completed their own marathons.  He has traveled the nation in search of adventure and accomplishment, but not for public recognition, but rather personal fulfillment and satisfaction.  He has done what few people dream of.  What is that?  He has mastered the art of setting personal goals and finding joy in accomplishing them.

Jim Richards is much like the elusive snow leopard from the 2013 Walter Mitty film.  Adventurer Sean O'Connell (played by Sean Penn) says: "beautiful things don't call attention to themselves".  Most people grow lazy, heavy, and tired with age.  And then they want recognition for everything that they have done.  In stark contrast, is 41-year old Jim Richards.  His accomplishments are a thing of beauty.  Rexburg's elusive hometown hero has done nothing to call attention to himself.  His quiet & persistent dedication has shown his boys, his town, and most importantly himself, that dreams can become a reality.  Where will he show up next?

I love you Jim!


ps - forgive the poor grammar.  I am not the writer you are.  But clearly, behind Mom and Deb, I am your biggest fan!

Thanks, Dave! Sorry if this self-promoting blog undercuts your assessment of me. Toodles, cyberspace.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

15 States Down!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ironman Report (at long last) + 5 Marathons

Can I still call it a blog if I haven’t posted in over two years? Oh well. It’s catch up time. I’ve run five marathons and an Ironman since my last post. Here’s the skinny: Training for the Ironman was a challenge. The difficulty was primarily in finding a balance between three sports on a six-day training week. I wanted to train in each sport three times a week, but without doing the same sport two days in a row to allow for some recovery time. I experimented with several varieties, but finally settled on a rotation that went something like this:

(short, optional)
Week A
Bike (run)
Week B
(swim) bike
Week C
Swim (bike)

I didn’t always stick to it perfectly, of course, but it served as a good guide. I swam in the BYU-I pool (LOVE the feeling of jumping into an empty, quiet pool at 5:00 a.m. before the lights are even on), ran/biked treadmill/stationary bike at the BYU-I fitness center in the winter, otherwise outside. I have never been a cyclist, and it was fun to explore the endless roads around Rexburg (and elsewhere while travelling) on some of my long rides. There’s some beautiful country around here. I trained alone, for the most part, which I prefer because of the flexibility and independence it provides. Some of my favorite routes included:

Rexburg > Tetonia > Ashton > Rexburg
Rexburg > Warm Slough > Menan Buttes > Rigby > Rexburg
Rexburg > Sage Junction > Roberts > Twin Bridges > Rexburg
Rexburg > Menan Buttes > County Line Road > Ririe > Rexburg
Upper Falls in Yellowstone to West Yellowstone
Morgan, UT > East Canyon Reservoir > Over Big Mountain > Down Emigration Canyon
Morgan, UT > Around Pine View Reservoir > Morgan

I loved stopping at a Podunk gas station in the middle of nowhere on a long ride, hobbling into the store all saddle sore, buying thousands of calories worth of sports drinks, chocolate milk, snacks, etc., using the bathroom, refueling, and then continuing on my way. My bike was old, slow, and sturdy. Not a racing bike by any measure, but a good training bike. I never once got a flat tire in all my training (except for on a tri bike I borrowed from a guy in Rexburg when I was considering buying it from him.) After much consideration, I decided not to buy a tri bike, but rented one on the day of the Ironman—a huge risk, I know, but in the end the convenience and cost seemed more reasonable than trying to take a bike with me to Florida. “Train heavy, race light.” That’s been my motto for running, and it worked for biking, too. The tri bike was a dream compared to my heavy training bike, though my neck was tortured by the aerobar position, which I hadn’t trained for. I made sure I could go the distance (and a little beyond) in each sport—my max distances topped out at 3 miles for the swim, 30 miles for the run, and 120 for the bike.

I took students to Mexico and Belize again in 2012, which interrupted my training a bit, but Deb joined me for the last week of the trip, which was awesome.

Tulum with Deb

I ran two marathons during my training leading up to the Ironman. The first was the local Teton Dam marathon in June (3:27, 5th place overall)

 Local Fan Club!

 Luke ran the 5K

 Eddie ran the 10K

 Way to go, boys!

My niece, Jessica, ran the half marathon. Tough gal.

Party at the finish line

Cow and calf moose tried to join the race

The second marathon I ran in training for the Ironman was the SLR Hebgen Lake Montana marathon in August. The latter was a family reunion marathon; I was the only one who did the marathon distance, but I was proud of my sibs and kids who did the half, 10K, and 5K. Montana doesn’t have any decent marathons that aren’t on a Sunday, so we organized our own.

 SLR Hebgen Lake Marathon Participants

 Half way done
 Eddie, killing it
 Henry ran his first 5K

 Motivation: gatorade at the finish line

Sibs and spouses. Champs! (Chumps?)

Ironman training was combined with a Scout backpacking trip to Upper Palisades Lake and a Scout Camp 50 Miler through the Cache Mountains.

 Dropping in to Upper Palisades Lake with Luke

Upper Palisades Lake

Troop 404 50 Miler with Isaac and Luke

Our family trip to Florida was pricey, but worth every penny. Our kids were so excited to fly in an airplane, stay in hotels, play on the beach, and go to Disney World. Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studies, Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter—yikes! How many amusement parks are there? But we did them all, and I survived, thanks to $3 churros and butter beer. But NO thanks to the giant “turkey legs” in the Disney parks. I swear, they are NOT turkey. What are they? Seemed more like a ham hock. Nasty.

In Panama City, I checked in, rented a triathlon bike, got my transition bags ready, and went to the athletes’ dinner/mandatory meeting. Deb and the kids met me there the next day and we enjoyed the afternoon/evening on the beach. Very nice beach, by the way, sugar-white sand and Caribbean blue water. The kids loved trying to body surf. I couldn’t sleep that night, of course, and woke up at 1:00, tossing and turning until 4:00. Deb took me to the morning bike check at about 5:00, and finally at 7:00 I plunged into the water with 3000 other psychos, clawing and kicking our way around a buoy course in the ocean. I drank seawater. I got my goggles kicked off. I kicked others, even women. It was a frenzy.

I got to see Deb and the kids when I came out of the water after 2.4 miles. They were all wearing matching Ironman t-shirts, and their cheers kept me going. After six hours and 112 miles on the bike, which was my target time, my neck was cramping from the aerobar position. Near the end of the bike route, I saw Deb and the kids cheering in front of the hotel. After transition #2, I started the run, hoping to keep up nine-minute miles. I did for the first ten, but I got some nasty stomach cramps. I tried to keep going, but I had to stop running. I walked for half a mile then visited the port-o-potty, aka stinkin’ oven! Dang! It was hot in there. I sat there for 10 minutes and you should have seen the pool of sweat at my feet when I was done. (I won’t describe the other pool I made.) But I felt MUCH better afterwards, and managed to resume at about a ten-minute pace. The afternoon was hot and I carried ice in my hands from each aid station to keep my body temperature down. I saw Deb and the kids halfway through the run and that really boosted me. My hamstring cramped at mile twenty-two, but luckily (read: prayerfully) I worked that out and managed to squeak in under twelve hours, which was my goal. I was happy with my overall time, but disappointed that I didn’t finish the marathon in under four hours. I think I could have were it not for the stomach cramps/stinkin’ oven stop, which were, I think, a result of my novice fueling approach on the bike—namely, I think I ate too much, and probably should have stuck with only gels rather than combining them with Gu Chomps and peanut butter M&Ms. Oh well. Before the race, Debbie gave me an “Ironman” book she had made with photos and thoughts from my friends and family. It was probably one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. The last few miles of the Ironman were the most taxing I’ve ever experienced; something carried me through those last few miles and it wasn’t my legs.

Looking back on it, I would say an Ironman was much more do-able that most people think, especially for people who just want to cover the distance and aren’t worried about their time. Many of the participants in the Florida Ironman seemed to be cyclists, who slogged through the swim, killed it on the bike, then practically walked the marathon. I was passed by hundreds of people on the bike portion, then I passed hundreds of people during the marathon. I don’t think I’ll do another Ironman for two reasons: 1) it’s too expensive; 2) it’s too much time on the bike (I haven’t been back on my bike ONCE since the Ironman. Ha!) But it’s definitely worth doing once. If you’re thinking about it, give it a try. You can do it.

 Sunset on the beach the night before the Ironman. Hubba.

 Devoted fans on the shore

 2.4 mile swim. Done!

To the showers

 Bike transition

Bike Start

 Fun on the beach while waiting for dad (for six hours! Ho hum.)

 111 miles down, 1 to go.

 Half-way through the run. Ugh.

 Forced cheer.

 Forced smile.

Slog on.

 Patient fans.

Done at last! I don't know who was more tired, dad or kids?

Trying not to puke.

On Monday we hit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Recovery potion: Butter Beer

Ironman Florida 2012 Vid

I rested for a week after the Ironman, then started training for the Phoenix marathon. I have been wanting to run a three-hour marathon, and I thought this mostly gradual, down-hill course with a flat finish would be my chance. I trained pretty intensely, and started dealing with some pain in my right calf that had developed about a month before the Ironman at the end of a thirty-mile training run. It slowed me down a bit, but I was able to work through it. When it came time for the Phoenix marathon, I knew I wasn’t ready to run a three-hour race, but I did manage to pull off a PR at 3:12:20. I was on pace for 3:10, but really pooped out toward the end. It’s so hard to train for those last three miles. Phoenix was beautiful that time of year. It was nice to get a little sunny escape from the Rexburg winter.

Awkward selfie at Phoenix finish line. 

Soon after the Phoenix Marathon, I watched the film Forks over Knives and started a plant-based diet. The concept really interested me, and I researched it quite a bit online, read a few books, and watched some documentaries. I’ve settled into a diet I call “80/20,” in which I try to eat 80% whole, plant-based foods, and only 20% processed foods or animal products. This was inspired by Forks over Knives, which suggests that most Americans consume the reverse: 80% animal products and processed foods and only 20% plants. A strictly vegetarian or vegan diet seemed too extreme for me. 80/20 seems more realistic, and more consistent with the Mormon “Word of Wisdom” code of health to “eat meat sparingly.” I’ve been trying to eat animal products and processed foods sparingly, and I have dramatically increased the amount of plant products I eat, especially unprocessed, whole food plants, which are the best of the best. I’ve been doing this for just over a year now, and I’m lovin’ it (sorry McDonalds.) I’d recommend the Flexitarian Diet by Blatner, if you’re interested. And definitely watch Forks over Knives if you haven’t yet. One of my favorite moments is when a cardiologist says, “Some would say eating a plant-based diet is extreme. I’d say cutting a vein from your leg, opening your chest, and attaching it to your heart is extreme.” So true. The truth is that the American diet is frighteningly extreme in the amount of animal products and processed foods it includes. Sadly, we have come to consider this extreme the norm. It isn’t. It’s debilitating us and our children, preventing us from enjoying activities we might enjoy, burdening us with food-induced diseases, and killing us early. People eat cold cereal made with “whole grain” for breakfast and think they are eating healthy. What they are eating is a bowl full of sugar, processed garbage void of nutrition, and dairy cholesterol. It’s difficult to wean yourself completely off the sugar addiction and enjoy the natural sweetness of fresh produce. I’m still struggling with it, but I have made significant progress and have found it worth it. What I once found appetizing now turns my stomach, and vice versa. But I should shut up now. People don’t like to be told what to eat, but they love to comment on what other people eat. I can’t tell you how many times people will say to me, “I thought you weren’t eating dairy?” if I take a bite of nonfat yoghurt for the sake of probiotics. It’s all I can do to keep from saying, “Look, buddy, you’ve eaten more cheese today than I’ve eaten all month, so back off!” 

After the Phoenix marathon, I started tentatively training for the Teton Dam race, again. But it’s so hard to train during May while I’m in Mexico and Belize leading the BYU-I Mesoamerica student tour. This year my son Isaac, and my niece Jessica, came with us, which was awesome!
Isaac and Jess at the Border 

Isaac and I at Lamanai

The calendaring schedule caused us to return about a week later than normal in 2013 and I just didn’t have enough time to get ready for the Teton Dam race. I could have run it just to run it, but I wasn’t ready to put in a good time, so I passed on it in 2013, but had a good time watching my son Luke run the 5K.

Luke running the 5K

Summer was filled some wonderful time in the Tetons, including a canoe trip and campout at Leigh Lake, and a backpacking trip with friends along the Teton Crest Trail. I ended the summer with a visit to a couple of my siblings (Jon and Jenny) in Minnesota, and the Birkebeiner Trail marathon in Hayward, Wisconsin (3:53). It was a beautiful trail run, but I felt pretty hammered afterward.

 Canoe camping trip to Leigh Lake

 Teton Crest Trail

 Backpacking Buddies

 Day 2: dropping into Cascade Canyon

Paintbrush Divide

Totally unrelated to running, but my thirteen-year-old son shot a four point buck in October! It was an awesome hunt.

First deer a four point? It's down hill from here, buddy.

The next marathon I had planned was Red Rock Canyon near Vegas. Last year, I had enjoyed the sunny escape of Phoenix so much, that I wanted to do something warm again, and this time I insisted that Debbie come with me. (She’s always reluctant to leave the kids behind.) We had an awesome trip! I arrived Thursday and did some hiking and exploring in Red Rock. We stayed in the Red Rock Hotel, which was only ten minutes from the canyon and away from the Vegas dreariness. On Friday, we took a helicopter ride over Hoover Dam, Lake Meade, and the west thumb of Grand Canyon. The views were vast and awe-inspiring. On Friday, I ran the race and Deb explored the canyon taking photos and catching up with me to cheer here and there. The race was hilly, and had only been training on a treadmill, but I managed a 3:40 and got 3rd in my division. The rest of the day we relaxed by the pool, took an evening walk in the canyon, and had a nice dinner. We returned Sunday morning in time to relieve my mom from watching the kids (thanks Grandma!) a get to church. It was a perfect winter escape.

Red Rock Fox
Red Rock PDA
Red Rock Canyon View
Helicopter Ride
Deb got this stunning shot of the Grand Canyon from the helicopter
Red Rock Marathon
Mile 26. Only .2 to go. Ugh.
Exploring Red Rock

Partition Arch, Arches National Park

Deb and I had so much fun in Red Rock Canyon, and we thought our kids would love it. It was a little too far to go back for spring break, so we took the kids to Canyonlands and Arches instead. Awesome country!

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

And that brings me to April 2014. I’m running Boston for the second time on April 21st. Why? Defiance, baby. Bombs aren’t going to stop us. Okay, actually, they might. I hope there’s no bomb this year. I did it five years ago and Deb came with me; we had a great trip and thoroughly enjoyed the sites and the city. This year, I’m going alone for a quick trip. I arrive late Saturday night, and return late Monday after the race. The thing that really made me want to run it again is that they decreased the qualifying times. So of course, I had to see if I could qualify at the faster time, right? Well, I did, by three minutes in Phoenix. They accept registrants starting with the fastest, so I was lucky and surprised to get in with only a three-minute buffer. But I got in, and when I found a flight with the right price and the right times, I went for it. It will be a whirlwind trip. I’m hoping to finish sub 3:30, if I don’t have to throw myself on a bomb to save Ryan Hall. Beantown, here I come, again.