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Small Events, Big Results, Bigger Lessons

This was a great weekend for personal challenges for both Carrie and I. We’ve both been doing better with keeping a consistent training schedule and this weekend we finally got to test out our fitness levels.

Hike UP to the start line!

It started on Saturday with a very early morning drive to San Marcos for the Inaugural San Elijo Hills Trail Marathon. This isn’t something you’ll find on a race calendar, it was the heinous concoction of Dax Ross (make sure to check out his recap and pics) and was promised to be the “slowest marathon of your life.” The total distance was just under a marathon but the 5,100 feet of climbing more than made up for it. The course was awesome with a great mix of every type of terrain: fire road, beautiful single track, paved road, and at no point were we ever running  on flat ground.

Going in to the weekend I was a little concerned simply because I hadn’t run long since the JTree Traverse at the beginning of May. However, like I said I’ve been training well and I was feeling really fit so figured I would give it a go. I wasn’t familiar with the majority of the group I would be joining but I knew through reputation most of them were very strong runners so I decided to try to hang back throughout the day and run a comfortable pace. Thank God I did because I was surrounded by absolute beasts! There were things being talked about such as Ultraman (that’s a double Ironman), a 9 hr 50 miler in a first attempt, Leadville 100 preparations, Triple Crown attempts (summit Gorgonio, Bernardino, and Jacinto in one day), and these were just a few of the 18 different people that were out there. I was in awe of this group and just hoped I could hang.

As for the run itself, it was an absolute blast! The group while incredibly strong didn’t have an ounce of arrogance to it (another one of the great attributes of the majority of trail runners). The combination of the banter and the terrain made what could have been a brutally long day in to a marathon that flew by (if a marathon can fly by in 5+ hours). The weather was with us and it stayed cloudy until about mile 18 when the sun came out just in time for our biggest climb of the day. It made the climb a little harder but nothing too terrible. In fact, I felt pretty good all day until a couple stupid mistakes caught up to me. For the first time in a very long while, I forgot to take salt pills with me and sure enough, my calf started seizing at mile 20. Dax saved me with a couple tablets and I was able to keep it at bay through the end. The only other problem I had was another dumb mistake. I had plenty of calories with me and the extravagant aid stations put together by some of the amazing wives, girlfriends, kids, and families of the runners had us more well stocked than I could have imagined. Unfortunately, I just didn’t take in enough and when we hit the last couple hundred yards of steep, scramble climbing to the finish I started hitting the wall pretty hard. I hadn’t hit the wall like that in a very long time and it sucked! I chalk both of these up to simply not doing any long runs the past two months and getting out of practice with my nutrition.

What I lacked in nutrition, my training made up for. I took a huge lesson out of Saturday; consistency and trust in your training can greatly amplify what you are able to accomplish. I know this may sound pretty basic but it’s something I, and a lot of people, struggle with. If you have a training plan, stick to it and trust in it, especially when you have seen success before. Carrie and her coaching, have gotten me through some incredibly tough races and runs and each time I have followed her guidance I have been successful! She has gotten me to a top-10 o’all/2nd place AG finish in one of the hardest IM distance races in North America, 12th o’all in my first 50K, completed a 3 mile OW swim that had only 163 of 500 starters finish the race, a strong run at the JTree Traverse and now a tough marathon on no long runs. These stats would never be possible without expert guidance and trusting in what I am being given to do. Knowing I can fully rely on my coach eliminates a huge deal of worry and allows me to focus on getting the job done.

The final climb that ate my legs for lunch!

That’s right, we even had paper towel finish tape!

Sunday it was time to recover from Saturday’s effort and pay it back. I was on hand for support while Carrie was reentering the racing world with the Self Transcendence Swim-Run. This 1 mile swim, 10K run begins at the La Jolla cove. Swimmers take off and head for the LJ Shores where they run 10-1mile loops on the beach. I love the concept of the race and would have liked to do it but there was no way my legs would allow it. Instead, I got to watch Carrie go from a confident coach, to a nervous pre-race athlete, to the fierce competitor I know she is. With only a hand full of solid training weeks under her belt, Carrie crushed it to take 5 o’all female and 1st in her age group! I can’t even begin to say how proud of her I am. I know how hard it has been for her not being able to race because of limited time over the past year so seeing her go out there and reassert herself in the competitive world was better than anything I could have gotten from a race of my own.

O yea…1st AG wins a pie! Love this race!!!

This was a great weekend for the Jesse crew and it will be one of many!


The Lake Hodges Trail Fest: One more step towards realizing dreams

Friends and Family,

As most, if not all, of you know by now this year has held some huge changes for me. At the end of 2011, I put in my notice at the San Diego Running Institute and by the end of January I was officially without a job and heading in to full on self-employment or bust mode. My mission was to realize a dream of mine to be able to support Carrie and myself while meeting three very important goals I have set for myself:

  1. Do something I truly enjoy.
  2. Be free from the constraints of a boss and work schedule.
  3. Give back to the community around me.

The first step towards realizing my goals is almost here. On June 23rd I will host my first event, the SoCal Wine Country Women’s Half Marathon and 5K, in Temecula, CA. The response to this event has been more than I dreamed of when I first put the idea together and it has been a very reassuring sign that I am on the right path. With the race coming up I’m getting more and more nervous and excited about race day.

The second step towards realizing these three goals is the one that I am the most passionate about. With the introduction of the Lake Hodges Trail Fest coming this October I am able to not only do something I love but, more importantly help give back to the community that has given me so much. The Lake Hodges Trail Fest serves as a fundraiser for Outdoor Outreach, an amazing non-profit based here in San Diego. Outdoor Outreach’s mission is to empower at-risk and underprivileged youth to make positive lasting changes in their lives through comprehensive outdoor programming.

Imagine growing up within a few miles of the Pacific Ocean and never having seen the beach. What would it be like to have no idea what the world holds beyond the few block radius around your neighborhood? When I was introduced to endurance sports it began a transformation in who I am as a person. Through my continued exploration of the outdoors, I not only learn more about the environment and world around me, but more about myself as a human being. There is nothing I want more than to be able to share that feeling and inspire that continued growth in others.

So the Lake Hodges Trail Fest is more than just another step towards me realizing my dreams it’s a starting point for others to begin realizing their’s as well.

Want to make a small donation to help Outdoor Outreach? You don’t have to run the race, just stop over at our fundraising page and donate whatever you can afford. Even a couple dollars can be what it takes to help someone gain an greater understanding of themselves and the world around them.

The JTree Traverse

As you saw with my last post, I took some time off from blogging. There was a lot going on, primarily another career change, and I needed to be focused on that. However, this past weekend I was fortunate enough to take part in something that I am very excited to share and it’s time to get back to some semi-regular blogging. I know, I know, you are all VERY excited to get more of me back in to your lives just try to contain yourselves and not get to carried away. On to the run…

This weekend a small group of incredible runners (Toby, Jess, Ben, Dax and Carlyn), and myself, assembled in Joshua Tree National Park to bring to life something that has been in the works for almost a year. The brainchild of Toby Guillette, “The JTree Traverse” is 37.3 miles along the California Riding and Hiking Trail that navigates it’s way from one end of the park to the other. This was the 3rd attempt to get the run together but because of delays last fall and sickness and injuries earlier this year we had to push it back. Fortunately, the 3rd time was definitely the charm and this run was an epic. While there are many accounts of multi-day hikes along the trail and people running it in sections, we haven’t been able to track down a documented single effort run across the entire distance. However, after this weekend I have no doubt this is going to become one of the staples to the Ultrarunners checklist of runs that need to be done.

For those of you that are interested in putting this on your list, I’ll spare you the personal details in favor of the logistics from the day with the exception of this brief note. This was my longest run to date and I couldn’t have asked for anything more than what I got out of it. The dynamic of the group was outstanding and made the miles fly by. Between the views, the weather, the people, and this being my first time in Joshua Tree it’s hard to put in to words the feelings I have after this day. It was an outstanding experience to be a part of and I hope to use it to grow as a runner and outdoor enthusiast.

Now for what you really want, the details and the pictures. (Almost all of these pictures came from the rest of the crew so I highly recommend checking out their pages for more great shots!)

We got the run started at 5:15 AM and depending on the time of year I would strongly encourage you not get started any later than this. We had great weather and a good wind that kept the temps in check all morning but it starts to get real hot, real quick once the early afternoon hits.

0 dark thirty and 37.3 miles to go

As you can see, the trail is broken in to sections by road crossings which gives you a good way to break up the run mentally and also multiple options to stash hydration/nutrition if you need to do so. We were fortunate enough to have Dax, despite a shoulder separation, offer to come out and still do a portion of the run with us and make our logistics much easier. The night before a car was dropped at Keys View Rd with our fuel and post-run equipment. Dax joined us for the run to Keys View, and a few extra miles, then drove the car to the finish to pick us up. This was awesome and made for much less driving the night before. The original plan was to stash a cooler at Keys View Rd, park the car at the finish then have to drive all the way back to the start. It would have been a lot of driving the night before an early run.

Yup, 20+ in a sling. Bad ass!

As for the trail, it’s got a little bit of everything. It starts and ends with a few miles of loose sand that makes footing difficult but it doesn’t last too long. The biggest problem with the sand in the beginning is that you are also doing most of your climbing here so it can be tough. Focusing on not fighting it and lifting the legs instead of pushing off seemed to help mentally. The nice thing is you hit your highest point of the day around mile 5, from there until the last few miles you are on quality solid trail the entire time. The loose sand during the final few miles are actually not bad at all because it softens the gradual downhill running you’ll be doing.

The views are really quite impressive the entire time. With the trail being so far removed from the roads/cars/exhaust the Joshua Trees are so healthy and grow to be much larger than I saw in the main part of the park and you are running through fields of them as far as you can see. The second half loses a lot of the trees but makes up for it with rock formations that will make you want to leave the trail to try some climbing. The highlight for me was a section around mile 13 (I think?) after a short climb we were looking at the trail coming up and it was a gradual descent that traced the spine of a ridge. Standing there looking at the trail I was like a kid on Christmas and this was by far the biggest box under the tree. It was such a beautiful stretch of trail that I couldn’t help but completely zone out while running it and get lost a bit in the moment.

Jess happened to catch it on camera.

“Soaring” down the trail

The trail truly is something to behold and being able to see parts of the park that most people never encounter on my first trip to JTree made it that much more memorable.

Route Map

Route Topo

I’ll leave you with a collaboration of pictures from the crew. Like I said almost all of these came from them so check out their sites for more pics and recaps of the day.

Thanks to Toby, Jess, Dax, Ben and Carlyn for making this happen!

Solid Week of Family, Training and Racing in PA

Last week I went back to Pennsylvania for my youngest brother’s High School graduation and got in some really good family time, training, and a solid race result. All in all, a damn good week!

After getting in an easy 6 miles with the Dirt Devils in Marian Bear on Tuesday morning I came home to pack and head off to the airport. Fortunately, other than a close call on making the connection it was a pretty uneventful flight back east and I got in Tuesday night ready to eat and get some sleep!

Wednesday started with a morning swim at the Wilkes-Barre CYC. They had a pretty nice pool there and it felt great to be swimming in a 25yd pool instead of the 20yd that I’ve gotten used to at the Wavehouse. (On a sidenote, they closed the Wavehouse pool so Carrie and I cancelled our membership and we’ll be joining the Mission Valley YMCA. I’m stoked to start swimming in a real pool on a regular basis!) After that I went back to my mom’s and played with my nephew all day. One of the highlights of the week was definitely getting to spend so much time with him. My mom babysits during the week so I got to spend just about every day just hanging out with him. The kid cracks me up and has such a great personality.

That night we headed out for Kyle’s graduation. I gotta take a minute to say how proud I am of him and I hope he takes his outgoing personality and carefree attitude with him to college. His defiance to allow others to dictate how he should act or live his life is inspiring and it will serve him well in the future.

Thursday was an adventure run, not because it was supposed to be. They put in some loop trails in Mocanaqua that I didn’t have time to check out the last time I went home. I hadn’t been to Moc since our old New Years Eve parties so it was fun to go back down there. The plan was to run the 8 mile loop for 60 minutes then hike whatever was left to the finish. Now, to the surprise of no one that knows me, I of course got lost. Multiple times. I’m used to signs on the trails or just simple out and backs. Well since this trail system consists of 5 loops, they all start and end the same way but branch in different directions. The trails are marked with painted blazes on trees, posts, rocks, etc. I’ll be the first to admit I have a knack for getting lost and I’m not very good at following markers, but these blazes need some work. After getting lost in the strip mines twice, running to multiple dead ends, I was only able to follow the Emergency Access route markers to find my way back. Unfortunately I didn’t know how far I was going to end up going so I ran about 85 minutes with the last 15 minutes being a run/walk/where the hell am I scramble through the woods. Fortunately, the Timex Global Trainer has a fantastic navigate feature. I ended up resorting to going off trail through the woods to find my way back to the parking lot.

Friday I went back to the CYC for my longest swim in a while and it worked me over. Not only was the distance increased but the intensity was there too and the last round of my main set took it to me. I got out of the pool with one of my favorite feelings, the soreness and fatigue that you know only comes from putting in work that results in improvement!

Saturday was a great day! Started out with about an hour drive to Hickory Run State Park. (Note: Hickory Run State Park is 40 minutes from my starting location…yes, I got lost. This is why Carrie got me a GPS for Christmas.) I had found an Xterra 10K and was able to go check it out. I got there and was happy to see it was going to be a small, low-key affair. Only had about 45 people in the race and it was a cool crowd. I was able to talk to a few people including the RD beforehand and got a good feel for what the course was going to be like. I went out for a 10 minute warm up run and got a few pics of the first section of the course then came back for some stretching and more chatting with fellow runners. I love these small events where everyone is cool with just hanging out and BSing before and after.

It was time to get started so we had a quick course talk and the RD introduced a guy that hasn’t lost an Xterra in the Eastern PA area in about 4 years. That’s SICK! After, we all lined up and the sound of the air horn had us heading about a 1/4 mile down a pretty steep paved road before turning on to the trail. By the time we hit the trail I was 3rd and behind the guy we’d hope to be chasing and another guy who appeared to take the start with a little too much gusto. I let him stay in front of me as we crossed the stream that would serve as our finish line when we came back from our 6 mile loop. After some more double track trail we hit the single track that was a gradual incline but nothing drastic. I used the guy blocking the trail as a good way to slow myself down, regain my heart rate and breathing and compose myself. Soon enough he waved me around him and I was off in search of some hurt. My goal for this race was to test my fitness level and see if I could push myself to a solid effort over the distance so that’s what I did.

Once I was free to go I picked up my pace and cruised up the rest of the single track. I’d love to recap the race turn by turn but I have a horrendous memory and it’s even worse when I’m racing. I’m always amazed when people can do blow by blow recaps of an event. I’m at a loss but in short, the course was a mix of single track, a lot of soft double track grassy paths, and a very rocky, uneven section. With my goal being to push myself I refused to slow down through the rocky section and was shocked not to eat it at any point. Around mile 3-3.5 we were on a long section of wide grassy path and I was out of sight of the 1st place runner and couldn’t see anyone behind me. This allowed my mind to start to wander, but I was very happy with how quickly I was able to reign it back in and keep pushing myself without slacking off.

Definitely don't have the roots to contend with in SD

As I got to mile 4 I caught a glimpse of the lead runner so I pushed a little harder to start to close the gap. I could tell he wasn’t pushing that hard and must be lost in thought. I knew he was much faster than me but I was hoping to be able to reel him in and give him some crap about slacking off. Unfortunately, when I got to withing about 20 yards I stepped on a stick and he heard me coming. He turned around, saw me, and was gone. I didn’t see him again until I crossed the finish line and asked him if he was bored and decided to play with me.

The last mile of the race was a long, solid climb with two steep pitches. I had heard the race could be anywhere from 6.5 to 6.8 miles so I wasn’t sure how long I was going to be on this climb. When I got to the two steep pitches, I started running up them but each time I realized I could power walk it, save a little gas and was able to run better once the hill reduced it’s grade a little bit. Once we got back to the end of the loop I knew I was home free and the terrain leveled off a bit so I was able to pick it up again before coming across the stream to finish 2nd overall.

Very cool finish line!

I was able to hang out after to talk to the winner, the RDs and a bunch of the other racers. What a fun race with a great group of people. I hope I happen to be in town during one of their future races. I was really happy with my effort and my time. I feel like Carrie has me on a good path for this season.

I miraculously made it home without getting lost just in time to help with the last of the set up for the graduation party and getting some of the food ready. We had a good time at the party and it was fun to see Kyle celebrate with his friends and enjoy the moment. For some people high school graduation can be an overwhelming moment and I thought it would be for Kyle because he was so passionate about the things he had done throughout the previous 4 years. He seemed to really have a good perspective on it though and I’m convinced he’s going to go on to good things.

30 Days of Biking – Days 22 & 23

Friday after work, Carrie and I went out for an easy ride around the bay. She wasn’t feeling well (because I passed on my cold to her) so we kept a slow pace just to get her out in the fresh air. It ended up working out pretty well because she was feeling a little better when we got back.

With the family starting to get in to town I took advantage of yesterday morning to get in a real ride with a friend. We did a nice loop from Mission Beach through Mission Bay to La Jolla and back. Ended up being a perfect ride with easy to moderate effort on a gorgeous morning. It was exactly what I needed yesterday!

30 Days of Biking – Day 21

Because I find it fun to do dumb things, I spent the entire day home sick from work. Staying home from work wasn’t the dumb thing, I needed to stay on the couch and rest and get this crap out of me. Giving my step-father my car with my house keys and my wallet in the middle console was the dumb thing. Especially with minimal food in the house. This among other things made today a much less than stellar day.
Finally I said screw it and grabbed the beach cruiser and went out to the boardwalk for a 30 minute ride. I wanted to get a decent ride in today but it wasn’t going to happen. Regardless, I got a ride in on the boardwalk…a perfectly mediocre end to a perfectly shite day!

Friday Beach Run

This morning was the first of what I’m going to be making a weekly beach run. The goal is to get relatively comfortable running in soft sand prior to Oriflamme 50K. The race has a brutal hill but Oriflamme Canyon is a lot of sand, hopefully if I can be more efficient through this section, in addition to increased hill training, I won’t be as crushed coming up the hill at the end.

Today’s run was a good one and I felt surprisingly good the whole time. Working on my running form seems to be paying off and it was obvious today with how light I felt in the sand. This was also my first back-to-back run since I’ve started running again. I did a very easy 13 yesterday and after today’s 5 miles I am really happy with how I feel right now.