#LT100 Training Update – Week Ending April 13, 2014

With our new bestie, Hal Koerner...

With our new bestie, Hal Koerner…

April 14 – 8:20 PM

Last week, I described how I’ve been training through weekly cycles… this week was a Recovery Week and I fully enjoyed it.  Here’s what the training looked like…

Monday, 4.7 – Rest Day!

Tuesday, 4.8 – 6.05 miles @ Standley Lake

We now live very close to a large reservoir called Standley Lake, and up to this point I’ve only run around the gravel roads below the dam.  But finally, the single track trails actually around the lake were dry and it was a blast to explore some new areas around our home.  An absolutely beautiful evening that inspired a bit of prose… Legs felt a bit heavy from last week’s effort, and I only intended to do 5 miles, but it was just so glorious out that I had to keep going!

Trails around Standley Lake

Trails around Standley Lake

Wednesday, 4.9 – Cross Training 2.5 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Pretty easy going, low impact effort on the legs but worked the core and upper body a little harder.

Thursday, 4.10 – EXTRA Rest Day!
Have just felt pretty beat down, so I took an extra rest day and I’m so glad I did!

Friday, 4.11 – Rest Day!
2 in a row! Hasn’t happened in a long while…

Saturday, 4.12 – 3 Runs/ Workouts

#1: 2.5 miles @ Wash Park

Saw on the social medias that ultra-legend Hal Koerner was going to run at Wash Park in the morning and that if anyone wanted to join him… So I went stalking… I mean, erm… uh… looking for him but didn’t find him, so I just did one lap and called it good.  Not a huge fan of that park or track.

 #2: 5.34 miles @ Standley Lake

Melanie needed to put in 5, as she’s training for both the Leadville Heavy Half Marathon AND for pacing me the last 13.5 miles at the #LT100.  So, I took her out to the paths I’d run earlier in the week.  Another gorgeous day!

IMG_1991#3: 1.75 miles @ BRC-CC and The North Face Mountain Athletics Event
The brand new Boulder Running Company store in Cherry Creek was hosting an event for The North Face, showcasing their new Mountain Athletics line of gear and training plans. I drove to the store and then jogged to the park where the event was to be held.  Met Anne and Sarah there after they’d done 13 miles out at Mount Falcon.  We had no idea for the smoking we were about to receive!!  The workout is very cross-fit-ish and was made to work the core in a functional strength kind of way.  There were sandbags.  There were weighted backpacks.  There were pushups an sit-ups in the goose pooh on the grass.  There were “Jane Fondas” (you don’t want to know…).  I’ve done more core and upper body work this round of training than any before and I was utterly unprepared for that workout.  I’m still sore 55+ hours later.  Can barely walk.  Unfortunately, I tweaked a niggling injury in my left quad… we’ll see how it goes but I don’t think it’s anything too threatening to the big goal.

You know, just frolicking on the beach... shirtless.

You know, just frolicking on the beach… shirtless.

The best part of the event, though, was getting the chance to just chat with two stars of ultra-running in Hal Koerner and Mike Wolfe.  Hal’s written a book that’ll be out in August that’s a “field guide” to ultra-running and he shared more about that, and I picked his brain a bit about Leadville.  Mike Wolfe is another stud of the highest order and he shared more about how he mixes in these kinds of workouts into his training.

The fact that one can get so up close and personal with these guys is pretty amazing.  For golfers, it’d be like getting to hang around a putting green with Tiger Woods.  For baseball fans, it’s like playing catch with Jeter.  Hal and Mike are at the absolute top of the ultra-running galaxy and yet this is still such a niche sport, that you can just hang with them for a bit, no big deal.


Celebrating completing the John Muir Trail…

For perspective on what these guys can do, check this report of their running the length of the John Muir Trail (220-ish miles long, mostly above 9,000 feet, with stupid amounts of vert) all in 3 days, 12 hours and 41 minutes.  Most people do this trail in 9-14 days.

As individuals, they’re also ridiculous.

Check Hal’s race report where he schooled some youngsters on the toughest 100 mile race in the world.  Hal was also featured in a recent edition of Outside Magazine.

And apparently the girls find him dreamy. :-)

The Wolfpaw is hard-freaking-core.

The Wolfpaw is hard-freaking-core.

And then read through (or watch) this interview with Wolfpaw after he won a 50 mile race after cracking his head on a tree and bleeding all over his singlet.  He’s done more cool stuff since then and had big wins and great showings all over the globe.

The event then rolled back to the store where there was free food, free massages and more nerdy running conversations with other like-minded people.  A really fun event!

Sunday, 4.12 – Rest Day!
Was still so sore… took another rest day.


I am pretty convinced that having a low-key recovery weeks is a real secret to successful ultra-running.  Embracing rest days and listening to one’s body can be a challenge though.  The down side of this week was getting so worked on Saturday that I’m still soooo sore here on Monday.  And I’ve got to start running again tomorrow!!

But, overall, I feel energized to step into another cycle of tough, tough training!  Looking to get speedy this week!

On an Evening Run

photoApril 8
7:36 pm

To run
With strong legs and lungs
And healthy heart

On an evening like this
With deep warmth and no hint of cold
And ample light late

Over trails dry and dusty
With breaths and breezes
And effort, but not too much

To hear
Water lapping shore
And birds and “dogs” and frogs

To see
Shadows long
And views stretching up and out and on and on

To return
To a place I love
To another’s heart who’s love is home

Today is a very good day

#LT100 Training Update – Week Ending April 6, 2014


Table Moutain, from Long Lake Ranch Park to the north

I’ve been inspired of late by various training blogs (like this one, or this one, or my current fav…), where ultra-runners share their efforts and ruminate about running and life.  I’m not sure what it is about these blogs that gets me, but I love them.

And frankly it’s motivated me to get back to writing again.  So, here it goes, for tonight at least…

I’m deep into training for the 2014 Leadville Trail 100, and I’ve adopted a plan for training that works through a cycle of weeks, with each week having a different emphasis.  I’m now in the midst of my third cycle, with 4 more cycles to go…  it takes a long time to prepare for 100 miles at 10k feet.

The inspiration for this plan came from reading up about people calling out the need for speed work and strength work and endurance training and so on and on and on. There is, apparently, no shortage of advice out there for runners regarding their training.  And I was having trouble fitting it all into my training last year.  I did a wee bit of speed work, and a smattering of strength work, but mostly I just ran long.  And it worked, but I felt that there could be something more…

And so, as I began to think of how to prepare for this peculiar race, I knew I needed to be strong for the long uphill climbs.  And I wanted to be faster, because that could mean shortening up the time out on the course.  And of course endurance is the greatest need… it IS 100 miles, after all.

Pulling a tire during strength week.

Pulling a tire during strength week.

And somewhere the idea of actually making a weekly emphasis out of each of those facets rose to the surface.  I came up with a plan (along with copious input from Ben and Chris) to spend a week on speed, a week on strength, a week on endurance and a week recovering before another cycle kicked off.

Because nothing can replace pure mileage, I also planned to work up in weekly mileage for each of those weeks, and then shortening up the mileage again on the recovery weeks.

So, this is what it has looked like for this current cycle:

  • Speed Week, 3/17 to 3/23, 35 miles total
  • Strength Week, 3/24 to 3/30, 40 miles
  • Endurance Week, 3/32 to 4/6, 45 miles
  • Recovery Week, 4/7 to 4/23 24 miles

The following cycles will continue to ratchet the mileage up further until I begin to taper for the final 3 weeks into race day on August 16.

I fully realize this notion of cycles is somewhat unproven (apart from the ratcheting up of mileage) and that it may be hogwash.


I am positively thrilled with the results so far.  I’ve felt continually stronger and stronger, and faster, too.  And on my endurance run yesterday, I had more in the tank to go harder at the end of the run than I’ve felt possible before…

And dang, ain’t I happy that this week is a recovery week.  Here’s the week that was…

Monday, 3.31
Rest Day!

Tuesday, 4.1 – 5.51 Miles @ Table Mountain

Small lake on top of Table Mountain

Small lake on top of Table Mountain

Legs still felt heavy and fatigued from the previous Saturday’s hard effort (4x up and down Green Mountain for 20 miles pulling a tire Marshall Ulrich style). And it was pretty breezy and cold, but not unbearable.  Since we’ve moved to Arvada, I’m really enjoying exploring new places to run, and I’m becoming quite fond of Table Mountain.  It’s close. There’s a measure of vert.  It’s sometimes techy, but mostly buffed out.  And for this evening I went off-trail to see where a little game trail led… and I jogged through a herd of deer and it always makes me think of persistence hunting.

Wednesday, 4.2 – Cross-Training 3 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Mileage is probably generous, being as how it was done on an elliptical machine… which has become something of my routine for cross-training days.  I want to get some cardio, and a bit of a sweat going, but with low impact to legs.  So, elliptical it is.  I do a mile on the machine, then work through a series of core and upper body exercises, another mile on the machine, more core and upper body, then one last mile.  I believe this cross-training is really helping my low back feel better through this round of training…

Thursday, 4.3 – 8.22 miles @ Table Mountain
Was super bummed to see the predicted 1” of snow had turned into many more than that overnight… knew that the trails would be sloppy.  But, as Ben put it so succinctly, “Hope Pass in August doesn’t care about your snowstorm in April.”  So, I went out.  On my dailymile description of this run I stated that it was like running on horse shit the whole way.  Sticky, clingy mud made my shoes a pound a piece throughout the run.  I find myself really longing for dry trails, warmer temps and consistently sunny skies.  Legs still feel tired.  Looking forward to spring/ summer.

Friday, 4.4 – Rest Day!
Dinner out for date night at Amadeo’s Italian was glorious.  The migraine headache right before bed was not…


Elevation profile from RunMeter…

Saturday, 4.5 – 26.42 @ Green Mountain
Head was still a bit wonky from migraine, and I wasn’t super psyched about heading out for this run.  Originally scheduled myself to do 25, but knew it’d be hard to not tack on extra to get to that magical marathon number.  Trails all over were still total slop from snow on Thursday, so I decided to reprise my route from the previous week going up and down Green Mountain, as I’d stayed mainly on the gravel road.  Last week that route worked for the tire, and this week they were the least mucky route on the hill. But, this week I did 5 laps instead of 4, extending my last lap to get to 26+.
Melanie joined me for my first lap, which is always great.  Second lap was uneventful until I ran into former classmate and 2011 LeadWoman Deanna Adami.  She joined me for the remainder of lap 2 and all of lap 3.  Lap 4, the temps dropped and the wind picked up and I began to fantasize about what food I would eat when I was done.  Last lap was okay but long, as I stretched it out.  Super happy with the day, though. Consistent energy, no bonks, good time with people, good time alone.  Great day on the hill!  Stopped and bought a feast at Boston Market on the way home and absolutely crushed dinner like one only can after a long trail run…

Sunday, 4.6 – Cross-Training 2.5 miles @ Apex Rec Center
Elliptical, core and upper body, repeat.  Very glad to be done with a tough cycle and greatly looking forward to a recovery week!

Countdown to UROC!

The Ultra Race of Champions, my goal race for the year, the focus of all of my training for the last 9 months, is now less than 5 days away!


And yikes!

I’ve been thinking a bit about my training and I’m hoping to write up a reflection here this week…


Somewhere around mile 55-56. It will be dark when I move through this area, so it's nice to have a picture now...

Somewhere around mile 55-56. It will be dark when I move through this area, so it’s nice to have a picture now…


Nepal 2013 : Post #2

Sunday, June 9
1:02 pm
3 Sisters Guest House
Pokhara, Nepal

Shortly, we’ll be leaving Pokhara to head back to Kathmandu, where we’ve got another day and a half before heading home Tuesday.

Time to reflect has been scarce, and frankly it sort of even feels “too close” to the trip to properly reflect upon it, anyway…

I’d planned/ hoped to document the trip day by day, and there will be a place for reflection like that, too, but not now.

So, here are a few thoughts… scattered as though they may be…

I’m grateful for this opportunity. Anytime one can travel to foreign soil and see how others live and think is good. Very good. Furthermore, it is very good to take the time to reflect back on America to see ourselves through different eyes. That’s a powerful perspective to have.

But, that’s not the main thing I’m thinking at the moment. The main thoughts come from the fact that Vaun, Melanie and I have had several talks, lingering over meals, about the conference and we believe it was a great success. Vaun had done some surveying of the attendants about their attitudes towards women, and some fundamental shifts seem to have taken place, which is great and glorious and the point of the entire endeavor.

I feel a sense of satisfaction that I did exactly what I came to do… I leveraged my experience, my status, my education and my gifts to speak out for those who’ve not had much of a voice, and I encouraged those men in attendance to use their leadership and influence to do the same. I preached the Word as best I knew how and now it is up to the Spirit to take those seeds and grow them to whatever fruit He decides.

Also, another thought is that there’s a reality that this trip and all the associated prayers and preparations and fund-raising and all of that, have occupied all of my thoughts and attention for so many weeks previous that I’m in something of a “let down” now from having it all come to pass… Once I finished that last sermon on Tuesday, I sat down and nearly melted down… from emotional release, exhaustion, heat, weariness, etc, etc. I feel a bit spent, overall.

And now that we’re nearing the time to head home, I feel ready… Ready to head back into my “regular” world with a renewed perspective and experience gained. And I’ll carve out some time and space to look back on these days to see what lessons sprout up. I do want to share some of the travel details, as they’re fun and interesting, and so I’ll continue to post those as the days advance.

We are so very grateful for this opportunity. We very literally could NOT have done it without your support in love, spirit, finances and prayer. I definitely felt carried along at points by you all.

Looking forward to seeing many of you soon and sharing stories together.

Grace and Peace,

Nepal 2013 : Post #1

Nepal Trip 2013

Thursday, June 6th
10:41 AM
3 Sisters Guest House
Pokhara, Nepal

Finally taking some time to sit and to begin to reflect on all that’s transpired in the last week.

I’m sitting on the bed in our airy 3rd floor room at the 3 Sisters Guest House here in Pokhara.  Even though it’s airy, it is still humid.  Not quite hot, yet, but it’ll surely get warmer as the day moves on.

3 Sisters Guest House, Pokhara, Nepal

3 Sisters Guest House, Pokhara, Nepal

The fan overhead is whirring rapidly.  I’ve just begun playing a bit of music on my laptop.

This feels good to stop and reflect…

But, how to work my way back through these days?  There are any number of ways paths to take…

We have plans for the afternoon and for our remaining days here in Pokhara, and so even though the pace is slow, I feel a pressure to get everything out, RIGHT NOW.

And that’s not helping… relax, Gary.  Relax.

I also feel this pressure to get into the mountains, to see the Himalayas, as I’ve no idea if I’ll ever be this close to them again… But they are shrouded in haze and I’ve not yet been able to see these huge mountains that are so very nearby.  We are investigating the possibility of driving closer to them and hiking around… but hiking here is not like it is in the US.  More on that later…

2 Himalayan peaks poking through the clouds.

2 Himalayan peaks poking through the clouds.

Yesterday, as we flew from Nepalganj to Kathmandu, we saw several grand, mighty and majestic peaks poking up through the roof of clouds.  Mountains bigger than I could have possibly imagined… I’m not sure which peaks we saw, but they were well over 20k feet.  The most prevalent peak near to Pokhara, is Machupichre and it is 23k plus… just a baby by Himalayan standards, but more than 9k feet higher than my home mountains in Colorado.  It staggers the mind.

Back to yesterday… we snuck out of Tikapur furtively in the middle of the night to drive 2+ hours back to Nepalganj.  We had to leave under cover of darkness as there’s a strike on in the country and such overland travel with hired drivers is forbidden during a strike.  The strike is on because a slave girl was killed in Kathmandu several days ago and workers are protesting…

So, we barely slept to rest from the long, long full day of the men’s conference.

Also, robbing us of sleep was the sheer heat and humidity of that region. It’s downright oppressive.  We stayed at a good hotel in Tikapur that had air conditioners in each room, but there are power cuts throughout the country and the generator that the hotel uses to run power during cut times was not working properly… and so we were denied the cool air that had been such a relief the previous two nights.

It was so hot in the middle of the night that I literally felt I couldn’t breathe.  Melanie and I both woke up coughing, feeling we were choking.  We were able to settle down a bit and lay back down, but it was miserable.

Finally, though, the power smoothed out and our air conditioner was able to run for a couple of hours, allowing us some measure of rest before the alarm sounded at 2:30 am.

The front of Nepalganj airport.

The front of Nepalganj airport.

Since we had to leave Tikapur so early, we arrived in Nepalganj far ahead of our scheduled flight, so we sat around the Nepalganj airport chatting, sipping coffee and tea.

A bit about who “we” were at that point… It was Melanie, Vaun and me, along with Udaya and his two children (and they are such great kids!!), Shalom (pronounced with an “S” not an “Sh” sound) and Salome (pronounced Sah-lo-may).

Shalom Bhatta

Shalom Bhatta

Udaya, Vaun and Salome

Udaya, Vaun and Salome

Udaya works with a ministry called ServeLife.  That’s the organization that supports him as he and his wife Bhakti care for 23 “adopted” children along with their own two children mentioned above.  The children they assist are orphans for a wide variety of reasons and who are from all over Nepal.

These are beautiful, beautiful people.

They’ve recently grown to the point that they have split the boys and girls into two homes, with Udaya and Bhakti living in one home and Bhakti’s brother and sister-in-law living with the boys in a home nearby.  We visited with them the first day we were here and had an amazing time.  More on that later…


I am standing on something of a podium, but stil…

Udaya also pastors Ekta Church, a growing congregation in the heart of Kathmandu.  He and his family are the core of the church and Salome and Shalom lead worship while the other kids help with music and singing, too.  This is the church where I preached last Saturday.  More on that later…

Udaya is also involved in a variety of other endeavors.  He’s working with Daya Girls home, another orphanage for girls out in the more rural western region near to where our conference was held.  We stopped to visit these girls on our drive from Nepalganj to Tikapur… more about that visit later… but for now a pic of the visit… (picture of visit)

And Udaya is also engaging in the foundation of a new political party here in Nepal, as there are elections ongoing as the government continues to grow and stabilize from the upheavals that occurred in 2008-2009 when the Hindu kingdom was peacefully overthrown.  We’ve had some conversation about their political situation, but frankly it’s hard to cobble together… Suffice it to say that the government that’s in place is not the best and it’s full of selfish, greedy and largely un-educated people who have trouble working together for the common good.  And everyone suffers as a result.

Udaya is a key figure in an association of non-denominational churches in Nepal as well, and this trip out to the west was very much a working trip for him, too… and so he was occupied with hosting us, meeting with other leaders and also doing a pastoral visit with an extended family member whose husband had committed suicide the evening we arrived…  Udaya barely slept the whole time we were in Tikapur, it seems.

And so, as we were spending time at the Nepalganj airport, Melanie, Vaun, Shalom and myself sat in the canteen while Udaya slept and Salome rested nearby.

For those that have been to places like Nepal, you'll "get" the humor of a VIP Lounge...

For those that have been to places like Nepal, you’ll “get” the humor of a VIP Lounge…

For those of you who’ve traveled abroad to the developing world (or “majority world,” or whatever descriptor is most appropriate) you understand what these small, local airports are like… For the rest of you, put any and all thoughts of American or European airports out of your mind.  I’m not even sure how to begin to describe them…

Because to describe them individually might take them out of the context of the condition of everything here…

And that requires describing what it’s like to “be” in a country like Nepal.

I’ll say it like this…

They have most everything we have in America… Electricity, plumbing, roads, buses, taxis, buildings, restaurants, hotels, etc, etc… But, there seems to be very little infrastructure or solidity behind these things.  And so, electricity comes and goes during the day.  Water comes out of a tap, but it’s unsafe for us westerners to drink.  There are streets, but they’re uneven and full of potholes and are bustling and crazy and bizarre, with pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles and automobiles all sharing space with dogs, cows and water buffalo.  You flush a toilet, but you have no idea where the waste is going to end up.

And there’s trash everywhere.  There has been no “buy-in” by people to properly dispose of waste, likely because there’s nowhere for it to go… and so, trash gets thrown on the ground and it is absolutely everywhere.  Pokhara, where we are now, is the cleanest place we’ve been by far, but it’s a far cry from even the dirtiest of an American or European city I’ve seen.

There are some strange dichotomies, too… for example: EVERYONE has a cell phone and there’s cell coverage EVERYWHERE.  Just this morning, while I was out on a run, I saw a very “traditional” looking Nepali woman… dressed in colorful clothing, carrying a large basket of something or other to the market, walking down the road… it could have been a picture from 150 years ago… except she was talking on a mobile phone.

Steak dinner last night... maybe beef?  Maybe water buffalo?  Tasty either way...

Steak dinner last night… maybe beef? Maybe water buffalo? Tasty either way…

The food has been outstanding, though, too.  I really had no idea what to expect, but it’s been absolutely fantastic.  Just this morning, we had a little breakfast buffet here at our guesthouse and there were pastries, cereal, yogurt and fruit and they prepared veggie omelets and lemon sugar pancakes (Swedish style, we rolled up a fresh banana in them… amazing) for us, too.  And last night I had a steak with some sort of amazing sauce, grilled veggies and bread smothered with cheddar cheese.

But, the effect, though, of this feeling of lack in infrastructure results living by a LOT of faith.  In the back of your mind, you understand that any bite of food or drink of beverage could potentially make you violently ill.  And out in Tikapur, malaria is an issue, so any number of the mosquito bites we received could have carried the virus.

So, in many ways it’s a strange place to be.

But, the people are absolutely beautiful and kind and gracious and humble and respectful and simple.

I’ll jump into actually telling the tale of exactly what we’ve been doing in my next post.  Thanks for reading and loving and caring and praying.


From Mom’s Memorial

I shared this as an introduction to Mom’s memorial yesterday…

My name is Gary Mitchell Aronhalt
I am the fourth son and last child of Gilbert Mason and Ruby Aronhalt
Raymond Clark is before me
Timothy Wayne preceded him
Kenneth Lee is the first son
Carolyn Sue is their second child
Brenda Kay is their first born 

We come from Colorado, from Kentucky, from Missouri and Ohio
We come from Marysville, Midland and Sardina and Owensville and Wilmington
From Greenfield and New Berlin, Wisconsin
We come from South Vienna and Plattsburg
We come from Black Lick, Kentucky and Adrian, Michigan

We come from messy haired board games in the kitchen
And from holiday feasts in the dining room 

We come from WIZE, WTUE and WLW
We come from Reds games on the radio
On the porch on a summer evening

We come from gospel and bluegrass
From country and rock and roll
We come from George Jones and Johnny Horton and Charlie Pride and Patsy Cline
We come from Hank Williams

We come from faithfulness and devotion
From irreverence and informality
We come from solid, but slightly off

We come from unwavering

We come from strong coffee, with Coffee-Mate creamer
We come from baking and cooking and canning
We come from chili, with peanut butter sandwiches
From soup beans and corn bread
We come from biscuits and gravy 

We come from garages and bowling alleys 

We come from Fords, mostly
From Mustangs and T-Birds, from Crown Vics, LTD’s and Rangers 

We come from the Blizzard of ’78
From flashlights in the darkness

We come from broken hearts and busted dreams
We come from jokes and jabs, from teasing and being teased
We come from fighting
We come from making up
We come from a lot of laughter

We come from love

We come from perseverance and persistence
We come from difficulty
We come from hard, hard work 

We are the children of Gilbert Mason and Ruby Aronhalt
And we are who we are, because they are who they are 

Thank you so much for being here today, to celebrate the life of our Mom

thanksgiving week!

8:19 pm

i’ll begin with the obligatory “it’s been a long time since i’ve posted, oh i’ve been so busy…” statement… and let that be that.

except that it’s not entirely true.  i haven’t been THAT busy at all.

i’ve kind of been taking it easy, really.  i have backed completely off of physical training since the bear chase race.

at first, that was not the case… while i was intentionally taking a break from running, i was still trying to do a lot.  and two weeks after the race, melanie and i walked the entire course (12.5 miles) and i really aggravated a tendon or some other soft tissue on the top of my left foot, and it has bothered me since.

so, i decided to take a real sabbath from training altogether, and i’ll begin resuming activity this week for some fun on thanksgiving day and on black friday.

and real training will begin december 1st, as long as my foot cooperates… which seems to be the case.

the break has served its purpose very, very well as i’m chomping at the bit to get out and start working hard again.  and i’m having fun dreaming about what the next year will hold for trail running and racing experiences.

and thinking back over 2012, i’m so happy and grateful to have had some pretty incredible experiences… and since this is thanksgiving week, i want to take a moment to really think about that for which i am grateful:

i thank Jesus for melanie marie aronhalt.  we’ve been at this marriage thing for over 20 years now and i’m so glad she said “yes.”  i’m thankful we got to take a trip to ireland together again to celebrate that 20th anniversary.  i’m grateful we got to have a run together on the kerry way.  i’m grateful we got to walk a beach in dingle on a brilliant sunny day.  i’m grateful we hiked all over innishmore and up to dun aengus.  what a trip.  what a life.  what a woman.

i thank Jesus for my discovery of trail running.  while i loved training for and completing my first marathon on roads and pavement, something changed when i switched to the trails.  i love it so, so much. and i love the people it has connected and reconnected me with… incredible.

and i thank Jesus that i feel more spiritually awake and alive than i have in some time.



bear chase 50 mile race report, part 3: lap 4

(part 1 of this rather extended race report is here, and part 2 is here.  i also plan on writing a post-race observations type blog in the coming days, too… FYI.)

lap 4

as i made my way up the trail for one last time, i was nearly overcome with emotion at the idea i was going to finish… at how bad i wanted that finish line… that it was all really happening, to me, there and then.

but, it was much too soon to get too emotional.  i had to keep moving.

my legs have never hurt like that before.  nothing’s even close.  but, i had a bit of rhythm and was moving pretty well for 38+ miles.

coming into becki’s timing station for the last time!

as i approached becki’s timing station, ben drove by shouting and yelling my name… such a boost.  and i was greeted again, one last time, by becki at her station, who gave me a kiss on the cheek as i went by and that was a boost, too.

and then? ugh.

the sun came back out.  it warmed back up again… my stomach flipped over. again.

and it all became very, very, very hard.

miles 39ish to 43ish are a blur of slow, long, nauseous difficulty.

heading out to lap 4, i knew that i had it “in the bag,” i had the time to basically walk the entire way.  but, now that i was bonking like mad, i had some moments of doubt… thinking that if i moved that slowly for the last 8 miles… it was going to get very ugly.

so, i went back to the 7-up bottle, the drink that had saved me at the aspen backcountry marathon.

slowly, slowly, sip by sip, step by step.

i came up on the second timing station, and found that becki had packed up her station and came over to talk to her friend at this station.  she didn’t quite recognize me with my bad water-style bonnet.  i was moving so slow.  she encouraged and hugged me and i kept going.  (finding out later that she texted a picture of me to my wife, with an understated note that i was “in a low spot.”)

if a picture is worth 1000 words, then this is 1000 words of sadness.

note the bandana covering. if it looks goofy, but works, it ain’t goofy.

around the pond. sip by sip. step by step.

through the woods.
around the lake.
through the field.
sip, sip, step, step.

through the field, up to mt. carbon. if you look very closely you can see someone 2/3 the way up the hill. we did this 4 times.

up mt. carbon.  i stopped for potty break at the top.  and then, lots and lots of cold water from the coolers on the golf course. over my head, all over my shirt, all over my hat.

and then the downhill run from mt. carbon… and it finally all to start to turn around.

i began to move well again.  began to pass people again. encouraging people as much as i could, but knowing that some of them weren’t going to make it… soooo tough.

across the stream for crossings 10, 11 and 12 for the day.

up to the fox hollow aid station and i saw tracy and christy hires again, as they were volunteering.  and this was another huge boost.

more watermelon (which i’d eaten at every aid station all day… sooooooo gooooood!  running an ultra sure can make things taste so very good and so very bad. weird.)

up the hill out of fox hollow, passing more people. i began to move really well, again.

up the hill out of fox hollow aid station. pic taken after race.

along morrison road.

along morrison road. pic taken after race.

when melanie and i walked the course just a few days ago, i was surprised at how loud and close the traffic felt on morrison road. but during the race, it was all narrowed down to that small visage of the trail in front of you.  unable to take in extraneous sensory perception… just the trail… wristwatch, feet shuffling… a few bites of food in my pocket… my hydration hose… everything is reduced to those necessities.

as i came out from the irrigation canal area, and back towards the road, i heard a cheer rise up from the last aid station (mile 48?).  there were no other runners around, and i knew the cheer was for me!  such a feeling.

as i got closer, i saw and heard sarah!  she’d come all the way out to that aid station and she was cheering and shouting, “I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!!” and i was again very nearly overcome with emotion.

the incredibly helpful aid station people (and here i must say that the crews at all stations all day were absolutely incredible.  this is an amazing race.  and the running/ ultra-running community is chock full of beautiful, gracious and helpful souls.) offered whatever i needed, but now it was just another couple of pieces of watermelon and more water splashing over my body, and sarah joined my up the trail a ways…

sarah was sharing stories of volunteering and helping people during the race.  i learned that as i was getting ready to go out for the final lap, she and ben had talked a woman out of quitting and helped her get back out there for lap 4!  never underestimate the power of #wce.

i realize now that i was pretty quiet, pretty internalized at that point, and i don’t really remember much of what i said to sarah over those moments.  but i remember appreciating her presence so much.  she left me for a bit to speak with another runner that i was passing, a runner who was walking it in on a bad leg… messed up IT band, i think, but she was going to finish and sarah was encouraging her, too.

sarah met me again at that last mile marker sign (49!) and clicked a couple of pics of me, one that i knew about and one that i didn’t (which is now my favorite image from the race).  she asked me what my goal was for that last mile… i said i was going to run it all the way in (and by “run,” i mean that slow, hideous looking little stride known as the “ultra-shuffle.”  if you’ve not seen it, i’ll demonstrate it sometime…)

the picture i knew about…

the picture i didn’t know about…

and so, i started ultra-shuffling…

up that little rise.
around the ditch.
across the bridge.
down the hill.

and here i met another runner, and said, “come on, let’s go!” and he politely declined. :-)   he knew he was finishing and he was good to go.  nothing left to prove at all.  he cheered me on…

down the trail.
to the gravel road.

down the gravel road to the finish area. note mt. carbon in the back ground. pic take after race.

and then she saw me, but i only heard her… my wife… my beautiful, lovely, long-suffering crew-chief wife.

so close to the finish

to the paved road.
around to the boat ramp.

and then i could see her, my wife of 20 years,  jumping up and down and shouting as loud as she could… and that’s another mental snapshot, burned into my mind… seeing her cheering for me at the finish line of my first ultra-marathon… i love that woman so very much.

and carolyn was there, my dear, dear sister (friend, spiritual confidant and at times surrogate mother)  cheering, cheering!

and sarah!  cheering, shouting, yelling! (in hindsight, i have no idea how she got back down to the finish line.  i have zero recollection of seeing her pass me.  shortcut? it’s a mystery.)

across the paved parking lot.
into the finish line area.

and across the line.

done. i love that melanie, carolyn and sarah are all in this picture, too.

50 miles.
11 hours.
21 minutes.
46 seconds.

they put the medal around my neck and finally a huge hug from melanie.

a moment

team aronhalt

and looking up, i saw dave and dawn, who’d driven down from the mountains to see the finish!!! more big hugs. i hadn’t realized they were right there at the line!

and becki, too! there at the line!  aaaahhh!

and then the waves began: of relief and joy and accomplishment and pride and humility and exhaustion and love and grace and gratitude.

i had half expected a big sobbing release, but there was none of that, yet… i had moments of tears later, much later, actually.

at that line there was just something “else” that i’ve not quite experienced before.  something other.

and i’m still not exactly sure what it was.

i guess i’ll have to head out again to see if i can find it…

bear chase 50 mile race report, part 2: laps 2 & 3

see yesterday’s post for pre-race and lap 1 commentary!

lap 2
heading out of the station, i walked a good long stretch to let my full stomach settle a bit. but, as i got close to becki’s timing station, i started running again to “impress” her… a pattern that would continue all day. shameful, i know. ;-)

from the get-go, my calf sleeves didn’t feel great… probably because i’d never used them before (yikes.). there’s an old adage about not trying new things race day. it’s true. one should listen to that wisdom. i took them off a few miles into lap 2 and immediately felt better.

frankly, though, much of lap 2 is a hazy blur of nausea. the sun came out, it warmed up and my stomach just flipped over. ugh. feedings became super-forced. got behind on my carbs. clouds had built up on the mountains and i was praying that they’d finish rolling in and cool things off…

at the top of mt. carbon (6.5 into the loop, 19 overall) i stopped for a potty break and splashed a bit of cold water all over myself. felt a wee bit better from that, and the downhill running to the stream crossings.

on top of mt. carbon, beginning to roll downhill

i was still nauseous, having trouble getting carbs into my system until coming up out of the water crossings (#’s 4, 5 & 6 for the day). that’s when i discovered/ remembered the candy pumpkins in my pack. lawdhammercy. they tasted so good and they were JUST what i needed. lots of carbs in a tiny package.

up the hill out of the fox hollow aid station, i was still moving pretty slowly, though, so i tried to run down that hill and felt my calves starting to seize up.

yep. not quite half way done with the day and my calves were locking up like a chick-fil-a on a sunday. awesome. (perhaps still residual effects of calf sleeves?)

near end of lap 2

so, i kept moving, walking, walking, walking. and it was only mile 22. whee.

that’s when i decided i needed to incorporate the intentional run/ walk: 2 minutes running, 2 minutes walking and eating. repeat. that picked up my pace significantly and i almost immediately felt better. also began passing people at regular intervals.

and FINALLY those clouds rolled in and it cooled off. aaahh…

skipped the walking for a while and ran most of the way in at the end of the loop… love that last mile being downhill!

was met by sarah, who came out quite a ways out to check in with me and ask how i was doing… so encouraging!!

#wce was in full effect again, as we swapped out shirts, applied sunscreen, changed shoes and socks again… and ben noticed i was getting pretty red, so he gave me an icy, wet bandana around my neck. which would make a huge difference on lap 3. food was a bit difficult to get down, but i had another pudding cup, more coconut water and we filled my bag with some more fluid nutrition.

and again, it is overwhelming to go from being sort of “alone” to being surrounded by loved ones caring for you so intensely. really powerful.

headed out for lap 3 and whined loudly about how much heavier my bag felt, but was forgiven by the graciousness of my crew. i love those people.

lap 2 time: 2:49:45
overall time: 5:17:53
overall distance: 25 miles

lap 3
before the race, i was really dreading lap 3. i’ve done “4 lap” training runs and lap 3 always sucks. it’s more than half-way, but you’ve still got a long way to go… there’s just something about that space between 1/2 way and 3/4 that’s just terrible.

furthermore, i was heading into the unknown… into that range of miles, that place i’ve never been.

but, coming out of the aid station, i was feeling great! i had some good mojo working from the end of lap 2 and so lap 3 wasn’t seeming so bad. furthermore, it was still pretty cloudy, with the sun coming and going…

i walked quite a ways out of the aid station again, letting food settle, getting stuff situated and organized. started running again to impress becki at the bridge/ u-turn, and i felt pretty good.

i soon discovered that i could take the cold, wet bandana and turn it into a badwater-style sun covering, bringing some relief to my burning neck and ears. amazing.

and so, i kept moving and moving and moving, so very surprised to find myself feeling so great.

and then, i started passing people… lots of people. 50k people. 50 mile people. it was so energizing to be moving so well as i approached and passed the 30 mile mark. i was eating and drinking well, with no nausea. this was a real high-point of the race for me.

don’t get me wrong, i was tired, and was really beginning to hurt, but i was moving.

towards the end of the lap, darker clouds rolled in and it even spit some rain.

me. so. happy. i was praying for it to stay that way.

in some ways, this lap was uneventful.

#wce base camp for the day!

in other ways, it was monumental.

rolled into the aid station, with sarah coming out to help and encourage again. that’s one of my favorite memories of the day… sarah’s ongoing presence and encouragement…

a cool wind had picked up and it was blustery and spitting rain.

i just wanted to get out as fast as i could, because i was feeling so great. changed shoes and socks again. swapped out shirts again (so i could finish in team orange colors! boo yah.) food tasted amazing (another pudding cup! i do believe i could run an entire race fueled entirely by pudding… and candy pumpkins… and gummy worms… with a 7up chaser… )

as i was ready to head out, i had a long, strong embrace with my dear friend ben, because he had to leave and wouldn’t be there for the finish. this was another powerful mental snapshot for me, and another highlight of the day. he told me how proud he was and how confident he was of my finish… it felt so good. affections. sigh.

as i ran out of the aid station, i screamed “ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH!!!!”

lap 3 time: 3:09:36
overall time: 8:12:10
overall distance: 37.5 miles