Saturday, September 22, 2018

Monster Inside

So there I am.

Laying in the fetal position on a cot, on top of the Mogollon Rim.

I am shivering uncontrollably while trying to cover myself up with a blanket that's half my size. My microfiber running singlet is now nothing more than a crumbled ball of cloth used for a pillow underneath my head.

My stomach is in knots and I haven't peed in over 12 hours. I twist and turn in search of some comfort. I long for some peace. But like the way I feel inside, I come up empty.

I've just been informed by the medical staff on hand, that my race is over. I already knew that, plus to hear that was a spirit-crushing relief. If that makes any sense...

I pull the blanket over my head and hide. I close my eyes tight and wish I were somewhere else. Anywhere else.

I try to ignore what's going on around me. The commotion, the voices. And especially the cheers. The cheers are like little daggers jabbing at my heart. But there's no use.

I listen as Dustin Simoen heads out of the aid station, back on course. He's now in sole possession of first place. Soon after that, another runner is quickly in and out of the aid station.

Dustin and I have been battling for the lead the majority of the day. But now my race is over.

I lift my arm up and glance at my Garmin. The seconds continue to tick by...

16 hours and change, a hair under 74 miles into the adventure.

I take a deep breath and sigh. I stare at my Garmin a few more moments before reaching over with my other hand to press the stop button.

I pull the blanket back over my head and hide.

"It's over..."

...

Earlier that day I woke up feeling pretty damn good. Getting any amount of sleep before a big race is always a gift. It's kinda the cherry on top of a solid training block, if you will.

And it was just that for me, on that particular morning.

I had meticulously set up my pack and drop bags with such OCD like precision, it would make Howie Mandel proud.

Howie Mandel has OCD... Anyway, I digress!

I was rested, healthy and mentally prepared to tackle the Mogollon Monster 100.

This would be my third time lining up for the race.

The first time in 2014, the race was shut down midway through due to a nasty storm that slammed the Rim. The following year, I returned and managed second place in my first ever 100 mile finish.

I had learned a lot since then, finishing multiple ultra races along the way. Two of those races were 100 milers. In 2016, I took the overall win at Stagecoach in 17:42. The following year, I took fifth place at the uber competitive Javelina Jundred with a new PR of 16:15.

I had grown up quite a bit and experience in this sport is priceless.

Kristi dropped me off at Pine Trailhead around 5:30 in the morning. I gave her a hug goodbye and jumped out of the car.

"See you at the finish!" I yelled with confidence.

That early dawn crispness to the air normally felt before MOG was nonexistent. It was going to be a warm one!

The sun quickly rose as we all began lining up at the start.

The star spangled banner was playing as I closed my eyes and thought about the adventure ahead. I pictured it all. The good, the bad and the ugly.

And of course, the glory...

In the end, I would trot through the finish line in first place. I would grab that monster statue and hoist it high above my head like the Lombardi Trophy!

Tears would come streaming down my face and I would yell out "finally!"

What can I say, I keep it dramatic.

All of this was sure to be a reality, just had to run a hundred miles to get there...

And in the words of the great Karl Meltzer "a hundred miles isn't that far."

Time quickly dwindled down and we were off!

Game time!

"This is it..." I told myself. "This is what you've worked for."

A small group of us led the way as we began the first climb up the Mogollon Rim. Eventually I topped out in front, alongside Elijah Flenner. I hadn't planned on being up front this early, but the pace felt relaxed. I made the decision to roll with it.

Elijah and I cruised along the top of the Rim, that early morning race vibe clearly peppered in our step. We chatted away, getting to know each other a bit. We breezed through the first aid station before beginning the steep drop down Turkey Springs.

The views on the descent down Turkey Springs make every one of those loose rocks worth the risk! A thick cluster of pine trees lined the horizon as the sun began to spray golden rays across the mountain range. Thin cloud layers in the distance teased us with short stints of shade, as it began to warm up quickly.

Eventually the two of us bottomed out and cruised up and down some rollers before another runner caught up. In no time the other runner passed us and eventually was out of sight.

"That dude is getting after it!" I shouted to Elijah.

"Yeah, let him run his race!" He responded.

That was some sound advice!

Soon we connected with the historic Highline Trail before making our way into the Geronimo aid station, 11 miles into the race.

I traded high fives with some friends volunteering there and chomped down a banana while getting my pack filled up. I felt zapped, but it was legit hot already and I chalked it up to adjusting to the heat.

Between the Zane Grey 50 miler, MOG100 and training runs, I've spent countless hours on the Highline. It's a bitch and I love it. It's got that love/hate relationship quality about it. I am very familiar with it and feel that is an advantage.

I headed out of the aid station in second place.

The stretch of trail from Geronimo to Washington Park is about 9 miles, but it always feels longer than that. I caught glimpses of the lead runner here and there during the first couple miles, but eventually he was no longer in sight. I felt like that was a good thing, as I really settled down.

I never really pushed myself outside of my comfort zone during that stretch, hiking everything that was steep and keeping my heart rate in check... But... I just felt winded.

I've run enough races to know that's par for the course and you've got to stay with it and keep grinding. 100 milers in particular are filled with rough patches and I generally hit one around 20 miles.

I got a nice boost as I rolled into the Washington Park aid station at 20 miles. Everyone let me know I was about 5 minutes back of the lead. I ate some food and refueled before heading back out en route to the climb up Powerline.

As I approached the base of Powerline, I caught sight of the leader. He was almost to the top. I stopped for a second and caught my breath.

"No need to worry about him, 80 miles to go..." I thought

So I began the steep climb up Powerline.

There is no "running" in this climb. It's way too steep and it's all loose rock. Think of climbing up something stupid steep on a bunch of marbles that are different sizes...

It's a gnarly MF'er.

I train on a lot of steep stuff in the mountains that surround Tucson, this kinda thing is right up my ally. But I struggled to find any sort of strength in my legs as I power hiked up.

I felt completely exhausted and was gasping for air as I topped out on the Rim.

That wasn't the issue, it's to be expected.

The issue was that my legs were SCREAMING in pain.

I stood there in disbelief. My thighs in particular were really hurting. I was completely shocked.

"What the fuck?" I grumbled. "22 miles in and my legs are destroyed?"

I tried to remind myself that it's a long race and I was sure to bounce back.

But this just felt different.

The next few miles were on a forest road that runs along the edge of the Rim. In 2015, I ran the entire stretch.

Not on this day. I couldn't find any rhythm! I would run a few hundred yards before having to walk. I began to get frustrated. I had trained on a steep forest road in the Catalina Mountains preparing for this very section and I had NOTHING!

My legs were burning with pain and the thought of another 75 miles seemed diabolical.

It felt like an eternity before I finally got to the Houston Brothers aid station and off that dreaded road.

I felt woozy and nauseous as I nibbled a few things and got refueled.

"He's only got 5 minutes on you!" One of the volunteers said.

"Alright then..." I moaned.

I could hardly talk. I was really hurting, but I figured the next stretch I was sure to find new life.

I thanked everyone and headed off to begin the beautiful Cabin Loop section. Single track underneath the shade of tall Ponderosa pines. It's some of the best trail running I've ever experienced and was sure to give me some pep!

I ran at a nice clip from there all the way to the Pinchot Cabin aid station, now about 34 miles into the race.

All that easy running in the shade did nothing for me. My legs were in more pain than ever. I was still nauseous. My attitude was beginning to plummet.

I thought about dropping when I got back to Washington Park. Mike Duer was set to pace me from there, so I shook that thought and tried focusing on moving.

I continued to slog along until I made it back to the top of Powerline. I took a quick breather and began to descend the monstrosity.

I can't adequately put into words how painful it was descending that section. My quads felt like they were being put through a meat grinder. My calves decided to join the party and began cramping. I had to alter my normal stride in an attempt to protect myself from the pain.

This was not good!

I began playing out different scenarios of how I would explain why I quit...

"My legs are destroyed, what can I say..."

"It's just not my day. We all have bad races..."

"I'm a loser."

I didn't like any of those.

"I don't drop races!" I barked at myself.

At 42 miles, I rolled into Washington Park without the option of dropping. I was going to fight until I couldn't fight any longer!

Oh the stupidity...

Mike was there to greet me and after a quick break and refuel, we were onto the Highline Trail.

Mike is not only a good friend of mine, but he also paced me at both Stagecoach and Javelina Jundred. I consider him kinda my 'ultra wing man'.

"Dude, my legs are in so much pain..." I explained to him.

"Yeah, once the sun goes down and it cools off, you'll start feeling better." He tried encouraging me.

The stretch from Washington Park to Hells Gate was a long 10 miles. Have I mentioned the pain in my legs yet?

Well, about that pain... It was getting worse and running at any pace was sheer agony. The frustration was unbearable because the energy to run was there, but the pain was winning the battle. I found some relief by soaking my legs in cool creek water every chance I got. It seemed to allow me about 10 to 15 minutes of sustained running before the pain would inevitably take over again.

About a mile before Hells Gate, I caught up to the leader of the race, Dustin Simoen. We all introduced each other and complained about the dreaded heat. Dustin said he had been struggling and felt overheated.

I got a little spirit after passing him and felt better than I had in a long time. We made a quick stop at Hells Gate aid station and were back on the move.

It was slow going on the Highline from that point on. Nothing but loose rocks and completely exposed to the glaring sun above.

Who's idea was this anyway?

That little adrenaline boost I got from taking over the lead was all but a memory as we began the slog up Myrtle.

My strengths became my weakness on that day. My legs seized up several times as we crawled up the trail. Dustin was a few minutes behind, slowly making his way up.

"Don't let him dictate your race..." Mike told me.

"Yeah, I know." I mumbled.

Deep down I felt like it didn't matter anyway.

Mike and I finally topped out and as soon as I began to run on the flat surface, my legs completely locked up in cramps.

I collapsed to the ground, it felt like the muscles in my calves were going to rip right out of my skin!

Mike grabbed my legs and stretched them out and the cramps subsided.

What a guy!

The next few miles were gradual downhill along a forest road. I managed to find a rhythm and ran that entire stretch to Buck Springs aid station at 58 miles.

I forced some food down my throat as one of the volunteers tried having a conversation with me. Talking took too much energy, so I said little.

The sun was setting and it was finally nice out. Unfortunately, that didn't matter.

From Buck Spring to the next aid station at Pinchot Cabin, everything went to hell.

I could hardly eat. I was drinking next to nothing. Running down hill was excruciating. Running up hill was impossible. The pain was constant. Every step was torture.

My demeanor took a nose dive.

"I just don't think I can continue feeling like this..." I moaned to Mike.

"I understand, but you are still moving well. You're in the lead!" He told me.

Mike was doing his best to keep me positive and I love the guy for that, but I knew that I couldn't go much longer. I realized there wasn't going to be a "bounce back" this time.

I began to go inward. Into my mind. I went ahead and welcomed in the darkness. I surrendered. There was nothing that could stop it.

"You shouldn't do this stupid shit anymore..." I sadly thought.

Eventually we made it to Pinchot Cabin aid station, 67 miles into the race.

I choked down a cup of ramen noodle soup and thought about my day. I thought about why I fell apart so early.

I thought about what I would tell Kristi and what everyone would think of me now that I am a quitter.

I thought about all the times I said I would never drop a race in an inconvenient place. I thought about why I do this stupid sport.

Somehow Mike convinced me to give the next stretch to Houston Brothers a shot. I don't know how he did it, I really don't. Maybe just to extend this story. Who knows...

But somehow I continued and so did the punishment. It only got uglier. At one point, I tripped over my own feet and fell to the ground.

"Fuck man!" I cried, laying there on a pile of rocks. 

 "What the hell...?" I moaned.

It was demoralizing.

Dustin squeezed pass me right before Houston Brother aid station. He was met with cheers and high fives.

I didn't want anyone to see me. I just wanted to disappear.

I came staggering up to the aid station cloaked in self despair.

"Need anything?" a volunteer asked.

"I just want to lay down." I said. "I need a place to lay down..."

...

My race ended right there. Laying in the fetal position on a cot, on top of the Mogollon Rim.

But this is not a bad ending. I am alive and well. And besides some sore twigs and a toenail that's not going to survive, I am in good health.

It was a wild adventure!

I've had a little time to process it and work through the depression, the frustration and the confusion.

I've come to the conclusion that I'll never know why my body decided to betray me that day.

I've had many great races, maybe I was due? This sport is about pushing yourself to reach new limits and I definitely achieved that.

Without a doubt, those last 20 miles were the most difficult, painful, humbling miles I've ever traveled.

I am stronger because of that.

Thank you, Mike, for helping me discover more about myself and what I'm capable of. I was in the gutter and unpleasant for a good chunk of our time together, you are a true friend for helping me continue for so long...

Even when I hated you for it!

I want to thank all the volunteers and congratulate everyone out there that battled the monster. Whether you finished or not, or if you came in first place or DFL. Respect. This stuff isn't for the weak.

I'll be back because lord knows how much I love this stupid sport!!

Until next time...



Photo courtesy of Jamil Coury




Friday, March 9, 2018

1 Year

One year has passed.

12 months.

52 weeks.

365 days.

8,760 hours.

525,600 minutes.

31,536,000 seconds and counting...

I miss you each and every day. These feelings are permanent, forever they’ll stay.

I still look to you for guidance and direction for life.

Sometimes these feelings, they cut like a knife.

I often think of the good times, when you were still here.

You would give me your insight, squashing my fears.

We’d sit there and banter and talk about sports.

We’d complain about the Sixers and who they'd put on the court.

“They call this the process? You’re outta your mind!”

“These players are bums! Is this all Hinkie can find?”

“How ‘bout those Phillies, they’ve been rebuilding for years.”

“Still reliving the moments from those championship cheers.”

“And the Philadelphia Eagles, still Super Bowl dry.”   ( * )

“So many damn ring jokes, it makes a man cry...”

In my darkest of moments, you always found light.

As much as I hurt, you were there to help fight.

I ache for those moments, you were there by my side.

I’ll never fully recover, something’s missing inside.

I still use your ideas and words of advice.

As simple as pizza, the “hot bubbly slice.”

“Just hot enough to burn the roof of your mouth" You'd say, "that is the best...”

The man was a genius, he lived with such zest.

Your life skills are useful, I embrace them with pride.

Living each day trying to mirror your vision and stride.

When I get home, I put on my hoodie & sweats.

These moments I savor, they are the best.

I kick back the footrest and relax in a chair. I hear your voice loudly...

“It’s time for lounge wear!”

No matter how many months, weeks, days, hours, minutes or seconds pass, these memories are forever sealed in my heart.

No one can take them or rip them apart.

You were here and then gone, in the blink of an eye.

Leaving question so complicated, yet as simple as “why?”

One year down and a lifetime to go.

You are truly missed, Dad.

That much I know.




 * The Philadelphia Eagles would go on to win Super Bowl LII.

That ring is for you, DAD!!

Dad "showing me the ropes"  ~Thanksgiving (2016)
 If you are interested in poetry, check out my Father’s book ‘Adobe Road'


 ~WINNER 2016 GOLD MEDAL Independent Publisher Award (IPPY) 

         https://www.amazon.com/Adobe-Road-R-Lupowitz/dp/1631877240

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2018 Black Canyon 100K 

The Black Canyon 100K.

You tantalize me with your screaming downhills and beautiful sunrise. You tempt me with your buttery trails sprayed golden brown in the morning dew. Your cool air caresses my face and tingles my nose. Your magnificent views make me crave more. My heart flutters.

I get lost in your presence...

As soon as I think we are meant for each other, you turn your back on me. Your swift downhills turn into rocky climbs. Your sunrise becomes just a raging ball of fire, searing each step. The morning dew all but dries up and wilts everything alive. Your amazing views nothing but an endless trail of torture. 

And that cool air...just a distant memory of the ‘good ole days...’

The Black Canyon 100K is a cruel bitch.

And I have been abused by her in both 2015 & 2016.

Twice. Two times. Dos veces.

Like they say “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”.

I promised myself that I was done with that abusive monster following the race in 2016. For the second year in a row, I fell under her trance, sucked in by her beauty. Around 40 miles into our dance, she turned on me. Again.

In virtually the very same spot as the year prior, I was dealt with cramps that would kill a small child. And these weren’t your normal run-of-the-mill cramps either. Oh no, no, no. Like Elaine trying to dance in Seinfeld, these cramps were like a “full body dry heave.”

It was demoralizing having those races crumble apart in consecutive years. I’m too good for this shit, I’ve got a self esteem for God sakes. And a reputation to protect, I might add.

I wanted nothing to do with that two-faced diva...

I was done!

I stuck to my word and skipped our date in 2017. Turns out that was a good decision, as she was in a particularly foul mood that day.

But as 2018 rolled around, I again became fixated on her. It’s like the common story of the abused returning to the abuser. She was holding something that I wanted and just maybe I had a shot at winning her over...

Chances were very slim, but I wanted to take my shot at the coveted “Golden Ticket”. The top two female and male finishers win entry into the historic Western States 100. My buddy, Charlie Ware, had just secured his ticket with a 2nd place finish at the Sean O’Brian 100K. His second Golden Ticket achieved in three years. Bad ass pirate, that guy.

I had a lot of doubt, it was a deep field and Black Canyon hates my life.

“Maybe I’ll just be conservative outta the gate, and finish the race strong...” I told Kristi, “I probably have zero chance of keeping up with those guys anyway.”

“That’s bull, you can do it...” She wasn’t having it. “Go for it, if you blow up, you blow up.”

I really wanted to join Charlie and in order for that to be a possibility, I had to take a risk.

“What the hell, I’m going to do it!” I decided.

What’s life without a little risk? Grow a pair for heaven sakes!

So two weeks out, I made us reservations.

I was going on another rendezvous with that cruel bitch...

Black Canyon is a point to point race that begins in Spring Valley and ends in New River some 62 miles later (it’s actually closer to 63 but who’s counting). Although it’s a net downhill, it doesn’t feel that way. It still boasts around 7,000 feet of gain, the majority of that being in latter stages of the race. The whole ‘net downhill’ thing is very misleading...

She’s so malevolent.

So Kristi and I headed out to our favorite place to stay just minutes away from that start of the race. The place is our secret and I choose not to disclose any more information than that. Don’t ask. After sleeping incredibly well we made our way to the start of the race at Mayer High School. Sleeping well before a race is unusual for me, so things were already off to a marvelous start.

Also in the  “marvelous” category, today’s weather was looking to be pretty nice with a high in the mid 70s.

After slapping on my bib and doing a warm up to get the blood flowing, I lined up at the start. I stood up front with some of the best ultra runners in America flanking each side of me. I thought about the adventure ahead...

“You belong up front, you can hang with these dudes...” I told myself. “Don’t sell yourself short!”

After a quick countdown, around 400 looney ultra runners took off in pursuit of New River!

“Let’s go!” I shouted!

We rounded the track, hit the pavement and headed through town towards the Black Canyon trail. I stayed with the lead pack, which was about 10 to 12 of us. 

The pack included, Tim Frericks, Zach Bitter and Eric Senseman. Three of the top ultra runners around.

“You belong up here...” I reminded myself.

Around two and a half miles into the race, we hung a left onto BC trail.

The trail doesn’t waste much time before turning into single track. I kept the leaders in sight for the next few miles before finally settling in near the tail-end of top 10.

Like I spoke about before, she quickly began her seduction.

The sunrise began, painting the desert with brilliant golden rays. The air was crisp and cool and had that dewy fragrance you only find early in the morning.

I watched Frericks and Senseman pull away from everyone and soon they disappeared.

I had been running around 6:30 pace, so I can’t imagine what they were throwing down. I was going hard, but that was suicide pace.

I felt really good and was in and out of Antelope Mesa aid station around 7 miles into the race. I left on the heels of Zach Bitter.

The two of us took advantage of the screaming downhill single track, strategically placed there early in the race. We were flying down the switchbacks, I was lost in her spell!

Crazy thing is, as fast as we were running, some dude just breezed by us. Looked like he was on a casual run, just floating along the trail.

“Ah c’mon, this guy is gonna blow up...” I mumbled under my breath.

Zach and I spent a couple miles together chopping it up and I must say that as good a runner Zach is, he is equally that of a person. Class act. Like the old saying goes “humility is a virtue”.

Soon Zach pulled away and I found myself trotting along the trail with another runner.

“I gotta settle down..” he said to me.

“Same.” I replied.

For the next several miles I got to know Neal Collick.

Normally you’d find Neal running around the shores of Lake Superior and word has it, it’s been pretty damn cold out that way. Today the weather was supposed to be pretty nice, but even 75 degrees in the sun combined with running for hours can wear on you. Especially if you aren’t used to the heat.

Both of us seemed to back off a bit and for the first time, I was feeling a little worked.

“Damn, did you already over do it?” I began to question my strategy. “10 miles into the race and I’m feeling zapped. Not good...”

All races have rough patches, but this was really early.

Both Neal and I backed off on the pace and soon a pack of other runners came galloping up behind us.

The group included, Adam Doe, Andy Pearson and Benjamin Stern.

I’ve shared some miles with Andy in at least one other race, he’s definitely a talented runner.

All of us rolled into Bumble Bee aid station about 19 miles in.

I grabbed some more Honey Stingers from my drop bag, refilled my water bottle, stuffed a peanut butter and jelly in my mouth and took off.

It was getting warmer.

As soon as I hit the trail, I saw Andy up ahead. I pushed on the gas and caught up.

I continued drafting off him and sometime after Gloria Mine aid, another runner caught up to us. This guy was on fire!

I quickly pulled off the trail and let him pass.

“By all means man, go crush it...” I said.

“It’s not a running race, it’s a eating race! He shouted as he blew by me.

I eventually met him, super nice guy by the name of Fernando De Samaniego Steta... Big name and an even bigger personality.

I watched him catch up with Andy and they began to pull further away from me.

“Let ‘em beat each other up, I’ll pick up the carnage...” I told myself. “I’ll pass ‘em both by the end of the race...”

The next stretch included passing Eric Senseman and some other dude around 25 miles in, having a girl fly by me and feeling my energy level plummet like the stock market in ‘87.

I felt absolutely blitzed as I rolled into Soap Creek aid at about the 50K mark on the tail of Andy and Fernando with Benjamin right behind.

And that girl...

She. Was. Gone.

I refueled and stuffed another stale PB&J down my throat.

I looked over at Andy... “Chicked.”

We both laughed under our breath, with a hint of desperation peppered in.

Andy took off with Fernando right behind him. I fumbled around with a cup of ginger ale before chucking it in the trash and heading back out.

Almost immediately I caught up with Fernando who was staggering along. I passed by him and wished him luck. 

That was the last I saw of ole Fernando...

Andy had disappeared but I heard the pitter-patter of steps coming up on my rear. It was Benjamin, chugging along right behind me.

I was really beginning to feel overheated and nauseous. Kristi was awaiting me at the next aid station in Black Canyon City some 6 miles away. I had my pack there, I knew I would need more water on me as the race progressed. The problem was, I was sucking down the water I had from my single handheld at an alarming rate.

“Ah, fuck. I’m gonna run out of water. How can I make such a rookie mistake? This is a disaster...”

The old behavior was back in full force, she began her abusive ways.

I made my best effort to conserve, but once you get to that point, there’s no hope. I was keeping Benjamin at bay, always a few steps ahead of him.

“Screw it, I can just drop at Black Canyon City...” I moaned. “I over did it early. I knew it!”

My demeanor took a nose dive, as did my water supply.

“Idiot.”

Soon the two of us began a descent into a river bed. There was a small amount of water flowing and I saw Jamil on the other side filming us.

I stumbled across the water, dizzy and dazed.

“You think this water is ok to drink?” I asked Jamil.

“I’m just a fly on the wall” was his response. Well played, Jamil.

“You want a sip of mine?” Benjamin offered. What a guy!

“Nah, screw it. I’ll drink from here...” I said while bending down to fill my bottle with the brown river water.

What’s life without a little risk?

Benjamin took off ahead of me and I trailed along. We began a climb up multiple switchbacks.

“This water tastes pretty good, actually...” I quipped.

“It does?” He replied surprisingly.

“No man, it’s awful and has a really weird after taste...”

And man, was it BAD.

After zigzagging up a million switchbacks, we topped out and the view of Black Canyon City aid was within sight!

We began the descent and I quickly pulled ahead of Benjamin.

“I gotta get some water man!”

I hammered the drop and soon made my way into the aid station a little over 37 miles into the race.

Kristi had my pack and everything ready for me. I grabbed a gallon of water and began gulping it down like a barbarian.

“How’s it going babe?” She asked.

“Ah not bad, just had to drink river water is all. What wrong with a little giardia?!” I yelped.

I found that funnier than everyone else...

As shitty as I felt, I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. I chomped down my 17th peanut butter and jelly of the day, gave Kristi a hug and stumbled on my way.

I wasn’t going to fold that easily!

Kristi let me know that I was now in 6th place, the golden ticket was slipping away and so was my energy.

The next stretch ahead is seared into my mind. It’s over two miles of climbing and it’s the stretch that has destroyed me TWO TIMES IN A ROW!

And wouldn’t you know, as I began the climb that sneaky monster began working her magic.

I could sense my legs tighten up, the first sign of cramping.

“Oh God, not the friggin cramps again...” I whined.

I don’t care what anyone else says about how nice it was out, it was hot as balls as I staggered up the trail! Soon I saw Andy up ahead of me. I wasn’t moving very fast and he disappeared into the hills ahead.

“This trail just loves to beat you up!” I cried. “Black Canyon, you bitch.”

She was beginning to wring out my insides as well. I chomped down some tums and dry heaved.

Nausea was moving in and making itself a new home in my stomach.

“This trail and me just don’t work together, every single time...” My attitude hit the basement.

I was like a disgruntled ultra runner with Tourette’s spewing out complaints uncontrollably as I ran angry up the trail. Lost in a trance of negativity and...

BAM!

I went tumbling headfirst down the trail.

There I was, laying in the fetal position on the rocky trail. Bloody and battered.
I moaned and rolled onto my back, staring up, into oblivion.

“What did you expect?” I muttered as I peeled myself off the ground and began running.

As deathly horrible as I was feeling, I was able to keep grinding away. Every now and then, I’d catch a glimpse of Andy.

It felt like eternity had passed by the time I finished that climb.

I stood for a moment catching my breath before continuing on.

I felt like complete garbage. Everything hurt. My attitude was horrendous. My insides were playing their own personal game of twister. The worst. But I kept grinding away and for the first time in over 20 miles I had a positive thought...

I knew I was going to finish this race and I was going to finish this race strong.

“Let’s finish strong!” I barked.

From that moment, I was running angry. She wasn’t going to ruin my day this time!

I made a brief stop to refuel at Cotton Wood Gulch aid, just over 46 miles into this monstrosity. I wasn’t sure and I didn’t ask, but I think I saw Andy leaving as I arrived.

I was beyond nauseous as I stuffed yet another peanut butter and whatever into my mouth.

I couldn’t even chew it up, it felt like cardboard. I staggered ahead and as soon as I was out of sight, I collapsed to my knees and let loose...

I’ll do you all a favor and leave out the gory details. But in the end, I continued on a few pounds lighter...

I kept running despite all of the abuse, even setting a new 50 mile PR of 7:06 before arriving at Table Mesa aid. Andy was just leaving as I arrived.

“Got em” I said under my breath.

I stumbled around at the aid station, feeling like death. I think Kristi iced me down, but can’t confirm. And to whomever was filming me, I apologize for the menacing expression I was sporting. Please don’t release that footage!!

I staggered off again, this was the homestretch.

It’s another good climb after Table Mesa. I complained to myself about the multiple gun shots I heard, the bazillion rocks on the trail, that the whole ‘net downhill’ thing is a lie. And yet, I continued on.

I felt myself get stronger during the climb out of there. Soon I saw Andy and caught up.

“Lots of climbing...” I said as I passed by.

“My entire lower body is like one huge cramp...” He moaned.

“I know the feeling. It’s happened to me in this race. Twice!”

After I passed Andy, I found new life.

I rattled off mile after mile, with only the finish line in sight.

I made a quick stop at Doe Springs, the last aid station of the race. I joked around with the volunteers and headed out for the last 5k.

Those last few were painful. I just put my head down and pushed ahead. My ultimate goal was to get that ticket, but anything under 9:30 was a tremendous improvement. That was well within striking distance.

I saw the finish ahead and hammered away!

I crossed the finish line in 5th place with a time of 9:15.

While short of the ultimate goal, I cannot help but be extremely happy. I’m heading in the right direction. I continue to learn and grow. This sport is an endless supply of humility.

And I love it.

I won this round!

Another outstanding event put on by Aravaipa Running, it’s a absolute honor to represent!

Thanks for the support, Aravaipa Running, Honey Stinger, BioSkin, Squirrels Nut Butter, rabbit and most of all, Kristi. 

(No Caption Necessary)
Howie Stern Photography

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Write Now

Write now... Right now!

I used to write a lot. Mostly about running and racing. About all my wild adventures through the mountains. About the highs and lows running takes me through. Literally and figuratively. I mean, it just flowed out of my head and through my fingertips...


A story was told.


Now, I sit here sore from running the Black Canyon 100K trying to muster up some creativity. Another crazy adventure with the highest of highs and some lows that would rattle the bones of a scarecrow. One of my greatest races ever and yet, I’m unable to find the words...


It’s just been so...hard.


My life changed a year ago.


A phone call to my mother. And just like that, everything was different.


My father was sick.


I knew from the moment I heard the news that my dad hadn’t been feeling well, things were about to change. Always one of the healthiest people on the planet and the rock of our family. How could it be?


We all hoped for the best, but I had a sinking feeling in my gut. A twisting pain settled inside my stomach and made itself at home.


The next few weeks following that phone call are a blur.


Kristi and I flew out to New Mexico to visit my parents. I spent three days hanging out with my dad. I did my best not to break, sometimes sneaking off into a bedroom to cry. My dad was withering away.


It was as if my dad had been replaced with somebody else. Switched in the middle of the night, while no one was watching.


His slow shuffle through the house and the sound of his slippers dragging along the tile floor was heartbreaking.


Whoosh whoosh whoosh... 


“You’ll be alright, dad. Just need some rest.” I said.

“Maybe you’re right, but if not, I’ll see you on the other side...” He told me.


I’ve never felt so helpless and empty as I did during that visit. My mom was doing her best to hold everything together and keep a positive attitude. My mother is one of the strongest people on earth.


Why was this happening? What in Gods name was happening to my dad?


He doesn’t deserve this! This is total bullshit!!


Everything was so different. While it remained unspoken during that visit, I think we all knew it was never going to be the same.


Some pills are tougher to swallow than others. This one was near suffocating.


Those three days were so incredibly long, yet gone in the blink of an eye.


Before heading back to Tucson, I hugged my father good bye. He put his hand around my head, pulled it close and whispered in my ear “I love you, Sion.”


I still hear that whisper clear as day. As if it was spoken just moments ago.


I think of that hug often.


The following weekend I raced the Old Pueblo 50 Miler for the fourth time. I spent eight hours running around the Santa Rita mountains, embracing the suffering. Trying to numb the pain. I prayed for my father, for my family.


“Why?” I asked myself over and over.


“Why the hell is this happening?” I cried.


Tears streaming down my face, one foot in front of the other. I cursed the universe and God. Up and down the trails I went. Floating along almost aimlessly. Like everything else during that time, that race was just a blur. Some eight hours of running, done in the blink of an eye.


I finished the race in 1st place.


“That’s for my dad.” I moaned to Kristi as I collapsed at the finish line.


On the way home, I called my father.


“This race was for you dad, every last step. All for you. I love you.” I told him.


“I love you too, Sion...” His voice was so distant and weak.


That would be the last time I spoke to my father.


My uncle Jeff called to give me the news. As soon as I saw who was calling, I already knew.


My world came crashing in. I felt robbed of life as I knew it. This wasn’t fair!


My best friend.


My mentor.


My guide.


My hero.


My father.


So suddenly taken away from me. Taken away from us. 


Emptiness replaced my joy. Dark and hollow. A search for answers to a problem that could not be solved.


It was a painful realization.


Days bled into weeks and then months. Sleepless nights and terrible nightmares. Dreams of the days before everything changed, only to wake up to my new reality.


The pain is so acute at times and it comes in waves. It washes over you suddenly and unexpectedly. Choking back tears becomes normal. That lump in your throat, almost permanent. 

Grieving isn’t for the weak.


Slowly I’ve allowed myself to heal and I’ve found joy in bits and pieces.


Over the last year, so much has changed. My mom now lives in Florida, leaving only our memories in New Mexico. I often reflect on my childhood in Corrales. Our road trips as a family and the last jelly donut my dad always managed to snag from that gas station as we made our way into Colorado.


I think about watching Philly sports with him and always getting too emotional when they lost.


“It’s only a game, Sion.” He would remind me.


I blame him for my passion.


I think about my dads unique sarcasm and wit. I think about his words of advice and love for life.


I think of the countless thousands of people he helped heal as a Chiropractor. He was a pillar of the community and loved by so many.


He was so selfless and humble.


And his laugh. I’ll never forget his infectious laugh.


My dad loved my stories. He loved to read about those wild running adventures I once shared so easily.


He would call me after reading one of my race write-ups and rave about how much he enjoyed it.


“Incredible story, bud! You are amazing! You are world class.” He would tell me.


I miss him so very much.


It’s been a year, and I owe it to him.


Stay tuned... 





 This Is Dedicated To My Father, Robert Alan Lupowitz 
12/20/1950 - 3/10/2017

Mom, Dad & My Sister Ariana




                                                        2017 Old Pueblo 50 Miler - Steep Life 089
                                                    (Video Courtesy of Jamil Coury and Run Steep TV)
                                             








Friday, April 7, 2017

Dad

If somebody were to ask me what I thought about when looking back to my childhood, a quick image comes flooding into my head...

Tossing the baseball back and forth with my Dad in the backyard of the house I grew up in, on Corrales Road. 

My dream as a kid was to show him that I would indeed play for the Philadelphia Phillies!

Both he and I knowing, that wasn't much of a possibility.

I can't recall very many occasions that my Dad didn't meet my latest 'moment of zen' with as much enthusiasm as me. I will add that when he didn't agree, he let that be known too...

My Dad always proclaimed that we were the greatest Philly sports fans west of the Mississippi!

To this day, I wear that badge with great pride. 

Both of my parents grew up in Levittown, Pennsylvania, a suburb outside of Philadelphia. After falling in love and getting married, they craved adventure.

Together they left the East Coast for Taos, where I was born, eventually settling in the small village in New Mexico known as Corrales. 

It was in that small town that my parents, Robert and Linda Lupowitz, would raise their three children. My older sister, Ariana, myself and my younger brother, Max, rounding out the trio.

Watching my parents build my fathers Chiropractic practice is something I will cherish for a lifetime. A small office that once sat in the front room of that house on Corrales Road quickly grew into a thriving practice that was known far and wide.

People loved my Dad. My Dad was a healer, a pillar of the community.

My father healed countless thousands through his life's work as a Chiropractor. And countless people loved and revered him. People were drawn to him. His spirit was contagious. His courage, inspiring. 

The thing about my Dad is that he had a passion for living life with such integrity. It was something that he demanded of himself.

I am convinced that the term "He wears his heart on his sleeve" was intended for my Dad.

My father once told me that he was sickened to tell a lie... He explained to me that the times he was put in a position to lie, it literally made him ill.

I always loved him and looked up to him, even when our relationship was strained.

I always wanted to be like my Dad.

I won't attempt to tie a bow around the struggles I created during my twenties. I admit, I wasn't exactly walking the line...

My Dad never gave up, though.

The man always seemed to seek out the positive!

His determination helped pave the way for me to find the wonderful life I live today. 

His love continued to grow on me and eventually not only was he my father, he was also my best friend.

I miss his face, his laugh, his wit, his humor, his smile.

I miss his love.

My father gave every last ounce of courage to those around him. I can only strive to live my life with such grace and dignity. 

Like my Dad always said, remember to leave with words that heal not wound, you never know when you might not see someone again. And say I love you, it never hurts. 

I will always cherish the moments we shared. Forever sealed inside my heart.

I love you, Dad. 



In Loving Memory Of My Father
Robert Alan Lupowitz
12/20/1950 - 3/10/2017

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Stagecoach 100

2015 was a success and topping it was sure to be a task.

I managed to tag the summit of Blackett's Ridge 100 times, had a handful of solid races, ran more miles and climbed higher than ever before.


But most importantly, I finished a 100 mile race.


I finally obtained the 100 mile buckle I had so desperately desired. I finished the Mogollon Monster 100 in second place with a time of 26:05, thus proving to myself that I am indeed capable of running 100 miles.

Twenty six hours is a long time to run. But in all honesty, a lot of that time wasn't actually spent running, but rather hiking. Sure, I ran as much of that gnarly course as I could, but large chunks of it simply aren't runnable!  

While the 100 mile monkey was off my back, I was left wondering what I am really capable of in regards to running 100 miles.. 

"Could you really run a hundred miles?" I asked myself over and over.

"No, you'll cramp up. You'll burn out. You'll blow up.." I discouragingly thought.

"You are a mountain runner.. Better off doing races with lots of climbing, that's what you're good at.." 

Despite all of my reservations, I needed to know. And I had the perfect race in mind.

Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100 Miler seemed to fit all of the criteria. An entirely runnable point to point course that takes you from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon. Mostly along the AZ Trail and Forest Roads, the course has around 7,000 feet of total gain and has a net downhill.

The race director, Ian Torrance, also happens to be a teammate of mine on the Aravaipa Racing Team. Ian is nothing short of an ultra running legend. He has been a part of the sport since the beginning and when I told him I wanted to do his race, he was ecstatic. I, on the other hand, was terrified...

"There is no turning back now!!" I cried after registering for the race. 

I decided to back off on doing a bunch of races, instead I directed my focus on Stagecoach. I am a race junky, so that wasn't easy!  

I knew this was going to be the biggest challenge of my life. 

My original plan was to implement a lot of long flat runs into my training, but I don't like long flat runs! Pavement is made for cars, not runners.

After a few boring flat runs in the blistering heat, I decided that this wasn't going to work. 

"Fuck it, I am going to Mount Lemmon!" I proclaimed.

And so I did.  

I spent countless hours running all over the top of the Santa Catalina mountains. I embraced the thin air and lack of oxygen. I learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I literally made Lemmon my second home! 

Training went as smooth as butter until about a month before the race. Almost too smooth.. I was more fit than I had ever been in my life. 

And then the wheels came off! 

Should I have expected anything else?? I mean, that would be too easy and there is nothing easy about ultra running! 

I'll save you from the gruesome details of what I experienced that last month leading up to the race, but I will say that in terms of training, it was the most painful and demoralizing series of events I've ever experienced. 

I even managed to throw my back out pretending I was Dwyane Wade while heaving a ball of dirty laundry into the hamper!

"I can run up and down sketchy mountain trails and I'm fine, but I get injured tossing laundry.." I moaned. "Maybe this race isn't in the cards."

Like the laundry I tossed in the hamper, I was on the verge of throwing in the towel. Everything was going against me. 

Despite all the adversity, I couldn't pull the plug. 

"Just go give it a shot..." I convinced myself. 

What's life without a little risk?! While the decision was potentially a major mistake, the chance that I may miss a great adventure was enough to make it worth the risk!

I wrapped up my training on a high note, smashing a previous PR on a run I've done many times. The hay was stacked and I was chomping at the bit! 

My buddy, Michael Duer, was set to pace me for the last 32 miles. Mike had just paced Ronni Rudolphi to a win and CR at MOG the week prior.

"Maybe he'll be two for two.." I daydreamed. 

After a few easy shakeout runs the week of the race, Kristi and I packed enough stuff into our car to begin a new life and headed to Flag! 

Without a hitch, we arrived in Flagstaff and checked into our hotel. A trip out to grab dinner and pick up a few last minute essentials allowed us to experience the madness that is "Parents Week" at NAU. 

After we had the pleasure of dealing with 'Flagstaff Family Feud', we settled into our hotel for the night. 

As per usual, I barely slept a wink. Instead spent the night tossing and turning, playing out various outcomes of the race in my head. Like a kid on Christmas eve, I watched the minutes tick by...

The barking of my alarm jolted me out of the only decent sleep I had of the night. I pried myself out of bed and the two of us began getting our stuff in order.

"You're gonna run a hundred miles today." I said, laughing to myself.

It always sounds like a good idea until you actually have to run 100 miles! 

We arrived at the start of the race with about 30 minutes to spare. My buddy, Catlow Shipek, was there to race the 55K, in what would be his first race in a long time. Catlow had been sidelined with an injury and it was awesome to see him back where he belongs! 

It was cold and breezy. The sun was rising, spraying golden rays across the majestic San Fransisco Peaks. It was simply beautiful.

Time quickly dwindled down as my nerves spiked up. Ian gave the pre-race instructions and we all lined up.

I gave Kristi a hug goodbye and made my way to the front of the pack. Kristi was going to be meeting me at several aid stations along the way.

All the days, the weeks, the months spent training are now put to the test. The countless hours spent suffering, the pain, the joy, the frustration. It all boils down to this. 

The all too familiar countdown ensued and the adventure was underway!

Time to make that money!

It was interesting to have the 55K start with the 100 milers. I made sure to not get sucked into the fast pace and settled into a nice easy rhythm. Lots of runners pulled ahead of me. I had no idea which ones were in the 55K or the 100 miler, and I didn't care. 

I went into the race with a goal of going under 19 hours. Not knowing how my body would handle the flatness of the course and the long period of sustained running, I would be happy with anything under 20 hours. Lastly, just finishing would be a success! 

The initial climb on single track that wrapped around the base of Mount Humphreys was spectacular. Morning dew coated the ground and the faint smell of rain infused the air. 

I made sure not to allow my heart rate to go up, occasionally hiking steep sections. Following about five miles of climbing, I enjoyed a swift descent that eventually spit us out onto a forest road. 

Tall ponderosa pines flanked each side of me, sending out words of encouragement. I made my way to the first aid station of the day at Hart Prairie, 10.5 miles into the race. I nibbled on a PB & J and quickly continued on.

A short out and back section allowed me to see one 100 mile runner ahead of me. We exchanged quick grunts in passing. He looked focused and strong.

"Ah, it's early..." I quipped.

To my surprise, shortly after leaving Hart Prairie, Kristi appeared on the side of the road along with several other spectators.

I was excited to see her. I got rid of my arm sleeves and gloves.

"Who's in front of me?" I asked.

"I don't know, it's hard to tell." She informed me.

Not only was there the 55K and 100 milers, now there were also relay runners out there. It was almost impossible to gauge what was going on. 

I said farewell and continued on!

After what seemed like an endless climb up the forest road, I finally connected back to a trail. The climb continued before reaching a split. 13 miles into this "flat" race and it had been pretty much all climbing.

"I thought this was flat..." I said catching my breath. I hung a right onto the AZ Trail, which descended quickly. 

"Yes, some down!" I cried.

The single track was glorious. Blanketed in shade and soft footing made for some quick miles. I began passing runner after runner as I got lost in thought..

I thought about crossing the finish line in first place. I would hug Kristi and I would cry. People would be cheering and clapping. Ian would hand me my champion buckle and take pictures of me.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever done." I would proclaim. "I couldn't have done it without you." I would say to Kristi. "And you either!" I would add pointing to Mike.

I would take the buckle and hold it high in the air, tears would stream down my face. 

Yep, it was all mapped out for me. Just needed to run another 85 miles to get there! 

Soon the trail became surrounded by Aspen trees, jolting me out of my daydream. It was the most magnificent area I've run in my life. Words can't describe the beauty. I was mesmerized by the white trees and lush landscape. I soaked it all in.

"This is gorgeous!" I shouted!

I wish that could have lasted forever, but soon the landscape opened up and I connected back to a forest road. 

21 miles into the race, I galloped into Kelly Tank aid station. Kristi helped crew and I refilled my pack. I made it quick and headed out. 

All in all, I felt good. I enjoyed more downhill and soon caught up with Cristian Rios, one of the 100 mile runners.

"What's up, man?" I asked passing ahead of him. "Who else is ahead?"

"Nothing, trying to take it easy now.." He mumbled. "Only one guy is ahead.."

I wished him luck and pulled away.

The guy I exchanged grunts with earlier was now the lone runner in front..

"You got this, lots of racing left, stay relaxed." I reminded myself. "You'll catch him no problem."

About 24 miles into the race, I began catching up to someone familiar. As I inched my way closer, I realized it was John Mollenhour, who was running the 55K. John also lives in Tucson and runs with the same group as myself. While John isn't a youngster anymore, the guy happens to be very fast. He just set a new record for the fastest "masters" time at the Leadville 100 miler a few weeks prior to this race!  

John had a nice pace going, so I decided it would be best to hang with him.

John and I enjoyed chatting away as we cruised along the forest road. Mile after mile of that road, all of which looked the same. 

"When do we get off this road?" I asked John, who had run the 55K last year.

"We don't." He said while laughing.

While the temperature was very nice all things considered, the road was completely exposed and it was beginning to heat up.

All of our conversing really made those miles go fast and soon enough Cedar Ranch aid station came within view, which was the finish to the 55K race. 

"Go for it, John!" I shouted at him. "Finish it off strong!"

"Alright, I'll see what I have left!" He responded as he began sprinting towards his finish line!

I watched him pull away and couldn't help but smile. I felt like I helped him hammer out those last 10 miles. But more than that is how much he helped me. That was a monotonous stretch and I never seemed to struggle, instead I enjoyed the company.

Just a couple ultra runners shooting the shit while doing what they love!

Soon I pulled into Cedar Ranch and got to congratulate John, who had claimed 4th place. Catlow was there, he had taken 2nd place in the 55K. Nice work, gentlemen!!

Kristi and Catlow helped me get refueled and ready to roll.


Kristi pointed out the first place runner, who had arrived at the aid station just minutes earlier. He quickly took off, back in front.


I said my goodbyes and began chasing after the frontrunner!


Soon I caught up and began running alongside him. We headed up another forest road and I had the opportunity to introduce myself and the pleasure of meeting Joe Owen. 

Joe explained that this was his first stab at the 100 mile distance and that he had been in a rough patch for the last ten miles.


I tried to give hime some words of encouragement. "Just take it easy for a bit, it'll pass.."


I could tell he wasn't feeling very good and I was beginning to smell blood. My competitive nature kicked in and I picked up my pace. Joe did his best to hang on.


"This headwind is a nice touch!" I joked as we continued up the winding dirt road.


Pretty soon the pace took it's toll on Joe.


"I gotta hold back for a minute.." He said breathing heavily. "Good luck, Sion."


I wished him well and picked up my pace some more.


"Time to put the hammer down."


Soon I reached Tub Ranch aid station, just over 38 miles into the race.


I grabbed a handful of pretzels and bolted out of there.


I headed up a steep hill and connected to the AZ Trail, which was yet another forest road.


"Damn, this race is a shit ton of dirt roads!" I shrieked.


I continued at a nice pace, occasionally looking back. My lead continued to grow and soon Joe was no longer visible.


Over 40 miles in and to my surprise, my legs felt great. The consistent pace wasn't taking the toll I anticipated. No sign of cramps and my stomach felt good.


I maintained the same pace and before I knew it, I reached Oil Line aid at 44.5 miles.


I choked down a banana and slammed a cup of coke.


"You're killing it man!" One of the volunteers screamed.


"This is when it gets real!" I exclaimed as I bolted out of there.


I kept expecting my legs to wear down as I maintained a steady pace.. But it wasn't happening. I was cruising along, almost in total shock.


I cracked the 50 mile mark in 8:02.


"Half way done!" I shouted.


On I went, eventually making it to Boundary aid station, just over 55 miles in.


Squirrels Nut Butter's main man, Chris Thornley was there with words of encouragement!


"I didn't realize the AZ Trail was nothing but a long dirt road!" I said jokingly. "Do we ever connect back to a trail?"


"Right there!" Chris said pointing to a trail.


What a relief it was to see some single track staring me in the eyes! I hopped on the trail and took off!


30 miles on nothing but forest roads and my attitude hadn't completely plummeted...


Winning!


The trail rolled up and down through the thick forest, slowing my pace down. I hiked the steep sections and tried to find a new gear.


I fell into a steady rhythm and got lost in thought. I tend to do that.


I eventually came galloping into Moqui aid station at 60 miles.


For the first time in over 9 hours, I kneeled down and began to feel zapped.


I knew I would hit a rough patch around 60 miles, how I handled it was going to dictate the rest of my race.


I chatted with the volunteers and choked down a boiled potato. I was excited that I only had about  seven miles to Russell Tank, where I would get to see Kristi and pick up my pacer, Mike.


I stumbled off, back onto the trail and forced myself to begin running again.


The sun was beginning to set and the warm air was a thing of the past. It was cooling off quick.


I could feel the self doubt beginning to leak into my mind. Each step became more difficult. My mind began to wander. The demons were trying to get in...


"Just keep grinding..." I told myself.


Soon I came across three horses grazing beside the trail. I stopped and watched for a moment before continuing on.


Moments after I passed them, I heard a loud thump, Thump, THUMP!


My heart almost jumped out of my chest as I turned around to see what was coming my way..


One of the horses was charging directly at me!


I was cloaked in fear and still as a statue when the horse suddenly stopped and whipped around in the other direction.


"Holy shit..." I mumbled under my breath. "That was nuts!!"


I got a burst of energy as I quickly got my ass out of the area!


Those seven miles from Moqui to Russell Tank seemed to take an eternity. My hands were freezing and it was almost completely dark as I finally came shuffling into the Russell Tank aid station.


It was a nice boost to see Kristi and Mike, but I was in a bad place. Kristi helped me get some warm clothes on and I stuffed a few more Honey Stinger gels into my pack.


I knew that I needed to work myself out of the funk, but the thought of going back out there was heartbreaking.


"You'll find your second wind." I thought to myself.


I gave Kristi a long hug and told her to just go to the finish.


"See you at the end..." I mumbled, walking away.


Mike and I headed out, into the darkness, into the cold.


"Not feeling great, going to do my best.." I explained.


"Do what you have to do, I'll let you know if you're walking for too long!" Mike quipped.


What I figured to be a long stretch of feeling like the world was caving in, actually faded away pretty fast. The trail was really runnable now and I was beginning to run longer stretches at a time.


Mike has been a friend for a number of years and we can talk about anything and everything.


And so we did.


We chatted away as we cruised the winding single track that dipped and climbed in and out of canyons. We zigzagged up and down switchbacks underneath the dark sky. A sliver of a moon above.


Soon we hit a forest road and hung a right. The road descended quickly and signs eventually directed us to the Hull Cabin aid station. Over 80 miles in and I was beginning to feel the rebirth!


Hull Cabin was awesome! I was eating chicken noodle soup when all of a sudden Ian walked in.


"How's life!?" He exclaimed.


"I'm good!"


And I was! I was feeling great. I had been running for just under 14 hours, so my goal time was not only within reach, but barring any kind of disaster during the final 20 miles, I was in a position to shatter that sub-19 goal!


Mike and I shared a cheese quesadilla and headed out.


Hull Cabin wins the "Best Aid Station" of the day award! 


We trudged back up that forest road and reconnected to the AZ Trail.


The next eight miles went really fast. A trail that almost entirely went downhill allowed me to click off some of the best miles in a long time.


We quickly passed through Reed Tank aid station at 88 miles and soon I crossed the 90 mile mark.


"Only 10 miles to go!" I was tasting the finish!


The next several miles were a mixed bag of running and walking. My legs were completely trashed and my feet were in horrendous pain.


All of a sudden, like angels from above, the lights of a town came within view.


"Check it out, looks like a neighborhood or something." Mike pointed out.


"Oh my god, it is!" I was in shock.


I looked at my Garmin; 17:28.


"Holy shit, I can go under 18 hours!" I shrieked.


There was a little water station set up and on that station sat one lone can of Coca-Cola.


Mike grabbed the coke and poured into a couple cups and we had a cheers.


"Thanks for being out here with me!" I said.


"It's my pleasure."


We slammed the soda and took off, en route to the finish!


After going through a tunnel, we hit a small paved path that brought us to the top of a hill.


"There it is!" I screamed, looking at the finish line ahead.


It was surreal. Something that seemed impossibly long. Something that I worked so hard for was almost over..


We bolted down the hill and through the finish line!!


I gave Kristi a hug and then Mike. Ian came over and congratulated me.


"Couldn't you have gone five minutes quicker?" Ian jokingly asked.


I finished in 17:42:17, less than 5 minutes shy of the course record.


In my wildest dreams, I couldn't have asked for a better race. A better crew. A better pacer. A better life.


I ran 100 miles!!


I would like to thank Araviapa Running, Honey Stinger, Squirrel's Nut Butter and Bio Skin for the support! Thank you for helping me chase after my dreams!


I have enormous appreciation for Michael Duer. It was an absolute pleasure sharing those miles with you my friend. Thank you.


Lastly, thank you Kristi. You have supported my desire to become the runner I am today. And more importantly, you have helped me become a man. I love you and I couldn't do this without you.


Until next time...




"A journey of a thousand miles (or a hundred) begins with a single step"
~Laozi