The Ultra Experience

Here's to the adventures of my life which are usually ultra marathon trail running or fly fishing but may include other trips, experiences, thoughts, opinions, or pretty much whatever I want. As co-founder of Altra Footwear my life and adventures seemingly revolve more around developing and promoting the best footwear in the world...and I love it!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Gear of 2013

So I thought I'd throw out some "Brian's Gear Awards 2013".  What do these awards mean?  Nothing.  However I've really enjoyed these products over the last 12 months and I thought that I would give them some love!

Award #1- Food

This is a split award.  I've been using two new products that have absolutely blown my mind.  The first is VFuel Gel.  Its amazing not only in quality but also in taste.  I mostly use the Peach Cobbler but word on the street is that they are coming out with a couple new flavors for 2014!  Why do I love these so much?  Well, the gel uses no frustose, low caffeine (10mg), and the secret sauce of MCT oil.  For more info check out

The second food find is MetaSalt.  Its packed with goodies.  I've felt that most salt tablets lack salt or trace minerals.  This has both PLUS gastrointestinal items like, black pepper, peppermint, licorice, and ginger.  This pill is amazing...

I have had ZERO stomach issues since using these combined two products and ran some great races with them.  Highly recommend both products.

Award #2- Hydration

UltraSpire wins this award hands-down but in particular is the Revolution Pack.  As someone who hates bladders, has no butt so waist packs drive me nuts, and handhelds are inefficient (there's good data showing an increase in heart rate & respiratory rate with handhelds compared to packs, and thats with the pack carrying 3 times as much gear...), I LOVE the Revolution.  A 26 oz water bottle, everything you need up front and extra storage in the back, its great.  If needed, I can carry 1 handheld on long hot sections, even store it in the middle back pocket for efficiency.  Props to UltraSpire!

Award #3- Socks

Drymax.  The material olefin is amazing, particularly when its coated with Teflon (ePTFE is Teflon...)!!  The Maximum Protection Running sock is incredible.  I think the max trail is too heavy for me but I've never blistered in this sock with Altra shoes!  3 blisters.  Coming from a traditional shoe and wool sock that prevented me from EVER going over 40 miles without blisters (rarely over 25 miles without blisters), its amazing that that I've done 3 100, 3 100k, 4 50 milers, etc etc without a single blister.  The downfall is the $30 price tag.  I train in the Trail Running lite (no ePTFE coating) and race the Max Protect.

Award #4- Shoes

Runner's World Editors Choice and the last 4 years life project.  My Altra Lone Peak 1.5 are amazing.  Yes I'm biased, but they sure treat me nice!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lackluster 2nd half, Wasatch 100 2013

What's overall been a great year of running for me in 2013, the second half has been quite lackluster.

Since Devils Backbone in mid-July, I've been in a huge running rut.  I had the best early season racing of my life but by mid-summer I was burnt out mentally and majorly work-stressed.  Had a 3 week stretch with 20  I decided to treat it as a taper and run Katchina Mosa 100k to try and get my butt in gear.  Although I finished, running most of the race with good friend Roger Smith, I didn't want to be there.  It was really odd.  In years past I've felt physically burnt out but this was totally mental.

I ended up having a couple really nice weeks of training in late August.  Several runs up Timp that were frankly special.  I hoped that with my early season success I could maybe squeak a fast one at Wasatch.  Looking back on it, it was wishful thinking at best but mostly stupid.  I wasn't mentally there and should have throttled back for a finish rather than shooting for a time.

However, I felt great the first 45+ miles at Wasatch.  I started conservatively with an updated watering plan due to the heat that had me feeling great all the way through Big Mountain.  Ran a long section with Craig Loyd and generally had a grand time!   I should have seen the warning signs earlier while seeing great runners like Christian Johnson, Seth Hales, Jay Aldous, and Greg Norrander call it a day.  I was in and out of Big Mountain in a matter of minutes and excited by how good I was feeling.  I pushed through the heat passing 6-7 more runners and still feeling good.  However I only took 40 oz of water through this section and it frankly wasn't enough as I ran out of water a couple miles before Alexander.  I started to feel a little queezy heading into Alexander Ridge but nothing unusual.  I was still right on pace for sub-24 hours when 5 minutes out of the aid station I hit the wall...bad.  It was really odd but I just couldn't move.  Golden Harper who was pacing me did what he could but I can't even explain it...I lost all energy.  It seemed to come out of no-where!  It was frustrating.

By the time I got to Lambs I was a mess.  I was down 8 lbs at weigh in, then I emotionally broke down.  It was pretty bad, I can't even explain it but after 90 minutes of sobbing, getting ice on me, cot laying, and eating, I decided to call it quits.  I went to the car and my wife asked me again if I was absolutely sure I didn't want to give it another shot.  My wife is an amazing women!  Maybe a little crazy for loving me and then sending me back out there...but I really did want a finish...and so after 2 hours at Lambs I continued on.

I felt ok going up the road but I was having all sorts of mechanical issues.  My water bottle broke...but I ended up seeing BJ Burlinson on the trail and he swapped me (big thanks BJ!).  I didn't take a headlamp and decending Bear Ass Pass was problematic.  Luckily my pacer Heath Thurston had a small handheld flashlight but heading up the road I ran out of energy again.  Putting one foot in front of the other was so difficult and I was miserable.  I sat at Millcreek for an hour contemplating whether to quit or not.  After an hour I decided I was done.  I hadn't pee'd since before Swallow Rocks, I was moving incredibly slowly, felt horrible, and mentally didn't want to be there. 

However, friend Roger Smith came along.  He took a while but somehow convinced me to keep going...again!  I left with a mental determination to get to the finish.  It didn't take long to doubt this decision as the climb out of Millcreek was incredibly slow and painful.  I had to stop several times to sit down along the trail.  Finally at Blunders Fork I decided for the 3rd and final time, that I was done.  It was a sad realization and a horrible parting from Roger but I mentally couldn't push through.  Whether physically I could push through or not we will never know but I was done.  Heath was incredibly supportive and we slowly made our way down Blunders Fork where we called my wife who was waiting at Brighton.  The records say I DNF'd at Brighton but I didn't even make it that far.

Nearly a month later I don't regret my decision.  My previous DNF at Bear 100 in 2008 was a huge regret but somehow this one, given life's circumstances, seems justified.  Given my emotional, physical, and mental health, it was the right decision for me.  I love Wasatch 100 and for the first time in 7 years I didn't run Brighton to the Finish (2 finishes and 4 pacings).  I intend to be back next year though as this race is truly special.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Devil's Backbone 2013

I'm not the best with words, but even the worlds greatest poets can't describe the beauty of Devil's Backbone.  I've heard nothing but praises about this super low-key Montana race....and it didn't disappoint.  I had so much fun.  With only 1 aid station at mile 25 and a laid-back mentality, I loved this race!  Wildflowers, snow capped peaks, big horned sheep, and incredible trails, all at 10,000 ft while running an exposed ridgeline.  This run epitomizes the essence of Ultra Running.

 Really I treated this as a long run more than a race.  I got lost twice for a total of 10-12 minutes on the way out.  Stopped for 5-6 minutes to watch a big horned sheep.  Stopped and took about 20 pictures and generally had a blast.  On the way back I turned up the intensity.  Until I ran out of water....not exactly sure how it happened only 12 miles from the aid station (mile 37) but I'm assuming I didn't fill up the bladder completely at the station because I didn't see or feel a leak.  I rationed myself with a little snow until mile 44 when I crossed a stream.  Filled up my bottle then and there. 

I finished with a huge smile on my face.  My goal coming in was to try and run sub 10 hours.  Ended up with 10:02.  No biggy though.  I was happy with my effort and exhilarated by the course.  It was almost sensory overload for someone like me!  I think I'll come back to this one.  It currently stands as the most beautiful course I've ever run
Heading up Hyalite Peak
Typical view...
Rock cairn and looming switch backs ahead
Much of the race there was no trail...just rock cairn to rock cairn
Big horned sheep and I hangin on the ridge
Checked her out for 5-6 minutes...loved it!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Flyfishing trip of awesomeness

I consider myself an avid fly-fisherman.  However, over the past few years I seemingly have headed out less and less.  So a friend and I decided to plan and execute "the fly-fishing trip of awesomeness".  Specifically targeted at BIG fish, over the last several days we executed our trip to perfection.  Below is merely a sampling of the fish we caught.  The highlights were an 18 1/2 inch Cuttbow (half Cutthroat, half Rainbow), a 23 inch Tiger trout at night, and over a dozen 17-19 inch Brown trout!!

We live in a beautiful world and I love seeing, exploring, and experiencing it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Squaw Peak 50- 2013

7th attempt at Squaw.  My 4th-6th attempts had been rather painful and didn't match my expectations.  So for 2013 I didn't really plan much, didn't take a watch, and vowed to maximize my enjoyment by pushing the limits yet listening to my body.  Needless to say, it ended up being my favorite and best Squaw!

It started with Seth Wold bolting off the starting line.  I knew he was going for a sub-8 hour time and wished him luck.  I went out rather quick with Meghan, Erik, Ford, and Kameron.  At the Silvia turn-off, 4 miles in, I throttled it back, plugged in the tunes, and turned on cruise-control.  I enjoyed the climb watching the first light bounce off the mountains.  I knew it would be a good day as I smiled looking over the next few miles of trail at the Rock Canyon overlook 8 miles in.  It was the most Zen race I've ever had as I seemed to flow over the trail, taking in the scenery, and just loving the miles.  Even a small spill at mile 16 didn't even dampen my spirits.

Good friend Roger Smith had started an hour early and I caught up and chatted with him on the asphalt at mile 24.  He was going to catch our friend Darren who after 9 Squaw finishes and many other ultra's had seriously damaged his knees.  Darren wanted to get 10 Squaw finishes so he started at 9:30pm the night before planning on taking 24 hours if needed.  Squaw Peak 50 would sadly be Darren's last ultra.  Roger wanted to spend some time with Darren and the 2 friends ended up running the last 12 miles together.  When I passed Darren at mile 34 he had a smile on his face.  I got emotional seeing his admirable grit and determination.  Love you Darren!

At the big aid station at mile 26 I was in and out.  I never asked what time it was and had no idea what my split was or how long I had been running.  I felt great and I motored up Hobble Creek as well as Sheep Creek.  As I was dropping down into Little Valley I came across a runner sprawled out on was Seth.  His heroic attempt had come crashing down.  He smiled, urged me to go on, and I challenged him to rebound and finish strong (which he amazingly did finishing in 9 hrs and 54 minutes!).

The climb from Little Valley to Windy seemed fast.  I was feeling great and I started to push the throttle.  I began wondering what my finishing time would be and whether I was even close to running a sub 9 hour race.  The crew up on Windy Pass was awesome as always.  I asked "what time is it?" for the first time that day.  They said 12:33pm...  My fastest time down the mountain after 6 finishes was 1 hour 25 minutes and I would need to match that to break the elusive 9 hour barrier.

And so I departed with high spirits.  Within a mile I was flying!  A mile later my right leg suddenly cramped out of no-where.  I came to a grinding halt...  I quickly took my last 2 salt pills and drank most of my remaining water then began walking.  Within a minute I was cautiously jogging and then running.  I had to hope that I could make it 4 more miles to the next aid station.  I tried to keep it in check as all other faculties felt great.  Sure enough I made it with a greeting from my wife and boys!!  I drank a full bottle of water had a handful of potato chips and left the last aid station with a big smile and 3 1/2 miles to go.  I ended up running to a PR of 8 hrs and 53 min and 3rd place.  I was super happy with my performance and had an awesome day!

Special congrats to Erik Storheim on the win, Ford a 17 year kid for placing 4th in 8:59!, and Darren for finishing his 10th.  It was great seeing so many friends, so many Altra's on the trail, and another great year at Squaw Peak 50.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Timp Trail Marathon 2013

Quick and late recap from the Timpanogos Trail Marathon.  I signed up late for this race but decided to not take a watch and treat it like a training run.  I was hoping to try and win it using as little energy as possible and hopefully come in under 4 hours.  That was the extent of my race planning....

It was another rainy year which I didn't mind.  I love running in the mud so I was excited.  I did want to go sub-4 hours and the mud would surely slow things down.  I ran the first 6-7 miles with friends Seth Hales and Dan Mitchell.  We chatted and watched 2 young guys take out the race fast.  It was good catching up with those guys.

I quickened the pace on the way down into Battlecreek and was 1 minute back from the leader at Grove Canyon aid station mile 12.  I was feeling good and wanted to take the big climb up the green monster and Grove Canyon easy.  I figured I could catch the leader the last 10 miles...but he pushed hard.  I got to the top with my legs feeling a little heavy.  I trained through Miwok and it was apparent I didn't taper for this race either.  Seth Hales caught me and we ran quickly over the top and over Curly Springs.  I was surprised that the leader wasn't coming back to us as we were moving well.  I surged down into Dry Canyon though the mud but still no glimpse of the leader.

Having decided to do Squaw Peak 50 miler 2 weeks after this, I coasted the last 3-4 miles down the mountain to finish 3rd overall in a time of 4:06:03.  I was 5 1/2 minutes back from the winner.  Fast roady who didn't bonk...good for him!  Young buck Ford Smith passed me with a mile to go.  He was working so hard I let him finish strong while I coasted.  Again, good for him!  17 years old and FAST. 

Overall I finished feeling quite fresh and had a great time!  I run those trails nearly every day but still loved it.  Great race, atmosphere, terrain, people, and rain like usual!  Would have liked to have broken 4 hours which without the mud was a sure thing.  A win would have been nice but 3rd place in a solid effort and feeling great afterwards was worth it. 

Now for Squaw Peak 50...again

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Miwok Race Report

Marin Headlands, Golden Gate Bridge, San Fransisco, Bolinas Ridge, classic/competitive ultra, I was pumped to run the Miwok 100k.  Race morning came very early with a 3:15am alarm.  After getting prep'd and driving to the start, the 400 runners and myself were rather disappointed by the news of a shortened course due to fire danger.  Not an actual fire, just the threat.  I run fast but I don't think I've ever sparked any flames....

So I drove back 30 minutes to the hotel, slept for 1 1/2 hours and headed back for what would now be a 60k race.  I was still excited and most runners were positive.  Big kudo's for Tia and the volunteers to making the best of a less-than-perfect situation.

The race funneled to a singletrack within 200 meters from the start.  It was a tough decision to figure out how fast to go.  I chose wisely.  Not too fast but fast enough to avoid the funnel.  The first climb was long and full of stairs.  Yep, uneven stairs mixed with short stretches of trail for almost 2 miles.  Dense forest shaded and protected us for a stretch from what would be a scorching hot day (no flames though).  Once on top, the views were amazing.  After a few miles I picked up the pace and found myself accelerating.  It felt so natural that I just let it happen.  Within 7-8 miles from the start I was throttling it!  I thought...its only 60k so why not?!

Turns out it was a good move.  I held form and had one of the better races in years!  The views from the exposed ridgelines were amazing, the singletrack firm and fast, and I was having an ON day.  The trail next to Golden Gate bridge was everything it was hyped to be.  A friend who I've barely seen since high-school randomly showed up to run the last 12 miles with me (they we supposed to be miles 49-61 but were 26-38).  The volunteers were awesome and the decent into Muir Beach was as pretty of a trail as I've ever seen. 

Hot...yes but it didn't slow me down as I felt strong the whole day finishing 10th overall in a time of 5:39.45!  The 60k distance was probably better for me than the 100k due to my fitness but I finished feeling like I could have kept going.  I would have needed more salt pills though as I was on the verge of cramping those last 3-4 miles.  It was also great to have my wife Zanna and youngest son Riley there supporting me.  Great day, great race!
Getting ready pre-race

Finishing strong
Happy and hanging with Riley post race
Feeling good 14 miles in...
Me, Zanna, and Riley post race on Fishermans Wharf

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Boston Marathon 2013

  I will never forget the Boston Marathon 2013.  The Boston Marathon is the Super Bowl, the Jerusalem, the World Cup of running.  Its history and prestige is unsurpassed.  I had the opportunity to get a private tour of the B.A.A. museum before the race. I got emotional hearing the stories, seeing the medals, and partaking of the feelings of the legendary Boston Marathon.  The excitement in the days leading up to the marathon were palpable.   That feeling will never leave me and has only been deepened by what happened on race day 2013.

I started my day where the bomb went off, at the finish line at 5:15am.  I would be running the course out-n-back.  Running the Boston Marathon twice in one day is trivial after what happened but it only increased my passion about the terrorist attack.  Having finished my second marathon of the day in an official time of 3:35.33 (my 1st marathon was 4:02.30), the feeling of running 52.4 miles was pure jubilation.  As I was talking with my wife about the exciting day I had experienced, 25 minutes after I had finished, I suddenly heard and felt a BOOM.  I was now on a parallel road merely 1 block from the finish and I immediately KNEW that it was a bomb.  Not knowing how or where, I kept making my way to the hotel.  People started poring out of the side roads from the finish, running, confused, with many crying.  Sirens began sounding and within minutes, police cars and ambulances came poring in around me.  Tired, cold, and confused I went straight back to the hotel.

The ensuing hours came and went quickly.  I was in shock.  My hotel was on lockdown.  20 cop cars and a dozen ambulances were around the hotel and side streets of my hotel.  The scene of the crime was blocked by only a single building.  Tension was high as we watched on the news about how the race was halted, people rushed to the hospital, and details came in from the finish line.  I’m still confused by the parody of what happened.  There are very few things in my life that match the positive feelings of the Boston Marathon.  My wedding day, the birth of my two sons, finishing a 100 mile race…and Boston Marathon.  Yet a day of positives was shattered.  I will never understand why choosing a marathon as the sight for a terrorist attack but it has had my head spinning since the event occurred.  It is something that will live under my skin until the day I die.

But as I contemplated this on my mellow and stiff-legged 4 mile run 3 days after the race, I vowed to be back at Boston next year and at every Boston I can for the rest of my life.  It’s only increased my passion of this sport I love.  As the running community rally’s and unites around this, running marathons will only become more popular, positive feelings will overcome this single hate crime, & the friends and family we love will become closer.  My resolve as a human to be better has increased.  No I won’t forgot Boston 2013, but I will be back in 2014.  Keep running everyone…
B.A.A. Private Tour
Half done. Casual 4:02.30
6 of us ran the marathon backwards including Runner's World Editors Jeff Dengate, Bud Coats, and Warren Green.  The other two, Scott and Thor ran the Double.
Double done.  Official Marathon time of 3:35.33
View from the hotel room 20 min after the explosion.  Ambulances below and cop cars on side streets.  Finish line is on the other side of that building.
News teams and armed forces outside the hotel the morning after.

Monday, April 1, 2013

+Hong Kong -Antelope...weekly update

Taiwan went great but I had the opportunity to go into Hong Kong for another 4 days instead of coming home.  It meant I had to DNS Antelope Island 50k (very sad) but it was a great opportunity.  Taiwan was fun but didn't really do much for me, however Hong Kong was AWESOME!  Loved it.  Glad to be home though.

Running Update March 23rd- 30th:
18 mile urban adventure through Hong Kong (one of the better city runs I've had...ever!) Saturday
Sunday/Monday off while traveling home
8 trail miles Tuesday
10 trail/road miles Wednesday
9 trail miles Thursday
13 trail miles Friday
20 miles road/trail mix on Saturday

Getting back in shape with the best 8 days of training I've had in 6 months!!  Life is good on the trails in the Spring.  Below are some pics from my Taiwan/Hong Kong trip:

 Taipai Run w/Clayton (pictured)
 Icon/Altra Media Event in Taiwan (check out the shoes!)
Dinner at the Taipei Market
 The 101 (one of the tallest buildings in the world) and my hotel..and Claude.
 Found a mtn to run up in Hong Kong!
 Finishing up a tiring 18 mile run in Hong Kong.
 View from my hotel!
Hong Kong nights!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Taiwan + Antelope 50k =??

I'm getting on a plan this morning for Taiwan and my mind is going to 7 days from now when I run the Antelope Island 50K.  My training has been mediocre but the interesting part of the scenario is the my return flight from Taiwan lands Friday night at 7:35pm.  The race starts 12 hours later.  Will I fall asleep at mile 23 during the race?  Was my training nearly enough?  How will my system/stomach react?  The last time I flew internationally and raced was in Japan where I had a 2 day adjustment and still struggled...

Either way it will be an adjustment.  Excited for the trail season to arrive.  Jim Skaggs classic Antelope Island race marks this and it seems like lots of people will be out on the Island next Saturday.  What event will you be racing?!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Zealand/Australia 2013

I had the opportunity to go to New Zealand and the Australia for 2 weeks on business.  Had a grand time.  Such beautiful part of the world!  I saw Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and Rotorua while in New Zealand.  Since the trip was business I didn't get much sight seeing in but had a great experience meeting and working with great people.  After New Zealand I flew east to Australia visiting Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Geelong and Brisbane.  13 flights in 16 days.  I squoze in a little running but 3 were rather epic.  The first was in the mountains around Rotorua where I hit 10 beautiful miles of singletrack on the edge of town.  A trail running hub for sure. The 2nd was a sunrise run around Sydney.  Great city!  The 3rd was through D'Argulair National Park outside of Brisbane.  On the day before I flew out, my hosts dropped me off on one side of the park with a map.  16 miles later I topped Mt Nebo and met them at a quaint little café for brunch.  I feel very lucky to have these experiences.  I also had a chance to go to a Mauri cultural center, visited nearly 30 running, fitness, and shoe stores, played a wicked game of lawn bowling, and watched a Union Rugby game.  I think if I have a chance, I'll head down under again!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

2013 Official Race Schedule

Funny how you put the word official in front of something and it becomes so much more legit!  Anyway, after much contemplation, thought, and lottery luck, my 2013 race schedule is complete!  Here it is:

Antelope Island 50k -March
Boston Marathon Double- April
Miwok 100k- May
Devil's Backbone 50- July
Wasatch 100- Sept

I might throw in some shorter races this season and definitely some adventure runs but the big three of Miwok, Devil's, and Wasatch will be the focus.  I particularly want to go after Wasatch pretty hard this year.  Congrats to all the others who got into Wasatch and sorry for those who didn't....I've been there.  Looking forward to an awesome 2013!

On a side note- it's not a custom made Karl Meltzer special, but Ari and I had a blast sledding yesterday...