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!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

UltraFishing Part 2. Gear

So the gear for ultra fishing is a weird combination of trailrunning, flyfishing and fastpacking gear.  I'll highlight the primary gear I use as well as other alternatives.  Its important to note that wilderness skills are not just important but mandatory.  Risk is inherent in most things but ultrafishing takes this to an extreme.  Prepare, train accordingly, be safe, and have fun!

Recommended Gear List-- Don't cheap out too much.

  • Backpack 
  • Fly Rod- Two options
    • Tenkara- Tenkara is a Japanese style of flyfishing that uses a extra long and flexible rod without a reel.  Its incredibly light, compact, and affordable.  It does have some downfalls.  It's limited in its casting ability in wind and distance.  Without a reel it also will struggle to catch the big fish.  Otherwise its perfect and I highly recommend this style for most people.  I have the Tenkara Sawtooth which costs $180 for everything. Tenkara Rod Co
    • Traditional- I'm not most people.  Traditional weighs more, is larger in size, and is more expensive.  But it is way more versatile and can catch the local lunker.  A 6-8 piece 4 weight is recommend as well the lightest reel possible.  3 weight can't cast in the wind on lakes and a 5 weight is too much rod for most of these fish.  I also recommend shortening your line and put minimal backing on.  A premium set up will cost you a $1000+ although you get get a decent setup for $300-400.
  • Fishing Equipment 3.5oz
    • This is always a balance.  Too much equipment is unnecessary weight and space.  But you didn't run all that way to not have what you need.  Flies are light, take more than you need to have the right selection.  Fly boxes can also be very light and I always support healthy catch and release fishing so bring some forceps.
      • Umqua Boxes, flies, tippet, forceps, etc!
  • Clothing- 32oz
    • Stay warm and safe.  Don't skimp!
      • Altra shoes, shorts, & Tech T.
      • Performance Socks- I use Drymax Max Pros or Farm to Feet
      • Waterproof Jacket- OR Helium II is awesome but the Altra Wasatch Jacket is coming in Fall 2017!
      • Wind/Water pants.  Mosquito protection & warmth.  I usually go with wind pants as they are only 3 oz but for longer trips, higher chance of rain or colder weather I'll go with a waterproof pant.
      • Thermal top- Depending on weather I'll usually take a Smartwool 250 wt top although on warmer trips I'll take a Howler Brothers fishing shirt
      • Hat AND Beanie
      • Sunglasses- polarized so you can see the trout
      • Optional- Gloves
  • Safety Equipment 10oz
    • Survival Blanket
    • Small first aid kit with bandages, blister kit, and pills.  Take extra might need it on a slog out with a rolled ankle.
    • Knife.  Get a small light one
    • Matches.  If you get stuck...stay warm.
    • Headlamp
    • Optional
      • Tin foil.  With the knife and matches you can always have a snack on your way out. 
      • Mosquito repellent and/or mosquito headnet
      • Trekking Poles
  • Food 
    • Take more then you think!  I lean towards fatty and salty food with selective carbs.  Plan on 200+ calories per hour.  12 hours will be 2,400 calories!
  • Water 4oz + weight of water
    • If you are fishing you should be able to find lots of water.  Take 32-64oz with you of carrying capacity and bring along a some Aquamira.  As I prefer two 16oz chest bottles I take a Platy Bottle.  It's an ounce and packs super small for loading up on water.
Good things happen to those who go the extra mile!  Enjoy and be safe.

UltraFishing Part 1. Genesis

I started fishing when I was 5 years old with my family.  Each summer we would go to the Uinta Mountains in Utah for a week of camping and backpacking.  I dreamt about that week all year.  In my zeal my mom began driving me to the mountains for the day and my dad would squeeze an extra weekend to teach me how to backpack by going deeper in the mountains.  It was my favorite thing in the world being in the Uinta's.

Moving into adolescence I was convinced I wanted to move from regular fishing to Flyfishing.  So my parents gave me my greatest childhood gift I've ever received when I was 12...a flyrod!  It was harder then I thought but thanks to the local library and a dozen VHS tapes, I began the arduous process of learning the art of fly fishing.  The Provo River was 1/2 mile from my house and I began riding my bike to the river as often as possible.

By age 16 I was very proficient and in the summers I began ever deeper adventures into the backcountry with friends while the weeklong trip with my father stayed an annual tradition.  I explored nearly every major basin in the Uinta's as well a trip into the Wind Rivers of Wyoming.

I had also began dappling in track and crops-country.  I was a natural runner and found a fondness for trail day.  Over the next few years my focus went from fishing to running.  I was highly competitive and loved the feeling of churning out the miles.  Back and forth my focuses went.  Desert backpacking, Alaskan summers, a NOLS course, and going farther in the mountains. Regardless I was meant to be in wild and remote places!
Ultramarathoning was in its infancy in 2005 when I ran my first ultra, the Goblin Valley 50k, at the age of 23.  I was immediately hooked!  By 2008, when my first child was born, I'd run 15 ultra's and a year later I started Altra!  Life was getting busy.  Too busy for a young father and entrepreneur.  I just didn't have time for 3-8 day backpacking trips, 30 mile mountain runs, and fly fishing all my favorite places.

The same year Altra launched, 2011, I was swamped.  I hadn't done a race the entire year and hadn't been flyfishing once.  I was stressed and had a family reunion in my favorite place, the High Uinta's! I took my running stuff and my fly fishing stuff.  Somehow I threw them together on the final day and went out.  It wasn't the first time I'd done a long run in these mountains.  In 2007 I'd run the entire 70 mile Uinta Highline trail in one go.  But it was the first time I'd taken my flyfishing gear.  On a 27 route that previously had taken me 4 days, I did it in a single day.  And caught about 40 fish in the process!  3 weeks later on a business trip through Idaho, I did the same thing in the Sawtooth Mountains.  When people asked me what I was doing I responded unknowingly...ultrafishing.

Since that date I haven't done a backpacking trip!  I still run and fish in isolation but the combination has opened up a whole new world.  With 3 kids and managing a rapidly growing business my time is more squeezed than ever before.  So I've been forced to prioritize my hobbies.  Ultrafishing is my way of combining 3 of my favorite things- trailrunning, fly fishing, and backpacking.  It's not uncommon for me to head into the mountains at 5am for 25+ miles and catch 40+ fish while getting home by midnight.  It makes for some long days but talk about adventure!  I now know that several other people do something similar.  I'm sure I'm not the first person to go for a run and take a flyrod but as far as I know I'm the first to use the term ultrafishing as well as one of the first to promote this unique adrenaline filled activity.

Ultrafishing/ ul-tra-fish-ing / noun

1- Running a substantial distance and catching fish throughout the run.
2- The greatest thing in the world

So yeah I guess I started a thing called Ultrafishing.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Racing Spring 2016- Antelope, Boston, & WhistleDick

Remember when blogs were all the rage?!  Well now my reports end up as a couple pictures and a short post.  Sad really as I used to post details that were important in framing my experience in the ultra world.  I've learned a lot over the years and documenting those experiences has been helpful in looking back.  Not just fun memories but important documentation of learned experience through racing.  Although these aren't as detailed, I'm still documenting...

2016 however is all about 1 race, Hardrock 100.  Having spent 7 years qualifying and putting into the race, I'm in and ready to tackle the most challenging event of my life!  Here are my Spring 2016 races, all of which building to Hardrock- Antelope Island 25k, Boston Marathon Double, WhistleDick 13, & Ecotrail Oslo 45k (coming later).

Antelope Island 25k
Having run this shorter race last year and having such a fun time, I returned.  These shorter races are fun as you can really cruise.  Ultra's are all the rage but I can see myself doing more of these shorter races.  This year my only goal was to try and go under 2 hours.  Last year I ran 2:03.47 and felt like I was in better shape this year.  I definitely started a little faster and felt good.  I moved well and was really enjoying myself.  Aid stations were quick as I only took a 12 ounce bottle.  Using only 2 gels and a couple salt tabs the race went very well.  The last 4 miles I tried to pick up the pace but couldn't quite move as fast as I wanted.  I finished in 2:00.37 and in 3rd place. Strava Segment.  Happy with my effort and plan although wishing I could have moved a little quicker in the finishing miles to break the 2 hour barrier.  Fun start to the year!
Credit: Lori Burlison
Boston Marathon Double
This is my 4th time running Boston twice.  Having thrown my back out in early April (lots of problems in that arena...) I went in sensitively.  Ended up having some great people join me including Ian Sharman, Nicole, Keila, Stephan, and Alison Memmott.  Despite some early heat and late headwind, I ran out in my usual 4 hours flat.  I LOVE it!  Every year its amazing.  The way back was my hardest yet.  The lack of training and my back problems led to my slowest and most painful return trip.  I made it through just fine however with a slower yet still respectable time of 3:56.44

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Top 12 fish of 2015

2015 was the best year of fishing I ever had!  I felt dialed all year and seemed to hit every hatch, river, and lake perfectly.  Here's to the top 10 fish of the year along with a few of my favorite videos thrown in.  4 years ago I couldn't have even fathomed how good this years fishing was.  2016 will probably have a few more running days but I'm sure I'll have a few good days on the water too!
#12- Smile for the camera!
#11- Nothing says "I love you" like a 23 inch male Brown Trout!

#10-- Picture doesn't do it justice, this 21.5 inch Cutt was caught while stalking with a small dry fly.  Perfection.
#9-- Green Drake hatch...enough said.
#8--  This 22 inch Brown was caught bouncing this streamer against a log.  When it saw my streamer it came up out of the depths and snatched that thing up in full view.
#7-- Fattest Rainbow trout I ever caught.  I couldn't stop laughing
#6-- Pays to fish through a rainstorm!  Thats when the BIG fish come out and feed!
#5-- And I named it Pigbow!
#4-- Best fish with the absolutely worst picture.  Yes its 25 inches and yes I caught it sight nymphing!  Wish the picture was decent or it might be #2.
#3-- Thickest Brown Trout I've every caught.  24 inches of pure joy!
#2-- This hog leapt out of the water four times and and fought bigger then the image indicates.  Amazing 23.5 inch Brown Trout that changed my life...
#1-- Largest trout I've ever caught.  27 inch Rainbow!  Should have measured the girth...this thing was amazing...and caught sight nymphing.  I mean wow!!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

2016 Race Schedule, Coming together!

Whoa, another year has past by!  2015 was an exceptional year for me on so many levels.  I moved to a new area, bought a new home, grew my company, and checked off several bucket lists including the big one...UTMB!  2016 looks to be equally spectacular with my next major bucket list race, Hardrock 100, secured.  Here is how my schedule lines up so far:
  • ? USATF Snowshoe Marathon Championship- Snowbasin Feb 28th.  A big maybe and depends on my training over the next 6 weeks.  If I go to Hong Kong then its a no...
  • OR
  • ? Translatua 50/100k- Hong Kong March 12th.  This is my hope and #1 goal for Spring.
  • OR
  • ?Antelope Island 50k- March 19th.  Clearly a no if I head to Hong Kong.
  • Boston Marathon Double- April 18th
  • Zion Traverse- April 29th (not a race but I need to schedule it if there's any hope of heading down...)
  • EcoTrail challenge 80k- Oslo, Norway May 22nd
  • Squaw Peak 50- June 3rd (10th Squaw!)
  • Hardrock 100- July 15th (Focus race for the year!)
  • August- Alaska and other high alpine adventure runs...
  • Bear 100- Sept 23rd  (unless I have a change of mind and put in for Wasatch 100 in the next 3 weeks...)
Usually something is adjusted and I'm not sure about the first couple races.  However, the year is looking pretty locked in and absolutely fantastic.  I feel like I need a little change to elongate my season so I'm leaning towards Bear 100 instead of Wasatch.  Weird but I suspect I'll be manning the Altra aid station and pacing Wasatch 100 instead of running.  Excited to revisit the Bear, particularly so because of my new proximity(I live 2 miles from the start!).  Anyway you slice it, 2016 should be another great year!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

UTMB 2015

2015 marks the 10th anniversary for my ultra running career.  I ran my first ultra as a 23 year old clueless young inexperienced runner.  Since that time I’ve completed over 50 ultra trail races, managed 2 running/outdoor shops, graduated college, started a shoe company (Altra), had 3 kids, and moved 8 times.  It’s been a wild ride!  I’ve also closely followed the expansion of the ultra community that I have grown to love.  Over that time, it became clear to me that despite my experiences there was one race that had established itself as the premier ultra event in the world, the Ultra Trail du Mt Blanc. 

UTMB is a 105 mile race boasting nearly 34,000 ft of vertical climbing and an equal amount of decent starting and ending in Chamonix France.  During its circumnavigation of Mt Blanc it traverses through glacially carved valleys, up and over mountains, traverses exposed ridgelines, and generally takes you through a mountain running paradise.  The aid stations are made up of remote outposts, ski lodges, and small cobblestoned Alp villages in France, Italy, and Switzerland.  In its 13th year, the three country journey now has over 2,600 starters from an astounding 87 countries!

  Despite running several difficult 100 milers over the years including Wasatch 100, Ultra Trail Mt Fuji, Bear 100, and Cascade Crest 100, I was still rightfully intimidated.  My summer was filled with running more of a growing business than mountain running but I found a healthy balance.  I made sure I had plenty of time for my highest priority- family.  My wife and youngest daughter even got to tag along to France!  I was ready and excited to tackle this monumental challenge!
  Race week came quickly and was filled with press conferences, expo working, and athlete meetings.  Altra is picking up steam in Europe and we were well represented during the expo.  We worked with Polartec to launch our “Better than Waterproof” Lone PeakNeoshell at the event to much acclaim!  I rested when I could but business called.  Soon it was time to take care of business from the running end and by 5:30 pm August 27th I was in the town square with 2,600 other runners ready to tackle this epic event.  I made a tactical decision to start in the back.  I wanted to start slow and feel good through the race.  The race festivities were unparalleled with an estimated 70,000 people cheering us on, music blaring, and bells ringing.  
  At 6pm sharp, the gun went off.  I waited…and waited…and finally I took my first step!  It took me 5 minutes just to get to the starting line!  With the throngs of people the race funneled quickly but the feeling was electric.  Within a mile the race widened and I was able to start passing people.  I was slow and methodical but the first 20 miles went quickly.  I even ran a few miles with local friend Kendall Wimmer!  Soon the headlamp was turned on and the first night began.
The string of headlamps extended as far as the eye could see both in front and behind me.  It added such depth seeing where we had to go and how far you’d come.  Having a full moon only added to the beauty!  The mountains, and particularly the glaciers, where illuminated beyond belief.  The miles quickly flew by and before I would have imagined the first glimmer of light shown in the east.  I was so happy and it sparked what would become the greatest 10 hours of running I’d ever experienced!
The decent into Lac Combal will never be forgotten nor would the sunrise at Arete du Mont Favre.  I stopped there for 5 minutes just soaking in the moment.  In my wildest dreams I’m not sure I could have created a more beautiful place or perfectly timed moment
  The decent into Courmayeur was long but being on such a runners high I backed off trying not to get more of an adrenaline rush.  I floated down and did a full analysis of my situation.  The Courmayeuar aid station (Mile 48) was full of chaos, people, drop bags, and….my crew!  Frank, Altra’s European Manager, and Colleen, ICON’s PR Director, were there to help me get through efficiently.  I was about an hour slower getting there then I wanted but I wasn’t worried, as I felt great with no issues.  Having started at the back of the pack cost me that hour but I was ready to push on.  New clothes, food, and optimism followed me out the door!
Temperatures were beginning to rise into what would become the hottest UTMB on record.  I climbed strongly out of Courmayeur knowing that I was only half way.  I LOVED the section of trail from Refuge Bertone to Refuge Bonati.  The views and trail were spectacular.  I felt strong.  I had a rag, which I dipped in every stream possible, soaking my body in cold water.  This section was exposed and becoming hot but I moved well and soon was descending into Arnuva
Once at Arnuva (Mile 59) I didn’t want to eat anything.  After 10 hours of the best running I’d ever had, the heat and distance were catching up.  I now had to tackle the biggest climb on the course in the heat without much to eat.  I forced fed myself what I could and started the climb to Grand Col Ferret.  I struggled.  I was hoping the decent was better but it didn’t help much.  I was still moving but I was so hot and couldn’t eat much. 
  It finally started to cool off and entering Champex-Lac I was relieved.  My crew AND my wife were there.  I had struggled for the last several hours and I needed help.  They quickly began force feeding me...and my stomach didn’t rebel!  I also got a massage for 20 minutes on my quads while letting the food settle.  I switched into the new Olympus 2 shoe, put on a dry shirt and left feeling totally refreshed!
I was originally worried about the second night but I was feeling back like myself.  I knew I had 3 stout climbs and descents of this last 30 miles.  I found a grove and began pushing.  I felt like I was picking up steam!  I clicked through Trient quickly and flew down into Vallorcine!  I couldn’t believe how good I was feeling!  I got a little drowsy leaving Vallorcine but with 1 climb left I was determined!
  I’d heard the last climb was the steepest but wow it didn’t disappoint!  It was brutal but I was happy with my methodical approach.  Just before the top I saw a glimmer of light to the east.  I couldn’t believe my luck that upon arrival to Tete aux Vents the first ray of sunshine hit Mt Blanc!!  I was on such a runner’s high and this time I didn’t hold back but pushed harder then ever feeling like a million bucks.
I flew down the mountain weaving through the last of the nearly 2000 people I’d passed in the race!  At this point I was thoroughly enjoying the final miles of the race.  With ½ mile remaining I throttled back and emotionally jogged through town listening to the cheers of the town and contemplating my accomplishment.  I couldn’t believe the high I was experiencing as I saw the finish line and crossed in 38 hours, 29 minutes.  518th place out of 2,600 starters and 1,600 finishers.

Happy Happy Happy!  This was such a great race for me and truly the pinnacle of ultra running.  As I recover, I prepare for Wasatch 100 which begins less than two weeks from the time I finished UTMB.  Living my dream, finding the balance, and trying to enjoy every second of it!
Now go run!