Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sponsorships... do you really want it?

As I was hiking with a friend in Sedona, it dawned on me that when runners hike together they get to have a lot more enlightening conversations than when they run together. When I run with someone conversation topics usually include: dogs, weather, nature, bees, pooping, mountain lions, race plans. Basically, things that I automatically know we have in common and can be talked about in short bursts. When you take time to slow down and hike with that person, that's when the magic happens.

So as my friend and I were hiking along, we started talking about things that most trail runners probably think about frequently but never get the the forum to discuss. Both of us are relatively speedy and have good potential for improvement. She is definitely faster than I am. We fall in this category of runners who wish they were fast enough to run full-time, but would need some big break through races to get recognized. We also have been and/or are currently in relationships with guys who REALLY want to be sponsored.

Here's a pattern that I've noticed in a lot of people that want to be sponsored but aren't quite there yet. First they get hooked on the sport, go to their first race, and realize that they are pretty good and with some improvement they could be even better. They immerse themselves in reading up on training tips, the latest gear, and who's who in the sport. They get super inspired and see incredible gains. Then when they feel that it is time to test their fitness they look at their race options and pick some that aren't that competitive so that they can do really well place wise. Then they get this fear about doing competitive races because they wouldn't want people to realize that they are in the back of the front pack. When they finally work up the courage to go to a competitive race, they realize that there are a lot of other people just like them who are hoping to have a break out performance.

After that realization, good runners get disheartened instead of enjoying the fact that their bodies are able to do incredible things! The joy they had after that first race, the enthusiasm they had reading their favorite running magazines or blogs, it's not as strong because it reminds them that their dreams are just out of their reach. The things that used to inspire them end up controlling them.

There's also a few runners I know that are about my ability level who have some brand sponsorships. Sadly my first reaction is usually, 'If they are sponsored how come I'm not sponsored?' Then I started to realize how these runners could start to feel trapped by the thing that they so desperately wanted. They've thought the same things I'm thinking and so they know other people are sizing them up to see if they really deserve what they've got. Instead of being able to enjoy their running and the every day freedom it gives them, they have expectations to meet and people to prove things to.

The main thought I want to express is that if we take the time to realistically envision what our lives would be like if we get the things we want, maybe we would change what we aspire to. What I actually want is not the ability to run fast and attract sponsors. What I really want is to build a community of running friends who I can enjoy the trails with and who I can share life's trials with. I want a group of friends who enjoys travelling around together (families, dogs, baggage, and all). Friends who are welcome to stay at my house and who let me crash on their couch. Friends who carpool to races, train together, cheer for each other, and encourage each other when times are tough. When I look at what I've got, I realize that I have everything I wanted.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sedona: Lots of running... lots of beer

I haven't written anything since Salida not because nothing has happened. Most people think that seasonal affective disorder is the worst during January and February, but I find that the apathy and sleep wonkiness I get when the sun gets its butt in gear sometimes is the hardest to push through. Its like the last few miles of an ultra... terrain that would have been easy to handle at the beginning of a race feels harder at the end because you are so damn tired. Since Salida I feel like I've just been holding off injury and my legs have felt constantly fatigued. You know those awesome breakthrough runs that make you feel so alive? Well I haven't had one of those in a while. Just a lot of hard work.

My last run before flying out to Arizona last Sunday was a painful one. My shin splints were super awful and I felt so slow. I always look forward to the energy I get from running in Sedona, but I was worried that I would just be tired and in pain the whole time. When my dad and I went out for a run on Monday on the Huckaby trail I felt creaky, but slowly my legs and lungs started to come alive. We ran down to Oak Creek and explored off trail for a bit, hopping off huge boulders and marveling at how amazing the deep canyons are.

Huckaby Trail down to the creek crossing

The man, the myth, the legend, the dad

Best beer in Arizona... Orange Blossom at the Oak Creek Brewery

The next day we had to hit up our favorite trail. The Hangover Trail is a relatively new trail that was mostly just used by locals until they recently did a lot of work and marked it up. It's not on the map yet so I would still call it Sedona's best kept secret. You'd have to be a pretty expert mountain biker to be able to do it. Lots of slick rock and technical sections with steep drop offs. Gorgeous views and lots of Manzanita trees. Here's a link to our route if you are in the area and want to give it a shot.

I would not want to carry a bike over this

Lost the trail and had to bushwhack a bit on the way down

Glowing rocks at sunset

On Wednesday we did a 7 mile hike with my mom up to the Cowpies trail. Way to go mom! It was nice to slow things down a bit and take in the scenery. Then that afternoon my friend, Sadie, that I met at Red Hot drove down from Flagstaff and since she was sick we just hiked 7 miles instead of running. It actually ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. When you hike, you have the lung capacity to talk so much more than when you are running. She told me all about her plans to build up a Ford Transit to live out of. That girl is living the dream! She also gave me some great advice for the MAS 50 that I'm running in July. In 2012 she got 3rd place overall! Ian Torrence was the only guy that beat her!

Sometimes it's nice to hike and not run

On Thursday we woke up at 4am to go pick Cory up at the airport in Phoenix. On the way back we stopped in Jerome to get the best brunch in Arizona at the Mile High Grill. Smoked Salmon and Sweet Potato Hash... enough said. Later that day we headed out on the Hangover Trail again so Cory could experience it.

Sunshine and slickrock

The dad guy

As soon as we hit the dirt road I flopped

On Friday we were thinking about heading to the Grand Canyon but the forecast called for rain. Instead we hiked Mt. Wilson in the morning with my mom. She is making improvements! The view from the top was beautiful but things started to cloud over and get windy. On the way down it started spitting rain but fortunately the thunder held off. It would be fun to go back and run this trail.

Flagstaff looks a lot like Mt. Doom

You can always count on a filter to make a cloudy day picture look unreal

Christmas card

Horny Toad

Later that day I went for an 8 mile run in the rain after eating a very large bbq pulled pork sandwich. I started thinking about how my competitive nature has been taking away the joy that I get from running. That was the whole reason why I quit cross country in high school, all of the pressure kept me from actually enjoying the progress I was making. Now that I am addicted to Strava and I've been seeing a lot of improvements, I feel like I can no longer have an "easy" run. If I'm having a bad day and I post it to Strava, then other people will see that I ran slow. If I don't post all of my runs to Strava it looks like I'm not training very consistently. If you've never used Strava, this phenomenon will seem stupid. If you do use Strava, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm thinking about weaning myself off if it. So hard!

Saturday rolled around and Cory and my dad and I headed out on a long run. We took Huckaby to Grasshopper point where we searched for the Casner Canyon Trail for a long time. Finally figured out that we had to wade through the creek and then head up this super confusing, little-used trail that leads to a crumbly section that gains 1,000 feet in one mile! After that mile took us 25 minutes, we were quickly running low on water and decided to head down Munds Wagon Trail, which is much easier to bomb. What an adventure!

This is not an Ultimate Direction advertisement

Down by the creek

Trying to find the trail by Grasshopper Point

Loose rocks, steep trail

View from Schnebly Hill Vista

Tan dad... how come I didn't get more of those Swiss jeans?


On Sunday, we packed up and headed back to Mesa. It's so much hotter there! We went for one final run at Lost Dutchman State Park before heading out.

Total hiking and running miles: 70!
Total elevation gain: 12,500 feet
Total Time on feet: 18+ hours