Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Morning Stroller Push

Morning Stroller Push from CalNeff on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Birthday Ultra Photo Blog

It all started with an idea, to run 30 miles on my 30th birthday, turns out it's 30 miles from my favorite taco place near home to the Houston location and at the same time I could link up the two Houston Luke's Locker stores... and a third Torchy's Taco location! Also turns out I have a friend that loves running and taco's just as much as me, once Matt joined the party the Torchy's Ultra was official. We started super early in hot and humid conditions to avoid extremely hot and humid conditions and here is how it all went down....

Start: Torchy's Taco Cinco Ranch

 Mile 0.25: Luke's Locker Cinco Ranch

Mile 2.5: We hit the bayou trails that led us into George Bush Park.

Mile 5: Boardwalk over the bayou in Bush Park

"I went to the danger zone..." then while I was singing this in my head we got lost and added 1/2 mile to the route.

Found the Noble Road Trail head, Melinda promised there would be a sign, more beautiful trail running through the park.

Until this happened.

Yep, he'll hold this pose all day...

Turns out while I was taking pictures of that little guy, I was standing next to a few of his buddies.. there are three venomous snakes in this photo that we know of...

Matt nearly dropped out at mile 9 with the snakes but it got much better.

After a short section of road we were into Terry Hershey Park and since it was my birthday I decided on more single track trails, yes, this has all been Houston so far.

Mile 16: Let the pavement begin

Mile 17: Facetime with the birthday girl (yep, same birthday!), big two years today! She was up early and jumping on her new trampoline.

Birthday breakfast with Mom and Charlie

Mile 21: Welcome to Houston
Commuting to work on foot!

Marathon! Starting to get hot!

Mile 27: Luke's Locker Houston, water and AC!

More water...

Matt enjoying a great aid station..

Boo Taco Bell!

Yay Torchy's Taco Sheppard!

WE MADE IT! A little longer, turned out to be right on 50km and the birthday girl was there to meet us. Thanks to wives and daughters for driving in to pick us up.

Lil Nookies birthday cake!

I'm not sure who these guys are...

This is how my friends show up for a birthday party, business on top, shorty shorts on bottom.

Oh, and the lingerie bag... contained a Torchy's gift card, thanks HATR's!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The "Damn Good" Birthday

I wasn't sure if I was going to do anything "special" on my birthday this year but things just kept popping up suggesting I should: "any big running plans?", "Have your 30 mile birthday run planned?", "I'm joining you for birthday run!", and this article on Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon Race Director, who just completed 60 miles for his 60th birthday.

So despite forecast temperatures in the 100's and high Houston humidity, I'm going to go for it! To add some more fun there's only one thing I like as much as running, and that as you all know is Torchy's Tacos! So I have devised a route that will take me from my local Torchy's and Luke's Locker running store in Cinco Ranch, past the Houston Luke's and Torchy's, and finish at Torchy's Tacos in Rice Village for a total of 30 miles.

Presenting the first Torchy's to Torchy's, Luke's to Luke's Ultra!

The route starts at Torchy's Taco's in La Centera, opening at 7AM I am yet to decide whether I want to wait that late to start (its going to get hot!). I will be joined by my buddy Matt (and anyone else who is interested for any/all of the run), pretty stoked to have Matt joining me for an ultra! His wife doesn't think he can run that far!

From there we will run through George Bush Park and find our way to Terry Hershey Park and along some of my favorite local single track of the Ant Hills trails which will take us all the way to Beltway 8, the outer loop of Houston. The next section of city streets I am not looking forward to as much but I'm sure the morning rush hour will keep us entertained, San Felipe Street will take us all the way to Luke's Locker on Gray Street before we head South on Sheppard to hit up Torchy's #2 and within a few more miles finishing in Rice Village at Torchy's #3 where I can really chow down on my birthday brunch.

The route is mapped out here, feel free to join along the way or just buy me a taco and beer if you see me! I will be updating Instagram and Twitter throughout the adventure.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Hunger of the Pine

This has been my running soundtrack over the last month during my mountain trail adventures. Can't wait for the new alt-J album in September (pre-order on iTunes now and you get this song and "Left Hand Free" right away). Was surprised to learn that the female remix bit is... Miley Cyrus! But don't let that ruin it for you. Video is a little gory, but I think there are some great metaphors for running and life. There is going to be some pain, some bumps along the road, things you have to deal with and ultimately at the end of it all you are the one in control. Sometimes you just got to keep running, even when you're taking arrows to the jugular!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Letter to Colin

Dear Colin,

The other night I received a phone call that no one; parent, friend, sibling, coworker, coach or anyone wants to receive. It was Coach Oumama with the news of your horrible accident, I was devastated just like everyone else. I could picture your father as she told me, "Pat does not want you to be sorry for Colin but to remain positive and strong, that's what will get him through". At first I was consumed with details of the accident and your condition but slowly drift to my memories of you as a fifth grader.

To me you will always be that little fifth grader, the special one, the one with all the heart and talent. The one with a constant smile, a shyness, but drive in your eyes that turned your small physical presence in to one larger than life. It was so special to be a part of this time in your life, to have some impact and guidance, it gave me purpose and maturity. It was even more special to watch you race this year as a high school senior, to see that you had carried on with even more dedication and passion for the sport. While you have grown a few feet taller, legs hairy, and even a some teenage attitude you are still that little 5th grader to me.

Thousands have come together in prayer for you to recover. I read your parents updates daily, following the ups and downs of your condition, wishing I could be there. I can't imagine how tough it is on them but at the same time they are taking advantage of being able to hold on to their baby boy, something no teenager lets their parents do! You have brought people together as we wait for your eyes to again open, we will wait forever if we have to.

I have to say I'm not much of the praying type, but then again maybe I am- this is the story of my last run in the Sierra Nevada mountains, these places always give me energy and vivid thoughts and this time I send them your way, is that prayer?

I stare at the moon, tonight is a rare "super moon"- full and closer to Earth than normal, tonight I run through the night in your honor. My coach drops me off on a mountain pass between Reno and Lake Tahoe, its almost midnight but the air is still warm and the moon and stars capture all our attention. I gear up and ensure my safety, this mountain ultra trail running is bizarre to purists of the sport.

"See you in Reno tomorrow, sometime..." I set off along the Tahoe Rim Trail, a section of the 165 mile loop I know well enough to run at night, the moon is so bright I don't even use my headlamp. The trail is clear and sandy but not to difficult to run, the tan color of the path shines bright around my moonshadow and the angle of the bright light casts shadows off the few rocks I need to avoid. I climb higher and higher over the next five miles through forests and past waterfalls, carving windy single track and on to dirt roads that bring me to a ridge line now over 10,000ft high. I can see the city lights of Reno (primarily casinos), the entire rim trail surrounding the lake, and small cars along the highway now far below. My first summit, Relay Peak, is the highest along the rim trail at 10,338'  but I want to get closer to the stars, my energy is still strong, legs fresh, and its too cold to stop.

I'm now bombing down technical trail, my headlamp still off, surely I'm not moving as fast as I think I am but the night adds a speed factor. My goal is to follow the ridge line to a second summit but I'm soon cut off from the path and am left descending a steep bowl of loose rocks. The moonlight continues to disguise itself, I have to turn and check that there truly is no car with its high beams behind me or another person with a light. I safely find my way to a trail junction, sometimes using the clearly visible North Star and the Big Dipper to keep going the right way. I am now familiar with my location, a saddle between Mt. Houghton and Mt. Rose where nine years ago I had guided a few boys your age on a trail run, during the day of course. Looking back at the steep cliffs of Mt. Houghton I decide it was a good summit to skip and begin a one mile long climb of 2000 feet to the summit of Mt. Rose.

The trail is a series of rocky switch backs slowly leaving the trees and becomes exposed on the backside of the mountain of bare rock. The higher I climb the more I wish you were with me to experience the moment, the more I think of how much you would enjoy this place, and the more upset and angry I become that you can't be here right now. By the summit I am cursing and questioning everything that has happened out loud, at what and to who I yell, I don't know. "Why?!"

On the summit I find a horseshoe shape wall of rocks that has built up over four feet high and provides a great wind block out of the cold air. After a moment of regrouping myself I take in the world below. Reno is off in the distance, colorful casino lights and houses still bright, the highway winds from the city up the mountain pass between Mt. Rose ski area and the true Mt. Rose summit where I stand. The ski runs and lifts are clearly visible and my eyes follow the highway over the pass to Incline Village and Lake Tahoe. The entire rim is jagged along the horizon with large snow capped California mountains and the lights from other cities like Squaw Valley, start of the Western States 100 mile ultra marathon. The moon drowns out the stars but they're still more impressive than what we get in Houston. Constellations, planets, and moving satellites fill the sky.

I stick my bright orange jacket on one of my hiking poles in the rocks and it whips and cracks like a flag as the sweat dries off in the wind. It's now two o'clock in the morning and I decide to sleep here, at 10,800 feet. After crawling into my sack of a bed I pull out my multi-tool and begin to carve your name into a flat stone. "Colin".

I wake around 5:30 to a burning red sunrise and the super moon just setting. After packing up in the cold I place your stone on top of the wall as if you were here on the summit with me. My fingers brush over the rough surface of the rock and your carved name. Before I run off, I speak to you to come back, open your eyes, and stay strong.

I will see you soon.


"Coach Cal"

To all of the Thompson's, I send my love during this tough time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Enchanted Solstice

The weekend of the Summer Solstice was spent camping out at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area with a group from the Houston Area Trail Runners for a solid few days of training.

Enchanted Rock, or "E Rock" for short, is a massive granite batholith- the third largest in the world with Ayers Rock (Uluru) in Australia being the largest. The park is located four hours from Houston, two hours North West of Austin in hill country (Bucees is exactly half way.

In addition to camping there are over 600 trad, sport, and bouldering climbs along with miles of trail for hiking and running only (no mountain bikes). Both the main dome and the smaller summit "little rock" are an absolute free for all for open "adventure" running on granite around pools of water, boulders, and cactus. This provided a great training ground to get some vertical running in, something we are greatly deprived of in Houston! The summits have a loop trail which also loops a third rock and two canyon single track trails link in-between providing enough running to keep any ultra runner happy for a lifetime.

Rock Climbing: Climbers need to check-in at the park headquarters and sign the book where there is also a guide book available for under $20. There is really not a lot of good beta online, from what I did see gave me the impression that this was a trad climbing area only (hence the 30lbs of protection I hiked with), this is not the case as we ended up climbing only sport for two days! The best online/app and free source is The Mountain Project (mtn project app) sponsored by Black Diamond which compliments the guide book well for extra photo's and descriptions.

We stuck to the backside of main dome which consisted of classic slab climbing- no hands, all palms, and feet on the smallest of any indentation you could find. The favourite climb of the trip was "A Walk in the High Country" as it provided an easy but exposed warm up. This is a fun route that starts far left of most the climbs on top of a boomerang shape ledge that wraps around and crosses the rest of the routes on the backside, sharing anchors, and eventually topping out on the summit. We did this again on the second day simul-climbing.

Trail Running: As mentioned there are a few main trails and lots of off-trail running that has zero environment impact as its all on rock. Note that there are pools of water on top of the rock that carry a miniature shrimp that they suspect survived since the ocean once covered the rock- when the pools are dry the eggs still exist for the next cycle so try and avoid trampling through! Leave no trace!

The trails range from fast and wide pea-stone gravel on the outer loop to and incline grade selection you want (way better range than a treadmill!). Some area's can be very technical and obviously so much so that safety gear would be required. Bring lots of water as it can get hot. The showers are open for everyone and are very refreshing, unfortunately no swimming in this park.

In addition to looking at the official park map for trails I suggest bringing up Strava to see the popular trails, this also provided some fun of going after the summit records. Enchanted Rock Climb starts at the base of where the actual elevation begins which is rocks steps, boulders, and single track before hitting the granite rock to the summit- the record is now set at 4 minutes and 35 seconds for half mile with 420ft of climbing on an average grade of 16% = leg & lung burner!!! The more official Strava route is "King of the Rock" which starts at the trail head, down the steps and across the creek before starting up the same route described above- the extra portion only adds 35 seconds.

Can't wait to get back to this beautiful park with the family and explore some more (we never ended up doing the cave). There is also a race in the fall which loops the park and finished on the summit which looks great.

This trip was also a bit of a last hurrah for our friend from France, Kevin, bon voyage and I'm sorry for the midnight beating, I thought you were a possum in the tent!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Spring Training Update

Wow, where did May and June go!?!?

Following the Wings for Life World Run I had planned to take it easy for at least a week which turned into more like three weeks due to a viral infection that knocked me out with sweating chills and full body cramps. But at least this gave my knee and calf that had been bugging me leading into the WFL race a chance to fully recover and I have not had any issues since returning to training.

Keller Williams 5k
The final week of May I kicked it into full gear again, running 63 miles and started getting familiar with the treadmill incline and stairmaster again. This is also the same week where the Houston heat really started to turn up and will be here to stay for the next three months. Most afternoon track workouts I have been doing in 90F with high humidity.

That last Saturday of the month was very special as I finally had the chance to run a race, an actual fun run, with Aley in the running stroller. Luke's Locker was great to give me a free entry into the Keller Williams 5k, a local race in Katy, and I discussed with the race organizers during packet pickup that I would be more dangerous starting at the back (as recommended). They were okay with me at the front and I tried not to be in the way although there was some close calls after the start with two people sprinting off the line and cutting me off. Our new friend Matt lead the first mile which must have been fun for Aley drafting behind an elite runner at 5 minute mile pace. I loved watching her hair blow in the wind as we cruised past cheerleaders yelling "Go super Dad!". The halfway U-turn up on two wheels went fine and we flew back in the lead. It was a hot and muggy morning but Aley and I were able to run away with the win in a time of 16:08!

Upper: The Luke's Locker Racers- Peter, Cal, and Rich.
Lower: The clock just going over 16 minutes, oh so close!
Thanks to Luke's Locker for the race entry and Bob & Chris for the photos.
Testing out The Altra One2

June has been FULL ON with a week still left in the month I've already put in over 200 miles, over 30 hours of training including some rock climbing and other strength exercises, and best of all I've been able to log over 18,000 feet of elevation gain, not bad for Houston! I have been in a good rhythm of meeting Matt for a track workout on Tuesdays and going super long on adventurous weekends. I've been putting myself through "hell week" training blocks, sometimes running hard four days in a row. My body survived despite going through serious shin splints or calf strains that now heal in two days if I push through some pain and keep going. These issues are all attributed to fast workouts on the track.

Long Runs: I have been having some good weekend adventures lately, trying to keep the mileage interesting and explore different areas (which means a lot of driving!). I have also not been worrying about pace or distance and just getting the set routes done and spending lots of time on my feet in very hot conditions. Early in the month I ended up running a full marathon on a mix of single track and rolling country roads by running from Buescher State Park to Bastrop State Park and back again. A gorgeous run I highly recommend, here is the route. On this run however I decided to just see what happens when I don't follow my typical, over prepared, thought out, Excel spreadsheet of a nutrition plan and just run, carrying about a liter of water. I had my first taste of Ucan just before starting out and the next 3 hours in 80+ degrees of thick humidity I was completely comfortable. The final 3 miles however was an absolute death march, something I have never really experienced! That cold Coke from the ranger station was a great way to finish off nearly 4 hours of running!

Torchy's Taco's Katy Grand Opening!
My next long run got nasty. Matt and I headed straight to Huntsville State Park (home of Rocky Raccoon 100) after dropping my girls at the airport for their trip to Canada. We were in the park for about a total of 10 minutes during the 3 hour run, spending the rest of our time fighting ticks, Texas size horse flies, spiders and webs along the thistle and poison ivy overgrown track of the Lone Star Trail. We tried looping back to the park via some private deer hunting land but could never quite get through (turns out we came within 100m of the park multiple times). Out of water, having only carried a hand held bottle each, I once again really enjoyed a cold Coke, this time from a lake house cooler along the way- FYI this cooler is stocked just after the Camelia Lake spillway crossing on a picnic table, nice gentleman to talk to over a cold drink. Do not do this run.

To aid in my recovery and maintain some amount of body fat I have been hitting up the brand new Torchy's Taco's in Katy. I've just about completed the entire menu including the not-so-secret-secret- menu with only a few items remaining. This place is dangerously good, damn good as they say. Don't go here, the line is long and I need my tacos.

Off to the races again, the Altra One2
 I would like to thank Altra for keeping my feet happy this year with an abundance of shoes. I recently received the brand new One2 and Paradigm, two road shoes I was much anticipating, I was not disappointed.

The One2 is a super light, streamlined racing and training shoe. It does however pack a lot of cushion so I wouldn't go as far to call it a racing flat. The construction is extremely well done with no seams and slick material. In general people are finding this shoe runs a half size too small but expect some pressure on top of your toes even when sized properly- this shoe does not have a vertical toe space like other shoes, rather the upper material meets the bottom of the shoe in a  >  shape. It can take some getting used to but it does no damage. You should also transition into these shoes just as the "Learn to Run" booklet, included with every pair of Altra's, recommends. These shoes are extremely soft on the bottom and have a lots of flex along with a wide toe box for natural foot positioning and motion.

Embrace the Space! Natural foot shape shoes by Altra.

The Paradigm's are the max cushion road version where as the highly regarded Olympus is the trail counterpart. I'm still adding some mileage to this pair of shoes but so far they feel great, very light, firm but cushy, and a nice rocker feel. I would be torn between The One2 and the Paradigm for a marathon race shoe but certainly anything longer, especially concrete with downhills, the Paradigm would be my shoe of choice.

Amazing and impressive to see a relatively small company, and still very new, able to produce such a high quality of product. The development of the shoe line is completely different than last year so be sure to get into your local store (like Luke's Locker!) to try the new Altra's out. Knowing that I have a stupid amount of shoes in stock, for me to get excited about a shoe pulling it out of the box like I did for The One2, says something. They also have camo soles and that my favorite color.

Thursday night All Comers Track Meet at Rice for a "race workout": one mile in 4:36 followed by the 3000m in 9:36

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Wings for Life World Run


Last to finish and the biggest win of my life- the story of The Wings for Life World Run, a race dedicated to my dear friends Marc and Stewart.

Be sure to check out my previous post to learn more about the unique format of this race if you don't know how the Wings for Life World Run  was organized. My family and I spent an amazing week in Southern California leading up to the race in Santa Clarita which included Laguna Beach, Laguna trail run, sailplane soaring, a trip up Mt. San Jacinto, lunch in Big Bear and trail run at 8000', flying a small plane around San Gorgonio Mountain, Disneyland, and much more. Taper vacations are the best! 

My dad dropped me off at the start line around 2AM and I felt like I just walked into a rave, the atmosphere was like any red bull fueled club with dance music booming, black lights, spotlights, flashing lights, young people in party mode covered in glow sticks, and remote control cameras buzzing overhead. This sure made up for the fact that I barely slept all night from pre-race jitters.

I never saw anyone that looked like a competitive athlete, making my pre race ritual of drills and running look completely out of place. The bars in California get out at 2AM so the food trucks, music, and lights acted like a beacon to the after party of all after parties, I even heard rumors of some of these party goers just jumping into the race which would have been a bit of a shock when there was no finish line! Not to say there wasn't any runners there, turns out the local running store, Runners Lane, had a really good showing and the second place finisher, Kyle Robinson, ran amazing even splits for just over 30 miles.

All Photo Credits | Garth Milan | Carlo Cruz | Red Bull Content Pool | © Red Bull Media House

The music switched over to Pantera as we started loading into the chutes and I weaseled onto the front line in time for the pre-race wheelchair dance show and national anthem. There was supposed to be pre-determined chutes based on pace/marathon PR but it was an absolute free for all. It was a little frustrating as I had a difficult time getting on the front line which was completely taken up by a group of women taking selfies and posting to Instagram, but I quickly realized I was one of a handful of people that were there to actually race and decided to relax a little. The wheelchairs in the race along with a dude on a skateboard (pushes along with his hands) started one minute ahead of us and bang on 3AM we were off.

Start of The Wings for Life World Run in Santa Clarita at 3AM, catcher car on the right ready to start in 30 minutes.
The first few hundred meters were spent holding off a drunk Australian and weaving through the wheelchairs. Soon I was right on the tail of the lead truck, decked with a large LED light stand pointing directly on me, a mic boom, and camera man- the truck crew along with the cyclist, Chris, would be my company till the end.

The pace was way faster than I planned as I tried to pull the reigns in and get the 5:40 min/mile closer to 6:20. One guy lead for a couple miles, I think he was even wearing a Mexican wrestling mask for the first few minutes, and a local college freshman ran with me till around 10km. We were passed by the skateboarded as he flew by on a downhill stretch, unbelievable to be running six minute pace and get passed by a guy kneeling on a skateboard pushing with his hands. Unfortunately the next uphill portion killed his pace, It was great catching up with Jesse Swalley after the race, turns out he made it 15 miles/25 kilometers on his skateboard! Check him out on Instagram at "icantstandskating".

At eight kilometers the hills began, tough climbs through Santa Clarita streets, up interstate over-passes past Magic Mountain Six Flags, the hard work was repaid nicely with long downhills as my pace dropped comfortably under 6min/mi.

I was running on a full bladder but my every step was being broadcasted worldwide under a spotlight, a little camera shy I asked for some room which kind of broke the ice with my new friends for the next 4 hours. They gave me some room but it was still completely obvious I just wet my pants on worldwide TV! At half marathon I got in nice and close to the truck and did a shout out to my friends Marc and Stewart, discussing why I was running, and this amazing event. This was my highest point in the race.

After half marathon things got a little more lonely, the sun still wasn't up although I should have been wearing sunglasses with the spotlight. I just focused on my nutrition and pace, one gel every 30 minutes, a salt pill every 90 minutes, and whatever I could grab at the aid stations which included water, cytomax, and Red Bull of course! But the aid stations became further apart and I even passed the course cone setters at one point. My knee and calf that had been bugging me the last few weeks started to flare up and I began doubting whether my body would hold up, aerobically I was completely fine.

Sunrise finally came after about 3 hours of running.

When things got tough my thoughts turned to Stewart and Marc, their injuries are so much more than paralysis- imagine leg cramps you can't shake out, body functions you can't control, so much more we just can't imagine- my discomfort was minimal in comparison. While there are solutions to paralysis coming out through technology, like exoskeletons, these don't address all the other complication of the injury so its critical that events like this happen so there are funds to find a real cure.

I came through the marathon around 2:45 after quite a long section of fairly easy road except one significant climb, the road I was now on was through a canyon- twisting and turning and sure enough the hills were serious back there. By now my aid stations had switched to Chris and the camera crew as nothing else was available, fortunately I was fairly self sufficient and had brought extra EFS powder to add to water. My dad was also able to cheer me on from all over the  course and once on the back canyon section the updates started coming in from the truck- only 150 people left in the whole world, top ten in the world, last man standing in California... thing were getting exciting and I still had a good gap on the catcher car.

Running on open highway, no more course markings, with my private escort down the road.

I was working hard now, holding on to 7 min/mile pace was tough, up hills brought me to a crawl and down hills were the most painful with every step shaking my quads to painful exhaustion. I switched my watch display over to a custom app I created for my Suunto Ambit that would tell me how far back the catcher car was- two miles and closing fast!

If you have a Suunto watch and want to see how far you would have made it, check out my app here, load it up and go for a run: http://www.movescount.com/apps/app10032463-2014_Wings_for_Life_World_Run

I went into survival mode, pure guts running, fueling and electrolytes were over, it was all or nothing. I rounded the final corner out of the canyons and my jaw dropped- before me stood one of the biggest hills I have ever seen. After living in Houston for the last eight months it was terrifying! The hill was a perfect constant grade around 6-12 degrees that ran for over a mile. I laughed. "You have got to be kidding me!" Chris and the truck knew how close I was against Mike Wardian in Florida, I had no idea that I was closing over a mile gap on him, the crew urged me on. The race director met me in the middle of the road and handed me my last bottle of water, I power walked with hands on quads as I sucked it back- game on!

My police escort building as I climb the final hill
 Suddenly I was smiling, big, challenge accepted. I was going to take this hill with everything I had. Short quick steps, three quick steps- get it going again, pump arms, and smile! The crest was nearing and my watch now read only 400m lead on the catcher car, I was not going down without a fight! My hardest effort of the day paid me back with what would be my winning kick, a painful steep downhill where I would hold off the catcher car just a few more agonizing and never ending minutes.

The catcher car finally catches up with me after 4:01 of running 58.52km/36.36mi
I was happy the race finally ended, a little shorter than I had hoped but with my less than perfect leg conditions on the day and a course resembling more of an (unexpected) mountain race, I had given it everything I had. The catcher car crew had to tell me to stop, it was over. I turned around to a caravan of red bull vehicles, motorcycles with camera men on the back, the final shuttle bus and my dad. It really did resemble that point in Forrest Gump where he finally stops running. I was presented flowers, a sash, and the heaviest glass trophy with a crystal globe on top. Camera's filled my face as I tried to comprehend what they were telling me, I was the last man standing out of all three US races just edging out Michael Wardian in the final stretch. Apparently the radio playing live coverage in the shuttle bus for 2nd and 3rd place was quite dramatic "California, Florida, no California, Florida leads...California takes it!".

The final results showed it wasn't that close (I had gone over half a mile further than Wardian) and even my original place of 9th in the whole world slipped back to 22nd after all the locations had their official reports in. My biggest goal was still accomplished though- the last man standing in all of North America, earning my spot to any race worldwide next year!

Upon finishing there was a little celebration right in the middle of the road where I had finished, lots of interviews and pictures. When it was time to head back to the start they were about to put me in the yellow school bus shuttle when I looked up to see the custom made Red Bull truck "I want to ride in that!" and after a big climb up I was rolling down the road in style with a fresh can of Red Bull in my hand. We pulled up to the finish and the red carpet was rolled out and a small gathering of people were still left, people who had stuck around to watch the live worldwide coverage on the big screens. We did a few more photos and interviews while I waited for the family to show up, it still wasn't even 8AM! It was awesome, being a rock star for 10 minutes, what a race, what a day!

Race Facts:

Total money raised for Wings for Life: Over 3 Million Euros! Thank you to everyone who donated! You can still donate here!
Total Runners in 2014: 35,397
Countries: 32
Race Result: 1st in North America (Canada, Mexico, California, Florida, and Colorado races), 22nd in the world! Full race results can be found here.
My Time Running: 4:01
My Distance: 58.52km, 36.36mi
Elevation Gain: 2,837ft
Average Pace: 4:07/km, 6:37/mile
Splits: 5:56, 6:14, 6:09, 6:14, 6:23, 6:15, 6:25, 5:49, 5:26, 6:05, 6:08, 6:19, 6:08, 5:57, 6:11, 6:22, 6:24, 6:30, 6:47, 6:43, 6:58, 6:50, 7:11, 7:24, 6:53, 7:31, 7:33, 7:34, 7:41, 6:58, 6:31, 7:12, 7:35, 9:48, 6:26, 5:51
Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/137751780

Elevation profile for the Santa Clarita Race from my Suunto Ambit, tough course!!!

Gear and Nutrition: Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin Belt with soft flasks and S-Lab Sense Hydro Set, CEP Compression Sleeves, Wright Socks, Suunto Ambit, EFS First Endurance Solution, GU Roctane Gel, Hammer Gel. Unfortunately the Altra One2 and the Altra Paradigm shoes which would be by shoe choices for this race were not released yet so I decided to run in the same shoes as my marathon but I hear they are now on their way and available.

Women's Winner Jeannie Rutherford and I back at the start line.

Here is a great video recap of the race from COC Cougar News:

Following the race we all had a nice big breakfast then headed to Santa Monica pier to hang out before we flew home. On the pier there was a Bubba Gump restaurant and outside was the Forrest Gump bench with a pair of Nike's and a feather resting on the toe. Pretty much the perfect quote to end the day:

"I think I'll go home now" - Gump, Forrest Gump

Race you next year? www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com/

Photo Credits | Garth Milan | Carlo Cruz | Red Bull Content Pool | © Red Bull Media House