Thursday, July 30, 2015

Conquering Mt. Humphreys

This week I decided that I would finally climb to the top of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff. Mt. Humphreys’ peak is at 12,633 feet, sitting approximately 6,700 feet above Flagstaff, and is the highest point in Arizona. I have attempted this as a hike previously 3 times, each time failing to make the final stretch from the ‘Saddle’, at 11,800ft, to the peak. These failures were all due to wind, snow, and cold, since the Australian Rules Football team I volunteered to lead to the top is only in town in November, and the weather gets pretty nasty that high up.

Humphreys Peak - 12,633 Feet

On the third of these attempts, the group and I tried to ‘brave the storm’ and push our bodies past the cold and wind to finally complete the challenge. Alas, we fell a ¼ mile short that day, as the weather only got worse. One man from the group decided to continue despite everybody else discouraging him, and he eventually returned with frostbite on his hands. The moral of that story is to be extremely prepared for this climb, because it is excruciatingly tough. Thus, for my first 5 ½ years of living in Flagstaff the only times I attempted to make it to the summit was in November. Those conditions took their toll on me and definitely made me fear Humphreys.

Two weeks ago I ran the SnowbowlHill Climb for the first time, which is the 7-mile road that leads up to Snowbowl Ski Resort in Flagstaff. The ski resort also serves as the starting point for the ascent to the top of Mt. Humphreys. After finishing the Snowbowl Hill Climb, I got the itch to attempt the climb up Humphreys again. Then, Wednesday night, Brian Tinder sent me a message asking if I wanted to run up to the top with him Thursday morning. As ill prepared as 12 hours might be for a run that would climb 3,400 ft in 4.8-miles, I figured that the coincidence was a good sign to say, ‘yes’.

Tinder's Little Celebration

I got up at 5:00 AM to brew some coffee, drove to Tinder’s house to meet him at 6:00 AM, and we carpooled up the hill to the Humphreys Trailhead, which begins at 9,200 ft. With 2 cups of coffee in me, and a handheld water bottle with cell phone pocket, I was ready to begin. We started up at a rather casual pace, neither of us had any record setting in mind, we just wanted to ‘run’ up it. The first 3.5-mile to the Saddle were uneventful, despite the roots and jagged rocks, there was a lot of stumbling but neither of us fell. We arrived at the Saddle in 55 minutes; our average pace taking a big hit as the trail gets steeper the closer you get to the top.

After pausing for a minute to check out the scenery we begin the final 1.3-mile ascent. I am amazed at how rough the terrain is, hiking is difficult and running is nearly impossible. The last time I was up here, there was 3 feet of fresh snow, which covered all the jagged rocks and made the trail impossible to find. Seeing it now without any snow allowed me to realize how steep the fall is on either side of the trail, and how damn lucky I was to have come out of my previous attempts unbroken.

View Looking Towards Flagstaff from Summit
23 minutes later we reached the peak, we quickly celebrated with some sips of our drinks, a couple pictures and a video, and checked out the view from the top of Arizona. We could see the fire burning 30 miles South just above Sedona and the Grand Canyon 90 miles North. We stayed only a few minutes because despite the beautiful summer weather, the wind and temperature at the top was getting cold with us just in sweaty shirts and short shorts.

Cold - And Ready to Head Back Down!

Then, we descended, which was nearly as tough as the climb at some parts. I stumbled nearly 50 times on the way down after catching my toes on rocks and roots, my legs getting tired and my stride getting lazy. I nearly fell one time when we were 100 ft from the top, catching myself by slamming my palm into a rock just before my knees and face hit the ground. Every other stumble was under control, and served as a wake up call to keep paying attention to the ground!

We arrived at the trailhead and ran a loop around the parking lot to make the run an even 10-miles. The run roundtrip was 2 hours 20 minutes; our ascent was 1 hour 18 minutes, and decent 1 hour 2 minutes. Each is approximately 13 minutes and 21 minutes behind the course records, respectively. Some day, maybe not some day soon, I will attempt to break those records. For now I will start to focus on the roads again. The Olympic Marathon Trials is 6 ½ months away!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

NYC Marathon Recap

I arrived in NYC Wednesday evening, and for the most part the days leading up to the race were a blur. A couple highlights from the days leading up to the race include the press conference and Under Armour’s new shoe launch at the brand house.
You can view my interview with LetsRun from Thursday morning’s press conference with a few of the top Americans including Ryan Vail, Luke Puskedra, Desi Linden, Annie Bersagel, Kara Goucher, and Deanna Kastor.
Thursday evening, I went down to SOHO to the Under Armour Brand House for the launch party of UA’s newest running shoe, the SpeedForm Gemini....
You can read the rest of my blog here at

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


It has been over 3 weeks now since Boston and things have been going extremely well for me. I have been running almost every day since the race, most of the time just casual runs with my training partners in Flagstaff. My legs recovered pretty quickly after the race; I have noticed lately that my body is not getting as beat up by the marathon as is was a few years ago. I have always been pretty aggressive when it came to getting back into the swing of training after a marathon and it appears that my body has been adapting to that trend...
To read more visit Nick's blog on RunningTimes.com

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Not Too Shabby

            It has been a week since the Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston, and I am still pretty excited about how things turned out. I am not an Olympian and I did not run a personal best, but I am very happy with my result. My two main goals going into the race were to run the fastest race I possibly could, and to get myself into the top 3, booking my ticket to London. I did not accomplish either of those goals, but there is little I could have done last weekend to change the result.

            I was not in 2:09 marathon shape, I ran the first 20 miles of the race perfectly for a 2:09 marathon, but I didn’t have it the last 10k. I didn’t necessarily hit a wall, my legs just started losing energy and I faded to a 5:12 average for the last bit of the race. I was lucky enough to have such a large and fast group of guys in the chase pack to help each other out, take turns leading and keeping the race honest. We all gave ourselves the best shots we could to make the team. The Olympians up front were just on a different level than we were. I truly believe that if any of us in the chase pack had tried going out in 1:03:25 for the first half, none of us would have run as fast as we did.

            Looking through the results excites me, seeing so many Americans running as fast as we did, taking the US marathon to a new level of competitiveness is amazing. I am a huge fan of the sport and I am thrilled to be a part of this resurgence of American distance running. So many former teammates, competitors, and many guys who I had never met ran personal bests, or within a minute of their best. It is great to see so many of these guys running well.

The next four years it is going to be very exciting to see how many of these guys can continue to improve and make it to the next level. Who is going to be an Olympian in 2016? There are hundreds of guys who still have not tried out the marathon, since they are still competitive on the track or still in college. There is no telling what the next 4 years will bring. Maybe next time we will have 15-20 guys under 2:12. Maybe it will take a 2:08 marathon to be an Olympian. Whatever it may be I am looking forward to continuing to improve myself as much as I can. I am still going to pursue the dream of one day being an Olympian.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rounding the Final Turn

            Less than two weeks remain until the Trials and I am finally getting excited for the race. This past week my fitness finally caught up to where I wanted to be going into the Trials. It has been a long, doubtful road since my last marathon in Daegu. A few weeks ago I was worried that I would not be able to even finish the race but each day I have gotten my training in, hoping that one day soon that I would start to feel fast again. That day has finally come and I am pumped about it.

            The past two weeks I have run 120-130 miles and each run I have done has felt better than the last. I started feeling good when I went home last Thursday before Christmas and got some sea level training. I was only home for 5 days, but during that time I ran 92 miles. This sea level training included a 24 mile long run with Danny, where we both completely depleted ourselves.  It was motivating that I felt good, but at the same time I was worried because I felt so beat up afterwards.

            The next few days were dedicated to recovering and getting my legs sharp and woken up again. I did an easy track workout on Monday and then a long tedious track workout on Wednesday. We drove down to Sedona for Wednesday’s workout, which was 10-15 x 1k with 1 minute rest. The goal was to run and feel comfortable at marathon pace. This workout is what brought me back to life. I sat myself right behind Brett on every single rep, making sure that I didn’t lose an inch on him.  This worked for the first 14 reps but on the very last interval he blew me out of the water, running a 2:42 to my 2:55. Despite that it was the best workout I had done in over 5 months. I felt like I was back to my old self again; ready to take on whatever came next.

            Well, what came next was yesterday’s 15 mile tempo run out on Lake Mary Road. I was nervous and excited going into it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could run as well as or better than I ever had before, but I was nervous that Wednesday’s workout may have been a fluke. I went out at a pace that I thought was conservative, but it ended up being a 5:16, followed by 5:13, 5:13 for the next two miles. To put this in perspective two weeks before on this same workout my fastest mile was only a 5:13.

            I was still feeling good, so I did what I could to keep my pace as even as possible, getting mentally prepared to push the last 4 miles. Through 11 miles I hit everything between 5:13 and 5:18 multiple times, the most consistent I had ever been on a tempo as long as this. My last 4 miles I dialed the pace down and ran 5:06, 5:11, 5:04, and 5:05, finishing with a total time of 1:18:20 (5:13 pace). So my average mile was as fast as my single fastest mile two weeks before. I was pumped!

            Now as I write this we have 12 ½ days until race morning. My fitness and my confidence are exactly where I hoped they would be at this point. And if everything keeps increasing like it has the past two weeks, then there is no telling what I will be capable of doing on race day. I know I have a shot of making the team, and of running a personal best. Anything can happen over the course of a marathon, I just need to be ready to put my best performance out there. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Time

I finished off a solid week of training and have another huge week coming up. Christmas has historically been an extremely difficult time for me to train. Most years, I have just been lazy while back at home visiting my parents, only managing to get out on one run a day, but still making sure to hit 110-120 miles for the week. I’m sure this year will be no different, although I will only be home for 4 ½ days, I know it will be a challenge to get myself out and running twice a day.

This past week I hit 116 miles with 5 doubles, which is the most I have done since my injury. We got a lot of snow this past week, so a lot of my running was done out on Lake Mary Road, including Saturday’s 15 mile tempo run. It was a windy day, but we all made the best of it. Brett dominated the rest of us, Steph and Emily looked good, and Danny and I held on strong and fought to the end. Jordan wasn’t so lucky, one of the two casualties of the day but in my experience when training for a marathon you can’t always have great workouts. Just last year I did this same workout with Brett and Martin pre-Houston and I only made it 4 miles. Sometimes that is just the way it goes.

                      Saturday’s Other Casualty: The Lid to Danny’s Fluid Bottle.

Next week, with Christmas being on Sunday, I shouldn’t have too difficult of a time getting all the training in that I want to. I’ll run most of my week in Flagstaff, going 12 and 6 most days, with a 4 x 2 mile workout on Wednesday. Then Thursday afternoon I’ll fly home and get a couple day of sea level training in, which will include a 24-mile long run on Christmas Eve. This will be an exciting run as I’m hoping to get as many of my Southern California friends together for it. So if you are in the Orange County area, give me a call or shoot me an email. Even if you only want to run 4 miles with us, it will be better than nothing.

I hope to hit 120 miles next week. Sunday will be the real test because trying to find time to run on Christmas morning has always been difficult for me. This year I will find a way, and who knows, if I feel good, maybe I’ll even find time to run twice on Christmas! One can only hope.