Transition Time
As we begin to approach mid April, the transition from ryegrass to bermudagrass on your lawn is right around the corner.  I previously said I was going to do a video on fixing up weak areas and dog damage in your yard, but the temperature has dictated that I move in a different direction. 
Many of you manage properties that don’t allow an early transition because of winter visitors and the need for revenue, but even if that is the case there are some beginning steps you can take to start to reduce the ryegrass population.  If our temperatures stay in the 90’s during the day and mid 50’s at night, our ryegrass is going to continue to thrive and start to serve as a shade for your warm season turf. 
I have said it many times that the single biggest problems with overseeding is forgetting that the grass underneath needs to get sunlight and water in it to grow.  Bermudagrass and paspalum are not shade tolerant grasses and both require at least 4-6 hours of full sunlight between 9 am and 3 pm in the summer to survive.  Warm season turfgrasses start growing again when the soil temperatures hit 64 degrees at a 6 inch depth in the soil at 8 am.  I don’t expect you to get out there with a thermometer to check the soil temperature, but I will tell you that we will hit that magic number in most areas over the next week.  In the cooler parts of Arizona and California it will be around May 1st
Again soil temperature dictates the growth of a warm season grass.  So does the amount of light the plant receives.  When you have ryegrass over top of your bermudagrass or paspalum you are not allowing much light or water to get into the plant.  Back a few years ago everyone always bought into the theory of turning their water off for a week or two and letting the ryegrass die out.  While this works and will kill the ryegrass, it is the death of the underlying turf.  Warm season turf needs water to grow and if you turn off the water for the rye, you are also cutting off all the water to the bermudagrass or paspalum.  All living plants need water to survive and I think it is fairly obvious for everyone to realize that there is no chance for your grass to outcompete the ryegrass without something pushing it. 
Water and fertilizer are extremely important to any good transition, but moderation is the key.  That is why we suggest a starter fertilizer like the Soil Burst 5-15-10.  This is a slow release fertilizer that will not give the ryegrass a huge surge of growth, but will get down into the soil and get the warm season turf growing.  You can also use a fast release nitrogen product like ammonium sulfate to try and push shoot growth of the bermudagrass, but you never want to do this if you have a paspalum lawn.  This application would go down at 5 pounds per 1000 SF (watered in) and the goal is to try and push your lawn.  In order to be successful with an application like this you first need to thin out the turf.
1.   Gradually drop your mowing heights and reduce your watering by 30 percent to allow the ryegrass to start to thin out.
2.   Make sure the bermudagrass is getting sunlight by continually mowing the turf canopy a little lower and reducing the turf density without scalping the lawn.
3.   Water 2-3x times per week for 15-20 minutes so the ryegrass goes into a little shock.  We are not trying to completely kill the lawn but rather put a ding in it.
4.   Lightly verticut (not dethatch) to reduce the turf density and open up the canopy.  As sunlight gets into the soil the warm season turf will begin to take off.
5.    Aerify if you have compacted soil or to again open up pore space and allow more water and air to get into the roots.
6.    Fertilize with the Soil Burst 5-15-10 at 9-18 pounds per 1000 SF or with a light ammonium sulfate application of 21-0-0 at 5  
        pounds per 1000 SF.
7.    If you aerify or verticut then you will need to provide the grass a little extra water so it doesn’t dry out.
8.    Continue to keep your mowing heights lower until the bermudagrass or paspalum starts to push its way up through the 
         ryegrass.  It will out compete it as the temperatures warm up.
If you have access to use products such as Revolver, Kerb, or Monument, they will greatly aid in the transition process as they will cut off the growth of the ryegrass and any other cool season grasses growing.  Most people will not be able to get these products but if you are and intend to spray them make sure people around you are aware that the grass will turn brown for about two weeks before the bermudagrass or paspalum starts to grow up through the dead turf.  More and more golf courses have taken to this method over the last five years because of ease of maintenance and because of the time restraints on growing their warm season turf.
A warm season grass needs 100 growing days without competition to fully establish itself over a season and you should never overseed a lawn that hasn’t had at least 100 days of growing without competition.  What does that mean for the average person that overseeds every year?  Pick out a day in the fall that you usually overseed and count back 100 days.  For example if you decide that October 15th is the typical day you overseed your lawn needs to have no competition in it around by June 15th.  Now this sounds simple, but remember they keep making ryegrasses that last longer and have a little more warm season tolerance each year so there is always a little bit that hangs around and causes problems.  Keep your mowing heights a little lower than normal and don’t get crazy with the fertilizer, but supply the grass the right nutrients to get it healthy and growing.
Zane Grey 50 Mile Run Report
This past Saturday I had the great opportunity to compete in my first  Zane Grey 50 mile races from Pine, AZ to Christopher Creek, AZ along the historic Highline Trail.  Without exaggeration this is the toughest most grueling run I have ever done.  I don’t think if I combined my two hardest 50K’s races it would come close to the difficulty of this race.  For the last 6 months I have listened to the stories about the treacherous rocks, burn areas, wildlife, scenery and the difficulty of the terrain, but never did I think it would live up to the hype.
 The race was to start at 5 am on Saturday morning at the Pine Trailhead.  I checked in about 4:30 am and 124 of us crazies stood around the starting line in 40 degree weather waiting for pre-race instructions.  The field this year boasted several of the elite ultra runners from across the country and there was no question that they were here to put on a show.  At about 5 minutes to 5 am we received our brief instructions–I turned on my headlight, shook out the nerves and prepared myself for a long day on the trails. 
The average finish time of this race most years is around 13.5 hours so I went into the race with a goal of finishing in 12-12.5 hours.  That is a long time to be on your feet let alone running, walking, or shuffling along to complete 51 miles of trail.  We took off and headed through the dark woods and made out way to the first moderate climb of the day.  Slowly but surely the field started to separate a little and gaps opened up for the single track run through the hills.  I couldn’t see much early on so I made a conscious decision to just watch the ground below me and put one foot in front of the other.  This is much easier said than done because you are running over rocks, up a hill, and through narrow eroded trenches.  You know– the same kind of conditions we all encounter–well ah, never.  I ran along at a decent pace for the first four miles and then as the sun started to rise I suddenly felt like it was time to open up the legs a little and push the pace. 
I passed a few runners on the uphill and got myself a nice cushion between runners, but no sooner than I did that it felt like a root grabbed a hold of my ankles and threw me to the ground.  This was the first of many falls on my way to the Geronimo aid station.  It wasn’t a pretty looking fall because I nearly took out the runner in front of me as I somersaulted and hit the ground hard with my face.  I brushed myself off, picked my broken Garmin watch up off the ground, found my iPod, and was back on my way.  I may have gone 500 yards and the same thing happened to me again.  This time I was able to laugh it off and realize I really should be looking out for the buried root– not the big rocks I am fumbling around on.  Rolling into mile 6, I felt I now had a firm grasp of the course and finally figured out how to maneuver the roots, but when I slowed down around a tight corner my feet immediately locked up again in some roots and down I went.  This time I would cut my left knee open on a rock and I was flustered.  How can one trip and fall 3 times in the first 6 miles of a 50 mile race?  At this point I began to have doubts about the day and thought maybe this course just wasn’t for me. 

Just as I began to talk to myself I found myself lying on the ground again.  I got up, this time uttering a profanity or two and then immediately tripped again.  Five falls before the first aid station, I was still ahead of schedule, but banged up, embarrassed, and flustered.  I rolled into the Geronimo aid station, filled my backpack, got my head together and headed out.  We were not allowed a crew at this aid station so it was just a quick stop over and time to plug along to get to mile 17. 
Running through the woods, I was now laughing with a few of my friends about my several falls.  Time and miles seemed to be flying by.  The next 9 mile section is more my style of terrain as it is a combination of single track, rocky terrain, with a lot of climbing and treacherous downhill stretches.  I love to sprint down narrow rocky washes and watch others look at me like I am nuts as my ankles roll back and forth as I move over the rocks.  I am not sure that this is a good feature to have but it seems like having weak ankles allows me to navigate terrain differently. 
I bounced back and forth between groups at this stretch and rolled into mile 17 aid station unscathed and about 15 minutes ahead of pace.  No falls, nothing dramatic happened, but with over 2000 feet of climbing in that stretch it did take a little toll on my body.  As I came into the Washington Camp my wife was there to fill my pack, get me a sandwich, and push me back onto the trail.  As soon as I left the aid station I would have the first significant water crossing of the day.  There was a nice log to cross on, but the water was flowing hard and I was tired so naturally my feet decided to land in the water instead of on the log.  I climbed out of the creek and headed up the hill.  Mile 17-33 is through a burn area that is highlighted by no shade, thick Manzanita bushes, a narrow trail, 3000 feet of climbing, and long grasses that are covering up dead trees and rocks in the ground.  My goal was to get through this section as fast as I could, and then take it down a notch at the next aid station.  I ran well from 17 to the 25 mile aid station and picked up ground on several runners.  I was starting to feel my stride as others seemed to back off a little on the downhill stretches and I pushed on. 
At mile 25 it was another stop where we couldn’t have a crew so it was just a bag fill up and I was off.  Leaving mile 25 aid station (actually mile 23) the temperature rose to around 80.  This is unseasonably warm for Pine in the spring and the sun was taking its toll on me.  I knew I just had to get to mile 33 and then I would be out of the burn area, back in the forest and could slow down a little because it was going to be a lot of climbing and we would get some shade from that point forward.  The general rule of ultra running seems to be to run when you can, jog when the terrain dictates, and walk when necessary. 
I hammered a couple more downhill runs on my way and after a brief conversation with another runner I could hear the cow bells ringing from down below.  We rounded the corner and a volunteer yelled down to the volunteers that number 43 was coming down and to get my drop bag ready.  I looked over the side of the hill and I recognized this aid station from some of the video I had seen from previous races.  I began to yell a little and I was excited to know that I had the first 33 miles in and I was 30 minutes ahead of pace.  It was only 12:03 PM as I rolled into the aid station.  I ate a few orange slices, had half a turkey and cheese sandwich followed by some Tums and I was off.  The Tums are a necessity in a run like this because food tastes so bad, but you need to get calories in your body to survive.  My wife filled my bag quickly with Gatorade and gave me a water bottle to carry because I had the longest, hardest stretch of the course coming up.  I felt great and was in good spirits and families cheered for me when I left the aid station.  People that I have never met before in my life knew who I was and were giving me words of encouragement as I headed up the steep trail. 
The next 11 miles in straight uphill and peaks out around 7200 feet of elevation.  Shuffling up the hills I was moving along at a decent pace, but as the temperature continued to warm I began to drink my water really fast.  I could no longer stomach the taste of the Gatorade and water seemed like a better option, but I only had 24 oz of water and 60 ounces of Gatorade in my pack.  I drank my water within the first two miles of climbing and it had taken me 42 minutes to climb the last couple hills.  It is never good to look down at your watch and see a 21 minute pace over the last two miles.  The good news was that no one was catching up to me so they were just as affected. 
I made it up that first hill and found a nice little area to run for a few minutes and there were some volunteers with a little water.  I was thirsty, and dehydrated.  They said they had some water and could fill my bottle, but it was filtered creek water.  It is a long ways to carry water into this area so the volunteers bring empty containers and fill them at the creek.  They then filter them to help us between the aid stations.  I never even thought about any effects this would have on my body if I drank it.  Luckily I sort of enjoyed the bleach water taste.  They told me that I had about 4.6 miles to the aid station and that there would be another volunteer in about 2 miles if I needed more water.  Man I felt great as I left there.  I thanked them for the water and began what was almost the end of my day.  I hiked for awhile because my legs were shot and I was starting to breathe incredibly hard.  Panting like a dog in mid-summer I would walk about 100 feet and then have to put my hands on my knees to try and regain my breath.  I now decided it was time to try the 2nd of my extra strength “5 Hour Energy” drink to see if I could get a boost.  Not sure if these even work or if it is a mental thing, but I felt like I could go on. 
I continued hiking, but as I looked up I realized this hill seemed never ending.  I started to think about what the diagram of what the race looked like and I tried to tell myself if you get up this hill you are home free.  I walked another three steps and then began to sweat profusely.  The good news was that I was sweating which I considered to mean that I wasn’t dehydrated , but I have never sweat like this. 
I decided that with time to spare I should sit down for one minute and get my breathing under control.  Not a good idea as I became nauseous and started to get the spins like I did after a good college party. I threw a few Tums and salt tablets in my mouth and the Tums crumbled like chalk as I spit them out.  I whipped off my bag and iPod and stretched out on the ground.  My first spot was horrible as I was right in the middle of the trail and still out in the sun.  I crawled off to the side, moved a couple rocks and made a bed for myself.  You can only imagine how bad this looked as I was white in color, dehydrated, and probably talking to myself.  I couldn’t sit up because it would send cramps throughout my hips, so I had to lie down.  About 10 minutes passed and finally a runner caught up to me coming up the hill.  They had a pacer with them and asked if I needed help.  Not wanting to get pulled from the race I said I was okay, but just enjoying a break.  20 minutes later and 12 people have now passed me.   I am not getting any better I began to think that I was done.  The problem was that I was still 3.5 miles to the aid station, had no water and Gatorade tasted horrible. 
My next runner was the day’s savior.  He had a pacer with him who was a doctor and asked how I was doing.  At this point I needed water and told him that I felt like I had altitude sickness, was dizzy, and I was out of water.  The pacer asked if he could take my pulse and check me out quickly to see if he should send help.  Apparently I passed all the tests and my gift was a drink called “Recovery.”  I sipped on the Recovery for a minute and then out of now where I was able to get up and get myself together.  I wasn’t dizzy, or tired, just angry that I basically took a nap on the trail for 30 minutes.  Picking up the pace a little I crossed the 40 mile mark only to see my Garmin tell me that it took me 49 minutes to do the last mile.  49 minutes for a mile is just ridiculous, but I still had lots of time to finish the race.  The race has a 17 hour cut off and I was still under 10 hours at this point with just 11 miles to go.  My legs suddenly felt fresh, my breathing was better and I was able to pass some of the people that passed me while I was sleeping.  About  ¼ mile from the mile 44 aid station my wife came running up the hill towards me expecting to have to run 3.5 miles out to get me fluids where I was laying down.  A couple of the runners and volunteers had told her that I wasn’t doing well and it was doubtful that I would be able to continue.  I was ecstatic to see her and I let her know that I got a second wind and I was ready to finish the race. 
I picked up my pacer, Tere, at mile 44 to get me to the finish.  Tere is a good friend of mine who has the ability to keep you motivated regardless of how you feel.  She let me know to just take it easy, push the downs, walk the ups, and let her do all the talking.  Even talking after 44 miles will make you winded so I just grunted.  I was told that the last 7 miles is runable, but whoever said that has obviously never ran the previous 44.  It was painful and the blisters on my toes were getting worse, but Tere told me to keep plugging away by telling me I was farther along than we actually were.  I had so much salt in my eyes at this point that I could barely read the huge print on my watch.  My watch beeped to indicate mile 50 and could suddenly hear voices yelling “runner!”  I immediately got excited, picked up the pace, and as I rounded the corner I saw my wife, daughter and friends.  We were home free and the finish line was just around the bend. 
We sprinted (well sort of) the rest of the way in and I finished in 12:06:44. Good enough for 28th place, not bad for taking a nap at mile 39.  By far the hardest course I have ever run, but thanks to some great volunteers that cleared the paths and marked the trails a couple weeks ago I was able to finish mostly unscathed.  I will be back again next year and hopefully I can improve my time, but this course is so brutal that one never knows what is going to happen. 
124 runners started the race and 91 finished.  It was a hot, long day with over 9000 feet of climbing, but I can say I did it.  If you want to read more stories or check out the highline trail go to   
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please hit the “Ask Jay” button to the top right of this page.