It is hard to believe that we are already at August 1st and the overseeding season is right around the corner. Yeah I just said that! I know you’re looking outside at the lovely 110 degree temperatures thinking I’m nuts for talking about overseeding, but the truth is now is the time to start preparing your lawn for the season.

It’s OK if you have let most of the summer pass you by, and you have been neglecting your lawn because of the temperatures outside. But I would suggest planning for overseeding now. Have you given your new lawn a 100 days to grow without any competition, is your turf weak, thick and “matty,” or growing out of control? Have you verticut, or aerated your lawn this season to give it a chance to breath and open up the turf canopy? Have you been fertilizing monthly or have you thought it would be okay without summer fertilizer? I am sure you have answered yes to some of these and no to most of these questions so now is the time to take action.

Get a calendar out and pick out a Sunday in October, (because no one should be doing it on a football Saturday) and count back 100 days. When you come up with this day does it coincide with the time you had all the ryegrass removed from your turf this past summer and was it free of competition? If it was then you are okay to overseed. If you figure that you will only have had your new turf for 60-80 days I would be very leery of overseeding. I am not a fan of overseeding turf the first season, but if it was in early enough in the summer you will be okay as long as you don’t get aggressive in the fall. That there will be my August lecture on overseeding so keep it simple, get your grass healthy and give it a little TLC this month to whip it into shape.

The weather is perfect to grow a warm season turf, and it is a great time to fill in any voids in the lawn during the humid months of the year. We don’t get a lot of humid days and I can attest to them being miserable, but your grass loves them.

I wanted to briefly touch today on a topic that has come up with a few homeowners lately. Fire ants. Some people are seeing an increase in the number of fire ants they are seeing throughout their turf areas. Fire ants are red in color and they are present throughout the year but can be even more aggressive during the summer months. These medium sized ants can be distinguished by the red color, but another sign is the large mounds of soil in your turf areas. They are primarily swarming and stinging insects that can cause great harm to you, not just your grass. If you have ever been stung by one of these ants you know it feels like a bee sting, except that you generally will be bitten by multiple ants at once.

Fire ants are one extremely tough insect to kill and they have even been able to adapt to severe flooding. Flooding the ant mounds used to be a way many thought would eliminate the pest population, but unfortunately they will eventually find dry land and can re-establish their colony quickly.

Since most of the common controls on the market today do very little to injure or kill the fire ants, I thought it would be important to tell you what to look for in a chemical to treat them. First there is not a product available for purchase for homeowners that has the correct active ingredient to completely eliminate the problem. I would suggest contacting a pest control agent and having them spray the active ingredient Fipronil. Many of you may be familiar with this active ingredient as it is found in most preventative dog flea medications. Fipronil can be applied as a foliar spray or there are granular such as Top Choice that can be applied directly to your turf and last up to one year before they need to be re- applied. They are broadcast spread over your lawn and are released into the soil through irrigation and rainfall. The ants will then pick up the chemical and bring it back to their colony eventually killing them. This chemical will eventually kill the entire colony including the queen. There are several chemicals out there with this active ingredient,but make sure you buy one with Fipronil. Like I said earlier this is an application that needs to be made by a licensed pesticide applicator but it is well worth the cost to get it done once per year.

If you have any turfgrass questions, please hit the “Ask Jay” button at the top right of the page. If you are interested in Ultra Running, please continue to read the 2nd half of my blog. If not, it won’t hurt my feelings!

Speed Goat 50K Race Report

As I sit here and attempt to describe the race nothing in my mind comes close to just how great of a race this is. When you go to the web site to sign up for the race it says this is the hardest 50K in the country, hands down. This race is not just a little farther than a marathon–it is a lot farther than a marathon. If you are reading this saying how can a 50K be that much farther than a marathon, I can only sum it up as saying this is a Karl Meltzer designed course. So what exactly does that mean? It may be a 50K, but it actually runs 33.7 miles, encompasses 11,420 feet of vertical gain, 11,200 feet of decent, altitude to 11,500 feet, snow, ice cold streams, remote mountains, and propelling down rocks on a 500 foot rope to get through the loose gravel. If you are saying that sounds horrible, I completely disagree as it was the time of my life and even though I could barely stand Saturday evening I loved every minute of that run, walk, hike, ski, glissade, and stream crossings.

Before signing up for this race I was briefed a little on this race by my friend and Irun store owner, Mark Cosmas, on just what to expect. Mark is who got me hooked on the idea of running this race the first time I went into his store and started asking him about it after I saw his race bib on the wall. He is an ultra runner that has run most of the great races and has competed at a high level in all of them. If you are new to running or want to learn about trail running and different races, go in and see Mark at his store and he will make you want to push your limits. You may think distance running in ridiculous when you read my posts but after a few minutes in the store you will be ready to tackle a new venture. He will sit down and talk to you about different races he has run or crewed in and he seems to remember mile by mile what every race is like. I have a hard time doing a race report three days after I run it.

I went into this run not knowing how my body was going to react going from basically sea level to a starting point of 7600 feet. We flew into Salt Lake and made the 25 minute drive out to Snowbird where my heart just started to beat rapidly every time I looked ahead at the Wasatch Mountains. Was I really going to try and attempt this, and was there really snow at the end of July? I really haven’t been around snow in 10 years since I went flying out of the state of Michigan.

Here is a picture of me the night before the race (still standing at this point).

We milled around the starting line and for the first race I have ever been part of I was not nervous at all. I would occasionally look up at the hill and crack a joke about how impossible it looked to my wife Traci, but I never got nervous. I had never even been at an elevation of 11,500 feet let alone thought about climbing from 7600 feet to 11,500 twice. How bad could it be, and what’s the worst that can happen on a 50K? I was quickly about to find out just what my friends had been telling me about a Karl Meltzer race. We had the pre-race briefing and 250 of us stood around and listened carefully to the few instructions regarding the course, dropping out of the race if necessary, and just a few last minute details on course markings.

At 6:30 on the dot we started out down the trail with what appeared to be a runnable section before the 7.7 mile ascent up to the top of Hidden Peak which stands at just over 11,200 feet. I made my way to the middle of the pack and just tried to get my breathing in a good rhythm and keep my heart in my chest as I knew I would be sucking wind soon enough. As I said earlier, I was briefed by Mark to take it easy in the beginning and capitalize on the race when things opened up and became runnable. I have always been pretty good at just getting adjusted to the course and making my way through it without trying to ride the coat tails of others and keep up with the elites.

About 1 mile in the trail became just too steep to continue to run and it made much more sense to power hike the up hills. I have worked hard on hiking quickly and not losing any time on the up hills to people who think they will benefit more from running slow. I was not looking to get my heart rate that elevated early and I also wanted no part of the altitude sickness that many would suffer throughout the day. Going up Mount Baldy towards Hidden Peak was one of those times that I wish I was not wearing a Garmin because my pace was just ridiculously slow. I was averaging right around 14.5 minute miles at this point which if you are a runner and reading this you are probably thinking that’s not running, it’s called crawling. Yes it’s crawling, but I like to call it hiking. A 4000 foot climb to start off a race off can ruin the day for a lot of runners. I can say with certainty that there are only a few handfuls of marathons that would have 4000 feet of total vertical gain total in 26.2 miles, let alone in the first 7.7 miles.

Anyway, I continued my way up Mt. Baldy taking in the breath taking scenery as it was lush and green half way up with mountain with small stream crossings and some waterfalls dropping water down the mountain banks. At the 7.2 mile mark I had my first of many encounters with that white stuff that I moved away from 10 years ago in Michigan and man was it slick. I took a couple steps and I started to slide and up ahead I could see the rest of the field also sliding but there was a little relief in sight after the first 100 foot climb. I tried to keep my footing in other people’s tracks that had already gone through so I could make it to the rope. The Speedgoat himself, Karl was nice enough to have a 500 foot rope that we could hold on to as we made our way through the rest of cloud basin. His words before the race started were there would be some assistance, but the course was not going to change due to snow conditions because he wanted to see some epic falls. To my surprise I made my way up the snow bank pretty quickly after I grabbed the rope and from here I could hear the sounds of the cow bells ringing as we made our way to the Hidden Peak aid station. I dropped my backpack off to the volunteers to fill with EFS and I went straight for the chips, pretzels, and gummy bears in my drop bag– your typical runner food (okay well ultra runner food). I was feeling great knowing that I was at the highest point on a mountain that I have ever stood in my life and I didn’t take the 8 minute tram ride to get up there. I took the 2:15 climb up.

Here is a picture of the climb up Little Cloud basin

As we left Hidden Peak I knew from looking at the hand drawn map that we had a long 4-5 mile down hill stretch coming up and this is my area that I typically shine. I love to run the down hills and I know this is always my best chance to make up time because most runners worry about the footing , rocks, and injuring their quads on such steep downhill runs. We headed down the trail and came to the first extremely steep downhill section on Mt. Baldy and it required ropes to scale down this section of loose rock and shale. Many runners were hanging onto the two ropes for dear life and I did my best to navigate my way down the hill. There was no being careful in this section because even if you went slowly the rocks would slip out from under your feet and cause harm to the runners in front.

Here is a picture of me heading down Mt. Baldy

After leaving the roped section I hammered the downhill trail through a running stream that followed the trail down the mountain side. This was my chance to make up for those 14.5 minute miles and get back into the 12 minute average range. By the time I reached the next aid station I was successful in this venture and I felt like I was on top of the world. I was nowhere near the lead runners or even the second group of runners, but I just scaled an 11,500 foot mountain, ran to the bottom, had no pain, and realized the altitude did not get the best of me. In my mind that meant the rest of the day would be a little better than I had planned and the second time up the mountain would be just be a physical challenge, not a mental one worrying about getting sick.

I rolled into the next aid station feeling great and was greeted with popsicles, chips, peanut butter and jelly, and some salt tablets. I grabbed a couple salt tablets, rolled my Popsicle in salt and headed back down the trail. If you want to know why salt on the popsicle, it’s not that I was craving it, but more as a way to get it in my body and keep the cramps at bay. I headed down the service road and we went towards the next long ascent. As I said before we would be climbing Mt. Baldy twice from the bottom to the top and round two was right around the corner. The first section is a gradual climb that is 5 miles long but the sun was starting to come out and it was wreaking havoc on lots of runners. I could see the frustration on several people’s faces as the hill never seemed to end but luckily it was only a 5 mile stretch to Larry’s Hole aid station.

We hit the 19.4 mile aid station and the aid captain said to “carb up” before heading out to the next section. It is only two miles to the next major aid station called the Tunnel but it will feel like 4. Normally I would say what sense does that make but again I saw the map and knew exactly what was coming. I left the aid station, crossed a couple streams and headed toward the most brutal climb I have ever partaken in. There was no trail, no rocks to rest your feet on, just a 400 foot straight uphill section through the vegetation. I could muster about 2-3 steps at a time before my hands would be on my knees and I was sucking air. It wasn’t just me that was struggling, it was the whole field. I would take my couple steps, look back to see if I was going to be passed and all I saw was tired climbers with their hands on their knees.

Here is a picture of what is the hardest uphill I have ever encountered.

I made my way back to the trail after what felt like an hour and it was probably only 30 minutes and less than .2 of a mile, before I saw the infamous tunnel in the distance. There were a few patches of mud and snow to cross before we reached this section but nothing that was going to hold me up. I still felt good, my heart rate was back in check and my legs were semi working so away I went. After I dropped my pack and bottles off to the volunteers at the tunnel I had to walk back and take a look at the hill I just climbed just so I could get a good laugh. I picked up my usual supplies of salty foods, EFS, gummy bears and away I went through the tunnel and headed for the last uphill section of the course.

This next section is about as deceiving as it gets. If you look to your left when you leave the tunnel you can see the top of Hidden Peak and it appears to be no further than a mile away. That’s not exactly the case. It is actually a 5 mile stretch of straight uphill climbing in the most scenic spot on the course. After navigating a few switchbacks it was time to head up the infamous ridgeline. Even looking up at the ridge it appears to never end but when you get to look out at the hills and you can see the top of Hidden Peak it is a climb that you never care if it ends.

I hustled up this section trying to make up some ground knowing it was all downhill from the top to the finish, but first there would be one last snow crossing. In my current mental state I thought if I ran hard through here I wouldn’t slip. Not exactly as I fell hard and banged my right quad off a rock. This didn’t feel too hot as I made my way up the ridgeline, but I was able to keep a good attitude knowing there is nowhere to go when you get there but down. I got to the point where I could see my wife, Traci, and daughter, Petra, and I heard Traci yell out “Come on Danek!“ She was right there and I would be there in two minutes just needed to get the rest of the way up the ridge.

We get to the plateau and instead of going straight up the trail we are sent around the back side of Hidden Peak and have to climb another 500 feet to get to our crews. It was slightly deflating, but there is always energy when you see your family and crew. It is the mental boost every ultra runner needs to get through one of these races. I reached the summit for the second time in 7 hours and 5 minutes, had climbed over 11,000 vertical feet and just had 5-6 miles to go. I can’t tell you the exact distance because at the tunnel my Garmin went haywire and decided to stop keeping track of some of my data. As I stopped on top of Hidden Peak I could really feel my right quad hurting and I was favoring it pretty bad.

Traci filled up my bottles, told me I needed to break 8 hours, not worry about my quad and concentrate on my strength (downhill running). I took off as fast as I could, limping and grunting at times but I knew I still had the butt slide to go and I was excited up as I saw the other runners flying down the snow banks of Little Cloud Basin. I was slightly disappointed to see a few runners pull out garbage bags to slide on as it seemed like cheating to me, but what do I know, I am from the desert. I hit the top of Little Cloud and before I could fall and slide on my butt my size 13 shoes were serving as skis as I stood and glissaded 500 feet down the slopes. After about 500 feet I decided to just go down and slide on my butt for the rest of the way. This is an amazing experience almost like riding out a wave that you have zero control of.

Flying down the snow banks at what feels like 20 mph I could see the rock cropping down below so I did my best to pop up to my feet before that section and start running again. I survived the basin, had a blast and now it was time to head straight down.

At this point my watch would only keep track of elevation, not mileage, but it served the purpose as I was at an elevation of 10,400 feet and knew the finish was around 7600 feet. I ran as good as I could until I could see the cars in the Snowbird Ski lodge parking lot and at that point I was home free. This is a funny ending to a race as you seem to run past the finish line 3-4 times for an additional mile before finally hearing those cowbells ringing. I could hear the bells ringing and Traci yelling for me as I crossed the finish line in 7:56. Not too bad for a guy from the desert who has never been to altitude before. As always my wife and daughter were waiting for me as I crossed the finish line and my first words to her were I love this race and I will be back next year to go under 7 hours. Put my name on the list for next year Karl!!

If you are interested in seeing a slideshow of the race, check out this link to one of the other runners from the race. I have 24 days till my first 100 mile race in South Dakota and now that I have run Speedgoat I feel ready for anything.