Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why I like buffets

Most people that know me, know that I like buffets.  I mean come on... after running 20 miles you gotta refuel someway... right.  Going to an upscale restaurant that overcharges and under delivers in quantity just isn't my style at all. 

Since moving to Utah, I've been disappointed with the usual selection of restaurants in the area.  I've gone to quite a few, paid a pretty penny and have left -- well hungry.  I am not a big guy by any means, but I like to eat...

The same can be said about Las Vegas.  I've been to many of the upscale restaurants there, paid $50 a plate (or more) for food and left unsatiated.  I can't recall any Las Vegas restaurants run by celebrity chefs that I've been to that I would bother going back to.  It just wasn't worth it.

Hence, the buffet...  I can eat exactly what I want and as much as I want.  Usually I try to eat my entry fee in terms of food, but being a non-meat eater this can be challenging.  I usually make a bee-line for the shrimp and crab legs, however and you can easily do some damage at the desert area.

Another positive about the buffet is that you don't have to deal with slow or sloppy service.  This is all about serve yourself after all.  So you only have yourself to blame.

Utah is filled with buffets -- more so than Illinois.  I live within shouting distance of Golden Corral, Chuck-A-Rama, and Sweet Tomatoes.  I guess I've lived up to my reputation as I am recognized personally at the Sweet Tomatoes everytime I walk in.  West Wendover has a good selection of buffets as well (Props to the Rainbow and Montego Bay's Buffets (

I am also a big fan of Caesar's Buffet of Buffets -- a 24 hour buffet pass in Las Vegas, where you can pay a one-time fee and eat for 24 hours (I usually can work 4 buffets in that time).  That deal is probably the last remaining good bargain in Las Vegas.  Sadly I do miss the buffets of Las Vegas in the past, where you paid less than $5.  The quality was always suspect but come on... what does a young man in college care about quality.  So here's to buffets in the past and more to come in the future!

Layton Marathon 2013 Race Write-up

In late September of 2012, I ran the 3rd Annual Layton Marathon.  I was a little under trained for this marathon -- I had put in a few 20 milers but I didn't have the traditional 4 month ramp-up that I normally like to dedicate.  I had pretty much gone from running 12 - 14's to 20's in a span of a few weeks.  I figured my previous marathon experience would help carry me through and largely it did, but this race got incredibly difficult for me around the 17 mile mark, mostly because I hadn't had enough hydration.

At the start I had missed the first water stop and at the 2nd water stop I only got a tiny sip of Powerade.  The sun was out and while the temperature was reasonable there wasn't an ounce of shade on the course.  I wound up walking / half running the last mile or two with severe cramping in my calves.  I've never experienced anything quite so severe before. I turned in a (disappointing to me) time of 4:16 -- my slowest marathon ever.

The race starts on Antelope Island -- a decent size island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake.  The only inhabitants on the island are buffalo, antelope, an aging ranch and other wildlife. 

The ranch that early Mormons used on the island

It is really a beautiful island and the course takes you along the east side of the island.  You are running on paved roads upon some cliffs overlooking the lake.  There are some hills rolling hills and only a few them were tough.

Typical scenery....

About mile 5 or so on the course.

Once you leave the island (after about 10 miles) you run about 7 more on the causeway to get back to the mainland.  This is as flat as can be and on either side you are surrounded by the salt lake.  It isn't the most pleasant smelling but it is certainly unique.  Also those yellow flowers you see smell like stinky feet...

The causeway

The causeway is in the distance

The final 7 miles (or so) is along farm roads and back into the town of Layton.  Some parts of it reminded me of rural Illinois but it was a steady incline to the finish line.  Overall I have to give big props to the management of the race.  They did a fantastic job and the course was spot on and the water stops were excellent.  I'd definitely recommend this race.

After the race -- and after I recovered enough from the dehydration I drove back to the island.  During the race I didn't see much wildlife out, but upon my return visit (to further explore the island) the buffalo were out in force.  Driving back to the start of the race required me to come to a complete stop to wait for the buffalo to finish crossing the road several times.

Buffalo on Antelope Island

I also managed to make it to the beach where you can actually swim in the Great Salt Lake -- not that you'd want to.  The water stinks and the brine shrimp look like brown maggots.  It just isn't a very nice lake -- especially if you are used to the gems that the midwest has.  That didn't stop people from going in the water.  The beach was nice, however, there was an overpowering smell of stale briny water that over powered the area...

Antelope Island is definitely worth a visit.  You do have to pay to get access to the island ($9) but overall it was a beautiful drive with lots of history there.  I would try to bring a lunch next time and spend some time on the beach relaxing.  The smell wasn't that bad if you got far enough away from the water.  Also I would recommend the race to anyone looking for a scenic, yet challenging half or full marathon.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Good Morning West Wendover, NV

On Friday, February 22, I got up early and decided to burn off some buffets I had been eating.  I was expecting to do about 6 miles touring the residential area of West Wendover, NV but decided to go exploring in an open field:

This appears to be an ATV route right off of Tibets Road.  The ground was hard dirt with some tire tracks, so it wasn't the greatest in terms of footing.  But I was in the mood for exploring and I saw another guy walking his dog out there -- so I figured it was safe despite seeing what appeared to be some snake holes.

It looks like some of the people use the trail as a dumping ground: I saw some shot gun shells, old furniture and other odds and ends:

I hugged the rail road track and followed this trail for a few miles (for a total of 8 for the day).  I would've loved to have gone a lot further but I hadn't had much to eat or drink before hand.  I'd hate to get way out there and then have to walk back to the hotel.  I think the next trip I will take out there, I will bring some gels and my Camelbak and do some more exploring. I think I could safely do 16 miles total and still be within cell phone range should something go bad.  

It was just a wonderful experience being 100% alone.  Also it was very hard to judge distance and pace out there.  Granted, I was stopping and taking pictures every half mile or so, but with no landmarks to mark my way, I really only had a general sense of how far I had gone.  Looks like my guess of 8 miles was correct -- when I measured the route when I got back, I came up to roughly 8 miles.

Enjoy the photos:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Salt Flats Half Marathon

In the fall of 2012, I decided to take advantage of the fact that there was a half marathon pretty much in the backyard of Wendover.  What could be better: an excuse to go eat, gamble, play cards AND run a half marathon in one of the most unique areas of the United States.

The Salt Flats is right on the border of Utah and Nevada and consists of some of the most flat ground on the earth.  Apparently you can see the curvature of the earth and people go there to race their cars in speed tests.

In short, this was one of the toughest half marathons I've done and it was reflected in my time.  It had rained the night before and there was a good 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water on the entire course.  I wasn't even sure they were going to have a race at all.

Here is the race start and you can see the lights of Wendover in the distance.

Sunglasses are required as was plenty of sunscreen.  When the sun did come up, it reflected fiercely off of the water and white salt and you can literally feel your skin get burned.

The running surface was unforgiving.  Yes it was 100% flat with no elevation change. However you are running on packed salt, so it was as hard as concrete.  Also with each step you splish-splashed through the water.  I was really worried about blisters, but I didn't get any.

I was in 2nd place most of the race and running solo, but half way through the race I ran out of gas.  Maybe it was nerves of running out in the middle of nowhere or the stress of running through water and the unforgiving environment that got the best of me.  I think I did finish 7th overall out of a pretty small field.  It was my slowest half marathon.  

Would I do this race again?  Yes.  The experience was definitely unique and it was an excuse to go to Wendover (where we stayed at the Nugget, above)