Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Return To The Canyon!

Getting pretty excited. Getting set to head back out to the Canyon for a little Rim To Rim To Rim run in October. Previous race report here

Monday, March 19, 2012

Publix Georgia Marathon 2012

I continued my trend of one road marathon a year by running the Publix Georgia Marathon on 3/19. I say that because I used to run a ton of road marathons (or other road races for that matter). But the last 3-4 years I've migrated to the trails and ultras. I think it for a couple reasons;

1) I love the community around trail running and racing. Not that it isn't there for road running, but it's a tighter group of amazing people IMHO
2) The roads hurt more! I can go run a 5 hour trail race and be fine the next day. Sometimes I can't walk for two days after a road marathon. Just what you are used too I guess
3) I love the love key and quieter parts of trail running. My life has tons of noise and it's nice to get away from it all sometimes

After finishing as the second masters runner last year, the race sent me an offer about 3 weeks before the race to come run on a complementary entry. If I was looking for an excuse to run a big event road marathon, that's all you need. I decided at worst it would be a good opportunity for a long training run.

I admit I was only marginally excited about this race in the several weeks I had to prepare. Not much time for any changes in training but I also couldn't get very excited about the race. But there is nothing like stopping by the expo on Friday to get you pumped up! After leaving there I was excited to get out there and give it what I expectations just run and have some fun!

Working at Coke has its benefits, including getting a perfect location to park within a short walk to the start with no hassle. I jogged the 1/2 mile over to meet some of the Flying Ace's running group at 6 am for a quick picture and some good-lucks then headed over to the "A" corral. I'd been assigned race number #3. That made it quite entertaining as some of the faster guys were sizing me up trying to figure out whether I was their competition! One of the perks of a #3 bib was that I was in the front corral and had my toes on the line when the race started. Chip and Gun time were the same for me.

Scott Meckert and I had run the half course a few weeks before, so I was very familiar with the first 6-7 miles of the course (same for both races) and then the last 2-3 miles. But it'd been a year since I ran the race and didn't have a clear picture of the rest of the course in my mind. I went out somewhat more relaxed than I might have in the past but was still dropping 6:00-6:15 min miles for the first 3 or 4 miles. I fell into a more relaxed and somewhat easy feeling pace of around 6:30 for the next few miles until we separated from the halfers. Then it got lonely out there. I figured I was in 10-12 place around then and pretty happy to be feeling good. I love this next stretch of the race. Running towards and through Decatur is one of the highlights of the course and made the miles fly by. I hit the half mark in 1:25 and started to feel like a sub-3 was within reach. I always run the second half of a race slower (not a negative split guy) so I knew I could give up 10 minutes on the second half and squeeze under 3.

After the square in Decatur, the course was much more exposed, the temps were rising, and the sun was beating down. Definately the low-point on the course for me. 13-16 were some tough miles and I knew the hills were only going to increase. After Emory, there are some beautiful but hilly stretches and I found a second wind and powered through the next few miles. Passed a few people (in addition to getting passed by a couple) but felt like I was still pretty strong. I knew that the last 6-8 miles were my home turf as I run those roads a bunch in the mornings. I was also very much looking forward to seeing my friend Kim Pike and her daughter that I knew would be around the 22 mile mark. People were really starting to suffer in the heat. I passed a guy that was cramping real bad. I happened to have some S-Caps so I offerred him a few and he gladly accepted. I brought 6 S-Caps and ended up giving all 6 away to his guy and two other runners that were hurting pretty bad. I didn't feel like I needed them so no big deal for me but the guys sure were appreciative.

I hit Piedmont Park for a quick out and back and got to see Kim and her daughter.....really lifted my spirits with 4 miles to go. I also knew my lovely wife was going to be at 24 cheering. I can't say that the last 2 miles were exceptionally fast, but I managed a decent 8ish min/mile clip and cross in 2:58. 9th OA, 1st Masters. Plenty happy with a sub-3 on a hot and hilly course.

Another road Marathon? Maybe I'll consider this one again in 12 months......

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grand Canyon Rim To Rim to Rim Run Report

I've never really been one of those "been there, done that, got the t-shirt" kind of guys. I don't tend to come home with a shot glass saying remember the Alamo. And I don't need to go to the touristy spots to say I saw the worlds oldest slurpee machine.

I'd heard about people running "Rim to Rim to Rim" at the Grand Canyon, but it wasn't until my first visit to the Canyon in April that I knew I had to give it a go.

Delane and I had taken a short trip to Arizona in April. During the trip, we spent 2 ice cold and rainy/snowy days staring at what was mostly cloud cover blocking the views. I had promised myself this was time with my wonderful wife and I wasn't going to make this a running vacation. But I took a bit of time during a particularly nasty storm, bundled up, and ran a couple miles down the Bright Angel Trail. After a mile, I dropped below the cloud cover and got an unbelievable view. That place is truly a wonder of the world.
All along the touristy areas, there are signs advising people to watch out for the dangers of the Canyon. There were warning signs about not attempting to go from the rim to the river and back in one day had me hooked. I wanted to do well over twice that.
When I caught wind of a few of my GUTS running friends planning a November trip, I knew it was time for me to go.

I've been jazzed about this experience for a long time. Ever since I booked the flight, I've been excited and nervous about R2R2R.

Things have been busy at work, so this trip couldn't have come at a better time. Except for the weather. Apparently, the heat is usually the challenge. It can get amazingly hot down in the Canyon. But the weather forecasts 10 days out called for a much different story. Each day, the predictions got worse. The day before we left, the forecast for the South Rim was 18, a high of 57 at Phantom Ranch, and 15 on the North Rim.
Was I nervous about the distance; not a bit. About the time on my feet; a little. About the cold; much more so.

We were planning a pretty typical route. We planned to leave before sunrise from the South Rim and take the South Kaibab trial 7 miles down to the Canyon floor. We'd take the the North Kaibab Trail from Phantom Ranch, past Cottonwood, and up to the distant North Rim. The return trip would bring us back N. Kaibab to the mighty Colorado but we'd head out the longer but more forgiving Bright Angel Trail.

The weather forecast had the group reconsidering the start time. We ended up starting around 6:45 as the sun was coming up.

John and I took off for the fairly quick trip down South Kaibab. It's a 7 mile trail that drops extremely quickly. We took our time heading down, stopping to take some photos and to enjoy the beautiful sunrise hitting the canyon walls. The first view of the Colorado river was exciting and beautiful.

We arrived at Phantom Ranch after about 1:20 and started removing some clothes. It warms up a bunch in the bottom of the canyon and the cold temps up top had given way to some really nice 40's down at the bottom. Top off my handheld (I had 2 liters in my hydration pack, but had started the run with an empty handheld).

John was only planning to go to Cottonwood and then head back, so I met up with a few other guys that were going all the way to the North Rim and John and I decided I'd run with them. I was excited to have company up but quickly realized these three guys were on a much different pace than me and I left them behind after a mile or so.

The 7 mile stretch between Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood was my favorite stretch of the run. It goes up slowly through the Box Canyon and is the one place where you can really find a nice stride.

I made fairly quick work of this stretch given all the stops for photos and arrive at Cotonwood right at the three hour mark. I hadn't yet consumed any of my hydration pack water, so I topped off my handheld and got mentally ready for the 7 mile push to the North Rim. I knew there was no water waiting on me until I returned to the campground (14 miles later). They cut off water sources as the weather gets cold, so make sure to check in advance with the rangers office so you know where water will be available. I had my first bite to eat here.......a slice of cheddar cheese......and moved on.

Sally had warned me that there are some narrow stretches here where the drop-off will ruin your day. While they were wide enough for me, some of this stretch will leave those squeamish of heights a bit dizzy. With about 4 miles to go, I passed a couple of guys that had started super early. They said there was some good snow on the rim and that it got super cold after the Supai tunnel (2 very difficult miles from the top). Sure enough, as soon as I got to the tunnel, the temps began to drop quickly. This stretch is steep and slow and it took me around 35 minutes for the last two miles.

I spent 15 minutes looking around the N Rim and getting some calories in me (a Balance Bar). And I had to snap the required picture to prove I'd made it to the top.

I started the steep and snowy trip back down. While it was downhill, I had to take it a bit easy as the snow and terrain doesn't make for a rapid decent. About 2 miles down, I passed Sally. Was super surprised and excited to see her, as I thought she was turning at Cottonwood. She never stops amazing me about how darn tough she is. After a quick exchange about whether I should wait for her at the bottom, we were both off.

I got back to Roaring Springs and shortly after realized that the Rangers House had water. While I wasn't out, my bottle was dry and I'd used a decent bit of my hydration pack. Topped off my handheld and was off for the short stretch to Cottonwood. I spent a fair bit of time here, as some  issues needed addressing and I wanted to make sure I was ready for the last 16 mile push.

At this point, I knew I was super low on calories and needed to get refueled. Phantom Ranch has a canteen (warning, it closed at 4) and I knew I could take a break and refuel there. Back through the box canyon (and mostly downhill this time!) and I was back to Phantom Ranch. Took a few more breaks here including eating a Gel.

I popped in the canteen and ordered up two postcards and a king-sized double snickers. There where 6 or 8 people in there and I enjoyed chatting with other hikers about their experiences. Definitely take a few dollars for a postcard. They have a special stamp on them that says they were transported by mule. A nice touch. After writing my postcards and devouring the snickers, I topped off my bottles and got mentally prepped for the 9 mile trek out.

After a half mile you reach the Colorado again on a bridge just downstream from the one you crossed off S. Kaibab. A super nice site to see and it meant only 8.5 or so miles to go!

The first couple of miles of Bright Angel were a bit disappointing. The trail is sandy and follows the Colorado downstream for a good part of that. The main issue was that I wasn't yet gaining much elevation and it meant the last few miles would be much steeper.

Once I started climbing, it was no joke. I ran a decent bit of the next couple miles to Indian Gardens but there were certainly more walk breaks getting thrown in. I arrived at India Gardens campground at about 4:10 in the afternoon and was completely tapped. My legs were screaming and I had almost no energy left. I ate a gel and a piece of cheddar cheese, drank a ton of water, and started the long last 4.5 miles to the top. This was the last water I'd have available, as the 1.5 and 3 mile aid house water faucets were closed. I will estimate that I ran maybe 30% of this last stretch, the rest being hunched-over power hiking. I was ready to get out before the sun dropped and the temps plunged. I knew I had about 2 hours of light left.

I will not say the last stretch was pretty, but it was 5:30 when I rounded the last turn and popped out less than 50 feet from my room. I'm certain that the tourists I stopped to take my photo at the top of the trail had little idea of the challenges and personal growth I'd experienced during the day.

Total Food Consumed: 3 slices cheddar cheese, 1 king sized Snicker bar, 2 gels, 1 PureProtein bar, one mini LaraBar (probably not enough). Just learn to fuel a bit better.

Total Water Consumed: 4x20oz handheld + 50ox from my hydration pack = 130oz (probably not enough)

We should take a little something away from everything we do. What did I learn?

I have the most amazingly supportive wife. She didn't even blink when I told her I wanted to go. And even though I'm sure she was worried, she still knows more about what is good for me than I ever will.
I've got some amazing friends. Both those encouraging me and especially Sally, Janice, John, Reece, and Trevor who were will for me to tag along and flooded me with details on the trails.

The Canyon is a rare piece of beauty and can also be an extremely unpredictable environment that needs to be respected. But what a blast!

More Photos