Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim October 2011

A group of six of us headed down to Grand Canyon for a double crossing on October 22nd. In the caravan were Shad, Shane (down from Portland), Casey Flanagan, Matt Koppenheffer, Brett Dawson, and Mike from Seattle. There were three double crossing virgins on this trip (Casey, Matt, and Mike), Brett-3rd, Shane-2nd, Shad-7th.

Regathering at the 1.5 mile marker

We took the South Kaibab to North Kaibab and back route for this trip making a 42 mile out and back. We started around 6:15 am to avoid needed a headlamp from the start. It was a bit chilly when we began, but it warmed up fast once below the rim. The decent down S. Kaibab went pretty steady and we enjoyed the sunrise lighting up the colors of Grand Canyon.

Train of SMUTs

After enjoying the bridge over the Colorado we refilled at Phantom Ranch and headed uphill.

Casey on the Suspension Bridge

Snacking at Phantom Ranch
I was utterly astonished at the number of people coming down from the North Rim. We guessed that literally bus loads of people were herded over and completing a single crossing to the South Rim. Since I started going to Grand Canyon a few years ago the number of runners has increased steadily. However, this was way beyond anything I had ever seen.
In a way it was nice to see a large number of people getting out and enjoying nature; however, there were quite a few people that looked to be struggling. Additionally, at the North Rim there were several people attempting a double crossing that didn’t think they could make it back. As the popularity of running in Grand Canyon grows I think we may see more of this. People read about it in Runner’s World or some other magazine and think it would be neat to try not realizing it is a very difficult run and there are not aid stations to drop at.

Ahh….done ranting. Back to the adventure.

And Up…….
North Rim

It warmed up quite a bit as we descended back down. A couple of us had to slow it up a bit but Shane was thrilled to be running in warm weather again. Besides being long as hell the decent back to Phantom Ranch went smoothly and we ended up getting there in great time.

For the first time I finally remembered to bring a few bucks to buy some of the famous lemonade at Phantom Ranch. It was pretty darn good, but Shane and I also noticed they had Tecate also on the menu. We figured how often is it that you get to enjoy a beer in the middle of an adventure run in one of the Natural Wonders of the World and said ef it. I must admit it was one of the tastiest beers I’ve ever had.

We spent quite a bit of time hanging out and talking, and some rehydrating, and we started getting antsy to get going. We had pretty much all agreed it was a free for all on the way back up the South Rim. It is tough to stay together on that climb. Shane and I ended up heading up together, except for him outkicking me at the end.

Despite the beer and antics this ended up being my best time for a double crossing at just over 11 hours. Everyone did extremely well and everyone finished in under 13 hours which is great for a first time.

2011 Western States 100 Endurance Run

At the crack of crack Saturday morning I was lined up with about 375 runners at the start line. We were reminded why the Sierra Nevada mountains are known as the Range of Light being treated to a beautiful sunrise as we crested the pass. This was a massive snow year and we had to suffer 10-11 miles of snow in the high country. We don’t get much snow travel here in Las Vegas and I was pretty miserable on this section. I fell probably 20 times and my legs got pretty tired managing the terrain.

Squaw Valley

By some miracle I finally made it through and was able to run again. My plan was to keep a good steady pace for the first half of the race and see how I felt from there. However, I started having some stomach issues pretty early. At about mile 25 I was almost an hour ahead of the 24 hour finishing pace which was my main goal for this race. But by mile 50 or so I lost that cushion and fell behind another 15 minutes.

Middle part of race

After pounding a whole can of Coke at the top of the big climb up Devil’s Thumb I unleashed a deep guttural belch that would have made Booger from Revenge of the Nerds proud. I immediately started to feel a bit better and a bit later I evacuated the last of the stagnant volume in my stomach.

It was a huge pick up when I came around the corner and saw Shane waiting for me. I was also glad to have largely overcome the stomach issues I was having and was running pretty well. Time and miles flew by. Maybe my favorite part of the race was the decent down to and then the few miles running along the American River. The river was flowing several times above normal flow this year so we were boated across the river this year.

Foresthill mile 62

I was started getting a bit tired and probably could have used some solid food, but I didn’t want to risk having more issues. From about mile 52 to the end of the race I subsisted almost exclusively on Coke, water, and salt pills. I don’t exactly recommend this but it was working for me and I was feeling pretty good.

With Shane’s help we made up a lot a time on my 24 hour goal. I knew we were making good time, but didn’t pay too much attention until the last few miles. We reached the No Hands Bridge aid station at about the 20 hour 28 minute mark with 3.2 miles and one big climb to go. At this point I was pretty out of it and didn’t really care about finishing times I just wanted it all to be over with. However, at the top of the climb from hell we saw the sign indicating 1 mile to go at 20 hours 50 minutes and some seconds. I said I didn’t think it was going to happen but what the hell. The flat terrain helped and we picked up to what felt like a pretty good pace. Reaching the Placer H.S. track was a pretty cool experience and we crossed in 20 hours 58 minutes 10 seconds.

This was a pretty enjoyable race for me. The Western States Trail is quite stunning visually and is incredibly diverse. Beating my previous 100 best time by over 7 hours was pretty cool and it was fun to have Shane along to share the experience with.

Leona Divide 50 mile 2011

The Leona Divide 50 mile trail race was a focus race leading up to the Western States 100 in late June. I wanted to do well as a litmus test of where my fitness was with two months to go. I caught a lift with Josh and Casey which turned an otherwise miserable drive pleasant as we bitched about The Man.

Taking place in the Angeles National Forest with almost 40 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, the LD 50 is a scenic and enjoyable course. With 8900 feet of elevation gain/loss, it wasn’t easy; however, the terrain made for easy footing making the entire course runnable. Not having to watch out for rocks or roots made a much larger difference than I expected as well. It was somewhat cold at the start and windy, but I found a way to keep warm, boom boom.

Pre-Race with Yoli

The first 11 miles or so were mostly uphill on fire roads. I felt pretty good and was shocked to reach the first aid station, mile 8.5, in about 1:07. This was ahead of schedule a bit, but I knew there was plenty of racing left. After hitting the single track of the PCT, Pacific Crest Trail, the grade leveled out and I enjoyed chatting a bit with some fellow runners. The aid stations averaged four to five miles apart and I felt I was able to keep a pretty accurate mental note of my pace throughout. I kept reaching them ahead of schedule and was building quite a buffer for my hopeful sub nine hour finish.

Typical PCT view in the middle part of course

I almost gasped when I reached the aid station at the approximate half way point 3 hours 43 minutes into the race. “What the hell is going on here?” and “Did I stop my watch on accident?” kept running through my head but I tried to just focus on keeping the pace and staying up on calorie and fluid intake.

I pushed a bit harder after reaching the top of a tough climb around mile 34. It was a bit tough on this narrow downhill section being an out and back course as we had to dodge runners coming from the other direction. Trail courtesy here is mutual but usually it is easier for people going uphill to lean to the side a bit. One lady was pretty lost in here music and I couldn’t slow down and I almost knocked her down the ravine. From then on I started calling out “heads up” and avoided any catastrophes.

I slowed down quite a bit going uphill out of the mile 42 aid station. The spring in my legs was fading to a noodle, but eventually I got to the apex and only had about 2 steep downhill miles to the finish. I saw the runner that had been right behind me since about mile 38 gaining some ground just before the finish. I didn’t really care that much if he passed me. All the same though I sprinted it in and crossed the line in 7 hours 28 minutes. I was pretty wrecked, but elated to have beat my previous best 50 mile time by 2 hours 15 minutes. I placed in the top 10 our of 232 finishers too. Amazing how much better the beers and pizza tasted after having such a good race.

It was also great to see a bunch of California running friends there at Leona as well as the Las Vegas SMUT runners that made it down.

Grand Canyon R2R2R #6

I went down to Grand Canyon this last weekend, Saturday April 2nd, for my sixth Rim-2-Rim-2-Rim. This was sort of hastily planned and ended up being a solo trip. Unfortunately, I remembered everything except for a camera. This ended up being a bummer because the conditions were significantly different from previous trips being early in the season and such a high snowfall year. Instead, I’ve included a few photos from some previous trips and will describe some differences.

This was first time I actually began the run in the light. I knew I’d have around 13 hours of light and didn’t see taking more than 12 hours. At least this is what I rationalized when I said F/U to the 3:45 alarm I had set and snoozed it for another hour. This ended up being wonderful and was able to enjoy the beauty of the Canyon right from the start.

I reached the Colorado River and Phantom Ranch in just over an hour. Heading out I noticed how strongly Bright Angel Creek was flowing. Normally, creek is a pretty accurate description for it; however, being a warm early Spring day the flow was off the hook.

As an example, below is a picture of place where we cross the creek taken from last November. This time I waded knee-deep upriver about 15 feet from where I was sitting in this picture. The rock I was sitting on in this picture was well below the torrent.

At this location water was cascading down and I got drenched from the downpour each direction. Luckily it was warm because ice here would have been a show stopper.

Speaking of show stoppers, I had quite a surprise when I reached the ranger house about half way up the North Rim. I didn’t even bother checking conditions because I knew water would be off at the top where snow was still almost 3 feet deep.

What I didn’t even consider was the possibility of water being off at the ranger house. I sat there for a good long while considering turning around but really didn’t want to. In the end, I decided to just take water out of the creek. I wasn’t too worried about any critters, but all the same I really didn’t want to drink any more than I had to. As a consequence, I was pretty dehydrated when I got back to Phantom Ranch and sat there for a good while and pounded almost 60 ounces of water like I was in a chugging contest.

I felt refreshed and pretty strong heading back up South Kaibab Trail. I ran significantly more of this stretch than I had before. I think feeling so good helped me enjoy the experience more. Instead of being completely trashed and being fixated on getting the hell out of the damn hole, I just lost myself in the Canyon’s majesty and beauty.

Before this trip I was wondering if I’d be bored with the Rim-2-Rim-2-Rim. In fact, the opposite ended up being the case. I sort of wish I didn’t have another race in a few weeks so I could go back. The amazing trail, challenge, and scenery was just what I needed.

Above all, there is something that sets Grand Canyon apart from any other race or adventure I’ve done. For me, the scale of the upper canyon and  ancient rock in the inner gorge acts like a sink that drains away malaise and frustration which I had in abundance before this trip.  One can’t help but feel pretty insignificant in Grand Canyon and even the heaviest weight seem rather petty afterwards.

Mesquite Canyon 50K

Holy crap it has been a while since I’ve posted anything. Hadn’t realized it had been so long. I’ve been keeping busy with work, school, and, of course, running. I have had itchy feet, figuratively speaking, recently and have been wanting to get out of town for a few weeks now. I had a few options but decided to head down to Phoenix for the Mesquite Canyon 50k. As a bonus, my friend and coach Ian Torrence was also going so at least I’d know a one person in addition to the several acquaintances I know from the Phoenix area that I figured would more than likely be running as well.

This was the second year for the race put on by Aravapai Running so I knew it would be managed well and at a good venue. As it turned out, this ended up being one of my favorite races I have done. The location was at White Tanks Regional Park just outside of Phoenix. This is the second regional park, in addition to Mcdowell Park and the Pemberton 50k, I have ran a race at in Maricopa County and I have to say they are pretty impressive. The diversity of trails and beautiful scenery provides Phoenix residents with every kind of training possible save altitude training. And that is available only a couple of hours away in Flagstaff.

About 90 runners started the 50k in addition to those running the other distances that started later in the day. My goal for this day was to just run a solid long run without killing myself as to not jeopardize training for upcoming goal races. Knowing the course was pretty hard and with zero taper coming in I didn’t even wear a watch and just tried to enjoy the day.

The first eight miles or so was pretty uneventful passing through mild climbs surrounded by desert sagebrush and giant saguaro cacti. We then descended a steep canyon that can aptly be referred to as gnarly. Soon after the ground leveled off I saw a runner going the wrong way. I then noticed he had a number on and I then realized I would soon be climbing back up that steep nasty little canyon. “That figures,” I said under my breath as he ran by.

The rest of the day went pretty well besides getting a bit dehydrated at one point. Another notable section of the course passed through a canyon that made the one earlier look like a piece of cake. This “trail” reminded me more of my canyoneering days than trail running. I kept my mood light though and laughed at how sinister it was for the race directors to put this section so late in the race. I finished strongly and crossed the line in 5:35. A pretty solid time for me given the effort and difficulty of the course.

I would definitely recommend this event to anybody wanting a challenging early season race. It had every kind of terrain from flat groomed trail to runnable climbs to technical, bordering on dangerous, descents. Additionally, the operation was first-rate with excellent aid stations and course markings. Finally, the good company, competition,  and many fine-looking women at the event was like icing on the cake.