Sunday, March 27, 2011

March 26, 2011 – Elden Up Over & Back

After completing my first full week of running in over a month, I decided to go for my first true long run.  I was a little worried about how it may go, but I had built up enough confidence over the past 7 days that I felt like I could at least get through it.

So a small group including myself, Jared Scott, & Paul Saladino decided to conqueror Mt Elden.  The route we agreed to was starting on Elden Road at the “Gate” climbing up to the Summit (~2,500ft over 5.5miles) then heading down the backside via Elden Lookout Trail (~2,500ft over 3.5miles) to the backside parking lot.. then turn around and do it again.  Total miles are about 18 and we would ascend about 5,000ft. No doubt this would test my fitness.

We got started around 1:30pm.  The idea was that it would be warmer.  Unfortunately, it was still in the 30’s and the wind had began to gust.  If it’s like that at the bottom, then you are pretty well guaranteed that it is going to ugly at the top.

As we moved up the road, we tromped our way through mud, snow, ice, and the occasional dry patch.  It felt really good to get out with some of the guys again.  As we chatted, the top quickly approached and before I knew it we were at the first tip ready to run the 1mile across to the summit. The wind was KNARLY!!.. I would love to know what the gusts measured.  If I had to guess, I would put it above 50mph.  We got to top right at 50min.

After a quick break at the top, where it was pretty darn cold, Paul decided to head back, while Jared and I went down the South Side.  The first 5minutes was pretty snowy.. several times I stepped off the trail and found myself in mid thigh level snow.  After getting through the snowy section, it was pretty smooth sailing.  We rolled the technical sections fairly well and got to the parking lot in 32min 18sec. 

After a quick fueling stop, it was time to turn around and do it in reverse…   

We kept the moderate to steady pace up Lookout Trail.  In my opinion, this trail is probably the steepest most technical “trail” in Flagstaff.  The run turns into a real muscular challenge and about midway up an aerobic one as well.  I am amazed that Jared is able to keep a consistent conversation going because my heart rate is starting to climb as we hop up the trail.

At one point, we take a quick pit stop to take in the view and “temper” the effort.  Jared has a race in Boise next weekend and this is my first hard effort in a month, so neither of us wanted to dig to deep during this run.  As such, we kept the pace very relaxed over the last mile or so.  The footing and snow helped a lot with that as well.  I think we were on pace to go well under 40min, but the last 400m we were once again post holing and trying not to slide off trail. We ended up getting to the Summit in 45min 19sec. Not bad considering the conditions and the relaxed attitude.

With the most difficult sections completed, now we just had to roll our way down
Elden Road and the day would be done.

After getting pretty much blown off the top of the mountain, we began the decent at a steady clip.  Once again, we didn’t want to dig to deep so we kept it at a conversational pace.  The running felt really easy, which was a good sign for me that I may not have lost as much fitness as I had thought.

We ended up getting back to our cars from the summit in 44min 28sec.  Our total running time was 2hrs 52min 30sec.  Not my fastest time for the route, but considering the conditions and the focus on keeping the effort moderate, I was VERY happy with the run.

For the first time since my Marathon Training in December, I am feeling like I am heading in a positive direction with my running.  Though being sidelined for the last month was painful and frustrating, maybe it was just what the doctor ordered.  I am really excited about getting back to form and the training that comes with it.  Next week will be a good test as I have several workout planned… and for the first time in a while I am really excited about it..    

Jared Scott braving the elements - gloveless & with a short-sleeve shirt

I am trying to get a little extra altitude via the towers

Paul Saladino explaining to us how cold it is at the top

The view from midway up Elden Lookout Trail

Jared Scott taking in the view.. and aHammer Gel 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19, 2011 – Running Again.. Yahoo!!..

Well, I am halfway through my antibiotics… I have run 35 – 45min a day for a whopping 3days in a row..  After each of those, I felt pretty wiped-out, but it was nice to get out and run again.  I was planning on running a 20miler with some of the guys down in Sedona, but since I am trying to ease my way back, I decided to stay local and just take it easy.

I ended up running one of my “standard” 10milers.  Mars Hill Up-Over-&-Back.  From my house, I ran the 1.5miles to the trail.. then up Mars Hill.. ~500ft of climbing.. then I coasted the flat section on Lowell Observatory Mesa then down hill to the train trestle, which includes another ~500ft of elevation change.. then I turned around and did it in reverse..

Though I still felt pretty weak, I was happy with the run.  It took me about 72min.  When I am in good shape and running hard, I usually run that in a shade over 1hr. 

It was fun to be out running again… It was also refreshing to have a “normal” run without all the drama.  I am really looking forward to next week where I am still going to focus on staying healthy, but I am hoping to push it a little more.  Keeping my fingers crossed!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 12, 2011 - Change of Plans

After recovering from the trauma of a “wild” weekend at the canyon, I have been doing some thinking.  I mentioned in my last post that I was contemplating a R2R2R reschedule based on my health and inability to get in the necessary long runs.  That issue was further exacerbated this week when I once again got sick.  Looking back at my calendar, I have been under the weather 24 out of the last 40days.  That’s not good.  Previous to this “sickly” stretch, I went almost 22months without even a cold. 

I am in the worst shape that I have been in 2yrs.  I am 10lbs over my typical “race” weight.  Needless to say, I am not feeling too confident about my ability to run a fast Rim to Rim to Rim.  To be honest, I am thinking I might struggle with a local 5k at this point.  With that being said, I have decided not to run the Rim to Rim to Rim this Spring.  Depending on several factors, I may give it a shot this November.  Instead, I am looking at training March-April-May for a Single Crossing Record Attempt.

A little background on the Single Crossing:  The record is currently held by Allyn Cureton of Williams, AZ.  He set the record in 1981.  The course starts at the NRim and finishes on the SRim via the Kaibab Trail.  He covered this stretch in 3hrs 6min 47sec in a race.  (Races are no longer allowed in the Grand Canyon).  Many big name trail guys have attempted to break this record over the past 30years, but the record still stands.  A testament to how fast this time really is.

I have put together a band of local fast guys to go after this record.  The confirmed list includes Jared Scott, Paul Saladino, and Brian Tinder.  The “maybe’s” include Ian Torrence, Eric Bohn, Caleb Schiff, and Mike Smith.  Each one of us has a VERY legitimate chance to take this record down, so I am hoping with each other’s help, one or all of us will get it done.

We are currently getting the logistics together for a run towards the end of May.  It is looking like Friday, May 27th will be the date. 

Though I am disappointed about not running the Rim to Rim to Rim this spring, I am equally excited about the opportunity to run a fast Single Crossing.  It should be a fun Spring!!..

Sunday, March 6, 2011

March 5, 2011 – Crashed in the Canyon.. Then Crashed my Car…

This week started with me trying to get my strength back after being sick for the 2nd time in 5 weeks.  Basically, I have had one “healthy” week in the past 5 weeks.  Not ideal for training, but getting sick happens.  All week, I kept my runs really easy. They ranged from 20min up to 50min.  Each run left me really spent, but I did feel stronger each day.

Knowing I still wasn’t 100%, I decided to do a Long Run in the canyon with the thought of taking it fairly “easy”.  I probably wouldn’t have normally chose to do this, but the April 15th Rim to Rim to Rim date is starting to get close and I don’t feel like I am where I need to be… so I thought it was worth a shot.

My day started at 5am… after a piece of toast and some coffee, I grabbed my gear and started the trek down Highway 180 at 5:45am.  When I left it was only 11degrees, but by the time I got to the S.Rim, (around 7:15am) it had already warmed up to 32 degrees… and off I went.

CRAHING IN THE CANYON - The first 10min of the run were a bit sketchy due to ice, but once I was past those sections, it was smooth sailing.  I got to the bridge in 56min and felt pretty good.  I kept the pace moving and filled up with water at Phantom Ranch and ate some of my gel.  Now for a steady ~8miler to Cottonwood Campground.  Once again, I felt pretty good.. I didn’t have much pop in my legs, but still good. 

After about 55min of running, I got to Cottonwood Campground.  That’s when things started not going my way.  Both the water pumps were shut off and I was out of water.  Rather than add mileage to my run and get water at Roaring Springs, which may be shutoff too, I decided to just head back to Phantom.  Honestly, I never felt too thirsty until I was about 15min from Phantom, but I think I was digging myself into a bit of a hole.  The tough thing about digging holes is if you dig too deep there’s a chance you won’t be able to climb out. 

Once I got to Phantom, my pace had slowed quite a bit and I was pretty thirsty, so I took my time and drank quite a bit of water before heading back up S.Kaibab.  After filling up my water bottle and nearly empty gel flask, I was off.  At that point, I was tired, but still feeling like I could have a solid effort up to the top of the South Rim.

Once I started the climb, my thought was to stay within myself until I got to Midway, where if  I felt good I would push the pace.  On the exposed sections, the sun was beating down and it was really starting to heat up, but I kept trudging along.  Soon enough, I was at Midway.  I hit that sections around the 4hour mark and all of a sudden my body was done… so was my water bottle and gel flask.  I decided to hike a little and see if that helped.  It didn’t.  I was in full-blown bonk mode telling myself that I just need to keep moving forward.  This isn’t the first time I have been in this position, but this time felt a little different as my mind would really wonder and I started to get dizzy. 

From Midway, my typical time to the SRim Kiosk is about 35min.  Well, 35min had passed and I hadn’t even made it to Cedar Ridge.  I was DYING!!.. but I was still moving forward.  Once I got passed Cedar Ridge, I started grabbing handfuls of Snow on the side of the trail, but it didn’t seem to help.  My body just wanted to stop.. and I wanted to let it, but I knew if I stopped I may not get out.. so I kept moving forward… at a snail’s pace, but forward never the less. 

As I pressed on, I began to get REALLY dizzy and I noticed I was weaving on the trail.  It felt like a bad dream.. Everything was hazy and surreal.. I couldn’t focus my eyes.. and I was really thinking I may not make it even though I could see the top.  About then, a VERY nice hiker stopped me and asked me if I was alright.  She filled up my water bottle and gave me a Power Bar.  She made it possible for me to muster up enough energy to press my way out of that horrible place.. I had made it out alive.. now I just had to walk a mile back to my car.

I LOVE the Canyon.  It has to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  I love being able to run there as often as I do, but when you have an excursion like this one, you hate it.. and that is just reality.  Not only is it one of the most rewarding places to run /hike, but it has to be one of the most unforgiving places as well.  I would attribute this mainly to the fact that you hike down first.. saving the brutal uphill for a finale.  It’s not like any other type of running.  Once you are at the bottom, it’s a total commitment.  You can’t DNF… You can’t take the easy route home.. You HAVE TO get to top and there is no easy way… you just have to do it.  When things go well, it leaves you feeling high.. when it doesn’t go well, you are just happy to be alive.

CRASHED MY CAR - So stumbling back to my car, I am feeling happy to be alive, but disappointed that things didn’t go better.. My head was still cloudy and I just want to get home.  Once I got to the car, I drank some water and had a few snacks and I was off.. Still not feeling “right”, I hit the Highway.  My eyes were hardly able to focus... but it’s nothing I can’t get through.  Next thing, I know I am getting very drowsy.  Then BAM.. I wake up.. and I am flying off the opposite side of the road over rocks, stumps and into the forest.. CRASH.. the side of my 4Runner smashes into a tree and I come to a stop.  What the..??? .. I had fallen asleep and crashed into a tree!!! 

Eventually, I was able to dig myself part way out and a family was nice enough to stop and tow me out.  I was VERY lucky that I didn’t hit an oncoming car, or a tree head on, or a million other horrible things that could have happened. I truly feel blessed by God. 

So that brings me to where I am at today.  I don’t want to make a knee-jerk reaction, but I now contemplating cancelling my Rim to Rim to Rim and replacing it with something else.. like a Single Crossing Record Attempt, etc. I don’t want to put myself in that position again, and unfortunately, I haven’t been able to coordinate running with other people.  I also have had so many health issues in the past 6 weeks that I am just not in the shape I want to be in. 

My decision isn’t final, but that’s where I am at today..

View from S.Kaibab before the Start

Ribbon Falls from Kaibab Trail

My Poor 4Runner After the Accident