Sunday, July 24, 2011

July 23rd, 2011 – Back in the Canyon Again

Coming into the week, my legs were a bit flat considering my Sunday run was a steady to hard effort over 28miles.  The plan was to keep things rolling and hope by Wednesday I would get a little snap back in my legs before / during our Tempo Run.  Then we would need to recover quickly, because we were headed to the Canyon on Saturday for a Rim to Phantom & Back.

Well, Wednesday came and Mike & I were staring down Lake Mary Road preparing for an 8mile Tempo Effort.  During the warmup, my legs felt pretty flat and my body was kind of tired, but I was sure I could work through it.  As we got started, the first mile was a bit rough and we only managed to run a 5:39.  When we saw the split, we didn’t panic, but we made an effort to push the pace.  For the next 3miles, we managed to hit 5:30pace.  Then coming into the turnaround, our pace slid.. not sure why, but we hit a 5:45…yikes!!..  Then over the next 3 miles we pushed the pace back to 5:30 and finished the day strong.  While doing workouts at 7,000ft of elevation, "comebacks" are rare.. So considering how I felt from the start and the fact that we were able to bring back the pace after a couple rough miles, I was very happy with the effort.

Now it’s time for some summer Canyon running..

Mike, Rob, 2 of the Run Smart Project Attendees, and I left Flagstaff at 4am.  Mike intelligently decided to drive fairly slow as each mile of the highway seemed to be lined with numerous elk.  You definitely don’t want to hit one of those guys in a Subaru Outback..

Soon enough we were entering the park and preparing for the trip down. Equipped with an 18oz water bottle and 2 gels, I knew I would be cutting it kinda of close in the hydration department, but with Mike & Rob going down with me, I felt comfortable taking the risk.  Had I been running solo, I would have definitely carried at least one more bottle.

At 6am, we were at the S.Kaibab Rim ready to launch… As we prepared to “drop-in”, we discussed how Canyon running reminds us of a scene in Point Break, where they discuss how “Big Wave Riding is a total commitment…. Once you paddle out, you can’t just call time-out and paddle back in”.. That’s how I feel about the Canyon.. once you run down, you can’t just call time out and cruise back in.. you have to run your way out.. plain & simple.

If that conversation wasn’t enough.. we were about 2 steps into the decent, when a group of “well-prepared” hikers said to us “Good luck!.. Are you guys sure you have enough gear???”..  Rob & I both responded with “I hope so”.

As we jetted down to the river, we could feel the sun pushing its rays on us .. and baking the rocks.  These rocks seem to soak up the heat and turn exposed sections into what feels like a giant oven.  At that point, we discussed changing the run due to the heat, but we eventually agreed to stick with the original route.

Before I knew it, we were at the river in 51min 20sec. Smoking fast decent.  My hope was that we wouldn’t pay too much for the quick pace on the way back up.. but only time will tell.  Rob then took the lead for the ~1.5miles over to Phantom and pushed the pace fairly steadily.  Once we got to Phantom, we filled up the water bottles and ate some gel.  Now it’s time to start running!!..

We steadily made our way back to the river.. and before we knew it... we are climbing.  My focus was on keeping the pace steady during the hot, lower sections and then pushing the section from Midway to the finish.  I was able to stick with my plan, but I have to admit the heat was making things tough.  As I looked over my shoulder during some of the switchbacks, I could see Mike and Rob keeping a fairly even gap between us.

As made our way up Midway, I noticed that Mike had closed 45sec on me and was only about 25sec back.  We kept this distance until the long flat stretch after Skeleton Point.  That’s when Mike swiftly closed the gap.  Up until today, I had been able to put quite a bit of distance on Mike on the “Steeps”.. so seeing him running so well was VERY exciting.  I kept thinking how much this is going to help us in Late August when we head to TransRockies.  

Coming into the uphill section into Cedar Ridge, we are pretty much stride for stride.  This exposed section was VERY Hot.. and it’s VERY Steep.  By the time I had hit Cedar Ridge, I was a little bit ahead of Mike.. and my legs felt like Jello.  Within one minute of leaving Cedar Ridge, I got a second-wind, and really started cranking over the last climbs.  I motored my way up the rest of the climb and finished the ascent in 1:15:37.  My time for the roundtrip from Rim to River & Back 2hrs 6min 57sec was a new PR for me.. and the good news is Mike was only 1min behind at the finish… and also ahead of my previous PR. 

On the cooldown back to the car, we worked the “rubber” out of our legs and talked about the day.  I swear there is something magical about the Canyon… when things go right, it leaves you with a unique feeling of accomplishment that few (if any) other runs can deliver.  I love that place.

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