Part 1 - Fun: After a smooth (but early) drive to the Canyon, I showed up just after sunrise. I was pretty excited as I had a long day planned. My plan was to head down S.Kaibab to Phantom.. then follow the Kaibab trail over to Cottonwood Campground at the base of the N.Rim. Then turnaround and do it in reverse. I have done this one several times and always find it challenging.
On my "jog" over to the SRim, I am feeling pretty tight. My right hip & left knee weren't too excited about the tough running ahead, but my hope was that they would loosen up over the course of the run.
When I got to the Rim, the first 1/2 mile or so was covered in about 2 inches of ice. Not wearing traction, I decided to take it VERY easy. I noticed some of the hikers were actually sliding down on their "bums". It reminded me of watching Polar Bears slide across ice and snow.. it was pretty amusing until slipped.. then I thought maybe their technique wasn't such a bad idea.. I was too proud to join them.. and my short shorts weren't conducive to a comfortable "slide".. so I just took even easier... I covered the first Half Mile in almost 10min.. yahoo!!..
The rest of the descent was a lot less exciting and I eventually hit the river in about 56min. Not too bad.
After a quick stop at Phantom, I started to make my way over to Cottonwood. Similar to all my long runs over the past month, I tried to keep the effort fairly tempered. I was flying along until about Ribbon Falls (couple miles shy of Cottonwood). At that point, my right hip flexor started to give me a bit of trouble.. Then about a half mile further, I noticed that my left IT Band wasn't too happy. Every time I lengthened my stride on a climb, it sent shooting pains up and down my leg.. uh-oh.. not a good sign. I decided to keep going since I was so close to Cottonwood.
When I got to the water stop, I filled up.. munched a bit.. did a quick stretch.. and headed back to Phantom. I made it from the River to Cottonwood in 1hr 5min.
About halfway back is when I slipped into.... Pain & Misery...
Part 2 - Pain & Misery: So I am about 22 miles into a 33 mile day... and the last 7miles cover the most difficult portion of the course. Things don't look so good for me. The buzzards hadn't started to circle, but with each step, I kept wondering "how much longer will I get to run before my knee & / or hip tighten up to the point where I can't run".. Mile by mile went by and though my pace was fading, my leg / hip held up enough that I could continue moving forward.
As I approached the S.Kaibab ascent, I noticed my split from Cottonwood to the River was 1hr 6min. Now that I am to the final 7miles, I was really worried that I would have to hike almost the whole thing. Each time I took a climbing step where I had to push off with my left leg.. extreme pain would shoot through my legs. As always, there is only one way out of the Canyon... Climbing up.. so I kept moving forward, prepared for a long walk if necessary.
As I pumped my way up the Canyon trail, I decided to keep my steps as short as possible and just try to keep from over extending too much. This plan worked.. and every time I forgot the strategy, I was quickly reminded with shooting pain. Before I knew it, I was to Cedar Ridge (about 25min from my Car) and I had yet to walk a single step.. That's about the time I felt... Relief.
Part 3 - Relief: I hustled my way up the rest of the run and got to the top of the Rim fromm the River in a sluggish 1hr 30min. At the finish, I was overcome with a feeling of.... Relief. That run could have gotten ugly really quick, but I somehow got through it.. and actually other than the "tightness" felt pretty good. I am not sure what to take from that run other than I need to stretch a TON... I guess I gained a little humility and perspective as well. I realize that doing these longer runs is no joke... and that I have to be focused on all the small things during the week to make sure my body is up to running these longer distances... or.. maybe there is another explanation.. I am just a wuss and I need to suck it up.