Friday, October 26, 2012

October 26, 2012 - GC Rim to Rim to Rim FKT Attempt 2012

Coming into this run, I had established a few "rules" for myself as follows:

(1) The run will be completely self-supported.  Everything I use, I plan on both packing in & packing out.  I plan to have a couple people pace me out from Phantom up S.Kaibab to the finish, but they will provide zero support.  

(2) Once I start my watch it keeps running until I finish.  No "pauses" for bathroom breaks, mules, pictures, etc.. - - no exceptions.

(3) I will start touching the SKaibab Kiosk.. run to the NKaibab Kiosk.. and run back to the SKaibab Kiosk..  

Getting to the Canyon:
After a quick bite to eat, I hit the road around 4:30am.  It was still very dark and after having to come to a stop for several large elk crossing the road, I decided to take it slowly.  By the time I got to the park, the sun was up and the temperature had climbed from 27 degrees to around 40 degrees. - - it was heating up quickly.

The Run:
After putting on my shoes and grabbing my water bottle and gels, I started the short "warmup" to the South Kaibab kiosk.  Once I got to the rim, I took a few deep breaths... I knew I was in shape to have a stellar run, but knowing that the Canyon has a tendency to throw curveballs.. I wondered what was in store for me today.. Well, only one way to find out.. Let's go.

I started out down S.Kaibab feeling very solid.  My plan was to stay relaxed on this section.. opening up on the few flat sections and trying not to push too hard on the more technical sections.  This portion was a real blur.  Before I knew it, I could see the Colorado River... and a couple mule trains.  I hit the first mule train about a 1/4 mile before the bridge and it cost me about 2min.  A bummer, but could have been worse.  

After the first mule train, I zipped down to the bridge where my watch read.. 51:59.  This was right around where I thought I would run, so at this point, I am really pleased.. My legs feel good and I am on pace.  

After crossing the Bridge, I hit the 2nd mule train.  This time they are stopped and blocking the entire trail, so I have to run down to the river and around the group.  This cost me about 90seconds.  Not too bad, but a real pain none the less.  

Though the Mule Trains can be a nuisance, my biggest concern is the heat.  At the bottom, it is already HOT.  I am only 1hr in and I can feel the heat.  As such, I stopped for water at Phantom in hopes of staying ahead of the "dehydration curve".  

Crossing the Canyon, I expected to feel really good and open it up.  For some reason, that didn't happen.  I kept a solid pace, but I wasn't able to push it.  As such, I ended up running from the River to Cottonwood in 1:05:37.  This stretch was very hot (~+90 degrees).. but nothing compared to what I was going to see on the NRim.

As I transitioned into climbing, my plan was to really work.  As I hit this section, I could immediately feel the sun beating down on me.  It was INTENSE.  I kept pushing, but I knew this was going to take it's toll.  About 25min into the climb, I started feeling my right calf grab.  CRAP!.. It was WAY too early to start cramping.  I pulled the pace back a shade, but hoped if I kept the fluids up, it would disappear.  

As I continued the climb, the cramps continued.  At this point, they were minor, but still very concerning.  To make things worse, it was only getting hotter.  Even the last few miles up the NRim were simply put.. HOT.  I got to the NRim from Cottonwood in 1:22:04... At Halfway, I am slower than expected, but still on pace to break the current record.. My time = 3:19:42 - - Time to try and tough out a solid 2nd Half.

On the trip back down the NRim, my hope was to push the pace a little.  When I started attempting this, I LOCKED-UP.  My right quad was not happy.  I ended up walking for several minutes while my leg "unlocked".  Once I worked this out, I decided to pull back a bit and just keep it moving.

As I struggled my way down the NRim, I started thinking ahead to the SRim.. If I was having this much trouble now, what was the SRim going to look like... most likely UGLY... but I tried to stay positive and hope that I might somehow push through and still get the record.. only time would tell. - - My split at Cottonwood from the NRim = 1:03:58.

As I pushed my way across the Canyon, still fighting the heat, I managed to keep a decent pace and I avoided any serious cramping episodes.  Before I knew it, I was about halfway through Box Canyon and I saw Caleb Schiff.  Caleb was here to help pace me out.  

As we started running together, I was able to keep a pretty good conversation, which was refreshing.  It also was an indication that I wasn't "pushing" the pace the way I would have liked... but I was just not able to put any "hard" effort into my running at this point or I would begin to cramp.

Steadily I made my way to Phantom where Eric Bohn was waiting to help pace me out as well.  I took a little extra time and downed as much water as possible at Phantom.  Both Eric & Caleb informed me that there shouldn't be any Mule Trains... but it was going to be very hot getting out.  

Refreshed and hopeful, I started running again.  My total time at the River = 5:28:10.  This meant I needed to run 1hr 24min or faster.  Considering my fastest times running SKaibab are around 1hr 10min, this is very possible, but considering how I am feeling... highly unlikely.  In the spirit of "never giving up", I forged ahead putting it on a pace that would get me to the the top ahead ahead of the record.

I felt as if I was a turkey being roasted in an oven as I pushed my way up the switchbacks.  About 25min into the climb, my legs began to cramp.  Severely.  It was this moment that I decided to give up on the record.. and start "Survival Mode".  I stopped running and started hike steadily.  About every 10 to 20 steps, one or all of my leg muscles would start cramping uncontrollably.  It was PAINFUL.  

I suffered my way through the hottest portions with Eric hiking close behind me.  We chatted a bit, but eventually, I was no longer able to talk and started getting dizzy.. and worried.  Forging ahead, my mantra was "keep moving".  I was worried that if I stopped, I wouldn't be able to get going again.  It was pretty darn miserable.

After scratching and clawing my way up the hot switchbacks, I eventually made it to the top to find Scott Bajer, Ludo Pierson, & Jay Donosky cheering me on.. I finished in 7hrs 36min 56sec.  This was about 1hr slower than I expected to run, but I had no issues with the run.  I knew I left it all out on the trail.. and had conditions been a bit more cooler, I am sure that I would have been really close to the record... but it just wasn't meant to be.. this time.  Maybe Next Time?

Post Run with Eric Bohn (left) and Caleb Schiff (Right):
Photo by Ludo Pierson

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