Monday, October 22, 2012

Grand Canyon R2R2R

Otherwise known as a 'double crossing'.

Dallas and I were going to do this run last October, but I tore a ligament in my groin over the summer. I recovered just in time for us to hike/run down to the river and back (17 miles). So, this trip for us was over a year and a half in planning. As the trip got closer, the anticipation mounted. We were excited to do our first Grand Canyon R2R2R.

We arrived on Sunday from Tucson and checked into the Bright Angel Lodge (we made reservations 10 months in advance). The wind was howling; it was expected to be about 25 mph winds with stronger gusts the following day. Clouds were building and we were a little worried. Nothing to do about it now, so we settled down to sleep after some soup and mashed potatoes and gravy at the Bright Angel Lodge restaurant.

We awoke at 4:30am and got ourselves ready to go. We caught the first 'Hikers Express' shuttle at 6am, arriving at South Kaibab trailhead to start the run at 6:33am. The wind was really blowing, making the air temperature feel pretty cold; the actual temperature was around 40 degrees. We put on rain jackets over our long-sleeve shirts to keep the cold wind out.

The elevation at this TH is 7,260 feet. There is no water all along it, but we carried enough to get down to Phantom Ranch. There are several bathrooms along the way, too, which is nice.

Here we go...

The sun was just starting to come up over the horizon when we left the TH. I can't imagine missing this part of the run - some people start in the dark or go up/down Bright Angel and skip this trail. It is one of the best parts of the run! So beautiful. If you can, descend on this trail first, right at sunrise. 

The wind was really howling as we descended the steep South Kaibab trail. A few times, I crouched down in some really exposed areas out of fear of getting blown off. With the dark clouds looming over the North, the weather was feeling ominous. We decided we would go with it and make good decisions to turn around if we needed to.

Just a small dropoff.

We passed a few mule trains coming up, but both of them at a good spot to pass.

Shortly before reaching the river, my legs were already feeling a little wobbly from the 7 miles of downhill. I tripped and took a fall about a quarter mile from the river. I just scraped my knee, but I didn't realize it until I got down to the river that I didn't have my brand new Nikkon Coolpix camera (Dallas got it for me for my birthday!) We concluded it must have fallen out of my pack when I tripped, so back up we went. Dallas went ahead and got it, but the delay set us back about 7 minutes. At least I realized it when I did. 

Onward across the Colorado river and on to Phantom Ranch!

We arrived at Phantom Ranch at 2:05 into the run. We took a 10 minute break, and refilled our packs with water. It was too early in the morning for lemonaide and we knew we wouldn't make it back before they closed, so we moved on. 

We then headed gently uphill towards the North Rim through 'the box', a deep canyon along Bright Angel Creek with quite a bit of shade. That cloud cover was now paying off. We ran a lot of this section at a good pace as we crossed bridge after bridge. 

We arrived at Cottonwood Campground, which is about halfway up to the North Rim, at 3:50 into the run. We ran into a few 'double crossing' hikers and took about a 10 minute break, filling our packs from the water spigot. I ate one of the avocado wraps we made and it was delicious!

Everything is good...for now.

There was still a few more miles that were fairly runnable and we were feeling good.

About 5 miles before the top, we started climbing pretty steep. While there were a few small runnable spots, we mostly hiked from this spot until we reached the top of the North Rim. 

We stopped briefly right past Supai Tunnel and refilled some water, meeting a gal that was also doing a double crossing, but was ahead of us a bit going the other way.

Right before the wheels came off the bus!!

Dallas started feeling lousy at this part of the run. Afterwards, he concluded that he was just carrying too much water and his pack was weighing him down and tiring him out.  And, he was probably a little dehydrated. Usually, it is me that gets a little testy in a long run; this time, the tables were turned. At some point, he was irritated and said, "you are too positive me for me right now." Misery loves company. :)

Not in the mood for pictures at this scenic overlook...

There goes grumpy...

The last few miles got slower and slower as we hiked the steep inclines. Surrounded by fall's changing colors, I was really enjoying this part of the journey. But, it was hard. The North Rim is at 8,250 feet elevation, so it is quite a climb from Phantom Ranch, which is 2,480 feet elevation.

We reached the North Rim TH at 6:40 into the run; shortly after 1pm. It was freezing, so we didn't stay long!

I took some Hammer Perpetuem and we finished off the avocado wraps. We only stayed about 5 minutes or so and down we went! It was pretty steep, but most of it was runnable. We ran into a lot of day hikers who were a little more than amazed at what we were doing.

Love running downhill

The food and the downhill must have revived Dallas; he was now a running machine. The drop is almost 2,000 feet in 3-4 miles, so you can fly downhill! Have to be careful, though; there are some pretty exposed areas. I wouldn't want to take a fall through some of the cliffs we were running on!

My left big toe was really aggravating me; the downhill is steep and my toe was jamming. I've never lost a toenail, so I was worried. Thankfully, nothing happened to it, but it was darn sore for about 5-6 miles.

We pretty much ran from the North Rim all the way back to Phantom Ranch - about 14 miles. It was fun.

We made it back to Phantom Ranch at 10:15 into the run. It was now almost 5pm; the hoards of people staying the night there were waiting to eat dinner. And, they were staring at us like we were lunatics. This really annoyed Dallas. We had a few people come up and talk to us about what we were doing.

We got our packs refilled, split the last almond butter and jelly sandwich and headed out after a 15 minute break. We were ready to be done...

We crossed the Colorado river one last time and headed down Bright Angel trail. Eventually, the river went out of view and we started working our way out of the canyon.

Silver Bridge - starting Bright Angel trail

The 'Beach' near the river on Bright Angel trail

One long last lookback before the sun goes down.

There were a few water crossings, and we ended up getting our feet wet. It wasn't cold, thankfully, so it felt good. Around 6pm, we donned our headlamps and continued up Bright Angel trail. I did not run at all that I can remember once it got dark. We started up the steep switchbacks, which seemed never ending.

There was more water on the trail about halfway up; not sure where it was coming from, but we were careful to avoid slipping.

The last 3 miles were so ridiculously hard. It felt so long - switchback after switchback, we just put one foot in front of the other. Dallas had another small down spot; he felt dizzy and wasn't feeling well. I was worried! I have never run with him when he wasn't feeling well (it is usually me that is melting down!) Nevertheless, the trooper he is, he carried on. That's the great thing about Dallas and me; we know we can count on the other to pull it on through!!

We were worried we would get cold, but we never had to pull out our layers. I did put my gloves back on, but the thought of stopping to do anything more than that at this point seemed like too much. I can get a little task apathy late in the game of a long run.

We finally reached Bright Angel TH at the South Rim in 14:03. We made it - completed our first Grand Canyon R2R2R! I was hooting and hollering when I saw the TH sign. 

It was cold at the top; the wind was blowing and it was freezing to the bone. We hurried on to the Bright Angel restaurant. Our goal was to finish before 10pm so we could get some hot food and it was a little after 8:30pm. Yay!

Soup and mashed potatoes and gravy again to go and back to the room. We took our shoes, socks and gaiters off outside the room; the orange dirt was everywhere!!!

My feet were really sore before I went to bed. Dallas had some Biofreeze gel, and that really helped. The room had one double and one single bed. We decided to sleep in separate beds. We know enough about each other to know that we were not going to sleep well. Our body heat runs high after an ultra and we both flop like fish all night from the pain. It was weird, but good. I got a little sleep, but not much after all. Such is how it is after an ultra.

I feel like I ate and drank well. For my record, I ate:
5 Gu gels
4 Gu blocks
1/2 almond butter and jelly sandwich
2 scoops of Perpetuem
1 and a half avocado wraps (small tortillas)
5 or 6 large chunks of TJ's dried mango (with chile spice!)
2 'fruit chia' bars
1/2 Probar (I couldn't finish it for anything!)
1 coconut Larabar
Handful of gummy bears
Ginger chew

About 2,500 calories, I estimated. I would bring more 'real' food next time, as the bars were hard to eat. I just wasn't in the mood for them (although the 'fruit chia' bars are delicious).  I drank about 250 ounces of water on the run - I kept adding the Hammer Endurolytes Fizz tablets to my hydration bladder. I also used Hammer Anti-Fatigue caps. 2 before the run, and one every hour after that. They really work.

I felt like we were fairly well trained, for the most part. I was really sore in my calves for about 6 days; the downhill really pounds them. Next time, I would run Mt. Hopkins a second time to get a lot more downhill training in.

My mood was the most even that it has ever been on a run; no meltdowns or down moments. I stayed pretty positive the whole time, which was awesome!

What a feeling of accomplishment. Dallas and I agreed we would do our first GC double crossing together. What a wonderful thing to share with each other.

I am super proud of what we did. I turned 45 years old two days before this run; there was no better way to celebrate than running 45 miles in one of the 'grandest' places ever. And, with my best friend. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

TTR Dragoons run

Total distance: 17.3 miles
Total time: 4:06
Total elevation gain: About 2,500 feet

Dallas and I really wanted to check out this run; we've never been to the Dragoon mountains. This is a new run on our schedule put on by Mark Dorion, who used to run with TTR but now lives in El Paso, TX. It is about an hour and a half SE of Tucson, so we all carpooled to save on gas. 

The ride down with David, Brian and Mike was hysterical. Camaraderie with other runners is so fun.

We did a short out and back 'warm up' on a dirt road off of the campsite area/TH - about 2 - 2.5 miles.

We then headed up the Cochise trail. With the Grand Canyon R2R2R 8 days away, Dallas and I planned on hiking a lot and running light and easy. 

 The Dragoons have a lot of really neat rock formations.

 It was a hilly, rocky, upward climb to the Stronghold Divide, which is around 5,900 feet. 

It was an out and back course - up to Stronghold Divide and to the other side, then back up to the Stronghold Divide and back to the start. Dallas and I ran it together and enjoyed taking pictures, even if we were going to come in 'last'. There was a long stretch of trail that had been washed out and was like running in a chute; not so fun going down, but better going back up.

Eventually, the single track ended and the last several miles before the turnaround was mostly old jeep road. 

We got to the arbitrary 'out point' and Mark had stashed some water and bars. Back we went.

Very neat place to run in. We were last, but we are tapering after all. All ready for Grand Canyon R2R2R!!! Our first one.