I know this whole running and racing thing is new, but I just don’t get how people can stick to a training plan and still do other activities, i.e., live life. One suggestion I have heard is to categorize your races (or events) into A and B groups. Your A race is your top priority and your B race you do for training and/or fun and it counts toward training for your A race.
Well, I noodled with this one for a while with the Grand Canyon crossing coming up. I finally decided it was my B race and the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run is my A race. I guess that made me feel ok about it being part of my overall training plan. My schedule (which I’ve hardly followed at all yet for this A race) calls for longer miles with back to back runs on the weekend, so hey….that works.
On May 16, three of us set off for the North Rim. Gary and I picked Candy up at the Las Vegas airport and took a side trip through Zion on the way. We arrived at the North Rim about sunset, took some requisite tourist snapshots and had dinner inside the lodge. It wasn’t bad and was somewhat reasonably priced. The North Rim park had just opened the day before and the workers at the lodge were still working out some early-season kinks. Back at our cabin, we packed our packs and went to bed in anticipation of an early morning rise and drive to the North Kaibab trailhead.
At about 6:30am, we headed down into the big ditch. I told myself I wasn’t going to run as fast and as hard as the first time, the time I shredded my calves and could hardly walk for a week, including fearing the return trip. Movement down the canyon is pretty easy and almost begs to be ran, so I did. The trail has many steps made of either logs or stones sticking up, most of which you need to jump over. But, I felt pretty good and we did stop for several photos since it was Candy’s first time. I mean, you really do need to take in the scenery!
We cruised along down the North Kaibab trail, following Bright Angel creek. We took Candy on a 1+ mile side trip to Ribbon Falls, which is this really cool water fall that tumbles down a cone-shaped rock that has been overgrown with moss. There were lots of people there playing in the water and generally having a good time. We hung out for a while, took lots of pictures, and headed back out to the trail, precariously crossing Bright Angel creek over stones instead of backtracking to the bridge.
After heading down the canyon further, through what I call the desert section which is very exposed, we dropped into the box where the canyon narrows. You can mark your progress by crossing the 4 bridges along the way to Phantom Ranch. The day started out warmer than last time by about 10 degrees and we started about an hour later. This concerned me since we were now set to attack the climb out in the afternoon. I was pretty hot already and sweating pretty hard. You can see in the photo how sweaty and red-faced I was. This will turn out not to be a good thing.
I told Candy I was concerned I didn’t have a lot of energy, figuring it was more about the motivation to climb 5000ft in the direct sun. She empathized and we carried on anyway. Gary and Candy were ahead of me for most of the first several miles, but I’m used to that. At some point, Candy kept going and Gary slowed to stay with me. A couple times, we crossed a stream and I got in at every chance! It was cold, wet, and wonderful. It cooled my core temperature, but didn’t do much for my stomach that seemed to be getting worse. By Indian Gardens, I was feeling pretty bad. Gary was kind enough to carry my pack for me. How did I get so lucky to find such a great running partner?
By the three mile house, he made me sit and cool down. I was so afraid I was going to throw up. I sat there and tried to breathe steadily and take sips of water. It was an odd thing that immediately after swallowing each sip, my mouth was still as dry as cotton. He also asked me to take an S-cap. I reluctantly said ok and while trying to swallow it, almost lost everything in my stomach. It took about 10 minutes to settle down before I could get up and sort of feel human again. I’m pretty sure it was a combo of heat exhaustion and dehydration. I stood in the water faucet trying to get cool and wet again, but it wasn’t easy given it’s configuration. We set out again. Even though we knew there was only 3 miles left–3 miles!–I knew it would still probably take 2 hours!
As I knew would happen eventually, we made it out, cleaned up, and went to dinner. Saturday was for sightseeing. Although I did that just 6 months ago, this was more for Candy since she hadn’t been there. Gary has been several times. Still, it was fun and the three of us laughed and did silly things along the way. We put a do-rag on Gary’s head, we mimicked the signs we found, pretended we were jumping or falling off the cliff, and a number of fun things. You can see the evidence in my photo album. That night we went back for sunset but, unfortunately, it was somewhat obscured by clouds and wasn’t that great.
Suddenly it was Sunday and time to head back. I was pleased that my calves were not shredded like last time, so I’d be able to run. That’s not to say they didn’t hurt! But, this is my MOST favorite part of the trip–South Kaibab at sunrise. Although we hit the trail at 5:30am, it was still a little on the late side for sunrise, but the colors were still fabulous! Every single section of this trail is stunning. You float right down with vistas that go for miles. And, with it being only 7 miles long, you’re to the bottom in no time. I really felt great and made sure I drank a LOT.
Once again, I found it odd that the trip back up to the North Rim seemed easier than the trip up the South Rim. Partly I think it’s because you get down to the bottom so quickly from the south and aren’t as tired. Plus, because you get there quicker, it’s earlier in the day and still cooler. Lastly, once you turn the corner away from Bright Angel creek and really start to climb, you’re mostly in the shadows on the narrowing canyon. Still, it’s not easy and I was getting pretty tired. Fortunately, I still felt ok this time. After having to wait for THREE mule trains in a row to pass, I made it out in 7:45. Gary tells me that’s pretty good. 🙂
So, now I’m curious about how long the crossing *could* take if we didn’t stop for pictures and focused on just getting there. I’m guessing I could get somewhere around 7 hours from south to north but not sure about north to south. It would be great if we had support and didn’t have to carry our supplies (food/clothes/sundries) across each way. I would also be sure to be fully rested before each crossing. Lastly, I would start each crossing before sunrise to take advantage of as much coolness as possible. One day I’ll give it a try. But for now, I accomplished my B race. 46 miles and 11K elevation gain. I think that’s pretty good, don’t you?