Sunday, May 30, 2010

GC Pack Review

Salomon shirt
Moeben armsleeves, black
Injini Socks
CW-X bra and Capri tights (these were a super wise choice- prevented a lot of chafing and was great on compression to fight fatigue)

GoLite Virga Jacket
Pink/salmon colored Nike hat
small green machine ipod (I hardly used)
sunglasses (I hardly used)
SW hat, gloves, second pair of Injinji socks

NH pack with 2L bladder (figured I would only need 1.5L but worried that I might need more. This way I could fill it to 1.5L unless I found I needed more then I would have the capability to add up to 2L. HOWEVER, mid run, when I decided I should “fill up” I found that the NH 2.0 zone does NOT hold a 2L full bladder with a full pack. I ended up having to suck down as much as I could to stuff what I could back into the zipper. Next time I would just run with my 1.5L bladder.
Foot care kit, knife, emergency blanket, meds, extra hair ties, Petzl headlamps x2,  disposable wipes/toilet paper, special medallion from parents of St. Christopher (travel safe)

Stuff I ate:
pb & honey sandwich
bag of Boulder Hickory Smoked BBQ chips mixed with Garlic/Parm Pita chips
1 bag of honey stinger chews
one bag of GU chews
one mozzarella string cheese
1 pkt of apricot fruit leather
1 Bonk bar (pb&banana- I ate about half of but it was too dry and turned my stomach on the last four miles of the run. I ended up having to toss it and eat a GU instead)
5-6 GU gels

Liquid Gold
Granny B’s Sugar cookie with thick pink frosting and sprinkles (by far the BEST food item I brought)
homemade power bar which got consumed at the top of the N Rim (second best food choice)
Cheesy Garlic Breadstick from the night before (ate at Phantom Ranch on the way back- sat in belly too long, not a good choice)
1 Mounds chocolate bar piece
Two Nuun tablets
saltstick tabs

Stuff I ate of other people’s pack: Frito chips (delicious!!), peanut butter pretzels (too dry)

Stuff I packed but didn’t eat: 
pb & sandwich (threw away at N. Rim due to the mushiness of it.)
about half of the honey stinger and GU chews

2nd pkt of fruit leather
1 bonk bar (way too dry)
bison and cranberry bar
MOJO bar
about 6 GU gels,
GU recovery drink
mixture of trail mix- raisins, almonds, and four Mounds bar pieces
4 Nuun tabs (I was really liking just the taste of the h2o, and I started to swell in my hands)
mini Cliff bar
1 pkt Justin’s almond butter

Things I would change next time in my pack: not much….

Clothes- Maybe add a midlayer such as a light wind jacket that could go between rain jacket and base layer. There was one point at the bottom on the way back where I was a little sweaty and chilly but not chilly enough to put on the non-breathable rain jacket. Tracy had an armless wind jacket that looked like it would have been a good idea to bring just to get the wind off my body but still allow my base layers to dry a little.
Should have brought my spare Salomon shoelace kit: Steph’s Salomon shoelaces broke on the way off the N. Rim. This would have been horrible had John not been able to rig it up and tie it off.  I thought I had brought my kit with me but realized I had taken it out last minute to save weight.
I had a rough time with my basic Petzl headlamp that I had used to dress that morning and forgot to replace it with a second Petzl XP. The basic headlamp put out such a dim light I was tempted to just turn it off. I should have remembered to bring both of my XPs or one XP and my Myo belt.

Hydration/Nutrition- 1.5L bladder probably would have been sufficient, however our temps were near perfect for the run: moderately cool with a bit of a breeze (a little colder at the end with pretty significant winds). Had it been any warmer 1.5 L might not have been enough. My plan would have been to just spend a few more minutes at each station sucking down water before I filled my camelbak.
I also might have brought along a second small  (16oz) bottle that I could strap to the outside of my pack securely to mix powdered nutrition in. I do well with the Accelerade products (Accelerade, R4, Endurox) and think it would have benefited me to substitute/or add on top of some of the solid foods the powdered energy drinks. John did this with his Heed and Perpetuum. I wished I had thought of that which might have halted some of the minor cramping I had along with the ugh factor of having to shove solids down the hatch when I really didn’t want to. Also the use of the shake would force/encourage hydration.
Although I had plenty of food left over, I wouldn’t change bringing it. My energy stores were good and I never bonked due to food or hydration, however I might have needed more given the changing temps and time frame. More is better….

Also would have brought one larger zip lock to pack out my trash. I ended up stuffing wrappers all over the place until I finally finished my chips which gave me a zip lock to put them all in. 

Rim2Rim2Rim: Part IV The Wrap Up

The trail heading to the top of North Rim was a very narrow single track with a intense drop off if you don't watch your footing. It wasn't as if we had to cling to the wall to get by, it just wasn't a "made for two" type of path. At two points of the path there was a cascade of water showering us from above. It was beautiful.

After much gawking, oohing & awing of the GC we finally made it to the N. Rim. There was a bit of snow on the way up but most of it was compacted and easy to navigate. Temps were in the 40's at the top so everyone was bundled up and noshing on some quick energy. For the last several miles I had been taking swigs out of my Liquid Gold flask. That stuff is so good and a lot of it had crystalized so I had to squeeze hard and chew it. It was quite entertaining and I felt like Winnie-the-Pooh trying to lick every little morsel out of his honey jar.

* Note- I have been contacted by the makers of Liquid Gold who stated that the crystallization is something they are in the process of working on by revamping their formula. Personally, I like it a little chewy however I did get very frustrated when I saw there was a lot still clumped in the flask that I just couldn't get to. It was extra weight (I know grams) so I had to ditch the rest once we reached the N. Rim. I still think Liquid Gold is a great product and can't wait to try the new formula which should be coming out soon.

At the top, we posed briefly for pics as I ate my homemade peanut butter protein bar. It was delicious and full of good for you stuff: oats, honey, peanut butter, nuts, whole wheat cereal puffs, and a few chocolate chips pressed on top. It was a beast of a bar and I was glad I wasn't putting it back in my pack.
The last mile up I could feel my knees a little achy and legs groaning a little with fatigue. I wondered if I would even be able to run at all the rest of the way.

We didn't dally long at the top and quickly packed things up to head down. I think the protein bar hit the spot as I found new energy for the descent and we ran. It felt good to run after such a long climb up. We all paced ourselves pretty well although many of us were quiet, plugging ourselves into our headphones for a little "time out". Tracy made it a point to let me know that she was having an awful time with the drop off to the side and how it was making her feel. Running in front of her, she used my feet as visual blinders to keep from looking off to the side. Glad I could help Tracy!

Once we got down to the bottom along the creek we started to run/walk. At that point I could feel pain. Not just soreness, but pain had creeped into my knees, hips, left shin, and for some odd reason the bones along the balls of my feet. It was bearable pain but enough that I needed a little distraction and a bit of walking added into the mix. Tracy had taken over leading the pack and did a fantastic job pacing us and putting in just enough of walking to keep everyone happy. Spirits were starting to fade on all of us and being replaced with the unanimous feeling of "lets get this over with" as we all mentally tried to prepare ourselves for the intense climb up Bright Angel Trail.

At this point, I ended up putting my camera away. No sense in capturing the misery that followed and it was starting to get dark.

The last 4-5 miles felt like eternity. Painful, burning in hell kind of eternity. My entire body was shot. Someone thought it a bright idea when making this trail to put in a bazillion steps with giant posts to stop erosion. You know the kind. Where you have to hoist yourself over the log, putting your hand on your thigh just to pull yourself over the step? Yeah, that kind.

It was like the cherry on top. Pure evil cherry.

I made sure I paid extremely careful attention to my nutrition and hydration. That was never a real issue. I tried to nibble on a Bonk Bar but found it too dry and tasteless making my stomach churn a bit at every bite. I was out of Liquid Gold and most of my solids so I broke open a GU packet and sucked it down with water. I have to say I was pretty proud of myself for not bonking in that department.

I was, however, very stumbly. By that point my body was trying to say, "All right folks, I'm just going to shut down here. You may try to keep walking, but yeah, good luck with that." I couldn't really control my body and my stabilizer muscles were laying down on the job. I couldn't catch my balance if I started to lean off to one side so the only way to stop myself from hurtling down the edge of the canyon was to throw my arms out for balance and then do a little shuffle step to get my body back under my feet. I probably looked utterly ridiculous.

Someone here or there kept saying, "you're almost there. Just a little bit more." I don't know who it was (at this point it was pitch dark and we all were guided by our headlamps) but at the time I wanted to bind, gag, and toss him off the side. Good thing I had no coordination...
That "almost there" was FOREVER. A quarter mile seemed to take an hour at least and we still had about a mile and half left!

It was one step in front of the other as the five of us were heard sporadically making such comments as:

Who's effing idea was this?
Grand Effing Canyon
What the eff!
God D--- mother effing canyon.
I'm never ever doing this again. Never. Ever.

Yep, it was the grand opening day for the F-word and all words similar. I think there may have even been some made up words in there that just sounded bad. We ALL were feeling it and it wasn't pretty.

About a half mile from the top, again, can we say E-T-E-R-N-I-T-Y...I heard a man's voice boom "Anyone order Dominoes?"

It was like heaven... Cowboy had walked down in search of us to give us a boost to the top. It worked and you could feel everyone's smile. His presence also signified to us that truly the top was near. Through our pain and suffering, we dug deep and picked up the pace. Cowboy kept saying things like, "good job guys, you rock, almost to the top" This time that phrase did not make everyone cringe with borderline mania but pushed us on with gentle guidance.
Not once did Cowboy ask me for my pack and I was grateful. I was determined to finish this thing on my own accord and on my own two feet without assistance. It was a pride thing and I was glad he respected that.

As soon as we peaked the rim we all managed a little "hurray" as we gave hugs all around. It was a bit of a cluster and dim memory to be truthful. I remember Cowboy finally having me shrug off my pack (which I thought wasn't very heavy at the time as most of my food was gone and only about a quarter liter of water, when it came off though I realized just how heavy it really was). I vaguely recall the hugs and the incessant shaking my body was doing. I couldn't stop it and as I looked around I noticed everyone else was doing it too. It was cold, not freezing, but I recognized the signs. Our bodies were acting a bit "shocky". Yeah, thats medical lingo right there.

Stephanie gladly offered a shower to me and I wasn't going to refuse. Cowboy lifted me into the passenger seat of the car and cranked the heat to help me stop shaking. I was stuffing food and water in my face with hands that couldn't manage to navigate the trek from food source to mouth. Hindsight, it probably was either completely hilarious to watch or a bit scary.

When we reached the rustic hotels of the group, I toppled out of the car and realized I had to pee.


Crud, I thought, there was no way I was going to make it with my incredibly slow hobble to the hotel with the great potential that someone was already occupying the toilet. I made a rash decision.

Me: Cowboy, I need to pee. Bad.
Cowboy: Ok the hotel room is just over there.
Me: Uh, no. I can't make it that far. I need your assistance (grimacing, knowing eventually I was going to have to have an awkward moment of our relationship. This was it.)
Cowboy: Ok, what do you need me to do?
Me: Nothing just stand there and let me hang onto your legs.
Cowboy: (with a truly puzzled look on his face, not able to figure what I was up to while I pulled my shorts down)

And there I was, off the side of the parking lot in the dark (thank god)...holding onto his waist as I slowly climbed my hands down his legs into a squat position. As I held a firm grip onto his calves, the pee happened. I couldn't even look up to see what Cowboys face was doing at the time but I could only imagine a look of absolute horror.

Yep, Cowboy, welcome to ultra running and the devastation that follows.

Needless, to say, after assisting me with both the pee and then the hot shower after, Cowboy is still by my side. AND when he talks about the GC experience he is overheard saying, "it was an amazing time. It was awesome and I had so much fun." WOW.

***within 8-12 hrs post peak of S. Rim most of us were admitting "yeah I'd totally do that again". Funny how quickly runners amnesia takes effect! Seems like it always happens that way with big runs though, haven't you noticed??

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rim2Rim2Rim: Part III

It was pitch dark with a gentle breeze which slowly dissipated as we entered into the protection of the canyon walls. It was surreal to see a string of headlamps snaking down the canyon walls above and below us and know that you are beginning an adventure most people wouldn't consider conquering, let alone enjoy it! Camaraderie was in the air thick and you felt part of something HUGE. It wasn’t just me by myself, or even Stephanie and I. It was approximately 50 of us runners with like minds and all feeling the same wild crazy desire to tackle this beast. I couldn’t get the happy jitters out of me. The only runner I actually "knew" in our pack was Stephanie so I felt a little subconscious letting out all the child-like excitement I felt rolling around my insides…I pranced and danced, grinned and giggled, leaped and whooped out loud. Like a bunch of wild hyenas, my whoop triggered a whole slew of whoops echoing up and down the canyon wall from runners high and low. It was as if electricity pervaded the canyon and everyone was feeling it. 

There were five of us together:  John, Steph, Tracy, Jim, and I.  I led the pack for the simple reason that I had ants in my pants and couldn't stay still for the life of me. John was my "buddy" with the group nominated task of keeping me reeled in. It was no easy endeavor, trust me. I felt like a kid on the way to a scavenger hunt and was having a real hard time containing myself. I was bursting at the seams.  I trotted ahead a few times then slowed and walked until they caught up to me. I felt a little shy because I only knew Stephanie, everyone else seemed to know and joke around with each other so I felt a bit of the odd man out. I ended up striking up good conversation with Tracy which made me feel a little more “in”.  By the time we hit Indian Gardens we were all chatting together, and by Phantom Ranch we were all best buddies and modesty was long forgotten.

We encountered Indian Gardens right at dawn.  The moon was still visible above the rim and the sun peaking over the ridge was just starting to brighten everything up with a warm pink hue. It was just about this point that we removed our headlamps and ran in the dim light of day. Indian Gardens to Phantom Ranch was gently rolling, mostly nice easy runnable ground with a soft dirt floor. We picked up the pace and ran in a nice easy rhythm. I saw a large fern or cactus that was 10-12 feet tall. I later found out it was the agave plant!!

Along the way to the steel bridge of the Colorado River we would pause now and then mid run to snap a few pictures, trying to capture the massiveness of the canyon in the tiny windows of our cameras. I remember thinking, "there is no way these pictures are actually going to be as magnificent as what I see right now, right here, right in front of my face." The views were breathtaking and changed continuously as the sun stretched across the sky We posed at the beginning of the bridge for some happy shots and talked with some hikers about the potential water breaks along the trail. Spirits were still incredibly high.

It was encouraging to cross paths with so many hikers. Everyone seemed to immediately recognize our choice of adventure and openly gave their good thoughts and praise to us for tackling such a large feat. People starting talking to us whether we initiated it or not; everyone was so friendly and laid back. It was nice to be in that environment again versus the city life of Denver.  This interaction with other hikers, who mentioned numerous times how amazed they were that we were completing the R3, led our group of five into a discussion of people’s perception of our lifestyle. Not that we were cocky or “above” anything/anyone, but we all felt that what we were doing, among with many of our other crazy adventures, was not that big of a deal. We were a group of like-minded slightly psychotic individuals that loved to run, loved to travel and experience new things, loved to push our bodies to the limit and then some, and loved to be outside. We were doing this for fun, not race and be “the best” at it. The fact that so many people were showering us with praise and admiration befuddled us.

And so we continued to run. After crossing the steel bridge of the Colorado River, we ran for quite a long time alongside the Bright Angel Creek. At one point we came to a shallow portion of the creek where we had to cross without a bridge. We removed our shoes and socks, clipped them onto our packs with carabiners, and waded across while holding a line for support. There came almost a unanimous sigh of relief as we submerged our hot feet up to our tight calves into the crisp rushing water. I really dislike "cold" things but the water at this moment felt so perfect and refreshing.

At one of the water stops I dug into my pack to reveal a mashed up, yet still packaged, Granny B’s sugar cookie from my grocery store raid the night before. This cookie wasn’t just any cookie. It was slathered in bright pink frosting with a healthy dose of rainbow sprinkles and it was incredibly soft. It looked yummy in the market when I bought it and it looked even more delectable miles into the canyon. It was soft, fluffy, sweet, and almost “doughy” in texture. OMG it was the best damn cookie in my LIFE, I kid you not. As I shoved fistfuls of crumbled sugar cookie in my mouth, I was washed with regret of not buying two cookies (or more).

I have never really ate solid foods during any runs before as they tended to instantly hit my gut in violent fits of protest, so I was a bit cautious planning this run when it came to nutrition.  I had spent approximately twenty minutes going up and down the aisles of the market trying to figure out what my body would approve of the next day. Not knowing my body that way made the choices a pure agony-ridden guess. When my eyes hit that sugar cookie it was almost as if my arms reached out without my brain attached and said “YES! I APPROVE!” I didn’t even second guess, just grabbed and moved on.

****Cowboy surprised me later after many minutes of me rehashing in the car driving home how heavenly the sugar cookie with pink frosting was. He told me to reach down into the door console of my car….there my fingers produced a fully packaged brand spanking new pink covered cookie. True love, I tell you, true damn love. Hands off ladies, this one’s a keeper!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rim2Rim2Rim: Part II

0230- woke up and started getting ready.


Let's stress a really really important fact here: This was Cowboys' very first exposure to ultra running of any sort. I had texted him throughout my jaunt during the TransRockies but this would be his very first visual encounter to the sheer insanity ultra running buddies up with. 

For example: 
-having to witness the "feeding" that occurs after such racing 
-the painfully slow robotic movements one must partake in to move three feet
-the pre-planning and strategic positioning one must have to raise and lower oneself onto the toilet
-the constant moaning, stretching, and loud pursed-lipped breathing one must do to conquer the pain that overwhelms the body
-serious distress of the gastrointestinal variety, need I say more?
-muscle fasciculations: google it.

Here's a clip that comes to mind.

These among many many others were going to be the true test to Cowboy's love. That's one hell of a run for an initiation right?! 
Runs such as these have weeded out my numbers many times before so deep down inside, I truly had a nagging fear for the loss of a very very good man by allowing Cowboy to tag along and witness my well enjoyed self-mutilation. Little did he realize how much I would truly need his help this trip.

Cowboy made me two packets of instant oatmeal (raisin and walnut) and a cup of black coffee while I dressed. I rechecked the basics of my pack, grabbed a banana, and climbed into the car. I rolled into the Bright Angel parking lot at 0330. 

After a mad dash of throwing my jacket (it was COLD) and pack on, fumbling a kiss to Cowboy (which I felt guilty for later on, wishing it hadn’t been so pathetic of a kiss) we sped off in a whirlwind of excitement down the trail.

This last pic was taken by Cowboy as he stood on the rim and looked down into the canyon. You can see a string of headlamps winding down.

Rim2Rim2Rim: That Big D*$#@ Beautiful Ditch!

April 29th 2010:

Cowboy, Argos, and I piled into the car and left late morning for Arizona. We drove SW with small stops every few hours to break the monotony of driving, grab a latte or spicy chai, and to knock the stiffness out of our bodies. When the realization hit that we were going to get to the Grand Canyon (GC) later at night than we anticipated along with potential of having to set up camp in snowy rain, we ended up pulling into a pet-friendly hotel in Tuba City for a good night's rest and a hot shower.

The next morning, after a delicious breakfast of french toast and coffee, we headed out for the last hour and half drive to the GC. We set up camp at site #152 on Juniper Loop then threw together some homemade turkey sandwiches on roasted garlic baguette, gouda and smoked cheddar cheeses, macaroni salad, and chips. I started getting food packed together for the next morning then took a much needed nap curled up cozy in my Western Mountaineering sleeping bag with the front flap of the tent left open for a soothing breeze brushing my face.

Cowboy and I met up with John, Tim, and Tracy at Bright Angel Trailhead (Kolbie Studio) at 1730 to pinpoint the meeting place for the painfully early morning start the next day. This was the first time I had seen the canyon from this location and my jaw was almost permanently fixed in the gaping position. "I'm going to go down that?" I thought over and over in my head. It felt surreal and borderline laughable. All around me I heard tourists chatting about how big it was and how insane it was that people would go down into it. Most of them were discussing the Rim to River trip and inside I giggled that what I was about to partake in was four times the adventure.

We all went to the Marketplace cafĂ© where we met up with Stephanie and exchanged big long-time-no-see hugs. I had a two piece fried chicken meal with mashed potatoes, pasta salad, and hot tea. The chicken was really dry so I didn’t eat much of that and the pasta salad was pretty gross so that left mostly mashed potatoes and hot tea with a random cheesy breadstick. 

During this nosh-fest I finally got a chance to discuss expectations and preparation for the run as I was getting really nervous about the whole thing. I was very concerned about running out of water or food and bonking in the heat (I have never bonked before and I honestly did not want the bottom of the GC to be my initiation) and didn’t know the correct quantities of things to bring. We exchanged ideas on camelbak bladder sizes, food choices, and what we would need immediately after the run once we reached the top.

After that talk, I decided I didn’t have enough food so went binge shopping at the attached grocery store.  I literally just grabbed and stashed, grabbed and stashed. It was almost embarrassing the types (read: total junk food) and quantity of food I had in my basket. Hugs all around and I was heading back to camp to repack, organize my ipod playlists, and try to get some rest.

Repacking was frustrating. I refused to carry a bigger pack than what I had trained with so that meant I had to become strategic in my placement of items. I tried to not skimp on the emergency gear but I knew I needed to pack as much food as I could. Once I got it all packed (I actually had to have Cowboy squeeze the fabric of the pack together as I zippered it up) I threw it on my back to get a sense of weight. Holy bananas. It felt as if an overweight toddler had just climbed onto my back for a horsey ride as my trapezius muscles groaned in utter protest. You have GOT to be kidding I thought. Cowboy reminded me that as the hours passed the pack would become lighter as I ate, which put my mind at some ease. The water will always be heavy, though, I pouted back to him.

I actually fell asleep easily but woke up a few hours later in the dark with terrible jitters in my stomach, a little nauseated, very excited, and yet completely anxious. Cowboy seemed to have sensed my restlessness and rolled over to face me. We laid there in our sleeping bags talking it out. I felt that I had prepared well for this and my training, although lacked in the quantity of really long hours/miles, had been diligent and intense. I was grateful for the added weight and cross training I had done to build up my upper body. I was going to need it for this incredibly heavy pack!

Talking it out helped soothe the circling tiger in my stomach, and I was able to fall peacefully back to sleep until my alarm went off at 0230.