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Friday, May 10, 2013

Rim2Rim2Rim, Part 2

"It's the journey, not the destination"

Part of why I like doing my own events is all of the planning and logistics that goes into the preparation.  Once I decided to do the R2R2R, I needed help.  And the running community is great at offering help to those who ask.  So I set about meeting with as many people as I could find who were veterans of the event.

Basit has done the run 4 times and was most helpful.  However, he is much fitter than me so I had to calibrate some of his advice.  For example, I require 4 bottles to hike out to the South Rim, whereas I'm sure he does it in two or less. Charles Corfield (of rocket fuel fame) and Vicki Hunter were also helpful.  Vicki is extremely tough, so when she said this is the event that has made her the most sore, I was doubly sure to take it easy on the first descent to save my legs.  Peter Bawkin not only designed the vest I wore, but also gave me great advice on hydration.  Kevin Fonger led me to the shirt I ended up wearing on the big day.  Andy Carlson, David Moll, Mike Stemple, Huybert Groenendaal and many others helped with the PLB's (I used the ResQLink) and other logistics.  Grant Hull provided a helpful trip report just two weeks prior to my own attempt (hint: take more than two bottles above Cottonwood campground or you'll be drinking snow meltwater on the North Rim...)

One of the key issues was when to do it.  April 30th seemed to be an ideal time. Long days (sunrise 5:13am, sunset 7:17), expected temps 30-80 degrees.  Starting at 4:00am would mean headlamps and flashlights, but you'd be ahead of the mules that operate on both the S. Kaibab and the Bright Angel trail (but they don't start till 5am).  Another reason I liked the 4/30 4am start is that it seemed Leadvillian.  For Leadville training, I'd always go long on the last day of the month; and Leadville starts at 4am.  A small cheat is that Arizona remains on Mountain Standard time so it would feel like a 5am start to me.  April 30th also gave me just enough time to do my Leadville-style build up to 40 miles.

I'd assumed that I could park at the trailhead, but no.  There is no public parking so you have to take a shuttle from the visitor center.  First shuttle leaves at 4:30 on April 30th and takes about ten minutes to get to the S. Kaibab trailhead.  My plan was to stay in the national park and take the shuttle. Because spring is high season in the park, (summers are too hot) there wasn't any room at any of the lodges. I booked a room about 9 miles south of the park two months in advance.   Making your travel reservations creates a sense of realism (impending doom?) to the training.  It's a long story, but I ended up getting a room in the park at the Yavapai Lodge.

The NPS site has a lot of good information.  They do recommend a maximum daily hike of 3 mile downhill -- and to never, ever try to go to the river and back in a day.  Someone recommended that I read "Over the Edge" - a book summarizing the 600 deaths in the Grand Canyon.  After reading it, I realized I could maximize my chances of survival by 1) not going in the river, 2), not drinking alcohol and 3) not taking pictures.  It is amazing how many people died either taking pictures or having their picture taken.

I tracked most of the course on my iPhone5 using strava and an external battery.  I used SkratchLabs hydration products.  SkratchLabs is a Boulder start-up that has excellent hydration products.  I used Hammergels (single serving size...lots of trash, but good portion control and a variety of flavors: two per hour at an estimated 12 hours).  And SaltCaps (one per hour cool, more hot).  I planned on using a 100% liquid diet -- just like the first 40 miles of Leadville.

The PB vest holds a 3L bladder. With two ultimate direction bottles on the vest (20oz each) and a 22 oz Specialized bottle in my lefthand (golite), I could carry 5 liters of water.  At 2.2 lbs per liter, that's a lot of weight.  And it's relatively high on the back, causing some strain.  I used the full pack on a 50k training run (about 6 hours ) and had 1/3 or more of the water left at the end. I used the Skratch labs in the bottles and water in the hydration pack. My full packing list was a page and a half long: sun hat with neck/ear covering, med kit, space blanket, headlamp, flashlight, spare batteries, sunglasses/night glasses, signal mirror, whistle, knife, lots of anti-chafing supplies).

The prep was endless.  Reading maps, watching videos of the trail, calculating how much water to carry between water stops, assessing the likelihood that there would be water at the water stops, etc. Reading about the Boston marathoner who died on these trails was a cautionary tale.  Keeping an eye o the weather... I learned (from Nate Silver) that weather forecasting is good about 7 days out; beyond that you are better off just using daily averages.  As the date approached I could see that a heat wave was building and would peak on my targeted day.  Two days before or after and it would be 20 degrees cooler.

The clothing starts with the Montrail waterproof shoes and Drymax socks.  The set up was a little snug, but a proven combination through Leadville.  I used the Nike ProCombat compression shorts with simple soccer shorts on top.  My shirt was an Ex-officio  longsleeve made out of fabric that actually cools when wet.  I ran in Nike running hat (backwards with headlamp) for night/early am running and a full skirted hat for the 10am-4pm session. And don't forget the nipguards.

Many thanks to Boulder Running Company for world class advice, service and products.  And, thanks to ZombieRunner.  Not only for the convenience of keeping me stocked in gels etc, but also for opening your Palo Alto store an hour after closing so I could get a pair of sock I needed for that night's run.

Enough with the preparation, next time onto the run itself.

Friday, May 3, 2013

50M recon run in the Grand Canyon with a Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R)

Short version:
April 30, 2013
50 miles running/hiking
16 hours+
100 degrees in the Canyon; 40 degrees and 40 mph winds on the South Rim.

After Leadville in 2011, I was happy to take many months off of training.  Life and work took over and I found myself unmotivated to go and do 7 mile routine training runs for general fitness and health.  I needed a goal that was scary/challenging but doable.  In 2012, that focused around ironman.  After a DNF  "roll my own" ironman in Hawaii May of 2012, I did one in Boulder in Sept -- mostly to remind myself that I can do that distance.  I'd just much rather do it at altitude in cool pleasant, low humidity rather than in Hawaii's windy, hot and humid conditions (but I look forward to going back to Hawaii in 2014 to complete an ironman on the world championship course.)

So after the ironman in Sept 2012, I found myself unmotivated again and wondering what's next.  I dove into work in Oct/Nov and by Dec I was getting pretty far out of shape.  I had thought about a skiing goal.  The Grand Traverse or the North Routt Coureur des Bois would be great challenges.  But, I was too far out of shape to train for those events and they would require a lot of time on skis.  That would be tricky.

So I thought I'd look for a good goal to do in the spring.  Boston Marathon is a good choice, but I did that in '08.  What I learned from that experience is that it's no fun to do serious marathon training in Colorado from Nov to April.  There are other things to do in Boulder those months, while May to October is ideal for running on the roads.

I've been running the trails around Boulder since 1992.  There have been loosely organized trail runs around Boulder since at least the '60s.  With the web, we've 'organized' under a Yahoo group called Boulder Trail Runners.  This group now has over 2,000 members.  Every spring, I'd see posts from some of the ultra runners who would drive to the Grand Canyon and run the Rim to Rim to Rim.  The run generally starts on the South Rim, goes down the South Kaibab trail, up the North Kaibab trail to the North Rim and back.  It's 42.5 miles and 10,000' of vertical.

Given my experience and Leadville, I thought I could do a solo run in the Grand Canyon.  It was 4 and a half months away: the perfect time to do a Leadville-style build up, get fit and enjoy a nice day in an amazing world treasure.  My plan was to train as if I was building up to Leadville, but stop at the 40M training point.  And work in a lot of hills.

Remarkably, I made almost every workout that I scheduled over that 4.5 months. My culmination was to do a 20M/22.5M double in CA's coastal hills in 75 degree weather two weeks out from start date.  I did the 20M/22.5M double in about a combined 10 hours with 8,500 vertical. I felt I was ready.

In planning to do a solo run, I spoke with several people who have run it.  And that's where we will pick up next time.