Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bryce Canyon Link-Up Video Part 2

Here is part 2 of the video.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bryce Canyon Video Part 1

Here is Part 1 of the video I'm making about our run the other day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bryce Canyon Link-Up

I have been wanting to do a run through Bryce Canyon for about six months now. About a month ago I decided on a date and a plan and started soliciting friends to come along. As usual, I had to do it on a weekday, so that made finding partners tough, but my friend Scott who I do a lot of adventures with was able to join and up for the task. The goal would be to run all three of the main back country trails in Bryce Canyon National Park. We planned to begin on the South end of the park where elevation is highest and run north where it is the lowest, allowing for a net loss overall. Below is a list of the trails and their respective mileages.

Start at Rainbow Point
Riggs Springs - 8 miles, 5000 ft elevation gain/loss
Under the Rim - 23 miles, 8000 - 10000 ft elevation gain/loss
Fairyland Loop - 5.7 miles, 2000 ft elevation gain/loss
Rim Connector Trail - 2.5 miles, flattish
Total Mileage - 39.2, total elevation 15000 - ish gain/loss

We drove down Tuesday night and stayed with a friend who lived in Panguitch. He graciously drove us out to Bryce at 5am to the start at Rainbow Point so that we could leave our car at the finish at Fairyland Point. By the time we got up there it was chilly, but clear and beautiful and about 45 degrees. We were off and hitting the trail by 6:30am or so.

The first four miles are a massive descent down and past Yovimpa Pass to Riggs Springs campground. Along the way we passed two hikers near the top and a tent at the campground. It was still quite early, but I kind of thought we'd see more people. After Riggs Springs we started the ascent back up to Rainbow Point, a grueling 2200 vertical foot climb over 4 miles back to nearly where we started. Much of the trail was actually runnable, but I was quickly leaving Scott behind so I decided to walk several of the sections. I also figured I had a ton of miles ahead of me and it wasn't worth pushing it. Even with the spots of walking I got to the Riggs Loop / Under the Rim branch 10 minutes ahead of Scott. I was 8 miles in and felt great, like I was just warming up even though I had nearly 5000 ft of elevation gain and loss.

When Scott showed up we took a few quick pictures and were off again. He was feeling pretty good at this point and we really enjoyed running down the spin heading into the starting 'flats' of the Under the Rim trail. After we cleared the ridge we found ourselves in beautiful Bristlecone forest, running through trails that crossed dry riverbeds and over many fallen trees. I got to our first water stop at Iron Spring, mile 11.6 in about 2.5 hours, a little slower than I wanted, but not bad overall. I had set the goal to do 5 miles an hour, but that would turn out to be a pipe-dream. I again had to wait for Scott for about 10 minutes. I think he ran into some issues with his hydration pack and had to re-situate some stuff, not knowing how close he was to our first stop. It was a short stop, drawing water from a clear stream and purifying with Iodine tablets and nuetralizers. I tried to hold back on the pace, but somehow Scott slowed down even more and I quickly found myself alone again. What we thought would be a leisurely stroll over some rolling hills through the lower part of Bryce turned out to be a series of steep climbs and descents one right after the other. There was never a respite. And to make it worst, on most of the climbs the trail was soft beach sand. The inclines were very runnable, but with the sand even walking was tough. What I didn't know was that not long after our water stop he started have Illio Tibial Band (ITB) issues and was in a good deal of pain. It was 7 miles between water stops and there were many of these difficult hills to go over, not to mention a good portion of the forest had burned a few years previous and was extremely desolate and it was starting to get hot. Scott would hit a real low point here.

Our next water stop was at Swamp Canyon. It was a beautiful small running stream set in the lower part of a ravine and provided some needed shade while I waited for Scott. My goal of doing the run in 8 - 9 hours total was shot due to having to wait for Scott, so I would get to a stop, sort our my water and supplies, and determine what my normal stop would have been and then turn off my clock while I waited for Scott. I wanted to relatively accurately time 'my' run, but still be able to support and see Scott, so that I could help if needed. At Swamp Canyon (mile 19) I had to wait 40 minutes before he would show up. He commented that he was in a lot of pain and had some really low moments. He was determined to tough it out though and after a short stop we were off again.
The climbs over the next several miles were very difficult and hot. It was now about 2pm and we were in the hottest part of the day. Yellow Creek would be our next water source and it was over 7 miles away. Scott was carrying 70 ounces and I was carrying almost 60. As we would approach each water stop he would be completely dry and I would have only consumed about 40 oz total. I think this is a result of all the heat and hill training I have done over the last few weeks. The hills during this segment were particularly tough. I tried to stay as close to Scott as possible and would stop at the top of each hill to wait for him. My legs were feeling fantastic and I could power hike even the steepest hills very quickly. At the top of one of the climb Scott looked particularly bad, so he stopped to eat a gel and drink some more. I convinced him to eat something more solid a little lower down the trail and I think that helped. While I would wait I would take pictures, make videos, and was still having a great time. Well more than 4 hours into the run and I still hadn't put my headphones on yet.

Scott made it to Yellow Creek about 10 minutes after me. I had done a lot better job of staying close to him and it was a good thing because I was pretty worried about him and his energy and knee. Refilling was a dream. This creek ran a little quicker and we soaked our head, hats, and shirts before leaving again. The next few miles around the bluff over to Right Fork of Yellow Creek were much more flat and only slightly rolling, but were also the hottest of the day and the least pretty since we were the farthest away from the actual rim of the canyon. I had warned Scott that after we hit Right Fork that the trail would get very steep and we would have to ascend more than 2500 ft in less than 3 miles. I don't think he realized just how tough it would be. I, on the other hand, was having a great time. I felt awesome and was loving pushing the uphills. I did start to get cramps in my diaphram, just under my ribs. It actually stopped me dead in my tracks twice. But it was so beautiful I just couldn't be too upset about it. I reached the Bryce Point (mile 31) at 7:30:00ish. All of a sudden there were tourists everywhere.

I sat down in the shade and waited for Scott. I had to bum some water off of a couple in a motor home who were from the Netherlands. They were very nice as water was not accessible at Bryce Point. I waited about 20 minutes and then walked to the end of the parking lot to view the incoming trail, but still no Scott. 15 more minutes and I checked again. This happened three more times. More than an hour had gone by and I was really getting worried. I strapped my waste pack back on and decided I better go look for him, but just as I made my way past the parking lot he came down the trail. He was very excited to see me . . . for a minute. I think he got his hopes up that he was finished and was very dejected when I told him we had at least 6 more miles to go. Yes, only 6, because I had given up on doing the lower Fairyland Loop and had just settled on the fact that we better do the Fairyland Rim portion because Scott just wasn't going to make it through the elevation changes again. He was already 10+ hours into his run/hike. He had run out of water a ways back and was in dire need. I gave him any extra I had, knowing that we would have water available at Inspiration Point, just 1.2 miles ahead. He was very clear that he couldn't run any more though and would be hiking it in. With over an hour waiting for him I couldn't sit still any longer and explained how to get back to the car and I took off. I thought about refilling on water and doing the whole loop myself, but I was kind of checked out and just ready to call it a day at that point. I was only going to lose 2.5 miles overall, but would miss out on some of the best scenery. At least I would get to see it from the rim as I ran. It was then I decided to just go and not fill my water bottle the rest of the way.

I reached the car at 8:31:17, exactly 37 miles from the start. I averaged a 10 min/mile the last 6 miles. It was a beautiful section of softly rolling hills with unbelievable views. I was laughing and singing the whole way to the car and having a great time saying 'Hi' to the tourists, most of whom were not American. I took some photos, made some videos, and just relaxed at the car while I waited for Scott. It would end up that I'd wait two hours for him to get there. He had to take a long stop for water and then got turned down the wrong trail by two pretty girls, a mistake any of us could have made. I'm really proud of him for sticking it out, even though he should have quit for the sake of his knee 20 miles earlier. He'll pay for that one as he tries and recovers. He made it though and can now say he's done his first ultra-marathon. He got to the car at 8pm and it was a dash to just get going. I wouldn't get home until 12:30am.

It was an amazing experience. Going back I think I could do the whole thing, including the lower Fairyland Loop, in about 7 - 7.5 hours. I can't wait to take more friends on this wonderful adventure.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Birthday T

It was my son's 12th birthday yesterday. I took the day off of work to hang out with him since he was having a sleep-over at his mom's and leaving for Cancun on Saturday morning, the little jerk. He is so excited. He's been infatuated with Mexico since he was 3. I have no idea why. He was very excited when Mexico beat France 2 - 0.

For his birthday the two of us hiked up Wire Peak and came down Red Butte. It took us 1:07:00 to the top, which is only a few minutes slower than my normal times when I'm running the first part and pushing through the hike. Weird. We saw a huge snake on the way up. It was not happy that I touched him. ha. We came down by way of Red Butte peak and hung out in the 'living room' for a while. Then we ran the last few miles back to the car. Our total time was very fast considering I didn't stop the clock while chilling in the 'living room' for more than 5 minutes. That kid has some legs on him. He is a great hiker.
After that we went and picked up my wife from the university and went to Red Robin to celebrate. Here are some photos from the hike.
Starting out

Coming down from Wire Peak
Standing on top of Red Butte
Lounging in the Living Room

The two boys!

I can't describe how amazing Tyler is. He is the best big brother in the world, an amazing son, and a good friend. I'm constantly impressed by him. I hope he has a great time in Mexico.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Highs and Lows

I've had a strange thing happen to me. Not two weeks ago I finished Sapper Joe 50k. It was a great race and an incredible experience. It was my first sanctioned 50k race and the pressure was on. If you've read my last post you'll know that while I reached my goals and did very well, it was not a good day for me. I had to fight mental battles, tired legs, and severe energy issues. At times I wanted to drop out and call it quits. Even for a few hours after the race I just wanted to stop running all together. Of course, it only lasted a few hours, but still. By the next Wednesday I was feeling better and running again. I was still fighting soreness and tired legs, but it's what I expected and didn't push too hard. And then the strange part happened; Monday of this week and my first real post-race training run.

Monday - 6/7
7.07 miles, 1200 ft elev gain, 1:04:40, Ave Pace - 9:09
I began this week by focusing on some heat training. It was more than 80 degrees out and humid. This run took me up the LCC Creek Trail then back down to the Lower Bell Canyon loop trail. Lots of climbing, lots of sun, and a waist deep river crossing. While I had energy issues due to the heat, my legs felt awesome, like they could go for triple the miles. An hour after getting done I felt like I hadn't even run a mile that day. Weird.

Tuesday - 6/8
6.15 miles, 1000 ft elev gain, 1:05:09, Ave Pace - 10:36
For the first time ever I ran some of the upper trails in the Dimple Dell Recreation Area, more commonly known as "The Gully". I did this run with my friend Scott. The trail is wide and covered in wood chips for the horses. We were fast going down, but slowing coming back up because Scott was having ITB issues. After the run I felt fresh and ready for me. It was hot that day and even with that I still wasn't tired from two hot days and lots of hills.

Wednesday - 6/9
10.15 miles, 1300 ft elev gain, 1:30:35, Ave Pace - 8:54
The hottest day of the week, Wednesday racked in at 85+. For the first time ever I ran the Gully from the very bottom to the very top. There are so many things I could say about the trail, but I'll leave that for another time. I had massive energy issues which I'm certain were due to the heat and dehydration, but I never felt it in my legs, just as overall lack of fuel. I thought for sure I'd be tired after this run, but nope. I still had more. Maybe it just hadn't set in yet.

Thursday - 6/10
8.34 miles, 1700 ft elev gain, 1:13:27, Ave Pace - 8:48
I thought going into Thursday that things would be slower and more painful. I was running a tough, technical trail that required more than I thought I could give. But once I got into the run I realized I felt totally fine and had tons of energy. I was running fast, even on the uphills. And on the downhills I was running in the low 6s. I couldn't believe it. For sure I'd be wrecked after this run.

Friday - 6/11
10.15 miles, 1300 ft elev gain, 1:24:55, Ave Pace - 8:23
I went back to the Gully. It was 30 degrees cooler today than Wednesday, but even with that I figured I wouldn't have more than 6 miles in me. I assumed that the miles and hills would finally take their toll. However, not even a mile in and I was feeling it. I was running sub-9 min/miles running uphill. I felt strong and tons of speed in my legs. I had absolutely no problems with form or turn-over. The downhill was kept under 8 min/miles for the whole 5 miles and I cruised the last very small hill, something I had to walk on Wednesday. For sure I would be crushed after today's run. And while my legs finally do feel tired and my calves are a little sore, overall I still feel fantastic. While I don't know if I'll get to run tomorrow due to a busy schedule, I know that given the opportunity I could put in 20+ miles without feeling too wrecked. I want to go into a long run tomorrow feeling a little tired so that I get used to running on tired legs, but it has taken me all week just to get my legs to feel even a little tired. So crazy.

For years I've been mindful of how my body cycles between low and high energy, low and high strength, and low and high endurance. I've become accustom to it through my climbing, being able to focus my energies on projects and difficult ascents during the times when I'm cycling 'high' and working on technique and maintenance when I'm 'low'. But now I'm really starting to see it applied to my running. I've been trying to track it a little, but it's a little tough because sometimes I have a hard time knowing when I'm cycling low or if I'm just worked from a long training run or race. But I do notice it. I was at the low point in my 'low cycle' during Sapper Joe, even though I had a great taper and proper training going into the race. And I'm certain that this week is part of a 'high cycle'. I generally see a 4 to 1, high to low. I need to start keeping track of it so that I can plan for the low times and adjust my workouts and know how to go into races. Anyone else notice this happening to them? Please comment and let me know.