I had heard tall tales of a run across Zion National Park that rivaled the famous R2R2R in the Grand Canyon. The rumors are true!
I found a blog by Andrew Skurka that lays it all out. He has all sorts of good information about it and finding his blog got me psyched! I will have to put this run on my list of bad ass runs I gotta do.
I am down to two weeks from H2H and slowly but surely getting everything ironed out with friends for support.
I am definitely not good at organizing groups of people (I am a lot more comfortable with self support whenever possible) but I know I need help for this effort and I know that I am very fortunate to have such great friends to want to support me for something like this. Also, Susan is saving my ass by helping me organize the support team. Thank you Susan!!! She is my support leader because I trust her and she is frikkin rad! She will make sure everything is o.k. for me so that I can focus on my running during the H2H.
Thank you, up front, to everyone that is going to drive, bike or run around in the middle of nowhere in middle of the night or high up on Humphreys for this event. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
A couple days ago, Susan and I drove a bunch of the dirt roads between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon to get reaqainted with the Hole to Hump route. I remembered the route well (man, it is a long way) and Susan was able to lead us back home without my help so the day was a success. Props to Susan who drove us all the way back to pavement (about 40 miles) from the canyon back to Flagstaff. Why the props? She is a beginner stick shift driver. She did great! Learning to drive stick on 40 miles of rough dirt road is one of the coolest red neck Arizona things you can do! Good job Susan.
We even got to take a peak at the Grand Canyon before we had to go home. Bonus.
Now to get to the nitty gritty of figuring out the exact spots for support and get everyone on the same page.
By the way...thank you to everyone that is going to help me on this little adventure!
Kim and Dick-Sorry that you couldn't make it down! Thanks for wanting to come down and support me.
Recently, I have been wanting to do some more sections of the Arizona Trail to mix things up. The sections that are interesting to me right now are the ones just south of Flagstaff. In fact, the section between Marshall Lake and Horse Lake Trailhead looked the best for a good long run that would still be somewhat close to Flagstaff. That section of the AZ Trail is on the edge of Anderson Mesa and traverses upper Lake Mary, finishing just short of Mormon Lake. The trail distance is 9.5 miles one way and is pretty much flat, making for a nice, gentle 20ish mile run.
Get general information about the Arizona Trail here and an overview map of the whole Arizona Trail here.
The run was great. Faint singletrack (this portion doesn't get alot of traffic) and old dirt roads make up the trail making for interesting but not to difficult routefinding. There are AZ TR signs every once in a while in case you are wondering if you are going the right way anymore.
The trail was flat but a little rocky making for easy but hard running all in the same package, if that makes any sense.
Again, saw some coyotes and followed some elk for a while. Man, the elk are everywhere right now! It seems that I see them every time I go for a run.
Wild flowers were blooming, the grass was turning green and the little lakes along the trail were full of water. Really nice run.
Marshall Lake with The Peaks and a thunderstorm in the background. Early monsoons this year? We'll see...
It's almost here. This last week, with 85 miles, was the last high volume running week for me and now it is time to start slowly tapering before the big day.
Running schedule leading up to June 7:
This week (May 17-23), 70 miles
Next week (May 24-30), 50 miles
Week of the big run (May 31-June 6), light jogging for 3 or 4 days and then rest 2 days
I'm getting excited and relieved that the run is coming soon. I have been training for at least 6 months with Hole to Hump as the end goal. I have put the hardest work into it and now it is time to taper off, get all my energy back and be ready to crank on June 7th.
These next few weeks are also going to be planning time. I know the course well but I will be planning with my support crew (Susan, my parents and maybe a few others (still figuring that all out)) to get the whole thing streamlined as far as food, water, moral and whatever else support along the course.
I am also excited to be able to climb some more as I will have more energy now that I am not running quite as much. The last month has been pretty much devoted to running. The one day a week that I climb is pretty pathetic. I am only able to climb a few routes before tuckering out.
Here are a few shots from a nice 18 mile run I had on the Peaks last week.
Mt. Humphreys in background (above).
I had some highlights from last week I wanted to share...
-On a run out on the Arizona Trail I was lucky enough to run behind a trotting coyote for a little while before he dipped into a wash. It was cool because he was using the same trail as I was and for a little while we were doing the same thing, just running along on the trail and taking in the sights. When he went into the wash I snuck up on him and scared the crap out of him when I was only about 15 feet from him and barked really loud. He jumped and then disappeared into the forest. Ha.
-Again I saw some coyotes cruising around in the forest on a run on the peaks.
-I ran up Humphreys for the first time this year. I ran it at sunrise and it was AWESOME! I love it up there. Beautiful. Saw some elk in the meadow near the start of the trail.
-On the climbing front...I have been sucking it up, getting tired half way up routes, but Susan has been crushing. She has been doing really well on some hard 11's that she has gotten on in the last couple weeks and she almost top roped Shark Bait 5.11+, at the pit, without falls. Good job Susan! She has really been improving in her climbing and it is fun to watch her do so well!
By the light of the full moon (and some help by my headlamp), I did R2R2R again last Friday. All went well although I had some rough spots along the way (expected on something this difficult).
I left the house a little after 5 pm.
On the drive to the canyon I realized I forgot my watch which was a bit of a worry for me because I use it to pace myself and eat on long runs. On a long run like this I don't want to go too fast or slow on a given section or not eat enough. It can mean some serious drama if I bonk somewhere in the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
I looked for a watch to buy at a couple gas stations and gift shops on the way but with no luck. The only watches they had were cheesy fake gold and silver touristy ones that weren't digital (I needed a digital watch).
I ended up giving up on a watch and decided to bring my cell phone instead. I wouldn't get any service the whole time in the canyon but if I only turn it on a few times along the way I will probably have enough juice in it to work for the whole run.
Later on the drive to the Grand Canyon I almost got killed by a super stupid driver. He did the classic nimrod move...pass someone with way to little room and then be stubborn and keep trying to pass and making me (the oncoming car) slam on my brakes and swerve off the road while narrowly missing a head on collision!!! That was freaky!
Well...after the watch and near death excitement I finally got to the canyon and the parking lot for the S. Kaibab Trail about 7 pm. I packed my backpack and was off, starting down the S. Kaibab at about 7:15 pm...
Friday night was a great night to run the canyon because the canyon was lit up by a full moon and it was to be a low of about 40 degrees at the south and north rims and in the 60's in the bottom (at Phantom Ranch). About as comfortable and beautiful conditions as one could ask for. Lot's of good energy.
The way down the S. Kaibab was generally uneventful. I passed quite a few people in the first couple miles snapping photos of the impressive sunset that was unfolding before our eyes. Further down the trail, after sunset, I passed a group of hikers that were starting their own rim to rim to rim adventure. After them, I didn't see another soul until I reached the river and Phantom Ranch.
On the way through Phantom Ranch I felt like I was going through a little town. Cabins and tents all about with lights on (yes, they get electricity down there) and people walking around after leaving dinner (yes, they have a restaurant there). It was 8:30 pm and I had run 7 miles and 1 hr and 15 minutes.
I was quickly through Phantom Ranch and onto the N. Kaibab and following Bright Angel Creek. I didn't see another human until I had touched the north rim and was half way down the North Kaibab again. What I did see were deer (they kept running in front of me on the trail), frogs (like land mines on the trail all along Bright Angel Creek) and a scorpion (I jumped him on the way up and on the way down the N. Kaibab).
I felt way better on the N. Kaibab than last time I did it and ran and power hiked the final 5 miles of super steep to the north rim. In fact, I got to the north rim at midnight (45 minutes faster than last time). 21 miles down in 4 hours and 45 minutes. Cool!
I was really trying to break 10 hours this time (I did it in 11 hours last try) so it was exciting to be doing so well and feeling so good.
Everything changed on the way down. I thought that I would recover and get stronger on the next 14 miles of downhill but that was not the case. I couldn't get over a general feeling of fatigue that I didn't feel last time. My knees felt weaker and I couldn't muster the leg strength to get a fast rhythm going. I mostly jogged the 14 miles down to the river.
I did see the R2R2R hikers again when I was 2 or 3 miles from reaching Phantom Ranch. It was fun to see them and it gave me a little motivation to keep pushing hard knowing I wasn't the only one out here having an adventure in the middle of the night.
At Phantom ranch I tried to get the time from my cell phone but it didn't work. I don't know why but it wouldn't give me the time like it had on the north rim so I didn't have the luxury of knowing how hard to push to try to make it to the north rim in less than 10 hours. I didn't know if I was ahead or behind schedule. All I could do was push on the best that I could.
I couldn't hide from the fact that I didn't feel energized for the push back up the S. Kaibab. The moment I left Phantom Ranch and started going up hill I knew it was going to be a battle to get to the rim with any kind of speed. Even though I felt like crap I kept pushing hard, power walking where it was really steep and shuffle running when it was only a little steep (there really aren't any flat spots on the S. Kaibab).
A couple miles up the S. Kaibab I started to run into other hikers trying to get in or out of the canyon before sunrise (the temps were going to push 100 degrees at the bottom of the canyon that day). It was kind of cool seeing little headlamp lights flickering along the sides of the canyon as people made their way thousands of feet above and below me on the trail.
About half way out of the canyon it started to get light. This was about the same time that I crossed paths with a group of guys that were jogging down the trail. We exchanged hello's and I found out they were starting their own R2R2R adventure. We wished each other luck and continued on.
My progress on the next section after it got light was very, very slow. I was probably walking a leisure pace by most hikers standards for at least a mile or so. Definitely fighting fatigue at this point.
About three miles from the top I got a text from Susan (weird because I thought I had turned my phone off when it wouldn't give me the time earlier and because I shouldn't get any service in the canyon) that said that she loved me and was proud of me for what I was doing. This was special and much needed support. With the jolt her text gave to my emotions, I gained a bit of motivation for the finish. I was able to power hike/shuffle run the rest of the way out and ran the last switch backs up to the south rim.
When I reached the rim it was 5:50 am. It had taken me 10 hours and 35 minutes to complete the R2R2R this time (25 minutes faster than last time) and I had to work for every mile of it. I was exhausted!
All in all, it was an awesome experience. Starting as the sun set, running all night long with the beautiful moonlight dancing on the walls of the canyon and then finishing as the sun rose was more amazing than I can explain. I even got that feeling of total fatigue and satisfaction I have only gotten on really hard runs where I have so much emotion role over me at once that I feel like crying. It is an amazing feeling and if you have felt it you don't need me to explain. It is something to really savor. A person doesn't get that intense of a feeling often in life.
Yesterday I had a big time itching to run high up on the Peaks. The only trail that looked like it might get me above 10,000 ft. this early in the season was the Weatherford Trail. I have been watching this side of the peaks for the last few weeks, studying the quickly melting snow, and it looked like I might have a chance to at least get to Doyle Saddle, at 10,800 ft and 6 miles from the trail head, without too much snow.
I was way wrong. The trail was snow free for the first 3.5 miles but then a few patches of snow would show up in the trees and then after a mile farther anytime the trail went into a stand of trees (which was a lot)the trail would be completely buried with snow. It was tough to move quickly too because it was melting and slushy. I had to walk in some of the worst sections because running felt like way to much work with the snow covered trail being so steep and the tiring effects of my first run this year at such a high elevation.
No complaints though! It was awesome to be so high in the air. Running in the mountains is where it's at for me. Bounding along through breathtaking views of amazing mountain scenery with a shot of runners high...truly bad ass!
On the way down, I took an alternate trail that I always wanted to check out and it was the perfect ending to the run. It weaved it's way on perfect tight single track through a fairytale land of Aspen stands, alpine Furs and sprouting green alpine grasses. I can't wait to run this variation more this summer and fall as the Aspens change color and the grasses and ferns gain their full height!
In the end, it was a GREAT run (one of the better ones I've had in a while) and a bit of work too (I covered 12 miles and gained 2,800 ft. as the trail head starts at 8,000 ft.).
Fremont Peak (11,969 ft.) from low on the Weatherford Trail.
First patches of snow.
I really enjoyed the sections like this where you would be trudging along in snow and then come around the corner into the sun and be rewarded with a snow free beautiful trail again (even if it wasn't for long).
This was what the last couple miles to the saddle was like. Snow, snow and more snow.
Poser shot of me running onto Doyle Saddle.
The inner basin of the peaks from Doyle Saddle. Mt. Humphreys (12.639 ft.) is the farthest right peak in the photo.
View of Mt. Elden and town from Doyle Saddle. Mt. Elden (approx. 9,500 ft.) is the farthest big hill in the photo. Flagstaff is in the farthest upper right corner of the photo. If you look closely you can see the NAUSkydome.
For more information on the Weatherford Trail go here.
Today I went to...ummm...I'm not supposed to release the location we were at..."somewhere in Northern Arizona" for a bit of exploring with my friends, Andrew and Jeff. We found some cool sandstone boulders worth climbing on and got fired up to boulder on them even though we didn't bring our climbing shoes and crashpads. It was a good ol' time and nobody got hurt even though we took some good falls going for it on some dirt covered top outs. Yee Haw!
Me on a sweet overhanging arete problem.
Jeff trying a fun dyno problem on an amazing tower shaped boulder.
Andrew trying the dyno.
Jeff sticking the dyno.
Jeff climbing up the tower after sticking the dyno.
Only way off is to jump...nice spot Andrew.
The rock had some really cool texture and layering.
Friday, Susan and I snuck away for a quick couple of hours of relaxing at Shultz Tank up on Shultz Pass. The tank is situated between Mt. Elden and Mt. Humphreys at about 8,000 ft. and is only a 20 minute drive from our house in Flag.
I have been spending alot of time running trails around the area of Shultz Tank (Sunset Trail travels right past the tank) so it was nice to spend time at the tank relaxing instead of running past it all the time. We had a great time relaxing, watching some horses that were feeding and drinking at the tank, throwing sticks for Shiloh and taking in the sights. It was really nice up there.
Here are a few shots of our time at Shultz Tank...
Horses in the background.
Susan laying down the rules to playing fetch with Shiloh who was acting like a spaz the whole time.
Peaks in a bit of a smokey haze...the forest service is doing prescribed burns right now.
Probably not that exciting for seasoned runners...but I ran 101 miles last week! I ran 14 miles (mon), 17 miles (tue), 25 miles(wed), 12 miles(Thur), 28 miles (fri) and then 5 miles (sat)=101 miles and pretty much all on trails.
That was the first time I had run that many miles in one week and it wasn't easy. I do feel good today though. I thought I would be really sore for much of the week and instead I just felt drained (to be expected). I never really got sore. The last few days it was difficult to get the energy to run for the first 45 minutes or so and then I would warm up and feel pretty darn good as long as I didn't try to run too fast. In fact, the day I ran 28 miles I felt really good at the end of it.
I'll have to keep up the training...next big day of running will be a night time rim to rim to rim in the grand canyon by moonlight if my schedule works out to make it happen. I would love to try to break 10 hours and it will be really, really cool to do it by moonlight...start with sunset and end with sunrise!
Oh yeah...here is a photo of some antelope I saw by the road on the way to the Grand Canyon a couple weeks ago when I ran the S. Kaibab to Bright Angel loop. Always good to post some photos...
I think these guys are pretty cool to see in Arizona.