I Am the Worst Blogger Ever
I say that because I'm always so far behind on updating this. So much happens, so little talked about, so much missed. Or is it? You tell me. Did you miss me? Didn't think so. Funny thing is, I started this website and wrote in it for months and months and never even told people I had it. It was an outlet of sorts, a place to consolidate my thoughts, my aspirations, my frustrations and a place to dream. It still is but as life piles it on more and more with each passing week I feel more burdened by the internet and all it encapsulates. Good and bad.
So for the sake of my dozen loyal readers...ok, just my Mom. Here is an update on the Arizona trail scene, my unrelenting mission to run myself into the ground, and why Monsters are better in the form of mystical beasts than in aluminum cans.
This is going to be very random. Probably weird. I can't guarantee you'll enjoy any of it. But you clearly have nothing else going on right now or you wouldn't be reading this. Buckle up. I just slammed a Mountain Dew.
Running Circles Around Monotony
After running Cascade Crest in late August I didn't make it to another race after that. I missed Man Against Horse, skipped Cave Creek Thriller, passed on Pass Mountain and bailed on McDowell Mountain. All races I planned on running going into the very week of the race but never actually signed up. Why? No idea. One is definitely spending the money on a race I wasn't totally thrilled about. Sure, the guys always have great shirts but I have dozens of race shirts. Running 31 miles just didn't appeal to me all that much and I was becoming more and more interested in the 25-30K distance. So with each passing day I'd gain more confidence and yet never actually test it. All the while I was training for the Mogollon Monster 100 test run on December 10th. After that was snowed out and postponed until May I was really bummed. So how do you go from running a mountain 100 to two weeks later signing up for a 24 hour race on a flat, 1 mile loop? Again, I'm compulsive...and I like to try new things.
Across the Years is a classic of classics. Lots of history, lots of extremely talented runners. A totally different breed of runners than what I've come to know as "ultrarunners" but no less talented or unique. So how was running around in circles for 24 hours? No idea. I made it 7 miles before I knew I had doomed myself into a full day of boredom. I hit 22 and thought maybe I'll just jump into the little trail side lake and drown myself. Mile 34 came around and I started walking just to talk to someone new that I was coming around the circle and hadn't yet met. By the time I reached the 45 mile mark I had lost every ounce of motivation to continue. I'd walk it in with my good friend Honey and I called it a night. 50 Miles. 10 hours. That's enough for me.
Physically I felt great and actually felt even better as I reached the 50 mile mark. I simply did not have the heart to continue, I had no goals, signed up for the race that morning. It was fun, I met some great people and would certainly recommend the race to someone else that likes the flatter courses or loves timed courses. Me? Probably won't do it again for some time. Like next year.
Castle Hot Springs 22 Miler- Jan 7th
Paulette cruising down the road
Another race in the series that Arizona Road Racers puts on along with the Mazatzal 18 Miler. This one is 22, all roads and circles through a remote area of central Arizona and one I'd not visited yet. It was a small group but not unsurprisingly the same 40 people I see at every trail race or ultra. I was excited to see how I would handle actually "running" 22 miles straight and with the 2500 feet of climbing it did add another element of difficult to it. I finished it in 3:16 or so with Paulette which was good for 7th or 8th. It's a pretty low key, non-competitive type race so not sure anyone was racing, I know Paulette and I weren't. Just a nice day out in the desert. A classic Arizona race, I'll be sure to make it next year as well.
Superstition Wilderness 50K - January 14th, 2012
Weaver's Needle coming up to Parker Pass
I love the Superstition Wilderness. Just on the eastern edge of the Phoenix metro area its so accessible and visable for many residents but nearly everyone is clueless in what is held behind the mountains hovering over the city. Behind that wall of rock is a 180 mile network of wilderness, completely replete of people, as inhospitable an area as you can find in this country and as unforgiving as it comes. Yet with that comes a beauty that isn't matched by many places either. The rock formations, the varied vegetation, the sunlit canyon walls as the sun rises over the mesa. The desert is a beautiful place if one just gives it a chance, opens their eyes and welcomes the experience.
This year we had a group of nine taking the loop around the western and most frequented (see: Runnable trails) trail systems. The course climbs a total of 4,500 feet in exactly 31.1 Garmin miles while passing several ridges, steep descents, big climbs and fast, winding, single track.
We had the National Trail Champion David James, Angeles Crest 100 winner Paulette Zillmer, stud thru hiker/ultrarunner Anthony Culpepper, fresh off his 5,000 mile/9 month loop from Arizona to Montana and back. My friend Michael Duer from Tucson, who I ran with in our friends 50 miler up Mt. Lemmon last year made the trip with his friend Sarah, both great, fast ultrarunners. Jon Roig returned again, always up for anything unreasonably difficult, with so little apparent effort it makes me want to double my monthly mileage after every trip with him. Jeffrey Bryant, the "old guy" of the group who claimed he would be falling behind but was always right on our tail. Then my brother Noah who put in 5.5 miles of running since August came out and ran the 25K first half. Pretty standard for him, knocked it out and kept up with us the entire time. Always impressive no matter how many "off the couch" adventures he does with me.
We all finished in about 30 minutes faster than last years time, all smiles and only 9 of us were bloody when we finished. The rocks are unavoidable, catclaw your worst nightmare and you can't get away from any of it. This year felt a little less overgrown, maybe less rocky? I could be delusional though as I run on rocks every day and I'm more used to them than most. Usually when I take people to the Superstitions they love the utter beauty of it but can't wait to get done because the area is so technical. It's Arizona. What's NOT technical here?
Old Dudes Rule
Like how I snuck Scarlett into this post? She's always relevant...
STEFAN BEHR 71
RICHARD BUSA 73
ROBERT CALABRIA 70
JEAN-JAQUES D'AQUIN 71
EDWIN DEMONEY 73
JOHN DEWALT 73
EDWIN FISHMAN 71
WOLFGANG GEISTANGER 72
AARON GOLDMAN 74
RALPH HIRT 71
SHERMAN HODGES 70
GRANT HOLDAWAY 75
BILL HOLLIHAN 73
DON JANS 71
LOU JOLINE 71
BUDDY JONES 72
DICK KAMINSKI 70
RICHARD LAINE 70
LEO LIGHTNER 70
LINK LINDQUIST 70
CHRISTOPH LUX 78
ROBERT LYNES 72
JERRY McGRATH 70
FRED NAGELSCHMIDT 70
STUART NELSON 70
DAN PIERONI 70
RAY PIVA 74
JOHN PRICE 71
EPHRAIM ROMESBERG 75
SAM SOCCOLI 70
KARSTEN SOLHEIM 73
BERND SPRING 70
WALT STACK 70
OJARS STIKIS 72
BEECHAM TOLER 70
MIKE TSELENTIS 71
DIETER WALZ 72
ROSS WALZER 71
JONATHAN WILLIAMS 86
EDWIN WILLIAMS 70
TOM WOLTER-ROESSLER 78
CARL YATES 70
IRIS LEISTNER 78
HELEN KLEIN 75
BARBARA MACKLOW 74
ELDRITH GOSNEY 70
Know what this list is? This is a list of everyone over the age of 70 years old that has completed a 100 mile race. It's an unofficial list compiled by ultrarunner Dan Baglione whom I met and ran with (walked...) at the Across the Years race. One of the many interesting guys and girls out there with a massive running resume that makes you want to quit your career, and become a running vagabond to try your best to catch up to his accolades by the time your his age. He's one of the many guys like Karsten Solheim, and others that are over 60 and still rocking it hardcore. The beauty of Across the Years is the depth of dedication these people have. I met a guy from Washington, Fred Willet, who has the body of a 57 year old (his age) as you would expect. A nice round belly he's worked hard in earning yet he was pounding out the miles with a consistency anyone would be excited about. After a while of running laps I saw Fred, shirtless, in the mid afternoon of his SECOND day and sparked up a conversation with him. He's 57 and he plans to run a sub 3 hour marathon when he turns 60. Amazed and honestly a bit surprised based on his outwardly non-in shape appearance I asked what his current marathon time is.
"4:20 but I walked a bit so I could practice for this."
Somehow after a few more minutes of running and talking with Fred I no longer had a shred of doubt that he would accomplish this. One story after another I hear from one person after another about determining something they want in life, setting that goal and by God, sticking to it until they reach it. I know Fred will do it, he's just that kind of guy. Later that afternoon, several hours later I was running past Fred and as I passed him I said as I tired, "Fred! I'm fading here!"
Fred's reply? "The HELL YOU ARE!" A command with such a definitive tone you can't deny it. You're right Fred. I'm not tired. To hell with fatigue. I'm going to go faster.
It was worth another five laps of effortless running.
Many people I work with or I know use age as an excuse or reason for being as out of shape, unhealthy or incapable of certain things. They can't do this or they can't do that because they are "old." Which often or not is late forty's or fifty's. Hardly old.
"Oh to be young again."
"I remember when I was young and could do that."
All of it.
I do half my training with a 52 year old mother of 3 that has run Hardrock and races ultras all the time. Dave Mackey is the 2011 Ultrarunner of the Year. Older than almost every other Top 5 runner out there by a decade. Karsten Solheim (on this list) is still hammering out 100's and he was born a year or two after Moses. My point is, I'm not skinny because I run and my coworkers aren't fat because they are old. I'm fit because I train not because I'm skinny and my coworkers can be every bit as in shape as they want to be. Nothing is stopping them but themselves. Age is irrelevant. This list proves it. These people aren't "crazy," these people are living their lives as they want to, as they should and as they deserve to. Good for them, I hope to be in their shoes later in my life.
The Mogollon Monster 100
Kind of nuts that the trail is kind of like this...
I'm going to go out on a limb and make the statement that directing a 100 mile race is harder than RUNNING a hundred mile race. It's a lot of logistics, planning, organizing, budgeting and bureaucratic nonsense.
And I love it.
As much as it takes, the hours of planning, I know this race is going to be something special. The trails are amazing, views incredible and I'm confident the pieces are going to fall into place. I was disappointed after we had to postpone our trial run in December but now look forward to the May 5th running in weather a good bit more similar to the September date. Prior to that I plan to make several trips getting video of trail sections, additional photography, marking and planning for the coming race. With each big 100 selling out, going to a lottery, I think it's going to help the Monster fill to it's 100-125 capacity the first year and give everyone a good sized competitive field. There is a lot of interest, my email inbox remains filled and the offers to volunteer keep coming in. Check out the race website www.mogollonmonster100.com for more info. I'm the proud owner of a GoPro Here 2 so look out! Video's coming soon!
So What's Next???
Training buddy Matt dominated with a 4:24...he's a road runner my ass.
I ran this race last year with a wicked cold, 103 degree temperature and bailed after the 25K mark. My only DNF. Ever. Kills me to this day. I have to return. I'm going back. http://www.getoutgetlost.com/1/post/2011/2/san-tan-scramble-race-report.html
Next after that the following weekend is the 12 hours of Camelback, a maniacal redundancy up and down Echo Canyon for 12 hours or until you fully tear each ACL. So I'll try to make it to that...
Following weekend is the Grandpa Jim's 50K. Up Cholla, down Echo. Over the roads to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, up Squaw Peak, around Circumference Trail and across the Trail #100 to the North Mountain Visitor Center. My home ground. My trails. My Mountains. If I don't win I'm going to become a professional badminton player. Ok, I won't do that but I train on these mountains, can hammer the super, super technical descents and hope to do really well at this event.
Two weeks later I'm running a 55 mile backcountry Superstitions run with Jeff Jones and a few other brave souls. Repeat of last years run plus a few miles to retain the original route. I have my reservations about a few of those sections and repeating them again but ultimately I just love the Superstitions too much and have a hard time saying no. It's my heroin.
The following weekend (I can see my overall times plummetting about now..) is the Mesquite Canyon 50K. This hopefully will be my third straight year running it, lots of climbing, great collection of runners. Competitive, hilly, technical, hot, snakes, boulders. Should be just as exhausted at the start as last year following a Superstitions run but I don't want to miss it so I'm already signed up.
After that? Who knows? A beer under the sun at a Spring Training game?
Let's hope so.
Did I Really Just Do that AGAIN?!!
The Grand Canyon is a place to see. The Grand Canyon is not a place to see from the railing of the Visitor Center. You need to get in it. You need to be inside the belly of it. You need to spend a prolonged time in there, breathing, it. So many people come to that lookout at the South Rim, snap some photos on their nice little digital camera, eat at the lodge and head on out to Las Vegas or wherever their next stop is on their vacation thinking, "Hey, we saw the Grand Canyon!!" Sure you may have seen the Canyon, but you didn't experience the Canyon. The distinction is great and one that I've barely scratched the surface of.
A Double Crossing or Rim to Rim to Rim is fairly common now. I am by no means a veteran of the R2R2R but having done it four years in a row now I feel I’ve got a decent grasp on it. In just that short amount of time the number of runners seen on the crossing has increased, seemingly, tenfold. It has gone from taking the obligatory photo next to the "Don't Run Rim to Rim" warning signs to getting cheers from the Park Rangers along the way. With the explosion of trail runners, races and events this is only a natural occurrence given the enormity of the Canyon and it’s relative proximity to trail running Mecca’s like California, Colorado and the growing number of trail runners in Arizona. It makes sense, crossing the Grand Canyon is some of the most breathtaking, treacherous and humbling trail running in the country. Everyone wants a piece of it, everyone wants that experience, that bragging right, that accomplishment.
#4...Should be easier this time right??
R2R2R is no joke. It's pretty hard. Like, REALLY HARD. The first time I did the double crossing it was much the hardest thing ever I’d ever done. We did it in December, got 9 inches of snow dumped on us, freezing temperatures, and after 24+ hours, it basically became a Death March. The second time (surprisingly I returned) Perfect weather, and we hiked it in 20 hours, less misery, and more fun. My body actually functioned afterwards. (Kind of…) The third time? I ran it for the first time with some great Phoenix runners leading the way and finished a bit under fourteen hours. It was an incredible experience and one that only led to more and more. Like this year’s overnight excursion through the dark and the heat.
This year I’d be making the trip with fellow runners from Phoenix’s Wednesday Morning Running Club. An amazing group of seasoned ultrarunners that single handedly sold me on the sport the first morning I ran with them. Nearly every Wednesday morning since, I’ve been there and they’ve led me to adventure after adventure. This would be no different as leader Honey Albrecht took myself and five others to the South Kaibab trailhead in the Grand Canyon shuttle bus. Nearing the South Kaibab Trailhead you can't help but have this apprehensive feeling as you close in on the top of the Rim. You know that in just a few minutes you are going to drop off that ledge, hug that trail against the rock face and disappear into the rapidly dropping sun and not come back out for another solid 12 hours. None of it will be easy, not all of it will even be fun, but every step of it will be memorable. So we jumped off the bus and dropped off the lip of the Rim and started the long, steep decent to the Colorado River. It begins...
Is there a bat farm around here?!
Having never done the South Kaibab trail I was excited to see it and for a little change over the obnoxious steps of the Bright Angel trail. Sure, there are steps on the Kaibab but I loved the ridgelines in the dark and its own winding path leading down. Jody, Paulette and I headed down ahead of the other three ladies, in my mind trying not to hammer the downhill too much knowing full well how that will feel in 40 miles. We regroup several times until we all fill waters at the quiet cabins of Phantom Ranch before taking off for Cottonwood in the dark.
Phantom Ranch to Cottonwood
This section through “The Box” has gotten a bit easier with each trip down. Possibly just because I run so much more but the gradual uphill to Cottonwood is a nice run, very pretty in the daytime and very dark at night. Counting off the bridges along the way and closing in on the box canyon before reaching Ribbon Falls is a great run if sometimes it is lost in the bright circle of your headlamp. With only 4% of a moon we had nearly absolute darkness along the way. We had a brief break on a bridge with the canyon walls close to each other, the silhouette of the pitch black canyon walls on each side with the incredible amount of stars was nearly worth the trip in itself. I stared at that view, head leaned back in disbelief. You forget how much you don't see when you live in the city. But there it is. Proof yet again of why to run the Canyon.
Cottonwood to Jam On!
The ups and downs of ultrarunning have always amazed me. Sometimes more the up’s than the downs. Those times where I’m I'm cracked out on caffeine, headphones are blasting so loud I'm sure to create a new kind of cancer and I'm running at a pace that isn't sustainable in a 10K let alone running 50 miles. I'll probably never learn but it's those brief few miles that I'm having the most fun. The "fun" of course being clearly visible by my rock hopping air guitar as I pound out the drum solo with my Nathan's water bottle and free hand. Any bystander will surely think I'm on meth or some other narcotic but really, it's just music and running. It’s a marriage that was built to last.
The two miles from Cottonwood to the base of the North Rim were some of the most fun miles of this trip for me. I lead the way, hit a great Warren Haynes jam of "All Along the Watchtower" and having coincided with a Double Latte Powergel???....look out! There were more than five occasions where I literally said out loud, over my headphones..."almost fell.." Yet I kept going and it felt amazing. Like, really amazing. The kind of miles that you use in your mind to forget the other miserable miles that you want to become a professional piano player and burn your running shoes. Yeah,..those miles.
Slave to the Music
So after the water stop at the base of the Rim we started our march up the Rim. Head down, here it goes. Let's get it done. Paulette and I alternated pulling everyone up until the two of us switched at the bridge crossing and she pushed hard all the way to the top. She is a climbing machine and she was a great help in just maintaining pace and pushing hard to get there. The North Rim is gorgeous but in the dark it's more dangerous than fun given any slip and you're dead. And not like a "Jeremy's exaggerating dead" but more like "splattered on some rocks dead." After the bridge crossing though you'd probably just fall and break some legs or something so it's just pushing on and dealing with the incoming cold temperatures as you reach 8,000+ feet. I was cold at the Supai tunnel but didn't want to stop and put on my long sleeve. I put a hat on, threw on some tunes and followed the Sherpa to the top as my arms froze, hands went numb and I started to take a few steps down into my self-doubt dungeon and the surprise pity party that was about to happen. Right about then my headlamp with brand new batteries started to die, (probably made in China), so I was about to be lightless coming down the North Rim in 30 degree weather with 3 hours of darkness left. Where was my spare light? In my backpack. In Honey's truck. 23 miles away. I'm an idiot.
Paulette and I spent a cumulative 1.2 minutes on the North Rim shivering uncontrollably before we took the decent down. I went the first dozen or so switchbacks on my weak headlamp barely able to discern dirt from root from elk. Pitch black with my light on its last leg? Not ideal. I started to worry a bit as Paulette pushed on and I had to slow down to A) Eat this Powerbar before I crashed big time and B) Slow down so I didn't face plant into a rock. I worry a lot about taking bad falls yet I rarely, if ever, even fall.
Luckily I caught up to Paulette (she probably just stopped...) and we decided to go with her handheld flashlight as our light source and I turned off my headlamp to save what was left. Her flashlight was amazing and we took off down the Rim, me as close as I could so I could see the trail in front. Running with no moon and a light in front of you hidden by another runner is quite difficult. Often times if I fell behind a step or two I was running blind so I had to look far ahead and almost memorize the logs, steps, roots, and big rocks so when it came to me I at least knew it was there. It was a bit sketchy for a while but kind of fun at the same time. At the Supai tunnel I took off the long sleeve and took the time to put the extra batteries Paulette had in my headlamp and allow us to run separate the rest of the way down. Weird, someone brought extra batteries to a 12 hour night run? Again, I'm an idiot. I had extra batteries AND an extra headlamp in my backpack. In Honey's car. Again…20+ arduous miles away.
Enter the Dungeon...
I've yet to make it on a 6+ hour run without taking a trip to the Dungeon. What's the Dungeon? It's the place where my mind goes when I'm tired, hungry, sore, and 100% sick of running wondering why I stopped playing baseball and took up ultrarunning... It's the place of self doubt, regret, negativity and pity parties. I try to make each visit a brief one. Sometimes a sandwich helps, sometimes a banana is all it takes, and sometimes...it's just a random runner along the trail in the same situation. One way or another I always seem to take a trip to the Dungeon. This trip was no different as I made the decent down the North Rim, hungry, tired and now nauseous.
Luckily it would be relatively short lived as we ran into our friend Jon Roig about a third of the way up the Canyon. He was supposed to leave with us at 8pm but had to work and drove up separately, started at 10pm and ran solo in the dark until he met us. After running a 50 mile race last weekend. Stud. So coming down the Rim and running into a familiar face is always nice and quickly brought me a few steps closer to leaving the Dungeon. Jon turned around with us and Paulette, Jody, Jon and I finished off the North Rim with some nice downhill running. It took a little self drive to knock off those two miles into Cottonwood but once there you know you are just a gradual downhill to Phantom and then a steady, if not monotonous, climb out. Then you are done. Sectionalize the run and it's all simple. In theory at least.
Are we seriously going to Ribbon Falls??!
The four of us left Cottonwood in a walk hoping the other group would catch up to us soon. That was our excuse but secretly I think everyone just wanted to walk. It was 4:30am and we'd been at it for 8.5 hours and closing in on 24 hours awake since most of us left for work the day prior. As dawn started to break across the valley inside the Canyon I started to feel so much better. It had nothing to do with rest, nutrition or any caffeine but simply from the breaking light across the Rim. It was a new day, and we were closing in on the finish. I was nearly done with my pity party and would soon be feeling much better. But not yet...
We hiked our way to Ribbon Falls and when Jody asked if we had been there I foolishly spouted, "I've never been." That quickly turned into us making the short 1/2 mile hike to the falls. I hadn't said a word in an hour and the first words I say add mileage onto this trip? Again, I'm an idiot. I had zero interest in adding mileage or seeing a waterfall or hiking any incline or decline at this point in the trip. I was in full on "mute" mode. I wasn't speaking, I wasn't laughing, I wasn't contributing anything at all to the non-stop conversations that Paulette and Jon were having .(Which incidentally it was quite impressive how long they maintained a steady conversation. They seemed to have talked from the North Rim all the way to the South Rim. Non-stop. It was fun to just listen to them as I slowly made my way back into reality.) The door to the Dungeon was locked and I couldn't find my way out.
After a brief visit to Ribbon Falls (which as it turns out is pretty cool, at least what I saw) we started running again. Slowly at first as nothing was feeling particularly great. I didn't have any blisters, no bad chafing, and my stomach was for the most part pretty ok. It was just my motivation that was low but after a half mile my body got back into the rhythm, the music started feeling good again and away we went. The Box of the trail is one of my favorite and least favorite parts of the R2R2R. For one it's nice trail running, gradual uphill on the way up the North and on the way back it's gradual downhill to Phantom Ranch. Yet on that gradual downhill you are over 30 miles deep in the run and a good deal of it looks very similar so you find yourself thinking, "this bend of the river is the last one" or "this bridge is the last one." Your mind, or at least mind, gets ahead of itself and you get excited and let down, get excited and let down. Always looking for the bridges, counting them, waiting for the next. In the last couple miles into Phantom I started to feel really good again, my legs started to stretch out with the music and after Paulette stopped for a shoe tie I went out front. I pushed, on occasionally looking at my Garmin to see how far we had to Phantom and realizing that my watch said 5:15, 6:36, or 7:22 minute miles. Given we had been chugging along at 12 minute miles it was ridiculous to be going sub 6 minute miles, even if it was only for a hundred feet. But it sure did feel great and as I pushed on through the last bridge I briefly thought about slowing down for a jog into the Ranch but instead punched it and nearly sprinted into Phantom Ranch to the looks and bewilderment to the tourists and campers brushing their teeth and drinking their morning coffee. It would be, hands down, the most fun I had in the entire trip. Stretching out the legs, flushing out all that stagnant energy in the body felt so great. Sadly, that is probably how the Killian’s, Geoff’s, Anton’s and Koerner’s of the world always run but for me, for those brief miles, it felt fast and wonderful. The question would still remain though, would that brief spurt kill all remaining reserves for the last climb out??
Phantom Ranch Part II
The four of us all met back up at Phantom, Jon was right behind me the entire way in holding the same pace, and we started right out for the last 9.5 miles to the top of the South Rim. All of us having done this before, we knew it was a long slog to the top with no real way to take a lot of time off it with all the switchbacks and elevation gain. So it becomes a simple task of head down, plug away. And so we did.
Everyone's spirits, including my own, were much higher as the sun rose steadily and those rays of sunshine and Vitamin D hit off our faces. We hit Jacob's Ladder (if that’s what you call that devilish switchback hell leading into Indian Gardens) and we knocked it out non-stop and pulled into Indian Garden sooner than I had thought. We weren't there but 2 minutes when Liz came powering through, a member of our original party we thought was over an hour behind us!! As it turns out they were, but Liz kicked it up a few notches after Phantom Ranch and pushed on alone. Now there were five of us in our own kind of mule train power hiking to the top. It's a long haul but with all the tourists coming down in the morning there was more than enough interaction to keep me interested and off the annoyance of the high steps and erosion bars along the trail.
As we progressed up the mountain, closer and closer to our goal, the pack of five separated slowly and Liz and Paulette pushed to the top with Jon in front of Jody and I. We all finished within minutes of each other, past the hoards of international tourists, day hikers, unprepared hikers, mule trains, and little kids excited for their first trip into the Grand Canyon. We were grimy, dirty, salty, beaten, tired, weary and they all knew it as they passed. They knew we were not campers, we were not day hikers, we were not tourists.
Dozens of times people along the trail would ask where we started, and when we started. Often there was hesitation from the group in how to answer the question presumably not wanting to sound like we were bragging (or crazy.) Sometimes a generic answer of "we hiked down last night" or "a few hours ago" would come out of someone’s mouth. Other times a straight answer of "we left at 8pm last night from South Kaibab and went over and across, 46 miles ago." That answer nearly always draws immediate interest and disbelief from the casual hiker, sitting there trying to get their head around the concept of running that distance all at once, as they sit there with their 30 pound REI pack on their shoulders. They stand bewildered as most of us did when we first heard about people that did 50K's, 50 Milers and 100 mile races. "No way." "Not possible." "You can't be serious." Yes, yes we are.
As more and more people make the R2R2R trip I'm sure it will be less a surprise to people when you tell them just exactly what you are doing or have just done. More people are trail running, more people are making their way to the South Rim for their "Rite of Passage." So it will then become less impressive I suppose and a notch on the belt that more people have.
Until that day though R2R2R is still a bit of a novelty, at least to me. It's still that little something in the back of your mind, that knowledge of yourself and what you can accomplish. It breaks you down but builds you up. You can feel totally undertrained, beaten and broken during the run but by the finish you feel capable of anything, stronger than ever and more confident than you were when you first stepped foot of the top of the South Rim.
No trip to the Grand Canyon is like the last and no trip will ever match the next. They are all singular events, experiences in running, nature and friendship. Cliché yet true and reason enough we all forget that last climb out and the long winded excursion through the "Big Ditch." Instead we sign back up each spring, fall or year and repeat the endeavor. Somehow we forget just how hard it was the last time.
So I will again, quickly forget that trip to the Dungeon, that brutal decent in the cold and that long, winding, never-ending Bright Angel trail to the top of the Rim...
Because I want to be there again this Fall for a whole new experience.
Phantom Ranch Part II