Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Grand Canyon RECAP (LONG)!

This run was one of the most beautiful, breath taking, & challenging runs I have ever experienced and here is how it all began & ended.....

I came back to my running group last April / May after healing an injury for a few months and had begun overhearing talks about some of them going to the Grand Canyon. As time went on and I became closer w/ these girls, I began asking a lot of questions about when they were going, training, etc & eventually Seth & I ended up tagging along for the ride! We began our official "training" for the Grand Canyon back in February by joining the Fleet Feet Ultra Dirtbag training group as they were training 50k and half race in May. We got the 50 mile program & trained as best we could for the next few months (no training can truly prepare you for the North Rim climb though!). Finally, the day came for us to travel to AZ to run from South Rim to the North Rim & back to the South Rim (hence Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim).

We arrived Monday night in Phoenix, AZ and drove to Flagstaff for the night making it halfway to the GC. Tuesday afternoon, we headed to El Tovar hotel in the Grand Canyon to meet our group. There ended up being about 17 of us (only 14 of us ran). The night before Seth & I spent preparing the following:
Food for Tracy (you have to pack out all trash, so it was easier to have in plastic baggies):
4 packs of Bonk Breaker Chews (each pack has 8 & is 180 calories)
5 Honey Stinger Waffles (various flavors)
2 1/2 PB&J sandwiches (I broke these down into halves in little snack packs)
2 packs tailwind (1 was in my front 2 bladders & the other in a plastic baggie until I was ready for it)

Food for Seth:
4 Grab the Golds
4 packs of Bonk Breaker Chews
3 snack baggies of Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels
2 packs tailwind
3 PB&J sandwiches

Gear Worn Tracy (Seth pretty much had the same stuff):
Nike Tank
Nike Shorts
CEP compression socks
Swiftwick Socks
Nike Wildhorse Trail shoes
Salomon Hydration Pack
Buff (to wipe sweat)
Fleet Feet Visor
Tifosi Sunglasses
Garmin Forerunner 235 (only lasted 13.5 hours)
Body Glide
Thin Jacket from REI (one that could easily fold & fit into pack)
REI gloves
Black Diamond headlamp
Small first aid kit & blister pads

Temps: 45 at south rim to start/ High of 88 in the bottom of the canyon
Distance: 50 miles
Elevation gain: 10,800ft

I think I ended up eating almost everything in my pack, but did have some leftover. Christi Beth had sent us the following below that tells you how far apart the bathrooms / water stops are, so we were prepared for a bathroom / water break almost every 5-6 miles.
We headed to bed extra early on Tuesday and had a 2:30 am wake-up call to start preparing for the run. We met in the lobby at 3:15 am & had a short walk to the trailhead to begin at 3:30 am (it's worth it to pay the extra $$ to be at El Tovar when you're finished for an easy walk back to the room)!
We began our descent on the South Rim and were all in good spirits. A few people took off ahead, Christi Beth was leading the fast pack & we could see their head lamps bobbing below. I took off w/ friends, Andy, Jenn S, Gareth, & Drew, but all of the sudden I looked back & didn't see Seth, so I stopped & waited for him & a few others. Once they caught up, Roy lead our way down the path. We chatted along the way and eventually came to the first stop at Indian Gardens. Truth be told, I didn't realize our group would already be split so far apart & I was a little upset some of the others wouldn't be in any of my pictures, but everyone had different goals. Some wanted to run fast, some wanted to run slower, some wanted pictures, & some didn't take any. At Indian Gardens, we stopped for the bathroom / water (this is about 4.5 miles) and when I came out, our friend Jenn S was there! I guess she had stopped at the previous bathroom (about 3 miles in) and thought others would, but no one did, so she was VERY happy to catch up to us & we were too! The 6 of us (Seth, Me, Corrie, Sam, Roy, & Jenn) stayed together for a large chunk of this run. Here's some morning pictures!
Going down South Rim into the tunnel....
 Seth, Sam, & Roy coming down the Rim
 Indian Garden Stop

 Sun coming up over the Canyon
 Sam & Roy @ Indian Gardens
We then ventured on to Phantom Ranch (about 9.5 - 10 miles in) & were still in good spirits. We made sure to drink LOTS of water & ate every hour.
Sam & Seth on the way to Phantom...
Sam, Corrie, & Jenn
Looking at where we are going far in the distance...
Corrie & I
Finally made our way to the River!
Such beautiful morning views..
One of my favorite pics
Seth & Roy by the River!

We finally hit Phantom Ranch & stopped to use the bathroom, fill up our water, & eat some PB&J halves. Then it was onto Cotton Wood / Ribbon Falls!
We had a couple bridge crossings along the way...
Here they come, running down the dirt path
I loved all the different views / colors at different times of the day along the formations
Here comes Seth!

Another shot of Seth on the trail
It looks so far away........!
Finally hit Ribbon Falls...
We had a few creek crossings as well!

Then we hit Cottonwood for another bathroom & water break!
Then it was time to climb the North Rim. This is about a 6,000 feet elevation gain & very steep
I was a little bit ahead as the climbs / hikes were my strongest part of the entire run & I stopped for a selfie of course.
About an hour later I started feeling a little sick & really had doubts about making it back, but I really did not want to quit. Seth caught up to me and told me to stop & eat some more PB&J, so I sat down for a little bit, ate (I could hardly get it down) & then got up & kept walking. The key is to just KEEP MOVING on these climbs. We saw so many hikers coming down & I kept asking how much longer until the top. Some said 2 miles, one said 5 miles, one said almost there & one finally said you have exactly 4.7 miles. We were so defeated by all the differences that I think it got into our heads & made us all rethink coming back down. Our heart rates were rising & we were struggling to get to the top, but I knew at some point we would see our other friends coming back that had been far ahead of us & I was right. I heard Christi Beth & Jen coming down & CB said "you have 30 minutes" and she was exactly right. We then saw some of the other guys they said they all felt so bad going up, took a break at the top, and felt MUCH better coming back down .When we got to the top, one of the guys with us had his parents there & they were ANGELS. They had water, gummi bears, coke, tailwind, pretzels, trail mix, beef jerky, etc. They provided hope to all of us, encouragement, & fuel. It was everything we needed. Afer I got up there, Seth, Corrie, Sam came through, then Jenn & Roy. Each of us really struggled during the climb. I was worried about a few of us, but I knew we could all do this & had faith everyone would feel better after the break & refueling! It was freezing at the top, so I put on my jacket, had some coke, ate a PB&J half and headed back down w/ Corrie (we only took 10 minutes and needed to just keep walking).
We took pics on the way back down at the Overlook.

And kept on descending where the rest of our group caught up to us.
We were in much better spirits coming back down, but my feet were beginning to hurt. We were headed back to Cottonwood / Ribbon Falls. When we got to Ribbon Falls, some lady had told us earlier that there was a path to a waterfall that we could take and it would dump us back onto the trail skipping what she called "Asinine Mountain," but we realized quickly that it was going to add on more mileage & this put me in a bad place. I was really ready to finish this run, so when we tried taking this other "route," the path didn't dump us back onto the trail exactly. Sam had to carry each one of us across the water & then we climbed up a rock wall to get back onto the path & it was quite the adventure. Jenn S & I were not very happy about our "off road" tour Sam was giving us, but we got over it & were back on our way!
 Heading back to Phantom Ranch felt like the LONGEST 8 miles. We were all getting a bit defeated and kept thinking it was around every corner we turned. We finally found it, but man, it just felt REALLY long. We tried to get back to Phantom Ranch in time to get some lemonade, but they were closed when we arrived. We all sat down, ate some food, & headed back on our way once again.
Corrie showing us the way..
Waiting to get to Phantom Ranch
 The group traveling through the mountains
 Back over the bridge...
 Finally made it back to the river
 And then it was onto Phantom Ranch where we took another stop. After that, we were SO happy to only have about 10 miles left. Corrie was in a little bit of a bad place at this time, so her & I walked up to the Bright Angel bathrooms & then waited for the group at the Bright Angel Trail where we began our way back!
Such a beautiful view!

 When I got to Indian Gardens I could not have been ANY happier to see the 4.5 mile mark. I was SO happy we were almost there. We saw one of our guys, Bob, on his way back & it gave me hope that we were close to being finished! We had been told to expect the last 6 miles to take 30 minutes per mile (so about 3 hours) & it was pretty true. When I heard that, I thought it was crazy, but by that time you are so exhausted that it truly does go by that slow. Seth & I were ahead of our group, so we began the climb and I told him to think about every 30 minutes was a mile. Seth was really struggling at this point, so I was trying to encourage him along. It was getting dark & cold again, so I really wanted to finish, but my achilles tendon was giving me a lot of pain on my left foot. I couldn't get much food down because I was just so ready to be done. I had eaten another PB&J half around 7 pm (about 5-6 miles left). I kept powering up, waiting for Seth here & there & finally we heard voices at the top from someone (I knew this was someone in our group seeing our headlamps). We finally ran into our friend Andy's son toward the top who said he had only been walking for 2 minutes (really this was like 7 minutes going up, every minute mattered at this point).....AND...

(Seth coming up from Indian Gardens)
 At LAST, we reached the top where our friend Russ and Roy's wife, Dar, were waiting for us. They were SO kind to wait & see everyone up and gave us the biggest hugs!! Seth & I hugged, touched the trail head sign & then waited for Bob to come up. I wanted to see everyone else finish, but they were still about 20-30 minutes behind & I was freezing and my feet were in pain, so I slowly walked back. I got in the shower and laid down in bed. I ate some soup & tried to eat a roll, but I couldn't get it down. I was exhausted & fell asleep around 10:30 pm.
And that my friends is my first experience with running Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim in ONE day!! I think this is something every runner / trail runner should experience if they can. It is so fun w/ a group & beautiful. It was so neat to be seeing the canyon at sunrise & sunset. My pictures don't do it justice & I haven't edited any of them yet, but hopefully this gives you some insight to our adventure or maybe motivation to do it yourself!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Engagement Party & AZ!!

We are headed to Arizona today w/ some Nashville friends to run Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim in the Grand Canyon. Last time I visited, I went with 3 girlfriends from Chicago and this throwback pic makes me that much more excited to get there! It's so beautiful & I'm looking forward to completing the 50ish mile trek!
This past weekend was very busy & the rundown went like this......

Started off the day w/ the Brentwood Breakfast Club from First Watch! I covered 8 miles w/ a little bit of walking in between at 9:05 average pace. I was kind of dying during this run, not sure if it was the humidity or being sore or what, but I didn't feel great & had to stop & walk a bit. Oh well, sometimes you just have a bad run..
My favorite salad from Potbelly, their chickpea veggie w/ non-fat vinegarette for lunch...
Followed by a mani / pedi (always apologizing for my yucky running feet)
And a car wash w/ Grab the Gold for a snack

Then it was finally time for my parents & some of Seth's family to meet each other for the first time!!! We ended up going to Burger Republic w/ the crew!
An elevator selfie in matching shirts after we got rained on while trying to take a walk!
Then it was time for Oliver & his cousin Rex to lie around...
That night, we were so blessed to have our friends & family at our engagement party given by my amazing friend, Andrea & her husband, Scott. It was a GREAT time and we were so happy to catch up with many people we hadn't seen in quite awhile! We're so thankful to all that traveled in for the party as it was a HUGE success. We can't thank Andrea & Scott enough for putting on a fantastic party. We felt so loved! I will have more pics from this later on once we get them from Seth's Uncle.
I woke up w/ quite a headache (a little too much champagne & wine!), so I thought I would end my weekend off with some brioche french toast w/ berries from City Fire in the Gulch. It hit the spot!
Now time to pack & get ready for our long awaited trip to the Grand Canyon & other parts of AZ!!

How was your weekend?

Did anyone race, run, or volunteer anywhere exciting?