Monday, April 26, 2010

Grand Canyon R2R2R

This past weekend I took part in what is on many ultra runners “Bucket list” of runs to do, The Grand Canyon R2R2R.

I went with James Barstad who organized the trip. James has done the R2R2R 3 times. He handled all the camping reservations and overall logistics. This made all the difference and took away a lot of the stress of doing a run like this for the 1st time. THANK YOU JAMES!!

There were 15 runners in all on the trip. Most carpooled up together, I elected to fly. The weather prior to the run was uncommonly cold and wet like the weather we have had in Sacramento. The South Rim where we were camping and starting from had been receiving intermittent snow. The day before I arrived the group had freezing temps in the teens and snow.

I arrived Friday around 5pm to temp’s in the 30’s with a light wind which made it colder, thank god for down jackets. James took me to scout the Bright Angel Trail where we would be finishing. This would give me a chance to see just how bad my “issues” with heights would be tested the following day. The picture in my previous post was taken at the TH. From there you can see down pretty well. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, regardless I was ready to give a go.

R2R2R or thereabouts

The plan was for a 5am start at the South Kaibab TH. We would then follow the trail to Phantom Ranch. From there we planned a side trip to Ribbon Falls, then on to the North Rim TH. The return trip would be up the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim and done.

Due to recent injury, lack of running and the need for a vacation I decided I would only do Ribbon Falls, (30ish miles). Others were already doing this also.

The morning came quick and we headed out a little behind schedule at 5:40am. James’s sister and nephew drove us out so a car was not left at the TH.

I really like the South Kaibab Trail great views and great trail. Right from the start it was straight down. We stopped often to take pictures. So far no real height issues, but I did hug the sides a bit in a few spots.

Later after having gone up Bright Angel Trail I can say I like South Kaibab more than Bright Angel Trail. The views in my opinion are much better on South Kaibab. I could tell on the trip down I hadn’t run much, the legs and hips were stiff. My injury area was stiff, but no real pain.

On to Phantom Ranch with a short stop to top off water, etc. The temperatures were very cool. I had stripped my long sleeve off but could have left it on.

We continued onto the North Kaibab Trail. The going was good and we were all together talking and taking photos. I found out later what felt like a flat/rolling trail to Ribbon falls actually climbs 1000ft in 5.6 miles. It’s never flat on this run. The creek we followed up the canyon to the Falls was roaring the whole time.

Ribbon Falls

This place is magical, you see it from the main trail, but up close, WOW. Once inside the Falls enclave the temps drop 10degs and air becomes moist. I would highly recommend visiting this place if you come to the Grand Canyon.

After a lot of photos and video we headed back out. At this point we had been on the trail for approx 4.5hrs give or take.

On the return to Phantom Ranch I felt the best I had all day. I had some GI issues that finally cleared up at the Falls. The trail pulls you downhill, but no too much so your can run normally without effort.

I left my fellow runners telling them I would wait for them at Phantom Ranch. I ran a relaxed yet quick pace which felt good. I could tell my body was remembering what it felt like to run.


The group came back together soon after I arrived at Phantom Ranch. After a great siesta and the ubiquitous Phantom Ranch Lemonade (YUM) we headed out. The weather was still great, maybe 80 deg with a light wind. Sitting at Phantom Ranch I got a little cold.

The bridge crossing we did next was probably the first real heights issue I had so far. Your up high over a churning Colorado River on this swaying galvanized steel bridge where some of the grates move and are loose, nice.

After the bridge I began the ascent up Bright Angel Trail at my own pace. My plan was to run/hike my own pace to see what I had in me. As I had done all day I was taking a butt load of photos, the terrain just begs for it.

My Garmin later told me the told ascent was just under 10 miles, but the maps say its 7.7 miles from the river where I started recording.

From the bridge to Indian Garden I ran more than I thought I could. The erosion controls and switchbacks on the Bright Angel Trail really start to bug you after a while. If you’ve done Mt. Whitney the 99 switchbacks are cake in comparison. I was wishing for an iPod a few times going up.

Near the top I could tell I was a bit off my water/salt, a cramp hit and slowed me for a bit, but I was able to shake it off eventually.

The Bright Angel Trail is very popular a few miles out from the top I was seeing a lot of people on trail. It was especially funny to see people at mile 2 using their cell phones on the trail. I even passed a guy playing a video game on his iPhone, so much for enjoying the great outdoors.

Once I was up top James’s family were waiting to ferry runners back to camp. With all the uphill I declined a ride so I could run some flat terrain to shake out the legs. Once back in camp the $2 shower was heaven.

Later when the R2R2R group returned they said the North Rim was awesome. Sounds like the R2R2R is on for 2011.

On the way home I had time to kill in Flagstaff.  I hung out in Flagstaff's historic downtown, my kind of place.  They have gear shops and lots of great food and drink places.  Check out my reward for the trip, that's right, a whole lot of cheese and bread:

and of course a margarita

Personal observations:

We got lucky with the weather, had it been normal temps, ouch much harder day. Make sure you have what you need.

If your going to do this try to go with someone who knows the trail or has done the R2R2R before. James’s info and planning made the trip a lot less stressful.

Treat the route as you would any big event, train for it. I didn’t do the whole thing, but it still hurt the next day. I heard people who did the whole route say it was harder than Miwok 100K.

This was a great trip, made even better by the great people I was able to hang out with. Make sure you have fun if you attempt a R2R2R. I want to do a R2R2R, but even 30+ miles in the Grand Canyon was an epic.

Here are some photos, I uploaded them backwards so go to the end to see them in chrono order:

Photos at Flickr


The Grand Canyon

I got it last night, what a trip. Snow, COLD temps, even in the bottom of the ditch. 
Here is a taste, a report to follow later today:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Melisa's AR50 Race Report

My good friend Melisa was part of my Ultra Training Group for AR50.  This was her first 50 mile race.  Melisa was the pet project for Kirk and I.  Here is a little backgroud.  Melisa was VERY new to running.  With no running background Melisa comlpeted her 1st marathon and race in December 2009.  Melisa completed the C.I.M in 4hrs+.  This was done on minimal training due to injury.  She spent the final training weeks in a cast, see what I mean.  She approached me about AR50 and off we went.  Here is her race report she allowed me to post.  It's an epic that will put you right into her shoes.  If you want to run AR50 one day, this report is for youI was very honored to be a part of her day.

American River 50: My Journey

Race day was here!!!! I wanted to get up at 3:45am to get ready, but I could barely sleep and woke up well before the alarm went off. I was up at 3 a.m. I rode with Anthony and Jim and Lily dropped us off at the start. We meet up with Greg and Kirk and than we headed to the start. We meet up with Pam and Paula, Mark, and Ralph. Anthony gave me a huge hug and wished me luck and off he went. The rest of us were just talking away when we heard a horn and off we went. We ran together for a few miles than Pam made a break for it and I never saw her again. Paul took off and Jim did as well. Pretty soon I was running by myself and we hadn't even gone 2 miles. I was not feeling that great when I started running my right side flared up, hip (butt pain) and low back pain which made running pretty painful.

I soon saw Mark and caught up to him, we talked for a bit until he speed up, and I couldn't keep up. At this point I turned on my Ipod and listened to music. I reached the first aid and refilled my water bottle. My hip wasn't feeling great and I was still in a lot of pain. But I continued on at a slow shuffle a little bit slower than I originally wanted to run. I made it to William pond aid station at 8 miles or so, and I was just cruising along when I heard "there she is" in a familiar voice it was Anthony who dropped out due to a injury, and than there was Lily taking pictures.

Anthony asked if I wanted my long sleeve, I said no, took it off, and gave it to him. He said I looked pretty good and asked how I was feeling; I told him I was hurting. He said it was probably just the bike trail no hills with the same muscle groups being used. He would have Tylenol at Sunrise for me. I ate a half of peanut butter sandwich, downed a GU and kept moving forward.

This aid station was special because it was run by Fleet Feet. I saw Jenny and the crew who yelled for me, cheered me on, and took photos. I picked up my pace thinking it would help loosen me up; it seemed to help for a little bit, but I also knew I had a long ways to go. I would be lying if I told you that I never once thought about DNF, because I did a lot during that stretch to Sunrise, but I just kept going, knowing that Anthony and Lily would be there.

I reached Sunrise and again I heard Anthony “there she is" I saw Lily taking photos and Anthony had a thumbs up or thumbs down. I hesitated for a second and put a thumb up, I walked over to them with watery eyes and Lily kept taking photos while Anthony worked on my right side, rubbing it out. He gave me Motrin a salt tab and said I could do it, keep going it’s the bike trail making you feel this way. Lily told me to think positive.

What a huge inspiration it was to see them both there waiting with aid that I so desperately needed. And to just think in the morning I was cracking jokes at Anthony for packing a zip lock of pills. But I sure did use every last pill he packed. Thank you Anthony and Lily.

Anthony and Lily walked me to aid table where I refilled my bottle and ate half a peanut butter sandwich and I was on my way. I still had my music on which kept my mind distracted and I plugged ahead. I knew at mile 18 my entire family was going to be there. I just kept moving forward.

As I was coming upon mile 18 I looked at my Garmin and noticed I was way ahead of pace. 20 minutes faster than that what I had original predicted. Then I started getting sad that I was going to miss my family. But I came around the bend and saw them, I waved and immediately my spirits were lifted. I ran to them smiling the biggest smile of that day. Bradyn (my nephew) made a sign that he wanted to say Trick or Treat and Quinn was there with Lianne and Dan and Michael and Jenny and Kristina and Brent. Brent sprayed me down with sunscreen and I stopped to say hello. Michael said I looked really good, better than I did at CIM. Lianne took a picture and off I was after giving Bradyn and Quinn a hug.

Up the Hazel Bridge I walked and the bluffs which was huge, I had been waiting for this part. What a huge mental relief to be climbing and using different muscles. I power walked the Bluffs like I was in no pain, because by now it was a dull ache. At the top of bluffs was aid, but I was a little delirious here. They didn't have peanut butter (I didn't see any) but they did have Paydays. I grabbed a Payday, downed a Coke and grabbed a GU. I was off, feeling a little better and descended down the trail like a bat out of hell.

I kept it in control until we met back up with the bike trail. Here I choked down a GU and walked a bit and ran some more. I came upon the single track and also a conga line. There were about 5 runners total in front of me. The pace slowed down, almost to the point where it was painful for me. But slowly one by one they stepped aside to let us pass and next thing I knew I was leading the line, with one guy saying: “OK someone has to take the lead and pace”. That would be me, very welcoming. I took lead of the group and took us up the hill power walking it, at the same time passing others who seemed to be just getting up the hill. I was feeling strong and mentally positive. That all came crashing when I re-connected with the bike trail.

I don't know what it is but that bike trail took so much out of me, mentally and physically. But all I heard was just keep moving forward and I did. I approached Negro Bar aid station and here they announced you name which was uplifting to hear #416 Melisa Mahon. At this aid station just like the rest I ate peanut butter and jelly, downed 2 Cokes (small cups), grabbed a GU, and filled my bottle and off I went. The next aid was Beals where I knew Lily and Anthony and my pacer would be waiting for me. A surge of excitement came to me at this point because I knew I would be changing my shoes, shirt and hat. Sometimes it’s the small things that keep me going.

I just kept moving forward. I was feeling OK not great but OK and realized that I was running a huge hill. What the hell was I thinking I was on auto pilot which could have cost me, I quickly re-grouped and walked and took in GU and drank some water. I need to pay attention that was a huge hill.

Mile 26.2 was emotional because I knew at that point I was very close to Beals. My body was on auto pilot again and I wanted to walk but my brain said no, keep running. I listened to my brain and ran into Beals, I rounded the corner saw the clock and when I went under I was at 4:55, 5 min. faster. I had predicted 5 hrs, I was on pace.

I saw Michelle, Lily and Anthony. Anthony immediately told me to sit down, took my shoes off, Lily applied body glide around my shorts, Michelle gave me a cracker with peanut butter, Anthony rubbed my legs down, They all said I looked good only later to find out I looked like crap. I felt OK but was delirious. Anthony cracked my back, rubbed my back down and noticed I was extremely tight, reminded me to try and stay relaxed. He than asked me if I was cold, I said I was freezing out there, I was silent then. Lily asked if he had his arm warmers, they were trying to figure it out, when I quietly piped in I had a pair of arm warmers in my bag. Lily quickly ran to the car and got my entire bag, Anthony put my arm warmers on and off Michelle and I went. We hit the aid station, Michelle grabbed my usual while I filled the bottle and we hit the single track.

Once on the single track I was talking a bit, asked her if I took Tylenol and an S cap (salt) and if I ate. I couldn't remember anything besides the huge hug I gave Lily and it felt like I collapsed into her. Michelle said yes I did all of that and it was her job to make sure I continued to do that along the next part of the course. It was great running with her. She would keep me chatting, so I could forget the pain I was in from my hip and right side. She kept me eating and hydrated because I had stopped drinking water.

Along the way though she was asking me what was working food wise and talking about food made me nausea, solid foods became my enemy. Each aid station though Michelle made sure I ate and drank some Coke. She ran me from aid station to aid station. At one point along the way, I stopped talking completely and she immediately told me to eat something, I said I could do a GU, but nothing else. My stomach was a wreck.

We hit mile 30 all too soon it seemed or maybe not. She just kept me going, when I needed to walk we walked, which wasn't that bad, and got me running again by lightly asking "you want to run?" She kept me on my goal pace in between aid stations.

Granite Bay went by in a blur, as did most of the rest of the race. I was on auto pilot. She got me through Twin Rocks which is gnarly terrain with lots of step ups and downs. This is where I had her take the lead. The ups hurt but not as much as the downs. My right side was screaming at me but we kept moving forward. We approached buzzard cove where here I heard they had ice cream. This aid station is boated in and hiked up the hill side. And like I heard there was ice cream. Once there they said they ice cream I laughed and the attendant said "you laugh?" "yes" I replied," I have heard so much about the aid station." I filled up on water and I think Michelle grabbed some food for me and we moved forward. The next aid was only 3.47 miles but it was a long 3.47 miles.

Horseshoe Bar aid station was approaching, you could hear the drum and that motivated me and kept me going. It felt like it took forever to get there. But we made it up the big hill with people cheering. One of the aid attendants took my bottle filled it I ate some sandwich walked 5 ft to the trash can saw the bathroom and realized I should use it. After using the port a potty I was standing at the top of the hill looking down to where I needed to go and just stood there. Michelle asked if I wanted coke, I looked back at the table and said "it’s too far." (5 ft really it’s too far????) But like a true trooper she said "don't move I will get it." I didn't move and just kept staring, she gave me my coke I drank it threw the cup a way and stood there some more. Mentally here I was fried. I heard her say "OK let’s keep going, let’s try walking forward" and physically I felt my body move forward. Down the hill we went, the coke kicked in because pretty soon after I was running at a very steady pace.

I knew Rattlesnake was the next aid about 3 miles and from there it was, another ten miles to the finish. I had already come so far mentally physically that it seemed like we booked it to Rattlesnake Bar. We ran the last 3 in I think. It sure did feel like it. The encouragement along the way from Michelle was fantastic.

At Rattlesnake Bar it was like a party. A ton of people were cheering you on saying go blue team (we wore blue shirts) go fleet feet. We rounded the corner and I hear Anthony “there they are." He and Lily were there totally surprised we had come in so quickly. They thought they had at least 30 minutes because Pam who was ahead of me the entire time just left. Again I was confused at this aid, I wondered in circles the aid attendant filled my bottle and told me to eat something, I wondered over to Anthony, and Lily was getting finalized because she was pacing me the last 10. I had to go to the bathroom waited in line for an eternity, but the ladies in front of me were nice enough to let me go next. Thank goodness because my legs were getting very stiff. Here I felt like I was in high spirits only 10 left, piece of cake. 10 miles left out of 50 I can do that. Lily had everything I needed Michelle gave her valuable information, as to peanut butter was working nothing else was besides GU. Tylenol and S cap in 45 minutes. Anthony had me walk with him to the hill, he said "I look a little low on energy, drink Coke at the aid stations, walk this hill, and at the top run." He also said "he knew I would bounce back from my previous low and I looked good." That is all I needed to hear, those were golden words. Just seeing them was fantastic. Here is where Michelle hands off to Lily.

Lily and I power walked the hill, and at the top I took off like a bat out of hell. The last part of the single track we were holding steady with 10, 9, 8 min paces. Wow after 40 miles I can still run an 8 min pace on rolling terrain. Yes I sure can.

Lily did great, she ran behind me and all I really wanted to do was walk, I was emotionally spent. I wanted to walk so bad. But Lily was behind me and that was all the motivation I needed. I did have a tense moment where I yelled at her. She was giving some great advice in hindsight but after 40 miles I didn't really want to hear relax your arms, elbows in. I yelled "shut up", she did. Lily I’m so sorry about that.

She made sure at 45 min. to see if I wanted s cap I refused. She made sure I ate at the aid stations and cleared the trail for me of the slower runners. I was on a high here only 8 miles, than 7 miles, 5 miles I told her. I knew what was coming and I planned it out in my head. The last 3 miles a vertical climb. We hit the gravel road, and I immediately told her 2 GU’s, I inhaled those GU’s, power walked the gravel road and asked her if she was ready. I wanted to get up that 3 mile hill and own it. I told her the plan and off I went. I ran and ran and ran. I started walking, Lily told me to go without her if needed.

I approached the final aid station at Last Gasp 47.22 miles, the attendant sprinted down the hill and refilled my bottle, I was walking and thought if he can run so can I so I did I ran to the table. The guy there saw me standing and said if I kept walking I could use the trash can up a head. I didn't see it. So I did, that was all I needed. I walked to the trash can threw my cup away and off I went.

Lily never saw me again. I was gone. I was so motivated to own that hill. I did own that hill, as I passed runners (walkers) they cheered me on saying good job, I told them good job, and I kept going like Anthony taught me cutting back and forth as the road curved. next thing I knew I heard the voice (Anthony) " No way!!!! Where is my wife??? I just pointed behind me. He was thrilled; he was surprised to see me. “You left your pacer?" Big smile on my face as this hill was effortless for me. He ran down to me told me to toss my bottle and I did. I kept running up with Anthony by my side, encouraging me telling me Pam was maybe 35 seconds ahead. I could catch her. That was motivating. Up the hill I went. I saw in chalk .5 to go. It was emotional to see, just knowing that I had come so far and overcome so many obstacles to get there. .5, stay focused I told myself own the hill. The entire time Anthony was there. I quickly rounded the corner and a little down hill and than my final hill the hill most everyone walks. Not me I crushed it effortlessly, the spectators couldn't believe, some of their mouths dropped open to see me running here. Cowbells were ringing, people cheering it was overwhelming. I passed runners and than there it was the final stretch I could see the finish was within reach.

I kicked it into high gear, and was determined to finish strong. Than I saw Anthony some how he made it to the finish to take photos. Kirk called out "great job kid" and I was across the finish line. I did it, I ran my first 50 miler.

I was overwhelmed. I couldn't believe. My body went numb I didn't know what to do. I wondered through the finish shoot for at least 5 min. Julie (race Director) congratulated me, I was given my finishers jacket, and they took my race chip off. I did it.

I ran 50 miles, overcame the highs and the many lows, and kept pushing forward as I have heard throughout the training. It is amazing how mental this run was and how physical it was. It is amazing how you can overcome the mental and push your body like you never thought you could. I am so grateful for my family and friends for being there. It was emotionally up lifting and kept me moving forward just knowing they would be there. Only the rare few will complete this epic journey, and I am one of those few. That journey is mine and one that will change my life forever. Just keep pushing forward. You can achieve what others think you can't.

Thank you to my friends and family for their support during the many long months of training and for putting up with my many highs and lows during training. Without you this wouldn't have been possible.


*** If you look at the photos from my last post, Melisa is the runner I've got my elbow jammed into**

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Well the groin issue I've had for a bit make it self known at the race so I dropped.   Any other year I would have been super pissed off.  But I'm not, my injury enabled me to crew my training group, which was more fun and rewarding than another AR50.

Everyone in the group finished with smiles on their faces.  A great day was had by all.  Looking at my photos I would say my new name is "Unabomber", see below:

But I give full service crewing to my runners:

More to follow later.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

American River 50

Well I'm in full taper mode, which SUCKS!  On top of that a werid hip pain I had a week ago flared up Monday.  Nothing like having to walk home from a run because of pain.  It's some sort of strain right where my thigh meets my nether region.  It's a fun sort of stabbing ice pick in the leg type pain, just what I need right now, SIGH.

I'm doing the normal R.I.C.E routine and Vitamin I to clear it up.  It feels better today so I'm upbeat it will be good by Saturday.  Sitting at my desk does not help so I'm trying to get out of the office more.  It's an interesting spot to hurt.  Nothing like laying ice near the nether region to wake you up.

*** Note to my training group Peeps*** 

I found some 2009 AR50 pictures, note the disembodied hand giving me a PBJ.  Remember to eat.