Saturday, April 28, 2012

4/28/2012: San Francisco!

I had a work conference out in San Francisco this week, and I extended it to stay with Danny and Rachel, who are two of my favorite people in the world!

This morning I woke up early and had a very confused cab driver take me out to the Golden Gate Bridge.  From there I did a run that was probably somewhere around 38 miles from the Golden Gate to the top of Mt. Tam and back.

I had planned to only do 30 miles and have Danny pick me up in somewhere in the Marin Headlands, but the Golden Gate bridge entrance was under construction, so that would have been very difficult for him.  Luckily I felt great and was able to make it happen and meet him on the other side of the bridge.

It was an amazingly beautiful day for a long run in the Headlands.  It was in the 50s when I started and warmed up to the 70s, and there was not a single cloud in the sky.  Some other highlights were that I saw some pretty cool wildlife, which included:
  • A huge jackrabbit
  • Goldfinches
  • Hummingbirds
  • A giant slug that was about the length of my shoe
  • Snakes
  • Lizards
  • A mountain cat (which was a bit scary)
Today was one of those days where I could have run forever, and I had a massive negative split on the way back.  The return trip was over 30 minutes faster, which is a good thing as Brome may have given up otherwise and left me hanging.

Here are some pictures from the iPhone:

At the top of the climb from the Golden Gate bridge looking out at the Headlands in the morning

Looking out east towards Sausalito

One of my finer self pictures.  The mountain in the top left is where I am eventually heading.  It tops out at about 2,500.

Looking back towards the city across the Headlands.

Another picture towards northern Marin with Mt. Tam in the top left.

This was after I crossed Tennessee Valley.  I need to climb the closer ridge, descend down to Muir Woods, and then climb the mountain in the top right.

This was the top of the first ridge from two pictures ago before I descend down through some rainforest to Muir Woods.

Welcome to the Jungle!  This was a pretty awesome section of trail and where I found the mountain cat (maybe a bobcat?  maybe a mountain lion?)
After getting to Muir Woods I climbed up the famous Dipsea trail for quite a while.

After climbing the Dipsea, I traversed over to Pantoll and then climbed up the Old Mine Trail.  There were some fantastic views up there!

Unusually green up top after some spring rains.
I didn't take many pictures on the way back, so I am almost at the finish here and can see the Golden Gate bridge and San Francisco in the distance.

There were tons of wildflowers out on the trail.
Last view out over the Headlands before I ran down to the Golden Gate bridge and wrapped this awesome run up.

4/28/12: Training Update

This was a really good week of training and was one of the best I have had in quite some time. I covered over 95 miles with a solid long run in the mountains and a pretty decent tempo run.

Given that my training has been spottier than usual recently, this last week has gotten me thinking (always a dangerous thing). I have always been a fan of consistently hitting big training volume and felt I would lose the speed / endurance otherwise.

However, I seem to now be able to jump into high mileage weeks, handle runs with vertical, keep up the endurance, and maintain at least some speed without hitting it hard all the time. I am not sure what that means or whether I should do anything differently, but it certainly is a good thing! It also gives me something to think about in relation to overtraining, peaking too early before a race, staying injury free, etc.

Well that is probably enough philosophizing for now. Here are this week’s digits:
  • Saturday: 21 miles on DC trails at a moderate effort to test out the back (3 hours)
  • Sunday: 30 miles in the Shenandoahs with 7K+ climbing (6 hours)
  • Monday: 6.5 miles easy
  • Tuesday: 10 miles easy
  • Wednesday: 8 miles easy
  • Thursday: 12.5 miles with 4 mile tempo run. Started at 6:30 miles and kept speeding up. Last mile was in the low 5:40s and average pace was a little under 6:10.
  • Friday: 8 miles easy
  • Total: 96 miles
I also heard that D-Fitz crushed 30+ mile trail run over in Wisconsin. Rumor has it that the run was so easy he was about to go out and do it again before he realized he had to get to class. I may need to kick Dylan in the shin before the Ice Age 50 so I can actually keep up!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

4/22/12: Ice Age 50 Here I Come!

This has been a very, very interesting week of training. It started out great with 18 miles on Saturday, 22 miles on Sunday, and 13 miles on Monday. Saturday and Sunday included some fun running up really steep ski slopes in Michigan (apparently they actually have some steep hills there).

Then on Tuesday morning during a 10 mile run on my favorite trails around DC, my back seized up. Badly. I limped my way home and could barely move let alone run for the next 48 hours.

I felt my training had just really gotten going for the Ice Age 50, and here I was possibly injured only 3 weeks before the race. After taking Wednesday and Thursday completely off (which I hated), I did an easy 7 mile run Friday morning. My back spasmed once around mile 4, but otherwise I felt good other than being stiff.

I decided to postpone my 30 mile run in the Shenandoahs planned for Saturday and instead stick closer to home in case the back acted up. I ended up feeling pretty good and covered 20 miles on the local trails.

Of course that made me overly confident, and I rolled the dice and headed to the Shenandoahs for a tough 30 mile loop earlier today. It was the same route that I ran in early April last year, and I really love this part of the Shenandoahs.

Fortunately, I felt really strong and had a great 6 hour run. The downside is that it was in the low to mid 40s and raining the whole time. Not so awesome. But I got a lot of that character building that I always look for.

The only tough part was when I was in the higher parts of the route over 3,000 feet. I had banked on the foliage to shield me from the rain. But apparently nobody had told trees on top of the mountain that their leaves should be out. Stupid trees! I mean it was 80 degrees for most of March, and it is almost May now. Let's try to get our act together.

Training has been spotty, but it is good to know that the consistent base of training pays off. The fueling system I have now is also working wonders and really helps a lot.

So now I am really looking forward to running the Ice Age 50 with D-Fitz! He has been doing some solid training, and I think he is ready to be the fastest 50 mile runner wearing a cheesehead come May 12th.

Oh, and here is a picture from the run. With all the rain, there were no views to be had, and all of my pictures were pretty crappy. But this one below gives you a sense of how ridiculously green everything was.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Guest Post - Grand Canyon Adventure!

Guest post by Will's better half:

The masses have been clambering for a guest grand canyon blog post, so what can I do but oblige? A year ago, we booked our trip to the grand canyon for spring break, and in a year-long effort, Will convinced me that we should do a hike from the rim to the river and back one of the days we were there. I honestly didn't think too much of it until about a week before we left. I asked Will what we were planning on doing again, and then made my first mistake of googling the hike he was planning on dragging me on. Almost all results quite clearly state that one should NEVER try to complete our planned hike in one day under the high risk of death, injury, or sheer embarrassment of having to be one of the hundreds evacuated from the canyon each year.

After some discussion and further research, Will convinced me that I was in shape enough to complete this hike especially since it was April and the highs at the bottom of the canyon would be in the 80s instead of over 100 degrees. I also lobbied for hiking down the South Kaibab trail, but back up the Bright Angel Trail in order to have a little more reasonable ascent with a water stop on the way up. On Thursday, Will ran the South Kaibab trail to scope it out, and then we started preparing for our hike when he returned from his run. I asked our concierge at El Tovar about doing the hike and how much water to bring. He lived down at Phantom Ranch for 10 years, and he said this was a good time of year to do the hike and that 3 liters of water each would be plenty. That helped put my mind at ease a little more. And hey, if I got too tired, I figured I'd just make Will piggy-back me out of the canyon. We went to the store and bought a bag of trail mix, some clif bars, nuun for our water bottles, and the makings for pb & j (this was my excellent idea). We also rented trekking poles for me from the main store, which turned out to be very helpful. Thursday night, we packed up all our food, filled up our camelbaks, and tried to get to sleep early. In my camelbak, I had 3 liters of water, 3 clif bars, a first aid kit, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, a pb & j, a hat, and my trekking poles. Will had 2 liters of water, a few clif bars, 2 pbjs, trail mix in his cargo pocket, 2 handhelds with nuun, and he carried my camera bag. We were prepared!

I had a hard time sleeping because I was a little nervous, and Will had a hard time sleeping because I think the Thursday run took it out of him, though he wouldn't admit that to me until later. We woke up at 4:30 or so, drove to the trailhead, and got going at about 5:45. Friday night was a full moon, so even before the sunrise the moon completely lit up the canyon. We had 2 headlamps, but we decided to leave one behind because it was so bright. We never even ended up using the headlamp, but figured it would be good to have just in case our hike went past dark.

It was about 30 degrees when we started, and it was very windy. It was really windy on Thursday, but it was an east-west wind so as soon as Will got down into the canyon he said it was calm. Unfortunately for us on Friday, it was a wind from the North, so it was pretty windy almost all the way down. We parked about a mile from the actual trailhead, so we started out with a nice flat mile along the rim. We got to the start of the South Kaibab trail (pictured), where the trailhead sign once again warns us against trying this hike in a day. The trail was really steep, but it is very well maintained, so with my hiking shoes I never felt like it was slippery. It was much less technical than the hikes we've done in the Shenandoahs, so I gained a little confidence. On the way down for the first couple miles or so, the sun was rising, and every step we took the canyon changed color. It was truly amazing to see the light start to hit more and more of the canyon. At first everything looked really red, and then for a few moments during sunrise the rocks would look fire-orange. I started to get hungry for my breakfast clif bar pretty much immediately, but Will was a little chilly (he has so little insulation), so we powered on until the sun rose a little to warm us up and the wind died down.

The Kaibab trail has tons of steep switchbacks, and I was happy I was going down those instead of up. On our way down, a few runners passed by, and mule trains passed on their way up, but other than that the trail was fairly empty. I was really surprised by how many spring flowers we saw along the rocky, dry, red trail. There were lots of little wildflowers, but I think the most beautiful were the pink cactus flowers that we saw every once in a while.

At tip off point, there were bathrooms, and we met a few cowboys riding up giving their mules a break. The vista from this point was pretty incredible - even the panoramic shot doesn't quite do it justice. Looking up, I could barely see the rim, and looking down I realized how much further there was to go. Shortly after tip off point, we got our first view of the Colorado river. As we started to descend the last main set of switchbacks, the bridge across the river came into view.

In this photo, you can see the river and the bridge at the very bottom of the switchbacks.

When we got to the river, I was still feeling great. It was about 9am, and we made good time. I was definitely happy to start going up instead of anymore down, but I was feeling confident. We crossed the river across a very rickety seeming bridge, and hiked along the river towards Bright Angel Camp ground. Will asked me if I wanted to see Phantom Ranch, which would have added a mile or so. I of course felt fine, but with concern for my hiking partner, I decided to forego the extra mile.

I was really surprised at the bottom of the canyon how lush and green it was. There were all sorts of plants, and lots of lizards! While observing some lizards, we saw them do lizard push-ups. I've seen lizards puff themselves up before, but these guys seemed like they were just trying to rub in how great they feel compared to the tired hikers. We took a short break, filled up our water at Bright Angel Campground, ate a quick snack, and then continued on. We crossed another suspension bridge, but this one didn't have wood on the bottom, so you could see straight down through the rickety grates. I'm not typically scared of heights, but the view down through the bridge at the rushing Colorado river was a little head-spinning. At the bottom of the canyon, it was getting a bit warmer, so I took off my jacket. The layers I ended up wearing were perfect.

The trail winds along the river for about a mile and a half. It was really nice to be on flat terrain for a while, but by the end Will and I started wondering when we'd start hiking up. I knew I had to start going up sometime, so I really just would have preferred to start it out right away! When we got to the river resthouse, I broke out the trekking poles, which made carrying my camera much more difficult. As a result, we ended up taking many fewer photos on the way up - never fear though, we still took plenty. I needed every break I could take!

I think my favorite and most surprising part of the hike was the part from the river resthouse to Indian Garden campground. The Bright Angel trail was a totally different sort of trail compared to Kaibab. It was much more shaded and enclosed. Most of the time, the trail runs by a creek with lots of little waterfalls; there were multiple creek crossings with some rock hopping. There were lots of flowers, flowering trees, squirrels, lizards, and all sorts of wildlife. Will was in heaven; it was fun to experience Bright Angel trail together for the first time since Will had only run the Kaibab on Thursday.

About a half mile before Indian Garden, we stopped to eat our pb & j lunch and trail mix. I've never had such divine cuisine. The squirrels apparently agreed, as there was one little squirrel who kept inching towards us hoping for crumbs.

At Indian Garden, the trail started to get much more crowded. There's a place with water and lots of benches, and there were quite a few hikers resting, eating and moleskinning their blisters. I felt very lucky at that moment that I was having absolutely no issues with my shoes or socks, other than the fact that my shoes were layered with a thick red dust (they had been such a pretty gray and blue!). Around Indian Garden is about the first time I started feeling a little tired. My legs were definitely speaking to me, but I was hydrated and eating tons, so I felt good otherwise. From Indian Garden on, I felt that I just HAD to stop to enjoy the view quite a bit more than I did before. I think I must have said "this is so beautiful" a few hundred times, but it really was! Every switchback was a little bit of a different view.

So up we continued from Indian Garden. From Indian Garden up, we passed countless totally unprepared hikers. Families with no water, tennis shoes, etc. It made me thankful that we were so prepared. I did not envy their trek back up to the top! We were the bearer of bad news to most folks from about 3 mile point and up. Many asked us how far to the river, and we had to come up with a way to nicely tell them that it was already the afternoon, and it was a LONG way down and up again. In the next picture, the really small person is me. Will was taking pictures while I tried to leave him in the dust :)

After we got to the 1.5 mile resthouse, I really felt like we were almost there. I was really tired, but the end (top) was in sight. In the last half mile or so, I just decided it was probably best to get it over with, and I think my last bit of adrenaline kicked in, so I went pretty much straight up without too much break at the end. I had wanted to finish by 4pm, but then when it looked like 3pm was in sight, we were aiming for that. We got to the trailhead at 2:57 pm! I was very proud, and made sure to point out the part on the sign that warned against the very hike we had just completed. Since I am usually such a rule-follower, this was really quite the personal accomplishment for me.

When we finished, we asked a nice couple to take our picture, and then we celebrated by eating our last pb & j on a bench overlooking the rim. We walked back to El Tovar, and I promptly took a nap.

They say that once people hike the grand canyon, you'll either want to come back or never want to do it again. I am very happy to say that I'm in the former category (but don't tell the blog owner this or it may start to give him ideas); I am really looking forward to more hiking on our vacations this year!