High in Colorado

High in Colorado
Photo: Mandy Lea Photo

Monday, May 5, 2014

April 7-27—From the Desert to the Plains

Week in Review: April 7-13

Monday, April 7th
PM—11.5 Miles—1:48—1,900’—Angels Landing, Emerald Pools, Zion Canyon Road (Zion National Park)
Less than an hour after finishing the eight-hour drive from Telluride and gorging myself on a $5 Pizza Hut lunch buffet I decided it was a good idea to run up Angels Landing. The entire way up I was on the verge of throwing up, but I kept running until I hit the beginning of the easy scramble up to Angels Landing. From here on, I moved up at a steady pace. I stopped my watch at a collection of cairns near the far edge of the landing (this is actually lower than the true summit) in 30:32. I descended the landing quickly before falling into a relaxed pace on the steep, sharp, and paved switchbacked trail descent. I reached the trailhead with a roundtrip time of 51’ish minutes I think. From there, I headed over to the Emerald Pools, stopping to take lots of photos along the way. After the pools I rejoined the Zion Canyon scenic drive for about four miles of pounding the pavement at low-6 minute pace. 

The view from Angels Landing is well worth the effort

Upper Emerald Pool

Tuesday, April 8th
AM—8.5 Miles—1:41—2,400’—Observation Point and Hidden Canyon (Zion)
This is a fun, challenging run that’s 100% runnable. The ascent gets steep in a few places, but for short enough durations that you can just grit your teeth and grind it out knowing there’s relief not too far off. I reached the Observation Point in about 48 minutes. Not bad for a 2,400’ climb over four miles on tired legs. On the way down I noticed a horrible pain in both feet near my big toe. I was wearing a pair of 1010’s that I fixed with some ShoeGu. Apparently when the glue dried it formed hard, sharp objects that were causing blisters fast. This almost brought me to a crawl for a while. Running was not an option considering that each step of the pounding descent dug these sharp blister causers deeper into my feet. I stopped a hiker and asked for some tape. He didn’t have any, but he did have a sharp pocket knife that I used to cut out the glued portion of my shoe upper completely off. The relief was instantaneous—I could run again. On my way down I took a short detour to the Hidden Canyon. This was a shit show of tourons (tourist + moron = touron) who were scared to death of the minimal exposure encountered on this trail. Running wasn’t even an option. So I walked in frustration until I made it back to the main East Rim trail where I cruised the remaining switchbacks back to the parking lot. 
Looking back as I head up Observation Point

The views from Observation Point are also worth the effort. Looking down Zion Canyon with Angels Landing in the middle.

Another view down Zion Canyon from Observation Point

Descending from Observation Point
A much needed shoe surgery.

Another view coming down from Observation Point

PM—5 Miles—0:52—1,500’—Angels Landing (Zion)
My legs felt sluggish from the start. So, I decided to start off easy, be patient, and just see what happened. The trail starts off flat as it follows along the riverbed, but then it gets vertical pretty fast. I ran along at 7:30 pace for the flat part before I got into low gear and began grinding up the switchbacks. After crossing the bridge I was able to push the pace again on the reasonable flat stretch of trail before leading up to the Walter’s Wiggles switchbacks. Once again, I fell into a power hike here. It’s hard to justify the extra energy expenditure required to run these when the scrambling section is right around the corner. During the scramble I kept thinking about how slow it felt like I was going. Somehow, as I neared the top I was flirting with being able to break 30 minutes for the ascent. So I picked up the pace for the runnable section near the top and reached the collection of cairns in 29:55. My legs were a little shaky so I just coasted on the descent. 

Descending the "exposed" and "terrifying" Angels Landing
Wednesday, April 9th
AM—14 Miles—3:18—1,700’—Kolob Arch (Zion)
Nice and easy run on pretty tired legs. This was an incredibly scenic portion of the Trans Zion route that Ben and I missed out on in early March. On the outward leg the first five miles or so were pretty cruiser, with the first mile or two being a significant descent. The last two miles to Kolob Arch were mostly in a sandy riverbed, which sort of sucked since I was wearing my newly modified 1010’s (see photo above). I sat on a downed tree for 30 minutes or so, staring up at the arch, while enjoying a Cliff Bar that some hiker absolutely insisted I take from her. I wasn’t really in any hurry to tackle the two miles of sand again. After walking through most of the sand I finally hit the runnable stretches again. By this time the sun was out in full force and the water in my handheld was almost non-existent. Oh well, looks like the making of a nice little bonk. It ended up being exactly that. I was able to run the flats, but any uphill (no matter the grade) was not happening. Finally, on the last half-mile of ascent to the trailhead I was able to run again. I guess a gallon of cold water back in the Taco was all the motivation I needed? 

Running along a sandy riverbed to the Kolob Arch

Dam on Lake Powell
Thursday, April 10th
AM—15 Miles—3:01—4,600’—South Kaibab Trail (Grand Canyon National Park)
Overall, I took the descent pretty mellow. There were some fast spots, there were some super slow spots, but overall it was mellow. I stopped to take quite a few photos along the way as well. I didn’t really know if I would end up down at the river since my legs felt especially awful and I was also breaking in a brand-new pair of shoes. However, the farther down I went the better my legs and the shoes felt. So, I just kept going and next thing I knew I was crossing the Colorado River to Bright Angel Campground for a water break. I reached BA Campground in a comfortable 1:12, which includes the ~5 minutes it took me to cover the 0.6 miles from where I parked the Taco to the trailhead. After a ten minute bathroom and water break at BA I turned around to begin the arduous ascent—all 4,600 feet of it. I was cruising along pretty comfortably up to Skeleton Point before the constant uphill began to take its toll on me physically and mentally. Just below Skeleton Point I passed a couple hiking down. They asked if I would stop and take a photo with them. After asking if they were serious I told them I wasn’t going to stop in the middle of running up a 5k feet ascent, but they were welcome to run alongside me to take a photo if they wanted. They didn’t take me up on my offer. Somewhere above Skeleton Point I reached a steep section that finally reduced me to a power hike. From here on, the rest of the ascent was a mix of about 80% running and 20% power hiking up to the trailhead. The last series of switchbacks sucked per usual, but with a little gritting of teeth and grunting I was at the top before I knew it. After sitting around for 10-15 minutes to catch my breath I got up to finish the last 0.6 mile to the Taco. The heat today removed any thoughts of running R2R2R tomorrow from my mind.  

Sunrise on my drive to the Grand Canyon

When you're at the bottom of the Grand Canyon there's only one direction to go...Up!

PM—2.5 Miles—0:58—200’—Hike to Shoshone Point with Alan (Grand Canyon)
Alan wanted to get out and walk a little after driving 3+ hours. So I suggested we head out to Shoshone Point since I hadn’t been there yet. It turned out to be a great viewpoint with relatively little traffic compared to other parts of the Canyon. 

Friday, April 11th
AM—20 Miles—3:54—4,800’—South Kaibab, Bright Angel, Rim Trail Loop (Grand Canyon)
This is the third time I’ve done this loop. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite runs in the Grand Canyon. The only negative aspect of this run is that you hit two busy sections near each trailhead, you will almost certainly run into multiple mule/horse trains, and the Rim Trail is the very definition of a tourist shit show. I began my descent of South Kaibab at a good pace. I pushed the pace when the trail was straighter/smoother than average and slowed in the more technical areas. I’ve never actually descended the south rim recklessly or with any intention of a speed descent. As I closed in on the Colorado River I came upon a ridiculously long mule train. I had to walk behind the goddamned thing for a half-mile and almost 10 minutes—breathing in the pulverized dust they kicked up the entire time. When the wranglers finally let me pass I sped off in an effort to make up lost time. Just before reaching the river I was treated to a train of horses plodding along with tourists who seemed healthy enough to walk down the trail on their own two feet, but were on horses nonetheless. Fortunately, I was able to cross the bridge before them and reached the river in 0:58. Just after crossing the bridge there was ANOTHER train of horses with tourists on their backs. Ughh…I snagged some water at Bright Angel campground before hitting the Bright Angel trail to grind out the nearly 5k feet of ascent back to the South Rim. I hit the second river crossing in 1:04 and began the climb out. I was grinding along pretty effortlessly, occasionally fielding the questions from hikers who had seen me on South Kaibab yesterday. Eventually, I saw four beautiful women running down the trail towards me—it wasn’t that hot out so I didn’t think I should be hallucinating. Turned out to be Darcy, Krissy, and others. I knew they were running R2R2R, but expected them to use the South Kaibab trail for their descent. I stopped and chatted with them for a few minutes before parting ways. After a water stop at Indian Garden campground I began the last 4.5 miles up to the rim—the steep (fun) stuff. It’s a bit surprising just how runnable the Bright Angel trail is. Yes, it’s steep in places, but the steep grades don’t last for long. I reached the Bright Angel trailhead at the top of the south rim in 3:01 from the South Kaibab trailhead. I was hoping to sneak in under 3 hours, but given that the weather was 15 degrees hotter than average and my legs were fatigued I’m pleased. I still had four miles of pavement to get back to the Taco. I chose to use the interior park trails that are away from the rim in an effort to avoid people. I walked some parts of this since I was dehydrated and starting to get a little dizzy, but in 41 minutes I was back at the Taco guzzling water. Great day in a grand place. 

PM—4.5 Miles—1:45—1,150’—Hike to 1.5 Mile Rest House (Grand Canyon)
Alan was out running a R2R2R. So, I decided to head down a little bit to meet him on his way up. My hips felt like hell and my right foot felt like it was severely bruised. This limited my walking pretty significantly. I waited for Alan at the 1.5 Mile Rest House until about 45 minutes before darkness would settle in. At this point, I decided to head up since I didn’t’ want to stumble around in the dark with a bum foot. I spent a few hours near the Bright Angel trailhead waiting on Alan before leaving a note on his car and going to the Taco for a nap. Right as I began drifting to sleep I was startled by a pounding on my driver’s side window. I was relieved to see Alan standing there looking a little haggard. I joined him in his rental car to hear all about his R2R2R before parting ways. With almost all of the North Rim water sources off, it sure sounded like a brutal day out there…

Saturday, April 12th
AM—5 Miles—1:36—800’—Point Lookout, Knife Edge, and Spruce Tree House (Mesa Verde National Park)
Both of my hips and my right foot were pretty trashed. So, I stopped in Mesa Verde for an easy run/jog to try loosening them up a bit. Not entirely sure if it worked. 

Sunday, April 13th
AM—6.5 Miles—1:18—1.900’—Hogsback x2 (Durango, CO)
My friend Michele and her roommate Beau were kind enough to let me crash on their futon Saturday night. It was certainly nice to have a shower and relax after beating my body up the past week. I woke up a little stiff this morning because I’m not in college any more and apparently that’s the age cutoff for being able to sleep on a futon comfortably. I eventually loosened up and decided I would go see what the Hogsback was all about. I decided to take Beau’s dog, Kio, out with me for the first lap. As expected, my hips and calves felt like hell, but they loosened up quite a bit in the quarter mile run to the trailhead. There were trails zig-zagging everywhere so I just followed my instincts and kept going up. On the first lap I hit the summit in 21’ish minutes and completed the lap in 0:43. On the second lap I hit the summit in 21’ish minutes and completed the lap in 0:34. Not a bad day out considering how bad everything felt in the morning.

Weekly Totals
Time— 20 hours 15 minutes
Elevation Gain— 20,950  feet

Week in Review: April 14-20

Monday, April 14th
AM—6 Miles—1:09—950’—Fowler and Eldorado Canyon
David and I decided to try running the Eldorado Canyon-Walker Ranch lollipop loop. However, almost a foot of fresh snow made us rethink this decision. We turned around a short while up the Eldorado Canyon trail and retreated back to the car with the intent of hitting the climbing gym later. 

PM—Climbing Gym with David
I almost forgot how bad I suck at sport climbing. Almost…Fortunately, they had a crack at the gym that I could shimmy up easily. That made me feel worth something…

Tuesday, April 15th
AM—3.5 Miles—1:23—1,050—Partial 2nd Flatiron and Access Loop
I made it about 2/3 of the way up before almost getting knocked in the head by a chunk of falling ice. So I bailed off the side and finished a loop on the access trails before calling it a day. 

Wednesday, April 16th
PM—3 Miles—0:26—0’—Orrick Roads
I had to shakeout the legs after the always horrendous drive through Kansas. 

Thursday, April 17th
PM—4 Miles—0:24—0’—Orrick Roads
Trying to work the kinks out of my legs after all of the driving in the last week. My legs felt heavy and the pace felt slow. So, I was surprised to see that I hovered around 6 minute pace for this run. 

Friday, April 18th
AM—2 Miles—0:16—0’—Orrick Roads
Easy run to keep the legs moving.

Saturday, April 19th
AM—62 Miles—11:18—4,000’—Free State 100k (Lawrence, KS)
Hot and humid. Fell apart on the last lap, but held on for 2nd place. I may or may not write a little something about this eventually…

Sunday, April 20th
PM—3 Miles—0:35—0’—Orrick Roads
Ugh…This felt like death…

Weekly Totals
Time— 15 hours 32 minutes
Elevation Gain— 6,000  feet

Week in Review: April 21-27

Monday, April 21st
AM—2 Miles—0:21—0’—Orrick Roads
Legs still felt like crap, but I was able to shuffle a little bit faster today. 

Tuesday, April 22nd
PM—2 Miles—0:18—0’—Orrick Roads
Legs felt a little better. Ran a little faster…

Wednesday, April 23rd  
PM—4.5 Miles—0:56—350’—Stocksdale Park Trails
I thought my legs were feeling considerable better until I hit the first uphill section. Then I realized I have zero drive in my legs right now. I still puttered along for a little bit before calling it a day. Felt nice to get off the roads of Orrick. 

Thursday, April 24th
AM—8 Miles—1:03—0’—Orrick Roads
My legs finally felt pretty decent today. So, I tried a moderate paced run and they responded OK. The first four miles were into a headwind and about 15-30 seconds/mile slower than the last four miles. It was a fun little run in the rain. 

Friday, April 25th
PM—6.5 Miles—0:45—0’—Orrick Roads
I spent almost all day doing some extreme cleaning on the Taco. I decided to sneak in a quick run before my brother got to the house for a family dinner. This was a little loop around the farmland surrounding Orrick and ended up being a little over 6.5 miles. There were two railroad crossings that gain 10 feet or less, but that was enough to remind me how little drive my legs have on the uphills right now. Overall, I was pleased. I averaged sub-7 pace for the run less than a week after a 100k. 

Saturday, April 26th
AM—5 Miles—1:05—400’—Stocksdale Park Trails
Another slow going day on the trails. The uphills still drain the life out of me. I tried to open up my pace on a flat, straight section of trail to see what pace felt uncomfortable. I managed to hit about 9:15 pace before it felt like I was using all of my effort. I would typically run this around 6 minute pace or less. Still have some healing to do. 

Sunday, April 27th
PM—2 Miles—0:15—0’—Orrick Roads
A really easy day in hopes of having some extra energy in my legs when I arrive in Boulder tomorrow.

Weekly Totals
Time— 4 hours 46 minutes
Elevation Gain— 750  feet