Saturday, May 22, 2010

R2R2R report

I had been looking forward to this trip for months, as I hadn't been on a trip since Novemeber. Peter scored a wicked deal and gave the trip to me as a birthday gift. We flew out of Bellingham at 10pm Tuesday night and arrived in Las Vegas around midnight. Besides my all inclusive trip to Mexico when I was 20 years old, this was the second time the passengers busted out in a full on applause/hooting and hollering upon landing. We checked in to the Hooter's hotel which, for all the slack I gave it prior to the trip, was actually rather nice. We ended up with a smoking room and I was a little weary, but in the end, the anti-odor sprays they use are quite good and you would never have been able to notice. Besides, it was the only room left with a king size bed, something we had been looking forward to!

Peter was eager to go partake in a little bit of gambling, so I changed out of my comfy airplane/travel clothes and into my one 'going out' outfit and we hit the strip. The only shoes I brought other than my runners were a pair of red flats, and thus, I sported those. Last time we were in Vegas, Peter had a lot of luck at the Flamingo hotel Casino, so we made our way there. We only made it a 1/2 mile before my feet started killing me. I guess my feet and ankles had swelled up quite a bit from the flight and due to the shortness of the flight, I decided not to wear my compression tights. Big mistake. I had seen another girl walking the streets bearfoot and although I thought that was pretty nasty, here I was doing the same. It actually felt really good, until I peaked at the bottoms of my feet only to see them jet black. I tried putting my shoes back on once we got to the hotel but my feet would just be on fire from the pressure. All in all, we had a great night and got back in at around 2am. I washed the soles of my feet and we went to bed.
We woke up the next day feeling rested. However, I had 4 giant blisters, one on each pinky toe and one on each heel!!!!! I was furious and couldnt beleive that walking a 1/2 mile in crappy shoes caused this. I drained them immidietly and carried on. We hurried on over to the car rental place and picked up our Nissan Versa which would be our escort for the next 3 days. We stopped by whole foods and grabbed some goodies for the day/night. We went over to a cheap grocery store and bought a stirofoam cooler to keep everything 'cool'. After 4.5 hours, and a drive over the hoover dam, we arrived in the Grand Canyon! The first glimpse of the landscape is stunning and is making me even more eager to get running. I had only ran once (4 hours) in the last 6 days (I was out for 3 of those b/c of my fall) and I just wanted to start! We set up our tent and ate an early dinner and went to bed around 8pm.

The alarm on my watch woke us up at 4:20 and after assembling our things we were on the shuttle bus by 5am and beginning our run by 5:30am.

(I think I look a little dazed and confused/half asleep on the shuttle bus)

We met some nice folks on the bus as well as a 2 guys who were running the R2R2R themselves, however they had made the journey before. Without going into too much detail, we descended 7 miles down the South Kaibab trail. The trail was beautiful and I felt so lucky to be where I was today.

It started to warm up almost instantaneously and we both delayered into t-shirts. I could feel where my blisters had been in my heals and figured I should probably deal with them now before they get worse. We were not even half way down the hill before Peter was helping me tape those up. The tricky thing was I had already sport sheilded (sport lube) my entire foot as to prevent any friction from worsening the once blistered area. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill, the second skin had already made it's way down to the bottom of my foot.

We stop again and Peter goes to town on my feet. He makes donuts out of moleskin and uses duct tape to keep it all in place. From there on I felt good to go.

We passed 3 older guys (later 60's) who looked like season ultra runner's and were also doing the R2R2R. We stopped for water at Phantom Ranch which was the first water stop after the descent.

Here they have cabins/dorms where hikers can sleep as well as a mini restaurant. The next couple of hours were my favorite. The terrain was extremely runnable and meanders all along bright angel creek.

The temps were already starting to heat up but the breeze from the creek made it all that much more tolerable. Before long we were starting the big climb up to the North Rim. This was a long climb/hike and by now, it was hot, real hot, and really exposed. We finally made it to the top but the water pump was broken so we ran another mile to a campsite to fill up. I checked on my blister taping and again, it had slipped down. Peter to the rescue, he patched me all back up.

We headed back down the trail and passed by all those we had seen going up. We ran back into the older men that were out for this fun adventure as well. I wondered how they were doing and how long they would be out here today. The run back down flew by in a flash and before long we were back to the 'flats'. The trail seemed way longer going back to the south rim however, and the heat was starting to take it's toll. The heat was getting to Peter a little bit as I think he got a little behind in his hydration. We stopped many times to soak our caps and cool off. I savored every bit of shade that was given to us. I was drinking so much water I almost feared I was drinking 'too much'. Alas, I think it was the perfect amount. I was alternating my fuelling between Gu Gels and Gu chomps and that seemed to be working well. I haven't practiced using the chomps on any long runs but really enjoyed the break it provided from the gels. I think I'll stick with this for western states.

We breifly stopped at Phantom Ranch on the way to the South Rim to grab an ice cold lemonade. I remember reading Devon's blog about her R2R2R experience and the lemonade they had at this same spot. I couldnt help but want one, really bad. As much as I wanted to keep moving, the break was nice, and so was the Lemonade. We continued on along the bright angel trail. Peter was lacking the motivation to run much anymore, and considering the heat, I was happy to power hike. The next climb was long, really long. It's less steep than the initial descent we took at the start of the day but because of that, it's longer, and takes longer. It didn't matter though because the scenery was so stunning. We had layers of giant rock to our left and the colorado river to our right. As rafter's went by, I imagined myself swimming in it, and how good that would feel.

The climb had a lot of water stops, which was great and it broke up the climb really nicely. I couldnt help but continue to stare up at the top of the North Rim, which looked so far away and wondered how we were ever going to get up there.

My nutrition plan got a littler thrown off after having the Lemonade and there was a period of about 3 minutes where I just got cranky and tired. I quickly realized I was bonking and consumed a bunch of chews and came back to life, chipper as ever.

This part of the trail was completly shaded and thank god, because it would have been even more of a slog than it already was. I am not complaining though because it's hard to think negative thoughts when surrounded by this kind of landscape!

(At the end, looking quite fresh I'd say)

I was so excited to reach the top. We both were. We hugged, high fived, kissed, and collapsed. Ok, we didnt collapse, but we did sit. It took us 11 hours (with stopping my watch) or 12 hrs and 26 min (without stopping the watches). My blister dealings made for a slightly longer day, but that's ok, lesson learned. I wore flip flops for the rest of the trip!!!

We had reservations at 9pm (all they had) at El Tavorna, a place that came recommended. Before that though, we showered, and killed some time eating buffalo blue kettle chips and staring out overt the horizon. By the time we sat down for dinner, I was pooped. I could hardly keep my eye's open. I was also very indecisive of what I wanted to eat. I wasn't in the mood for much, although I devoured the biscuits they brought the table before dinner. I managed to get in a salad with goat cheese and a few bites of the mozzerela proscuitto thing I ordered. I'll admit, it was a bad choice. My recovery nutrition was horrible. I had no quality protein in their at all. Oh well, I more than made up for it the next day!!!!!

We woke up super early (5am) on Friday, packed our bags, ate some breakfast and began our drive back to Vegas. We ate lunch at whole foods and sat in the sunshine, sharing a couple beers before dropping our car back off and heading to the airport. We flew back home at 3:15, landed, and immedietly drove to the North Fork, for home-brewed beer and delicious pizza. It was the perfect way to end our trip. On the drive home Peter pointed out how weird it was that this morning we were eating breakfast in the Grand Canyon and now, several hours later, we were at home. It's amazing how we can travel in this day and age.

I ran this morning, and although the legs are a bit tired, and in need of a good massage, I feel great. I am now more than ever looking very forward to western states. 11 hours was the longest I have ever been running/hiking for and the thought of another 8-12 hours (maybe more...) is crazy!!!! The event is a little over a month away and the next few weeks of training are going to be key.

See you in the trails!!!


Kaz said...

Looks amazing! I love the pic of you on the bus - my hubby and I looked like that every morning we were there - still half asleep, darn chilly but knowing it was about to get hot, hot, hot!

I think you may have completed all the trails we did in 3 days in your one outing! Ha ha - that was before I discovered running silly distances!

I don't know how you dealt with the heat though - we carried extra water just to soak our tops - that's a scot's lass and N Irish lad for you! Def hope it helps for the Western states 100.

Hope the blisters heal soon - so sore!


Nicola Gildersleeve said...

The blisters were healed, they were just coming up as 'hot spots' and I wanted to tape them to make sure they never re-filled.

Anonymous said...

Congrats! It looks absolutely wonderful!
Is this something you do on your own or is there a "race signup"?

Awesome job!

Nicola Gildersleeve said...

This is something you do on your own.

Jenn said...

Hey Nicola!
Sounds AMAZING!! I love reading about your adventures and am jealous of your really good travel deals! SO INSPIRING!

SteveQ said...

I know three guys who were out there doing the same thing. Though they're in their 40's and 50's, they might be the guys "in their late 60's" you saw out there. Ultras and desert can be aging!


Great report. Now I MUST do this in my lifetime!!!