Saturday, September 26, 2015

Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach 55K Race Report

Starting Line
It's just another race, what's there to be afraid of?

1. Getting lost: because I knew it was a small race and wasn't sure there would be other runners around to follow if I was unsure about the route, this was the part that I was worried about the most.

2. Wild animals: bears, mountain lions, bison, snakes.

3. The elevation: the course starts at 7500', goes up to 8500, down and up a little and down to 6500.

So with those three worries on my mind, who had time to worry about running 55K and whether or not trying fairly new fuel (it worked on an 18 miler so it should work on a 55K, right?) would work out!

Getting There: Since Flagstaff was on the way home back to Texas for my husband and I, who have been traveling in our RV for nearly 4 months, I ran the Stagecoach 55K trail race today which started in Flagstaff. The name of the race mentions the GC, but only the 100 mile racers ran up to the Grand Canyon (Tusayan, actually, which is south of the GC).

Before the Start

Expo/Packet Pick-up: Picking up my big and finisher's shirt at the running store in Flagstaff was easy and only took about three minutes!

Weather: 40's to mid 80's, sunny

Course: Most of the course ran along the Arizona Trail, but not all of it did so I was afraid of getting lost. However, the course was very well marked. I did get lost for maybe just under a mile total, along with 2 other runners (maybe we were chatting and not paying attention), but when we found the course again, I couldn't believe we took a wrong turn with all of the flags marking the right turn.

Fuel Pre-race: pancake (woke up hungry at 2:30 AM and I've heard Meb eats in the middle of the night before races to keep his blood sugar level, fell asleep again), Rice Chex and apple sauce (3 hours before start), which left me a little hungry at the start

Fuel During the Race: 7 servings (almost 2 flasks) EFS Liquid Shot (berry), 2 Hammer gels from aid station. After mile 21, I was really tired of sugar! With only 2 full aid stations (mile 9.5 and 21) and one water only station (mile 24), I needed to be fairly self-sufficient so I wore my 40 ounce Camelback hydration pack, but I still ran out of water twice (before mile 21 and the finish).

Gear: Mizuno Wave Kazan trail shoes (a recent great buy for $50 at Fort Collins, CO, Runners Roost store),  Skirt Sports Women's Adventure Girl Skirt, Thorlo Experia socks, Cabella's XPG performance shirt that wicks moisture.

Zoe Anxiously Awaiting the Race or Wishing She Was in the Warm Car

I'm happy that I didn't run into any wild animals and getting lost wasn't too bad - bonus miles, or one anyway! I only wish I hadn't gotten lost in a hot and unshaded place! The elevation didn't seem too bad. I was so busy trying to run a fast pace during the mountain section and enjoying the shade and trees!

I loved running through the forest for the first 20 miles, but the section after that was unshaded and desert-like and seemed to go on forever once my Garmin died and I didn't know what mile I was running in was tough. There were sections so full of rocks that I had to walk. I'd rather be running! At least I wore a regular watch (I thought my Garmin 220 battery would die), so I knew the time.

The End:

When I finally saw the finish line and checked the time (3:53), I realized that I needed to hustle to make it in under 8 hours. My husband arrived at the finish just in time to see me. I heard him cheer for me, crossed the line and Ian Torrence, the race director, shook my hand and congratulated me. I finished in 7:55, giving me a sub 8 hour race. All I felt was happiness and exhaustion!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Grand Canyon's North Rim

I've been to the south rim of the Grand Canyon a few times, but now I can say that I've also been to the north rim, too. Angels Window, in the top photo, is one of my favorites here at the north rim.

Both my husband and I like the north rim a lot. It's less crowded and I don't think that's just because of the time of the year because we just left Zion and Bryce National Parks which were both really busy. Even on the top of hard-to-get-to Zion's Angels Landing, there was a crowd!

Standing on a North Rim Cliff

The north rim has a lodge, restaurant, cafe and visitor center. There's even a general store where they sell GU and Honey Stinger gels and Clifbloks - maybe for those runners doing the Rim to Rim. I want to hike that someday!

We drove to the outlooks and went on short hikes, which got me nearly 10,000 steps on my Fitbit. When we got back to the Kaibab Camper Village RV park, where we're staying, I ran 4 miles. It was short, but maybe a little too hilly, because I'm tapering for this Saturday's 55K trail race and trying to keep my running easy.

It was chilly and rainy at the Grand Canyon, but the clouds gave it a dramatic look. I couldn't tell if we were in the shot in this picture. Hmm... Maybe I should have left us out of the picture!

Up Kaibab Trail
The next day, we drove the hour long drive back to the north rim and walked along the Kaibab Trail, which hikers can take all of the way to the south rim. We only walked down it a short distance, but the strenuous hike back up the hill to the trail head made me rethink my goal of hiking Rim to Rim to Rim someday. Even hiking Rim to Rim sounds a little crazy after climbing that hill.

View from Point Imperial at 8803': Highest Point on the Rim

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I Survived Angels Landing!

We finally made it to the top of Angels Landing, in Utah's Zion National Park, after hiking for 2 1/2 hours. Here I am taking a parting picture after a 15 minute rest at the top. That's my husband beneath the tree starting back down the trail. There were a few places where you thought you were nearly finished, but you really weren't. There was much more climbing to do. Climbing up to the top was harder than I remembered it being when we climbed it 11 years ago - big surprise!

Starting Up Angels Landing

There were a couple of times when I wondered if I could make it all of the way up the mountain. I had to use my arms to lift myself up to the higher stepping spots in the rocks because my short legs couldn't reach the next place to step, and a couple of times, I asked my husband to give me a push up the rocks. My arms are still tired two days later.

Exhaustion at the Top of Angels Landing
As I was hanging onto the chain on the side of the cliff so I wouldn't fall more than 1400 feet to the ground, I had a couple of those scary moments when I wondered how I'd get back down the mountain because I was a little afraid of sliding right off the side. I'm glad that I've been doing some balance exercises just to keep me upright when I'm running.

We thought climbing down would much faster, but it still took us 1 1/2 hours. The 21 switchbacks down made my toes and knees hurt a bit. It's a good thing we started at 10am and not any later. On our hike down, it was hot!

The Angels Landing hike is about five miles long and the fun of hanging onto a chain to stay alive - well, priceless.

White Reef 

The next day I ran 6 miles at Red Rocks Rec Park near St. George. The park was across the street from the KOA park where we stayed so it was easy to go there and run on the White Reef trail - just me and the mountains - peaceful. We stopped at Croshaws in St. George for pie before heading towards the Grand Canyon. Their pie is delicious!

Next up in running, I'm running the Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon Stagecoach 55K trail race in this Saturday!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Utah: Escalante and Bryce Canyon

We've visited Escalante and Bryce Canyon (top photo) in the last couple of days on our RV trip through many states from our home in Texas...

It was my first visit to Escalante State Park. We found a slot canyon to walk through on Burr Trail Road - at first I missed it and drove about 10 miles out of the way. Oops. The unexpected trees in the slot canyon and the orange-red rock was something I've always dreamed of seeing.

Longs Slot Canyon 

We visited the small Anasazi State Park Museum, too. We saw the remains of an 800 year old pueblo and I walked inside a small replica of a home, too. 

We drove for a couple of hours up and down 45 mile long Hells Backbone Road and looked down into a another canyon. I'm so sleepy lately that somehow I kept falling asleep on that bumpy road. At least I wasn't driving.

I'll never grow tired of seeing those rock formations at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. After sightseeing there, we drove back to the KOA RV Park in Cannonville where we're staying and I ran until it was dark, which was too soon so I was only able to get in three miles.

Zoe Enjoying Bryce Canyon

Today I ran 5 miles with some hills along the Cannonville foothills. It was nice to run on the BLM dirt road and not worry about cars. I ran 45 miles this week. Time to taper for the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 55K trail race coming up on September 26 in Arizona! Now I need to narrow down how I'll fuel, carry water (only 2 aid stations in 34 miles) and if I'll carbohydrate load. Part of the fun is the planning.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Moab Area: So Much to See!

Utah is beautiful! I've been in Moab, Utah, for the last few days. Every morning when I step out of the RV and see those red cliffs, I'm impressed by the beauty. My husband and I have visited Arches National Park with the arches and windows (top photo).

We visited Canyonlands National Park where we stopped for a picnic lunch. 

Bridge Over the Colorado River
I did a long run of 18.5 miles through Moab, over the bridge in the photo and on the bike trail towards Arches National Park. If you stay here and you're a runner or biker, you'll want to stay on the north end of town, unlike what we did, so that you'll be closer to the bike trail.

The next day, I ran 11.5 miles with some hillwork included - so tiring!

Colorado River

We camped near Arches National Park last night at Big Bend campground beside the Colorado River. We didn't have any wifi, or RV hook-ups, but it was nice and peaceful there and I got some cleaning done.

We visited Goblins State Park today. Fun to see those rock formations! Our Weimaraner liked walking through them, too.

Today I ran in one of the best places I've run during this whole trip. That's saying a lot because I've run in many gorgeous places since we've been traveling in our RV for about 3 months! Today's run was a 7 miler at Capitol Reef National Park. My husband dropped me off at Slickrock overlook and I ran down the main road through the park. I carried a walkie talkie (no phone service) in order to get in touch with him when I finished. The run was quiet and beautiful. The first 5 miles of the run were downhill and I kept the pace fast. I hope it will help to prepare my legs for my next race...

I think I'll register for the Arizona Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 55K trail race on September 26. I'm afraid of getting lost, the wild animals and the mountain running, but sometimes it's fun to do things that scare you!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

CO Running: Fort Collins, Estes Park, Grand Junction

Just three days before going on my very first back country hiking trip, I ran 18 miles and then I ran a 10 miler the next day- both in Fort Collins. I ran the 18 miler around a lake at the KOA campground where we stayed in our RV. I used 3 servings of EFS Liquid Shot and it worked great. (Here's a great post on running and using EFS.)

The next day, I ran 10 miles at Reservoir Ridge. My legs were heavy after the long run the day before, but running in a new place was fun - so was spotting some deer and seeing the miniature horse on the way to the trail.
Fort Collins' Reservoir Ridge
On Sunday, we drove to Estes Park, packed for our back country hike and rested up for the big hike.

After hiking for three days, the next day I ran 9 miles and then 5 miles on the following day at Lake Estes. During my run, I saw a few elk and a possible coyote. They ignored me and everyone was happy!

This morning, I ran 8 miles in Grand Junction, Colorado, just before taking off in our RV for Moab, Utah, where we are now. It's hot here, but I hope to get out early before it's too warm for a long run tomorrow. I'm looking forward to the scenery!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Back-country Hiking in RMNP

I just returned from a back-country hiking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado with my husband. It was my first experience to hike into the back-country and spend the night. We were gone three days and two nights.

Our hike began on the West side of the park at the North Inlet Trailhead. On our first day, we hiked ten miles to the July campground where we spent the night and saw moose along the way. We arrived wet and cold because it had rained much of the day. I was so happy to take off my wet socks. I woke up at 4 AM to the sound of some moose calls, but got back to sleep quickly.

View from the Tent: Filtering Water at the Creek at Site 1

The next day, we only had to hike back down the mountain for three miles to get to our second camp site at Porcupine. That's good because we both had sore legs - a hurt calf for my husband and a hurt knee for me. To get to the site, we hiked across a long, wooden log (top photo). We were excited to have a firepit there, but it's hard to keep a fire going with wet wood. The creek was beautiful and every once in awhile, we had a bit of sunshine to warm up in.

On the second night, it was cold in the tent and my 20 degree sleeping bag couldn't keep me warm enough. In the morning, we found ice on our tent. We began our hike back to the trail head with frozen fingers and toes. My Hot Hands hand warmers helped, though.

We rented hiking gear for about $100 dollars at Warming House in Estes Park and I'm glad we did, but my Gregory Deva backpack dug into my shoulder blades like crazy. (It's probably an old model - they're supposed to be good backpacks.) We hurried back to the car in order to be rid of our heavy backpacks sooner and were surprised when a huge moose seemed to suddenly be on the trail. I was scared. He was scared. I froze and he walked away making his own path right through the trees. When you're that big, nothing stands in your way!

Just Arrived at the 2nd Camp!

I was surprised at how little I wanted to eat along the way. My favorite foods were trail mix and homemade almond butter bars. We stopped at the RMNP Alpine Visitor Center on the way back for the best tasting hot dog covered in chili and cheese ever - my appetite was back!

It was a gorgeous trail and both camps were nice sites with creeks running by our tent. The trail had many water crossings with wooden bridges and there was a river along the trail much of the way. I had a great time, but it's nice to be back in the RV with a refrigerator, running water and a heater.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Yellowstone National Park

We had a great time in YNP! My husband and I stayed there for about ten days during our RV trip and it was one of our favorite places. We saw too many geysers, bison and elk to count. Plus, we saw a pelican, a marmot, wolves (so far away that they looked like brown dots). Most exciting of all, we saw a grizzly bear!

Grizzly Bear in Hayden Meadow

After digging around in some dirt in the meadow, he ran up the hill towards the crowd of people and crossed the street. Maybe he was tired of being stared at by hundreds of people!

Grand Canyon of YNP

Did you know that there's a Grand Canyon in Yellowstone National Park? We visited the canyon by ourselves, just my husband and I, and then again with friends visiting from home because it's that impressive!

YNP: Lamar Valley

You knew there were bison in the park, but do you know how terrifying it is when hundreds of them suddenly change direction and start running towards your car? I was relieved when they decided to run around the car and not into it!

Top of Elephant Back Trail

We hiked up Elephant Back trail where you can see for miles once you climb up the steep mountain. (Yellowstone Lake is behind us.)

Lone Star Geyser

We biked to Lone Star Geyser. Our home is in Texas so we had to! It must have erupted for half an hour and there were only about a dozen people there, unlike Old Faithful and Riverside Geyser, both must-see geysers near Old Faithful Inn.

Looking Down Through the Natural Bridge from Top

We biked to the Natural Bridge, too, which is really impressive when you climb up to it and look down through it.

It was a great trip of hiking, biking, sight-seeing from the car and running, too, of course... I ran 5, 10, 11 (this was a day trip to Grand Teton Nat'l Park), 8, rest day, 12 and 8 miles while staying at YNP. Most of my miles were run in front of the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center and General Store and across Fishing Bridge. One morning, I saw a bison during my run. I always carried bear spray, which wasn't as annoying as I thought it would be - kind of like carrying a water bottle. I was glad to have it, just in case!
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