Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “winter running”

The Law of Exponential Taper Gremlin Growth

At any given time, the last 20 weeks or so either feel like they have blown by quicker than I could blink or crawled by at a pace that would make a 3-toed sloth laugh. This weekend, I tackled a sub-zero marathon on Saturday, and then slogged through a snow-covered follow-up run on Sunday. Each had their highs and lows, but they were good training runs and I’m feeling strong. More importantly, this weekend marked my last long back-to-back weekend, which means I now have the long-awaited joy of tapering! Did I say joy? Maybe I meant disdain. You see, the psychological and physical aches and pains that tapering, combined with a long and intense training season, bring, seem to have grown to proportions I haven’t experienced before. This obviously led me to wonder if there might be more to my extended tapering pains. The result is a theory that will no doubt win me accolades the world over, so I guess y’all should feel honored that I’m sharing it with you first!

Perfect weather for a marathon, eh?

Perfect weather for a marathon, eh?

Aside from the vehicle-induced aches and pains I recently incurred, I’ve noticed that the phantom wandering pains that typically arrive during my taper period came much earlier this time around. I probably started feeling various issues about 5 weeks ago, and they’ve been flowing through my body ever since. My right Achilles was acting up, and then it was my left forefoot, along with both of my knees at various points, and my groin before that. I’ve monitored all of these issues, and they’ve gradually dissipated and then disappeared altogether. However, they seemed to begin around the time I really started to look forward to my upcoming trip to Arizona and Across the Years. I’ve written before about battling the injury gremlin, and this most recent ongoing battle led me to wonder if the fact that everything was happening earlier had anything to do with the increased distance I was running. I mean, I will be attempting to run longer than I’ve ever run before, and the entire race experience will be brand new. I’ll be stepping into uncharted territory, much like all of my other running firsts. Perhaps my body knows this, and it began making me hyper-aware of every ache and pain that much earlier as a result.

I think winter is finally here.

I think winter is finally here.

Over the last two years, I’ve pushed myself harder and further than ever before, and my endurance has certainly increased. My recovery time has also decreased, which has been a welcome development, especially considering my consistent back-to-back long runs on the weekends. As a result, my outlook on various distances has changed along with my goals, which is to be expected, I suppose. This has led me to contemplate the recent exponential growth of my tapering conundrum. It would seem as if the more I increase my race distance, the earlier my taper gremlin emerges to start whispering sweet nothings in my ear. In general, you can think about this Law of Exponential Taper Gremlin Growth like this:

Taper Graph 2.1

Now I should be clear that my sample (methodology) is one of convenience (me) and these results may be limited to my own well-being (limitations). However, it seems fairly clear at this point that the longer the race, the longer the tapering aches and pains. This wouldn’t be horrible, except for that fact that I’m still only tapering for the next three weeks, which means I have been left to deal with the drawbacks of a taper, while still logging long distances. This hardly seems fair! If a graphical representation hasn’t made this new, highly scientific discussion clear, I will also include a more detailed explanation (discussion). Ultimately, I think I can work through the following race distance stages.

Stage 1 (Half-Marathon): I’m ready and feeling good- let’s go!

Stage 2 (Marathon): I could sure use a massage, but let’s knock this out!

Stage 3 (50K): I think my knees could definitely use the rest.

Stage 4 (50 miles): My back, knees, and shins are definitely feeling the training, but I’m ready.

Stage 5 (100K): Thoughts of seeing a PT or podiatrist creep in a few times a week.

Stage 6 (100 miles/ 24 hours): Those thoughts are happening daily. Can I just taper in the hospital to be safe?

After what can definitely be called an exhausting training period and academic semester, I’m definitely ready for my taper, as well as a bit of rest before January hits. Ultimately, I know the various aches and pains come with the territory, and I’ve put my body through a lot lately, so it has earned a more relaxed schedule. My endurance is up, and I’m as ready as I’m gong to be for this race, so focusing on the planning, organization, and nutrition will gladly fill my thoughts for the next three weeks. In my free time, perhaps I can shop this “law” around to various scientific journals. This publication showing up on my vita would definitely turn some heads!

Winter Etiquette’s Running Connection

The time for snow, ice, and cold is once again upon us. After another warm summer, perhaps I should be more grateful for the change in seasons. Heck, I’m from Minnesota. I should probably be excited about the winter months. Well, my reality is about as far from excited as it can get right now. Reflecting on the changing seasons has helped me realize that I don’t actually like the changing seasons as much as I thought! I thoroughly enjoy the freshness of spring, and the briskness of fall. I love the comfortable running conditions, the trails ripe for exploring, and the energy in the air that comes with more people being out and about. Winter, especially, offers none of that for me. I do appreciate the ability to train outside throughout the winter, and then see the gains in pace and strength as a result. I’ve certainly figured out how to dress appropriately, and keep myself reasonably warm even after long distances. However, these steps are more about coping than they are about enjoyment. I’m outside because I love to run, and not because I love the environment I’m running in. I’m also allergic to treadmills. No, seriously, I asked the doctor about it, and the allergy shots were just too expensive. They also don’t inject you in your arm. I’ll leave you to ponder that notion as I move on.

All of this reflection brings me to today’s first snowy run. We woke up to a light snowfall this morning. It was nothing significant, but the first accumulation of the year, so clearly I had to rip the band-aid off and go for a run. As I was winding my way between the roads and sidewalks, depending on where I could secure the best footing, I smiled a little as I watched people hop in their cars for their morning commute and once again relearn how to drive in the winter. We have our share of accidents in Minnesota during the winter, but for the most part, being Minnesotan means knowing how to drive and exist in winter weather. Heck, when it consumes half of  your year, you have no choice. When I moved to Iowa, I expected more of the same. After all, we are neighbors. However, what I’ve realized in the last eight years is that Iowans suffer from collective winter amnesia. Each year, as the snow begins to fall, the learn the hard way how to drive and thrive in winter weather. Then, as the spring thaw begins, everyone forgets! The result is a calamity of chaos every single year. As I offered silent, internal monologue (mostly) suggestions to drivers and pedestrians along my run, the parallels to running began to dawn on me. I thought I’d share a few as you prepare to lace up your shoes for the winter season!

1. Slow Down! Shockingly, you probably can’t and shouldn’t be going as fast when there is snow and ice on the ground. This is true whether you are logging your miles on foot or behind the wheel.

2. Traction, Traction, Traction! I don’t care if you have the most advanced 4-wheel drive system, coupled with the most expensive tires, strapped to a beautiful new SUV. If there is ice on the road, you are still going to slide. I roll my eyes so much that I get a headache as I watch trucks and SUVs fly by me, only to end up in the ditch a quarter of a mile later. The same principle applies to running. Our shoes just aren’t made for ice. Unless you are a serious all-weather mountain runner, you probably don’t have the shoes or skills to speed down an icy sidewalk. I certainly don’t! Cleats of some sort are useful, but even those are intended more for snow than for ice. Be aware of your footing. We can’t all be like Kilian, right? (wouldn’t it be amazing if we could, though?)

3. Keep Your Eyes Open- Granted, you should always be paying attention to your surroundings on the road. This is true of driving and running. However, it takes on a whole new level of urgency when you are out in winter weather. I basically treat all winter running as trail running. I keep my eyes down, always looking a few feet in front of me, and periodically check my surroundings. As soon as your eyes go up, you go down! As a driver, you may be extremely skilled, but that will never fully protect you from the idiots who didn’t pay attention to those defensive driving classes.

4. Have the Proper Gear– Growing up, it was second nature to make sure you had an emergency kit in your car during the winter months. You never knew when circumstances beyond your control would mean sitting in a ditch or on an abandoned country road for several hours in the freezing cold. Dressing in layers is equally important when you head out for a winter run. Everyone’s body reacts differently to the cold, so you need to listen to your body. Dress in layers, use wicking materials, make sure exposed skin is kept to a minimum when it’s bitterly cold, and be sure you have nutrition and access to water. I significantly adjust my routes during the winter so I know that I’m able to stop for water every few miles. Now that the city has turned off the water in the parks, this means stopping at retail locations, public building, or simply carrying water with me. If that’s the case, then I’m using insulated hydration solutions that aren’t going to freeze on me. You can also keep your bottles upside down while you are running, so the water on top freezes, but you can still drink out of the nozzle.

5. Clear the Path- Nothing aggravates me more than homeowners that don’t shovel their sidewalks! I’ve often thought about printing up “warning” notices to put in mailboxes, threatening to contact the city and request they be fined for failing to clear their walkway. I never thought much about it until I was running on those sidewalks, and had to continually alternate between shoveled and messy sidewalks, or hop out into the road and run the risk of teaching a driver an uncomfortable lesson about traction (see #2). Whether you are a runner or not, please shovel your sidewalks and help out your neighbors! Your local runners, mail carriers, service workers, and parents walking children and pets will thank you 🙂

This shouldn't be such a rare sight!

This shouldn’t be such a rare sight!

6. Lean into the Fall- Anyone who has done any winter running has probably experienced the joy of an unintended rest period courtesy of a patch of ice. As with trail running, I’ve found that my best bet is to lean into a fall, tuck my arms, and try to roll without bracing myself with my hands (hello, broken wrists!) or my head. Obviously, in the moment, you aren’t always consciously thinking about how to fall, but it’s good to have it in the back of your mind. I might even suggest a practice session with your local running group or group of friends. Simply head out into a snowy field where the fluffy white stuff will break your fall, and take turns running and rolling. You could even turn it into a relay! I thought about this last point as I watched cars spin their wheels and slide around on the road. Very few drivers turn into a skid/slide, and end up all over the road as a result. If you aren’t comfortable driving on slippery roads, then head to a large parking lot after hours and get in some practice. I’m pretty sure it was mandatory training when I was growing up, although we did it for fun and called it something else 😉

Even the best of us bite it on the ice...

Even the best of us bite it on the ice…

I’m sure many of you have your own tips and tricks for running in the winter weather, and I’d love to hear them. Runners are amazing lifehackers when it comes to finding solutions that will allow them to keep running! I wish everyone a happy winter (if you enjoy it) or a tolerable and injury-free training winter (if you feel as I do about the winter months) and may we all dream of spring. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go look for job postings in San Diego!

Gear Review: It’s all in…or on your head!

The last month seems like a whirlwind of races and high mileage weeks! This is clear from the topics of my most recent posts. For the new few months, my schedule calls for my peak mileage weeks, some very long training runs, and then the uncomfortable taper leading up to December 28th and Across the Years. Now that I’m back into a routine of sorts, I can return to sharing some new information and thoughts that have been collecting in my mind. Over the past few months, I’ve added a variety of running-gear items to my training arsenal, and they have proven quite useful in various ways. Two such items find their home on my head, and have proven useful in a variety of circumstances.

Petzl Nao Headlamp

The first, and perhaps most significant running-related acquisition was that of a new headlamp. My running distances and durations have continued to increase, which inevitably means running in the dark. Additionally, I have aspirations of running a number of longer trail races that require quality lighting in order to navigate the technical terrain. Thus, I was rather focused on finding a quality headlamp I could rely on. After a great deal of research, and the utilization of several gift cards I was hold onto, I purchased the Petzl Nao headlamp. This torch is billed as the first “smart headlamp” and it truly lives up to its billing. The “reactive lighting” technology built into the torch adjust brightness according to where it is being focused. Thus, when I am looking straight ahead, it projects into the distance, and when I am looking down at my hands, the becomes dimmer to give me the light I need. The result is increased battery life, which is much appreciated.

You can see the sensor at the top and the LED lamps below.

You can see the sensor at the top and the LED lamps below.

The battery itself is actually rechargeable via USB, which is quite handy. When I opened the Nao after receiving it in the mail, I was skeptical of the size and weight of the battery itself. At first glance, it looks to be quite heavy and uncomfortable. However, the elastic band, coupled with the flexible upper portion which stretches over the top of your head, makes for a rather snug and secure fit. It can be a bit tricky to get the Nao fitted correctly to your head, but once you do, it isn’t going anywhere. The headlamp has stayed secure through a bevy of terrains, and I have not noticed any distinguishable movement that would cause irritation or rubbing. I did begin to notice the compression of the Nao after about 6 hours of continuous wear. However, I was able to take it off for a bit and return it to my head later. Although there was some minor discomfort, I don’t consider it significant enough to warrant a negative assessment. The cord that runs from the battery to the lamp may seem a bit cumbersome as well, but I didn’t notice any significant movement. There is an optional belt clip for the battery as well if you’d rather wear it around your waist to distribute the weight differently or keep the lithium-ion battery warm during the winter months.

The battery seems a bit big at first glance...give it a shot.

The battery seems a bit big at first glance…give it a shot.

The adjustment knob on the side allows you to shift between varying levels of reactive lighting and consistent lighting depending on your surrounding. The lamp portion itself is adjustable so you can position it more towards the ground for better night vision. The only downside to the reactive lighting technology emerged when I was behind another running with reflective clothing. The sensor in the Nao picks up on the reflection from the light hitting the garment, and dims as a result. In essence, the reflective patches on the vest of the runner in front of me was fooling the lamp into thinking I was closer than I was, and thus didn’t need as much light. In reality, this scenario is going to be pretty rare for most runners. Additionally, simply switching to constant lighting would have solved this problem. I just didn’t think about it in the middle of a race in the dark through a city I wasn’t familiar with and a route I didn’t quite know!

The Zephyr headband creates a secure fit.

The Zephyr headband creates a secure fit.

On top of everything else, the Petzl Nao also interacts with the Petzl OS, which allows you to set up customized lighting profiles for the headlamp and save them to the lamp itself. This can increase battery life, or accommodate various unique circumstances that you might anticipate while using the Nao. In reality, the OS might be a bit over the top for a headlamp, but it is a unique feature that some may enjoy for a bit of added control. Overall, I have been very pleased with the performance of the Nao and am looking forward to it being my go-to headlamp for longer nighttime runs and hikes in the future. The price tag may be a bit steep for some, but it is certainly worth the investment!

Halo Headband

I now move on to a much more simple piece of head-mounted running gear after discussing a rather technical and complicated item. I must first be very clear that I’m fairly certain I sweat more than most people. It seems to emerge from my body like an invading Cylon battle fleet descending on an unsuspecting Earth. I wear a hat, visor, or winter cap consistently while running in order to mitigate some of this moisture. My sunglasses help as well. However, especially in the summer months, I still find myself stopping to wipe the sweat from my eyes and mitigate the burning that eventually ensues. As a result of these circumstances, I was excited to give the Halo headband a try. The product seemed simple enough, with a unique sweatband built into the headband itself to direct sweat away from the eyes. I was skeptical of its effectiveness but willing to give it a try. I’m quite happy that I did! This headband just plain works. I’ve worn it under a beanie and under a running hat, and it has performed admirable. It fits very snugly to my head, and is fitted enough that I can fit my other hats over it without issue. I purchased this headband late in the season, as the temperatures were beginning to cool off. Despite this, I am confident that it will be my go-to piece of headgear for the blazing summer months, as well as a trusted accessory during the impending winter months.

Simple and effective.

Simple and effective.

My only critique, like the Nao, was that it seemed a bit overly snug after several hours of wear. Perhaps I just have a big head?! Either way, I would certainly suggest you give both of these products a look!

My 6-Month Reflection

It’s a bit hard to believe it’s July 1st already. The past 6 months seem to have flown by, and yet I find myself still wishing I had more time to get more things crossed off my ever-evolving to-do list. Regardless, this is as good a time as any to stop and reflect on the first half of the year as I look forward to the second half. I’ve had quite a busy winter and spring, and I’ve commented before on my period of goal-less activity. That being said, I’ve still accomplished quite a bit, and I’m really looking forward to the challenges that await me over the next 6 months!

It has already been a crazy 23, uh, I mean 2013!

It has already been a crazy 23, uh, I mean 2013!

31 in 31: I wanted to start the year off right by running every day in January, and it was certainly a successful start to the year! I also pledged to run 2013 miles in 2013 and I’m well on my way to that goal as well.

Marathon PR: My only major race during the spring was the Little Rock Marathon. When I initially registered, I was looking for an early marathon in the spring so that I could plan for multiple spring races. Although I didn’t get a chance to register for any additional marathons during the spring months, I was pretty darn happy about PR’ing in Little Rock! It was a great race and it left me hungry for more speed.

Speed Increase: Although I haven’t been as intentional about my speed work as I had hoped, I’ve still made some great strides has my speed and endurance have both increased. My average paces are continuing to drop, and I’m seeing times that I didn’t think possible even a year ago.

Nutritional Awareness: It can be easy to look to races when talking about goals, but I’ve been really pleased with the work I’ve put into my nutrition research as well. With the beautiful epicurean’s help, I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different foods, and exploring some great endurance nutrition substitutes as I work to remove the GUs and gels from my training.

Marathon Ready: My schedule was incredibly busy the first 6 months as I worked on finishing up my dissertation, and that meant not being able to travel to as many races as I had hoped. However, I pledged to keep my endurance up so I could run a marathon on any given weekend. I’m happy to say I’ve kept my training up, and have run an additional 5 unorganized marathon distances this year.

I’m A Maniac: I’ve talked about wanting to join the Marathon Maniacs since last year, and I hit my race goals to do so. However, I just recently took the plunge, paid my dues, and entered the InSane AsyLum. I couldn’t be happier! I can already tell that this group is a perfect fit for my brand of crazy, and I’m going to thoroughly enjoy meeting other maniacs throughout the country!

The 24-Hour Plunge: I may not have run this race yet, and in fact have many months of training left to go, but I’m pretty darn excited about simply registering! I’m going to voluntarily run for 24 straight hours around a 1 mile track. Brilliant!

Piling up the mileage in 2013!

Piling up the mileage in 2013!

As I look back on just the last 6 months, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have the support of family and friends, and the opportunity to lace up my shoes every day and see where the road or trail takes me. I hope your first 6 months have been full of memorable experiences and learning opportunities. Let’s make the next 6 even better!

Rub it Out!

Just to be clear, I’m talking about your legs. What did you think I was talking about? This really isn’t that kind of blog…although that is my area of research, broadly speaking of course, so I’m sure we can work it in somewhere. Wow, the puns just keep coming, don’t they? Ok, seriously, it’s time to get down to business. Ahh, I just can’t help myself!

Deep breath…

With Mother Nature finally beginning to relent (knock on wood) and clear away some of the debris from the roads and sidewalks, my runs are once again much smoother and less treacherous under foot. Winter running is definitely excellent training for my legs, and it helps keep me in shape for trail running, but I’ve definitely noticed that it can be harder on my calves, thighs, and IT bands. The uneven surfaces, ice patches, sand, salt, and pot holes all present additional stress on my legs in various ways. On the plus side, recent research has found that runners are more likely to run on their forefoot on hard surfaces, so perhaps the winter running has helped my forefoot strike consistency. These facts have made me focus a lot more on foam-rolling my legs and making sure I am stretching properly after my runs.

Is it finally over?

Is it finally over?

I will admit with a modicum of guilt that I have historically been pretty inconsistent when it comes to using the foam roller on my legs. Intellectually, I know it can help sustain my legs and ensure that I am doing my best to prevent injuries. However, when I get back from a great run, I am usually looking to jump straight in the shower, and then relax. The last thing I want to do is sit around in my sweaty clothes and roll out my legs (even if that’s exactly what I should be doing!). However, the intense pain I’m met with on the occasions when I do roll my legs out makes a pretty clear case for consistency. Thus, I’ve been trying to focus on using the foam roller when I get out of the shower, as well as using a more dense rolling stick before bed. We affectionately call the roller massager the “pain stick” in honor of the screaming and tears it elicits during a vigorous massage. It can be hard to remind myself that it is for the best sometimes, especially when I’m screaming into a pillow, but my legs always thank me the next day!

The "Pain Stick"- very effective if you can stand it!

The “Pain Stick”- very effective if you can stand it!

There seem to be quite a few specialized foam rollers on the market claiming to provide added benefits due to different contoured forms or raised portions. In my experience, and in speaking with several PT friends, the only benefit is in your head and in your smaller bank account. The simple white foam roller I have has worked incredibly well, and has proven very versatile for all of the various massage techniques I utilize. I will spare you the detailed descriptions of each of the routines I implement, mostly because Runners World does a much better job, and they include videos as well!

My nice and simple foam roller.

My nice and simple foam roller.

A few simple exercises

A few simple exercises

Aside from the foam roller and the pain stick, I try to utilize some simple DIY massage techniques throughout the day to try to keep my legs as relaxed and stretched out as possible. This is especially important because I spend a lot of time sitting in front of my computer. After transcribing interviews for my dissertation for several hours, some stretching and leg massage is a welcome break!


The weather is warming up, and there is talk of 50 degrees by the end of the week, so I couldn’t be happier. I’m going to be ramping up my training in some new ways in the coming months, and experimenting with some new things, so stay tuned, and happy spring!

Getting Lucky in Minneapolis!

Apparently the luck of the Irish is strong with me, because my running pursuits have now resulted in me “Getting Lucky” twice just this month! Although most cultural traces of my Irish identity have been absorbed by my now White identity, I still have a soft spot in my heart for Ireland, and hope to one day trace my ancestry through the rolling hills of the beautiful Irish countryside. Until I’m able to book my trip to Dublin, I’ll have to settle for running and beer, which both have a long and storied history in Ireland!

You can't go wrong with a sponsor like this!

You can’t go wrong with a sponsor like this!

After “getting lucky” and setting a PR at the Little Rock Marathon a few weeks back, I was excited to head up to Minneapolis for the Get Lucky 7K. I’ve run numerous Team Ortho races in the past, and completing the full “Monster Series” was a fantastic experience, so I knew the Get Lucky race would be no exception. However, this race had the added significance of being the first 7K race for the beautiful epicurean!

After being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, she has embarked on an incredible journey of personal experience and life adjustment. We’ve made significant and delicious changes to our diet, and found ourselves that much more committed to a healthy lifestyle on all fronts. You can read about her journey in more detail at What If…? Gourmet. After previous attempts at running, she decided to once again try to start running at the beginning of this year. Since January 1st, I’ve had the pleasure of watching her steadily increase her distances and decrease per pace, and more importantly, fall in love with running 🙂

Now, I know I haven’t been running all that long myself in the grand scheme of things. I think it can be easy to forget the basic joys and motivations of running when you are caught up in the details of training and preparation for the next race. Ok, at least that’s the case for me. However, for the past two and a half months, I’ve gotten to watch the beautiful epicurean return home from run after run, each time more happy than the last. Sometimes its beautiful outside, sometimes its dreary or snowy or dark, and sometimes her body feels great and other times her legs feel like lead weights. Throughout it all though, is the glint in her eyes that comes with something new and exciting. The glint of joy and personal accomplishment is unmistakable and its an absolutely beautiful and breathtaking sight.

Get to 45 minutes.

Ready to start…in 45 minutes.

We took that motivation and energy up to Minneapolis, excited to toe the line for her first 7K. We left in plenty of time, but ran into some traffic as we got closer to the starting line. I was worried that we’d be late for the start, so she got out of the car and headed for the start while I parked the car. I got the car into the ramp and sprinted for the starting line. Luckily, the reality of 10,000 + runners meant they were releasing people in waves, so I had plenty of time to find her among the crowd. We ended up waiting about 45 minutes before we crossed the timing pad, and we were off!

I ran with her for about the first mile. The crowd had separated, and we were moving along really well. She was looking and feeling strong, and it was such a wonderful experience to be running alongside her during a race! After that, she turned me loose and I headed on ahead. I was determined to push myself hard enough to make it to the finish line with plenty of time to get situated so I could get a picture of her crossing the finish line. The roads were a lovely combination of ice and slush after some rather cold weather (surprise, right?!?), so I minded my footing but pushed myself in the cold air (about 22 at the start).

Crossing the finish line, surrounded by other runners!

Crossing the finish line, surrounded by other runners!

I crossed the finish line and was able to step off to the side and work my way into position for a perfect view. I knew she was feeling good on race morning, and she had a great final training run a few days prior, so I knew she was going to have a great race. However, she still surprised me with her pace and energy! She was all smiles at the end of the race, just like every other run, and the mark had been set. We walked up the path, through the crowd, and claimed our medals together, passing by the frozen cups of water (Mother Nature’s way of encouraging us to drink more coffee!), and headed for the car.

Proudly showing off her first race medal!

Proudly showing off her first race medal!

I’ve had the post-race conversation with countless friends in the past, recounting the details of the race and recapping how well we thought the race went. However, this was the first post-race conversation I’ve had with my partner,  so it held so much more meaning. She has been such an incredible support structure for me through all of my training and races, and the opportunity to now return the favor is quite gratifying. I have no doubt that we have many miles and races ahead of us, and I couldn’t be more proud or more excited to be able to run them together!

The first of many...

The first of many…

My Running Bucket List: Round 2

The Comrades Marathon has a lot of built-in organizational appeal, which seems important to me if I’m going to visit a country I’m not all that familiar with in the first place. The more I think about it, the more I realize that my running bucket list ambitions fall into two categories: 1) organized races, and 2) natural endurance running accomplishments. The desire to tackle the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (R2R2R) run would fall into the second category. As I’ve read more ultrarunning blogs, forums, webpages, and books, it has become increasingly clear that the R2R2R is a must-do for ultrarunners. Obviously I need to experience this run!

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

A brief description (to hook you, of course!):

“The Grand Canyon is almost perfectly set up for ultra runners. The classic rim-to-rim-to-rim double-crossing is between 41 and 48 miles long, depending on the route. It’s all trail, has fantastic scenery, and
only has two hills! Mid-pack runners can expect to be able to run almost the entire run in daylight during the long days of late spring.

The scenery on this run is like nowhere else. You’ll see vast vistas of the red-rock canyon from every turn in the trail. There are places where it almost doesn’t seem possible that the trail could have been cut into
the canyon wall. And on the final ascent on either side, the lip of the canyon’s rim seems interminably far away and doesn’t seem to get much closer very fast, despite how hard you are working. The rim-to-rim-
to-rim is a demanding but approachable run, and worth every bit of effort it takes to get to the Grand Canyon.”



A few points to highlight as I contemplate this experience:

Elevation: I’ve mentioned my difficulty with elevation training in Iowa before, and running R2R2R would involve the most intense elevation changes I’ve ever experienced. In the first 7 miles, you descend 4,400 feet, and there is 10,550 feet of total elevation change each way! Perhaps I should train with weights on my ankles?!

Should a route look like that?

Should a route look like that?

Hydration: The weather can change pretty quickly in the Grand Canyon, so deciding how much water to carry will be important. There do seem to be several places to refill water bottles, but I’ll still need enough to stay properly hydrated between stops. I am guessing that investing in a quality hydration pack built for ultrarunning will become crucial.

Company: Although I generally enjoy my solo training runs, I’m not sure I want to venture out on this 41.5 mile journey by myself. There will certainly be hikers along the way, and there are rest areas at each end, but it would be great to run with a friend or two and share the experience. Any takers?

Timing: I am going to need to schedule this run with weather and my work schedule in mind. Luckily, travel isn’t nearly as expensive as a ticket to South Africa, so I’m much more likely to be able to afford this adventure. Quite a few folks seem to indicate that Thanksgiving is a popular time to run R2R2R, which would actually work out rather well with my normal academic schedule.

This item on my bucket list seems much more within reach than many others I have floating around in the back of my head. This is either excellent news or very dangerous, depending on who you ask! Either way, I’ve never been the Grand Canyon, and I can’t think of a more amazing way to see it than to experience the R2R2R run. So, who’s with me? 🙂

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