I want so badly to remember EVERY moment of this run, on this day, of my life.
AND . . . . I don't want to reduce this experience to "just another long run". However, I'm way to sarcastic to really write what I want to sometimes. But no matter what I write. . . . . . . . . the words will be inadequate.
Friday morning I headed to Cottonwood to meet up with my nephew and his wife. His wife's family were the ones who organized this run. They've gone for the past 4 years on this same weekend every year. They had tried to get me to go last year but for a whole bunch of reasons I didn't go.
Truth be told - I'm not a fan of "hiking". It feels like a slow death to me.
So this is why I knew I'd only ever do this Rim/Rim/Rim thing if I could run A LOT of it. The good news was.......half of the attending 10 people were planning to run most of it. So, I said, "sign me up!"
They stopped at Taco Bell. I'm not so much a Taco Bell fan as I am a Taco Sauce fan. Like I can eat 15 packets straight from the little pouches. [And I did win the TB sauce drinking contest in college [78 packets]...............heck ya, I'm wild & crazy. ;) ] The one I got Friday.......................I loved:
Then we hit the road. Windows down. Headed to the GC. Then I noticed Mrs. J.R. hadn't shaved in a while. ;)
We got to Mather Campsite. Set up. Started unpacking.......hmmmmm, where's my bladder? If you ever ask this question.........make sure you are around a lot of runners.
Camelbak - check
Camelbak bladder - holy crap no. [and I didn't have the band that snaps around my waist either]
$39.00 later - I got my bladder inserted, filled & ready to roll. [no waist belt though - they don't sell those, uggg].
Dinner was a super yummy mac-n-cheese [homemade]. Cheese & I usually don't play nicely together though so I went pretty light on dinner.
Truth: I only knew the people I drove up with [which wouldn't be the people I'd most likely be around tomorrow]. The R2R2R-runners were in another car. Four guys. Two had just run ST. George in 3:00 & 3:06. I could feel my competitive nature slowly creeping in. ;)
But for now............I needed information. Trails, water stations, input, ideas, suggestions...............ANYTHING. As minutes ticked by I was beginning to realize and understand something I should have asked A LOT earlier............I was 99% sure I'd be running S-O-L-O. Like the whole time. Their plan was to go out at a steady clip from the start.
My plan? Not to die. Not to fall over the edge, especially in the dark. I have only run one time using a head lamp and that was for Ragnar last February. This would be my 3rd trail run - IN MY LIFE - first ever in the dark. So, I would not be doing 7 minute miles down to Indian Gardens. No, thank you.
We started down at 4:30am. As soon as I get the photo from them, I'll post it [and the North rim photo----as I'm told you have to have those photos as evidence.] HA!! as if my feet, shin, knee and walk isn't enough to "prove" it. ;)
And within 1 mile ------ I was running alone.
It was creepy. I did NOT like it. I tried to be aware of my surroundings but that usually ended up making me trip. At mile 1.5 I saw my first set of eyes from a bunch of bushes [deer?! I don't know, but I saw four sets of eyes from mile 1.5 - 4.5]
Right before mile four this happened.
I was so mad. I know it looks wimpy, but it was bleeding pretty good. More of the damage was done to a toe on my left foot.....completely lifted the nail bed off.
Anyway.......huge panic attack at [I think] mile 5. I didn't recall them saying anything about crossing streams. I freaked. I pulled my phone out --- just in case AT&T had decided to drop a new cell line in the GC----nada. Yes, I cried. Yes, it was lame. Yes, I almost waited for the people behind me to catch up [about 20 minutes]. I think it was the darkness more than anything. I took a deep breath said a NOT SO SILENT prayer and kept on running. As I was running, I realized I didn't fill my water as I was supposed to at Indian Gardens but in my panic mode state, I hadn't used but maybe 8 oz of my 70 oz I was carrying. So, I would be fine until I reached Phantom Ranch.
One mile from Phantom Ranch I saw my very first human beings. Two 50+ ish men. I was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo happy to see them. I thought I should have been to Phanton by now so it was nice to be able to ask how much further away it was. They told me, "less than one mile". Then asked if he could ask/tell me something...............
Man #1: you should not be out here alone.
Me: Ya, probably not. It's my first time.
Man #2: I don't care if it's your first or fifth, you should not be out here alone.
Me: ahhh, ok, noted
Man #1: and you are bleeding
Me: Ya think?! [Just kidding I was nice...I said]... yes, running in the dark is not my speciality.
So after I finished talking to Downer #1 & #2 ---- I was sooooooooooooo happy. The sun had risen, Phantom was WAY close and I could see without any stupid head gear.
Crossed the beautiful Silver Bridge [I'd like to note ---- running in Hoka's on THIS bridge is a FREAKING blast. I felt like each leg was a pogo stick - I caught myself smiling ear to ear]...... and into Phantom I went. I filled up my water, put my head lamp away & realized.................I had not yet eaten anything. So, I used the toilet [only because it actually flushed = awesome], washed my hands [with soap-awesome], grabbed some shot blocks, cleaned my wound a bit and took off.
This stretch of trail was one of my MOST favorites.
I was SO grateful to BE alone here, on this stretch of trail.
[Ahhhhh, I'm crying as I type this.]
I, now, realize why some of you are so drawn to the trail. This stretch was so spiritual to me. To be alone. Completely, 100%, alone. I could only hear the river rushing beside me. No voices, no music. Just my breathing, my feet crunching the rocky trail and the amazing sound of that water. I was completely taken back. There was no pain from my shin or toe or ego. ;) I just remember thinking there's 38 miles more to go - followed by an immediate feeling of pure JOY & happiness.
At mile 13 - I just started cracking up. No I was not delierious/delusional. My phone just started blowing up from my backpack.
fat guy in a little coat
this is your ringtone it's on my iphone
[these mentioned above are ringtone sounds associated with some of my BEST friends and family members].
It made me so happy. I didn't stop to look at the texts. I just ran while listening to the sound of all the thoughtful people who had taken the time to wish me well, hope I had cell service, telling me to rock it, that they were praying for me, to push hard and THAT....................."I've. FREAKING. GOT. This." I was beaming.
Until around mile 16 I had my second group of men tell me I should not be doing this alone and "where is your running partner?". ugggg. go away.
Mile 18 it started getting hot. High was only 91*. The weather really was perfect in EVERY WAY. Just when I'd get hot the trail would turn and I'd be in shade. It was incredible. I stayed in the exact outfit the whole time. At mile 20, I heard, "Emily?" Looked up to see one of the guys the Pita works with [different office/same company]. I stopped and chatted with him for a few minutes. Just so he could say all the things you'd expect..... "both ways?", "one day?", "seriously?", "you are nuts", "Harder or easier than your 24 hour treadmill run?" I answered all questions but that last one.
About two miles from the top I saw one of the guys from my "group" & a guy with an Ironman tattoo. In an effort to take my mind off things I started asking him all sorts of IM questions. His favorite IM? Which ones he had done? Then......"How does this compare to an IM?" To which he replied, "this is harder than I thought it would be but I'll let you know at the south rim". [never saw him after the north rim though booo!] This last part up to the North rim. It's. Not. Awesome. This is the only time I cussed. I looked at Mr. IM and said, "this last little bit is just BAT SH*T crazy!" And I apparently, said it too loud as many turned around laughing. Ya, ya, I'm here all wee.....errrrr day! It's a whole lot of climbing in a small distance. I kept my pace pretty steady but I was panting something fierce. Loved it. With about 1/4 to go I caught up to a few more in my group who's words were, "Emily? Is THAT you?" To which I replied, "Why the shock in your voice?" [then, I winked and I may have passed him].
[and now the non-instagram version.....]
I got to the North rim in 6:08. I was happy. WAY happy. I felt my pace was just right. I didn't feel knackered. I didn't rush. I truly felt I was enjoying myself. Stopping when I wanted/needed but for running alone - I felt I was pushing myself pretty good too.
The water wasn't "on" at the NR but there was a car there from our group with a few gallons of water. I grabbed my bagel, a new CLEAN pair of socks and started to get my backpack on. I knew I needed to keep on keeping on........I wasn't about to stop and eat a full meal there. So after about 10 minutes I left the north rim..........ALONE. IM boy wished me well.... as well as the others from my group.
I was told to take the downhill conservatively from the North. GREAT advice. My quads were already on fire. As it turns out the 13 miles from the north rim to Phantom are almost entirely downhill [with a few good rollers]. It was beautiful but it was starting to get warm. I had saved my best "fuel" for Phantom. Bagel with peanut butter and Nutella. Seriously. Tasted. Like. Heaven.
I hit my special cell phone service area yet again - - where my phone did not disappoint. The bells, ringing & sounds came from my backpack again & it was just what I needed to get me through those toasty, sandy miles.
Chatted with a father/son running duo around mile 43, who also told me off for being/running alone. They were actually super nice. The father insisted I take a "BIG COLOSSAL PROTEIN BAR" from him because, "it has 400 calories and 30 something grams of protein....which even a Blondie like you needs". I informed him that my hair was totally light brown not blonde but that I'd take the freaking protein bar if he'd admit I was doing pretty ok out here on my own.
Andddddddddd my backpack now weighed like a pound extra. awesome.
When I saw the sign saying "3 miles to the south rim". I decided it was ok to pull my phone out and alert the troops. I should have taken a screen shot of my phone.
I am one VERY blessed woman.
6 phone calls.
3 voice mails.
one very grateful ME.
A few of the awesome texts from MY RD.
husband and daughter................................ they came.
They drove 4.5 hours just to see "nuts" me.
[yes, peanut drew this with her finger on the iPad while she was waiting for me]
So that I wouldn't have to step out of that canyon to a bunch of strangers but rather the two very most important people in my freaking life.
I could hear them calling out " GO EM!" & "GO MOM GO!" I couldn't breath. Tears were already falling. Then....... I saw them.
Both of them with their hands in the air yelling. I started to run. Which was unbelievable because I didn't run ONE step of the prior 4 miles.
Now, walking the final steps:
if not, ACTUALLY, h e a v e n.
This was an incredible day.
I WILL do this again. No doubt.
Because I know I can do this sub 12. ;)
Anddddddddddddddddddddddddddd more importantly..............
The Pita thinks I can do it sub 11.
He may be right. He may be crazy.
but....................... I freaking love that he is constantly pushing me - constantly supporting me and my goals. blessed for sure.
On the "must do" meter.
It's a 10. You have to do this. Way better than Man Against Horse and I LOVED that race. This is unlike anything else.
A few random facts:
7 - number of deer seen
1 - number that flew down the trail about 8" beside me.
1 - number of potty breaks - not good.
5 - number of times I refilled my Camelbak
2 - hours spent running in the dark
2 - number of shot block bars consumed
1 - number of gu's consumed
2 - number of PB bagels consumed [1 with nutella]
1 - snickers PB bar eaten
2 - number of Larabars eaten
3 - number of falls during above mentioned 2 hours
1 - number of lost toenails
4 - number of blisters
0 - minutes spent listening to my iPod - NEVER turned it on. Not once.
2 - times I knowingly talked to myself
3.5 - miles spent in company of others [like walking/running with others I knew or didn't know]
180 - number in fluid ounces I consumed within 1 hour of stopping
8 - number in minutes it took me to consume the burrito the Pita had for me in the car
What would I do without my Pita?
I often tell him . . . .
but since I can't today . . . . . .
Happy Anniversary To MY Pita.
14 freaking years.