Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Grand Canyon" - Sister Hazel * Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim Run *

Well, yesterday I sat and stared at the blinking cursor on my computer screen.  Too many thoughts and ideas rushed in at once.

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. ;)

Love her.

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. 

bing. bing.
fat guy in a little coat
this is your ringtone it's on my iphone
train whistles
old phone

[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.
[andddddddddddddd because I know you want to see that super lame face up close...]

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.
[best sign ever.]
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. 

He agreed. 
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.

52 texts.
6 phone calls.
3 voice mails.

one very grateful ME.

A few of the awesome texts from MY RD.

And some super hilarious texts from my Mom.  She "gets" me for sure.  She wanted to make sure I was "chicking" guys on the way out of the canyon.  Loved. That.
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:

now.  THIS.  this.  moment.  WAS. heavenly.
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.


abbi said...

Sounds pretty epic...amazing job!

bobbi said...

WHY do your posts make me cry?

You are outstanding!

Happy anniversary :)

Runners Fuel said...

Awesome!! Happy anniversary!!

Anonymous said...

Happy Anniversary. So how did it compare to the 24 hours on the treadmill? I wished I had lived in Phoenix when you did that. I would have stopped by to say hello!

The Kidless Kronicles

Emz said...

I may have to do that 24 hour thing again. ;)
I'd say physically ---- this was harder. All the elevation loss & gain, etc.
mentally---the 24 hour was harder.
Soooooo a little of both. Sorry for the crappy answer. ;)

ShutUpandRun said...

Read/loved every single word of this post. Now you make me think I HAVE to do this thing. You know I love being on the trails more than anything and I don't think it could possibly get better than what you experienced. What?? Did you not eat that protein bar Blondie? I mean light brown haired-girl?

Emz said...

Beth. You. Say. When.
Seriously. It's a must. And I must annoy you the whole way.
I'll even carry the protein bars.

Karine said...

Absolutely an amazing post. I really feel like I experienced some of your emotions, feelings anxieties and joys.....just by reading your words. I "wish" I had been on the rim to share the triumph, but at least our staying home to watch Chuy gave you one less thing to worry about at home.
xoxoxoxo Next time, we'll be there!Your "time-share" dog can be enjoyed by someone elsse.

CautiouslyAudacious said...

You are amazing!!! How awesome! That feeling of being alone in nature that you describe that made you cry is what I love about being outdoors.

Emz said...

I. FINALLY. Finally. Get. It.

Emz said...

Mom. I love you so much. You're always there "with" me.

racing dawn said...

I still can't quite find the right words...but 'you're wicked awesome' will have to suffice.

Loved the post, I will have to read a few more times to make sure I get all the details of the awesomeness.

You got the sub 11. Without a doubt.

Happy Anniversary you crazy kids. Love that Emz fam.

And I'm glad you heard the dings on your phone off and on. ;)

MCM Mama said...

You are so.freaking.amazing! I heart you. Even when you send me midnight texts. ;o)

I expect to see you in March at the corner of TX and NM. In fact, I think you should run one of the races with me. Ok, maybe ahead of me. ;o)

Emz said...

Sooo I did wake you!!?! So sorry. Yes I'm cracking up right now.

CJ said...

So amazing! Your zest for life (your life) is inspirational.

Nelly said...

I'm going to be the downer of this post, but doing that alone just seems dangerous to me like most people on the trail told you. Did you read that runners world article a while back about 2 guys that attempted that and 1 guy had serious problems half way through? They made it, but if that guy had been alone, he probably would have died.

I'm acting like a mom on this post, but I'm afraid something will happen to you doing that. At least in a ultra marathon race there are other runners and it is a supported race.

Congratulations on the achievement, doing that is a ridiculously hard thing to accomplish.

Kayla said...

I totally teared up reading this! You are freaking amazing...Seriously!!!! What an amazing accomplishment!!! Congrats!!!

ltlindian said...

awesome awesome awesome! I am in awe of all the amazing things you continue to do. I can only dream of completing such a thing.

I have to say I was really scared when you said you were going alone (even though knowing that you were fine because you wrote the post....). I'm so glad that you are ok.

You rock 444 million times over! Congratulations on the accomplishment and your anniversary. :)

Char said...

I smiled all the way through this post. You are amazing!

Michelle said...

EPIC! Love, love, love!

coach dion said...

Sounds like fun and a whole lot nicer than the dread mill...

Jen said...

You really are one of the most amazing women and storytellers that I know. I loved every minute of reading your recap and can't wait to see all your pictures. Congratulations!

B. Jarosz said...

That is SO awesome! I enjoyed reading your recap so much that I came back and re-read it this morning.

Why do people think solo hiking and solo running are scary? Weirdos.

And... LOVED the part about the text messages. Made my heart happy and they're not even *my* messages! ;)

Unknown said...

Love love love this! Emz, you never cease to amaze me, not only with what you do, but with the passion you do it with! xo

Unknown said...

Freaking awesome! I am doing this in April and cannot wait! Booked my room at Angel Bright. I am running with one of my running partners so I guess I will not get to experience the 100% alone feeling (unless I trip her at some time...).

Great job and thanks for the incredible recap!

Jill said...

Awww, I just loved every single thing about this!! I am so sorry I didn't text you until after, I was so sick last week when you did this and so lethargic but I can't tell you how incredibly happy I am for you! R2R2R has been on my bucket list for years now...you made realize I must do it...but I could never ever ever do it alone and I don't know anyone who would do it with me at a snail's pace! But if there's a will there's a way, right? :)

Congratulations my friend. Miss you tons and so very proud of you!!


TriMOEngr said...

Add me to your teary fans! Loved every second of this post. You are a freaking rock star! Happy anniversary!

Melissa Cunningham said...

EMZ....i have no words to say how awesome you are!!!!!
i loved reading this post,especially during your "i get this" moment. i cant tell you how many times i have ran trails at sunrise,and have felt that peaceful silence...my sanctuary without walls!

oh and happy anniversary to you and pita!!!!

loved it that they came down to cheer you on,in typical emz family style!!!

sending big hugs from the east side,sister
you are one amazing (and slightly crazy)lady!!!

derunningmom.com said...

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are so amazing! I can only imagine that moment when you heard/saw PITA and PEANUT!! It brought tears to my eyes.....Best post ever.

Unknown said...

Happy anniversary! I love the pic of your family together.It seems you had an incredible day with your daughter.

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Lilly O'Handley said...

Plop.Plop.Plop. Sound of tears hitting my keyboard. You are amazing and optimistic and grateful and a hero of mine! Thank you!

Kate Geisen said...

Wow, this is amazing. Beyond amazing. Congratulations!

Greg said...

Freakin awesome all the way around!!! Love the experience, your writing, the pics, the emotions. Whew!

~your InstagramSpammerFriend

Unknown said...

Wow! Simply. Wow!

Anonymous said...

I just wandered over from HungryRunnerGirl, and I'm hooked!

This was such an inspiring undertaking, and your husband and daughter are the coolest for showing up to greet you at the end. Can't wait to read about your future adventures!