The past two years I have made a trip to the Grand Canyon on Easter weekend to attempt a run from rim(South rim) to rim(North rim) to rim(South rim), known by some as the RRR. Both times I have made it only part of the way up the North rim before getting sick and turning around. I am pretty much reduced to walking with a few short jogs on shallow grade downhill sections. The hike back up the South rim is pretty much a death march where the only thing keeping me going is knowing that it is the ONLY way out. By the time I'm done my body is completely drained both mentally and physically. I have felt that it was that run both years that really started my serious training season. Anyways, I'm not going to make it out there this year so I didn't think that I was going to get that kick off, but today's run felt pretty close to that.
I wasn't expecting it at all, the run was on local trails that I run all the time, but it was a combination that I've never tried before and with a partner that I've never run with before. Garett Graubins, the Associate Editor of Trail Runner Magazine, was in town and had invited me to join him for a training run. We finally settled on running Dakota Ridge, down the new Zorro trail to Green Mountain, a loop of that, back up Zorro, finished Dakota Ridge, across the street to Red Rocks and up the Morrison slide trail(maps here). That was for starters anyways.
The only other time I'd run with him was at the Lead King Basin Loop half-marathon. I beat him pretty handily, but that wasn't my fault. He was out in front with Bernie Boettcher and the two of them got steered in the wrong direction. Bernie found his way back to the trail and was still able to pass me around mile 11, but we're still not sure where Garett went. I think that he was out there for 3 or 4 hours and the RD was probably getting ready to start a search party.
Anyways, I'm digressing again. Garett and I started out today on the steady climb up to the top of the ridge and he already seemed to be pushing it. I figured that I just wasn't warmed up yet, but I should have realized that this was going to be a tough day. Garett has a different training philosophy from me, he like to push the hills even on long runs while I like to take it easy on long runs and just get the time in on my feet. I work on my power during shorter runs during the week. I was keeping up with him fine so no problems. Then once we had made it around to the far side of Green Mountain and started the long steep climb to the top I finally realized what he was doing. He tore up that hill like it was a tempo run, at least based on my pace, he made it seem pretty easy so that may just be his fitness level. When we made it back to the Zorro trail I looked at it and feared it because this time we had to climb it. We walked for awhile to get some food in and I finally took my jacket off. I had started with it due to a strong wind, but it was warming up enough that even with the wind I didn't need it. Again Garett left me in his dust, what a runner. I just had nothing in me. This is when I started to come up with excuses. I had run a pretty tough week this week with 3 good hill workouts so I had already burned my climbing legs, I had left my coat on too long and lost more sweat than usual so I was dehydrated. Both probably true, but still excuses. When I finally made it to the top Garett had left my sight and I was pretty out of it, then all of a sudden I heard somebody call my name. I didn't see who at first, but it wasn't Garett, it was somebody in a group of mountain bikers. He identified himself as somebody I'd met yesterday and since I was out of it I had no idea what he was talking about, but I acknowledged him anyways. Finally he told me that my training buddy was running away from me, how did he know I was training with the other guy that was probably a good 30 seconds ahead of me. A few seconds later I finally realized that he was a vendor that I had met with yesterday at work and we talked about my doing this run while at lunch. He had said that he might see me today, but I blew it off as him just being friendly to help make a sale. Hopefully I'll see him again so I can apologize for and explain my not recognizing him. I ended up catching up to Garett on the downhill and we ran together to the road, but I knew that I wasn't going to be able to run up Red Rocks trail so I told him to go ahead without me, but he said that he'd walk with me for awhile and we walked all the way to where Morrison Slide splits off. He wanted to get the extra climbing in and I just wanted to finish so we split up there. I was able to squeak out a jog for most of the remainder of the run and beat Garett to my car by about a minute or two. We thanked each other for a good run and Garett was planning to check on his dog, re-fuel and do another loop of just the ridge and Red Rocks, but a few minutes later he drove up and told me he was calling it a day too. He brought his dog down to the water for a swim and I was finally able to sit down so I drove home.
This run was probably less than half the distance and nowhere near the vertical of my Grand Canyon attempts, but for whatever reason it had a very similar effect. Hopefully this will be a run that will kick my body into gear for a big racing season.