Yesterday, the canyons were calling my name and I answered the call. I woke up early, even before my alarm went off. But I was OK with that because that just gave me some more time to enjoy my morning. Now packing fuel/gear for the canyons is a bit different then packing fuel/gear for a trail run lets say to Cool. In packing for a trail run to Cool, I would typically pack depending on the miles. Packing for the canyons, I would be packing for time not miles. That means more fuel, salt, water, solid food, everything I can imagine I want to have on me because the canyons can be unforgiving. A bad day in the canyons can turn into a nightmare very quickly if I am not prepared properly both physically, mentally and with my gear. You never know what can happen out there.
The last time I visited the canyons for a run was last year over Memorial Day Weekend.That run ended up being a death march for me. You can read about it here. I hit a low and was never able to recover, that and my foot pain caused me a lot of issues that day that were challenging and hard to overcome. It was so challenging that I left a paragraph out.
As I am packing for my trip into the canyons memories of my last year kept flooding into my head. I also kept telling myself that I am a stronger runner now. I packed my hydration pack and just kept putting me more gels in, more salt, and finally 2 Honey Stinger Waffles. You can never have enough fuel when one visits the Canyons. It's about time not miles! In fact I would rather have too much food instead of just the right amount.
I arrived in Foresthill and met up with the group. I was running with Michaela, Dustin, Allison, and some other great ultra runners. Let me tell you this group was really fun to run with. They had lots of positive energy, knew the canyons so they had some great stories to tell and the hooting and hollering was classic and put a smile on my face each time.
We started out by heading down bath road and continued on down making our way to I believe it is Volcano creek. The descents felt pretty good, I took them conservatively. Then we tackled our first major climb of the day. My power hike has improved over the past year and I was able to keep Dustin in my sights. I just put my head down and powered up the hill, remembering what Michaela had told me "Make sure to use the biggest muscle; our butt." My legs didn't get the burn they normally do. That is a good sign. I ran parts that I thought were runnable and it was nice to make my legs transition into a run as I will be needing that at Tahoe 50 in July. Soon we hit the fire road and I ran and power hiked the steep sections. I was feeling really strong.
As we made our way to Michigan Bluff I focused on hiking with a purpose, running when it was runnable and the most important thing; fuel and water. Once at Michigan Bluff we headed down to El Dorado creek. This is a nice 2.5 mile descent. I kept a nice controlled pace and just really enjoyed being on the Western States Trail. My legs were holding together, I was focused and relaxed.
At the bottom we regrouped and Dustin and I took off on the climb as we had 1.5 miles until our turnaround while the rest were planning on going further. I took the lead and we ran the first section and transitioned smoothly into a power hike, passing a few other trail runners in the process. It gets a bit steep, but we both kept a nice solid consistent pace with our hiking. Again we ran the runnable and I pushed it until it became to steep. Soon we hit our turnaround and made our way back down with Dustin in the lead and me closely behind him.
Once back at El Dorado Creek, we took our time as I needed to use the bathroom. We also fueled and both of us decided this would be a good opportunity for us to plug into some music. Once we were ready, maybe 5 minuets we started the 2.5 mile climb. Dustin took the lead and looked really strong this entire climb. He power hiked like it was going out of style! I on the other hand had a few issue; I couldn't find my rhythm and I was also fighting a internal battle with my IPod. It kept pulling out of my ear, and I just wasn't comfortable. I fought with my Ipod for maybe a mile before I finally said "screw it" and took it off and shoved it into my pack. After unplugging I actually felt much better, my rhythm came back on the climb and I was once again mentally focused. Dustin tackled the climb maybe 12 minutes ahead of me. He is a rock star.
I arrived at Michigan Bluff and took in a gel as my stomach was a bit hungry and we also refilled our packs as I know I was sucking down the fluids. While refueling a nice lady told us there was ice in the truck if we would like some. We both thanked her and took her up on the offer and threw some ice in our packs. Oh my, how good that tasted, cold water. We were both excited at this little piece of comfort. I also soaked my head as I was getting a bit warm. Now we were ready to head down to Volcano creek.
We hit the fire road and focused on power hikeing and running what we thought was runnable. We both focused on hiking with a purpose or a sense of urgency. We started the descent with Dustin in the lead. We made our way down and maybe .5 miles from the bottom Dustin let me pass him. His IT band was really bothering him, the descents were bone jarring and at times very technical. At the bottom we both decided to soak a bit in the nice cool water. The cold water felt good on my legs and knees and it even helped cool me down as I am sure I was getting a bit overheated. After the soak I felt like a new runner, not that I was really down, I just had a renewed sense of energy and excitment.
We started the climb with me in the lead. I told Dustin it was just a short climb, we were very close to being finished. Positive words and energy which I hoped helped him. I took off, I was climbing and then I would transition into a run. I was moving on this climb, I was hiking with a sense of urgency. I motored up that trail. I called back to Dustin a few times and than I saw the gate and I shouted "D almost there!" We hit the pavement and I had a ton of energy. Dustin told me to go ahead and get my workout in. I smiled back at him and told him I would wait for him at the top. I took off running and setting small attainable goals and then I would keep on running. I would power hike to allow my legs to recover, and then I would quickly transition into a run. It felt good, my legs felt strong and I was running most of Bath road. I hit the top still feeling really strong. Dustin arrived and off we went. The last little section I was holding a 9 minute mile on our way to the school.
The canyons didn't break me today, in fact I think they gave me some confidence in how my training has been going these past few weeks. My legs are getting stronger and my focus is getting stronger. I believe in my training and it showed during this run. I think the best thing I heard that day came from Dustin. He told me that I am a stronger runner. Awesome job to Dustin in his first trip in the canyons. You did awesome! The canyons like I said can be unforgiving but yesterday was the day I took them on and won!