Adrenaline 27k Night Trail Race {Recap}

I’m alive!!

Let me tell you something, that. was. brutal.

I’ll start at the beginning.

We didn’t do much on Saturday so I wasn’t exhausted by the day thankfully. I was planning on leaving my house early as I didn’t get my bib the two days prior so I was out the door by 5 p.m. Bib pick-up started at 6 and the race location was almost an hour away–yes, an hour!! Game time was 7:30 so I wanted to make sure I got there with plenty of time.

I drove the 45+ minutes to get to the middle of nowhere aka: McDowell Mountain Park. I had never been there before so I had no clue what to expect. I also hadn’t looked at the course map or elevation chart before (<–um yeah, that would’ve been smart).

Started with the 10 mile loop followed by the 10k loop (see mountain).

Started with the Long Loop 10 mile (bottom) followed by the  Short Loop 10k (top–see mountain).

After glancing at the elevation chart(wha??!!),  I picked up my bib and shirt (love!) and then headed over to my running group’s tent. There were about 40 of us that had signed up for the 10k and 27k. (Btw, there’s been much talk amongst my blogging friends on how cool running groups are. Mine is pretty amazing and will write soon on how I found them.)

AZTNT at Adrenaline :)

AZTNT at Adrenaline 🙂

As we all chatted, we said how nice it was that it had gotten below 100 degrees. It actually felt pretty good out lol!

Pre-race pic!

Pre-race pic!

Go time was right before sunset:

10426712_10152165908777894_556882696240561361_n

And we were off!

I started the race having absolutely no idea what to expect. I had never done a trail race and I had never raced at night. I figured I’d just go and see how it went.

I began with three teammates who are pretty fast. I knew I wasn’t going to stay with them long at all but it was nice to be around familiar faces at the start. After the first mile beeped though, I knew I was going too fast: 9:48. With my personal experience trail running, my easy comfort zone is way slower than that so I immediately slowed down.

I was looking around taking the scenery in. It was pretty cool to be out there in the desert watching the sun set and hearing nature. I think I got caught up with all of it because what I was hoping wouldn’t happen happened a lot earlier than expected. I flew into the air and almost fell flat on my face! I had tripped over a rock, hard, but was able to catch my balance mid air to escape disaster. Then, not just a few minutes later, I slipped and tweaked my ankle! Luckily, it wasn’t anything serious–but this was barely mile 2!!

Wouldn't this distract you too?? Photo Cred: B. Swanson

Wouldn’t this distract you too??
Photo Cred: B. S (AZTNT)

I told myself to get it together; I still had 14 miles to go.

I slowed down considerably and was battling the up, down, up, down portion of the course. It finally settled into just up and I took my time as I climbed the hills.

A little after mile 5 was the first water station. I had heard from my running group that the stations were well stocked–as in, they had an assortment of candy, chips, watermelon, soda, water, gatorade. It was pretty cool! One of the volunteers even refilled my hydration pack for me!

I gobbled a watermelon slice, took a salt tablet, and got going.

Finally, I was at the downhill part of the first loop and it was nice because the trail was finally clear. No more jumping rocks 🙂 I settled in and cruised the next couple of miles. By this time, it was dark and my head lamp was on. It did a good job of lighting the path and it also helped that I had other runners around me. Like the guy in front running barefoot.

My watch beeped mile 8 and I was so glad to know that I was halfway done. I absolutely love trail running but it’s definitely a different type of running. A lot more concentration is involved–i.e. not tripping, twisting your ankle, getting lost–which i don’t mind but  I learned that’s doubled when you’re trail running at night. I was already so exhausted!

We had to turn off the trail to start the second loop and this was SO confusing. I, along with several others, had missed it and had to turn back. We had to get on a trail that took us to the start line where we would get on a the 10k trail. It meant that for about a mile, those in front were running back and those still going were on the same trail. Not cool and this would be the only black spot I’d have on the race.

Plus, having to pass the start/finish line made me want to stop. Knowing I still had 6 miles left was tough. But, it was nice to hear the cheers from everyone.

The 10k loop was absolutely awful. From the very beginning you were climbing a mountain. The trail had gotten rocky again; I didn’t mind walking but I did wish I knew how long I had to the top– it seemed never ending. I started Lebronning (cramping) around mile 11 and I never fully recovered. My legs were so tight and I was fighting some serious pain.

It was around this time too that the crowd had really dissipated. I was alone for a long time with the exception of one girl who I’d pass and who’d catch up–we went like this for a while until I passed her and didn’t see her again.

It was very dark out. The moon provided some light but out there in the mountains it was difficult to navigate. Several times I had to stop and look around to make sure I was on the right path. I’d taken an extra hand flashlight (thank goodness) and that helped provide me with extra light to figure out where I was going.

Everything was hurting. My legs continued to cramp off and on and my feet hurt so bad. I was concentrating so hard on the trail but even then I found myself sailing forward again! I was able to catch myself for the second time and avoid any battle wounds.

I did a lot of jog and then walk, jog and then walk until I saw mile 15 and then I just told myself to try my hardest to keep running. Not seeing the end anywhere near was tough but when I was at halfway through the mile I finally heard life. I was close! I picked up it up (ja!! I was limping at this point) and tried to finish strong. With whatever strength I had, I lifted my arms up in celebration as I crossed the finish line 3 hours and 19 minutes later–I was finally done!

SO happy to be done! :)

SO happy! 🙂

This was a great race put on my awesome people. If you’re ever in Arizona, definitely check out Aravaipa Running. I had so much fun although I do think I was ambitious in attempting the 27k as my first trail race (at night). Two days later, I’m still really sore and with marathon training 10 days away, it was poor planning on my part.

But all in all, it was a great experience and something I can cross off my list–and I love doing that 🙂

–Have you tripped during a race?

–What race exhausted you the most?

 

 

A What’s Next Update

I hadn’t planned on doing any summer racing but my running group advertised a popular trail run that many said they were participating in.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 8.49.53 PM

So I’ve never done an actual trail race.

And I’ve never raced at night.

Totally seems like a good idea to do both for the first time together, right?

The race is put on by Jamil Coury, the guy I wrote about a few weeks ago who did the Barkley Marathon. He founded Aravaipa Running and I’ve heard nothing but good things about their races. I’m super excited to finally have a chance at participating in one.

I’m pretty excited about it actually. Nervous too, but definitely more excited. There’s a 10k, a 27k, and a 64k option and I decided to go with the 27k. AZTNT, my running group, has a ton of people signed up for it so it’s going to be a great time running with friends. I don’t have any goals or expectations with it; I just plan on enjoying myself doing something different.

I feel like I need things to look forward to to kinda help the days go by. With this 100 Days of No Soda starting, I’m going to need all the motivation I can get. I plan on also looking around for a 4th of July run. August will be plenty busy with me going back to work (this news will be elaborated on in a later post 🙂 ) and once fall gets here, race season comes with it full throttle.

But for now, this trail race in a couple of weeks has me counting the days. I’ve got my head lamp ready and we’ll just see what happens!

–Have you ran a race a night? What tips can you give me?

–Do you schedule races to have something to look forward to? What’s the method behind your planning, if any?

Have a great weekend! Tomorrow’s the last day to think of something for the 100 Days of Summer Challenge! Keep me company (and help hold me accountable) as I try to go without soda 🙂

The challenge starts June 1st and ends September 8th.

The challenge starts June 1st and ends September 8th. Click here for details.

Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim Recap Part II

If you missed day one of the Canyon in which I crossed the South Rim to the North Rim, check it out here.

As a refresher of what I had just done, I started at the South Rim and ended at North Kaibab. The following day, our plans were to cross the Canyon and finish at Bright Angel.

Day 1: South Kaibab to North Kaibab. Day 2: North Kaibab to Bright Angel.

Day 1: South Kaibab to North Kaibab. Day 2: North Kaibab to Bright Angel.

When I got to the top of the North Rim, I was a zombie. No really, I was a walking zombie. I was so exhausted, dirty, hungry, sore, exhausted, and exhausted. And sore. Really, really sore. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long for a ride back to the lodge where I could shower, eat, and collapse into bed.

Any place you touched me, you’d inflict pain. I really couldn’t think of any place that did not hurt. Walking hurt. Sitting hurt. Eating hurt. I think even blinking hurt. I ate my dinner chatting with my buddies but in my head I was thinking about what I was going to do. Would I cross again the next day?

I called my husband.

I gave him a brief overview of the day and described how I felt. All things considering, I had done well. I had finished around the time I’d expected. I had had enough food. I didn’t injure myself. I was just normally fatigued. What was expected after crossing a huge canyon in the Arizona heat.

I really wanted to do it. Really, really wanted to do it. I knew mentally, I was capable of crossing again. I knew, or hoped, I was in good enough shape to cross again. The soreness I felt couldn’t get any worse the second time right? Ja!

Once I was back in my room, I re-packed my hydration pack and took out my clothes for the next day. I had made my decision.

Sleeping wasn’t happening. You’d think that after all I’d done, I would immediately pass out but nope. Too sore. In addition, you could hear the winds howling outside. The windows whistling with each gust. My roommate got out of her bed and pulled the curtains to take a look outside. The trees were moving. This definitely was not making us feel better about the next day. A few minutes passed when I whispered to her, “If you just close your eyes, you can make it seem like you’re hearing–”

“A tornado?”

“Well, I was going to say the ocean,” I said, laughing.

We woke up earlier than usual, I think because we hadn’t really slept anyway. On the bus, our leader took a head count of those making the second trek. About half of us were giving it another go.

Jill, Angel, and I decided we’d go across again together. I was so happy that it worked out that way.

If you recall Day 1, towards the end is where we had to really ride the inside of the trail because of the wind. This was what we started with on Day 2. It wasn’t as windy, thankfully, but we still made sure to take our time as the cliffs were pretty scary.

Screenshot_2014-05-20-21-39-14-1

Drop off to the left.

It was a little past this major danger zone where I’d lost my hat the day before. We joked about how funny it would be if I found it along the trail. But with the winds, I knew there was no way I’d ever see it again.

And then I hear Angel exclaim, “I see it!”

I couldn’t believe it, but there it was, lodged between stones a ways up a cliff. It seemed climbable, and I started to give it a go, but then I decided it was too risky. If I lost my footing, I would slide down and keep on going–it wasn’t worth it.

If you look closely, you can see my black hat with the tiny, white Nike symbol

If you look closely below the dark hole, you can see my black hat with the tiny, white Nike symbol. (Click to enlarge pictures)

We kept moving. Surprisingly, the soreness I had felt before had actually dissipated. As I continued to walk, I wondered if adrenaline or wanting to get to the other side as fast as possible was what was keeping me going. It did seem like we were going faster. To be honest, I think we all just wanted to get the hell out of there at that point. Beautiful views be damned. Lol!

20140519_073652

See that mountain waaaaay over there? All we wanted to do was get there.

There wasn’t a whole lot of talking or picture taking. We stopped to refill our water packs, ate, and moved on. Before I knew it, we were at Phantom Ranch, almost 7 miles in.

I decided another lemonade was in order and I drank every last drop of it. While I really wanted to rest, sitting actually made me feel worse and we all agreed it was best to just keep going. Even though stops after this one would be longer in coming with the next big one 4.7 miles away, I knew the faster we walked, the faster we’d get there.

While Day 1 we battled winds, Day 2 we battled heat. We could feel it as soon as we stepped out of the shade onto the trail. Going the opposite way this time around also meant being exposed more. We knew this but again, nothing can really prepare you for it.

At an open creek, we stopped to dip our shirts to cool off. By this time, we were at the bottom and I told Jill and Angel that it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. Like if someone had just dropped us off in the desert and were were trying to find our way out. I might have been hallucinating at that point lol.

20140519_091829

Relishing the shade.

We kept walking and then we reached one of top spots I’d been excited for–the see through bridge that takes you over the river.

View from afar

View from afar

 

20140519_105946

20140519_110015

20140519_110047

It was pretty cool. Scary too because as you walked, the bridge would squeak with each step. Def not for anyone who fears heights. In fact, R2R2R is absolutely not for someone afraid of heights. I’m not, and there were still moments where I thought I’d have a panic attack. Mostly the day before when we had cliffs + 30 mph winds.

Like I mentioned earlier, we didn’t stop a whole lot to take pictures. We were seriously on a mission to get to the other side. Plus, it was so stinkin’ hot that we just wanted to keep moving. Stopping meant melting.

Before I knew it, we reached Devil’s Corkscrew–the winding uphill of switchbacks. Basically, hell.

I had no idea where my energy was coming from, but I was attacking that Devil with each step. I might have actually been snailing, but in my head I was in an intense battle with that trail–and I was winning.

At the top. Looking down at the Devil.

At the top. Looking down at the Devil.

We were getting close to Indian Gardens which was our next big stop where we’d eat, use the bathroom, refill our packs, and rest. Finally.

20140519_125207

20140519_131540

The sign under the temperature reads, “This is your brain on sun.” (click to enlarge picture)

Indian Gardens meant that we were 4.8 miles away. But we knew that that really didn’t mean much. We were still hours til the end.

But we kept trucking. We had a steady pace and I felt good. I was hot, and that was my biggest complaint, but my body was cooperating with me and I was able to keep up with Angel and Jill. Since the day before, Jill kept reminding us to eat, drink, and take salt. I think it made her feel better to take care of us and by the end of the trip, she was Mama Jill to us 🙂

Unlike last time, we stayed together to the end. When we were near the top, we turned around and there was the other side. The other side, the starting point, where that morning we had taken a picture of the mountain we were now standing on. Our goal–reached 23.5 miles and 10 hours later.

20140519_150022

We started the last climb and could hear our group cheering us on. Angel said from behind, “Let’s run it in!” And we did.

1470228_10202109293484059_5353226323335224671_n

Jill in front, me in pink, and Angel in red–finishing strong.

I did it!

I did it!

Accomplishing something you never knew you were capable of doing is life-changing. My life is changed having crossed the canyon. R2R2R is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was tested in so many ways, physically, mentally, emotionally–and it was those tests that made me climb up the mountain a different person. Many times during the hike, I would become emotional at the fact that I was doing something so incredible, seriously, something hard to believe. But I did it. I did it twice. I don’t know if it’s a 5k, a marathon, an ultra, or whatever, but doing something challenging, something you’re scared of, something you say you’ll never do–those are the things that you need to be doing.

 

Thank you so much for reading and following my running journey! Your interest and comments make this experience even more special.

❤ helly