spring, a friend of ours here in Park City, Lara Kendall, came back
from a trip to the Grand Canyon with an idea for an epic run: run
the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. Immediately, we were all intrigued.
Sounded like an adventure right up our alley. After some research,
we determined that the best time to do it was in the fall, just
before the North Rim closes. That way, the temperatures at the bottom
of the canyon shouldn't be too hot (less than 100 degrees). My research
also told me that, although it looked to be a pretty hard run (24
miles with a 5500 foot vertical drop, then 5000 foot climb), it
was not impossible. Many people do it each year. So I gathered as
much information as I could from the Internet, recruited other skiers
to join me, and we headed south to run the ditch.
the run were Andrew Johnson, Scott Loomis, Lara Kendall, and myself.
Also coming along, and crucial to the trip because she drove the
van from one side to the other to pick us up, was Linda Blumberg.
We left Friday (yesterday) around 2:00pm and arrived at our campsite
on the North Rim at about 10:00 PM. We quickly set up camp and went
to bed. We had to get up early this morning to start our run.
woke this morning at 5:30, ate a breakfast of bagels with cream
cheese and jam, hard boiled eggs, and OJ, and packed our Ultimate
packs. In my pack, I had everything I could possibly need: 96 oz
of Envervit sports drink, extra drink mix powder for refills, Powerbars,
summer sausage and cheese for lunch, Snickers bar, band aids, Vaseline,
a knife, small flashlight, extra shirt, map, blister kit, and probably
a few other things. I knew I might not need it all, but I didn't
want to be without something that might prove crucial later in the
day. By 6:20, the sun had just come up, it was about 45 degrees,
and we were at the trailhead ready to go.
first 7 miles were all downhill on the North Kaibab trail. It was
kind of steep, losing 4000 feet, but the trail was very good for
running because it was very smooth in most places. After hitting
a campground at 7 miles, the trail became more gradual and it was
very fast running for the next 7 miles out to the Colorado River.
For most of the route down, we were not in "the Grand Canyon," but
in a smaller side canyon. It was not until we were at Phantom Ranch
next to the Colorado River, that we could actually see the canyon
itself. As we neared the Ranch, we passed about 30 people, in groups
of 1 to 3, heading in the other direction. All were outfitted for
a rim to rim crossing and many had "Rim to Rim" T-shirts on. At
first it was kind of cool to see others doing the same thing as
us (but in the opposite direction), but after a while the novelty
wore off. The impressiveness of our feat was diminishing with each
person we saw. Apparently we weren't the studs we thought we were
just because we could cross the Grand Canyon in one day. Our only
consolation was that we were running and most of them were walking
all the uphills. Nevertheless, we were having a great run, so whether
it was pushing the bounds of human capabilities or not, we were
happy to be there. When we reached Phantom Ranch, it was about 9:30
am. We refilled our water packs and headed down to the river to
had no idea what to expect the canyon to look like. I had never
been there and most pictures cannot convey the vastness of the canyon.
It was a very unique experience to have my first view of the canyon
come from the bottom looking up. Coming down from the North Rim,
you really can't see the canyon at all until you are right at the
bottom, especially when it is dark at the top. Having said that,
the canyon was about as I had pictured it. Rock cliffs dropping
down into white water rapids in some places. In other places, the
river was more mellow and the walls of the canyon not as steep.
What I hadn't expected was that from the bottom, you cannot see
the top. The view is obstructed by multiple plateaus and smaller
cliffs and side canyons. It was pretty cool to sit by the river
eating lunch, knowing that we had just run down 14 miles and 5500
feet and we still had 5000 feet and 10 miles of uphill to go. None
of us had ever done so much climbing this far into a run, but we
were still feeling strong and looking forward to the challenge.
After lunch and some pictures, we followed the Bright Angel trail
south along the river's edge for about a mile before it hooked south
and began its climb up towards the rim. As we started up, Lara told
us how the last time she was here she had hiked down to a plateau
near the Indian Spring campground, which was about halfway to the
river.. She pointed up to that plateau a couple thousand feet above
us, and it seemed to be days away. At that point, I really did not
need to know that the top of the monstrous cliff above me was only
halfway. The sun was now beating down on us, my stomach was feeling
a little overstuffed from lunch, and the fact that we were still
running at a pretty good clip uphill all combined to make me worry
a little bit about how I was going to make it.
we pushed on and before we knew it, we were at Indian Springs. We
refilled water one more time and got ready for the last 4 miles
to the top. As we climbed higher, the temperature cooled, the clouds
covered the sun, and I started to feel much better. We weren't racing
by any means, but we were running steady, and the people we passed
were all noticing our pace and everyone had something to say about
it. Some were upset by our presence, calling us "show-offs" and
heckling us as we passed. But most were impressed and offered encouragement.
We would smile or say hi as we passed, but by then we were usually
to far away to say anything more. About a mile from the top, we
met Linda who was on her way down after driving the car around for
us. Our run was 24 miles, but her drive from one side to the other
was about 240 miles. She had just enough time to drive around and
hike one mile before we met her. Now we knew we were close and we
picked up the pace a little. Lara, who had hung tough for 23 miles
with three elite ski racers, was now getting a little tired and
fell off the pace a bit. Andrew, Scott and I charged ahead and finished
the run at 12:20 PM. Exactly 6 hours after starting. I estimate
that we took about 45-60 minutes of stops along the way, meaning
that is was a 5 hour run. We were tired but not exhausted. It was
not quite as epic as we had hoped for but still an amazing run.
As we waited for Lara and Linda to finish up, we talked about how
we would like to come back some time and run from one side to the
other and back. Now that would be more of a challenge.
photos of this run, go to the Gallery page.
camping last night on the South Rim, we packed up and headed out
of town. We stopped at all the viewpoints on the way to get a look
at the Canyon we had crossed. On our way home we hit all the hot
spots. We saw the Glen Canyon Dam, had lunch near Lake Powell and
took a back road through the Grand Staircase of Escalante National
Monument where we found a great campsite for tonight.
camping in Escalante, we went for a killer run in Bryce Canyon National
Park and, as a reward for our great weekend, hit the Krispy Kreme
doughnut shop in Provo before heading back to Park City.
photos of the Bryce Canyon run, go to the Gallery
is late October. The temperature in Park City is starting to dip
below freezing at night and the mountain tops are dusted with white.
It is time to start skiing again! This morning I left for Alaska.
Usually I fly straight to Fairbanks to take advantage of the best
early snow in North America. But this year, due to flight discontinuations
caused by the terrorist attacks, I was only able to make it as far
as Anchorage on my frequent flier ticket. I had planned to fly into
Anchorage today, then meet up with Dave Chamberlain and Nathan Shultz
tomorrow afternoon and drive to Fairbanks. When I arrived in Anchorage,
which was covered in a foot of snow, I was picked up at the airport
by Scott McArt, another former Big Green skier. He told me that
the skiing in Anchorage was great. They were grooming at both Hillside
and Kinkaid and that they had been using good skis for a week! Maybe
it was a blessing that I had flown into Anchorage. I looked forward
to skiing tomorrow morning to check it out for myself.
enough,the skiing was beautiful. Scott, Jessica Smith and I met
up with the Gold 2002 team at Hillside for a classic ski. Because
of another few inches of snow last night there were no tracks, but
we quickly skied in a nice track around 12K of tracks. It was great
skiing. I skied easy for an hour and a half. I was loving it and
thinking that there was no reason to head up to Fairbanks, where
it is much colder and has much less snow. I was looking forward
to spending some more time in Anchorage! I could see some friends,
ski on excellent trails, and not freeze my butt off!
it was not to be. When Nathan and Dave arrived, I told them how
good the snow was and how questionable it was in Fairbanks. I told
them that I would like to stay in Anchorage, but that ultimately
I would go where ever they wanted, since I they were my only transportation.
Since they had no place to stay in Anchorage and the rest of their
Factory Team was flying into Fairbanks in a couple days, they decided
to head north. I was bummed at the decision, but I packed up and
headed out of town with them.
we didn't arrive in Fairbanks until midnight last night, we were
in no rush to train this morning. We went out to a pancake breakfast,
went shopping for food for the next few days, and then got dressed
and waxed to ski. The snow was about as I had expected. Typical
late October in Fairbanks. Only a few inches of snow, with grass
sticking through in many places, but still very good skiing. It
never ceases to amaze me that you can have good skiing here on 3-4
inches of snow. Sure it doesn't look pretty, but I skated for 2
hours and never hit a rock. Not too bad. Still though, I couldn't
get my mind off the snow in Anchorage. I kept thinking of what I
was missing. I was tempted to go rent a car and drive straight back
there. But I decided that I would give the skiing here a few more
days before I made any rash decisions.
week in Utah was tough. I was burned out on dryland training, I didn't
like getting out of bed when it was cold and dark outside (without
snow), and I kept thinking that soon I would be on snow. It was hard
to motivate and hard to keep focused. It didn't help that I was feeling
tired. I was supposed to be resting up before training hard in Fairbanks,
but even though I was training easy, I didn't feel like I was resting.
It was strange to feel this way because I had such a good fall and
had been feeling good for a while. Since I was not feeling a bit burned
out and tired when I got to Alaska, I decided it was wise to ease
into my onsnow training. The first two days I only skied once. I felt
ok, but not great. It has definitely been nice to come "home" after
a workout and just eat, shower, and nap, rather than run off to work.
I am hoping that the extra relaxation time will help me feel better
as the camp goes on.
Today was the first day that I have skied twice. I classic skied
for two hours this morning, and then went out for another 1:30 of
skating in the afternoon. My goal was to put in a couple more distance
sessions, so that starting tomorrow I will feel solid enough on
my skis to start doing more specific training. I was a bit fatigued
going up the hills, but I guess that is to be expected during the
first few days on snow.
lie to you, the first few days of this camp have been tough. I touched
on it yesterday when I mentioned that I had been feeling tired before
I came up here. But its not only that. The past two days when I have
headed out to ski, I have felt like I was heading to the dentist for
a root canal, not heading out to do my favorite activity in the world.
I was DREADING going out to ski! How can this happen? Was it because
of the cold? Was it the poor snow? Was it the fact that I had left
behind warmer temps and better snow in Anchorage? Was it the fact
that I was tired? Was it the fact it was still dark out when I started
skiing? Was it that I was already sick of skiing the same trails every
workout? Had the lack of motivation I felt in Utah last week carried
over to this week? In a word, yes. I think all this stuff had something
to do with it. It all had snowballed to get me down. Yet I have been
helpless to break myself out of it.
How could this happen? I am embarking on my most important season
ever, and I don't even want to ski. On one hand, I guess it was
inevitable. Every year I go through periods like this, usually during
the summer or fall. I am so focused and single-minded towards a
goal that is months away, so there are always going to be momentary
lapses and a few days here and there where even the easiest workouts
are a challenge to get through. It is nearly impossible to be focused
on a February goal for 24 hours a day, seven days a week all year
round. I expect to have rough periods once in a while and I was
lucky this year - I made it through the summer and fall without
any major training breakdowns. I was constantly challenged by small
distractions like broken ribs, painful knees, pulled muscles, etc.
and yet I kept motivated. But now I have finally crashed. The challenge
now is to recognize it for what it is - a sign from my body saying
that it needs a little break - rather than blow it out of proportion
and put my season in jeopardy.
After some careful thought and analysis of my training plan, I
come up with a solution that I hope will help me regain my motivation
and still get the most out of my precious time on snow here in Fairbanks.
I decide that I have no choice but to suck it up for the next two
days. Both today and tomorrow (Friday) I will ski twice and I will
do exactly what I already had on my plan. Hopefully the extra rest
and relaxation time I have had will kick in and help get my through
it. Then, on Saturday I will take the day off. And I mean completely
off. No activity at all that involves exercise or cold air. Hopefully
a day of sitting around on my butt watching others head out to ski
will get me psyched to ski again. Nothing drives a ski racer crazy
quite like watching other people train while he is slacking off.
So in keeping with my plan, I set out this morning to do a classic
specific strength workout. After 1:30 of distance skiing, I found
a gradual uphill and did 10 double pole repeats (5 powerful and
explosive, 5 as fast as I could) and 6 diagonal arm repeats and
6 triceps repeats. My feet got very cold from not being used during
the strength, but I felt a sense of accomplishment, knowing that
I had completed my workout even though I had no desire to crawl
out of bed just a couple hours ago.
This afternoon, after an amazingly deep nap, I struggled out of
bed again and skated for an hour and a half without poles. I was
pleasantly surprised that I felt pretty good during this workout.
Sure my legs were tired, but that was the whole point. My heart
rate was about 145-155, right where it should have been and I was
skiing comfortably up the hills.
was tougher than even the past couple have been. I really did not
want to do the intervals I had planned. I thought about bagging them
a couple of times, but each time I reminded myself that I only had
to make it through this one last ski workout and then I was free until
Sunday (this afternoon I only had an easy run, not a ski). I warmed
up with an hour of easy skating, then started my intervals. As Torbjorn
had instructed me, I was to do 4 x 5 minutes, mostly level III, with
a little level IV at the end of the last two. I decided that I would
start in level III and only pick it up if I felt better than I did
starting out. On the first interval I felt a bit rusty. It was my
first fast skiing this year and it took me a few minutes to find a
rhythm. But as each interval passed, I felt slightly better and I
did manage to pick up the pace to race pace (level IV) on the last
two. I was now tired and ready for a day off, but I felt encouraged
by the fact that I had made it through a tough week mentally without
skimping on my workouts.
This afternoon I went for an easy 45 minute run in the nature
preserve behind where we are staying. The trail was a little slick
because of the 3-4 inches of snow on it, but it was still much better
than trying to run on the roads in Fairbanks. I did that once last
year and I'll never make that mistake again. The snowbanks and lack
of sidewalks means you are taking your life into your own hands.
The only objective for this workout was to loosen up and make sure
my muscles were primed for recovery. I ran easy and then did some
thorough stretching when I got home.
A day off and I am going to milk it for all it is worth. I slept
in until 10:00. Got up in time to watch the second half of the Nebraska-Oklahoma
game, then had lunch and took a nap. In the afternoon I watched
some more college football, then took a long, hot shower. A good
day indeed. I watched all my roommates head out to ski twice, and
as much as I would like to say that I wished I were joining them,
I didn't. Today was the coldest day yet (-11 F this morning when
they started to ski) and I was happy to spend it inside.
I was ready to get back to skiing, but heading up to Birch Hill again
did not seem all that appealing. So when my roommates said that they
wanted to go to Salcha to do an OD classic ski, I jumped at the chance
to join them. The Salcha elementary school is 45 minutes south of
Fairbanks and we had heard that they had more snow on their 15K loop
and even had good classic tracks. We all wanted to ski for a long
time this morning so we figured it was a good time to check out new
Sure enough, the snow was better, the tracks were good and we skied
for three and a half hours, even thought the temperature never rose
above zero the whole time. I felt great after my day off and I had
to keep restraining myself so that I wouldn't get exhausted on my
first day back to training. When I finished, my jacket was frozen
(both on the inside and outside!) but I was warm and happy. Skiing
is still fun. Since the morning session was so long, we all took
the afternoon off.
after a day off and two days away from Birch Hill, I was back into
the routine this morning. I skated at Birch Hill for an hour and
a half and then did 8 x 50 seconds of skating sprints without poles.
Once again I felt good and enjoyed skiing. Sure it was still cold
and my toes went numb, but hey, if I didn't like cold I would have
quit this sport long ago. I know it is too early to say for sure,
but I think I have gotten out of my funk and I am starting to hit
afternoon I did an hour and fifteen minutes of double poling. There
are two types of arm-specific strength that I like to do. One is
to find a decent hill and do repeats, focusing on the different
arm, stomach and back muscles. The other is to just ski for an hour
or so and use only my upper body. That's what I did today. I let
the terrain dictate exactly what I did: flats and gradual uphill
I did a long, deep double pole, steeper hills I did a quicker tempo,
less compression double pole and in very easy terrain I did a little
bit of diagonal poling. On the squeaky snow this afternoon, it was
slow going and since my legs were nothing but dead weight my toes
got cold quickly. But my double pole felt strong. I experimented
with where I put my pole plants, trying to find the optimal spot
in different terrains. My double pole has always been a strong point
in my skiing, but the past couple years I think I have taken it
for granted and not worked on it enough and fallen behind as a result.
Now I feel stronger and better about my double pole than I have
in quite some time.
day. I had two main interval workouts planned for this camp. The
first was a series of medium length (5 minutes) intervals at aerobic
threshold (level III). I did that workout on Friday on skate skis,
which means that today, Tuesday, I was ready to do some shorter
but harder classic skiing intervals. I started out with some level
III stuff to get into the groove. 3 minutes, 6 minutes, 6 minutes.
These were enough to get me breathing hard, but not hard enough
to tire me out. Now I was ready for the heart of the workout. 4
x 3 minutes, level IV-V. That is basically all out. I found it hard
to make myself hurt. I was skiing as fast as I could and I was breathing
very hard, but my heart rate topped out at 179. My max is about
194, so I was nowhere near my max. I felt good, I just couldn't
go faster. I think I am still lacking speed. I haven't been on skis
longer enough this season to be able to go really fast without flailing.
But that's why I do intervals, to get my body to be able to ski
faster more efficiently. I also need to remember that it is still
October, I shouldn't expect to be in mid-season form yet. It's just
too bad I have important races in 4 days.
afternoon, instead of skiing I went to the gym to do some general
strength. I had wanted to do a couple of these sessions while I
was here, but because we only have one van between 6 of us, it makes
it hard for some of us to ski while others go to the gym. As a result,
this is probably the only session I will get in. I only made it
to the gym this time by hitching a ride with a couple of the Canadian
women who were headed over to do some running in the pool for injury
rehab. In recognition of the return of the greatest basketball player
in history to the NBA tonight, I played hoops for about 20 minutes
to warm up before hitting the weight room. Just as an aside, I bet
that there are no worse basketball players than cross country skiers.
Scott Loomis and I tried to play a game of horse and it took forever
for either of us to make any shots. Anyway, after weights I relaxed
in the steam room and sauna for a little while before showering
and heading home. There is nothing to take off the Fairbanks chill
quite like a steam room. It is so nice to sit in the extreme heat
and humidity of a steam room thinking of the poor schmucks out on
the trail in the viciously cold, dry air.
Halloween! My fifth year in a row spending Halloween in Fairbanks.
That's the random fact for today. Now on to other subjects. A wise
man by the name of Patrick Weaver once commented that the thing
he hated about Fairbanks was that you spend so much time changing
clothes. I know it sounds ridiculous - as skiers we always spend
a lot of time changing clothes: before workouts, after workouts,
after we spill beef-vegetable soup on ourselves when eating lunch
after a workout, etc- but I think the man has a point. In Fairbanks,
because of the cold, we are constantly changing to make sure we
are warm and dry. As an example, here are all my outfit changes
today, which sorry to say, does not include any Halloween costumes.
up, PUT ON sweats/fleece etc. to eat breakfast. Call weather
phone to see how cold it is. CHANGE INTO appropriate ski
gear. PUT ON winter parka and warm gloves and hat to drive
to trails. At the trails, CHANGE from warm jacket, hat, etc
into ski jacket, vest, lighter hat, earmuffs, and gloves to ski.
Skate for 2:15. Feel very good, strong and quick. End ski, go into
warming hut and CHANGE INTO dry shirt, warm jacket, dry hat
and gloves. Drive home. CHANGE INTO sweats/fleece to eat
lunch. After lunch, take shower, then PUT ON normal clothes
to relax in. An hour or so later, GET UNDRESSED to take a
nap. An hour later, GET DRESSED again when you wake up. An
hour later, CHANGE INTO ski clothes to go ski again. PUT
ON winter parka and warm gloves and hat to drive to trails.
At the trails, CHANGE from warm jacket, hat, etc into ski
jacket, vest, lighter hat, earmuffs, and gloves to ski. Easy classic
ski for 1:30. Pretty mellow to wind down from training the past
few days. Its time to start resting a bit for races. End ski, go
into warming hut and CHANGE INTO dry shirt, warm jacket,
dry hat and gloves. Drive home. Take another shower. If you aren't
first in line for a shower, CHANGE INTO sweats to wait until
it is your turn. After shower, CHANGE back into normal clothes
for the remainder of the day. At bedtime, GET UNDRESSED and
fall asleep. Whew, its been a hard day of changing clothes. 16 times
by my count! The Weave has a point.