Thursday, April 2, 2015

So Much Flat Running

Monument Valley is super cool

I quit my job on March 20 in hopes we could cram as much fun in 3 months as we could before PA school starts in the flatlands of Florida, so we immediately set out on a road trip. Our wishlist is long, but with a little kid we nicknamed Bean we had to try to structure our trips around non multipitch related endeavors(bummer) and mostly sport climbing with some trade off runs mixed in.

It feels like it has taken me a long long time to do the Zion Traverse, but I've only actually failed it once, which was a few years ago when we had the whole gang trying it over Thanksgiving. This is the only DNF that I can think of in my resume, even though its not really a race, but who cares. If you set out to do something you should do it. Its been on my hit list for awhile, and maybe its because I've run from the West Rim to the East Rim, and lots of other sections independently of each other that is feels so overdue, but regardless, day 1 of our journey was going to be the day I set out from point A, Kolob Canyon, and finished at point B, the East entrance, clocking in around 50 miles and 8500' vert.
The Zion Traverse

It felt great to run after taking the previous week off, and from the 6 am start through the morning I reveled in the solitude and beauty of Kolob, though I didn't really enjoy the 56 creek crossings in Hop Valley, but the sand wasn't Princess Bride quicksand bad like I had heard either. I met Annie at 8:45 at the HP TH where she was about to ditch some water since the Kolob Terrace Rd was under construction and if she wasn't out by 9 am she'd be stuck there all day. She said she just barely made it out. 14 miles down.

The run up to the West Rim was fine, and I hadn't seen anyone all day. I was moving well, and had hopes of finishing in under 10 hours so I could talk smack on Steve and Court who had finished in around 11:45 or so. My hip started to hurt after around 30 miles and I was moving very sluggish into the paved section, where Annie and Timbre were waiting for me at Scout Lookout along with thousands of other spring break folks. It had been 7 hours and that was about 3 hours longer than my poorly planned long runs had been leading up to this, but whatever.
My crew

I had 3 hours to go 10 miles to meet my goal, but the next 5 had the most climbing of the day. I slogged up to the junction with the Deertrap Trail, vertical done, and had adequate energy but my hips felt like there was sand in them. I walked 90% of the remaining five miles, which is all very runnable and even mostly downhill, which was frustrating, but that's life, finishing in 10:45, Overall a spectacular run and glad to have finally finished it. I realized afterwards my complete ineptitude at actually running. I'm used to hiking up steep mountains and knee bashing down, not this flat garbage. 8500' in 50 miles isn't much when you're used to that much in 20 miles.

I took the next couple days off  watching March Madness with Timbre in the condo while Annie did some running in St George, and we did some sport climbing at the Black and Tan and the Cathedral. Timbre did not do so well sitting by herself while we tried to climb, which was frustrating. She'd cry and eat rocks and try to crawl down steep slopes into holes that fell into the bowels of the earth. Just take a nap kid. We need a tag-a-long babysitter who works for free. Know anyone?
Speaking in Tongues 12b

Crazy cool crag, polished, and crappy for kids

We left St George on Sunday and made a brief stop to check out the Hurricave, though no climbing was done due to the Sabbath and complete unsafe child conditions, not to mention the lack of skill we possessed to climb there.
A reason to get better at climbing is so you can climb cool stuff like this! 

Monday the 3 of us enjoyed a really nice hike 3 miles down Buckskin Gulch out east of Kanab. Very cool slot canyon. After we got back to the car around 2 pm, I suggested one of us do the 21 mile loop down Buckskin and up the Paria, since it was a classic but required a shuttle. A 6 mile hike isn't going to cut it. That or we poach The Wave since permits are impossible to get, but our ethics edged out our desire to see it. Or we thought we'd get fined. We can't get fined again. Annie was tired so she let me do the run. Score!
The Wave. Not my picture. One guy at the TH said it was "like the antithesis of all that's wrong in the world". You mean like impossible permit systems to see a beautiful feature in nature? 

I was feeling OK after last weeks 50 miler, but a quick 7 mile run on the Zen trail 2 days before had awakened my old man hip pain, so I was a bit worried about another flat 20 miler. But you gotta take what opportunities God and your wife give you. I set off from the Wire Pass TH at 3 pm at a nice clip, barreling down the slot canyon passing the many folks doing an out and back like we had done earlier, hoping to finish by dark. Three miles in and it was just me and the canyon. It was fantastic.
Lunch time 

Really cool

Morning is the best time to catch some nice lighting. Or so I read. 

Literal singletrack in a slot canyon is what this is, and it didn't require signing up for some lame 50 miler like Antelope Canyon where you get 1 mile of slot and 49 miles of sand. Halfway down the slot the terrain got a bit wetter, and some wading was necessary. This got kind of frustrating as trying to keep a decent running rhythm was hard, but it made for unique and curious travel. I ran into some backpackers here who were curious if I knew how far to the confluence. I gave them the bad news they were likely only halfway as we hadn't reached the Middle Exit yet. One guy looked like I had stabbed him in the thigh he was so dejected.

3/4 of the way down is a short downclimb via some cord and cut rock steps, where some backpackers who had started the same time as us that morning were planning out their descent. They let me be the "guinny pig" and though not difficult it would be scary without the cord.

13 miles and 2.5 hours later I hit the confluence with the Paria. If I thought the Buckskin was wet, then the Paria is a waterpark. 6 miles of wading, running, then swimming, then running, repeat 78 times. I decided 6 miles in the Paria is plenty, and the full 50 miles to do the whole Paria to Lee's Ferry is no longer on the to-do list. Once you have 8 pounds of sand in your shoes that's when you need to call it, which takes like 1 mile. This is by far the best flat-land trail I've done. I enjoy more mountainous terrain for most of my trail running, but if I had to recommend one trail with no vert it would be this one.
The Paria 

Annie was waiting with some Chili at the White House Trailhead when I finally rolled in after 4 hours, and we enjoyed a nice sunset and then began the drive out to Monument Valley. Unfortunately, Mr. Eurovan wouldn't start after filling it up with gas in Page AZ, a problem we have had previously. We had to push it down the street as far as we could and sleep on a fairly bright and busy street that night. Not ideal.
If they ever open the Totem Pole for climbing, I'll start practicing my aid 

Luckily the van started up the next morning as expected and we talked ourselves out of taking it to a mechanic since its reliable once it starts again. Monument Valley was cool, but $20 and no climbing or hiking possibilities make this a one and done visit. I've also had my share of Navajo jewelry stands for the next lifetime.
The Creek was next on our list, and we had the same problem with the van in Monticello, but it fired up after only an hour of waiting. Very convenient.
VW ad worthy? Maybe they'll fix our problems if it makes it into a magazine

We climbed at the Optimator Wall, and Timbre was a monster. If we were giving out citizenship report cards at the crag than she got a D-. Everytime we put her down she would immediately scream bloody murder. Made all the climbs at least a letter grade harder due to lack of confidence in what your belayer was doing to calm the child vs watching you climb. We managed 3 good ones, which is a win in my book though this would definitely count as a failure if it were a dudes trip.
This picture does not represent what Timbre was doing 99% of the day. Norwegian chick on Annanuki 5.11 

Today we hiked up to Way Rambo but the wind was atrocious. Annie's list of least favorite things are as follows:
-Timbre crying
-cold wind blowing sand in Timbre's eyes, making her cry.

Needless to say we hiked down without climbing. Failure? Its the way it is with kids. I'm hoping things will improve, though I'm not sure how. Benadryl?

A great trip, hopefully more fun coming soon.

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