22 April 2013

Grand Canyon: Lessons Learned

"The wisdom you glean is invaluable 
but the means by which you get it is hideous." 
– Daniel Mangrum

This is the companion to my original blog post on my inaugural running of the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, published a few days ago here. Being as it wasn't without it's bumps and blow-ups, I intend to learn from those mistakes so my next 50 miler won't be characterized by the same issues. To do this, I made three lists:

What I did right:

Dressed appropriately for the weather & brought the right gear. I had a good eye on the weather forecast and what could be expected for the day. I wore shorts and tech shirt, long-sleeve shirt and extra-light windbreaker and spent 90% of the run without the latter two layers. Hat, sunglasses and tech poles were a necessity and I'm glad I had them all that day.

Applied body glide and sunscreen.  'Tis the season.

What to tweak for 10+ hour runs:

Bring more nutrition than I think I'll need. I was prepared for about 14 hours of running and was out there for almost 16. With all of the climbing and additional energy needs, I needed more. Next time I'll overestimate my nutrition needs by at 2-3 of hours for a self-supported run, just in case.

Find fuel that's less sweet tasting to use in the later half. This wasn't an issue in my 7 hour ultra where gels, coke and PB&J didn't bother me. I found out that after about 10 hours, I wanted something plain like potatoes, avocado burritos or a watered down endurance drink. I'm going to try the plain GUs too. 

What I did wrong:

Poor shoe choice. I had complete amnesia about the fact that my Scott eride Grips gave me a toenail bruising when I wore them in Moab. What was a small annoyance in a 34 mile run with 4,000 feet of elevation loss, was brutal in a 46 mile run with 11,000. Dumb, dumb, dumb and it bit me in the arse not even half-way through with 6,000 feet of downhillin' right off the bat. Oy vey. I should have worn my trusty Sportiva Wildcats which have never given me problems on my long runs.

Ran 50k pace. I know what my marathon pace is and I slowed it down a little more for my 55k and had no issues. Apparently, I need to slow down quite a bit more for 50 milers because I was pretty tired during that final climb out of the Canyon. I plan on going out much more conservatively next time to ensure I don't blow up. 

Forgot Chapstick. I was peeling off my lip's top layers two days later... ouch.

Forgot watch. Well, I brought my Garmin, knowing it would die within 7 hours. Since I couldn't capture the whole run on GPS, I should have just carried my regular watch so I could keep myself eating every 30 min. After we reached the north rim and my Garmin was dead, eating frequency was based on intuition so I'm sure I got behind on it.

There may be others and those that were there can feel free to comment on anything I may have missed. I was able to use what I know from marathoning to race a 50k, but 50 milers are a different beast. Nutrition, pacing and shoes -- getting those right will make all the difference in how I make it through them.

In other news...

Toenail report

Look away if you think it's hideous. If you've been following along for at least the past two weeks, then you know I had one black toenail after Moab. Well, now I have two, no thanks to those toe crushing shoes I wore:
My badge of honor. These toes will be a dead giveaway of what I like to do for fun and sport anytime they're out on display. For me, they're happy memories of two incredible runs in the desert.


Since I was driving back all day Sunday, I was sore until Tuesday morning. Did a 10 miler on Wednesday morning and could tell that my knee wasn't rested enough yet. Rested it again on Thursday and did a marathon on Friday... on my bike, that is. Felt good to get out and do something active, at least.
The huz got to have his adventure ride out in Grand Junction this past weekend, so I used the lack of babysitting to rest the knee a bit more. This morning I had a really enjoyable 8 miler and the knee felt much better. Will probably do another easy run on Wednesday in anticipation of this weekend's 50k race.

Now that I'm unemployed, eating out doesn't happen, which is ok. Today however, I got to have a sushi lunch with my honey while the kids were at school. My favorite food with my favorite guy. O Happy Day!
Seafood and jalapenos... so good.
Well, I'm off to the library to finally pick up Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail which I've been waiting 3 months to read. Looking forward to diving into that this week.

Happy Trails,



  1. Shelby, as for fueling, I switch to soup later in a race....it's awesome and usually nice and salty. I've been known to do the whole 2nd half of Hardrock on nothing but soup!
    A tip from Deb (and Hans Dieter-Weissaur): girls can paint their toenails to hide the black ;-)
    Good luck on your 50K, can't believe you're racing already!

    1. It's a training run, trust me! And soup sounds absolutely delicious, I'm sure I'll have me some at HR.

  2. awesome lessons. you'll learn more each time. and don't worry about the toenails. once you reach a certain amount of hours on your feet, it's inevitable. my feet look worse than yours and I haven't run an ultra since September. since I started attempting ultras 2 years ago I have cycled through losing all 10 toenails twice and am always at various stages of loss.

    1. I call the "The Sistahs" now... hoping to keep 'em at two!