R2R2R Part 1
Getting Prepared (but not really)
First, R2R2R sounds so cute, fun, and unthreatening. Thats how they get you; '' oh just R2R2R!''. HA. So what is R2R2R??? Well... its the abbreviated way to say 'running the Grand Canyon from Rim to Rim to Rim'. Oh okay sure.... people do that... Then more details: ~45 miles + ~18,000 ft of climbing. Wait what?! Suddenly R2R2R = wtf did I get myself into.
Please enjoy this write up detailing my adventure from sign up to prep (lack there of) to the run itself and everything else that happened along the way.
The Sign Up.
Let me be honest. I had PLENTY of notice about this event. The USMES runners picked it as their focus event of the year early on. There had been an email list of many eager, motivated runners vowing to join in and take this on. I was on the list, but like many group emails... I did not read them. I really wasn't planning on doing it as my running legs were set to retire at the RnR DC Marathon March 12 and this trip was to be in May. I'd be cycling then! No time to run. So while I was aware of the trip, I wasn't truly involved until later on. Part of the work I do is consult athletes on nutrition, sometimes over the phone or email and sometimes on location. Well I got the offer to join this trip as nutrition support for the runners and well be a runner too. How could I say no?! 'NO' wasn't even an option. However, after saying 'yes' and committing to the event, I remained removed from the details. I think its a way of dealing with the truth: ignore at all costs - ignorance is bliss!!!
As the date got closer, the group of committed athletes dwindled. 5 stayed true. I chatted with the group often about nutrition and answered many msgs of questions about what to bring, how much, etc... Well in order to give proper advice, I had to know more about the event. Mileage, temps, possibility of getting food/water... However, even these details cannot prepare you for the actual event.
I think most of my problem was I had just returned to cycling. A month spent on the bike with my running shoes packed away and treadmill collecting dust. Currently I am committed to my bike and have been working hard to gain back the power and muscles I lost to marathon training for 6 months. I had put on 4 pounds, gaining weight can be a bummer, but I'm feeling stronger and different sports come with different body composition needs). Knowing this event was happening, I started lacing up again and getting out for mostly 6 mile runs. They were slow and felt heavy for my legs. I just kept telling myself, I don't have to run fast anymore, just long! You can check out my Strava account to see my training history. Not much running. But hey, I'm fit! Thats what I kept telling myself. I'm fit. I'm healthy. People do this... I can do this.
This is a photo from a 22 mile run I did to test out my legs and practice carrying food. Again, fast isn't priority, but I would have to cover 45 miles. The least I could do (really) was go for one long run. I packed my Camelbak with as much as I could (way more than needed for a 22 miler, but this was for practice!). There are no aid stations save for one at the far end of the canyon called 'Phantom Ranch' that had water and some snack options. All athletes must carry their own food. I needed to see how many calories I could fit and how it felt to run with the extra weight. I loaded up with gels, a sandwich, bars and full pack of water. I fit around 1000 calories in. At the half way point I ate my sandwich. Not typical fueling for a long run, but I needed to get my body to take in real, dense food and be able to still move. This run was done on a very hot day in Columbus, 77 degrees in April. Ugh, I was hot and ran out of water at mile 20 which was not ideal and made me a little nervous about running in the desert.
In the 2 weeks before the event, the emails got serious and I started to pay attention. Lucky for me the trip organizer is a bit OCD and shared his packing list. Let me just say it was more detailed than my packing list (pictured below). After seeing his list things started to get real in my mind. I did not need to carry just food and water. We will be in the canyon, for 16 (hopefully?) hours. It will be dark, could rain, could be freezing or desert heat, I could fall, I could get terrible blisters, etc etc... I added to my list and borrowed Luke's larger pack. On one morning I threw in everything I could find and went for a 6 mile run. The pack weighed in at 6 pounds but I figured it would be more like 8 for the real deal. Not terrible but it does change things. It isn't super easy to just toss on extra weight and run. Eek.
A week before it really sets in. 1 week and I am supposed to run 45 miles. Not just run 45 miles but run them through rocky trails in the desert heat up canyon cliffs while carrying all my food and water. "You just have to do it, just survive'' is what I kept telling myself. I think this comes from my parents' ignorant bliss of the situation as well. Most parents would fret or freak out that their child is going off to do this... no no... mine just say 'oh thats nice, I'm sure you'll do fine' like I just told them I was going for a stroll through daisies. But their right, it is nice and I will do fine. Right? Oh the other hand I had Luke freaking out ''whats the weather like, whats the elevation, where's your insurance!?'' at me to be more prepared. I could be more prepared.
Let's take a minute to review the food and nutrition for this event:
- Calorie Burn - Figure 100 per mile for 45 miles. The pace will be moving but not RACING so that effects things. Also will be dealing with climbing and descending (with running, both increase expenditure) and carrying gear/extra weight.
- Guessing 5,000 calories...
- Calories to pack - It is unrealistic and unnecessary to pack all calories but more is better than running out and bonking in the canyon with 20 miles to get out.
- Aim to pack 75% of calories
- The Nutrition - Calories should be a mixture of whole foods and simple sport sugars. It would be really unpalatable and likely create a bonk and swollen, sloshy gut to consume 3000 calories worth of sport drink and gels only. Also, this is a long, sustained effort so there is more need for fat and protein as well as carbohydrates.
- What to bring - Food options need to be dense (more cal/less space), able to consume and digest while moving, and withstand the temperatures (if its hot - no melty chocolate or perishable deli sandwiches).
- Nuts (salted/honey roasted) - perk of ultra events! ;)
- Dried Fruit - carbs, won't smash or go bad.
- Bars - dense calorie sources, look for carbohydrate bars not protein bars.
- Beef Jerky - salt, protein, packable, non perishable. Look for grass fed options, any animal or even soy version.
- Gummies - sport chews are fine, but I prefer Orange Slice candies. Just 3 of those sweet neon candies gives you 150 carb calories which is equivalent to a whole pack of most sport options.
- Gels - Small, easy to pack and carry extra in your shorts/pockets. Will provide electrolytes and quick energy bursts.
- Sandwiches - Space permitting, but I plan to pack at least 1 with honey/nut butter and hopefully another with avocado. Also a sprinkle of salt, pepper, bee pollen, chia, hemp to add nutrition! 16 hours needs real food and sandwiches are easy to wrap tight and pack in a good amount of calories.
- Other Choices like rice crispy treats, rice cakes, macaroons, cookies, and pretzels would work too.
- Water -bring as much as you can with electrolyte tablets. Sport drinks are a personal choice, many runners practice with them and rely on them. I however do not think they are appropriate for this event as a main fuel source.
- Bringing CamelBak that holds 2L and handheld for another 12oz.
- Bringing Nuun tablets.
- Of course the night before and morning of matter too. Night before should be carb heavy and eaten early to promote better digestion. I'm thinking rice and eggs... but we will see what is available after checking in to the cabin and surveying the local Whole Foods. Morning of needs to be hearty but we need to eat early ( 5am start time) so it depends on what your body can handle. A shake, coffee, bagel, pancake.... we will see.
I'm on the plane out to AZ right now. Hooray for inflight WiFi. Thank you Southwest.
The run is scheduled for Thursday May 12th.
I'll update on IG and FB and have R2R2R part 2 for you Friday! Wish me luck :)