Monday, April 26, 2010

Jason Wolfe: Grand Canyon R2R2R Record Attempt

My Zane Grey 50 Mile Report will come soon as I catch up on life.  But in the spirit of keeping things rolling here and in chronological order I present to you Flagstaff-resident Jason Wolfe's report (with his permission) on his very recent attempt to set a new Rim to Rim to Rim Grand Canyon Record (Dave Mackey still holds the known record time of 6:59:57):

Rim to Rim to Rim… April 23, 2010

Well the day started with a 3:30am wake-up.  After grabbing a quick bite and some coffee, I was out the door and on the road by 4:30am…. The weather was cool and the roads were icy, so I drove nice and easy versus my normal approach of attempting time travel on Hwy 180. 

When I got to the South Rim, the sun was just coming up and it was a “nipply” 30-degrees.  While cranking some tunes, I put on my gear (Run-Flag TShirt, Gloves, Arm Warmers, Stocking Cap, Adidas 6oz flats, Nathan Vest with 5 Gels, Bag of Chomps, and 2/3 of a Power-bar, and Yak-Trax).  I sent a txt to the guys and was off to the SKaibab “launching point”. 

About 6min later I hit the SRim.   It was 6:12am, so I decided to wait til 6:15am to start. When 6:15am came, I started my descent.  I am not sure what the deal was but I really didn’t feel “great”.  I couldn’t decide if it was the mental weight of knowing what was in front of me or the previous weeks training.  The 6 days leading up to today, I had the Cottonwood Half Marathon and a couple Elden Summits.  I reassured myself that my fitness was good enough that it didn’t matter…

About 40min down, I started to feel the drive to “push-it”.. so I did.  I ended up getting to the river in 55:38.  A little faster than planned, but my legs felt good, so no big deal.

When I hit the flat past the bridge, I started to push the pace a little.  My plan was to work the 9 mile rolling section from Phantom to Cottonwood both on the way out and way back.  My water bottle was still full, so I didn’t stop at Phantom.

I was rolling pretty steady when I hit Wall Creek.  I had to wade across that bad boy. Normally, it’s barely running and you just have to hop a couple rocks, but today it was raging (so was Bright Angel Creek..crazy).  My feet got a little wet, but within a few minutes all but my socks were dry. 

I covered the section from the River to Cottonwood in 1:04:19 (Cumulative 1:59:57)… about 7min/mile.  Sounds kinda slow, but heading from South to North you gain over 1,000ft in elevation… so not too shabby, but definitely a split that could be faster. I filled up my water bottle, which took 25seconds and I was off to Roaring Springs with my watch reading (2:00:22).

When I got to Roaring Springs, I filled up my 2/3 empty gel bottle with water and started the Ascent up the North Rim.

As I headed up, my legs weren’t exactly “springy” like I was hoping for.  I wondered if they were tired from the previous week or if it is just what happens after dropping ~4,500ft and then putting in a steady 9miler???.. either way, I figured I would just try and push through it. 

The NRim was going pretty good.  I forgot how much easier this climb is than SKaibab.  Even though you are at a higher elevation, there are a good number of flat parts to catch your breath.  The waterfalls were amazing as they were flowing pretty heavily thanks to all of the snow melt.

When I got about 3min past Supai Tunnel (~2miles short of NRim Summit), I hit some wicked mud.  The kind of mud where you get no traction and slide in every direction.  I was actually begging for snow & ice, which I had heard was still being measured in feet close to the top.  Then I hit the beginnings of the snow & ice.  What the F#@K!.. This stuff was ridiculous.  It was 2 to 3 feet deep with gigantic holes from previous hikers post-holing.  Completely unrunnable.  This went on for the remainder of the climb which was about 1mile.  My split was 1:25:11 (Cumulative 3:25:34).  I am sure that I lost at least 10min on this section, but I was still on pace to break the record.

When I got to the top, I threw my Yak Trax on the kiosk, grabbed some grub, and headed back down with my watch reading 3:26:46.  After sliding on ice then mud for 2miles, I returned to some good footing and starting to conservatively push the pace. 

When I pulled into Roaring Springs, I quickly filled up my water bottle and empty gel bottle. I went +2hours on about 20oz of water and felt like it didn’t put me in a bad place.  The cooler temps really made a difference in the hydration department.  Had it been 20degrees warmer, I am guessing that wouldn’t have been enough water and I would have made a big mistake.

As I was approaching Cottonwood, I felt like I still had plenty of water, so I blew through without stopping.  My split from the NRim was 1:04:34 (Cumulative 4:31:20).  I was now about 1min20sec off where I had planned to be, but I thought if I worked the “gentle” downhill to Phantom, I still had a chance.

As I pushed towards Box Canyon, I hit the first climb feeling confident.  At that point, the inside of my right thigh and right calf started to “grab”.  Cramps.  Rut-roh.  Up to now, I hadn’t done any salt replacement since it wasn’t too hot.  Hoping it wasn’t too late, I took 2 Endurolytes and ate some chomps.  I backed the pace off for a mile waiting for my quad to “unlock”.  As the pain subsided, I gradually worked my way back towards a steady pace.

About 5min shy of Phantom, I finally saw a familiar face.  Jared Scott.  It was a huge mental boost to have him there.  We ran into Phantom around 5hrs 24min and I quickly refilled my water bottle.  After giving him a very quick summary of the day, we hit the bridge.  My split was 1:00:54 (Cumulative 5:32:14).  I needed to run just under 1hr 28min up SKaibab to break the record.  2 weeks before, I ran a 1hr 12min split, so I felt that it was definitely attainable. 

When my legs hit the first section of steeps, I knew it was going to be tough.  I was hoping that I would rally at some point, because my legs felt worked.  As I hit the switchbacks (almost halfway up S.Kaibab), I took my first “hiking” steps of the day.  Big mistake, but the way my body felt, I just didn’t want to push myself over the edge and have trouble finishing.  When I got to the top of the switchbacks, I was still on pace to break the record.  I ran for another mile or so, then returned to power hiking.  That’s when Eric Bohn met up with us.  Even with the positive push from Jared & Eric, I started to feel like the tank was just too empty.  When I got to the steep, waterboard section leading up to Cedar Ridge, I knew that I would have to throw-down to get the record.  Since that was not an option, I decided to throw in the towel.

I decided not to push too hard since the record wasn’t going to happen, so I just power hiked and chatted with Jared & Eric.  When we got to the final switchbacks, I decided to run to the finish, just to ensure that I broke 7hr 15min.  As I rounded the last turn, I saw Caleb and Jillian (Eric’s sister).  It was awesome to have everyone’s support. I just wish I could have got the record… It would have made it that much sweeter..

My split up SKaibab was a painful 1:40:28 giving me a total Rim to Rim to Rim time of 7:12:44.  I can’t complain with that time.  Other than the record, I am not sure if anyone has run faster.  As I sit slumped over at the South Rim kiosk, I looked around and saw the support around me and thought “man, I am a lucky guy”… I also couldn’t help but think about Caleb’s description of the Canyon:

"She's a b*tch and can leave you feeling on cloud nine or as if she sent you through a meat-grinder, made a beef patty of your ass, threw some hot sauce in your eyes, chewed you up and then regurgitated what was left and fed it to the ravens."

My final thought as I left the SRim... “I’ll be back."

Spilts (Plan vs. Actual)

Section                                    Actual Split                                    Plan Split
SRim to River                        55:38                                                58:00
River to Cottonwood            1:04:44                                    1:00:00
Cottonwood to NRim            1:26:23                                    1:30:00
NRim to Cottonwood            1:04:34                                    1:00:00
Cottonwood to River            1:00:54                                    1:00:00           
River to SRim                        1:40:28                                    1:30:00

Food / Fuel

Gel Bottle = about 4 Gels finished about ½ up NRim
1/3 of a Power Bar on way down from NRim
Bag of Chomps from Roaring Springs to Phantom
2 Endurolytes just after Cottonwood Campground
1 Gel pack 1/3 the way up SKaibab

Things to do Different / Opportunities for Improvement

Bring a few more gels
Optimal time to run probably in late-Oct / Nov / early-Dec due to temperature and snow / ice
Taper (or semi-Taper)
Push the “flats” harder
Run with a group vs. solo

Congratulations & nice work Jason!!!


Speedgoat Karl said...

damn! it just keeps getting faster abnd faster, now that you know the deal, it looks like 6:45 is attainable.....all you needed is more gel!

Jake Adams said...


You passed me and my two buddies on your way up the North Rim. We couldn't believe how fast you were running up those grades! We're the ones that asked you your name...
Congrats on the great run. You are now my running hero.

Peter Bakwin said...

Great stuff! Awesome run & report. I hope you will carry a GPS on your next record attempt for verification purposes. The R2R2R is a admirable goal! PB

Bailey said...

I could have verified this one. Jason passed us on his way up and back down, and said we could keep his yaktrax which he left at the trailhead. He wasn't even winded on the way up, looks like on a given day, he could improve the FKT by some margin.

Anthony Brantley said...

Great report, DAMN that's fast. A group of friends and I did the R2R2R the following day, wish we could have been out there when you were running.

BTW, Spent Sunday in Flagstaff, that is one cool town.


GZ said...

Yeah - I agree with Karl. Dave's record is solid but the right day, the right dude, with some luck the record is going to fall pretty far.

Pete - I am not sure a GPS would work consistently in the canyon?

Well done and thanks for sharing. Good run.