Running Product Review -Beets Blu Heart Rate Monitor

If you don’t currently own a pricey sports watch with a Heart Rate Monitor, and don’t want to spend big bucks to purchase one but have a smartphone the Beets BLU is just the ticket for you.

What is a Beets BLU?

beets blu 1

A Bluetooth connected Heart Rate Monitor that links with your compatible smartphone.

I recently had the opportunity to test drive one and came away impressed.  What sold me on this little device is that it is truly…easy to use.

I’m not a high tech geek, and I don’t like investing a lot of time trying to figure something out.  When it’s time to run, it’s time to run.  I don’t like wasting time doing things other than running.  I want to push a button and have it work.

Bing

Bang

BOOM….that is just what the Beets BLU HR monitor offers.

Screenshot_2016-05-04-15-24-06

(from their web site) You don’t need any adapters whatsoever!  You will only need a compatible smartphone.  The data is directly transmitted through Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth v4.0) wireless technology, and devices supporting the feature can immediately connect to the heart rate monitor after some small changes in their settings.

I found this statement to be true, with only a few taps on my smartphone, my Beets BLU was linked up to my MapMyRun app.  Within seconds of launching the application my Heart Rate was being alternating displayed and it was time to run.  While I ran, the Beets BLU chest strap and monitor offered No mess, No fuss…and other then glancing at my phone to check my HR I hardly noticed I was wearing the monitor.

I remember the old bulky “common use” HR monitors first available at the gym.  If you wanted to monitor your performance you had to get a “used” monitor and chest strap out of a cold bucket of disinfectant.  You also had to hope you found one without a stretched out band and then place that cold, wet bulky device on your chest and hoped that it worked.

beets blu

Not today, with Beets BLU it’s comfortable, lightweight, slim and reliable.  Most importantly, at a reasonable price…it’s yours.  You already have a high tech smartphone, the Beets BLU will only make it smarter and you a better trained athlete ready for your next Marathon, 10k, 5k or long walk.

Check out the Beets BLU website, follow them on Facebook and Twitter

Disclaimer:  I was not paid to write this review or any reviews on my blog.  I was given a device to test drive.  Saying that if I don’t like a product I will not blog about it.  It’s that simply…all opinions are mine and based solely on my test of the product.

Running and Eating Better – You Can Do It

Eating Better – If I can do it you can too

Lori Nedescu was a member of our five person endurance team which recently ran the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim. aaaa

(USMES Team – Eric, Jami, Me, Lori and Dewey)

In preparation for this run, I got to spend a few days with Lori, who is a contracted Nutritionist for the US Military Endurance Sports team.   Lori is also a super-fast marathoner posting a Personal Best of 2:56:10 at the Columbus Marathon in 2016.  She is also a very competitive cyclist.  During preparations for our canyon run and during the time in Arizona she offered the team advice and suggestions on proper food selection and fueling.

lori pic r2r2r(Lori kicking the canyon’s butt)

I’ll be honest I was kind of embarrassed when we talked about my nutrition.  If you have followed my blog for any length of time you’ve come to realize food selection and nutrition are NOT my strong suits.  In fact…I border on being a junk food runner.  How I do what I do on my diet, sometimes baffles even me.  Understanding I have much to learn.  I asked Lori if she would take part in an interview to help my readers and I make better food selections.

Come on, some of you have confessed to being nearly as bad at eating correctly as I am. So here goes…

Lori, Thanks so much for taking the time to help us poor junk food runners.

Q.  Ruling out some life changing event that motivates someone to change “cold-turkey, what’s the biggest change someone like me, who may be living off of red meat, potatoes, pizza and Coke-a-Cola do to turn around their diet?

A. Small changes are key! So instead of thinking ‘no more’ think ‘a little less’. I would suggest being honest about how much of those foods you’re consuming and then making real objective goals for cutting back. For example, instead of having 2 diet cokes a day, aim for 1 a day for the first month, then 2 a week for the next month… When you set specific targets, you’re more likely to stick with them.  Also, consider what you CAN eat over what you shouldn’t eat. So focus on all the fruits and vegetables you’ll have room for by eating less of the other stuff. 

lori pics 3(Can you spot the dietitians plate?)

Speaking only about me, but I’m sure many others can relate, the biggest hindrance to eating better is knowledge and being lazy when it comes to preparing food.

Q.  What are some simple ways people/amateur athletes can turn around their diets/nutrition?

A. Meal prep and meal timing are important. You have to learn to be consistent, yet flexible at the same time. Its all about balance. The best thing to consider for an athlete is to ”eat more on the bike (or during whatever sport) and less off the bike”. Meaning you should fuel your activity more to promote more energy and cut excess calories at times of inactivity.  

Q  If you had a choice between, red meat, pork, chicken or turkey what’s the best choice from a fitness point of view.

A. Honestly I am a red meat fan. If that red meat is grass fed/ pasture raised… It makes a big difference in the quality and nutrition profile of the meat and offers up the iron an athlete needs along with B vitamins, protein, and a better fatty acid profile. The trick with animal proteins of any variety is choosing the best quality, lean cuts, and small (4ounce) portions.

Prior to a big race/run I always second guess my eating habits.

Q.  We have all heard about carbo loading the night prior to a big race, but is that theory true and when is the best time to load up.  One experienced Ultra-runner told me that he had his big meal, the night before, the night before the big race (two nights before race day).

A.  Carb loading is a very old practice. It used to be that athletes would go super low carb to deplete stores before eating excessive carbs pre race. Science has shown us this is not necessary, but an athlete can still benefit from ‘carb increasing’. One or two days before your race, reduce foods from fat and protein sources, replacing them with carbohydrate foods. This should be a change in the ratio of Carbs:Pro:Fat, not an increase in overall calories. Most athletes will benefit from reducing fiber, protein, and fats while increasing the carbohydrates the day before racing.

Q.  I love a big plate or two of spaghetti with meat sauce as my big meal and pizza the night before…(it works for me).  Thoughts on this line up and what would be a better alternative?

A. Every runner loves a good plate of pre race pasta. I’d personally skip the meat sauce as it tends to be greasy and creates a sluggish GI system. Instead, choose pasta with plan tomato or better yet, a butternut squash sauce to keep the focus on the easy to digest carbohydrates. 

One of my biggest fears going into our Grand Canyon run was that I would not carry enough or the wrong kind of food.  I’m used to having a buffet of food available at aide stations.  You reviewed each of our food/nutrition plans and made some great suggestions.

Would you share with my readers the nutrition requirements for long distance races/runs like Rim2Rim2Rim. Recovery is another area I lack education…I simply chug down a chocolate milk and think I have it covered.

Q.  What is your body looking for right after a long hard run/workout? 

A. Chocolate milk is a great option because it contains the body’s preferred ratio of carbs:protein. For endurance that is typically 4:1 as the body is still in need of carbohydrates to replenish stores, but also begins to require protein for rebuilding. Chocolate milk is also due its ease in consuming; no prep and gentle on the GI system post workout. However, for example, at R2R2R we had a vehicle in the sun for 14+ hours, not idea for storing dairy products. This is why I bring Cocoa Elite along. It is a form of dehydrated chocolate milk that is packed with flavonols to enhance recovery. Because the powder is shelf stable, I can bring it anywhere and mix it with water post event for a better than chocolate milk drink.  

Q.  What are some easy and available food items that would help with recovery?

A. Its best to have something prepped ahead of time. A hungry athlete walking into a full kitchen post workout is a dangerous thing that typically results in too many calories being consumed and the ‘recovery window’ closing. Personally I make an extra sandwich and put it in the fridge for post workouts. Smoothies are pretty easy to throw together and help the body cool off. Remember that you only need something small immediately after, it doesn’t have to be a full meal. 

It was fun hanging out with you “young folks” for a few days.  I learned a lot about fitness, food and life during our time in Arizona.  But the fact is time is catching up (with me).

Q.  Ruling out eating for fitness or race performance, how can someone who’s just trying to drop a few pounds jump start a slow or dormant metabolism?

A. I always prescribe a 3 day diet plan. This way, you aren’t revamping everything. Three days will help you switch things up enough to see changes in your body. 

I’ll be honest Lori at the rate you flew down the canyon and pulled away from the group I thought for sure we would come upon you in a crumbled mess along the trail at some point.  After all you had never run such a strenuous ultra before.  Much to your credit and my amazement…YOU ROCKED IT…being the first of our group to finish and by a number of hours.

Q.  What did you learn about yourself during your double canyon crossing?

A. Thanks! When I first began cycling, I went on a hilly charity ride. An ex pro cyclist friend was being nice and accompanying me. On the first hill I was struggling, complaining, going so slow… He looked at me and said ”You know, if you get to the top faster, the pain ends faster”. I can’t tell you how many times that statement has pushed me forward and kept me focused. I repeated those words to myself throughout the canyon with a determination to get it over with!   During R2R2R I felt so euphoric to be able to accomplish such a feat. A small portion of people get to experience what we did out there and it is an amazing thing. 

lori pics 4(Done in 14hr 20mins)

Q  What did you learn about running in general while in the canyon?

A. Omg where to begin!!?? It was a very challenging experience that really reinforced the mental aspect that comes into play when doing endurance activities. A strong mind can keep a struggling body moving!

Thank you so much for taking part in this interview. My readers can find Lori’s blog the Cadence Kitchen here (Eating clean and Training mean) and you can follow Lori’s running and cycling on Facebook and Instagram @cadencekitchen lori pic Lori has written her own cookbook capitalizing on her knowledge of nutrition and experiences as an athlete, you can check it out here.

lori pics 2Click here for a sample recipe.

Running An Epic Adventure – Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim – Part 2

Some runs break you down.

Some runs make you push yourself.

Some runs change your outlook on life.

And some runs teach you important lessons.

Part 1 of this epic adventure is available here.

From the North Rim and Beyond

NORTH KAIBAB TRAIL TO PHANTOM RANCH, 14 miles/5,734 feet - My pre-run plan was to avoid a long pit stop on the North Rim.  I wanted or so I thought to turn and burn as fast as I could.  Figuring the more time I lingered on the rim the greater the chances of calling it a day.  As the day played out, I never once thought of ending the run but I also was in no hurry to depart the rim until I got some real food into my belly.  I took the extra time to dig into my pack and break out the trail mix, jerky and M&Ms. There has to be a better way to pack this vest, was the dominant thought as I wasted a ton of time trying to access and return my food items.  I want to tell you the food tasted great, but I had to force it down.  A cup of applesauce, and a diet Mountain Dew (my normal 24 hour pit-stop food) would have tasted so much better.

With a belly topped off and water bottles ready to go the group was ready for the second part of our canyon adventure.  Before departing I did take a look around and wondered to myself how many ever get to see this less famous side of the Grand Canyon?  We learned the right to look one last time but we still had work to do so down the North Rim we went.

13179234_10209186952380467_5809498968552670668_n(It was great to be running again as
we made our way downhill from the North Rim)

My legs felt liberated as we ran downhill.  My cadence was quick and light as we rambled down the narrow trail. It felt great to run free of the uphill climb that was shackled around our necks for the past few hours. After only a few minutes and a few switchbacks that familiar soreness in my left thigh popped up its ugly head.  As we were making our way down the North Rim it became obvious that the required braking action for the switchbacks and the erosion control stair stepper down hill was adding up.

2016GrandCanyon erosion control steps(The rocks/timbers provide needed erosion control for the trail, but
they destroy your legs having to step over them)

As the day wore on and the miles from the North Rim grew greater it was getting harder to clear the 6″ – 8″ logs and 6″ – 12 ” rocks used to protect the trail from erosion.  A new tactic had to be deployed.  I would run in-between the logs/rocks then half walk as I crossed over them then run to the next transition.   After my fall early in the day, I no longer trusted myself to run fast over elevated rocks/steps.  If the downhill section looked overly technical, or had unsure footing, I hiked over it vs. risking another crash to the trail.  My slower pace and cautious nature had me falling behind the group.

Being alone for much of the descent began to wear on me as I made my way to Coconino Overlook, and Supai Tunnel.  Although I knew everyone was running their own race adventure I tried hard to catch up.  I ran all the flats, downhills and once off the deathly switchbacks I tried to run right up to the climbs.  On occasion I got to see members of my group just ahead, but I could not close the gap. At Roaring Springs I finally caught up to them as they took a break.  I tried hard to get in and out fast in hopes of departing with the group but I needed more food, more than the GUs and Gatorade I had been living on since North Rim.  I broke into my vest and pulled out the trail mix.  The real food felt good but when I went to put the food back in my pack it took much longer than I had hoped.  Eric offered to stick with me, but I did not want to hold him up or slow down the group.  Again I was alone as I departed approx. 10 minutes behind them and made my way to Pumphouse and Cottonwood Campground.

13177579_10209187000861679_5023816510757870553_n

(One part of running that I have always enjoy is crossing bridges,
the Grand Canyon offers some of the best crossing I have ever seen)

A few times my mind played tricks on me in the afternoon heat.  The temperatures in “the box” section of the canyon got up to 97 degrees.  I thought for sure I saw members of the group waiting for me around turns, sitting on rocks and high up in the canyon to only figure out it was a tree, or a unique shaped rock.  Then I saw someone sitting alone on the trail.  It’s Joshua…I thought to myself.  Guilt overcame me, he must be the one who drew the short straw to wait on the old guy.  I felt bad someone gave up on their goal time to wait on me.  I felt like the old man who slowed down everyone and it eat at me as I closed the gap after all I was the experienced Ultra Runner of the group.

“Joshua are you the guy who picked the short straw?” I cried out as I approached him. I was poised and at the ready to argue why he should NOT wait on me and run his own adventure.  Joshua then said something that changed the day for me.

“No I’m sick, I’ve been throwing up and very nausea.”

I told myself from that moment I would not leave him alone, we would work together to get both of us out of the canyon.  It was at this point that it hit me…you do not simply DNF a Rim2Rim2Rim run.  The canyon has you until you work your way out of it.

I sat with Joshua for a few minutes then asked him if we could get moving, reasoning that he might feel better if we moved on.  Once moving we were able to pick up the pace, and after a short while we were back to running the flats, the downhills and making our way best we could to Phantom Ranch.

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • Better to run smart than to run fast and risk another fall, hard on my ego, but it was wise.
  • Somewhere it was written that at halfway you should have 2/3 of your energy reserves left…if I had a fuel gauge, as I left the North Rim I was a bit under half.
  • I should have taken more pictures.
  • I need to train for the erosion control steps.

PHANTOM RANCH TO BRIGHT ANGEL TRAIL (SOUTH RIM), 9.5 Miles/4,380 feet – When we arrived at Phantom Ranch the Cantina was closed.  I “guesstimate” the time was around 5 p.m. but I’m not really sure.  The only time hack I can establish is that the Cantina was closed (4 p.m.) and they were serving their reservation only dinner.

Joshua and I made our way around the ranch trying to find Eric, Jami, our lunches and more importantly the water source.  I found the water fountain around the front of the dinner and made a beeline to get some refreshment.  In a very tired state it was difficult to bend over, hold the faucet open and position my bottles to be filled.  Thankfully a gentlemen saw my struggle and offered help.  During the process he asked what we were doing.  I explained that we were running Rim2Rim2Rim.  I filled my bottles and proceeded to stick my arms and head under the faucet.  After a short time Jami came around from behind the ranch and found us.

phantom-ranch lunch(Borrowed photo but my lunch was nearly the same,
and that was one good apple)

Joshua and I sat at a picnic bench after Jami offered to get us our lunches. (Thank you, so much)  Upon opening them I was starved and not in the mood for food all at the same time.  I forced myself to eat some of the craisins, half a bagel and all of the apple. My mouth was so dry nothing tasted good…I wanted to flood my mouth and stomach with water, but I knew that would be counterproductive.  Up to this point I had not lost my stomach, had no GI issues and I did not want to test fate now.

As we sat their eating our lunches I could sense that we were being watched.  As I looked around the dinner crowd had been let out and a small group of people kept looking our way.  Two elderly ladies finally walked over and asked us what we were doing.  We told them that with three other friends we were running the canyon and we were on our way from the North Rim headed to Bright Angel Trail.  One of the ladies made the statement “You can’t do that…”  Both Joshua and I chuckled and told them that in a few minutes we would continue on our way.  We chatted with the group but finally had to break contact to get moving again.  The group wished us well with one gentleman telling us that we would be in his journal entry for the day. I raised my hand into the air with a thump up, gave him a fist bump and continued on to begin our climb up South Rim.

13177600_10209186953340491_7437792555492416293_n(This crossing terrified me)

Joshua and I fast hiked and even ran some to the entry point of Bright Angel trail making our way to the final bridge crossing of the Colorado River.  I’ll be honest, I was never really scared during my double crossing, but crossing this grated bridge scared the pooooo right out of me. Running on the steel grates with nothing below my feet but a long fall to the river gave me a very uneasy feeling during the entire crossing.  While making my way all I could think about was a safety incident where a floor grate came loose causing a employee to fall through the opening.  Needless to say I was happy when my feet were on solid ground again…even if it was a sandy trail.

Screen-Shot-2016-05-22-at-11.57.32-AM(Had no idea we would be storming the beach)

Sandy trail…where did that come from?  My mind may have been in a fog but I had no idea that our run would travel over a sandy trail.  As we made our way to the River Resthouse Joshua’s legs began cramping.  At the River Resthouse we made a major mistake.  We could not find the water supply location and when we asked a group of young girls who must have hiked over from Bright Angel Campground they had no idea.  With half filled water bottles we took off and headed to Indian Garden and points beyond.

It was at some point on the way to Indian Garden that I realized the little building across the small creek/stream at River Resthouse must have held the water stop. It was too late, it was to far to go back and we were running out of water.  Another error was made as we worked our way up the South Rim.  My mind was fading and my ability to perform math functions was failing faster.  Somehow departing Indian Garden my mind reasoned we had around three miles remaining to our adventure.  When I saw the sign that we had 4.5 miles to the South Rim I nearly lost it.  I used to curse like a drunken sailor and in recent years I’ve left that habit behind. Upon the realization that we still had a lot of work in front of us my language returned to its former fashion.

With nothing to do but get it done Joshua and I hammered away up the trail.  His legs were cramping badly and my heart rate was spiking as we made our way up the staircase  climbs.  When simply going up an incline I could make good time and my heart rate did not suffer.  Add in the stair step inclines and I needed a break about every quarter-mile to regroup.  Still with all the suffering we made each 1.5 miles in an hour.  With all out determination to finish we made the 3 mile Resthouse and 1.5 mile Resthouse.

As we made our way past the last rest house I remembered prior R2R2R runners recalling that Bright Angel Trail leading up to the rim played havoc on your mind.  With each passing switchback you believe your getting closer to journeys end when you actually have a good deal to travel.  Adding to this challenge was the visitor center lights stationed high up on the rim. These lights reminded me of just how far we had to climb.  In the pitch black of the night this weighed on my mind and tried my resolve when at times it felt like we were getting no closer.

As we made our way around switchback after switchback, I thought I heard something foreign off in the distance.  Snake, bear, an elk, or BIGFOOT?  What was that?  I think Joshua was the first to figure out what that foreign sound was.  Then it became clear, we could hear the voices of our teammates on the rim calling out to us and cheering us on.  This provided the extra motivation I needed to get up on my toes and run it home.  Exiting the canyon and being welcomed back to the world was a very emotional ending to a very trying day.

13226746_1237562866254867_7126512203488526329_n (2)(Our team of five Eric, Lori, Myself, Joshua and Jami
Mission Complete – 12 May 2016 – Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim)

Joshua and I finished our Rim2Rim2Rim run in 19 hours and 30 minutes.

NOTE:  I’ve been asked many times did you really run the entire way?  What qualifies what you did as running the canyon vs. hiking it, or walking it?  My only answer is not to justify what I accomplished to anyone.  I moved as fast as I could at every given moment while in the canyon.  Some have run the canyon faster, some slower and some have not finished nor attempted it.   To me I ran the canyon the best I could…I know this, and more importantly the canyon knows this to be true.

OBTW the Fastest Known Time for a Rim2Rim2Rim run is 6 hours and 21 minutes by Rob Kar

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • Relentless forward motion is key.  Keeping moving at all costs.
  • I made the right choice to not leave Joshua in the Canyon, may be it cost me a better finishing time, I could not have lived with myself if he got hurt.
  • A voice in the night can be very motivating.
  • Water is key, the only time I felt really low about making it out was when we nearly ran out.
  • No matter the length of the race/run, no matter the amount pain…in a relative blink of an eye it will all be over.  Live in the moment, look around and enjoy the day.

Other team members posts about our run:
Lori’s post at The Cadence Kitchen
Eric’s Post at Run-Ride-Life
Joshua’s Post at Dewey’s path

For more information on running/hiking or visiting the Grand Canyon click here.

Thanks so much to Eric, Joshua and Jami for allowing me to use the photos they took…I got next to zero photos, I had GoPro battery issues.

Enjoy some more Photos from our run:

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0757.(Making our way down the North Rim)

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0766.(Approaching the last bridge crossing
of the Colorado River to climb the South Rim)

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0771.(Climbing up Bright Angel Trail
leaving the river behind us)

 

Running An Epic Adventure – Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim – Part 1

Some runs stretch your limits.

Some runs make you doubt yourself.

Some runs push you past your physical abilities.

And some runs teach you important lessons.

Running the Grand Canyon – Rim2Rim2Rim – And what I learned from it.

To the North Rim.

13233049_10209186949580397_5226673524752590985_n(Read my initial post to find out how
we got to this point)

LOGISTICS/RUNNING KIT - Fellow canyon runner Eric H. is going to write a detailed post about the logistics of our Rim2Rim2Rim run so I’m lightly going to touch on this subject.  Eric was responsible for 99% of the ground work for our adventure, he is in a much better position to talk on this subject.  Read Eric’s post here.  (Thank you Eric for all your work.)

A Rim2Rim2Rim attempt is normally a self supported run.  Our only outside aide was snack lunches we ordered from the Phantom Ranch Cantina and park service provided water stops along the trail.  All other food or support gear (i.e. extra clothes, lights, poles etc.) we carried in and out of the canyon.

13239355_1237575966253557_8280022900254274668_nFor an adventure like this I only wore items that I had 100% confidence in.  A double canyon crossing is not the time for new shoes, new food choices or to test drive the latest gizmo. Some words about the key players in my gear selection.

OPEDIX Compression Shorts – Using Kinetic Technology, these compression shorts support the natural structure of your body.  With such a demanding run I needed something comfortable and supportive as my legs were going to take a pounding.

Race Ready Long Distance Shorts – Carrying all my food/gear was (for me) the most intimidating prospect of this adventure.  The storage pockets built into my LD shorts provided extra space for easy to reach fuel along the run.

Black Diamond Poles – Initially I was against using poles, “I’m a runner not a hiker” but looking back I could not have completed this without them.  They were light and simple to use, after a few minutes I got the rhythm down where I could run fast while using the poles to provide stabilization on some of the technical parts of the trail. (Thanks Gayle!)

Ultimate Direction AK Vest – I found this to be the perfect size for me.  Although I would have packed it a bit different, instead of rolling my extra clothes and storing them vertically, I believe they would have carried better and provided greater access to my trail food if stored in a horizontal position much like a sleeping roll is carried.  Hindsight is 20/20.  The AK vest allowed me to carry two 24 oz bottles up front which was plenty of liquids to get to each water stop.

Nathan Handheld - I started this adventure with three 24 oz water bottles, two in my AK vest and one handheld but that was over kill.  I dropped my hand held at the North Rim.  The Nathan handheld held my bottle firmly and provided extra food storage.

Running Buddy Pouch – I wanted easy access to my cell phone for pictures and this was the perfect place.  Carried right up front, it fit secure with no bounce and was easy to access.

Julbo Eye Protection – The canyon beat the tar out of me and my trusty sunglasses protected my eyes without any hassle.  Between sticking my head under water faucets, splashing water on my head and face at creek crossings, the impact of low lying branches and my forgetfulness once I got super tired I’m sure these sunglasses saved my eyes.

Food – I lived off of GU gels, Cliff bars, Gatorade drink mixes and gummy blocks.  I also carried trail mix with M&Ms, Beef Jerky, and Chex Mix.  To combat stress I used Hammer Endurolytes and Advil. I had no stomach or GI issues the entire day with only one short term bout of cramping of my inner left thigh around midday.

Now on to the run…

SOUTH KAIBAB TRAIL TO COLORADO RIVER, 7 Miles/4,780 feet - The day started early and everyone was filled with excitement of running this great adventure.  Exiting the van and taking my pre-canyon selfie, I called my wife and told her the group was ready and already talking about returning “next year” to run the canyon again.  I told her that I missed her and that I loved her.  Eric then said it was time for our group picture and to get running.

The five of us smiled for the camera and headed to the trail head.  In the still dark morning hours we switched on our headlights and in the blink of an eye we were off.  The decent is hard to explain, as the rough cut mule rutted trail drops off quickly and narrowly from the south rim.  Running by headlamp over the rugged terrain was an exercise in proper foot placement.  Concentrating on the trail before me diluted time and it wasn’t long before the sun began to appear as the world around us came to life.

Daylight illuminated the wonder and beauty of the canyon.  Above us on the south rim visitors will awe of the wonder of the Grand Canyon, but that perspective highlights just a fraction of the stunning world beneath the rim.  The on coming day light also called our attention to the fact that we were not alone on the trail.  Earlier under the dark skies we passed a few hikers who made it to the trail head before us.  It was not long into our adventure that w we came upon our first and hopefully only mule train.  Nothing prepares you for the smell of a pack of mules taking a “break” alone the route to the bottom.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0588.(Felt like the descent would never end…)

As we approached the mules, our lead runner Speedy Lori “the mule whisper” talked to the lead rider of the train who asked us to turn off our headlamps. He said he would make room for us to pass but warned us “I’ll only do this once.”  Making our way around the mules was a bit unnerving as the rider advised us to pass on the right.  The mules were safe on the left side of the trail nestled up against the canyon wall, we passed on the narrow side with a sheer drop of a few hundred feet for a misplaced foot fall.

After leaving our mule encounter behind us the trek to the bottom was unencumbered and rapid.  Going into the event I told myself that I had to conserve my legs early on for fear of losing them later in the day.  The decent was easy to run as the drop in elevation made it easy to run fast and light.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0626.(Member making their way to the bottom,
Lori, Joshua, Myself and Jami (Left to right)

Around mile three I noticed my legs felt heavy from all the breaking action and I started to fear our paced to the canyon floor may be to rapid for me.  I tried to slow myself down but the excitement, ease of effort and the distracting views that surrounded us drew my attention away from backing down my pace.

trail surfaces(All my pre-work did little to actually
prepare me for the actual trail surfaces)

We made the base of the canyon in 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Our group of five linked up there and topped off our water bottles and embraced the fact that we were “RUNNING THE GRAND CANYON.”  At this point in the run it became obvious to me that being the “old guy” I was going to have a hard time keeping up with the pack.  And I was okay with that.  It was also at this point that I caught the first glimpse that this was going to be a long day.  Starting off from the river beginning our advance to Phantom Ranch and the North Rim my legs felt heavy  and I could feel the effects of all the breaking action coming down the south trail.  At only 7 miles in, this would be telling tale of the day.

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • All the planning, reading all of the R2R2R blog posts, watching all the YouTube videos, did little to get me ready to run in the Canyon.
  • Going in I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. Yet living at Sea level yet with little opportunity to run hills mountains my legs were ill prepared for the elevation changes of R2R2R.  The near constant breaking action and thigh busting up hills put a drain on energy reserves and took a toll on my quads.
  • I need to do more hill repeats and extreme climbs to be ready for this again.

Rim2Rim2Rim Map
(We ran from South Kaibab to North Kaibab
and returned on Bright Angel 44.5 miles 20, 682 feet)

NORTH KAIBAB TRAIL (NORTH RIM), 14 miles/5,734 feet - After our well needed break and water bottle top off the group was in good spirits and moving fast.  I knew I needed to go into some energy conservation mode so I settled into my Ultra run plan, running the flats and downhills and fast hiking the uphill portions.

The terrain changed as we made our way to Phantom Ranch, offering some cover from the approaching sun.  Our plan from the night before was to try and make up some time on the “flat” portion of our adventure…the false flat of Phantom Ranch and Bright Angel campground lead to the beginning of the climb to the North Rim.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0691.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0704.

(Making our way to Phantom Ranch, before the fall)

My legs came back to life during this portion of the run, yet I knew that they had paid a price on the initial decent.  At one point along the trail paralleling bright angel creek I was within eye shot of the group and decided to press my pace to catch up. Insistently I knew I made a mistake.  It wasn’t a sharp pain in my thigh, or a cramp in my calf.  It wasn’t shortness of breath that spelled disaster.  It was the realization that my toe had caught a rock and that I was now tumbling out of control to the edge of the trail.  I impacted the trail on my left side with my arm, chest, and shoulder adsorbing the majority of the blow.  Coming to a rest in a cloud of trail dust I waited to hear a loud pop.  With the force that I had impacted I thought for sure something was going to give. The sound I waited for I was sure would be the pop of my shoulder breaking or becoming dislocated.

13178651_1237037072974113_6187306199136257841_n(the next day, cleaned up nicely)

It took a few seconds but I realized I had dodged the big one.  No pop, no pain and only a slight burning in the palm of my left hand.  The fall tore back some skin and I was bleeding but noticing my proximity to the edge of the trail and bright angel creek, like a driver who makes it out of the crash at Talladega I missed the big one.  Getting up off the ground I walked a few steps making sure everything was still functioning properly then I proceeded to run again.  Gone were any thoughts of catching up with the group until our next water stop.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1024.(Words fall short in trying to capture
the wonder of the canyon)

The mixture of terrain on the North side was stunning.  You have the shear beauty of the colored rock formations that make the canyon famous.  The North side also offers beautiful trees, magnificent overlooks, thunderous water falls, and cascading creeks with pools of water so inviting that I thought of jumping in many times.  I’ll never forgot how on one side of a switchback the canyon was quiet and calm and on the other side just a few feet away the sounds of Roaring Springs water fall came to life.  The North trail is a wolf in sheep clothing.  Beautiful to the eye while treacherous to run all at the same time.  Portions of the trails leading up the North Rim were some of the most technical trails of the day, no guard rails, switchbacks with hairpin turns and lose rocks just waiting for a misplaced step.

During our ascent up the North Rim our group (except for Lori, she was out pacing us by a good margin) reconnected at all the major water stops along the route, Cottonwood Campground, Pumphouse residence, Roaring Springs, Supai Tunnel, Coconino Overlook and finally at the North Rim.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0722.(Some of the most stunning views on the planet)

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0719.

(Making way up a trail and reconnecting with the group)

I was trailing behind the group and it was nice to see them at these locations but our plan after the North Rim was for each runner to do their best to complete the run but no one was going to be waiting around on the way out.  Being the old slow guy I was resigned to spending much of the day battling the canyon alone, and I was good with that.

2016GrandCanyonR3NorthRim(On the North Rim)

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0749.(Half way home…)

I estimate I made the North Rim around eight hours after pushing off from South Kaibab trail earlier in the day.

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • Going in I knew the risk of injury or that someone (maybe me) might not be able to complete the adventure was high.  I did not realize that major injury and even death was a real option.  Without being over dramatic, sections of the trail left very little room for error.
  • I did not fully appreciate the ruggedness nor the shear remoteness of our situation.
  • I did not realize how much of the trail would involve stair step type climbing.
  • The water on the north rim was some of the freshest and coldest I’ve ever tasted.

Part 2 of my Grand Canyon Post “North Rim and Beyond” can be read here.

Other team members posts about our run:
Lori’s post at The Cadence Kitchen
Eric’s Post at Run-Ride-Life
Joshua’s Post at Dewey’s path

For more information on running/hiking or visiting the Grand Canyon click here.

Thanks so much to Eric, Joshua and Jami for allowing me to use the photos they took…I got next to zero pictures I had GoPro battery issues.

Enjoy some more Photos from our run:

2016GrandCanyon passing the mules(Our Mule passing…)

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0589.(Our first glimpse of the Colorado River
descending the South Rim)

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0612.

(The Colorado River and the descent)

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0620.(The long winding trail to the bottom)

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0625.(First crossing of the Colorado river)

2016GrandCanyon decent tunnel(Coming out of the dark)

2016GrandCanyon climbing NR(Climbing the North Rim)

 Part 2 of my Grand Canyon Post “North Rim and Beyond” can be read here.

 

Ultra Marathon – Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim – RIM2RIM2RIM 2016

Many motivational speakers inspire their audiences to dream big, and aim for the stars.

On earth there are many inspiring landscapes with breathtaking beauty, but there is none larger or more impressive than the Grand Canyon….so why not run it?

18 months ago it started as just an idea between two runners (Eric and I).  The team quickly grew to 13 during the early stages, then as the run date grew closer, because of injury, money, travel and or fear (?) the team condensed to just five.  A speedy nutritionist, two young active duty Air Force guys, a world class triathlete and the old guy (me).

13233049_10209186949580397_5226673524752590985_n(On the South Kaibab Trailhead
Lori, Myself, Joshua, Jami and Eric)

We started on 12 May 2016 at 4:30 a.m. on the South Kaibab Trailhead.

Grand Canyon Collage

During our brief time as part of the canyon we fought to overcome the distance, the elevation, the canyon, the heat and our bodies to complete what each of us said was the hardest single thing we have ever faced.

13179037_10209186953940506_5066594715018288576_n(Finishers on the Bright Angel Trail)

Over the course of 19 hours and 30 minutes covering 44.5 miles and 20,682 feet of elevation the dream for me became a reality.  My full run report is posted here.

Other team members posts about our run:
Lori’s post at The Cadence Kitchen
Eric’s Post at Run-Ride-Life
Joshua’s Post at Dewey’s path

 

Running My 7th Virginia 24 Hour Ultra Marathon

UPDATE:
For the second year in a row, and the third year out of the last four, team Run4Life has won the team competition of the Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer.  In the process this team set a new course record with 914 miles!  Congratulations team, I could not be prouder!

2016teamrun4lifeA(2016 Edition of Run4Life,
Runners: Andrea, Jessica, Genno, Paul, Ally
Me, Steve J, Steve D, Steve S, Hank, David, Shannon
Crewed by: Eric, Jennifer, Joshua, Charles and Kimmy)

My first Ultra Marathon was the 2009 Virginia 24 Hour Run For Cancer.  Little did I know seven years later this event would become a staple of my running calendar.

24hourrun history

(7 years of running, 34.25 miles to my 500 mile jacket)

When I first entered this race in 2009 I had three full marathons under my belt but had no idea of what I had gotten myself into.  I also had no idea how to go about running an ultra.  Likewise, I knew very few local runners and mostly considered myself a lone wolf runner.  Seven years later and I don’t want to say I’m an expert, but I’ve learned a lot about ultra running along the way.  I’ve also met hundreds of great people in the running community and have had the pleasure and honor to be the captain of Team Run4Life for four years.

The 2016 edition of this race would be the first time I would go into the day not focused on my running plan and or big mileage numbers I set for myself.  12 days after this race I will be headed west to the Grand Canyon to run Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim.

The tentative goals for my seventh running of this event would be to run the opening 20 miles as a long training run.  So focused on “ultra training” It had been a while since my last “marathon pace” 20 miler.  I wanted to see where I stood in respect to being in “marathon shape.”  After a slower first lap with the congestion of the 24 hour start I hit the 20 mile mark at 3 hours and 12 minutes into the day.  My time was not as fast as I wanted but this gave me a starting point for my marathon training.  The second goal for the day was to run a minimum of 50 miles.  With the R2R2R adventure hanging off in the distance I did not want to put up big numbers and compromise my legs.  I ended the day with 59.5 miles after pacing Paul and Genno for their last laps.  3rd and most importantly I wanted to get  through this event without getting injured or blistered.  On a near perfect day I accomplished all three goals, now on to Grand Canyon and our R2R2R outing.

2016VA24hourrun(Paul and I early on)

BONUS:  Without the pressure of my own plan hanging over my head I was able to chill out enjoying time around the camp and running with my team members throughout the day.  That time with these inspiring people was invaluable.

2016run4lifegroupa(Myself, Hank, Andrea, David and Steve)

201624hourrunpacers(Eric, Myself, Andrea and Joshua)

A Big Thank You goes out to Eric, Jennifer, Joshua, Charles and Kimmy who selfishly gave of their time to help us around camp, run errands, pace runners during the day/night and feed us!  They could have been doing any number of other things, but the choose to support us as we ran around, and around and around.

Eric wrote a great post about his experiences at the 24 Hour Run, check it out here.

201624hourruncamp(Run4Life Base Camp)

Team Totals:
Steve S, 135 miles, Race Champion
Genno, 92 miles 3rd overall female
Paul, 89.75
Andrea, 84.5
Shannon, 78.75, new distance PR
Ally 78.75, new distance PR
David, 75
Hank, 60
Steve J, 60  new distance PR
Brian (Me), 59.50
Jessica, 50
Steve D, 50, Thanks for stepping in at the last minute!
Team Run4Life = 914.25 miles 

RACE REPORTS
2016 Photo cache
Read about the Super Seniors who ran this race in 2016
2015 Race Report
2014 Race Report
2009 Race Report

Running – Ultra Marathon – And Super Seniors

Every runner has a story.

Some run to fight depression, some run to battle weight issues, some run to forget and some run to honor those they lost.

Likewise, every race has a bigger calling, to honor our heroes, to set the ultimate challenge and to raise money to fight an evil illness.

Super seniors headline the Virginia 24-Hour Run/Walk for Cancer

superseniors

Robert White served in the 17th Airborne during World War II, has run nine marathons and jogged a 5K in Hampton earlier this month. In short, this 92-year-old marvel is accustomed to pushing himself.

Saturday, and perhaps Sunday, White embraces another challenge as he joins other “super seniors” in the 13th annual Virginia 24-Hour Run/Walk for Cancer at Hampton’s Sandy Bottom Nature Park. Read about his and other super seniors here.

Update on the SUPER SENIORS, read more about this groups accomplishments here.

Ultra Marathon – Running The Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim, R2R2R or R3

Ever since I announced to my wife, family, friends and the world that I wanted to run the Grand Canyon, Rim (South Kaibab Trail) to Rim (North Kaibab Trail) to Rim (Bright Angel Trail) in one day, I’ve been asked why.  Why would I want to take on such a challenging run, that isn’t even an official race. az-bikepack-2-and-grand-canyon-127 I never really had a good answer, at least not a single answer.  As this day approaches I’ve tried to explain the calling the Grand Canyon has had on my running dreams.

Grand Canyon and 20 reasons why.

1.  I’ve come to face I may not have the drive, genetics or time to be in a position to 1st place in my age group or win an event…..but I CAN DO EPIC.  I will do epic and will live an EPIC LIFE.

2016grandcanyon

2.  For the wonder of it all…the Grand Canyon is one of the world’s great marvels.  For one day the four of us will be part of it.

GCteam(Joshua, Myself and Eric = Logistics lead)

3.  Eric and Joshua are two friends who are going with me.  Since I first mentioned this adventure to Eric on a training run for the Graveyard 100, teaming up with him and then Joshua “Dewy” has been awesome. The dreaming, planning, preparation and the future success will bond us together.

4.   This Grand Canyon run will help set the stage for a future race in Leadville, Colorado, the Leadville Trail 100. If I can survive Rim2Rim2Rim I’ll toss my hat into the Leadville race.

5.  No run can compare, some might be longer, some might have more elevation, but none, by my standard combine both in such an epic adventure.

6.  For the same reason people climb and run mountains, because its there.

7.  The logistics challenge.  This is not a race, it’s a self supported out and back run.  That challenge calls for being self supported for 48 miles and 20,000 feet of climb/decent.  Other than the pit stop at Phantom Ranch and water availability at selected spots along the trail, this run is as much about being able to support yourself as it is about the miles or location.

A friend of mine made this great video of his packing plan.

8.  I’ll be honest, some of it has to do with bragging rights.  When a group of runners get together, often you hear, I ran NYC, Chicago, Boston….well I ran the Grand Canyon #BOOM  I say this is jest…but it will be awesome!

canyonprofile 9.  There’s only two hills…

10.  The idea of running something that has remained mostly unchanged for 1,000s of years.

11.  For the Fun.

12.  For the challenge, half and full marathons are are hard, 24 hour and 100 mile races are down right tough….but Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim may be life changing.  What else can equal that?

13.  Life is short and now is the time. grandcanyoncolors 14.  To see and be surrounded by natures color palette. Please join the Facebook group Grand Canyon R2R2R for a ton of information and documented experiences.

15.  I grew up in Erie, Pa most of my early adult life, but for one summer there was a thought that we might one day move to Arizona.  I remember looking at a map of the state, seeing the canyon outline and thinking, wow wouldn’t it be cool to live there.

16.  During my first trip to the canyon over 20 years ago I stood on the edge wondering what it must be like to venture into the canyon and stand at the edge of the Colorado river and stare at the people on the canyon’s rim. south kaibab 17.  To see the Colorado river.

18.  The challenge is had to match, near 48 miles with over 20,000 feet of elevation change.

19.  It’s the GRAND CANYON.

20.  I’ve often wondered what it must have been like for the first person who while out collecting water, hunting or trying to find a new western passage, stumbled across this natural wonder.  I hope to capture some of that wonder, some of that initial excitement when I take my first strides down the South Kaibab trail headed North.

On 12 May 2016, five of us went over the edge and battled the canyon all day…it is DONE…..

Running – Racing And The Marathon, How Do You Select A Race?

Whether you run local 5 and 10ks, half marathons, full marathon or ultra distance races selecting a race to run can be an arduous process.  There are many things to consider.  On the line are long hours in training, miles on the body and the time away from family, and friends.  Not to mention the money spent on registration fees, travel and  accommodations.  This investment can be money well spent or wasted depending on the outcome.  Selecting a race is a major decision point on to not take lightly.

With all of that added pressure resting on your shoulders (and on your feet) is your race selection normally based on the length of the race, the location, on performance indications or on the swag and bling available for finishing? 

bling(I love the bling) 

I get asked this question often via e-mail or in person, how do I go about picking a race?  Although my selection of a race is never the same, sometime I’ll run a certain race because friends recommend it, it’s a local favorite or I just want to hang out with a group of cool people.  Although I’m selecting a race to run for training or race purposes it comes down to…

Mostly distance.  I pick most of my races based on the distance I need as part of my Marathon/Ultra training plan.  I normally select a few target aka “goal” races during the year, then the rest of my racing calendar is based around races that will support these “goal” races. The trend lately has seen most of my target races being marathon and longer in turn the “support” races have been half marathon or longer in length.

On Location:  I’m not an elite athlete , not independently wealthy and not sponsored by a national shoe company.  Selecting a race destination with its associated travel costs, time and the number of vacation days needed are major factors for me.  Most of my races tend to be local events while my destination races (a night away from home) are run in combination with a long weekend or previously planned vacation.  Reviewing my race travels for last year (2015) I ran 11 races with five being in combination with a night out of town.

On performance:  In years past, 2013 in particular my eyes were squarely on running my first sub-four hour marathon.  I selected both Cleveland (failed attempt) and Niagara Falls (successful 3:56) with the hopes of providing a flat and fast track.  Other years I’ve selected races as a train up for a longer distance  an example being my first 100 mile run at Umstead in 2014, I ran the Graveyard 100k as a train up run.   Counter to this I have yet to avoid a race based on the performance.  I’ve gone into a few races knowing it was going to be a slow tough event for me.  In 2013 I ran races an example being the Medoc Mountain Meltdown, a FA event of the 50k+ length, that I knew would kick my butt.  Here performance wasn’t the end result hanging out with running friends was the goal.

For the bling/swag:  Yes I’m a sucker for big and shinny race medals.  I love the free goodies and event shirts that most large scale races offer.  In reality I do not pay much attention to the bling or event goodies when I select a race.  I love finding out what the medal looks like and I like a lot of chrome and shiny stuff, but I do not select a race based solely on the bling/swag. The swag at the expo and the finishing bling is a bonus.

With so many great races on the calendar, the selection is getting harder and harder to make. How do you go about selecting a race?

Boston Marathon – And The Squirrel Runner

I never give “running” the Boston Marathon much thought, except on Patriots day every April.  Then I wonder if I could post a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time.  I’m not against charity runners getting into the Boston Marathon, but If I ever “run” Boston it will have to be by posting a qualifying time.  Because simply, that is what “running” Boston means to me.

To be honest, I don’t think I have what it takes to BQ.

I believe I have the legs to BQ.

I believe I have the lungs to BQ and I Believe I have the mental toughness to run a qualifying time.

But I’m to much of a squirrel runner to stay focus long enough to train for my BQ race.  Plain and simple I get distracted too easy.

bruce-lee-enter-the-dragon

Did I mention I wanted to be Bruce Lee when I was growing up, I just loved him in “Enter The Dragon.” My favorite scene was when he was fighting in a room filled with mirrors. I wonder if Bruce Lee could post BQ time.

My goals in running are to run for as long as I can. To experience as many running environments as I can well adding to my life’s journey.  I enjoy running local 5k races and national 100 miles events.  I want to run it all.  I just don’t have the make up to sacrifices a number of running experiences and all they add to my life for one qualifying time.  Now I’m not saying a BQ time is not a worthy goal…it is and I respect those that have the focus to train for and achieve such a goal.  Myself I can’t stay focused on one race.

pirate__1221836287_8352

One.

One day after school a friend and I got into a bottle rocket war.  Man those things were zipping by my head, dang that was stupid, I could have lost an eye. Then I could have been a pirate. I lived on a lake so being a pirate…..what?

Priate, what were we talking about?

My hat goes off to all those who have reached their goal, whether it was your first Boston Marathon or your tenth.  You have reached a goal few have.  For those who seek other running goals away from Boston, my hat goes off to you as well.  One of the best attributes of our hobby/life style is that their is room for everyone.

cat_in_the_hat

Speaking of hats…this cat broke into my house once. He was crazy and was wearing a red and white striped top hat…….