Friday, September 25, 2015


Yes he's at it again! After much deliberation and searching for new challenges I decided that nothing can match the Grand Canyon so I'm going back next month for a slightly different challenge.
   Last time I went from Rim to Rim, this time I'm doing Rim to River to Rim from the South side. Basically its a few miles shorter and I will set off and return from different points along the South rim. The main challenge is that the descent is much more severe, rocky and very steep and there are no water taps till the river. Falling, injury and dehydration are the potential problems (plus snakes etc).  There are several warning signs telling you not to do it including the one of 23 year old Margaret Bradley, a sub 3 hour Boston Marathoner, super fit and strong, who tragically died of dehydration on the climb back out. The Canyon can be an unforgiving place, even to the healthy and well prepared, the dangers are real but you just have to know what you can and cannot do... and I believe I can do this... in fact I'm going to do it.
Below is a chart of the elevation gain and descent which is 5000 feet down and 5000 feet back up again and starting at over 7000 feet but on different trails. The total distance is about 30k so not quite as far as the rim to rim but apparently no less demanding.
     So why go back and do it again albeit a different route? Well, anyone who has visited the Canyon will tell you that it is truly mind blowing and for me and many others quite spiritual. I have not trained as much as last year but feel with all the training I do anyway I believe it will be enough to see me through. Apparently the main concerns are lack of water, the heat and the steep gradient. No doubt when I am stood on the rim next month I'll be saying 'Whose idea was this?'.
I start down the South Kaibab Trail and head for the river below which I will cross and then cross back again further downstream, then I follow the river before turning into the Bright Angel Trail and the big climb out. The rim to rim took over 8 hours I believe this should take, all being well, about 5 hours plus. It all depends on heat, the terrain, my fitness, etc etc.
 I have mostly trained using the Crossfit Endurance (CFE) model which means instead of long punishing trail runs you use shorter intense workouts. This reduction in volume means less wear and tear injuries. I have been doing many different sprint protocols as well as tempo/threshold training, hill workouts and of course strength and conditioning with weights.  I also do a HIIT session at least once a week and one or two 10k runs at a higher pace. The only way that I deviate from the CFE model is that I have done a few longer trail runs. I feel that this is necessary to assist further with all the musculoskeletal, cardio and cellular adaptations and on a mental level for preparing and testing, nutrition, hydration, footwear, pace etc
    The CFE argument is that these 'long' runs are unnecessary because they only increase fatigue but I only do them now and again (whereas it used to be all the time).
But how does CFE prepare you to run 'long' if you don't practice running 'long' ? In a nutshell in works like this;-
Studies have repeatedly shown that 'High-Intensity Interval Training is an efficient way to increase your skeletal muscle oxidative capacity whilst inducing specific metabolic adaptations that are comparable to traditional endurance training'. In other words, with HIIT, you can get the same results as with high-volume training but in less time.
At its core, the CFE program is about two words you do not hear much about in traditional programs: 'Health and Sustainability'.
Cross Fit Endurance also works on developing running skill, balance and flexibility with a specific focus on nutrition and mobility,why? because ultimately a CFE athlete is not just someone who runs and races well; he or she is someone who is first and foremost healthy and strong and because of this runs more efficiently and injury-free.
 The evidence is clear, not only for myself, but for many of my clients who have run considerable distances and with faster times having never done any long slow distance training and because they are strong, their recovery from these events is super fast.
  So back to the Canyon. When I arrive I will no doubt feel the same emotion of wonder that I felt nearly 40 years ago on my first visit, it really does blow you away ... and then I will get the second emotion, fear. Its a daunting but fabulous place, what can I say?
I hope when I am alone and deep in the canyon I will feel the same sense of peace and calm that I felt one year ago.  Many things can go wrong but as someone once said:-
                                        'Adventure without risk is Disneyland'.




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  2. Phil - Can you spend a few days with me in Tubac? Would love to share ol' stories & have a laugh or two or three about Steve & more......


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