Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bethany Lewis R2R2R New Female FKT

While this blog is predominantly devoted to singing my own praises, frank boasting, outright provocation, and general chest beating there are times when mentioning the achievements of other people is also acceptable, namely when I can bask in their reflected glory.  Rephrased in existential terms, sometimes one's death anxiety can be mitigated in a profound way by the assumed strength and grandiosity that accompanies close association with another person who you have endowed with God-like powers.  One such instance of this phenomenon is when your wife bests the Grand Canyon r2r2r record.

 Caravanning down to the North Rim on Saturday morning were myself, Bethany, Ada, my sister Zoe, Jason Thompson, Matt Vukin, Rob Corson, and Alexis Recine.  We didn't arrive until mid afternoon at Jacob Lake Inn given the weather conditions in the valley as we were leaving- a nice harbinger of things to come.

We had some good times, had 3 men in a bed (Jason declined to make it 4), ate a nice late lunch of french fries, ate a dinner of french fries, and went to bed reasonably early, consoling ourselves with the additional benefit of daylight savings time the next morning.

Eager to get moving as early as possible, in typical fashion Rob woke everyone up at the crack of dawn with jubilant song and steaming coffee.  We drove the 44 miles out to the snow and rime covered North Rim, the temperature gauge in the car reading 14 degrees.

Bethany, Jason, and I started at 7:09 on the dot, at which point I started my stopwatch, intending to have both my running time as well as Bethany's watch time to document the journey. (Yes, waiting another minute till 7:10 would have been just too much time in the cold.)  Neither of us having attempted a FKT time before I gotta say I'm amused by the tradition of taking photos of one's watch at the finish as well as significant markers en route, in particular by the assumed legitimacy this is supposed to lend to an endeavor that is entirely driven and monitored by the honor system, as well as the fact that there is no clear gain to be had in being dishonest about such a thing.  Nonetheless, photos of watches were on the docket for the day.     Matt, Rob, and Alexis started off soon after us, intending a shorter but still burly rim-to-river-to-rim-run.

The footing for the first 1500 vertical descent or so was icy and slow.  Within the first 5 minutes of running Bethany had already called off a record attempt.  I knew better but didn't say anything, an amazing accomplishment for me in and of itself.   Once the trail cleared up we ran a comfortable pace down to Phantom Ranch, the 3 of us hitting it in just under 2 hours I believe (actually forgot the exact time we hit this marker).  We stopped to fill our water bladders and then headed across the river and up the South Rim, crossing 2 mule trains on the way up.  The pace here was very controlled and Bethany and I hit the top of the South Rim in 3:47 and change (the watch reads a bit slower given the delay in getting my Iphone out to snap a photo).  Jason hit the top shortly thereafter in about 4 hours even.  I had (mostly arbitrarily) set 3:50-3:55 as a goal time for being on pace (taking into account the longer ascent on the North Rim) and at this point I think Bethany realized that a record could be in the cards for the day.  
South Rim time, upper watch is my stopwatch, lower watch is Bethany's  time-of-day watch.

We descended at a pretty slow pace, as downhill-pussified Lewises are wont to do, hitting Phantom Ranch in the vicinity of 5:10, again having had to make our way around the 2 mule trains we hit on the way up.  From here we pushed hard over the next 7 miles, realizing that the final 7 miles would involve a lot of power hiking on icy trail.  In retrospect we pushed a bit too hard here and about a mile from the Cottonwood campgrounds we had to tone it down a bit given an imminent blow-up.  At this point we caught and passed our 3 compatriots doing the shorter version who cheered Bethany on and offered encouragement.

The last 7 miles from the campgrounds to the rim went pretty slowly, in part due to our unfamiliarity with the route and mile markers.  I was constantly doing math in my head, projecting our finishing time but didn't share this out loud to Bethany.  There wouldn't have been much to do about it as we were hiking about as fast as we could go at this point.  I watched the watch turn over to 8 hours, to 8:05, to 8:10... I knew we were close but didn't know if this meant 5 minutes or 15.  And then, suddenly and unexpectedly, there was the trail head sign and we were done: 8:15:51.  The upper watch is hard to read but shows 8:15:54, 3 seconds after summiting when we arranged our watches to snap the pic.

We then sat in the car shivering uncontrollably as we waited for the rest of the crew to arrive.  We quickly drove back to the Inn in a growing snowstorm, took frantic showers (some longer than others) and everyone except Bethany and Ada hit the road needing to work the next day.  The next 8 hours of driving were by far more difficult, dangerous, and harrowing than any running done earlier given the white-out conditions, slick roads, and poor visibility.  I did arrive home with at least a couple hours to spare before I needed to be at work.  I learned on the drive home that it had been a busy weekend in the canyon with Dakota Jones setting a new men's FKT the day before at 6:53.

Finishing on the North Rim.  

Overall, a fantastic accomplishment for Bethany in low-key fashion and a great weekend with friends.
Everyone made it back alive.

Finished with a hard day.

Grinding it out, about 8 miles left to go. Bethany looks more tired than me, right?