My first scouting trip through the Grand Canyon was purely exploratory. This time a few running buddies were coming along to make it more serious (as if). After a succession of Facebook messages we finally managed to organise ourselves into some kind of shambles. Jeff kindly offered to drive, and as I stumbled up my driveway in the dark and saw a glowing cigarette, I knew Jeff was right on time (no surprise there). Ted was in the back seat as chatty as ever. Jeff finished his smoke and jumped behind the wheel to drive away just as Ted jumped out for a last quick wizz and we nearly lost a team member straight up. Jeff kindly let Ted back in, we collected Karin and Dave, and at the crack of dawn we set off to Blackheath.
Last time was a nice warm stroll, but this time there was an extra element of cold added. Jumping out of Jeff's lovely warm toasty car at Govett's Leap, it was decidely brisk. After much umming and aahing I decided thermal pants were definitely in order.
We all got ourselves sorted to head off. It's amazing the amount of fuffing that happens before a run and you still forget stuff (well I do anyway). Karin asked a fellow to take a group photo of us all, but for some reason this proved a challenge for him and it was a strangely awkward moment. After our photo op, we set off.
Shortly into our run I began stripping off layers. Like last time, the stretch along the Cliff Walk became blazingly hot in the morning sun (another note for the race plan). At Evan's Lookout we all went ooh and ahh (if you don't you must seriously be mad), then some of the group headed off down the wrong track (which is why you sneak off and scout a course ahead of time). To reinforce this, we soon encountered another runner totally confused about his location on the planet Earth. He turned out to be a local from our own area, and was up here training on the course as well. We set him straight, he thanked us, then he took off like a rocket. He was lost, but he wasn't slow. He had a massive pack which appeared to be full of house bricks, and legs like tree trunks. I suspect I won't see him much on race day either.
Trotting down into Neate's Glen I was stunned by the amount of track work completed since last visit several weeks ago. Last time it was piles of rubbish, today it was sandstone steps and metres of new railing. Very impressive. A tad over done perhaps, but impressive nonetheless.
Another reason to scout out the course became apparent as everyone stopped and gazed at the views. This part of the world is magnificent. Folks who think runners just run, and somehow “miss out” has never been around enough runners. We walked and chatted and snapped photos continously. If we did this on race day we would never finish. We would run out of time (but never conversation). A part of running is the exercise and fitness, but another part is the fun and games and chatter.
We entered the Rodriguez Pass. Last time I learned that the nice yellow warning sign was perfectly accurate. The track is steep and rough and hard to find. I took the chance to do my best "Timmy" from "Jurassic Park" impersonation on the cable across the cliff face as we scrambled down to Greave's Creek. I had only been through here three weeks ago, but still missed the trail in places and had to scout around.
|A fair warning|
|Being zapped by 10,000 volts. Lucky to survive.|
We reached Junction Rock in good time. Last time I was a bit stressed as I felt it was taking too long. This time I was more relaxed and enjoyed it far more, knowing a bit more about the lie of the land. After a bit of horse play, a few lollies (thanks Ted) and a gel, it was time to start the last long slog. Eventually we stood at the base of the climb to Govetts' Leap Lookout. The others took off, but I had to finally strip away the thermal leggings as I was well and truly cooking. As I set out, my GPS lost signal for a few minutes. Later uploading my data, I discovered that my missing minutes had given me a new STRAVA course record for the climb. It will probably send a bunch of twenty somethings into a climbing frenzy. If they ever meet me in person they will most definitely be in for a shock, wondering forever “how did he do it?” (easy - he cheated).
At the top Karin wanted to keep going on to Pulpit Rock, but the enthusiasm of youth was crushed as we blokes all stripped out of our running gear, popped on dry shirts, and wandered off to sit in the sun a while. Another time perhaps. The training was done for the day, and it was time to set off to Mountain High Pies for pies (and possibly a nice vegetarian sausage roll with a bit of dead horse on top).
Stay posted for Part 3
Stay posted for Part 3