Friday, August 26, 2016

Back to the Basics

I find myself three weeks out from attempting the double crossing of the Grand Canyon with some of my favorite people.  One more peak training weekend and its time for the taper.  And the doubts that inevitably follow.  This is a different undertaking than anything else I have ever done.  This is not a race.  There are no aid stations, just a couple of water sources.  There is no back up plan.  A favorite quote about the Canyon - "Going down is optional.  Coming back up is mandatory."  Unless you want to pay a high price to be rescued via helicopter, you have to climb back out of the Canyon under your own power.

Will I be optimally trained?  No.  With the brutal heat here in south Louisiana this summer, long training runs were no longer just unpleasant, they were dangerous.  I wasn't able to get the volume in running I would have liked, but I was able to do plenty of strength training, stairs, and parking tower runs.  It will have to be enough.  

In starting to prepare for the actual event (three weeks from right now we should be crossing the bottom of the Canyon towards the climb to the north rim), I find myself switching into race prep mode.  Tomorrow, we are heading to Clark Creek for a last big hill workout, aiming for 5,000 feet of gain on Saturday alone with another hill workout on Sunday.  (The total gain for the double crossing is just over 10,000 feet)   Saturdays run is our "dress rehearsal".  We will be wearing the same thing we will wear for the Canyon, carry the same amount of fluids and food, and carry our trekking poles (one of my favorite discoveries - more on that later).

In my prep for tomorrow (and for the big ditch), I am pulling out my tried and true.  I am leaving my Suunto (fancy schmancy running/trekking watch with gps, barometric altimeter, bluetooth capability, etc., etc.) at home, and wearing this:

This is the watch I have worn for all of my ultra marathons, including all four of my 100 milers.  I have never worn a GPS watch on a trail race.  Why?  Well, first of all, for me, it would just add stress.  If I am making a big climb, I don't need to look down and see that I am doing a 20 minute pace.  Secondly, the distance on trails is never accurate, another source of stress when your watch might tell you you have run 50 miles but the actual course tells you that you have 3 miles to go.  Lastly, I always want to minimize the chances of gear malfunction.  The less stuff that can go out or lose battery power, the better.  I have seen people who are so dependent on the data that their devices give them, that when that device fails (they inevitably do), their mental game is shot.  It is hard to come back from that.

So, as you see, my faithful cheapo watch needs a little maintenance, then it should be good for the next 5 or 6 years.  Heading to the jewelry shop today to get the battery changed.  As I hand my watch over to the repair tech, he may see it as a cheap piece of junk (part of the band was chewed off by my cat, so I just trimmed around it with a pair of scissors), but I know that this watch has more value than any Rolex he has ever handled.  And I will smile as he holds it, knowing the amount of times I have had to rinse the sweat, bug spray and sunscreen off of it.  

Sometimes less is more.   This is one of those times.