Went to Yosemite National Park yesterday with three of the best runners I know.
Ran 16 miles.
Climbed 4000 feet.
Started at 4200′. Peaked at 8200′.
Took us five hours and 23 freakin’ minutes total, of which we ran four ten. The other one hour and thirteen minutes were spent walking, looking at the map, taking photos, tracking a snake, crossing creeks, and even sitting down a time or two.
To all of you who train at elevation, I bow down.
Altitude was hard, and I realize this wasn’t even all that high! It was about 95 degrees, which didn’t help.
We started and ended at the Chilnualna Falls trail, which is 8.4 miles out and back — the first four of which challenge you to climb 2300′. I kept looking at the % grade on my Garmin. Many, many times we were over 15%. I read that hiking the full 8.4 miles takes 4-6 hours. We covered twice that distance in the same amount of time, so I felt a little better about our snail-like pace.
From there, we went on an 8 mile loop, the name of which I don’t know, that took us up another 2000′. This part of the trip was tough because of the terrain. It was rocky, even had shale, and I twisted my ankle multiple times.
Those are the facts, but what really matters is that we had a fab day!
It was gorgeous and we all had fun running together. We laughed and told stories. We mocked one another and cheered for each other. We were a great foursome in a breathtaking wilderness doing what we love the most: running in our trail shoes.
We didn’t know what we would find or where we were half the time. We felt like Survivor Man when we tried to navigate our way on an unmarked trail and purify our water. We were awe-inspired by the waterfalls and the vastness around us. It’s not often that you get days like this. When you do, you should live deeply in the moment. Let your cares dissolve and just enjoy.
A few learnings.
- Go early. We left Morgan Hill at 6:30, but didn’t get on the trail until 10:00AM. Next time we want to be running by 8:30.
- Go slow in the beginning. I think we should have walked the first mile, just to get used to the altitude. It took me about an hour to acclimate. One in our group never acclimated and had a long, rough day.
- Bring water purification pills. Luckily, Kevin is a doctor and smart enough to think ahead about our hydration needs. I figured one bladder would be enough. I was very wrong. We refilled twice by way of the creeks.
- Bring your own aid station goodies. We were totally out of bars when we were done. I was wishing I’d made everyone PB&J. We are so used to aid stations, that it never occurred to me to bring anything other than GU and PowerBars. Three hours in and we were ready for lunch.
- Run with people you enjoy (duh) AND are of the same running caliber. Our strongest and weakest runners were never more than a few minutes apart.
- Bring whistles! Two of our runners are training for TransRockies and practicing how they are going to work as a team. As such, they had whistles. One whistle meant just checking in. Two meant stop and find each other. Three meant someone was hurt.
- And most importantly, don’t be in a rush! Enjoy the amazing place in which you are blessed to be running. Bring your digital camera and your appreciation for one of the most breathtaking, beautiful places in the world.