Sunday, November 10, 2013

Grand Canyon - R2R2R

"The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step" Lao Tzu - Tao Te Ching

The "before" shot - denial firmly set in...."This is crazy!"
While I'm convalescing on the couch, I decided to pass my time by recounting my recently completed run.

Last September, a group of friends and I went to the Grand Canyon to attempt a Rim to Rim to Rim run.  (R2R2R).  We started on the North Rim and bailed out at the South Rim.  A number of excuses - It was too hot, we had stomach issues, got too far behind our time goal, etc.  Even though we didn't accomplish our goal, I considered it the most amazing run - until now

We set out with a new plan, with some new players and armed with the experience of knowing the trail landmarks. We decided to do it in November - when the weather would be much cooler.  The heat really got to us last year.  We decided to start at the South Rim this time.  The North Rim lodging was closed and there were no support opportunities there.

I liken this strategy to when the explorer Cortez burned his ships upon arrival in the new world. No turning back! We are fully in or do not attempt.  

My partners were Gary Benson, John Stevens, Steven Griffith and Dave Lindeman. John had a few friends join us from Michigan to do the run (Jeff and Jerry) as well.  Dave wanted to experience the canyon and had no interest in running the entire thing.  His goal was to run to the bottom, turn around and run back up to the South Rim.  The equivalent of doing a Rim-to-Rim.  A huge accomplishment in its own right. Originally, there were several others that had planned to come but were unable to make it.

We arrived at the South Rim around 8 pm.  We met for dinner and discussed the plan/strategy for the run.  I have been doing crazy endurance events with Gary for over 20 years and was looking forward to accomplishing this with him.  I've been running with John for about 13 years - he is much faster than Gary and I.  Steven has done several ultra's and offers hours of unsolicited entertainment. Steven also is much faster than Gary and I.

At dinner, I said to John - "We should stick together for the first half - then do whatever feels right."  He quickly responded with "I think everyone should do their own pace for the entire run."

So it seemed that John had a time goal...

This is a 46+ mile run.  I had no idea how my body, legs and brain would respond to the stress of the run.  Gary is really good at keeping me moving at a sustainable pace.  Steven and John both think I am much faster than I really am.  I keep telling them that I am tall, not fast!  My goal was to finish - period.  I have a history of starting out too fast.  I was not going get sucked into my interpretation of John's challenge.

So Gary and I would pair off - Dave would join us as well.  John would pair up with Steven. Hopefully whatever John was thinking for time, doesn't hurt him in the long run.

Jeff and Jerry from Michigan would pair off as well.

We predicted that this would take anywhere from 16-20 hours to complete.  We took our obligatory group photos in the dark that, of course,  didn't come out.  With no announcer to get us revved up, unceremoniously we were off.  We hit the trail Friday morning at 4:15am.  John, Steven, Jeff and Jerry were gone pretty quickly.  I hoped we would catch up at one of the campgrounds ahead.

We started our journey at 7,000 feet on the Bright Angel Trail.  The steep trail descends quickly along the south rim wall through many switchbacks.  I have never been on this trail in the light and cannot comment on the views other than from the top.

Elevation Profile

I spent the first hour or so trying to arrange and distribute the weight of my pack so it was as comfortable as it could be.  I chose to use the same pack as last year: a Go-Light Rush pack that held a 3 liter hydration bladder with an add on Salomon front pack for easy access to food, camera and other necessities.  I used super-light hiking poles to help assuage both the the uphill pulls and the downhill crashes on my knees and hips.

One thing that I have experienced with these long events, is that I also must manage the distribution of gas, liquid and solids in terms of bodily functions both upward and downward. Mis-management of any of the aforementioned factors can make for a really great or a really bad day!  This includes transit times of both liquid and solid fuel (by fuel, I mean food).  The goal with the gasses is to minimize the production of them at all costs as they can lead to problems with the other 2.  Some of us do better with this than others.

I tried to super hydrate on the drive from Denver and not get caught eating food that I know would come back to haunt me the next day during the run. The best laid plans....

All I can say is thank goodness there were several bathrooms the first 5 miles.  I think I visited at least half of them.  Still not satisfied.  My stomach wasn't unbearable, but it wasn't fully comfortable either. It didn't stop me from running so I marched onward with the hope that time would resolve my issues.

The sun started to come up at around 6 am.  The contrasting views illustrated by the changing light, shadows and textures of the landscape throughout the day were spectacular.

Sunrise at the bottom of Devil's Corkscrew
Downhill is the evil seduction of false hope. We were cruising along happy and steady.  My mind was feeling confident that today would be no problem.  As we approached the Colorado River, I ran ahead to get some pictures of Gary and Dave and the river as the light of the morning sun spilled over the canyon.

We entered Phantom Ranch at around 7:00 am. This is about the 10 mile marker and the end of the wonderful downhill. My stomach was feeling better, but I wasn't hungry and had to really force the food and the water.  I distributed some cargo from the back pack to the front pack for easy access to food.  I was cursing that I brought pants and a jacket as it was perfect weather for running in shorts.  I try to be prepared for anything, and I was worried about it being really cold on the North Rim.  We filled up our water bladders and re-packed our packs.

Off we went onto the North Kaibab trail.  Next stop was the Pumphouse Ranger Station, approximately 10 miles of gradual uphill.

Dave was doing great.  I thought he might be tempted to go the distance with us but after about another hour of running with us, he turned around to head back.  He probably did 25 miles. A spectacular run Dave!

We entered into a slot canyon for the next 5 miles or so.  The trail follows Bright Angel Creek and has amazing views, several bridges to cross and a completely different light profile in the slot canyon.  This part of the trail is called the "Vishnu Schist".

Gary and Dave crossing one of the many bridges

Throughout this section and the next, we started to encounter other R2R2R's.  There were maybe 10 others on the trail that day with the same goal in mind.

Waterfall at Bright Angel Creek
As we exited the Vishnu, the trail started to increase its steepness grade.  We made it to the Pumphouse Ranger Station ahead of the time that Gary predicted.  We were moving fairly comfortably.  I visited the outhouse once again, and this time I left very satisfied as I dropped some serious solid waste out of my bowels - Finally!

This was the last opportunity for water until we get to the North Rim - a steep 5.4 mile climb from 4,600' to 8,241' and back.  All of the services were closed on the North Rim for the winter. While we were refueling, I decided to keep my pants and jacket just in case the weather is bad on top.  I decided to leave one of my food bags at the campground so I didn't have to carry the extra weight on the climb.  This proved to be a good calculation as I did not need all that food for this section.  I took what I needed and we pressed on.

We started to wonder when the others would pass us coming down.  I figured it would be soon.

This next section was a bear.  It was steep and technical.  It was hard to run any but a few sections of this section.  As a bonus and something to take our minds off of the slow trudge, a completely different set of views unfolded in front of us.
Exiting out of the Pumphouse Ranger Station

Half way up!

As we were making progress, we still hadn't seen the rest of the group.  Both Gary and I thought that something went wrong and they were planning to bail on the North Rim.  I was thinking, I could bail with them, but I left my food bag down at the Pumphouse Ranger Station - I wouldn't want to leave that!  I felt tired and ready for the climb to be over.  I knew that for the return trip, I would have to dig deep to see what I had left inside physically and emotionally.

We finally ran into them at one quarter mile from the top.  They looked strong, regardless of how they were feeling, they looked really strong.  It turns out that both Steven and John ran out of water and went looking for a refill on the top. This diversion cost them about 30 minutes.

Steven tried to talk us into turning around with them and joining up for the rest of the run. We declined as we have yet to make it to the top and didn't want to have any doubt that we did the entire thing.  Also, I needed a break!

2 switchbacks later, we made it to the North Rim at 12:45.  8.5 hours into the run.  

North Kaibab Trailhead sign.

It was beautiful weather on top - I was happy, but mad that I had to drag my jacket and wind pants up that climb for nothing...We sat, ate and got busy back down before we talked ourselves out of continuing forward.  We stopped for 15 minutes.

Selfie at Supai Tunnel

Supai Tunnel

As we descended, it was very steep and technical.  This was the most dangerous section of the day. We were tired and didn't want to trip, fall, stub a toe, etc.  So we descended carefully and purposely.  As the afternoon wore on, the sun laid new shadows and contrasts that were stunning.

Me at the Coconino point overlook

Gary at the Coconino point overlook

A view, I never want to forget...

We made it back down to the Pumphouse Ranger Station in about the same amount of time that it took us to climb to the top.  I spent more time taking it easy and documenting the landscape with my camera phone. Gary ran out of water on the way down so we shared what I had left until we could refill.

I proceeded to visit the outhouse again at the Pumphouse - I promise you that it earned its name pumphouse for a reason!  Again feeling very refreshed as my GI issues were gone, we laid out all of our food on a picnic table, and started eating and eating and eating.  

Up walked a runner dressed in a kilt and a rainbow hat with a propeller attached to it.  He looked pretty out of it.  I urged him to take some food from me.  After he initially refused, he finally took some.  I didn't want to carry the extra food anymore anyway.  We bid him good wishes and we pushed forward.

In my mind, it was a quick run to Phantom Ranch.  I forgot it was nearly 9 miles.  Gary led the way alternating running and speed walking.  (in fact, Gary led the way the entire day).  It was a perfect pace.  I mentioned to him how good I felt but didn't want to jinx anything...2 hours later I wasn't feeling so good! 

As were running through the Cottonwood campground, we were talking about if we were going to call this run our first 50.  I thought it was a great idea, but I'm not sure that I want to ever do another....A group of campers overheard our conversation and asked us if we were going to the "Tonto".  I stopped and asked what that was.  He explained that it was a two mile run between the Bright Angel and the South Kaibab trailheads on the South Rim.  That would give us the four miles that we needed to make it an official 50 mile run.   I said out loud that that wasn't going to happen.  The entire campsite erupted in laughter as we pressed on through.

The wheels are starting to come off....

The same waterfall at Bright Angel Creek
We were losing sunlight as we passed through Vishnu's and then into Phantom Ranch.  I was struggling to keep pace. The wheels were about to come off for me and Gary knew it.  As we entered the campground, Gary wouldn't let me sit down and made me eat and drink to refuel.  It was a good move on his part.  If I sat down, it would have been very hard to get going again.  

As we repacked our bags, the realization that we have about 10 miles to go - mostly uphill in the dark.  I got my headlight back on and started to move on.  Running with headlamps is an interesting phenomenon for me.  

It allows me to focus on just the spot of light in my focus.  When we were climbing the North Rim, it was mentally exhausting because I could see the top and it never seemed to get any closer. With the light, I am able to focus on just keeping moving forward.  (Dori from the movie Finding Nemo comes to mind - "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...")  I can't see the top or anything else.

Eventually, I will get there.  Gary predicted 5 more hours and we would be done. I thought that sounded longer than what it would take.  I kept that thought to myself as he is usually right on the money with his predictions.  I was feeling much better after refueling.  I had the remainder of my food in my front pack for easy access and I had enough water to get to the Indian Garden's campground.  About 5 miles.  

We power hiked the climb and ran any downhills and flats that we encountered.  Gary would get ahead and I would just keep pace.  My mind started to get into a meditative state.  I was reflecting on how much fun it would be to take a few days to do this with Gina and the kids - when the kids are older.  We could do it like most of the people that experience the Canyon - on Mules.  It would be an amazing experience.  I hope we can.  

I became very grateful that Gina allows me to explore this part of me and continues to support my peculiarities ( a big word for 'craziness').  I am so lucky to have such an amazing supportive family.  I was thinking how grateful I was to experience this day with such amazing friends in Gary, John, Steve and Dave.  I was thinking how great it was to be alive and living each day to the fullest extent.  I was thinking about how blessed I am with all of the gifts in my life.  

As I pressed on with full of emotion, the climb didn't seem so bad.  We entered Indian Garden at about 2 hours.  We refilled enough water to get us through the final push. 4.7 miles to go.  

The final climb was steep!  It was broken up into 3 mile and 1.5 mile rest areas.  We set our sights for these sections.  We started to see a few headlights in the distance up the side of the cliff.  Gary figured it out to be John and Steven.  We started communicating through yelling.   I couldn't believe that they were so close! It gave us both bursts of energy.  I was emptying the reservoir of what I had left - which was dwindling fast.  

Ominous Warning which I failed to heed....

There seemed to be hundreds of switchbacks.  Gary was about a full switchback ahead of me and as we passed each other, he explained that each switchback was a victory.  So as we passed we acknowledged each other with a victory salutation.  Every few switches, I stopped to stretch and rest.  The trudge ends with a long relatively flat section to the trailhead.  I always get emotional at the end of a challenge such as this.  I passed those last 100 yards wiping my eyes. Thank God it was over.  Steven was at the finish to catch us up with his experience and to walk us to our rooms.  They were just 15 minutes ahead of us. Final stats - 46 miles, 17 hours 45 minutes

Everyone finished strong.  I'm looking forward to talking with John yet to hear how his day and his buddy's day went. 

We had an Epic Day!  I need a massage....

I enjoyed my trip and I didn't get bit!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Organized Dentistry

The Colorado Dental Association is starting a public relations campaign to promote who we are and what we do.  For as long as I have been a member of organized dentistry, I have felt that we are the best-kept secret both to our members and to the patients who we serve.

                                       Click here to view the commercial

Why the PR campaign?

We are at a critical juncture.  There are many entities that are marketing their positions in the dental world.  As a result, dentistry is becoming a commodity and the general public doesn’t really know who to listen to with regards to oral health. 

In the near future, we will be updating the dental practice laws in Colorado.  We are positioning ourselves, once again where we belong, as the dental experts.

For years, we have not done much.  We dentists don't like to talk about ourselves.  Through our non-action, these entities have taken over the public's perception while we have been quiet.  

We are not going to be quiet anymore.  

What does it mean to be a member? 

By being part of organized dentistry, we are part of a bigger whole.  There is the local component - for me that is the Metropolitan Denver Dental Society.  There are several local components that all funnel into the state - the Colorado Dental Association -which I am currently President-Elect.  Every state has both state and local organizations.  We are all part of the national entity, the American Dental Association.  

This is who we are and this is what we stand for:

Our Colorado Dental Association core values:

Effective Leadership, 
Open Communication, 
Ethical Behavior, 
Moral Courage, 
Strong Advocacy, 
Fellowship, and 

Our Mission:

To provide the Colorado Dental Association membership and the public with superior service and to demonstrate effective leadership in advocacy, education, communication, and quality products and services that enhance member practices, professional growth, and patient care.

Dentistry, like all healthcare, is a profession in flux.  The delivery models are changing.  The business models are changing.  Access-to-care is expanding in Colorado. 

The one constant has been organized dentistry.  We have been around for over 100 years, preserving the integrity of the profession of dentistry.  The work that organized dentistry does today is to preserve the integrity of the profession.

Who would you like to be your dentist? 

Please choose one that is a member of organized dentistry.

If you like this blog post, I would love to hear about it.  Please comment or share it on Google+, Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, etc.  If you are looking for a dentist in the Denver area, we are always looking for new patients.  Please visit our website or like our facebook page,  Or you can do it the old fashion way - call us at 303-321-4445.

Thanks for reading!  BK