Monday, August 22, 2011

Grand Teton Time Trial

Very happy to be done
Total time: 4:12:14.  Decent for our first attempt, but we fell short of our goal, which was to run the Grand Teton, car-to summit-to car, in less than four hours.   Here's how it played out for those interested in a long winded description of a long run.

Jessie and I drove up the day before and had a relaxing time before Jason picked me up the next morning at our hotel. Driving into the park, dark clouds threatened the high peaks and rain drops splattered on JD's cracked windshield.  Early morning light set the valley ablaze and a rainbow hung over the Village.  Thinking we were about to get weathered out, Jason suggested we go on a rainbow hunt instead of climbing mountains.

We went climbing.  Actually, we went running, hiking, and scrambling.  Leaving the Lupine TH just before 8:00a, Jason set the pace at just over 6 minute miles.  I immediately dug myself a hole and stayed in it all morning.  He slowed and settled into a rhythm as the trail kicked up, but I was near threshold the entire time.  45ish minutes later, we arrived in the Meadows and I got a chance to somewhat recover on the flat before heading up the summer trail toward the Moraine.  We both choked down our second gels and even though I was slowing down, I felt like we were making reasonable progress.

The boot track up the snow field was the way to the Lower Saddle and on arrival, the watch read 1:40.  Good.  We had some splits from Professor Harder and Speedy French to shoot for, and we thought we were in good position...

Then I blew up.  Head bumping, feet catching on every shard of rock, I encouraged Jason to move ahead and leave me for dead.  He had never climbed the Owen Spalding and wasn't sure of the route and figured it would be just as fast to match my pace and follow me through the rock above.  

The scrambling went smoothly as we took the Catwalk variation at Harder's suggestion.   Finding ourselves on the summit in 2:35, this was easily the worst leg of the run.   We lost around 10+ minutes while I struggled to regain my manhood over this dark stretch.  On top, I choked down my fourth gel, felt like throwing up, then started down.  I didn't once look at the view.  

We down climbed slowly, not willing to take big risks to save time here.  Still high on the mountain, someone asked us if we were impervious to cold.  Hardly, but short shorts and T-shirts make sense when trying to move as fast as possible (same for tights in the winter).  After a couple dead ends on the way down to the Lower Saddle, we found our way and were soon trying not to take a glissade for life as we tread carefully in the boot steps of others down the headwall.  

Then we were running again over the snow field and back onto the Moraine to catch the summer trail down to the Meadows.  Running until Jason felt a twinge in his adductors that turned into a full blown refractory muscle cramp that held him up for 5 minutes or so.  I jogged ahead, preferring slow movement to standing still.  Then while exchanging pleasantries with another party, I rolled my ankle.  I hobbled about before it felt strong enough to start running, forced down my fifth and final gel, and walked a bit, looking for Jason's red shirt.  

He caught up soon enough and we were off charging through the Meadows, looking forward to the smoother trail out of Garnet.  Then my right ankle gave way and I felt my lateral malleolus touch the ground.  Some minutes and much swearing later, I was again running, paying supreme attention to the footing and my gimpy ankle.  

Like two 1/2 Asian bowling balls, we rolled down the trail as tourist and heavy laden climbers jumped out of the way.  The watch continually read under 6 min mile pace.  Our sub 4 hour goal out of reach, we were now pushing to go under Brandon's time of 4:20.  At the Amphitheater Lake turn off, Jason began to pull away a bit as I felt the lead return to my legs.  

Running and running and running.  

Then done.  


Jason was waiting at the trailhead, having arrived 59 seconds earlier.  We chatted with some friends in the parking lot, drank and drank, and kicked off our shoes, letting our feet breath.  Then it was off to meet our lady friends, who kindly provided us with an abundance of food, and then to the lake to cool our weary legs in the crystal Teton water.  

Here's a cool recap from Jason's watch:

How to go faster:
1. Run more.  This is simple.  I need to run more and spend a greater percentage of my running in the mountains.  The roads are convenient but don't translate.  Higher milage and better endurance would allow a more sustained pace.  Time at altitude would also help. Time advantage - 20 minutes? 

2. Now that we are more familiar with the route up to the Upper Saddle and the OS, a few minutes could be shaved. Time advantage - 3-5 minutes?

3. Start slower.  I buried myself at the beginning and was never able to pull back out.  A more metered effort would ultimately be faster.  But, this goes back to better fitness and point number one.  Time advantage - 3-5 minutes?

4. Have a clean run.  No cramping (Jason), no rolled ankles (me).  Time advantage - 5 minutes?

5. Cooler weather. It was warm up to the LS and then back down.  I prefer slightly cooler temps.  Time advantage - 2 minutes?

6. Better conditions.  This one is a mystery.  I think the summer trail is the fastest but one can't argue with the speed of a nice glissade and low impact running over snow fields rather than boulder hopping.  However, I'm sure I'd lack the courage to jump headlong into a glissade sans piolet.  Time advantage - ??

Add it up and with perfect training, conditions, and execution, I think 37 minutes might melt off.  Still no where close to Bryce Thatcher's 1983 record of 3:06.  It makes for a fun project though.  Finding my personal limits on such an iconic mountain continues to capture my attention and imagination.  

La Sportiva Skylite running shoes - Light with sticky rubber but retains a running shoe feel.
Nathan waist belt for water bottle
Very short shorts 

5 Powergels
One bottle of Cytomax
One bottle of Gatorade
One mouthful of Shot Bloks that I couldn't even chew let alone swallow.  

Something to think about...

Running Grand Teton trailer from Teton Movie on Vimeo.


  1. Nice job, but I only have 2 questions:
    1. Why do you have a "frowning baby face" in the picture above?


    2. Why does Jason always want to go chasing rainbows?

  2. Very Impressive. Having climbed that last summer its hard for me to imagine how to get from the TH to the summit and back in that amount of time. You guys are freaks! Next time with all the time you will shave off....make sure and spend 1 of those minutes checking out the view up top.

  3. sick post. something to shoot/train for fo sho! glad jason brought the half tights back. i was hoping the video was a dorais original but it was motivating none the less...

  4. Can't believe you didn't mention apparel for time savings. Short lycra shorts, buddy. You'd definitely shave 2 1/2 minutes wearing them. Jason was a minute faster than you in 'long' spandex shorts. Do yourself this favor next time!

    'I felt my lateral malleolus touch the ground' - so that's what it's called. I know your pain on that one. Or those two. Or three. I think ankle rolls add more time than just the standing around, wincing and swearing time. One tends to run a bit more cautiously after they've 'rolled.'

    Nice work. You'll go a lot faster next time. Familiarity breeds more speed.

  5. Yes! Nice work once again. I think true sticky rubber on a running shoe would really help also. Bummed I missed you guys again for speed fun on the grand. Any more speed plans this fall?

  6. Thanks everyone. Watch out this weekend though as Luke Nelson is giving the GTSP a go. Bets are in that he'll come in under 3:45.

    Adam, I'm all for tights but I'm not sure I could pull off shorter ones or bummies. That would be hot though.

    Anonymous, next time....

    Brandon, thanks for going first and letting us chase your time. It will be fun to do again. I'd like to run Ganett this week and maybe something big next week. You have any time?

  7. Andy, returned home to mt on Saturday. Had a nice casual 8.5 hours ctc on the petzoldt to upper exum my last day in the Tetons for the year. Good way to finish up! Wish I could have given it another go, but was pretty spent my last week. Great to see some people getting psyched. Have fun on gannett. I've got some fun stuff planned for up here, but nothing too crazy.