Tag Archives: Gu

Gear It Up!

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Every gear choice you see on me was well-researched and given a lot of thought. Just maybe not the combination of colors!

Running pretty much involves a pair of quality shoes and clothes. It’s fairly easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy. But hiking? Especially long-distance, extreme hiking? Like trying to cross the Grand Canyon? That’s a whole ’nother story!

Before I started to train to make a one-day, South to North Rim crossing of the Grand Canyon, the first thing I did was to search Google. Of course! Fortunately, many people who have been there, done that are eager to share what they’ve learned. A lot of those online gear reviews helped me, and now it’s time for me to give back with my own. Just remember that what works for one person might not work for anyone else. And none of the links are affiliated; I used them to make it easier to find items.

The Feet

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Like my groovy gaiters? They helped keep the Grand Canyon out of my Brooks Calderas.

I had a minor misstep (pun intended) with my original shoe choice. Many experienced hikers recommend wearing trailrunners on the Grand Canyon’s heavily traveled corridor trails (e.g., South Kaibab, North Kaibab, and Bright Angel). Although treacherous due to all the mule-induced ruts, these trails have relatively decent footing, plus our backpacks weren’t heavy. The heavier the backpack, the more you need boots.

At my local REI (aka the hikers’ candy store), the saleswoman recommended that I wear Altra Superior 3.0 trail shoes. I bought them and really liked them . . . until we were doing double five-mile loops on concrete. Then my feet absolutely hated them, because they weren’t cushioned enough.

So I went to my local Fleet Feet store and purchased a pair of Brooks Calderas. Paradise! They are amazing shoes! So comfortable on concrete and trails, plus I had nary a blister nor hot spot during training or the crossing. I did wonder, though, if a pair of lightweight boots might have helped steady my ankles during the steep South Kaibab Trail descent. It’s possible that my bouncy ankles led to my left collateral ligament strain in my knee (the right collateral ligament also was sore after).

Socks are as important a piece of equipment as shoes. For running and walking, I prefer Feetures socks. However, I couldn’t find a thick-enough pair for my shoes, which were a half-size larger to avoid getting black toenails on the descent. One experienced hiker recommended Wrightsocks, which consist of double layers that rub against each other instead of your feet. I opted for the light-cushioned Escapes, and they were great!

Because I hate running and walking with rocks in my shoes (there are literally trillions of rocks in the Canyon), I figured I’d need gaiters to keep them out. I chose a pair from Dirty Girl Gaiters. Not only did they remind me of my 1960s youth, but they worked perfectly. And I got some compliments on them, too.

Gear

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Our fearless leader, Arlen Isham, gave us the two buttons. I kinda broke the no-whining commandment many, many, many times.

When I went to REI to try on hydration packs (hydration being one of the keys to staying alive while hiking across the Grand Canyon), I was fortunate enough to have Kelly as my salesperson. She actually used to live at the Canyon! So she had hiked it numerous times and was an amazing help. She told me I would need a three-liter hydration bladder and recommended the CamelBak Sundowner 22. It’s made for women plus it features an open-mesh, air-suspension back panel that made for a less-sweaty ride. The Sundowner was very comfortable and the hydration bladder made it so easy to keep drinking. It’s definitely a lifesaver!

I figured I would need trekking poles, being old and less than steady. I chose a pair of Cascade Mountain Tech carbon fiber sticks with quick locks. They really did a great job keeping me upright on the trails. Some Costcos sell them even cheaper, but I didn’t find them at my local store.

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You can see the hard-earned sweat stains!

The hikers’ consensus was that a floppy hat is best at protecting your face, head, ears, and neck from the relenting sun. A Mountain Hardware Chiller Wide Brim chapeau proved perfect for me. I wore a UV Buff around my neck and a UV Half Buff as a headband to help soak up sweat and make my hat fit better. Not wanting to chance a sunburn, I opted for a lightweight Asics long-sleeve technical shirt that I bought at our local running/triathlon store, Finish Line Sports (NOT the national chain). So comfortable! (I hope I’ve linked to the right shirt.)

I’m a fan of REI’s Sahara shorts, which are comfy with lots of pockets. Plus they were on sale! From my experience, the Sahara shorts run true to size for women; however, the Sahara convertible pants run a size too large. That’s probably because the pants have elastic in the waistband . . . or because manufacturers love to mess with us when it comes to sizing (don’t get me started!).

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Got a light?

A headlamp is a must, especially when you’re a slow hiker like me or you’re trying to avoid the daytime heat. I needed to light the North Kaibab Trail for about the last hour of my Grand Canyon crossing, so I was glad I had my Shining Buddy LED headlamp. I wore my Zensah calf compression sleeves for all but one training session (I learned the hard way from the pain-filled first workout that I needed them desperately) and relied on them for the crossing.

I decided to use a fanny pack as a belly pack to store necessary supplies so I wouldn’t have to take off my CamelBak while hiking. I bought an inexpensive Outdoor Products Echo at Walmart. An added bonus? My iPhone 7 Plus fit in the side pocket, ready to be pulled out to snap photos. I also used a Buddy Pouch on my CamelBak’s hip belt for easy access to some of the food I carried.

Food and Hydration

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Yum!

The experts agree that hikers need lots of calories while extreme hiking. Of course, food is such a personal choice due to our individual preferences. Having a sensitive gastrointestinal system, I have to be careful what I eat during runs, walks, and hikes. I experimented a lot with different energy bars during Grand Canyon training and finally decided that I hated them all for that use. They were just too chewy (picky, right?).

So I went with my go-to energy gel, Gu. I’ve been replacing calories and carbs with Gu during runs for many years. It’s easy to digest and tastes pretty good. I relied on a bunch of Chocolate Outrage, Salted Caramel, Mint Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Vanilla Bean packets to energize me during the crossing. Plus I snacked on pretzels to help replace salt loss, ate freeze-dried strawberries and bananas for added potassium, and gobbled up Sport Beans for a change of taste.

Hydration-wise, it’s tough to beat good, old water. I drank six liters worth in my CamelBak, refilling the bladder at Phantom Ranch. For electrolyte replacement, I chose Gatorade powder (fruit punch flavor). I went through two 24-ounce bottles. At no time did I feel bonky, thank goodness.

Want to let me know what works for you while hiking? Have any questions? Please comment away!

Next blog post (yes, apparently I lied about this being the final one): Shooting Up (photowise, of course)

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Random Running Snippets & iPhone Apertures

Me pre-race (note Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS watch) complete with my Hero hat

Wondering how I did in yesterday’s Aramco Half-Marathon?

Short version: I finished with a wide smile on my face and tears in my eyes.

Longer version: I finished with a wide smile on my face, tears in my eyes, and with my left arch hurting almost every step of the way. That had plagued me in training. But numb feet had not; unfortunately, I suffered with those from miles three through six, forcing me to walk from time to time until I could feel my toes again.

Thankfully, my tootsies felt fine once I hit mile seven, so after that I only walked through water stops and when I ingested Gu energy gel. Oh, and when I took iPhone 3Gs photos, which I uploaded to Facebook along the way.

I wasn't the only one taking iPhone photos at the start.

I figured I’d try to take iPhone photos and keep updating my Facebook status during the race. In hindsight, it would’ve been much better to have used my Olympus Stylus Tough point-and-shoot camera. It was awkward stopping mid-race to take a photo, typing in a caption (especially considering I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses), and then hoping AT&T would allow me to upload it to Facebook. I missed out on lots of potentially good pix of cute signs and even cuter babies. And that guy at the half-marathon start wearing a Lion King costume. Wonder if he finished still wearing it? It got pretty warm.

Lots of people in front of me as we head towards mile two. Guess I'm not going to win!

We did have perfect running weather—it was about 45 degrees at the start at 7 a.m. and about 60 degrees when I finished around 10 a.m. Which means that probably half the participants overdressed. Those who were wearing tights, jackets, gloves, and beanies looked like the temps were still frozen over from last weekend!

I felt very comfortable in a short-sleeved t-shirt and shorts, complete with my Hero running hat that I earned by raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Oh, and my Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS watch. Why was that important? Because, as in 2008, it showed that I actually ran 13.3 miles instead of 13.1. Oh, that aching extra two-tenths!!

Heading up a hill just past 10K (6.2 miles).

The race starts with the half-marathoners and those running the Chevron Houston Marathon on separate streets. We mesh together around mile two until mile nine where the halfers blissfully turn around (180 degrees) and head for the finish. The organizers like to boast that the course is flat . . . but it is NOT! There are enough hills in the first seven miles to stretch out our legs and tighten our arches (well, my left one).

Cresting the hill over Allen Parkway nearing mile 7. As we're running outbound, faster runners are about to turn near mile 11.

Here were my plans for the race: First goal always is to finish. My second goal was to break three hours. That’s a slow pace and nowhere near my personal best, but my training had been done at snail speed. Mentally, I was going to concentrate on just getting into the swing of things for the first two miles, which includes the much-hated (by me) Elysian Viaduct. At least two people slipped and fell behind me as we approached the first mile on the viaduct. I’ll bet they hate it, too.

Sidebar: Years ago there was talk about getting rid of the viaduct, which is a concrete overpass. I volunteered to be the one pushing the plunger when it came time to dynamite it! But, alas, it still stands if only to torment me every year.

After the Elysian, I was going to think about the six people in whose memory I raised funds for LLS. The first was Dick Jones at mile three, then my dad, my stepdad, my cousin Lisa, Don Queen, and Ron Kalteyer at the subsequent miles. After that I felt like all of them were on my back spurring me along to the finish.

The halfers will turn around in 200 yards!

Two of the best aspects of Houston’s premier marathon/half-marathon event are its volunteers and spectators. We couldn’t have a successful race without thousands of helpers. And those watching make us feel like running gods and goddesses, as well as providing plenty of distractions. I saw so many great signs along the course! Some I remember were “Run like you stole something!” and “So easy a caveman could do it.” There also were live bands and boom boxes providing great music along the way.

No balloons for my pity party at mile 10?

Once I made the turn at mile nine, I focused on one sight: That mile 10 banner. I just couldn’t wait until I was able to have my very own pity party and feel sorry for myself and my aches and pains. Funny thing, though—by mile 10, I was rolling along at a decent clip for me. Sure, my arch was hurting, but it wasn’t slowing down my pace any, and I knew that in a mere mile we would be on Allen Parkway running along with the fast marathoners across the median. Plus I had those six precious souls riding on my shoulders whispering in my ear, “You can do it!” Cancel that pity party!

Mile 11 is a good time for prayer!

Houston’s Christian radio station had several prayer stations set up along the course. What a great idea . . . even for those of us who are Jewish! All runners are grateful for divine intervention late in a race.

My biggest disappointment once we got off Allen Parkway and headed through downtown towards the finish line at the George R. Brown Convention Center? No Elvis sighting! That’s the first time I haven’t seen the supposedly dead rock ’n roller during either the half (now five finishes) or marathon (eight finishes).

Disappointment reigns for those who finished behind me.

Finally, there was the most-spectacular sight of the entire 13.1-mile race: The finish line! Why do we run races? To finish them! As always, when I crossed the line, I looked to the sky to thank my dad for being along with me.

And then I thought of Dick Jones, who I had hoped so much would be there at the finish watching me run for him. He was there in spirit, of course, interrupting his golf game in heaven to ride on my shoulders. I couldn’t help but break into a wide smile and start to cry.