Monday, June 11, 2012

Esperero Canyon Loop (attempt number two)

I decided to Run Esperero Loop again, Since the last time I tried it with TTR I had to turn around at mile 7 due to being under dressed when some freaky "end of the world" type storm was hitting. 40mph gusts, snow, rain. Yeah, it wasn't fun.
This time it was set to be clear skies and hot temps. I sent an E-mail out that I had planned on doing the loop in 4 hrs, but no one wanted to come. I got this as one response: "A 4 hour loop in the heat. I will be impressed!"
Often times, since I haven't run these trails and I do tend to get lost on occasion, people underestimate my sheer awesomeness and badassery (just kidding... but, seriously.)
This is how my day went:
I started off with a nice bike ride to SCVC.
I got there at 6a.m. and ended up on the trail by 6:15.
I started off pretty slow, my legs weren't feeling great since I had just run Bear Canyon Loop the day before. It usually takes about an hour or two before that tired feeling goes away anyways.
I jumped onto Esperero, into bird canyon, and then dropped into box canyon.
Then I started a pretty serious climb. I believe they call it cardiac hill or gap or something. I would've named it something a little less dramatic since it's a really just a power hike with a quick ascent. Still, it took me 45 minutes to get about 3 1/2 miles. But it was still cool and the sun was still rising, so I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Trail up cardiac hill


The view of Tucson from the top of cardiac


After this first climb, I ran along the slope of Esperero over another saddle 


From here I dropped down a little further into Esperero Canyon. This part kind of made me nervous for some reason. It was pretty heavily shaded and there was quite a bit of tree cover. For some reason I get nervous being alone in Canyons. I always feel like something is stalking me from above. I can run on ridge lines all day, but I get uneasy at the bottom of canyons. 
The trail crosses the now dry creek many times and would be very hard to follow if it weren't for all the cairns.

From here I kept running up Esperero canyon and through Bridal Veil Falls. There was actually some runnable single track!


After cruising through BVF and crossing the creek bed a ton of times I finally came out from under the creepy tree cover and began a very steep ascent which was much more likely to give me a heart attack than "cardiac hill". This part was pretty intense and continued to be until I reached the final saddle. I was able to get a succession of photos of Cathedral Rock as I was climbing which kind of shows how much elevation I was gaining.





I saw a snake on the trail eating a lizard, which is something I'd never seen before. I asked that little snake if he bit off more than he could chew,  but he was too busy eating to answer me. Then I thought to myself:  "Did I bite of more than I can chew?" Answer: No! I take HUGE bites, I bite the whole meal in one bite, then I chew it up and spit it out because I'm too tough for food!  (JK, I have to eat a GU every 45min, but this is still a neat picture and if a mantra works, I'll use it. "Chew it up and spit it out!" )


I continued to climb. At the junction for Esperero Trail and Cathedral Rock Trail I took a right and continued to climb up, up, and UP! Topping out at 6,900ft. Here are some pictures from the top:




From the top I then dropped down to West Fork Trail. This descent is STEEP. Really steep and there are lots of dessert plants/trees covering the trail. It's a little tricky to follow and if you're running fast enough, the plants will cut up your thighs. At first I thought: "WOW! This is just amazing after all that climbing!" But then I thought: "WOW! This sucks. This is worse than all that climbing."
It started to get quite a bit warmer as I dropped onto West Fork, but this was probably one of my favorite parts of the run. It was shaded by tall tree's and had a ton of single track which I was able to blaze through at a great pace. It stayed this way for about 4 miles all the way back to Sabino Basin.
The only thing that was annoying is that the map says "Watch for poison Ivy." Well, I don't know what Poison Ivy looks like and I forgot to google it just like I forgot to wear sunscreen. So here I am running at a decent clip dodging EVERY SINGLE plant I see and jumping over everything so I don't get oaked. It made for a good work out though.
I saw some bear scat for the first time out here. Two fresh piles about a 1/4 mile apart from each other on the trail. I also saw a paw print. That shook me up a bit, damn straight I kept a good pace.
By the time I made it to the Sabino Canyon/West Fork/East Fork junction it was probably around 95 degrees out and there was no more tree cover, so needless to say, I started getting a little warm.
I could've avoided a little unpleasantness if I would've slowed down, but I really wanted to make it in 4 hours. I kept trucking along up Sabino Canyon Trail for about 2 miles and then dropped onto the tram road. About a mile down the tram road I started to feel not so awesome or bad ass anymore. I lost a lot of time here due to a rather rough spot and probably a little over heating. I walked quite a bit and then in the last mile I felt good again and took off for a strong finish.
I didn't quite make it in 4 hours. I finished in 04:13. I was pretty satisfied with that considering it was the second of my back to back long runs and I had never run it before. I'll beat that time next time I run it.
It was pretty awful riding my bike home. I was exhausted, but it was well worth it because this was one of the most beautiful and satisfying runs I've ever been on.

Some notes about my training this week:

64 miles. 11 hours. 10-11,000ft of Elevation Gain.
Set a PR to the top of Blackets ridge in 36:50.
Took 2 days off.
It was a great week.

I'll leave you with a a few pictures from our Bear Canyon Loop run on saturday:

 Sun rising near 7 falls

7 Falls switch backs

Mike

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