White Rim In A Day (WRIAD)
My splits for the run are here.
December 2-3, 2006
The White Rim road is a 100 mile loop that encircles the
Islands in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park
in Utah. It provides an amazing tour of this vast desert
canyon country, and has long been a popular route for
mountain bikers. Riding the White Rim in a single day is
considered an endurance classic.
A map of the route is here.
I have been coming to this area for decades, beginning with
family trips back in the late 1960s. Back then, Moab was
practically a ghost town as the Uranium Boom had gone bust,
and outdoor recreation had not yet transformed the area into
the unique playground that it is today. I feel a special
connection to these stark, wide-open spaces, these amazing
sandstone features -- the huge cliffs, deep canyons, wierd
balancing rocks and baffling natural arches.
Over the years I have done the WRIAD by mountain bike on
3 occasions, and done several shorter loop runs in the I-Sky
district. Doing one such loop in September with a group of
friends, I felt a pull to run the entire White Rim. As
winter weather is generally mild in the area, and since I
didn't have much else on my running calender, December seemed
like a good time, so I set a target of the December 2, which
was weekend just before the full moon.
Crew support would be absolutely necessary, since there is
no water source on the entire route. My friend Mike Susedik was
arm-twisted into crewing for me. Another friend, Charles Corfield,
agreed to come along and attempt his first 100 mile run.
I felt Charles would be great company and that we would be
reasonably compatible runners.
While this is a classic for mountain bikers, I knew of only
2 people who have run the whole thing (closing the loop) in
a single push: Paul Pomeroy and Emily Baer. Paul held the
speed record at 22 hours. Of course I hoped to beat Paul's
record, but mostly I just wanted to get out there for a very
long run on a classic loop in wide-open country that I love.
The whole thing was a little touch & go, as Islands in the Sky
was reporting 4" of snow from a storm on Monday, and it never
got warm enough to melt. We didn't know if Charles' (suped up)
Subaru Forester could make it in those conditions -- the road
is considered as 4WD. We decided to give it a shot, but play
it conservative -- if Mike ever became uncomfortable about the
driving we would turn back rather than risking getting stuck.
It turned out that there were a couple of sketchy sections due
to mud, but more or less the Forester did just fine. For about
60 miles in the middle of the loop (Upheaval Dome Trail to
Musselman Arch) ours were the only tracks in
the new snow, which had fallen 5 days previous!
We followed Pomeroy's approach of starting at the bottom of the
Shafer Trail and running counter-clockwise. This got the biggest
climb over with first thing, and we got to run down the 12+ mile,
gradual Mineral Bottom Road. We started at 6:31 a.m., just at
the moment that it was light enough to run without a flashlight.
It was cold! I don't think it broke 25 degrees all day, and at
night it was in the teens. This was actually fine, as it meant
that hydration was not an issue, and I had no problem with chafing
or blisters. We did have to make sure our water bottles did not
freeze, and gels were so thick that it was difficult to use them.
Charles had a re-occurance of a foot injury and was forced
to quit running at 50 miles. It was disappointing to lose his company,
but he jumped right in to a support role, giving Mike a little break
there. Mike ran 10 miles with me just around sunset.
Night was amazing as the moon was incredibly bright, and the
landscape looked huge and wild -- which it is! I felt blessed to
be out in this vast, remote, beautiful place with only a couple
of boon companions. Life is good!
I finished the loop in 18:43. In case anyone wants to try this,
my splits are given below.
Update: In December 2007, Charles Corfield ran the WRIAD
in "about 18h" (which may be running time?), and again in March 2008 in about 19h, and in
December 2008 in 19-20h (total time). I don't have the exact times.
Charles carried a GPS and measured
the route at 99.79 miles, with Potash Road to the White Rim
Road at Mineral Bottom measured at 28.0 miles (vs. 26.2
according to the Park Service.)