White Rim In A Day (WRIAD)
December 2-3, 2006

My splits for the run are here.

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.)

Location miles time
Potash Road0.000:00
I-Sky Road5.301:02
Mineral Road13.302:18
White Rim Road26.204:33
Potato Bottom38.806:57
White Crack66.612:40
Potash Road97.418:43:22

Peter Bakwin HOME