It's About The Community

Posted by Breanna Cornell on January 11, 2016 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I’ve changed states a number of times in the short time that I’ve been an adult in "the real world" (not college). If there’s one thing it’s taught me, it’s how to learn to connect with other people with similar interests – in this case, how to find the trail running community.


It may seem like an easy task – just search on Facebook for the nearest run group, right? But fitting a group run into a training plan and around work and life can be difficult. What other ways are there? Moving from Michigan to Alabama, and Alabama to Arizona in the past two years have coached me: MANY!


1. Race Local

You always meet new people at races. Sign up for a local event, even if it’s a distance you don’t typically race, and run it for fun. Connect with other people on the course, at the aid stations, and at the after party. Don’t hesitate to ask those you identify with to share a couple of training runs. If racing isn’t your gig, volunteer! Working an aid station provides ample opportunity to connect with other runners volunteering as well as all of the racers that pass through (and it’s a boat load of fun).


After moving to Alabama, I raced the Pinhoti 100, a short 3 hour drive from where I had moved to. I didn’t really know anyone at the event, but the following month while at a local 10km, I was stopped by a race volunteer who said they recognized me from Pinhoti. After swapping phone numbers, we went for a long run later that month and a trail running friendship was born.

I met Steven at that local 10k/Pinhoti – he later ended up being an AWESOME pacer/crew with his wife Denise at Thunder Rock. 


2. Talk About Your Running

New to an area? Talk to your coworkers about your hobbies! Mention that you’re looking for a running buddy. You’ll find that almost everyone knows a crazy runner, and they’ll be enthusiastic to connect you to them so they don’t have to listen to you talk about your splits or weekly distances covered around the water cooler.


I was fortunate enough to have a supervisor who sincerely cared about people’s interests. Being a cyclist himself, he was familiar with the triathlete community and kindly put me in contact with them to coordinate joining their run groups.


3. Get Online

Sure, you can find the Facebook run groups, but that may not fit in with your schedule in whatever capacity. Don’t be afraid to post to them, though– it’s a personal ad for a workout buddy. Check out other social media platforms, too (e.g., Twitter's #runchat and #ultrachat on Sunday evenings). Don’t limit yourself to run groups, though. Search through the events to find any free runs or fat ass races near your area.


After moving to Alabama, I found an event on Facebook for an unofficial event “The Battle of Jericho.” There, I met a group of runners (affectionately called the “BUTS” – Birmingham Ultra Trail Society) and met some people who, I am sure, will be life-long friends.


All of the awesome runners at the Battle of Jericho – check out them BUTS!!!

4. Volunteer

Many runners volunteer to help with trail work. Look for opportunities in your area to get out and volunteer – not only will you be giving back to the community, but you might walk away from it having learned some new trails and meeting some new racing buddies.


I had a friend from Salt Lake City invite me up to volunteer for a weekend in Monument Valley shortly after moving to Arizona this fall. It was a fantastic weekend of sleeping in hogans, trail runs, and helping the Navajo community out. Not only did I meet some fantastic trail runners, it connected me with people who organize many events in the surrounding area that I am looking forward to running and volunteering at.

Trail and Ultra Running volunteers in Monument Valley – organized by the Grand Circle Trail Series awesome race director, Matt Gunn.


5. Explore

Go for a run by yourself. Go out on new trails (check out the All Trails app – it’s been a fantastic tool in finding new trails in my area as I’ve moved). You might be surprised how many runners you may (or may not) encounter on the trail.


This past weekend, I arrived at the trailhead ready to head up the back of Mt Humphrey by myself. Shortly after stepping out of my car, I hear a voice, “Are you here for the run group?” No, I wasn’t, but I was more than happy to join! We happened to be headed out on the same route. I met a dozen runners who before that morning had been foreign to me, but will [hopefully!] evolve to be friends as I seek out and join their group runs when I can.


And lastly, don’t rush.

Finding a good running buddy, learning the trails and routes in your area, or connecting with a run group that fits your training goals and schedule can take time. It can also take a pinch of courage. They might not be the first Google search that pops up, or it might not even be the best fit after sharing a couple of runs – but when you find that relationship that works, run with it.

From Michigan...

...To Alabama...



...To Arizona...

Do what you love,

Love what you do.

Summer 2014 Road Trip: Week 4 & Beyond

Posted by Breanna Cornell on June 20, 2014 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Week 4

Day 22: Monday, June 9

With the Bryce Canyon 100 less than a week away, I didn’t have any super-adventurous runs or hikes planned for the week. However, Rob, who I had met at the Yellowstone-Teton 100 in October, contacted me letting me know that he was going to be driving through Salt Lake today. Rob and I met up and we went for a beautiful run through the hills that butt up against the city’s limits.

Rob on the trails above Salt Lake.


I spent the afternoon working on getting some things squared away with job applications, interviews, relocation and the like. Annndddd watching many episodes of the new season of “Orange is the New Black.”


I spent the evening walking around downtown Salt Lake with Mark. We explored some outdoor gear shops. I learned a lot about Kayaks. I’ll elaborate more on that in the future…


Day 23: Tuesday, June 10

Today I officially accepted an offer from a company in northeastern Alabama. I spent most of the day working out moving, location, and how this effects the rest of the plans I had for the months of June and July. I might not be able to complete my road trip to the extent that I desired, but I am super fortunate to have been able to go on a month-long adventure. Starting work in a different part of the country will be another adventure for sure; a different culture from the midwest, new trails to learn, a new community to become involved with, learning and becoming successful at my new job– all future challenges I am excited to face.


Where I will be located is along the Tennessee River, hence I started formulating some plans for Kayak camping with Sophie (my parents’ dog who I will be adopting). I’m excited not just only to explore a new area, but meet new people, and continue learning. I don’t think I’ll miss the snow too too much (except for skiing). Ask me again in a year. ;)


Day 24: Wednesday, June 11

I left for Bryce Canyon today, a beautiful four-hour drive from Salt Lake City, after thanking and saying farewell to Mark. Mark’s hospitality was phenomenal, but the good-bye was brief as he would be pacing another runner at Bryce so I would see him again at the race.


Driving to the canyon led me through winding mountain passes to a green plateau. Despite the fact that it had felt like the drive was mostly downhill, there had been a net gain in elevation. The rim of Bryce sits at around 8,000 feet. From the green plateau the road descended into startlingly red rock. The sandstone rose from the earth in pillars and arches like flames frozen in time.

Rock tunnels driven through just before Bryce.


I decided to camp in the park, as the race itself (Bryce Canyon 100) does not actually enter the National Park. There, I hiked the rim trail where my breath was stollen by the views. If I could not invasion a heaven before, I could now.


My soul ached to be a bird, to fly and weave between the hoodoos, the cathedral pillars of time. The vivid colors of stone– reds and oranges striped with chalky white– were unreal. Meditating on the rim, the mind’s eye could invasion the centuries of erosion, of weathering, of freezing and thawing, that had brought about these fantastic formations.


Look at what adverse conditions had created with time: a remarkable landscape. Maybe, with time, that is what life’s challenges does to us; weathers away our unfavorable traits to reveal the true beauty within, exposing who we are at our cores, should we endure.


As I was hiking back to camp, a man ran past me with a shirt that had the word “ultra” on the back. I called out, “Are you racing this weekend?”


He stopped and turned around. “No, but my friend wanted to do the 50.” We started talking. His name was Brian and he was on a road trip with his friend, Michelle. It turned out that they were camping not five campsites down from me. I let Brian get back to his run, but met up with them later that evening for an enjoyable time of story swapping. They were wonderful and are going to do great things, I know.


The moon was full and bright. Somewhere I was hopping it would go away so I could see all the stars, but was happy for the fact that it meant a headlamp was unnecessary. The night was cool and beautiful.

One of the trails along the rim.


Day 25: Thursday, June 12

After a short jog along the rim trail, I made up my drop-bags for the race. One less thing to worry about tomorrow. It was a day of relaxing, reading, exploring, and enjoying some alone time. It’s funny, the thoughts that come when you sit in silence with an otherworldly view. The thoughts and ideas themselves seem profound, but seem to almost be erased when the mind becomes clouded with worrisome thoughts again, much like an etch-a-sketch.


Looking across the canyon, I almost felt like– not that it belonged to me– but that I belonged to it. For as anxious as I’ve been in the past about running other races, I’ve felt at peace leading up to this race. I’m simply excited just to spend time in the canyon and see more spectacular views. I just want to absorb it all.


Day 26: Friday, June 13

After a short run along the canyon’s rim, I met Mark at the hotel just south of Bryce. Mark had paced me at Zumbro not three months before and I was happy to have him pace me at Bryce. I spent the majority of the day making sure that my drop bags, shoes, and pack were in order and resting in the hotel. We went to the packet pickup later that evening, which was swamped with racers.


We went to bed early that night, as the shuttle to the start/finish line was to depart at 5 AM sharp.


Day 27: Saturday, June 14

Today was the Bryce Canyon 100

I don't really feel the need to do a full-on race report, as there are so many other people who have thoroughly covered the entire course. The race website lists race reports compile by racers and you can view the list of links here. I will say this: it was a bit disorganized. There was some (ok, rather a lot) of confusion as to where shuttle pick up/drop off was and a lot of questions went unanswered (there was no pre-race meeting). I don't think I ever saw the race director, and it would've been nice to even just thank him for the event. There was a LOT more wooded trail that I expected and a lot less canyon trail (the best views are between miles 3 and 9). The race has a lot of small kinks to work out, but it's only in the second year of its being. It'll get there, and when it does, it'll blow every other race out of the water. It's a well-marked beautiful and decevingly challenging course with well-stocked aid stations, awesome goodie bags, and amazing finisher's medals/belt buckles. Lots of people, but all of them fantastically welcoming and nice. 


Mark and I awoke early to catch the shuttle from Ruby’s Inn to the start, about 7 miles outside of town. There, we huddled in the twilight with other 50 and 100 mile racers around campfires before the start. Needless to say, I became ill. After some time into the race, my stomach/abdomen began to ache to the point where running was severely uncomfortable. Despite the fact that I had drank over 4 liters of water, I hadn’t peed in 10 hours (TMI?). After the problems started, I weathered another 30 miles before calling it quits. It was difficult to enjoy the beauty of the race when I was feeling so blah. What I really wanted was to run IN the canyon, not just by it. I wasn’t having the fun I had expected or searched for– not feeling well being a big part– and really just wanted and needed to lay down.


So that night I rested rather comfortably– minus the trips to the bathroom– in a hotel.


Day 28: Sunday, June 15

The next morning, Mark and I went into Bryce Canyon National Park, where we spent the day exploring and running trails. I wasn’t yet feeling 100%, but felt much better than the day before with some medication.


THIS was where I had wanted to be the whole duration of the race; alongside the hoodoos and between the rock. I had done myself a disservice, I think, camping for several nights within the park before the race because I had sincerely expected the course to challenge the beauty that I had already experienced along the trails there. While the course was beautiful in its own right, it couldn’t even begin to hold a light to that of what lay within the park’s boundaries.

Mark coming down a switchback.


Despite the “failure” of previous day, today’s fun overrode any residual negativity that had rested within my soul the previous night.



Week 5

Day 29: Monday, June 16

Mark’s flight back to Minnesota didn’t leave Las Vegas until midnight, so we decided to have a bit of fun. We went for one more run through the woods along Bryce Canyon before packing up to drive over to Nevada.


Just outside Red Rock Canyon.

Having to start my new job in July, a pre-employment drug test was required. The company had requested that this be completed by Tuesday, and Mark having to be in Las Vegas anyhow, decided that would be the best stop for its completion. I wondered, peeing into a cup, if running long distances effected the balance of chemicals/compounds/stuff within urine…?


Just outside of Las Vegas is the Red Rock Canyon. Mark and I targeted this as our next adventure. We were met with frustration when we encountered difficulty finding trail maps. Throwing caution to the wind, we picked a trail and started hiking. The trail lead us to a dried up river gorge where we spent the next several hours bouldering and climbing up through the canyon, little Cairns sitting atop rocks. We stopped to add our own Cairns to the mix.

Into the canyon!


Driving back to the city with some more time to kill before Mark’s flight, I suggested seeing a movie. Being the dork that I am, I wanted to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” So we did. And I LOVED it. Thankfully, Mark seemed to like it as well, haha :)


Mark then started to make his way to the airport. It was a daunting good-bye; by moving to Alabama and the impending start of a career, there were no promises of when we would next see each other. Neither of us had any near-future races scheduled. However, friendship always finds a way. We’ll run together again, Mark!


Mark & I in Bryce.

I then found a camp spot for the night and made plans to drive home the next day.


Day 31, 32, 33: Tuesday, June 17, Wednesday, June 18, Thursday, June 19

I began my drive back to Michigan today. My road trip was being cut a bit short, but I think it was for the best. In preparing for my new job, I had to find a place to live, sign employment documents, pack up stuff, and go home to get Sophie (my parents’ dog, now mine!). I was able to make short stops in Moab and Leadville, but beyond Denver there weren’t many points of interest that could compare with the arid beauty of the red deserts and canyons, or towering kings of snow capped peaks.

Short trail run ending in a clif on the way home.


Returning home, it almost seemed as if the road trip had been a really good dream that I didn’t want to wake up from. I was able to make it home in time for my mom’s birthday, which was awesome, but there’s almost a let-down coming home, an “adventure withdraw.” I know that it won’t last for long because, only being home for two days, I’ve already found myself distracted by house/apt hunting, cleaning, and packing.


But that’s how life is: one adventures ends, another one begins. It might not be scaling a mountain, racing, or running a new trail, but it brings challenges and new life experiences. I’m excited for the future; I’m excited for more adventures, be them in running or the rest of life.


Day 34 & Beyond

I would like to thank everyone who has followed and supported my posts. Blogging has definitely been a learning experience on its own. It does, however, take a lot of time and energy. While I am flattered (and sometimes surprised) that people follow my blog, there are so many inspirational people out there who post, and I wouldn’t count myself among the most qualified.


I have learned so much over the past couple of years. Of the things I’ve learned, it’s not about the personal story so much as the global. It can be difficult and rather humbling to put your goals and ambitions out on the world wide web, which definitely takes on a more personal nature. In the future, I think I will keep my goals to myself, as sometimes I aim too high, but would love to support the goals and ambitions of other racers and the running community as a whole. I won’t disappear; I’ll be here. But if there is one thing that running has taught me is that success is better when shared, more felt as a team, and more sincere when gained in silence; to speak less, but do more.

Sophie! My new housemate!


Having said that, this is my last blog post.* I am so thankful for the support of my friends, family, runners, followers, and people who have gotten in contact with me via social media. I can only hope that one day I can give back as much as people have given me. Until our paths cross, just remember to

always do what you love, and love what you do.


Best of Wishes, and Happy Trails,

Breanna Kay Cornell


*for the time being. I’m not going to try and predict the future.

Summer 2014 Road Trip: Week 3

Posted by Breanna Cornell on June 11, 2014 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Week 3

Day 15: Monday, June 2

I awoke early for a short run through Florence, Alabama. It was a cool 70ºƒ with humidity hovering around a wet 70%. Running through downtown brought me to the University of North Alabama. A beautifully small campus, they housed two lions, brother and sister, Leo and Una, in a luxurious cage centered on campus. Unfortunately, the two were not out while I ran past. In addition to learning about the lions, I learned that the Florence area (Muscle Scholes) was home to music productions and near the birthplace of Hellen Keller. While lacking mountains, there were plenty of rivers and hills to satisfy my curiosity about trails.

The lion cage on University of North Alabama's Campus.


After cleaning up, I headed off to my interview 30 minutes outside of town. Following the interview, a woman from the company was kind enough to show me some interesting things around town, including the world’s only Coon-Dog Cemetery and the Rattle Snake Saloon, a bar housed on the side of a cliff over a pond. Both were situated on some back dirt roads, nested in beautiful areas of dense, green woods.

The Rattle Snake Saloon – under a cliff overhang!


A dinner out and walk through the quaint downtown lit with fire flies saw me to bed. Reflecting on the day, the cultural differences were cast in stark difference between the southwest and midwest. It wasn’t bad, just different and interesting. Overall, I felt that the interview went well, as did the rest of the day. I look forward to hearing back!

The only Coon-Dog Cemetary in the wold; brought to you by Alabama!


Day 16: Tuesday, June 3

Today was a travel day with an adventure at the end. After checking out of the Alabama hotel early, and an hour drive over to the airport, I found myself on one of the most interesting plane rides of my life. I was seated on a full fight back to Salt Lake City next to a 95 year-old lady. She was the sweetest lady in the world, but didn’t know what personal space meant. It was 4 hours of leaning, chatting, and trying to tempt me to eat some of the food she had packed (which included hard boiled eggs, a hamburger, chocolate covered raisins, cookies, pretzels, and more). I had planned on watching a movie on my laptop, but it felt too rude to even try. I listened patiently. Whoever her grandchildren are are very lucky to have such a loving, kind, and experienced grandmother.


Mark met me at the Salt Lake City airport and from there we took off to the trails that branched off into the Wasatch range starting not two miles from the back of his apartment complex. It started with a huge hill climb, loose dirt and rocks falling away beneath our feet. I’ll admit, I am timid on downhills, especially ones that seem nearly vertical to a Midwestern native. Mark gave pointers on how to become a better downhill runner which summed up came down to “Don’t think about it.”

Coming down one of the super steep hills.


And he was right.

I really don’t think about the uphills that I so love to run. I just like feeling like what I imagine mountain goats must as they prance and bound gracefully along mountain peaks. While I was hardly able to keep up with Mark on the downhills, by the end of the 7 mile loop (with 4,000 feet of vertical gain!) my downhill strides were much improved.

Awesome views to be had just outside of the city!


The sun was hot, but the humidity that I had experienced in Alabama all but nonexistent in Utah. After a long morning of travel, the hill climbing and speeding down steep slopes had me feeling relaxed that evening. The run closed with an awesome belated graduation present from Mark; dinner at the Vertical Diner, a completely vegan restaurant. The food was phenomenal. The perfect ending to a long day.


Day 17: Wednesday, June 4

After the days of travel between Utah, Arizona, and Alabama, I was exhausted. I slept in to a late 7 AM. I planned to meet Mark down at the Trail and Ultra Running warehouse to try on some hydration vests after he got done with work. While waiting for the afternoon to arrive, I explored an outdoor mall in downtown Salt Lake City; it certainly was beautiful with fountains and a small creek running through the lower walkway. I learned that they allowed shoppers to take their dogs into stores with them. Wishing Sophie was with me, I wistfully examined workout garb in various stores that I knew I didn’t need, but certainly wouldn’t mind owning.


I had been wanting a new hydration vest for a while. I love my Mountain Hardwear Fluid 6; it has a lot of storage space, a huge pouch for packing a lot of gear, pockets in the front, and fits well. However, as a pack to wear in hot weather, it allows for little back ventilation and is a bit much for wearing in a race. With the Brcye 100 but ten days away, and aid stations ten or more miles apart, I wanted something that would be better suited for racing. Handhelds are great for races, but knowing how hot it can get in the desert and how far apart the aid stations are, I thought a pack would be a better choice for Bryce.


At Brighton, we traversed these super steep slopes.

I met Mark at the Trail and Ultra Running warehouse where I tried on a LOT of packs. I was really amazed at how many designs and fits there actually were. I learned that I’m not a huge fan of the bottles in front. Some of the packs’ arm straps were too form fitting, and I couldn’t easily see or reach pockets on the side. Others had a lot of storage options in the back, but I prefer to have more storage in front. I finally settled on the Ultraspire Alpha. With pockets in the front large enough to hold small water bottles, and a pouch in the back just the right size for an outer shell and headlamp, the size of the pack wasn’t overkill. The added benefit of being able to store 2 liters of water and being able to easily access all of the front and side pouches when I was wearing it sold the vest for me. Mark and I then went to give it a trial run through the Brighton Ski park.


A half hour drive out of the city of Salt Lake and we were at Brighton. It was a good 15º cooler on the mountain than it had been in the city, and snow still remained on most of the slopes. We began our trek to Mary’s Lake then to try to access one of the peaks (I’m forgetting the names). There was still a lot of snow, most of it crusted and packed, but with snowmelt racing beneath meant that breaking through in areas was unavoidable. The trail was covered and we went off track, but reached a decent elevation.

We found Jim on the trails!


For the first time I traversed a mountain. It was one of the most fun, exhilarating, and scary things I have ever done. Digging the soles of our shoes into a 50º slope, with a stick in one hand and balancing with the other, we made our way across a bowl. I was slow. Mostly because I was timid and a bit afraid. If you start to slide, there was no stopping, hence the stick. Should you slip and fall, you dig the stick into the snow and hold on for dear life. I sloped and slid a little once, but thankfully didn’t go very far.


I was much more confident on the ups rather than the downs. Up is easy. Coming down takes a lot more skill and confidence that I have yet to build up. To really be good on terrain like that, you have to train on it consistently or seriously have no fear. I’ll admit, I’m not fearless. But it was a LOT of fun.

Mark embracing the awesome.


Just as we began to descend, we ran into Jim Milar, a friend of Mark’s and fellow ultra runner. Searching for the trail covered in snow, we joined Jim in ascending part of the mountain a bit more before running back down. It was absolutely beautifully breathtaking. Jim was great company and it was fantastic to listen to Jim and Mark converse on the Wasatch 100, of which we were running parts of the course. What a wicked course; just from the small snow-covered sections we had run and the stories from Jim and Mark blew my mind about this race.


Annndddd… now I want to run it.

But I’ll save that for a future adventure. When I feel ready.


Returning to the car, I had forgotten that I had even been wearing the Ultraspire. Happy with its fit, with the afternoon adventure, and with meeting Jim, I slept well that night.


Day 18: Thursday, June 5

I did but a short loop around Salt Lake City in the morning before packing up to meet up with Cheyney, whom I had met at my internship in Arizona the previous summer. He had invited me to join him and his friends on an 80s rock motorcycle Utah tour. I had no idea what to expect, but at the least that it would be fun!


After an hour drive, I met Cheyney at his office, where he had a brand new pair of Altra Zero Drop Superiors waiting for me. While working together last year, he had mentioned that he was friends with one of the co-founders of Altra and was able to hook me up with a pair of shoes. I will be forever grateful; the shoes will definitely get the mileage they deserve We packed up his Harley-Davidson and took off for Vernal, Utah with Cheyney’s friend Keith.

One of the pit stops we took on the way out of Salt Lake City.


I had never been on a motorcycle before.


It was kind of scary. Given, I was riding on the back. It’s like being a passenger in a car and having no control where you’re going. It was an experience for sure! After about an hour of riding, I became more comfortable. I can see why road trips cross country on bike can be enjoyable; you don’t just see the scenery, you experience it. You feel the temperature changes, smell the fields as you drive by, the sprinklers, the grass. The dust blasts against you with each gust of wind, the smell of the desert entwining itself with your skin. The pockets of cold alternating with heat, and the radiation of the sun. Things you don’t feel enclosed in a car.


But riding a motorcycle also hurt my butt a lot.


We arrived in Vernal, met up with another friend, checked into the hotel, and went out to dinner.



Day 19: Friday, June 6

I awoke the next morning before everyone else and went for a run around Vernal. I knew that there were dinosaurs in Utah, but I hadn’t really thought about where. We were close to the Dinosaur National Monument, and Vernal reflected this in its many dinosaur statues and museums.

Unloading trucks.


Vernal is also situated in a more desert-esque landscape. The mountains, canyons, and hills that arose from the earth were a sunrise orange with streaks of tan and red. Even though the morning was a cool 50ºƒ, warmth and heat radiated from the rocks.


Returning from my run, I met up with Cheyney, Keith, and Snow. Cheyney, having some extra tickets, had invited me as him and Keith knew the people who were organizing the event and assisting in setting it up. We headed over to the venue (but two blocks away) to help in any way we could. Mainly, it was a lot of loading things on and off trucks where I felt more in the way than anything.


Cheyney & Keith's motorcycles.

After a relaxing afternoon by the hotel pool, we went over to the concert for the first night of bands. I was technically backstage (which was really cool–we got to talk with the bands and socialize a bit), but it was really more off to the side watching. I’m not a huge music person to start with, and 80s rock isn’t quite my thing, but it was actually a lot of fun. It was simply enjoyable to be around new people and experience something different. This is, after all, the summer of “Why not?”*


Backstage pass, yo!

*within reason


Day 20: Saturday, June 7

After another morning run around the desert of Vernal, I joined Keith and a couple of his friends on their Harley-Davidsons for a ride down a canyon and out to a reservoir in the Ashely National Forest. It was absolutely beautiful (and kind of fun to experience mountain driving on a motorcycle) but there was a part of me that was frustrated. There were so many dirt roads and trails branching from the main roads that I just longed to run and explore. Each time we reached an unpaved road, it became a turn around point. Those points, though, would have been where the real fun and beauty of the canyons begun had I been hiking or running. I’m much more of a travel-by-foot person.

The Flaming Gorge Dam that we visited.


Nonetheless, it was beautiful. Headed back down to the desert from the mountains, we were rained on. The desert air at the base of the forest quickly dried us out, and we headed back to the hotel to clean up before the second night of the concert.

Keith being B.A. on his Harley.


The second night of the concert was similar to the first, but there were many more people in the stands. There was a rumor going around that Nicolas Cage was at the concert, accompanying a band, but I never saw him. I was the first one to return to the room; I was tired.

Up close to the stage!


Day 21: Sunday, June 8

I spend the majority of Sunday getting back to Salt Lake City. We took our time, leaving late in the morning and stopping along the way back. When I got back to Salt Lake, it was the afternoon. After saying good-bye to Cheyney, I went back to Mark’s apartment and was surprisingly exhausted. Being around that many people for that long wears me out more than running 50 miles. I enjoy people, and parties, and stuff, but it overwhelms me to a certain point and I just need to decompress. So I did. It was a relaxing evening and day that didn’t have much to report on.

Summer 2014 Road Trip: Week 2

Posted by Breanna Cornell on June 2, 2014 at 11:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Week 2

Day 8: Monday, May 26

I awoke before Adam or Nick, who had expressed some interest in a morning run. Unable to stay in my car much longer, I got up and went for a quick three-mile jaunt on the roads before returning to camp. In the parking lot was a man wearing the Superior 100 hat. It turns out that he had raced the 100 this past year, same as me. Vacationing for Memorial Day, he was headed back to Minnesota. I asked him for some trail recommendations in the area and he informed me that the Henry’s Peak trail was only a couple miles down the road and a good 6 mile out-and-back.

Morning run in the Black Hills.


Finding Adam and Nick awake, I informed them of my plans to run this trail. They were eager to start the day climbing, as the rain had interrupted their plans yesterday. It had turned out that we both planned to be camping in Yellowstone during the same time. We exchanged numbers before a quick good-bye with plans to meet up again in Yellowstone.

Morning run in the Black Hills.


I found the Henry’s Peak trail and began the ascent. I was sucking wind as I made my way up the mountain; it must be the altitude. I remember upon arriving in Arizona last summer at 5,000 feet how much more sluggish I was during the first week of running there. It could also be that sitting in the car all day the previous could be getting to me. But the trail did not disappoint. The views were lovely.


Returning to my car, I packed up, and took off for the Bighorn National Forest. Thankfully, this drive was a short 4 hours. The Black Hills gave way to vastly open and rolling grazing land. It was startlingly beautiful, in a lonesome sort of way. The Bighorn mountains grew out of the landscape, breathtakingly. Snow still capping the peaks seemed to float on the blue horizon.


A last stop in Buffalo, Wyoming, had me filling up my tank at a gas station. Across from me, a woman was also filling her car when she glanced at my shirt. I was wearing my “Kalamazoo (Michigan) Marathon” shirt. A glimmer of recognition sparked through her eyes and shed asked me, “Are you from Michigan?”


My “Yes,” prompted her to inform me that she was too was from Michigan and had been living in Buffalo for 8 years. I told her that I planned to spend the afternoon hiking and camping in the Bighorn National Forest, and did she have any recommendations? She responded immediately by taking out a pen and paper and giving me directions to Sheep Mountain Road, which summits Bighorn (or so I was told; this could be wrong, but I can’t find the trail online to confirm). Thanking her, I climbed back in my car to begin the ascent into Bighorn.

Sheep Mountain Road.


If I thought the Black Hills were amazing, Bighorn was absolutely staggering. I found Sheep Mountain Road easily enough (and aptly named for I spotted a herd of big horned sheep right away), but found it impassable about a mile in; there was still snow that covered the road. After bottoming out numerous times in Booneville, I did not want to risk gutting the innards of my car. Instead I parked at a trailhead, slung my hammock, and went for a short jog that turned into a hike.

Snow on roads!


For some inexplicable reason (uh, maybe all the driving?) I was absolutely exhausted. I crawled into my hammock for a nap. Three hours later, I awoke to the rumble of thunder and flash of lightening. With my plans for an evening hike dashed, I quickly packed up my hammock and retreated to my car. I ate a dinner of trail mix while I watched the storm roll but a quarter mile past camp. While not tired from the long nap I had indulged in that afternoon, I had nothing better to do than read. I read until I needed a headlamp then fell asleep.

STOP... Hammock time!


That night, I was troubled by dreams of bears ripping open my car doors, of park rangers fining me for parking at a trailhead, or mysterious mountain lions peering in my windows… and with an awful stomach ache that had me crawling from my car several times. Perhaps a small sample of whatever sickness Maranda had endured.


Day 9: Tuesday, May 27

After the early bedtime from the previous day, I awoke before the sun. Eager to see what was along Sheep Mountain Road, but not knowing how long of a road it would be to the summit, I packed my Camelbak, bracing myself for a run/hike of 5-6 hours. The sunlight had just begun to paint the tops of the trees when I set out.

Good morning, Bighorn!


I ran the down hills, jogged the flats, and hiked the uphills. As it turned out, it was all uphill on the way out. There was snowmelt roaring down the mountain, collecting in rivers crossed by several bridges. It was stunning. It had reached freezing that night, evidence in the pools of water with fresh ice crystals floating about. Happy that I had started early, the mounds of snow that resided on the road were crusted enough for me to walk on. When I did break through the crusted snow, I plunged shin-deep, the ice crystals scraping my legs.


Going up!

Approaching the summit, the air warmed, and it became more and more difficult to stay on top of the snow. I took to the woods, climbing over fallen trees and rocks, under branches and twigs, paralleling the road. The snow on the ground under the trees was much less deep, and easier to manage when my legs broke through. I should have worn leggings.

I'm on top!


It was a surprisingly short 5 miles to the top, where a small lodge and outhouse resided. I cannot even describe the view. I stood for a solid 10 minutes, absorbing the essence of just being. Being the only one for miles. Of the mountain top, for that brief moment in time, being just mine.


I didn’t want to leave.

Time to go down.


But then it was the fun part! If it was a slow hike up, it was a fast run down. The return trip was probably one of the fastest 5 miles I’ve run. The mix of hot sunlight and cool air rising from the rivers and snow created an intoxicating atmosphere, one that made adrenaline surge and joy resound.


I wished the route had been longer, but it was time to move on, to the next destination, to the next adventure.


To Yellowstone!


The drive itself was phenomenal. Bighorn dropped away into a vast canyon, taking on shades of orange and red. The canyon flattened to green pastures where tall, red mesas rose from the earth. Away from the mountains on flat ground, the view was panoramic; surrounded by giants on all sides, their snow-capped peaks beckoning me to them.


The Shoshone National Forest rose from the earth, a river dominating the center of its being. The Buffalo Bill Dam was a must-see stop for me, as an environmental engineer with an interest in water resources. Continuing brought me to the Eastern entrance for Yellowstone.

Buffalo Bill Dam.


The excitement that had risen with anticipation was dashed after speaking with a park ranger; the backwoods campground I had planned on staying in was closed due to snow. The trials I had so looked forward to running were blocked off due to bears, flooding, and snow. It appears that I did not come at the right time of year. However, Yellowstone made up for it in wondrous views.

Awesome views in Yellowstone!


I wound up paying to stay at one of the campgrounds, it being the safest option with the current number of bear sightings in the area. There, I met Joe. Joe was also from Michigan (we’re all over the place!) and biking from Oregon to Michigan, averaging over 70 miles a day and blogging about it. He was an instant friend, but had to take off. Joe informed me that the other side of the park was much more worthwhile. I longed to see it, but had already had enough driving for the day. Instead, I went for a short hike on the trails that were open in the area, before returning to camp to write this section.


I met two other Michiganders in the campground upon returning from hiking; two graduates from the University of Michigan in differing studies of engineering. Ah! Fellow Michiganian Engineers! They too were indulging in the “Great American Road Trip” before bracing themselves for the endurance required to broach the “real world” – at least, the world that society expects recent graduates to enter and develop accordingly in. I wondered, having already met Adam and Nick, just how many graduates took on the road trip adventure? How did they approach it? Where did they go? What were their goals? I was silently envious of these two U of M students as well as Nick and Adam; to have a friend to share the road with would be wondrous!


Close to the campground.

I never did meet up with Adam and Nick; they continued past Yellowstone through to the Tetons after I called to inform them about the backcountry conditions. Tomorrow is yet another lonesome drive. Not to a National Park, however. No, tomorrow beings an almost week-long interview extravaganza! A different sort of adventure, but one I’m looking foreword to nonetheless.


Day 10: Wednesday, May 28

I awoke in the Yellowstone campground to find frost had settled over the park. Donning a jacket and canister of bear spray, I took to the roads. With the warnings of bears awakening from hibernation told to me by the rangers from the previous day floating around my head, I stuck to the pavement. And it was a good thing that I did.


A mother grizzly bear and her cub were spotted not a football field length from one of the main roads. It was a fiasco. People had stopped and pulled their cars off to the side to haul out their huge cameras with their telephoto lenses on tripods. Several rangers were attempting to block the road nearest to where the bears were, preventing people from coming too close and to allow them to safely cross, should the bears choose to do so.


In the photo below, you have to look closely at the tree line to see the mother bear. I, unfortunately, did not have a fancy camera but relied on the digital zoom of my iPhone to capture the moment. I wondered “What must the bears think of all the people?”

Mama grizzly bear and her cub along the tree line.


With a short 5 mile Yellowstone jog in the books, I packed up my car and took off for Salt Lake City, where I would meet up with Mark K., who had paced me at the Yellowstone-Teton 100 last October and graciously offered his couch upon which I could crash. But of course, no trip to Yellowstone would be complete without stopping at a geyser.


Given the proximity of the parks, and that it was on the way South, I drove through the Grand Teton National Park. I think the worst thing about this road trip so far has been two things: 1.) The length of driving each day (a necessary evil) and 2.) Driving through such beautiful places without someone to share it with or the ability to take a couple of days to explore each location. The views and signage for trails really just seem to mock me as I motor on by.

The Grand Tetons!


The drive to Salt Lake City was scenic, windy, but overall uneventful. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by Bailey (Mark’s dog) and Jackson (Mark’s cat). I took to the sidewalk for a quick 5 miles to stretch my legs after being stuck in the car for 6 hours. It was wonderful to see Mark again and reconnect. Salt Lake is a surprisingly beautiful city, nested at the foot of the mountains. Not 2 miles out the back of Mark’s door are trails spawning in all directions, of which Mark was eager to point out.


Tomorrow, I fly out of Salt Lake to Arizona then to Alabama for several interviews with differing companies. It may not be a National Park, but it will be an adventure that I am looking forward to for sure!


Day 11: Thursday, May 29

The early morning saw Mark off to work and myself on a short jog to meet the begging of the Wasatch trails behind Mark’s apartment. While the city had its conveniences (like a tram system that I would later utilize to get to the airport) and its proximity to the mountains was a plus, a haze hung over Salt Lake that could only remind me of my air quality classes and the inversions that cities located in mountain valleys experienced; the particulate matter obscuring the horizon, inhaling the dust 2.5 um in diameter.

A shot of Salt Lake City from my morning run.


A thought: room for improvement, but cities maintain more efficiency than rural living.

A theme: conversations about the environment, sustainable living, and first-world humanity’s habits influence and impact on the present and future.

A hope: conversations that extend past the persons I speak with; conversations that ignite a change, or a passion, whether sparked through a comment, an action, or an observation.


Salt Lake City did have phenomenal public transportation, however. Utilizing the public tram system, I was able to make it to the airport and on my way to Phoenix, Arizona. Arriving without incident to the car rental service in Arizona, I found myself being upgraded to a Mustang, given the lack of availability of town cars. Never really having driven a sports car, it was a fun experience. From Phoenix, I drove into the Tonto National Forest, over rolling mountainsides and through tunnels, into Miami/Globe. The heat of the day baked the black interior of the Mustang, but I couldn’t object the heat after complaining about the cold so often this past winter.


In Miami, I met up with Michigan Techie and friend, Claira, who is interning for the company which I had an interview with the next day. After spending the evening together, I prepared for my interview the following day.


Day 12: Friday, May 30

After short jog through town in the morning and prepping for my interview, I was prepared. Speaking with potential future coworkers and bosses, a lunch and tour of town made the day filled with anxiety, excitement, and anticipation for what the future may hold. Overall, I think the interview went well and look forward to what path the universe may offer.


Claira and I met up when she finished work and I followed her to where she is living for the summer, just outside of Phoenix. An evening filled with swimming in her backyard pool and relaxation made the perfect closure for an overall fine day.


Day 13: Saturday, May 31

Claira and I awoke early to meet her acquaintance, Jason, a manager at a local biking shop. Claira, an avid mountain biker, was working on integrating herself into the Arizona mountain biking community. Through some store searching and networking, she had met Jason who offered to show her some of the biking trails in the area. I had tagged along to run.

Running the trails just outside Phoenix.


We arrived at a rather popular trail; I was surprised how many people were out on a Saturday at 6:30 AM. This however made sense; the temperature was already 95ºƒ and rising. It was easy to wake up at 5 AM when the sun begins to peak over the horizon by 4:30 AM. Remembering the trails’ closeness to the city, the number of people populating the trails was explained.


Despite the fact that I was at a lower elevation than I had been for the past week, the run was difficult. The trail was more of a hiking trail with its loose gravel, narrowness, and moments when bouldering was required to summit the small peaks. It was the toughest run I had done on the trip thus far even though it was not the longest, steepest, or greatest change in elevation. Should I have the privilege to train on these trails daily, even weekly, I would feel and move like a mountain goat in time.


The temperature made a huge difference. The sun felt close to the earth and my pores empty of sweat. I had forgotten how heat adapt I had become over the course of four months in Arizona last year and how that had all disappeared as I became cold-adapt over Michigan’s -20ºƒ winter this year. In addition to the fact that I had been camping in near or at freezing temperatures for the past 4 days made the heat more a shock to my system than I had anticipated.


I love the desert.

This only reinforced the notion that I needed to start heat training for crewing and pacing at Badwater at the first available opportunity.


Finishing the trail run sooner than I would have liked with a slight headache and upset stomach, I realized I was dehydrated. Accompanying Claira and Jason to a burrito joint but a mile from the trailhead, I downed 3 water bottles before beginning to feel better. It was a subtle reminder that I had to build up to where I had been last summer. How easy the mind forgets and how long the body takes to readapt to each scenario!


Returning to Claira’s pool, we cooled off and set off for a trip to the $2 movie theater. “The Lego Movie” had be slightly amused, but I grew up as more of a Kenex(sp?) fan. A great exhaustion hit me while sitting in the theater. It was as if the past week of travel had finally caught up with me. Arriving back at Claira’s house, I lounged by the pool for the rest of the afternoon while she returned to Jason’s bike shop to give him some beer she owed him for a bike part. It was nice to just be. To just exist. My limbs were heavy, the sun was high, and the ground inviting.


How glorious laziness can be.


It is amazing how much energy travel can sap from you. It’s a conundrum. Sitting in a car or plane gives one the feeling of laziness, however, upon arrival, the body feels beat up and tired. Taking breaks, short walks or jogs at rest stops (which I have mistakenly called “aid stations” on this trip) helps tremendously, as do twice-a-day runs or hikes. Until this afternoon, the tiredness had not caught up. I hadn’t been training with great distances during the trip thus far (the longest day being only about 20 miles) but between changes in climate, altitude, elevation gain during runs, camping, and travel, it had summated into an afternoon of laziness.


And it was good.


Day 14: Sunday, June 1

After a nice 3 miles jaunt around Mesa with Claira at 5:30 AM, I took to the airport, returning the fun (but uncomfortable) ride of the Mustang to the car rental center. Today I was to fly not back to Salt Lake City, but to yet another interview with another company in Alabama. I was going from dry heat to a humid heat; from cactuses to forest; from rock to dirt.


Two flights and a drive from Huntsville later, a day of travel came to a close. I relaxed and braced myself the the interview the following day.

Summer 2014 Road Trip: Week 1

Posted by Breanna Cornell on June 2, 2014 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Admittedly, a road trip is a very personal thing; as cliche as it may sound, it is a journey of self-discovery. For this reason, I am a bit hesitant to really go into detail on my blog, as it is mainly devoted to race reports and experiences I’ve had while running. This road trip isn’t solely focused on running. It’s about visiting friends, National Parks, job interviews, and making the most of my time between graduation and employment. To say the least, I have been very privileged to be able to take such a trip. However, this trip does include crewing at several races and the Bryce Canyon 100, which will have a stand-alone blog post. So I think I will post just enough to entice your imagination, encourage your spirit to take a trip down some roads you’ve longed to explore.


I’ve summarized the trip day by day below. There is so much more that I could write; thoughts and ideas just flow like snowmelt down a mountain when you experience new trails and places, interact with new people, meet new and old friends, and try some things that scare you a bit.


Week 1

Day 1: Monday, May 19

An uneventful, but necessary, day. I drove from my parent’s home in downstate Michigan up to Brainerd, Minnesota where many of the friends (the Ninja Runners) I’ve made through the Zumbro and Superior races reside. Torrential rain, road construction, and traffic turned what should have been an 11 hour drive into a 13 hours. All the while Darcy (my pet rabbit) was digging in his cage in the back. Unfortunately, I was unable to bring Darcy with me for the entirety of my road trip. Maranda, one of my Minnesotan runner friends, had a young niece who was looking to adopt a bunny. So Darcy was to accompany me to Minnesota, his new home. While the drive was long, I arrived in Minnesota alive, and stayed at my friend Mark Y’s house. Mark had paced me at the Zumbro 100 this past April and was an amazing host.


At this point, I will clarify who/what the Ninja Runners are. “Ninja Runners” was the name coined by Laurie for the group of runners who bonded over the 2013 Zumbro 100, mostly comprised of a core group of runners in Brainerd, Minnesota. Maranda loves to do photography, and takes photos of group runs and events and posts them to the Ninja Runner Facebook page. I was in Minnesota to visit my Ninja Runner friends and help where I could in expanding the group.


Day 2: Tuesday, May 20

I awoke early the next morning to run a trail loop with Mark before he had to head off to work. John then met me at the trail and I did another loop with John. Following this, I meandered over to the salon where Maranda works and received a wonderful hair cut so I could look not so disheveled for my upcoming interviews. After Maranda got done with work, I followed her to her parent’s farm. There we gave Darcy to her niece, Adeline. Adeline was overjoyed with the bunny, and I could tell that Darcy was going to a good home. A rabbit having been my first pet at the age of 5, I knew how much significance a bunny could hold for a little girl. Maranda and I camped in her trailer that night.

Hitting the trails!


Day 3: Wednesday, May 21

Maranda and I woke early to meet a friend at the trails who wanted to start running by 5 AM. Unfortunately, she ended up not being able to make it. So we went and got a coffee until Mark arrived. We ran around, up and down, back and forth on a six mile loop of single track trails constructed upon old mining tailings. They were a lot of fun. Maranda and I headed out to do another 6 mile loop after Mark and I finished the first loop.


Mark looking out over the Minnesotan trails.

With all the Ninjas off at work, I returned to Maranda’s parents’ farm, where I spent an enjoyable day with Maranda’s mother, Mary. Mary’s farm is absolutely beautiful. Sitting upon a lake, and removed from main roads in a forest, she has horses, chickens, a pig, a pony, cats, dogs, and (now) a rabbit. I assisted in re-seeding a part of the yard with grass and in feeding the bees. That was an experience! I had never worn a bee-keeper suit before. We ended the afternoon with Adeline, going for a walk down the tree-lined dirt roads.


Following this was a Ninja Runner meeting where most (but not all) Ninja Runners were present to work on the up-and-coming website and discuss future plans and adventures for the group. It was wonderful to see Maranda, Laurie, Mark, John, and Ryan. Unfortunately, Theresa, Michael, Jon, and Ed were unable to be present. I spent that night with Mark again.


Day 4: Thursday, May 22

Thursday was a bit of a rest day for me. Between running several loops on the trails yesterday, then running some hills, then working on the farm, and going for a walk, I had done about 20 miles. Which, realistically, isn’t a whole lot, but my shortest run in the past 23 days had been 3 miles. So I only went for a short 2 mile jog before returning to Mark’s house to work on the Ninja Runner website, apply for some jobs online, read, and just relax a bit. That evening, I accompanied Mark and his lovely wife, Michelle out to dinner.

More Minnesotan trails.


Day 5: Friday, May 23

Maranda was planning on racing the Booneville 100k in Iowa on Saturday. After a trail run in the morning with Mark, packing, and farewells, I made my way down to Des Moines, Iowa for the packet pickup. Maranda was feeling ill, so I met her with her runner’s packet and info in the back of the Booneville Bar, a quarter mile from where the race start was to be the following morning. The bar had agreed to let racers camp in the back. Now, I know this sounds really strange, but this bar was pretty much in the middle of farmland along a river; there was no one and nothing really around it. I camped out of my car that evening.

Maranda and I hanging from the railroad bridge behind the Booneville Bar.


Day 6: Saturday, May 24

The following morning I awoke to find that Maranda had only gotten an hour of sleep. She had spent the night being ill. Somehow I had managed to sleep through the bar noise and Maranda’s trip away from camp. She was pale and dehydrated. I was worried about how the race would go.


As a crew for Maranda, I was informed that there was to be no pacing and that I could only provide support at the bridges (the race was supposed to showcase Iowa’s covered bridges) and aid stations. I had attempted to decipher the map on my phone, but had little to no reception in areas. The course was all white, chalky, gravel backroads through Iowa’s rolling farmland. While the route was only marked with a single orange flag at turns, the race director provided a turn-by-turn direction sheet for the racers. I managed to obtain a copy for myself. They wanted to avoid having the crews drive on the course, but, not knowing the roads around the area and finding some of the roads blocked off, was unsure of how to do this. Given that the roads were not closed to through traffic, I ended up driving on the course anyhow.

Start line of the Booneville 100k.


There were very few people entered in the race, given it was in the first year of its being. The day was warm and sunny, and with a start time of 6 AM, racers had until midnight to complete the 62 miles. After brief photo op at the start line, the racers were off.


I followed other crew cars to about 7 miles into the course and parked along side of the road with three other vehicles. There was a family cheering on their father/husband/son, and the wife of a super talented runner who dubbed themselves team “Dan-drea,” their names being “Dan” and “Andrea” respectively. It was wonderful to socialize with the other crews while waiting to cheer our runners on. The first runner came blasting through, well ahead of the others. Soon enough, though, more racers began to trickle in. I went for a short jog down a side street while waiting for Maranda.


Maranda came through the 7 mile mark in about 1:20, which was fantastic given how she had been feeling. We reviewed her plan to walk the hills and run the flats and downhills, to reevaluate how she felt at each aid station. With a few words of encouragement, I drove ahead to the aid station at mile 10.

Maranda coming through the 7 mile mark.


There but two people manned the tent that provided only Gu, water, and Gatorade. I waited with the family and Andrea for our racers to come through. By this time, the temperature began to rise. When Maranda came through, however, she was still wearing a long-sleeved shirt claiming to be cold. I felt her forehead, which was burning up. She had a fever. There was no talk of stopping, though. She was managing to drink and eat and remained optimistic.


I drove ahead another 5 miles and pulled off to the side of the road. She had been averaging 10-minute miles, which gave me enough time to get a nice jog down a residential street. I was chased by a well-intentioned brown lab, before returning to my vehicle. While parked along the rolling stretches of farmland, a handful of farmers had pulled off to ask if I was broken down. It was thoughtful of them, but I waved them on. A few asked if I was part of the race. When I responded that I was cheering on one of the runners, the farmers explained that they had not been informed that the race was going to take place and wished they had known in advanced. I told them I’d let the race director know this request for future events.

First covered bridge of the race.


When Maranda came past this time, she asked for some music. I handed her off with my iPod and her speakers. She seemed to be in a really good mental state, no matter how bad she felt. After a short break, she took off for the second aid station.


The second aid station was located at the first covered bridge of the course, but was only stocked with Gu, water, and Gatorade; a one-man show this time. However, it was across from a gas station. Knowing that Maranda needed more solid food, I jogged to the gas station to peruse the isles for something that she might like. Upon returning to the aid station, I went for a mile jog (my legs were still cramps from the lengthy drive the previous day), then settled in to wait for Maranda.


Time passed. More time than should have. I began to worry. Had she taken a wrong turn? Did she get sick on the course? I waited. And waited. Until there were but three people left to come through the aid station. Two came through. Then it was just Maranda. Where was she? Exchanging numbers with the volunteer manning the aid station, I tried to interpret the directions in reverse to find Maranda. After missing a turn, I felt in my gut that I had missed her along the course somewhere. After driving back five miles, I turned around to return to the aid station. There, Maranda was sitting happily in the grass, waiting for me. I had missed her along the course when I made the wrong turn. Thankfully, she had not been there long.

Maranda refueling with Honey!


Maranda asked me to sit in the grass with her and we enjoyed the cool freshness of it. She was able to eat some solid food before she returned to the dirt roads. The third aid station was a short 7 miles from the second. We agreed that we would meet there.


Thus was when the race began to become interesting.


After a couple miles, the course turned from the maintained gravel roads to an un-maintained dirt road. It was smooth enough at its entrance and with all-wheel-drive the only worry I had was the clearance on my little VW Passat. But how else was I supposed to get to the next aid station?


The dirt road was beautiful; Lined with trees and roofed with branches, it meandered. Then, it dropped away, suddenly, like when you ski over a ridge on the face of a mountain. All of a sudden, I had no room to turn around or back up; the only way to go was with the road: DOWN. Which, would’ve been fine, if the trail hadn’t been rutted beyond all reasonable expectations for a non-off-roading vehicle. Slowly and carefully, I maneuvered my car over and through the ruts. I only managed to bottom out three times. Something under my car twanged. Uh-oh. I’d have to check it out at the aid station.


The third aid station, located at mile 30, was at the junction of a gravel road with the dirt road along a stretch of river. A jolly volunteer greeted me. This was the first aid station to have solid food; pretzels, oranges, bananas, and PB&J in addition to the Gu, water, and Gatorade. Looking under my car, I could see that a metal strap of some sort had come loose and been nocked out of place when I had tried to come down that rutted beast of a road. The Passat was running fine enough, and nothing was leaking, so I wasn’t worried.

The metal strap that got knocked out of place when I bottomed out; view from the front of car.


Waiting for Maranda, I jogged another mile. She was in last, but was well ahead of the time limitations. There had been a runner who had a biker semi-pacing her close to the aid stations. Another crew member arrived and ran back to greet his runner, who dropped at this aid station. After waiting for Maranda for an extended period, but knowing pacers weren’t allowed, I turned to the volunteer and asked: “Would it be alright if I jogged back to meet my runner?”


With his permission, I set out to find Maranda. I only had about a half mile until I ran into her. We walked it into the aid station, where wet bandanas were provided. Maranda prepped herself to head back out. She was sun-burnt, and I encouraged her to put more sunscreen on. She said that her stomach was upset, but didn’t want to take any more medication. Her legs: amazing. The rest of her: not so much. She gathered herself and took off with the plan for us to meet every 3 miles until the 4th aid station, another 12 miles away.


I drove 3 miles ahead. When Maranda reached me, she informed me that she was done. All I could respond with was “OK.”


Part of me felt like I was a horrible, awful crew person to not try and push her to do more. Another part of me was a bit relieved because she was really giving me no indication how sick she felt. She already had a fever, had spent the night throwing up, was sun burnt… how much do you push a person before it becomes not safe? There was only so much aid I could give her on the course. I had honestly questioned if it was smart for her to even start. The fact that she had made it 34 miles in her state was beyond me.


View from inside the second covered bridge of the race.

Sitting with her on the side of the road, we debated about how best to turn in her timing chip. We decided that we would drive to the next aid station. Maranda wanted me to run the rest of the race, but I said that I couldn’t; that would be bandit racing and not fair. She told me to run to the next aid station, and, with that, jumped into my car and started driving off.


The hunt had begun!


It was light-hearted and fun. I caught Maranda 3 miles down the road. There, we found the next covered bridge of the race and stopped to take pictures. A race security guy on a motor bike stopped to check on us. We informed him that Maranda had dropped and he called it into the race director. We returned to the start and turned in Maranda’s chip. Given the day it had been, we determined that getting a hotel room would trump camping behind the bar again. Driving back to Des Moines, we found a room and had dinner.

End of the day.


What an adventure! Throughout the whole of it, Maranda had been so positive. She never let how awful she was feeling bring her down. I am throughly impressed with her ability to weather the tough stuff. The race itself, the Booneville 100k, however was a bit disastrous. There is some room for forgiveness as it was its inaugural year, but the website failed to inform racers the lack of support at aid stations. Crews should have been provided with directions to the aid stations where you didn’t have to follow the course. The residents along the course should have been informed that a race was going on, in addition to the course being better marked for both the racers, the residents, and crew members. Iowa wasn’t quite what I expected, but I guess I don’t know quite what I was expecting either.


Day 7: Sunday, May 25

Rain tapped the windows of our hotel room, waking me early. I arose without waking Maranda to explore the paved bike trails of Des Moines in the wee hours of morning, the 9 hour drive ahead of me that day taunting my legs. Following the run and a sorrowful good-bye, I packed my car and took off for the Black Hills National Forest.

Stopped at Mt Rushmore.


The drive, while long, was uneventful (which is a good thing, right?). I reached the Black Hills in the late afternoon, giving me plenty of time to stop at Mt Rushmore and find a camping spot. Just a couple miles past the monument, I saw a scattering of tents through the trees and pulled off into a lot by a volt toilet. Parking next to two guys (who I later learned were Adam and Nick), I rolled down my window.

"Oh hey der goat."


“Is this the free campground?” I asked.

“Yeah,” replied Nick.

“Awesome,” I said, getting out of my car and stretching my legs. “Are you guys camping too?” When they responded in the affirmative, I furthered my inquiry, “Do you want to go for a run?”

Adam laughed, “We were just talking about doing that 20 minutes ago.”


Not five minutes later, I was galloping through the forest with two guys I had just met. Adam was still in college and Nick had graduated, both hailing from the east coast. They were taking a month-long road trip across the country to climb and run, similar to my current endeavor. Somehow, in the short distance between camp and the trail, we managed to scramble our way over rocks and around the back of Rushmore.

Run with Nick & Adam.


A solid 7 miles later, we returned to camp. There, we met a cyclist who had just arrived, Victor. Victor hailed from France and was biking across the US. How many cool people would i meet on this trip? It was but the first day! It was an evening filled with macaroni, story swapping, and plans for adventure.


Parked along side the tents, I slept in my car. It had rained and hailed not an hour before I had arrived earlier and who knew what the forecast was for that evening. I slept well.


Chippewa, Graduation, and BEYOND

Posted by Breanna Cornell on May 1, 2014 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (1)

I wanted to devote a whole blog post to the Chippewa 50k, but honestly felt that it would be a lot of miscellaneous details irrelevant to many readers. There are plenty of race reports out there detailing the out-and-back single track course over rolling hills. However, Chippewa was mostly composed of reconnecting with many runners and friends from past events. With legs still a bit fatigued from the Zumbro 100 two weeks prior, I was happy to finish in 5:45:15, 51/225 overall and 7 for females. I just want to congratulate all the first-time ultra runners in the race, thank the enthusiastic volunteers and sincere race director, as well as my friends, Jace and Riccardo, for accompanying me to this event (a kudos for Riccardo for finishing in the top 10 for the 10k!).


The past month, filled with Zumbro and Chippewa, has been busy in a different manner: school. In but two days– two days!!!– I will have graduated with my B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Michigan Technological University.


I am ecstatic, excited, and absolutely, positively terrified.

Chippewa 50k finisher's certificate signed by race director


Committing to and completing a degree– any degree– is no easy task. I chose environmental engineering because I have harbored a passion for the environment for a long as I can remember; longer, even, than my passion for running. I felt that it was the most logical course in being able to make a positive impact, difference, or change in the world, however small. The butterfly effect.


And now, I’ll have it.

I’ll have my degree and I can go out and make that difference.


As in training, easier said than done.

I think one of the most frustrating questions to be asked as a graduating senior is “What are you going to do now?” as the good-intentioned expectant inquirer peers back at you.


I don’t know.

I know what I want to do– environmental engineering (ideally, water resources!), travel, race– but that’s different than what is realistic. I jokingly reply “Oh, I’m going to live out of my car!” Often, that prompts an alarmed look in response. But, in a sense, I’m not lying…


I’ve always been the type of person who KNEW what was coming next, who planned, who wrote itineraries for the entirety of my life. When I was 8, I KNEW I was going to live on a farm and be a vet. While that’s changed, there was no question in my mind at the time where my life was going. I’ve always been open to change and adaptation, but I’ve also always maintained some sort of direction, and now it’s all up in the air.


If you had asked me a month ago “What are you going to do now?” I’d break into a mini-panic attack. But, as graduation has grown closer, instead of getting the pre-race jitters I’ve found a calm. I may not know my direct path at the moment, but I know where my run is going to finish. It might mean taking a different route, but I’ll get there.


I’ve been applying to companies and entry-level engineering jobs where I know I’ll feel like I have a purpose. This summer, I'll start the beginning of a new type of long run. So far, it has been frustrating. If there is anything distance running has taught me, however, it is patience. So I will travel. I will visit friends and national parks, volunteer at races, explore different employment opportunities or even graduate schools around the country. I will live, have adventures, and let go of worry, of control... for just a little bit.


Getting here wasn’t easy. I don’t know if it’ll get any easier. What I do know is that I don’t have to know everything. Despite what engineering has taught me, I don’t need all the answers. I don’t need to know what I’m doing tomorrow or the day after. What running has taught me is as long as I know where I need to be, I’ll get there; some how, some way.


I’d like to close this post with a commencement speech I wrote. My school emailed graduating undergraduate students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher to submit a commencement speech that could be read at graduation. While mine wasn’t selected, it did make it into the final 6 speeches under consideration. I’ve posted it below, as I’d love to share a bit of what an adventure it’s been for, not only myself, but all of my peers as well. I hope to share many adventures, running or otherwise, with my classmates and racing friends alike in the near future!

It's Been A Wonderful Long Run

Many of my peers and professors know me as “that crazy barefoot girl who likes to run 100-mile races.” But I’m no more crazy than the rest of the graduates here today. You have to be crazy to go to Michigan Tech, because, I’ll be honest, this has been the longest and hardest run of my life.

I'll miss our crazy labs, lab partners, and professors & TAs.


I’m often asked what it’s like to run 100 miles. You can ask any student here what it’s like to make it to graduation and their answer wouldn’t differ much from mine. There are highs and lows, obstacles and challenges that make even the most determined question why they’re pursuing their degree, the finisher’s medal. Some classes are a smooth road, lined with aid stations, TAs and Professors that are willing to walk you through the steps. Others, a technical mountain trail where you fall, taking blows from poor grades. Often times the most technical and difficult trail is the one with the most scenery, where you learn the most and are reminded of what you came here to do.

I'll miss frozen Lake Superior and the crazy friends that explore.


There is a point in a 100 mile race, usually around mile 65, where all you want to do is stop. This is the point where the sun is setting, all day you’ve only eaten energy gels and gatorade, and all you want to do is put on a pair of pajamas, curl up in front of a TV, and order take-out; you just want to yell “NOPE! I’M DONE. NO MORE, PLEASE!” The same feeling I get when a lab report or project is assigned that seems insurmountable. Why do we keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other, hour after hour of being in lab with nothing but coffee to console us? Because, at mile 65 or 2 AM in the morning, working on a paper that is due in 6 hours, is when you remember why you entered this race, why you endure.


Blizzard, our Husky masscot, on the chair lift at Ripley ski hill (I'll miss you!!!)

You endure the long, cold Husky winters filled with late nights, enterprises, senior design, reading assignments and classes that continue in unreasonably low windchills because there is a motivation that drives you towards your goal; a passion. No matter how tough the degree, or if you’ll ever run another race again, to make it to the finish you have to harbor a passion for what you’re doing that enables you to endure. It is at the lowest lows, mile 70, when you want to change your major, do change your major, drop your minor, add a degree, take a semester off, shave your head, grow a beard, get a scholarship, lose a friend, make a friend, where you look up from the long and tedious flowchart that outlines the classes you must take to obtain that faraway goal. It is where you look up, be wholly in the moment. That is where you are reminded, where you remember, where you find that passion. We all would not be here today without that passion. And we all would not be here today without that ability to weather the tough stuff, the ability to endure.


After all, weren't huskies bred for their endurance?

I'll miss Winter Carnival and snow statues!


But you make it to mile 85, and that’s only 15 miles to go. That’s nothing in the face of 100 miles, 4 or more years of hard work. It’s the mile where you crest the mountain ridge, and are able to see all the wonderful things this race has brought; the new friends, Mt Ripley on a sunny day, broomball after acing an exam, carnival statues enticing the imagination. And you realize that, even though it was your own two feet that carried you this far, it was also the support of friends, family, peers, professors, and faculty that aided in your success, the support crew, people who manned the aid stations, and race directors of this long run. And the finish line is in sight.

I'll miss our crazy pep band.


I have been asked what it is like to cross the finish line of a 100 mile race. Don’t ask me. Ask the students in this room today. They will tell you. It is rewarding. It is relief. It is sadness, excitement, pride, joy, and every emotion that sums up all of the training, all of the blood, sweat, and calc that it took to stand here before you today.

I'll miss our rowing team!


We are not the same people that toed the starting line freshman year. No, a 100 miles is a journey of growth, each mile molding, shaping, and expanding upon our person. We are not the same people, but bettered versions of who we were, who we are.

I'll miss broomball!


And now that we’re here, we’ve crossed the finish line, what next? Full-time job, graduate school, peace corps, adventure? I, for one, am always looking for a new race.

Do what you love,

love what you do!

Best of Wishes,


2013 In Review

Posted by Breanna Cornell on December 30, 2013 at 2:20 PM Comments comments (0)

¡Adios 2013, Hola 2014! (y más!)

The new year always brings a time of reflection and goal setting for the coming year. With the closure of 2013 upon us, I thought I would write a blog post covering just that. However, with the recent development of the Death Valley National Park (DVNP) service discontinuing issuing permits for running and cycling events, I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon this instead.


Earlier this month, the DVNP posted this statement on their website:

"Effective immediately Death Valley National Park will temporarily discontinue issuance of running and bicycling event permits. Future event permits will not be considered until a thorough safety evaluation of this type of activity has been completed."


This statement was the only notification given to event and race directors, such as AdventureCORPS, who is the host of Badwater 135 and more. There was no discussion with event directors, no reason why this was being implemented now, and no other information was provided.


Since DNVP's announcement, AdventureCORPS released it's public statement which you can read HERE.
AdventureCORPS does a lovely job of outlining the implications that this "safety review," as DNVP explain they will conduct, has. I do not feel the need to go into great detail, as you can read to great length the safety record of events like Badwater on AdventureCORPS' website, but I will bullet the main points below.

  • Declining permits to sporting events that provide revenue for the local communities during the low tourism season will have a significant economic impact on the area.
  • There have been no deaths or reportable accidents in 89 events hosted by AdventureCORPS since 1990. Compare this to 3 deaths a year completely unrelated to sporting events.
  • Athlete who participate in AdventureCORPS events contribute more than $660,000 in fundraising and charitable donations to organizations and charities around the world.

AdventureCORPS strictly enforces park and race rules and regulations. Athletes understand that not abiding by the rules can result in a disqualification. In addition to this, athletes appreciate that these events are able to be held in the National Parks and it is a privilege to be there. The qualifying standards for such events are so high, so to even be considered for entry through application is an honor.


While AdventureCORPS has redesigned the Badwater 135 course for 2014, this type of uninformed, incommunicable action taken by DVNP is unacceptable. It sets an unhealthy precedent that other National Parks may follow suit. Imagine how many sporting events– not just ultra-running events– would be effected if this took hold. This would not only impact the competitive athletic population, but all the surrounding communities as well.


Currently, there is a petition underway to overturn the decision of Death Valley National Park to discontinue the issuance of running and bicycling event permits. To participate, you can sign the petition HERE. In addition to this, please consider mailing your state representative, senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, and the Secretary of the Interior. I will include their mailing information and more in the closure of this blog post. It would also mean a lot if you were to share this information with athletic friends, Facebook friends, twitter friends, family, coworkers, and couch potatoes alike.


I am in love with Death Valley, it is true. I have to say that this was the most distasteful Christmas present to have received. I am thankful, though, for the strong ultra-running community that has pulled together in light of this news. Chris Kostman is a wonderful race director, and I am sure that the new Badwater 135 course will be just as brilliant for 2014.


Having said that, however, leads into my original intent for this post: a reflection on 2013 and goals for 2015.


2013 was the year of rising above failure.

My goal in 2013 was to, above all, qualify for Badwater 2014. So the fact that I failed in doing so, having completed only two of the required three 100-mile finishes, coinciding with the changes to the Badwater 135 event just seems like one more challenge to navigate before being able to race this miraculous course. I know that when I am finally able to toe the starting line in Death Valley's Badwater Basin, that all the obstacles it took to get there will make running the course all the more a privilege and crossing the finish all the more sweet.


I felt like I rose above failure so many times this year.

But, what is failure? I don't think I failed at all, actually. Yes, it was disappointing to DNF my first three 100s, but I learned from each and every one. If you learn something new and apply it to the next, is it not just a learning experience? I did not let my DNFs hold me back. Fall down, get back up. Get back up as many times as needed.


2013 taught me that it really is mental.

While there were lessons to be learnt on each course, the resounding message from all my races and events this year was "it's all in your head!" Stress has been a huge factor in my life of late, being in my senior year of obtaining my B.S. in Environmental Engineering. Between traveling across the country for an internship, working full time and taking classes, returning full time to school with a senior design project, and trying to race, I entered more of my races stressed out far beyond than what normal race-day jitters entail. And I did a good job at adding more unwarranted stress when I reminded myself that I just had to qualify for Badwater, NOW, stressing about slow splits and not on actually finishing.


I would be lying if I said my eating disorder didn't have a mental-resurgence these past 6 months, contributing to stress, poor nutrition, body image and confidence levels. Finishing the Yellowstone-Teton 100, though, really began to illustrate how mental a hundred miles is when I only began to focus on just seeing my brother every 5 miles. Going into my last hundred at Pinhoti I completely let go and just partied on the trail the whole way. It was slow, but I had fun. It was the first race of the year that I sincerely enjoyed being on the course the whole time. I really hope to take this mentality with me into 2015 and beyond.


Overall, though, 2013 was an AMAZING year.

I met some of the most inspirational and fantastic people (Mark Kreuzer, Maranda Lorraine, Tony Oveson, Tyler Tomasello, Tony Portera, and so many more), I got to run in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful places (Death Valley, Grand Canyon, New Mexico, Minnesota, Alabama), and I grew stronger as a person. I could not be more thankful for this year.


2013, an outlined review:

  • February: struggle with minor injury, recover
  • April: Zumbro 100, DNF but meet future adventuring bff Maranda
  • May: Move to Arizona
  • June: Angle Fire 100, DNF, pulled hamstring, felt fast and strong until incident
  • July: PR in the 5k! Hamstring recovered!
  • July: Crew/Pace at Badwater 135 for Tony Portera
  • August: Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim with Maranda and Tony Oveson
  • September: [return to school] Superior 100, DNF, heart not in it
  • October: Yellowstone-Teton 100, first finish w/ support from brother & Mark Kreuzer
  • November: Pinhoti 100, finish with the awesome 1-woman crew & pacer Maranda
  • December: HIBERNATE!!!


So, what does this mean for 2014?

It's hard to plan for the coming year. With graduation in May and employers not quite ready to hire for the summer months, everything is up in the air. It's exciting and foreboding to not know what will happen. Right now, main goals are to qualify for Badwater 2015, crew/pace the new Badwater course, volunteer/crew/pace more, and to love more. This will be the year of embracing the unknown, the joy of movement, and the nebulousness of the meaning of it all.


Happy New Years, everyone.

As always,

Do what you love,

love what you do!

Best of Wishes,



Additional Information in regards to DVNP's permit discontinuance


Persons to contact to express concern over DVNP's decision to discontinue the issuance of permits for running and cycling events:


Senator Dianne Feinstein

331 Hart Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Senator Barbara Boxer

112 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Representative Col. Paul Cook (Ret.)

8th Congressional District

1222 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Sally Jewell

Secretary of the Interior

Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, N.W.

Washington DC 20240

Mr. Jon Jarvis, Director

National Park Service

1849 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20240

Ms. Christine Lehnertz, Regional Director

National Perk Service - Pacific West Division

333 Bush Street, Suite 500

San Francisco, CA 94104-2828

Taper, Race, Recover, REPEAT

Posted by Breanna Cornell on December 3, 2013 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Taper, Race, Recover, Repeat.

The benefits and drawbacks of an extended racing cycle.


So this year was a bit hectic in terms of racing, having more races/events and more distance packed into a shorter amount of time than I had in the past. It looked a little something like this:

April: Zumbro 100

June: Angel Fire 100

July: Crew/Pace Badwater

August: Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim

September: Superior 100

October: Yellowstone-Teton 100

November: Pinhoti 100


And that’s nothing compared to some of the people I met at these races, running 100-milers on back to back weekends. And that’s nothing compared to some of those crazy elite athletes that run race after race after race, preforming at their peak. And, looking at it, it seems pretty nicely spaced out, doesn’t it? About one event per month.


But, oh, this racing cycle taught me so much more than I imagined when staring at the registration screen online, months prior to each event. So here is a neat little outline of what this racing season has taught me.



I learned that an extended racing cycle is not for me. All in all, you have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself:


  • How would this factor into or effect your goals?
  • What do you wish to accomplish by racing back to back to back?
  • What type of training will you be able to achieve between races?
  • What is your motivation in racing (the community or being able to place well)?
  • Can you financially, mentally, and physically cope with the increased racing load?


These are just some of the questions you can answer in determining if racing or doing strenuous events close together for an extended period is right for you. Of course, I have written this post from the experiences I gained this year but everybody is different; you might perform better than I with this type of schedule or might benefit more from racing as training. It might take a year of racing back to back to back to figure out if it is something that you enjoy and want to continue.


I hope that, through the stumbles and triumphs of 2013, you have gained more insight for your training and racing!


As always,

Do what you love,

Love what you do!


Best of Wishes,



A Lesson from Misadventure

Posted by Breanna Cornell on August 20, 2013 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

I am writing this blog post because I believe it covers something that we all forget about: that worse case senarios can happen, and can happen to you. I'll admit, I'm a bit embarrassed over my "long run," but it is something that should be shared.


This past weekend was a bit of a wake-up call, a reminder that that the "ultra" in front of the "runner" does not make us super human.



We are but ants on the erath.

And who knows when that giant foot will come down upon us, the threat of death.


Photo from the start of Rattle Snake.



Being three weeks away from the Superior Sawtooth 100, this past weekend was to be the largest and last big volume weekend. I was to do 15 miles Friday night, 30 miles Saturday morning, and follow up with another 25 Sunday morning to complete about 70 miles within 48 hours. I've done this in training before, and it's usually the toughest back2back2back weekend but also the most fun. A weeked centered on running and exploring.



A coworker of mine, David, had suggested a remote trail. He stated that he took his truck four-wheeling down this trail, that it was rough and remote but beautiful. The trail, known as "Rattle Snake," was located in the mountains East of my location, the mountains I watch longingly every morning during my sunrise runs. David warned me that it was very rough, hilly, and tough- that he didn't quite know how his truck had survived the trip.



I thought "If his truck can do it, I sure can."



So we made a plan: he would drop me off Saturday at the start on his way to El Paso (about 3 hours away from the trailhead) and pick me up on his way back into town. The trail was a point-to-point, which I was excited about considering almost all of my runs have been out and backs. The trail, almost exactly 30 miles long, had only one way in and one way out. There was no water available along the route. We planned on an early 6 AM start to beat the heat.




Friday night, I ran 15 miles. I really didn't want to. I hadn't been feeling well all week. I had had a headache for the past 3 days. But I ran the 15 miles anyway and ran them faster than I thought that I would considering how I felt. I deemed it a good omen for my long run the following day.



Waking up Saturday morning, I didn't feel any better. I felt woozy. But I thought that I would probably just run it off within the first couple of miles...



That should have been my first indication to stick close to home that day.


But I packed my hydration pack with some GU and 3L of water with a sugarless electrolyte mix. This was more than I usually pack for a long run, typically only drinking 2L of water in a 25 mile run. Phone charged and iPod ready to go, David honked in the driveway and we were off.




The trailhead started in the mountains, the drive a route I had never taken before. The cliffs shone red in the light of the sunrise. It was beautiful. David pulled over and dopped me at the start. I waved him off and turned down the dirt road.



The first 10 miles were smooth. I didn't feel 100%, and walked most of the hills as my heart rate climbed alarmingly fast. I aimed to keep it comfortable. David wouldn't be back for at least 6 hours as he had to take his truck to El Paso to get a cover for the back. I had all the time in the world.



10.7 miles in was the turn off of the "main" dirt road to the actual trail. I had passed cows, horses, and greenery that I hadn't seen in months being in the desert. The dirt road had followed a ridge, the ridgeline that I lusted over my short runs looking into the Eastern distance.



As soon as I hit the trail, the terrain became much rougher, the plants more lush. The trail dropped away to a loose rocky slope. Then it would climb. Each step - walking, mind you - sent rocks cascading down the hill. I began to wonder how David's old Tacoma ever made it up and down these grades. The hills were too steep and the stones too loose to run comfortably up or down.



I was moving slow. Not just because of the rocks, no - had I been feeling better, more coordinated at the start of my run, I would probably have been jogging the slopes - but I was light headed and my stomach upset. I became very dizzy. Eating a GU did not help. Drinking more water did not help.


I felt sick.

David knew how remote of an area and how ruggid the terrain was. He had informed me that, worse come to worse, he would drive in and pick me up. Knowing this, I let my pace slow. I took breaks and sat down. As the day warmed up, I began to feel worse. By mile 14, I was out of water. Where had it gone? A long time had passed. I decided I would give David a call. I crested a hill where I could get signal, and called.


"Hey David, I wanted to let you know that I'm not feeling well, I'm not running. I was just wondering how far away from the end of the trail you are?"


David informed me that he was just leaving El Paso, about three and a half hours away. He said he would be there as soon as possible. "Okay, thanks David, I'll just try to keep moving forward until I see you."





With a full battery, I decided to give my parents a call, as it was their Anniversary. We talked for an hour. I wasn't worried - I would see David in about 3 hours! He could just drive in and pick me up, right? Over the next 2 hours, I somehow covered 5 miles, stopping to rest every quarter mile. Each time I started moving forward, my heart rate shot through the roof. If my stomach hadn't been empty, I probably would have thrown up. I felt like I was overheating, but my forehead was cold to the touch.


Three hours later, I gave David another call. He was still some distance away. So I sat down under a tree and decided to nap. No use making myself more sick when he would be here soon... right? Right?!?

So I attempted to relax, but I could not stop sweating. At least I was sweating. I hadn't gone to the bathroom since before hitting the trail that morning. Time passed in a blur. The minutes dragged but the following 2 hours somehow went took quickly.



I got a call from David. "I can't make it up the hill. Have you gotten to the switchbacks yet?"



"What switchbacks? Everything is just straight up and down here."



I needed to move forward.

I was terrified.


"I can go get fourwheelers," David informed me. Cell reception was lost as I began to hike, wanting to vomit the whole time.


I don't know how long it took, but I eventually found what David was talking about: the switchbacks. A long gravel slope that wound down the side of the mountain, the rocks looser than ever, the grades comparable to difficult downhill ski routes. With frustration, I began to cry.


I began to stumble down the slope. My phone was almost dead at this point. I slid, falling on my butt multiple times. I just wanted to be done. I was done. Just get me out of here!

I slid and fell, catching my hand on a rock, yelling a curse.

My swearing got a response; David: "Are you cursing the rocks now?"

David came hiking around the bend. Unable to drive his truck up, he had begun hiking in to me.

I cried.

Just seeing David made me feel better. We hiked the remaining half mile to the truck. He had been able to drive 6 miles in. Somehow I had managed to cover 24 miles with how crappy I felt. I was out there for 12 hours, 6 hours without water, with only 2 GUs to sustain me.


David came bearing gifts: granola bars and water.

I immediately guzzled 4 bottles of water. David drove me home where I took to the shower and fridge and pajamas and the couch. The 25 miler for Sunday was off.



I was SO done.

I was tired, and scared, and done.

Commence the taper.


There was pretty much only one thing that went "wrong:" I felt sick.

I might be over trained, I might have started dehydrated. My electrolytes might have been thrown all out of wack (and that can be dangerous). The high temperatures could have been effecting me more than I expected them to (Who? Me? Nah, that can't happen! I've paced at Badwater, I've run in Botswana, I've run the Grand Canyon! What's this little local trail going to do to ME?).


Given how I had been feeling the whole week prior to the run, and how I felt the morning of, I shouldn't have tried a new route, shouldn't have attempted one that was remote and without water stops. I should have made a looped route close to home where I could stop if I had to.


This run could have gone so much worse, but:

  • I would not have done it if David hadn't been available to drop me off and pick me up
  • David knew exactly where I was
  • I did not deviate from the trail
  • I did not change plans and decide to turn around when I did not know how far I had gone
  • I did not try to push it when I didn't have to; I took a nap, I stopped, I prevented myself from getting more sick


What could I have done differently?

  • Taken a route close to home
  • Not run; started the taper early. I'm just extremely fatigued right now.
  • Taken a four wheeler over the route prior to running it to learn the terrain and drop water bottles
  • Not called my parents or taken pictures to conserve the battery on my phone


You CANNOT underestimate mother nature, temperature, terrain, and situations that you will face while running. It might not be the heat but the cold; it might not be feeling ill, but running into a wild animal or dangerous person; it might not be in a remote area, but in a city; it might not be lack of water or food, but food or water poisining; it might be your next run, or it might be never.

Let's hope the latter.


But you can prepare for situations like this, and should. Here are some steps you can take so when a dangerous situation does pop up, you are equipped with the knowledge of how to handle it. You don't have to limit this knowledge to just running, but use it in every day situations as well.



Make a list of all the ways you can die.

To employ a cliche, this will help you expect the unexpected. By anticipating everything that can go wrong, you can prepare for each situation. Not just ways you can die, but ways you can get injured, stranded, sick, etc...



Make a list of all the ways you can avoid/handle the situations on your previous list.

Know how you can die? Now figure out how not to. Prevent it, deal with it, plan for it.



For each running route that you take, outline a plan.

Outline a plan and stick with it. Make sure at least one person knows of your plan. Do not deviate. Say "This is my route, it should take me this long, and if I'm not back in x amount of time, you know where I should be." This plan can include water availability, emergancy meet up locations or the best places to be able to contact help.


My plan was to have David drop me off and pick me up. I was not to deviate from the trail. There were times where I questioned if I should turn around - was the trailhead closer than the end? But I didn't. I wasn't lost. I knew exactly where I was, and so did David, because I stuck to plan. Had my phone died, David would be able to find me.



Have a plan? Good, make a back up.

Plans don't always go according to plan. Come equipped with B, C, D, and the rest of the alphabet.




Tell others about your plan. Tweet about it, Facebook it, make sure people know. The more people that know, the more people who will notice when you don't post for three days, or don't come in to work, don't communicate.



Charge it.

Carry a phone. Make sure it has a full battery. If you're running in a remote area, turn it off until you need to use it.



I know this is a morbid post, guys, but it's something we all need to be reminded of. We're ultra-runners, not super-runners.


"It's these zen moments when I'm cursing the **** out of nature when I become the most one with it... because you are forced to sincerely realize that you are mortal."

Be humble in your challenges.

Pursue with awareness.

Do what you love,

Love what you do.

Best of Wishes,


Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim - 2013

Posted by Breanna Cornell on August 5, 2013 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

It was a bucket list item whose pursuit was an impromptu post on Facebook events to invite others to join.


It was the double crossing of the Grand Canyon.


It was the Rim2Rim2Rim.

The timing couldn't have been more perfect; my summer internship being a short six and a half hour drive from the canyon, training in the mountains, prepared for the heat via Badwater, and five weeks out from my next hundred. It would not only serve as an adventure, but as an excellent training opportunity. I posted to Facebook and Twitter, inviting other ultrarunners to join in the fun. Whether or not others would join, I would still go, but I lucked out in getting two of the best people to run the face of the planet to join me: Maranda Lorraine and Tony Oveson. Having met both Maranda and Tony at the Zumbro 100 in April, I was excited to see them again.


Maranda, Tony, & I at our 2 AM start.


A double crossing of the Grand Canyon is no small feat.


Despite the fact that it is only 41- 46 miles (depending on the trails you take), it features two giant hills with a total vertical ascent of over 10,000 feet, and roasting temperatures. The canyon reaches afternoon temperatures of 115 degrees.


We chose to run from the South Kaibob trail, starting on the South Rim, to the North Kaibob trail topping the North rim and back along the same route. As opposed to following the Bright Angel trail from the South Rim, which is longer but less steep and has some water, the South Kaibob trail is steep and has no water stops from the rim to the bottom at Phantom Ranch, just over a 7 mile streatch. Our route, round trip, totaled about 41.2 miles. Online blogs and previous posts from runners who had completed this route before stated that mid-pack runners should finished in about 13-15 hours. That seemed completely reasonable. Then again, most runners don't attempt the route in August, when canyon temperatures rise below the rim. Knowing this, I expected us to be slower. As I drove out to the Canyon following work on Friday, I kept in mind that we were doing this as a group, a team, and that could slow us down, too.


Bottom of the Canyon just as it was getting light out.


This crossing was not for time. It was not a race. Maranda, Tony, and I were crossing as a team, as friends, and were in it for the experience, the fun, and the challenge. To experience the magic of the place.


Given the expected high temperatures, we determined that a 2 AM start on Saturday (August 3rd) would be best. It would keep us out of the sun for a solid 5 hours. I arrived at the Canyon around 10:30 PM Friday night, and tried to catch some Z's in my car to no avail. I was too excited. I finally met up with Maranda and Tony at their campground around 1 AM. They had carpooled down together from Minnesota, road tripping to all of the running bucket list destinations; Leadville, Moab, and more! I loved following (and envying) their road trip adventures on Facebook as they made their way down.


Head lamps on, camelbaks and water bottles filled, snacks stuffed into pouches, body gluide and sunscreen applied, we were ready.


We crested the South Kaibob trail, the stone falling away into the darkness. We ran.


Down we went, switchbacks rounding their turns off cliffs giving way to nothingness. Our headlamps would hit an adjacent wall, across a chasm of black. With fresh legs, we called animal noises into the night - howling, yipping, and whooping. This was it! This was for real! We were on the trail.


Tony taking charge of the trail!


The side of the trail seemed to disappear outside of our headlamps' range. The moon barely crested the tip of the Western side of the canyon, its crescent illuminating only the surrounding night. The stars were endless, the milky way a vast mirror of the canyon below. I carried a hand flashlight in addition to my headlamp, scanning the trail ahead of us, watching for sudden turns or drop-offs. The top of the South Rim had been a cool 60 degrees, but I quickly shed my long sleeve outer as we moved.


Descending in the dark was slower than it would have been in the light, but it had its own beauty, its own challenge. The trail was rocky and we slid on the rocks when we weren't careful. There are logs in the trail that are used for erosion control, but make for very awkward jumps down or strides and a half. We did, however, beat the mule train that makes its way up to the South Rim every morning with our early start. We made it to the Colorado River crossing in just under 2 hours. We were making good time.


At the bottom!


Following the bridge over the Colorado River, the trail becomes the North Kaibob and passes through Phantom Ranch. We refilled our water bottles here. People were beginning to stir. We saw headlamps of campers, the mules getting ready to ascend the trail we had just come down. Tony had taken walk breaks on the way down to save his knees for later, using his trekking poles for support. As we left Phantom Ranch, the trail meandered along an adjacent tributary to the Colorado River, having a steady incline at a low grade, with some down hills. It was an 8 mile stretch from here until our ascent to the North Rim.


The 8 mile stretch took much longer than it should have.


Tony was having a hard time. His knees didn't seem to be feeling too well. As the sun crested the canyon walls, the temperature began to rise. Tony's stomach wasn't doing well. We took frequent breaks. Tony would sit down, have some water, relax. It was slow going, but we were making progress, and we had all day. We just wanted Tony to feel better. The breaks provided opportunities to take pictures and look around a bit. A lizard grabbed Maranda's ankle and we saw a snake - all of the night and day critters mingled as their wakefulness overlapped in the morning twilight.


One of those sudden switchback turns.


The trail through this section, following the bottom of the canyon, was smooth and rolling. There were several opportunities for water, which were clearly marked with brown signs that declared "Drinking Water" with an arrow. Even with the lack of water through South Kaibob and the rising temperatures, this course is very doable with just a 2L camelbak. There were twice throughout the run where I had drained my camelbak, but given the length of time we took to get between stops, I probably wouldn't have run out had we been moving slightly faster. I only ran out close to the water stops anyhow.


As we reached the bridge that crossed to the ascent to the North Rim, Tony wasn't feeling any better. It had taken us a good 3 hours to cover the 8 miles between Phantom Ranch and this point. Tony's stomach was bothering him and his head was hurting. Despite his troubles, Tony maintained that he was going to finish. Up we went.


Maranda being awesome!


The switch backs became steeper. Pines began to populate the trail. The trail was dug in to the side of the sheer rock face. It was beautiful and breath taking. We began to pass other hikers. Hikers with packs climbing out of the canyon, having been camping. Day hikers that had gotten an early start, water bottles in hand. We passed a ranger, who encouraged us to wait at the North Rim until after 3 PM, predicting the temperature to rise to 115 degrees in the canyon bottom. "I've had to pull bodies from there," he warned.


Tony's breaks became more frequent and longer. During one, he took a two minute nap, where Maranda and I ran back and forth snapping photos, trying to remain light hearted. We were worried about Tony; he wasn't feeling any better. The trouble (or advantage) with an event like this is that is is NOT a race. There are no aid stations. There is no one to drive you back to the start if you get ill, or stuck, or worse. This is an event where you absolutely have to finish. There is no question in it. You can stop. You can rest. But no one will come and get you. You enter at your own risk. We knew Tony could make it to the North Rim, but could he make it back to the South?


Going up!


Maranda spent some time with Tony as we neared the North Rim and I went ahead. Tony needed just to be with Maranda, who was good at boosting his morale. They told me to go to the Rim and wait for them there, as we were close. I crested the North Rim at 11:50 AM, nearly 10 hours after our starting time. Tony and Maranda followed a half hour later. It seemed to be an unspoken understanding that Tony wasn't going to accompany Maranda and I back to the South Rim. He could start to feel better on the way down, sure - but that is something you don't want to chance. And, as the ranger had cautioned, it was only going to get hotter. Tony is a very strong man, in heart, spirit, and mind. We've all had bad races. We've all had runs where we have struggled. There is no doubt in my mind that Tony can run from Rim to Rim to Rim. Today was a hard day. Not to mention, Tony and Maranda hail from the cool northern forests of Minnesota, where water and shade are plentiful. They had spent the week road tripping and running in some of the most beautiful places the country has to offer. I cannot imagine how tired they must have been entering the canyon.


And here I was, on fresh legs, heat acclimated, desert accustomed.


I felt bad, but it was the safest decision. It had taken us about 10 hours to reach this point. Maranda and I left Tony with hugs to catch the shuttle back to the South Rim. It was 12:30 PM.


With that, Maranda and I turned back to the trail.

And RAN.

We ran.

Maranda took off. She was fast! I could hardly keep up. What had taken us 5 hours to climb up took Maranda and I an hour to run down. The North Kaibob trail doesn't have as many of the awkward log-steps as its Southern counterpart, but it was pretty torn up by the mule train with sandy and muddy patches and rutted holes to avoid. The long downhill had me longing for its uphill twin.


It got hot.


The 8 mile stretch from the bottom of the North Rim to Phantom Ranch felt much longer than 8 miles. We ran almost all of it, only taking breaks at the water stops and to speed hike the infrequent uphills. We took breaks in the adjacent stream, Maranda floating and swimming in the water. We enjoyed ourselves. Maranda was getting, hot, though. And so was I. It was difficult to cool down when you were dry but 10 minutes after crawling out of the stream. But we reached Phantom Ranch before our goal time of 4 o'clock. We arrived at 3:50 PM.


Cooling off


We had made it 2/3rds of the way back to the South Rim in 3.5 hours. After having already been on our feet for over 10 hours. In the heat of the afternoon. I began to wonder how fast we could run it if it were better conditions. It boosted my confidence to know that we could run so well given the circumstances.


That's not to say it wasn't tough. Our legs were feeling it. There is a little food shop at Phantom Ranch. We parked ourselves in the shade of the awning, next to the water faucet. Maranda's stomach wasn't feeling too hot at this point, but I was starving. The most solid food I had had that day consisted of bread and an energy bar. I had been taking in calories via honey and GU, but those don't fill your stomach up. I wanted a sandwich. Much to my disappointment, though, the most the store offered was junk food - chips and candies. I bought two lemonades, a snickers bar, pack of Oreos, and a pack of m&ms - a grand total of $13. I guess you pay for the mule train to bring the supplies in.


Back across.


We spent about 40 minutes at Phantom Ranch before continuing to the bridge that crosses to the final climb. We cooled off in the stream one last time before taking to the trail. And we slowed down.


The up was steep.


The awkwardly spaced steps were 1.5 times the height of a normal step, making them feel like we were doing uphill lunges. As we ascended, though, the air cooled ever so slightly and a breeze kicked up.



We were tired.

It became a mental battle. An emotional battle.

But we had no choice: it was up or nothing.

The sun began to set.


The rocks turned red. A haze began to pour into the canyon, the smell of campfire. Only later did I learn from Tony that a forest fire had started not 5 miles from the Rim. It was unreal. We took breaks, but made steady progress. Only a mile from the trailhead did we have to break out our head lamps. Tony spotted our lights and came down the trail to hike the final mile to the top with us. We started together. We finished together. It was 8:45 PM.



We did it!

We had completed our double crossing of the Grand Canyon.




Total time of 18 hours and 45 minutes.

South Kaibob trail on the down in 2 hours, in the dark.

10 hours to complete the first crossing.

1 hour to come back down from the North Rim to the bridge.

3.5 hours from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch.

~7.5 hours to run from the North to the South Rim, with 40 minutes spent at Phantom Ranch.


And I want to go back.

To breath it all, to live it all, to run it all again.

And maybe, just maybe, for time.


The Rim2Rim2Rim crossing was one of the hardest courses I've run in my limited experience. But it was also one of the most beautiful.



Following our finish, I bid farewell to Maranda and Tony to meet up with a friend (Stephan) camping near the Bright Angel trailhead. I would see them again at the Superior Sawtooth 100 in September. With Stephan, we went out for a bite to eat. And I had my first drink. Ever. I turned 21 the past Wednesday, and hadn't gone out drinking or anything. I've never had alcohol. I ordered a beer and took all of three sips. It was disgusting. The onion rings were much better...


I think I'll eat more onion rings.

And run more canyons.

Until the next adventure~

Best of Wishes,