I got to the TH a few days early to scout the canyons and check out some of the Anasazi ruins in the area. I camped at the TH. After doing a couple short day hikes in and out of each canyon I knew it was gonna be a tough run. There seemed to be lots of scrambling and challenging route finding through both the upper sections as I descended into the canyons. The trails were very overgrown at the canyon floor and route finding was difficult. There were also numerous pour-offs to negotiate around. Recent rains had flooded the canyon floor, angling all the vegetation down stream, and as soon as I turned around to head back up, I began getting impaled.
I decided to run down Owl and up Fish in a counterclockwise direction, mostly to save the 1.5 mile flat run back to the TH for the end. I started shortly after 8:00 AM on Monday October 11th. It was a chilly start but I knew it would warm up, and I didn't want to overheat climbing out of Fish Canyon. I quickly ran to the edge of Owl Canyon and then began my descent. I tried to remember all my mental notes from the previous days hikes, but it was still difficult to navigate. I made it to the canyon floor and began heading down canyon. The pour-offs and lack of well marked trail made it difficult to make good time. I knew there would be some slow miles and hoped that the unseen middle section would be more runnable, and I could make up some time. By the time I got to Nevills Arch I had found more of a rhythm and was making up some time. I made my way down canyon running long stretches, carefully avoiding the prickly pear cactus lining the sandy trail. Nearing the confluence with Fish Creek, I slowed a bit to make sure not to miss my turn. After confirming I was headed up Fish Creek, I continued up the canyon still making pretty good time. The trail crossed back and forth up Fish Creek and I struggled at times to follow it. When I lost it I just headed up the wash, or bushwacked full speed ahead the best I could. I started to feel a bit of a hamstring cramp as I made my way up the middle section of Fish Creek and my times began to slow. I devoured a pack of caffeinated Stinger gummies and some water with Skratch and hoped for the best. Luckily, that did the trick, and I got a boost of energy. I continued making my way up canyon to the split of Fish Creek where I needed to stay left to exit. I navigated this confusing split easily, having hiked it a few days prior. The side canyon fought me, stabbing me with it's down stream leaning vegetation as I headed up stream. It seemed like Mother Nature had placed punji sticks, trying to slow me down. I reached the BLM sign indicating the trail for the big ascent up and out of the canyon was upon me. I took a quick peak at my watch, and knew it was gonna be close. I began slowly, but deliberately, climbing out of the canyon, being careful not to make any route finding errors. Soon the canyon floor was far below me, and I scurried up the crux, a 15' crack, to the rim. Another quick glance at my watch revealed I was ahead of the record, but not by much. I took off across the flat sandy mesa towards the TH. I completed the loop in 3 hrs 27 min and 18 sec. I carried 1.5 liters of water in my Hydrapak bladder and 1 liter in water bottles with Skratch. I got pretty scraped up on my legs and arms from all the bushwacking and one minor fall. This run really challenged my ability to run fast and navigate obstacles at the same time. The trail has some short runnable stretches, but overall it requires constant mental focus to stay on track.