Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim.
This adventurer has been on my mind for at least the last 5 years. When I first started running Beth gave me a stack of old Runners World magazines. In one of them was a Run Report from two guys who had just run Rim to Rim to Rim, crossing the Grand Canyon and Back in the same day. I liked the idea, speed sightseeing I called it.
I grew up with Parents who have a great apiereacition for the outdoors and all the amazing sites this country has to offer. When I was 11 or 12 they took us across the country by Car and Train. We spent weeks visiting many of the great national parks the Grand Canyon being one of them. Now I wanted to go again and this time see it in a way very few others would even dream of.
A lot of things happened in those 5 or so years leading up to this adventure. I slowly developed into a runner One who at first said things like “I will never run more then 5K (3.1 miles)”. I meet new friends who shared the same passions as I did and encouraged long standing friends to step outside of their comfort zones leading to longer and longer events.
Then as luck would have it Amanda’s direct sales company announced it would be having its annual 2016 convention in Las Vegas in October. Which from that I article I knew was one of the preferred months of the year to run R2R2R. Now I just had to talk a few friends into doing it with me. When you have friends like mine its not as hard as it may seem. It goes something like this. Hey, you guys want to do something awesome, it requires running all day and night across one of the 7 Natural Wonders of our World. They signed right up, one of them evening using her birthday as another good reason to take on the challenge.
The day starts with a 2:30am wake up in a small cramped hotel room. We plan to spend our time outdoors so as long as we had enough blankets, pillows, and beds what more do we really need. We all ate a little something, hit the bathroom and made our way to the trail head. It was a bit chilly to start. We started down the trail just before 4am.
Its a kind of dark that you don’t get living in a city. The kind where if you turn off your head lamp you can see how amazing the stars really are. Everyone had a proper head lamp and we moved slowly/carefully down the trail. By the first stop at the 3mi House we were warm and ready to start shedding jackets, gloves, and hats. A little after 6am it started to get light out and by the time we got to the river the sun was up and the views were amazing. Jerry,I picked up the pace a bit heading down the last few miles to the river putting our descending skills to work with Greg right behind us giving us pointers on picking the right line and staying light on our feet. We took our time crossing the river, regrouped on the north side, refilled our water and had some snacks. At this point we started to spilt up a little bit.
The next section was 7miles to cottonwood campground. It was gradually uphill for those 7 miles but many sections were very runnable. Greg had went off ahead and Jerry and I pushed the pace a bit trying to gain back some time.
The fun really starts after cottonwood. Its another 7 mile section to the top of the north rim but with an elevation gain around 5,000ft. This was the hardest part of the day for me once it started to get steep I couldn’t keep my heart rate down where I wanted it to be and I was very winded. Taking in food was impossible so I was trying to get as much of my drink mix down as I could. Just like the beauty of the canyons its really hard to describe the battle I was fighting going up this hill. Jerry had a bit of a rough patch before and I helped him push though it and now it was his turn to try and pull me along. I just kept looking at things in 10 minute blocks. Just keep going step by step for 10 minutes and reassess, take a break, get a drink and get moving again. 10 more minutes, repeat, repeat, repeat. I have never climbed a hill that step before where 45 min/miles the norm and a 30 min/mile was a celebration. Finally after more 10 minute blocks then I care to think about we made it to the North Rim. Greg had passed us coming back down, he was a bundle of good news. Your only a mile away(45 more mins), Its the hardest mile I have ever done, and there is nothing to see up there. Thanks Dude but we weren’t coming this far to leave 1 mile on the table.
At the top we took a few minutes to relax, but I was in a hurry to get back down the hill. The thin air wasn’t my friend and taking in any nutrition was a bit out of the question. We left the north rim with a plan that once we got a little lower we would really work on eating and drinking knowing fully how bad the climb back out would be.
For most of the trip down, (14miles) we made good time but not great time. We did a little running but decided it wasn’t worth the effort as we were fully committed to getting back and saving as much energy for the last 8mi climb out seemed like a better idea then saving a few minutes on the downs.
It was starting to get dark and I was hoping to make the river before we had to get our headlamps back out so I was back to pushing the pace. At this point there was very little talking I was anywhere from 20-50-100 yards ahead of Jerry with a goal to just keep moving ahead.
We were hoping that Kevin would still be waiting on us at the Ranch, he had come down after sunrise with extra supplies and plans to meet up with us then climb back out. For him it was Rim to River to Rim. We figured Greg had all ready told him the girls were going to spend the night on the North Rim and get a ride back in the morning and we were hoping he hadn’t headed back yet. Just before dark we found 2 Cokes in the center of the trail placed right behind a rock. We figured these had to be from him and grabbed them up and kept on moving. We also thought they were probably his parting jester as he turned around to head back to the top without us. The coke was magic for me, it was the first thing I could drink down that wasn’t causing me issues, gave me a boost of energy, and much needed stomach relief.
We made it back to the river and No Kevin, bummer but we needed to get up that hill anyway no sense worrying about it.
It wasn’t 45 minutes or so, (no real idea, my garmin had died an hour or so ago) that we saw a head lamp headed our way. It was Kevin, and he had more Cokes. We could not have been more excited to see anyone at that point. He fell in line with us and up we went. It was brutal, just like the North side but this time I was able to eat and drink the entire time up. I felt decent and let Jerry lead, Kevin was having a little trouble keeping up so at one point we put him between us and soldiered on. Without our Gamins we were just going on feel. Hike until you feel totally beat, sit for 2-3 minutes have some coke or chocolate covered espresso beans, get up and do it again. Repeat, Repeat Repeat for hours and hours. It took us somewhere around 6-7 hours to make the last 9ish mile climb out of the canyon. I thought I had learned what slow miles felt like at the JFK 5o last year but that didn’t come anywhere close to this. After enough repeats we made it back to the top and Greg was waiting on us, parked as close as possible with the car running and warm. We couldn’t get in and back to the hotel fast enough. By the time we got cleaned up, had a snack, more coke, maybe a beer or two it was 2:30am again. Exactly 24hrs from when we gotten up to get started.