"Oh shoot, I forgot my Garmin".
We were thirty minutes
into an 8-hour drive from LA to the Grand Canyon. Oh well. I guess this
one would be run naked. It's not like the lap times would be meaningful.
And the elevation chart can easily be found online. I had my shoes, my
borrowed camelbak, my fuel, my rain gear. And the expectation of a grand
adventure, helped by the forecast of thunderstorms on run day.
been planning this run for over a year, since last year's trek was
cancelled by the government shutdown. I was going with a large group of
Mountain Goats, but everyone had different plans. Some were doing Rim to
Rim to Rim. Some were doing Rim to Rim, and back the next day. Most
were just going across once, and at a slower pace. I fell in with two
goat buddies who run at about my pace; Julia and Keith - both Boston
qualifiers and ultra veterans. We changed up our plan in the last few
days and decided to go North to South, meaning we would catch a ride to
the other side early in the AM instead of needing one after the run. And
we would go straight to our hotel after finishing. And the elevation
profile is a little easier. With the forecast of afternoon rain, it
turned out to be a great plan.
J and I arrived Friday
afternoon and had a few hours to relax, so we headed to the rim for our
first view of the big ditch. HO. LEE. COW.
is one amazing sight, that's for sure. We got lucky with the weather
and got some good photos with cool clouds. But after about a half hour,
it gets boring.
Later, we met up with the Goat group for dinner, and finalized
logistics, and then hit our 1940's era "lodge" for a good night's rest.
were up at 5:15, and out the door by 5:45 for our 4 hour drive to the
North Rim. Another goat volunteered to drive there, where he would go
down a few miles, and wait for his friends and hike back up with them,
and then give rides back that evening. Worked great for us! The drive
was beautiful too, as we saw the sunrise and lots of beautiful red rock
formations. Also there was a large forest with Autumn colors mixed in
with the pines that was breathtaking.
We arrived at 10AM, and the three of us were soon ready to head down the trail. Not a Garmin between us.
the trail head there, you can't see the canyon, but about 30 seconds
later, there it is. Wow. Down we went. It was cool and partly cloudy.
Mostly cloudy really. Perfect running weather. Maybe 50 degrees. I was
giddy and wanted to run fast. I was literally skipping down the trail
over all the little bumps. Since we were going to stick together, I had
to wait up for the others every so often. Of course the views were
the view changed quite a bit. Over the course of the day there were
many different types of topography. So it never got boring.
of these were from the first 5 mile descent. After that it started to
rain and we didn't get any more pictures. But there were plenty of great
views. The whole trail was just amazing.
down was fun and easy. Sometimes the trail was too technical to run, so
we had to walk on and off through some rocky parts. But mostly we
cruised along. We ran into some of our Goat friends who had started
early in the AM on the other side, and were going both ways. We would stop and chat for a minute. We also saw some hikers and everyone was friendly and said Hi. Spirits were good.
then the weather started to turn. At first there were just occasional
showers and wind. We got a little wet. It was OK. Then at about
Cottonwood the wind really picked up and was blowing sand in my eyes. It
was brutal for about ten minutes - I was shielding my eyes with my hand
and stopping when it gusted really hard. I thought this was the
beginning of the storms that were predicted to roll in about 2-4PM. But
it let up after a bit and we kept going.
The whole trail
was single track, so we would need to announce ourselves to pass hikers.
One woman saw us coming and said "Joggers coming through". We cracked
up and that became a punchline the rest of the day.
was falling back a little, and told Keith and I to just go ahead. So we
rolled for about an hour without stopping down Bright Angel Canyon. This
was less steep and went along the river through a tight canyon.
Fantastic stuff. It felt good to get some "real running" in. We got to
Phantom Ranch about 3 hours after we started. 15 miles in and feeling
good. We stopped there to wait for J, and I took advantage of a real
flushing toilet. I had eaten a CLIF bar during the run, and my tummy
wasn't real happy about it. But after the pit stop, it was just fine.
we regrouped, we cruised to the Colorado River. The rain was getting
steady now so we were pretty wet. We would hear thunder and see
lightning flashes occasionally, but it never got too bad. And the temp
was in the high 60's so it wasn't too cold. Or too hot either! Pretty
damn good actually. We heard it was 100 the day before in the canyon.
river crossing was fun on a "kind of" scary pedestrian bridge. The
river was flowing fast and very muddy due to the storm. Here is a stock
photo to show the bridge.
And here is the river on our crossing.
got to hike/jog a little ways along the river before heading up.
Looking up, it seemed utterly ridiculous that we would hike out of this
thing. It made no sense to consider the whole climb, so we just focused
on keeping moving, one step at a time, and eventually it added up to
4,300 feet. And that was the easy trail!
approximately shows our trek, except we went from right to left. I felt
kind of bad for the people going the other way...
last 7 or 8 miles going up took over 3 hours. There was no running.
There was no jogging. Well, maybe a few steps here and there. But we
hiked hard. There was very little stopping and resting - maybe three
times in three hours. We passed a lot of hikers and only got passed
once, near the top. It was relentless climbing. And it was steady rain
most of the time. We were soaked through. I was getting pretty chilly
when we took a brief stop and I added a jacket (which only kept the rain
out briefly). I started to worry about hypothermia. But once we got
climbing again, the exertion warmed me enough that it got better.
muscles were sore now; Butt, quads, calves, and my PF started
complaining again. No blister or chafing problems at all though. The
trail was mainly puddles and stream. We crossed maybe a dozen little
streams but none were more than 2 inches deep. The water coming off the
red rocks and dirt made the puddles all look like tomato soup. And we
saw lots of chocolate waterfalls a la Willy Wonka. Or maybe I was
A couple times we heard rocks coming off the
cliff. And one three-foot boulder rolled down to within about ten feet
of me! Nature is fun!
The rain and mist meant we didn't
get the long views on the way up, but it was still amazing climbing up
the canyons. We would look down, amazed at the heights we had just
climbed. I tried not to look up, because it seemed like there was always
1,000 feet of sheer cliff above me. But the relentless moving
eventually conquered it all.
As we got into the last 1/2
mile, I got a little finish line adrenaline and pushed the pace ahead of
my companions. It seemed like forever, but finally we saw civilization
and the finish. 23.4 miles, Six hours and 55 minutes, and we were done. I
just went across the whole fricking Grand Canyon, bitches! Holy crap!
was about 5PM, getting chilly, still raining, and now we all started
shivering uncontrollably. We headed to the nearby Bright Angel Lodge to
get inside, found some other hikers/runners to chat with, and toweled
off and got a little warmer. Then we took a shuttle bus the last mile to
our lodge where we could take the best hot shower ever.
this trip was perfect! So much beauty and adventure. No injuries or
problems. The rain wasn't great, but I think I prefer that to high heat
any day! And the first 15 miles were fantastic fun. I'd recommend the
Rim to Rim to anyone. Can't say I'm eager to do R2R2R however. That
Now it is 3 days later. My muscles REALLY
hurt for a while, but I think I'm recovering today. I think I'll go for a
run tonight. 10K race coming up on Saturday...