I won the Masters division. Can't remember whether it was Jon or Cody that took the overall title. Although, we all finished together. (This is a joke by the way. There were 3 guys on the run. Me and two 30 years olds.)
So, about two weeks ago, I was invited to run back and forth across the Grand Canyon a couple times with Jon Allen and Cody Draper. Apparently this is something hard core ultrarunning trail runners like Jon and Cody enjoy doing. Not knowing any better, and despite never having run over 26 miles, I accepted.
We headed down on Sunday morning after breakfast at my house. Upon arriving at the North Rim, we did the typical tourist stuff, took pictures, hung around the lodge, and bought stuff in the over priced gift shop for our kids.Then we returned to our tent and went to bed around 9 pm. I only slept an hour or two because my mind was too wired for Monday's adventure.I think Jon was the same way, but Cody was snoring away between us.
Got up around 4 am, had a cliff bar, banana, and a bottle of Starbucks frappacino - 2 bottles, and were on the trail by 5:30 am. The North Rim is at an elevation of about 8200 feet and the Bright Angel Trail that descends down the canyon is quite steep with lots of switchbacks, rocks, and log steps. With only our headlamps for illumination, we went tearing down the trail at a pace I felt was suicidal. It was clear that Jon and Cody were more experienced on the technical trails than I was so I let them go. I chose to focus on not breaking my ankle or plummeting off the canyon edge.But I could always see their headlamps up ahead on the switchbacks.The temperature warmed up from 31 degrees to the mid 50s pretty quick as we lost elevation. I ditched my hat and base layer in a bush near the ranger cabin a few miles down - hoping to find it on the way back.We got to the first big bridge over Cottonwood Creek and, of course, peed off of it in the dark. Fun.
When the trail leveled off, we were able to clip along at 7:30 to 8:00 pace for quite a while. Probably through the Phantom Ranch campground to the Colorado River crossing at an elevation of 2400 feet.This was great running in perhaps the most beautiful place on the planet. I couldn't believe that I was on a 50 mile run through the Grand Canyon. I really enjoyed chatting with the backpackers we met along the way whenever we stopped to fill up our bottles. Lots of incredulous head shakes as we explained to them what we were doing.
*** Funniest conversation - on the return trip (about 32 miles into the run), we came on a group of hikers sitting on a bench taking a break next to the water faucet at Phantom Ranch. An exhausted looking woman asked us what we were doing. I don't even think she really believed us. Anyway, I decided to show some interest in what she was doing and so I asked how far they were going. "I don't even want to tell you" she said. "It's too embarrassing, kind of like talking to Donald Trump about how much money you make". We laughed heartily! I told her that if it made her feel any better, that I was just a humble schoolteacher.
After crossing the Colorado, we began the long 10 mile climb up to the South Rim. This was a very challenging trail and my quads were burning.We managed lots of running, but had to "hike fast" on the steeper portions. Lots of backpackers and mule trains on this trail. The amount of Mule pee and poop on the trail was stunning!
Ominously, shortly before arriving at the South Rim, we came across a NPS sign that read the following...
"Warning! DO NOT attempt to hike from the canyon rim to the river and back in one day. Each year hikers suffer serious illness or death from exhaustion". This is printed in English, French, German, and Japanese. And there's a hiker on the sigh who is clearly about to expire. Of course, this was not at all what we were attempting. We were going from the rim, to the river, to the other rim, back to the river, and back to the first rim. Only four times what the sign was warning us to avoid.
Made it to the South Rim well before noon. I bought two Gatorade's and drank one and filled one of my bottles for the return trip with the other. Used the restroom, shook the sand out of my socks, and ate a big cheese muffin.I also got a Snickers Bar which I thought might be great for the return trip.Jon, Cody, and I got someone to take our picture on the South Rim and then we headed back on the return.
Talk about quad pounding, treacherous downhill! I almost busted my ass on several occasions and by the time we got to the Colorado my legs were on their way to becoming mush. By now it was hot and their was little shade.After Phantom Ranch I ran by myself for a couple hours as Jon and Cody decided the run wasn't long enough and decided to take a 3/4 mile detour to sight see. This was a lonely, tough stretch, but I was able to maintain 10 minute miles from around mile 35 to 38. Unfortunately, I had drained both my bottles and was on my way to becoming dehydrated. When I finally got to the Cottonwood camp ground I downed two full bottles and filled back up. Fortunately, as I was getting ready to pull out, Jon and Cody showed up and I finally had some company.
We stayed together until the end, struggling on the steep climb back up the North Rim to dip under 30 minutes per mile. Cody did a great job of keeping me honest and forcing me into a jog on the less insanely steep portions of the trail.
Jon mostly told hilarious jokes!!!
It was really depressing how slowly the quarter mile increments on my Garmin were ticking off. But we knew we were getting close. I was dead tired and aching everywhere, but definitely had one of the most intense feelings of accomplishment ever. I was literally finding it hard not to cry. Despite the pain, I understand now why people get hooked on running these kinds of distances. Not that that will happen to me - I'm still looking forward to my next 5k.
We ran North Rim to South Rim in exactly 5 hours. The return trip was 5:58. Counting time stopped, filling bottles, heeding the call of nature, yielding to mules, resting on the South Rim, and chatting with backpackers the total time was more like 12:50.
After the run, we drove back to Salt Lake since Cody and I had to be at work today, and Jon had the movers coming to take his stuff to South Carolina at 8 am. We got to my house at 2:30 am. I slept for 3 hours and was in class at 8:00. Great conversation on the ride home and lots of eating. I've been famished all day today, literally can't stop eating.
So this was my introduction to trail running. I guess a 50 miler through the Grand Canyon is as good a place as any to start.
I can't wait to read Jon and Cody's reports. Hopefully with lots of pictures.