Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Rim2Rim2Rim...Running the Grand Canyon
This past weekend Trisha and I spent many hours enjoying running in the Grand Canyon.
The BIG run was Sunday starting at 4 am. We had traveled to the canyon with a large group from Portland and on Sunday morning we started running with Ronda, Micheal, Cheri and Gary. Micheal and Ronda quickly disappeared into the dark ahead of us as they were running this as a training race for the Hardrock 100 and hoping for a time around 12 hours. We were planning for around 15 hours.
This run is epic. It is long, dry, hot and includes 11,000 feet of climbing. The scenery is close to unparalleled and the trail is really good shape and easy to follow. All of us in our group of 4 had never run in the canyon before and were both nervous and excited to tackle the challenge.
The day we did the run was as close to perfect a running day you can get for the Grand Canyon in late Spring. We had a high of only 90 degrees in the canyon (Ronda and Micheal have had it 118 in past crossings) and glorious cloud cover for both canyon wall ascents.
We did the run from the much less traveled North rim to South rim to North rim. This means you get to start with 14 miles of downhill. This also means you get to finish with 14 miles of uphill!!
Coming down off the North rim in the dark was really quite cool. We could see several of the groups ahead of us moving down the valley as we tracked their headlamps and hand-held lights.
Soon enough the lights were stored away and we were moving nicely down the Bright Angel Canyon. The longest stretch of the canyon run without a "break" is from Cottonwood campground to Phantom Ranch. This is 7 miles of gradual downhill mostly following the Bright Angel creek to the Colorado. The canyon you run through are amazingly scenic...it was hard to keep the eyes on the trail sometimes. Everyone was running well and we made really good time to arrive at Phantom Ranch feeling strong and encouraged. Now time to cross the river and start climbing!!
For the next almost 5 miles we would be working our way up from the river to the South rim...5000 feet of climbing. We interspersed some good hard running with some focused power walking to trudge up the hill. The climb was made more challenging with having to navigate the mule altered trail. Between the manure, large puddles of urine, strong smell and gouged out trail it really made you focus to not have a misstep :-)
After 6:36 we crested were standing on the South rim of the Grand Canyon. Looking back from where we came It was also really cool to have the tourists asking how far/fast we were going and saying really encouraging and ego boosting words like "you guys are heroes for running that far!" . We made sure to pick up the pace after that! We grab a cold Coke from the deli at the rim and then prepared to head back down. Just starting out we caught a glimpse of a California Condor. Man, those are BIG birds!
The downhill was harder for me than the uphill. It was hard to get into a rhythm and my feet were hurting some from blisters (note to self: remove sand from shoes earlier rather than later!). This is when Gary and Cheri took off running strong for us not to see them again until we finished. Awesome running guys!
We made it back down to the Colorado and Phantom Ranch were I did some quick work on my feet to drain and dress the blisters...ahhh that did the trick. I bought a sausage to quench my protein craving and Trisha downed a lemonade from the ranch store.
Now though we had those pesky 14 miles of uphill that we had sooooo enjoyed earlier in the morning. Less than speedy but steady would characterize our next seven miles. We were happy to make it back to Cottonwood campground and have the long stretch behind us. Now let the real climbing begin! Trish did awesome in this section working to keep us moving towards the North rim and eating into those 6000 ft of climbing. I made a "good" mistake in the last stretch: I thought we had 1. 3 miles left when we only had 0.7 miles. I know this does not sound like a large difference but after over 15 hours of being out on the trail we were very pleasantly surprised to see the end of the trail and the car ride back to a hot shower.
Total running was around 48 miles with 11000 ft of climbing.
Running time to the South Rim from North Rim: 6:35
Running time from the South Rim back to the North Rim: 7:45
Total running time: 14:20
Total time on the trail: 15:45
We are already thinking of going back and the good times running and hanging out with friends. This run is not one to be taken lightly but it is definitely a goal worth training and striving for!
My words hardly do the crossings justice...I hope you enjoy the pictures are much as we enjoyed the adventure.
- western states
- catalyst challenge
- tourist run