Ran the Grand Canyon today from the North Rim to the South Rim then back to the North (aka R2R2R). Not really a race, but deserving of a race report. I had only been at the GC one other time, when Marci and I hiked halfway down South Kaibab trail, and had never been to the North Rim. I ran with Davy, his brother Bob, and their brother-in-law Ed. Davy has run in the GC a million times and was the resident expert. The plan for today was run down North Kaibab to Phantom Ranch (14 miles, 6000 ft down), then run up Bright Angel trail to the South Rim (10 miles, 5000 ft up), then turn around. Davy thought we would be around 12 hours, though the last time he and Bob ran R2R2R it took them 19.5 hours.
We met Fri and drove to Jacob's Lake, where we slept for the night. Woke up at 3 am and were at the trailhead at 4:15 am. Temp was cool, about 20 deg, though it rapidly warmed as we descended. We left a bit of gear at mile 2, then filled up water at Roaring Springs. The first 5 miles of descent are very steep, with up to 1000 ft per mile. I have only done one hilly run in the past 2 months, so my quads were immediately complaining. After the initial steep miles, the trail is a gentle descent to Phantom Ranch at mile 14. The sun was finally up and I really enjoyed the scenery of the canyons. We were essentially following a stream the whole way down. My quads really hurt, though, which had me worried. I also had 2 hot spots on my feet, but nothing that a little love, attention, and tape couldn't handle. We celebrated the arrival at Phantom Ranch by filling more bottles and leaving another load of gear, including headlamps (this is important later- read on). Phantom Ranch is very gorgeous and in a great location. There are even some almost-tame deer. We never kept specific time, but I think we had been going about 2.5 hours.
After a short rest, we crossed the Colorado river and begun the ascent to the South Rim. Ed and I ran this together and really enjoyed it. There were lots of people for us to pass and we had a good conversation. It is a beautiful trail and both Ed and I felt much, much better climbing than we had on the way down. The weather was still perfect, just cool enough. The climb seemed to pass quickly and was punctuated by a few nice rest stops and some mule trains. We reached the top in about 5.25 hours.
It was very breezy at the top as Ed and I quickly got chilled. We went into a lodge and sat by a fire waiting for the other guys. They ate some hot dogs and sandwiches. I was testing out my 100 mile fueling strategy, though, so I didn't eat anything. For the whole run, I drank gatorade and HEED, and ate about 25 gu's. I never had any energy problems or stomach problems the whole time, which was great. My stomach would have liked a bit of solid food, but I told it to keep its requests to itself.
I was worried about the descent from the south rim due to my very unhappy quads. But, they warmed up within a few minutes and I was able to fly down the path and had a very enjoyable time passing all the backpackers laden with 50 lb packs. Tons of fun and lots of good views. Even got within about 20 yards of a bighorn sheep. When we arrived at Phantom Ranch, our stuff was gone. Not good. The ranger hadn't seen it and said they normally throw everything away that they find. Really not good. I had no idea how we would get up without headlamps, since we were on-track to finish 3 hours after sundown. But, it ended up a [very unhappy] maintenance man had them and returned them to us once we tracked him down .5 miles away and 45 min later. Crisis avoided.
Starting at this point, with 14 miles to go, Bob and Ed were both bonking pretty hard but really toughed it out. They ran-walked for a bit, then just walked the last 10 or so miles with no complaining. Studs. After leaving the ranch, I really relaxed and enjoyed myself, seeing some of the north canyons that were dark when we passed through earlier in the day. I took lots of photos, enjoyed the views of this little canyon and stream, took a few detours for fun, and even did an experiment. I tried to determine the effect of a human body diving sideways off a little 4 foot cliff onto dirt and rocks below. I'm happy to say that my right ear, chin, chest, elbow, and both knees delivered such a stunning blow to the earth that it was helpless to fight back. I even left some blood on the ground to mark my newly-claimed territory.
The last 7 miles were quite the bonk slog, with me bringing up the rear. Ed and Bob took turns bonking. Whoever was further behind was subjugated to my [not-so] witty remarks and [really lame] jokes. They called me the chirpy caboose and couldn't believe how much energy I still had, most of which I used to pester them They would finally get so sick of me that they would pick up the pace until they passed the other one, who would then enter my torture chamber. This went on all the way through the very long, unrelenting climb to the rim. The path just went on and on and up and up. They were inspiring with their will to continue. I had fun talking to them, and also occasionally turned off my headlamps and stared at the amazing number of stars that appeared as my eyes adjusted. The weather got rather chilly and windy during the climb, but we had enough clothes to stay warm.
Finishing was a very happy moment. I whooped and hollered and even skipped a little. I felt relatively great and enjoyed the whole thing. I really didn't try to track time exactly, so I'll estimate running time at about 13 hours, with total time of about 16.5 to 17 hours (4:15 am to about 9 pm).
My only regret is that I never saw the whole North Rim during daylight. But it was a great run with some amazing people- thanks for letting me tag along, Dave, Bob, and Ed. 48 miles (plus 1 extra finding our missing gear) with some great guys in some absolutely beautiful country is a great way to spend a day. I'm sure I'll be back. Thanks for letting me go, Marci.
No pictures of Davy and company- sorry guys. I'm sure Davy's blog will have a ton.
Today's run is my longest ever time-wise, had the most elevation change, and tops off my longest week ever. Fun.
The next thing on my agenda is Rocky Raccoon 100 in Feb.