Updated: Oct 7, 2020
"Let's get up really, really early and run really far!"
Ever since we moved to Calgary back in 2011, I had heard people talk about the infamous Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) run in the Grand Canyon. I was curious as it sounded hard but an amazing adventure. I remember adding this to my bucket list of runs I would like to do and then to be honest, I sort of forgot about it until a friend of mine in September asked me to join her and run R2R2R. Of course, my answer was "Yes!" (Having done the quick check with my husband and family to see if they were OK with this idea!)
Training was a little varied. Having completed the Sinister 7 this summer and then done loads of hiking in the Selkirks, I had not done masses of long runs. So I did some weight training, ran Lake Minnewanka and did some mental strength stuff as well to get me ready for the run.
We arrived in Phoenix a day before we planned to run and managed to reach our hotel by 7pm at night. It was completely dark apart from the stars. We eventually turned out our lights by 11pm, setting our alarms for 2:15am. Funny enough, as soon as our lights were out, I felt incredibly awake and lay there thinking about our plan, food etc for our run the next day.
So having had about two hours sleep, at 2:15am I suggested we delay our run. Katherine was quite concerned about what would happen if things go wrong. But I just knew running for me on two hours sleep would not be a great idea and it would be a good opportunity to double check the water sources. So we turned over and went back to sleep, planning to get up early, run and get ourselves organized slightly more.
Our day was really useful. I know it would have been unbelievable to see the Canyon in first light but now knowing how hard it was, I am so pleased we altered our plans. We checked out the water supply which was our main concern, and it confirmed we needed to load up on water at the Manzanita rest area in order to make it to the North Rim and back down.
Just breath taking! The Grand Canyon, Arizona.
The alarm sounded again on Wednesday at 2:15am and we were up straight away. The previous morning had been cold so we layered up, but as we headed out at 3am, we both realized that we were going to be really warm! Coming from Calgary, we were not used to having an air temperature of 5º but feels like 8º!
We ran to the start of the Bright Angel, trail took the mandatory photo and then we descended down into the Canyon.
Bright Angel Trailhead at 3:20am, Wednesday 6th November
Katherine was whooping and calling! Her excitement was infectious! But I was concentrating hard on the path, trying to push the pace but avoiding twisting an ankle. It was actually harder than I expected, simply because I found it difficult to get into a rhythm as the steps were at such different distances from each other. (This completely explained the description we saw of the trail the day before, talking about how it was equivalent to doing 200 plus steps!)
Taking a quick stop at 1.5 mIle restroom (in fact I stopped at every single restroom from the start at the South Rim to the North Rim and back! My guts were not the best! But that's ultra running for you!) we stared at the stars. They were fabulous! We were the only people on the trail and it was amazing!
Silver Bridge, 6am.
The Silver Bridge crossing the Colorado river loomed upon us and then as we passed Bright Angel campground, our head lamps picked up eyes staring back at us. Katherine jumped, only to realize that they were the mules which take people down into the Canyon.
We had a rough plan that we would get to the Phantom by 6am, and I think we were closer to 6:30am. We filled up with water, had a washroom break and ran on again. The sun was starting to come up and the scenery was stunning.
Trail towards Cottonwood Campground
Early morning on the trail to Ribbon Falls
We took a detour to Ribbon Falls. I was actually rather out of it here. I remember struggling to understand what we were doing. I'm not sure why, as I had been eating, drinking and taking salt tablets reasonably regularly, but maybe not enough or maybe I was completely in the zone! We filled our water again and crossed the broken bridge which had been washed out in a flash flood.