OUTRUNning the Grand Canyon

This, by far, has been my biggest running adventure yet!  I don’t really recall who thought of the idea for us to head out to the Grand Canyon.  All I remember is us talking about it for months on end and at first when it was in discussion, I think we were all probably several beers and a couple of shots into a good night.  I guess the saying still holds true – Some of the best ideas are conjured up whilst partaking in debauchery… or something like that.  We talked and talked about it, then when airfare was at its cheapest and the trigger was pulled, it got real.  Airline tickets were bought, hotels were being planned, I was figuring out who was taking care of my kids while I was gone, and then gear was being assembled/purchased.

I think the last real vacation I took was in 2011 when we went down to Florida to be in a friend of mine’s wedding.  Sure I took long weekend running trips but not a real vacation so the planning and the anticipation leading up to this trip was off the charts!  There ended up being so much that I purchased for this trip.  Some I never used, and probably never will.  Some I probably could have done without, but who doesn’t need a new SJ Ultimate Direction vest and trekking poles, right?  In addition to those I bought a water filter, emergency blanket, new mount for my GoPro, and new shoes (Saucony Exodus of course).  Then more of my usual consumables – enough GU, E-caps (only cuz I couldn’t find S-caps), NUUN, trail mix, and uncrustables to last for the planned 18-19hr journey.

Gear for just a day?  But STILL wasn't enough...

Gear for just a day?  hard to believe all this fit in my SJ vest!  But STILL wasn’t enough…

As far as training went, I didn’t really train too much differently for this run than I do many others, (which really isn’t a good thing) although I did do some hill repeats vs. no hill repeats.  I increased my mileage a little but that was about it.  I know it sounds like excuses – and probably is, but training time is still hard to come by.  The kids are still not huge fans of being home alone while I run, whether it’s at night or the early morning while they sleep and I still feel terribly guilty if I sneak in a run while they are home.  Although Emily did help me get more miles by joining me on her bike. I made one last training run with a full pack and Mike S. at North Chagrin and then the time to go was upon us.

Emily helping me get some miles in

Emily helping me get some miles in

Ten of us ended up going on this adventure; Mike and his wife Beth, Des and her husband Glenn, Laurie and her husband Paul, Dave and his wife Sandra, Michele and myself.  Michele’s husband isn’t a runner and I think is convinced we are all nuts.  Sandra used to run, but I know she’s convinced we are all nuts!

So the time had come.  All the planning has finally come to a head.  I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon before and WOW!  It was amazing!

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After a little bit of sight-seeing we had a nice dinner together then it was off to bed.  We had to catch a cab at 4:30am from our hotel to the South Kaibab Trailhead.

We arrived at the trail head on time, hoping to beat the mule train so we didn’t get stuck behind it, but we didn’t.  Luckily the mule train headed down the trail a half hour before we got there so even though we didn’t beat it – we didn’t have to worry about getting stuck.

South Kaibab Trailhead

South Kaibab Trailhead

My favorite sign as I'm sure it is anyone's who ran across the canyon in a day

My favorite sign as I’m sure it is anyone’s who ran across the canyon in a day

Our run started out amazing.  Unfortunately it was so dark that most of my pictures all looked the same.  The only thing that I didn’t care much for was the dust.  The dirt on the trail was so fine that while running behind someone you literally ran in a cloud of dust.  So much so that we had to place our bandanas over our faces to keep from breathing it the entire time.  Two days later, I was STILL coughing this stuff up!

Heading down the trail

Heading down the trail

... And down....

… And down….

Capturing some of the dust particles in the air.  This was even after we stopped for a few moments and it had a chance to settle.

Capturing some of the dust particles in the air. This was even after we stopped for a few moments and it had a chance to settle.

After reaching the bottom, and crossing the Colorado river, we made it to Phantom Ranch within a few hours.  After filling up our water bottles, and getting something to eat, we said our goodbyes to Beth, Glenn, Paul, and Laurie.  They were making the turn at the ranch and headed back up to the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail.  Mike, Dave, Des, Michele and myself headed up the North Kaibab Trail to the North Rim.

Eating at Phantom Ranch

Eating at Phantom Ranch

Mike, Dave, Des and myself - heading out onto North Kaibab

Mike, Dave, Des and myself – heading out onto North Kaibab

This is where my run took an unexpected turn.  Problems late into my runs seems to be the norm lately and I think this was finally the eye opener I needed to make an adjustment.  Apparently my nutrition plan that I’ve been clinging to since I ran my 100 miler was no longer working.  I started getting dizzy and had to eat a GU and take several E-caps.  I would feel decent and this held me over for about a half hour at best after which I would get dizzy again.  It was VERY unnerving to get dizzy heading up the North Kaibab Trail.  One side of me was the canyon wall, the other was sheer drop into the canyon (you’ll see what I mean in Dave’s video below).  Several times the others would say, “My God.  Look at that!”  A couple of times I turned to look but that wasn’t a good idea.  A helicopter even buzzed the us in the canyon and landed to bring supplies so they could fix the water line break, but I had to keep blinders on.  After about the third time this happened, I realized that I was blowing through all of my supplies and at this rate, I would never make it back.  I made a quick check of my watch and was quite relieved to realize that I was going to make it to the North Rim in time to hop a shuttle bus back to the South Rim.  We made it to the North Rim in about 8hrs.  I climbed out of the canyon just as the shuttle bus was pulling up.  Luckily my friends had my back and gave me the shuttle fee.  I ran up to the van and my conversation with the drive went like this;

Me:  “You’re going back to the South Rim?”

Drive: “yep”

Me: “Can I get a lift”

Driver: “Do you have a reservation?”

Me: “No, but I will pay you ANY AMOUNT of money to give me a ride!”  It was the best $90.00 ($85+tip) that I spent in my life!.

I actually felt quite defeated not being able to make it back with my friends as planned.  But I had an hour to wait for the next shuttle to the South Rim and then a four and a half hour ride back, to think about it and deal with it.  I came up with my reasoning for not running back.  I decided that rather than say I didn’t make it – I would just say, “Eh, I ran all the way across the Grand Canyon in 8hrs.  From the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, down South Kaibab trail, across the Colorado River, and up North Kaibab Trail on the other side, and you know what?  It was nice and all, but it didn’t really impress me so I didn’t feel the need to turn around and see it again.” 🙂

Mike, Michele, Dave, and Des made the turn and headed back down the North Kaibab Trail, back to Phantom Ranch and then up Bright Angel.  It took them a bit over 16hours round trip.  Amazing.

I had my GoPro, Dave had his, and Glenn had his.  Most of my videos were taken at the start and looked very similar.  With the dull lighting conditions and all the dust that accumulated on my camera that I didn’t realize was there, a lot of the footage came out grainy.  Dave got some great shots on his.  Love the ones on the North Kaibab Trail.  You could really see how close to the edge you were running the entire time — you’ll see why being dizzy there wasn’t good.

Here’s mine.  The song I chose was from a guy in the lodge at the top of the South Rim when we were done.  He played this and I thought it fit our trip perfectly.

Here’s Dave’s.  Love the shots he got on the North Rim.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen Glenn’s footage yet.  I think we are still planning to get together and put all of ours together.

UPDATE!!!!!  Here is the video Des made from the video and images Glenn captured on his camera.  Nice job Des!

We are already planning our next big adventure in 2016.  What’s one of yours?

 Hope this all makes sense and I don’t have too many grammatical errors or anything.  It’s late and I’m going to bed! 🙂

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