Grand Canyon R2R – Run Report

Clare & Barry Celebrate R2R Success
After a night of howling wind and frequent awakenings, “Is our tent still on the ground, or have we been hijacked and landed in Oz?”, the alarms ringed in tandem. With the flick of a switch, Barry & I sprung to action. We put our running gear on, making small shuffling sounds, trying not to disturb our tentmates.

I was a brave knight going into battle. First the undergarments, then the garments, then chain mail, and finally the battle armaments. A hushed “I love you, have a great run.” from Dennis sent me out into the cold windy night. With a grunt, I stumbled out of the tent to join Barry & Anne for some middle of the night coffee. It was 3:30am and about 40dF outside.

Barry, Anne, Clare Start of R2R Grand Canyon

After coffee, we woke up Holly and she drove us to the trailhead. What a nice thing she was doing for us…I felt like royalty being shuttled to the start instead of having to hoof it. We snapped a couple pictures at the TH, in complete darkness. The flash was startling bright. We turned on our headlamps and headed off down the trail. It was 3:56am.

Soon, I realized my Petzl emergency headlamp was not bright enough. It was really difficult to see more than a couple of feet with clarity. This fuzziness only added to the tricky night running. My shoes were loose, so I stopped to tighten laces & adjust the gators. Anne was running fast downhill, so I hung back with Barry to take advantage of his headlamp and his relaxed pace.

There is an art in downhill running, and I have not yet mastered it. So, the slower the better, for me. I think we were running between 11 & 12 min/mile pace on the steep first few miles.

Clare Near the Supai Tunnel, North Kaibab Trail Barry & Anne Near the Supai Tunnel

We stopped for a bathroom break about 30 minutes into the run. After the pit stop, I pulled out an apple and began chomping. I took my time eating it, as I had to pay attention to the trail. I’d take a bite, then run a bit, then take another bite…30 minutes later, and I was done!

Barry in a Blurr, North Kaibab Trail North Kaibab Trail Sunrise
Finally, the darkness started fading, and we could start to see the walls of the canyon. It was amazing. Around 4:30am, I saw the red walls jutting up, with our little trail clinging to the base. I took this picture of Barry. It’s blurry for lack of lighting. But, you get the idea!

Anne on North Kaibab Trail
Anne Rounds a Bend on North Kaibab Trail
At 5am, we paused for a couple pictures, and I got a couple of good ones of Anne.

We picked up the pace a little, now that we had some light and the trail eased off considerably in steepness. I heard the rushing sound of water off in the distance, which grew louder as we progressed. I decided to fold up my trekking poles and go hands free for awhile. Right after I did this, I rounded a bend and was confronted with the Roaring Springs. Gushing water out of a hole in a cliff several hundred feet below us in a gully. AMAZING!

I opened my camera pouch to take a picture and SNAP-CRACKLE-POP. It wasn’t the flash, it was a sickly sound emitting from my ankle. Suddenly, excruciating pain, and I was collapsed on the trail. A few tears sprinkled the path in front. Confusion & muttled thought.

Barry was moments behind me. I proclaimed, “I’ve sprained my ankle and it hurts. I fell down and I need help.” There was a little cactus next to me, and I had a few thorns stuck in my hip, but I put this out of my mind. Later…first the ankle.

I had decided to leave the tape behind, so there was very little I could do to prevent another sprain (whether I continue, or climb back out the 5 miles & 3500 feet of elevation we just lost). Quickly, I swallowed 5 Ibuprofens and took a series of deep breaths. I looked at Barry and concern cloaked his face, “What should we do?”.

I had trained so much for this one day, to be here in this moment. I was dedicated to finishing. Worst thing that could happen is that I’d miss the shuttle on the south end and Dennis would have to come get me. I was willing to make a gamble, the best success often comes in the face of adversity.

“The Hero has a set back”, I said out loud. Barry nodded in agreement. I smiled through the pain and said, “Let’s go, Anne will be wondering!”.

For the next couple miles, we asked every party we passed for tape. Finally, just before the Cottonwood Campground, a party of 6 backpacker dudes came upon us. I asked them if they had any tape. I told them I needed it for my sprained ankle. They gave us a whole ROLL! I wish I would have gotten their names, so I could say Thanks…

Barry did his best taping job. It really hurt, but when we started running again, it felt much better with the support. I quickly forgot about the pain, as the canyon was embracing me.

Clare on North Kaibab Trail, Just Before Cottonwood Campground Anne North Kaibab Trail, Before Cottonwood Campground
We passed a bridge before the Cottonwood Campgrounds and took a couple pictures. I couldn’t wait to get to the Campgrounds, my stomach was starting to bother me (from the drugs). Also, the white grape juice in my camelback was really too sweet. I forgot my gatorade powder so it was filled with juice…soon to be cut with some water.

Barry at Cottonwood Campground Barry Filling Camelback at Cottonwood Campground
Here’s Barry at Cottonwood Campground. The water spigot was a little hidden, but we found it as other campers were filling their bottles so a little line had formed.

I had a very upset stomach at this point. My ankle was feeling better, the pain deminished to a dull ache. I ate a Brolley Bar, figuring the home made whole ingredients would be easier on my stomach than a manufactured item. When the food hit my stomach, I started feeling better. Having some energy to navigate the box canyon ahead of us, would be essential. I thank Barry for his bar. It was yummy, too!

Barry Spotting Anne, Stream Crossing on North Kaibab Trail Teamwork Crossing Stream by Cottonwood Campground
Over the course of the run from the North Kaibab Trail to the Bright Angel Trail, there are numerous bridges a runner crosses. But, not all waterways are avoided. There are a couple streams. For these, it’s super nice to have trekking poles. Here’s a picture of Barry & Anne working together to pass over one of the streams just after the Cottonwood Campground.

At this point, I started feeling a little sleepy, so I opened my Espresso flavored goo and started sucking it down. The flavor was really pleasant, in the slightly chilly morning air. The bit of jolt helped too, as there were a couple of hills before the box canyon started.

Barry in the Box Canyon Box Canyon View Clare & Ann in Box Canyon
Here’s Barry looking super strong, running in the box canyon. Followed by the huge stone walls of the box. And, Anne & I pose for a moment near the end of the box.

Blooming Cactus on North Kaibab Trail Clare & Ann North Kaibab Trail at 6:30am
We were all ready for a short break, after exiting the box. We came upon a nice big flat rock on the right side of the trail! A perfect place to stop for sunblock application & a snack. It was 7:30am. Barry took a great picture of this flowering cactus and Anne & I. Thanks, Barry!

We had about 300 feet left of descending to reach Phantom Ranch. I was a little concerned we’d be caught in the southside in some heat if we didn’t hurry.

Barry at Phantom Ranch
We made it to Phantom Ranch around 8am. I was hoping it would be closer to 7am when we arrived, but with a sprained ankle…it was the best I could have done!

Now, we had to drop a couple hundred feet to reach the Colorado River. I was super psyched to be there, I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon from the South Rim, so I was excited to be standing at the bottom looking up!

Bright Angel Signage Bright Angel Creek Looking East Clare Bright Angel Creek - Looking West
Here are some pics of Bright Angel Creek & Signage

Colorado River Suspension Bridge
Finally, the Colorado River! It was 8:30am. We had been running for 4.5 hours, I was totally excited to be making my away across this awesome river.

Clare, Barry, and Anne on Suspension Bridge over CO river
Here we are on the suspension bridge, from here we have 10 more miles and a little over 4,000 feet to ascend. Woo-hoo, we’re over halfway!
Colorado River Looking East from Suspension Bridge
It was starting to feel warm in the sun, and I was eager to climb out of the heat. I maintained a steady moderate pace. At one point, I realized we’d lost Anne.

The sandy, beach-like trail was hard work! My ankle was hurting again, so I took more Ibuprofen.

Barry told me to go ahead, he went back to talk to Anne about her gameplan. She told him we should go ahead. She would go slow for a little bit, but hoped to power up the steep stuff. (The first few miles after the river are not all that steep). It’s really just the last 4 miles…

I made it to the Resthouse at 9am. Barry caught up to me there and we continued upwards. He complemented me on my nice steady uphill pace. We passed a few hikers, and even a ranger who was super nice.

Devil's Corkscrew
Here’s a picture of Devil’s Corkscrew. It was hot in the sun (low to mid 80s). So every foot we climbed was a step towards more comfortable temperature. I was able to sustain a slow jog, and practiced the uphill running techniques I had learned from the Golden Trail Runners group.

Right before we got to the Indian Gardens Campground, I got the most heinous charlie horses in both quads. Vibrating seizures as if my quads were hooked up to electric stimulus! My juice was all gone, so I was drinking pure water. So, I think I was really low on salts & sugars. I started eating the Margherita shot blox and sucked down a cinammon apple goo.

I felt little relief, but just plowed onwards & upwards. I slowed to a quick walk, which helped the muscle calm down. We stopped at a creek crossing and Barry splashed me with some cold water. It felt awesome.

Clare After Devil's Corkscrew
Here I am about 30 minutes from the Indian Gardens. My legs were trashed, but I felt confident we could finish in time for the shuttle…We had 3,000 feet of elevation gain left and 3.5 hours. I could do that at hiking speeds, so I *knew* we would make it as long as we walked quickly/jogged.

However strong I felt mentally, I was starting to feel like this poor fellow:
Signage Just Past Indian Gardens Campground

Clare on Bright Angel Trail
Here I am at 10am with 2,000 feet of elevation gain left…

Clare Just After 3 Mile Rest House
At 10:30 am, just past the 3 Mile Rest House. Taken just after we managed to get around the mule train and that is why I’m so happy!

We were stuck behind the Mule Train for awhile and it was awful. They go at a moderate speed, but then they stop and occupy the whole trail. There were about 15 hikers who were stuck behind them, and didn’t manage to get around. I felt bad for them! Who wants to spend a whole day staring at the butt end of an a$$ and having to climb around turds?

Clare & Barry at 6,160 ft on Bright Angel Trail
Here’s Barry & I at 11:30am with 700 feet of elevation left to go. We did this in 30 minutes…Smoking fast!

Clare & Barry Complete the R2R
Clare At South Rim, Bright Angel Trail Barry At South Rim, Bright Angel Trail
Here we are, after 8 hours of exertion. What an amazing day! The Canyon stretches out behind us, and you can see where we came from earlier in the morning. I was so happy to be finishing on time.

When we finished, we found a nice spot with a view of the trail. We searched for Anne, among the throngs of tourist hikers. We even borrowed some binoculars, but no dice. I went in search of some food & a drink. We found the shuttle company counter and put our name on the list. We tried calling Dennis, to get Holly’s cell number…but no luck there either.

We both hoped Anne would make it. The Trans-canyon shuttle company loaded us up, and Barry & I stalled them. I asked for ice for my ankle, and the driver circled back for ice. Another couple had forgotten their camera, so the driver went back for that…it was 1:45pm the last time we went back. Still no Anne. I was a little worried, but there was nothing I could do.

Barry Naps on Shuttle Ride Back Clare in Shuttle Ride Back to North Rim
We left for the 4 hour/210 mile ride back to the North Rim. Barry & I snacked, napped, and talked about our run to the other passengers. They were all ears to hear of our adventure. It was fun to tell them about our run, I felt really proud.

Our driver looked like the Simpson’s character, Otto but with gray hair. He was a maniac, we passed cars with inches to spare and careened down the desert highway at light speed. We stopped twice for gas & once for a bathroom stop. He was writing lyrics to a song at the same time as he was driving, and I was kinda wondering if we would make it back in one piece. Wouldn’t that be ironic to die in a wreck after the run we just had?

I was on the lookout for a white VW, hoping Anne had been able to call Holly. I spotted Holly at 3:30pm (About 3 hours from the south rim), as she passed our van. I was thankful, because that meant that Anne was okay and she had made it. (Turns out that there was a room at the lodge at the South End, so Anne just got a room and was able to soak in a hot bath before Holly arrived)…They enjoyed a nice night at the south rim lodge, and it sounds like everything worked out okay. (Whew!).

Finally, the van was a couple miles from the campground, I was excited to eat dinner & take a shower. We saw a porcupine waddling on the side of the road, neato!

We were dropped off at the campgrounds, and Barry & I waddled (not unlike the porcupine) back to the tents. Dennis & Rachel were there, they had just returned from their hike. We celebrated with a growler (thanks to Holly for leaving it!) and also pasta and garlic bread. What an awesome day!!!

Dennis & Rachel had a lovely hike, they made it down to Roaring Springs and back. It was neat to hear from them about that hike, and look at the pictures on Barry’s I-pad. That night at the campfire, I almost fell asleep on the pine needle strewn ground. The evening was chilly, but not as windy as the night before.

My down sleeping bag was a warm coccoon; I fell asleep immediately. I woke up a couple times throughout the night, groaning out loud in pain. That darn ankle!

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.