Sunday, May 22, 2016

Running Between the Rims

One of the fun things about running in Arizona is that we have some iconic running paths. A friend put together a trip for a group of us to run one of these paths - The Grand Canyon Rim2Rim.

90% of the visitors to the Grand Canyon go to the easier to reach South Rim. The North Rim visitor center is harder to reach and is only open from May 15 to October 15 providing that the roads are clear of snow.  Most Rim2Rimers will try to get their crossing of the Grand Canyon in in late May and early October since the temperatures at the floor of the Canyon are ofter around 100 degrees. We have to wait until the North Rim opens; otherwise there will be no water on the northern half of the canyon since the pump houses are shut down to prevent them from freezing.

I was going into this "fun run" less prepared than planned. I had completed four marathons in 63-day period this spring (including two PRs); however I had also posted my first DNF (did not finish) in my first trail ultramarathon (88K or 54.6 miles) when a hip injury became to much to over come and caused me to miss the halfway point cutoff. I spent the month prior to the Rim2Rim managing the injury and did not prepare as planned.

Despite this situation, I "jumped off" the north rim at 5am on Friday, May 20th to run down the North Kaibab Trail with my friends and moved to the back of the group so that I could enjoy the run and the canyon. I took some time to take in the views and worked my way down the trail to the Bright Angel Campground at Phantom Ranch. I descended 8,241 feet along the 14 mile trail in about 3.5 hours.

After purchasing a nice lemonade at the ranger station, I ran across the bridge to across the Colorado River and then up the Bright Angel Trail heading up the South Rim. We were very lucky that the temperatures were below normal and only reach 65 degrees at Phantom Ranch, but we were exposed to the desert sun and swirling stiff breezes as we headed up the South Rim. Because of the number of unprepared tourists who wander down this trail, there are more places for water than on the North Rim.  I was too sore due to my lack of training to run up the rim, so I power hiked up the South Rim. I was able to catch some of the other runners in our group as well as the hikers who left two hours before us. It took me about five hours to climb the 6,860 feet of elevation gain on the 9.5 mile Bright Angel Trail, but I made it.

When you finish something like this, you are very glad that you exit the Grand Canyon at the Bright Angel Lodge where you can get some food (or ice cream in my case) and then head to the campground showers to clean up.

With a little bit of luck, I will be able to run it again next year. If I do, I plan to be much faster.

The view from the Grand Canyon's North Rim Visitor Center

Time to run from here to there via the North Kaibab Trail...

Phantom Ranch and across the Colorado River...

Heading up the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail...

Rim2Rim Finisher's Award...

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