Brand new to this forum and starting a few trip logs. I welcome any comments on how to do this!
Rob and I wanted to bag a R2R2R in a day and headed down to the North Rim with the kids. Amazing experience! Can't wait to do this again! Coming off of four marathons this summer, I knew that I had the endurance, but no idea of how to prepare for trail distance of this kind. The strongest lesson I gained from this was how much it matters who you run a trail like this with. Rob's knowledge of running and his planning carried me right through my first distance trail run. Since you will be spending a lot of time with each other it also helps just to have a good guy along..
I threw the kids in the motorhome and we stopped in Salt Lake to pick up Rob and his family. It was just as important to me as the run itself that my kids have a great trip and Rob's wife enjoys the time as well. I was amazed that Rob's wife drove a 40 foot coach nearly half of the distance down and back, gassed it up, fed and cooked for all of us and spent such quality time with the kids Saturday. My kids can't stop talking about this quick trip to the Grand Canyon even though they have been here before. We arrived at the national park just as the sun set and found that things were shutting down for the season a bit earlier than expected. Then pulling into the Kaibob trailhead we discovered that vehicles over 22 feet were not allowed to overnight. This meant that we would have to camp at the North Rim campground and would need to run the 1.5 miles to the trailhead to start the run and then back. The advantage was that the kids would be in a beautiful campground for the day we were running and be closer to everything. I think that turned out for the better. We made camp, started a fire, ate dinner, and the kids played around the campground while we started setting up our gear for the run.
We agreed that if we both woke up early we would just get going whatever time it was. I got a little sleep and was up about 2:30am. Rob was already up and took a hot shower, ate some breakfast and brewed some coffee, which I questioned was a proper start for an ultra runner but being new to the sport I let it go. I drank two Mt. Dews and wished for the hundreth time I had put a fountain drink dispenser in the RV like my son asked me to. It takes a lot to pack up food to run for 12 hours and my pockets were jammed. After reviewing the water along the route with Rob and looking at the forcast temperatures, I decided that a Nathan fanny pack style water belt would suffice and we headed out. I could see my breath as we cruised down the road to the trail and my hands quickly froze inspite of cotton gloves. There were millions of stars out and I wished I could turn my headlamp off to look at them all. I had on a new pair of Brooks True Grit trail shoes which felt more like socks than shoes-pretty minimalistic. I was wondering how my feet would feel in them by the end of the day. We started down the Kaibob trail with our headlamps and it was like running for the first time for me. Hard to describe. Just surreal. Beautiful suroundings, awesome trail and wondering the whole time if you can make a run like this. I wrecked pretty quick and a good one, and then a few more minor falls in the next few hours before I began to get my footing. But I had a great time talking with Rob about whatever came up and the early miles just flew by. With water about every 3-5 miles down the North Rim I soon felt I was drinking way too much. We stopped in Cottonwood campground but I had so much water that I just cruised by. From Cottonwood to the river was about 7 miles and I don't recall any water in this section. I ran out here going both directions. We passed a few other R2R2R runners through these areas, a 60 year old and his wife celebrating their anniversary and a solitary runner. It was neat to stop for a minute, talk to them, and tell them we would see them on the way back! Coming up to Phantom Ranch it was getting light and we stowed the headlamps and took a quick break. I was excited to start on some hill climbing. The temp was perfect, maybe 75 degrees as we passed through Indian Gardens about halfway between the river and the South Rim. Now we began to see occasional hiking groups and I think Rob talked to almost all of them. That would change in the evening to just a passing grunt. The climb up was just fun. Occasionally we had to switch to a brisk hike from a run up the steep, stepped log sections. Rob and I argued all the way about what felt better or saved the most energy. I just can't do that power hiking stuff. It feels much harder on my knees. Within a few miles of the top the tourist traffic picked up and we passed a mule train coming down. There were quite a few people who recognized what we were doing and even a few that stopped and congradulated us on the way up. It was at the top, 25.5 miles on my Garmin (which promptly died) and around 5.5 hours into the day, that I realized for the first time that I would be able to do the whole thing. My legs felt better than they had starting out. I hung my stinking socks and shoes in a bush outside the visitors center while we rested for a few minutes. Since I can't usually stand Gu or power anything I went inside and made a peanut butter and banana sandwhich which had to be the best I ever had. As I was getting my shoes back on for the run back a guy came over to talk to me. "You must have ran to the bottom and back", he said, "I remember doing that years back when I was in shape and it was the hardest 9 miles I'd ever done". It was hard to not tell him we came from the North Rim.
Getting going again to head back across was tough. I was a lot more tired than I thought. It hurt. I was surprised on this trail that you were slower on the steep sections down than the flat. I started to look forward to flat parts of the trail. Now we also had to work around more hikers as the day was warming up and it was the weekend. One really fit lady coming back from Ribbon Falls campground stopped us to tell us how it was her dream to do a R2R2R some day. Another two women actually stopped and clapped as we ran by. I think all of this type of reaction comes as a result of running with Rob. It's one of the reasons I still hang with him. Coming down Devil's Corkscrew (I think), a ranger in a tatooine desert outfit was talking to a hiker in the elbow of a switchback, blocking the trail. I jumped down to the lower trail to avoid them and not lose rythm again. She went ballistic, yelling at the runner in the yellow shirt to stop immediately or she was going to run me down, waving those ski poles all over that everyone carries along nowdays hiking. :-) She came up in my face demanding identification while I was apologizing, still not knowing for sure what was going on. I kind of wanted to see if she could actually catch me, but Rob stood behind me whispering to just say OK so we could get on with it. She really went off on the evils of trail runners, especially R2R2R types, and I apologize to all you trail runners out there contributing to the bad image. Do NOT jump down to the lower track!
When we crossed the Colorado and came into Phantom Ranch again, about 35 miles I think since my Garmin was dead weight, it had warmed up to about 90 degrees. The bottoms of my feet hurt, but somehow all the aches and fatigue had dissapeared. Rob was like a machine with an even pace, just pulling me along from the front. I felt every now and then we should go faster but as the last 6 miles were to show that would have been a show stopper. He reminded me to drink and take S-Caps and kept us steady. The only real break here, besides enjoying the scenery that we couldn't see in the dark going the other way, was when Rob hit a rock in front of a pair of hikers and bit it, a real train wreck, spread-eagle on the trail and one of the guys was literally begging to use his first aid kit on him. He jumped up and we cruised on. That long stretch coming out of Phantom Ranch took my water fast and it was great to reach Cottonwood campground again. We passed some of the earlier runners going the other direction and could see that we were making much better time than they were. I had a hard time getting going after a short break and even then quickly felt the strength returning. About this time my nose started bleeding for about an hour, just a small steady trickle. Probably the dry air or the change in temp as we began running up the North incline. I quickly forgot about it when we hit the serious switchbacks up the North Rim. There is no other way to describe how hard those 5 miles were than relentless. Like a never ending staircase. Rob kept us running at every semi-level part of the trail, but otherwise it was like a crawl. I wondered once or twice if I would even finish it if Rob wasn't there in front of me just soldiering on. I was convinced we were at the top at least 5 times before we actually were. The dumbest things on earth were funny. It was amazing to reach the top and look back down into the canyon where we had come from and across to the South Rim.
The kids were roasting marshmellows when we ran into the campground and were shouting about the awesome day they had spent hiking and exploring with Rob's wife. I was as thankful of that as anything that day. We kicked back, watched a movie and got some sleep.
Today I can't stop thinking how grateful I am for this sport, good friends, my family, and work that lets me do these things. My parents never had this chance. It's like the perfect storm, but for running. To be fit, to have the means, to have friends as fit as you are, to live here, and to have family that loves it all is opportunity that few have.