The Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim is a bucket list run for many runners... there is something alluring about traveling from the South Rim of one of the seven wonders to the North Rim and back, all under the power of your own two feet and all within a day. All that to say 50 miles and 10,000+ feet of climbing surrounded by pure beauty and to top it off doing it with friends.
That is what some of us from the Bexar Run Crew set out to do. Six months out from the trip a group of 16 had shown interest in attempting, ultimately 11 of us ended up making the trip to Arizona. Due to some injuries and some race scheduling conflicts we had a group of 4 do a shorter, although plenty difficult, 20 miler day trip while 7 attempted the full R2R2R.
The day started off at 4:23am as we started the run from the parking lot... we had to jog 2.5 miles to the start of the South Rim trailhead (the shorter group would start their run separately, after sunrise and have daylight for the beautiful descent into the canyon). By 5am our group of 7 arrived at the Rim ready to descend into the darkness... we had 4,000 feet of descent within 8 miles to reach the Colorado River. Once we reached the bottom of the Canyon our legs could already feel the affects the constant pounding on the quads. That was our first chance to regroup and refill our water supply... we were about 9 miles in. At this point our group started to spread out and by mile 11 we were all pretty much on our own cruising through a box canyon, a tributary of the Colorado River. For 9 miles the trail gently ascended as we approached Manzanita, the last water stop before the 5 mile and 5,000 foot climb up to the North Rim. I had been by myself during the box canyon and was starting to feel the affects of the elevation along the climb, especially once I reached the exposed drop-offs on one side of the trail. Side note: heights and I do not get along, something I've struggled with since I've gotten older. But as I reached that section I definitely started feeling some vertigo, and while there wasn't much running going on at this point of the climb I tried to get through it as quickly as possible without tripping and launching into downward oblivion. 1.5 miles later I reached the top... that climb was no joke, and even though the temps were only in the upper 50's it was exposed and the sun was out so I was feeling the affects of the heat and altitude. The group of 3 in front of me had been about 20-30 minutes ahead but I made up some ground on the ascent and was able catch up at the North Rim for the descent back. We grabbed a group photo and commented on how our legs were definitely going to be suffering on the way back, but we had to get back somehow... at this point my watch read 25 miles with about 5,500 feet ascended and we had been going for about 7 hours. On our way down we caught up with some of the others in the group and they told us that another from our group had been suffering from cramps early on and had likely turned back. Once we got back to Manzanita we all spread out again and we knew at this point everyone was going to make it back at their own pace. A couple others had started getting cramps and feeling dehydrated + affects of the altitude (a precursor to something more serious later down the trail). I made it back to the South Rim about 7 hours later, about an hour after the sun had set, and met with some of the others who had finished before me. That's where I found out two from our group would be spending the night in the Canyon at a ranger station at Indian Garden... (they just wanted to see the sunrise from inside the canyon ;). I finished the trip physically feeling pretty wiped but overall not too bad, although I knew my quads were going to be useless for the next few days.
Takeaway: AWESOME! I am lucky to have been out in such a beautiful place with friends. We were able to share an amazing experience together even though we all had our own personal and unique experience out there. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a solid adventure run.