The Grand Canyon Pushes Back
I’m writing this last post with a little intrepidation. I want to be accurate and at the same time encouraging. I want runners, hikers and anyone intrigued by the majestic beauty of the Grand Canyon to have the same amazing experience that I did; which means I want you to be prepared! Do your homework, talk, ask questions and if it’s for you, seek professional guidance. I promise, after only one trip for me, it will be worth it for you as well. I can’t wait to get back!
As we left PumpHouse, everyone seemed to be doing fine. Actually my stomach was a little upset. As I just said a little too much candy. But I got right back to sweet potatoes and bagels, which really settled my stomach. After about a mile I was great. Nichole was pushing us; we even had been talking how we can make up some time. I was good with whatever pace she could handle. I remember hitting 32 miles and making a point that they had set a record for their longest run. Having only done 50k prior to this. We were feeling good! At this point I had looked behind and noticed that Felix was falling back. I told Nichole to stop and go see what was up. She said he was having serious stomach issues and would not be able to run. At this point we were about 5 miles from Phantom Ranch. This was not good! I was worried that Phantom Ranch would be closed if we had to walk and suggested that I run down there and grab a couple cokes in hope that it would help. Everyone agreed that it would be ok for me to go. They would keep walking. About a half mile down the trail I ran into Brian, who also was having his own stomach issues. He assured me that the canteen would be open, since he was there last year after 8pm. Cool! So I headed back to my team with the good news. This was a learning moment for me. I should have known the times. I should have kept going because it closed at 4PM for dinner. Then opened back at 8PM, which is why it was open when Brian was there last year.
I was first to Phantom Ranch, excited to get some lemonade or a coke! I was very disappointed to see it closed, as I was there about 415PM. I knew Felix would be disappointed. They got there about 15 minutes later. I could see the disappointment and pain in Felix’s face! We needed a plan, fast! He wasn’t doing well and wasn’t sure what caused it. Now wasn’t the time for that. We spent a good 30 minutes trying to see if he could recover. We had 10 tough miles to go. He seemed to feel better, so about 515PM we headed towards the South Rim.
Bright Angel …..At Night!
His new found energy only lasted a mile or so. I raced across the Colorado River, which I got to see, as the sun was still out. Awesome! We made our way along the thick sand of the trail, I was setting a walking pace of 20 min miles, hoping it would be ok. It wasn’t and we were walking more slowly as we made our way to Indian Gardens, which was 4.5 miles from the top. It was now dark and I used my headlamp for the first time. I continued to feel good and told myself to be mentally strong incase Felix would need extra help.
As we finally reached Indian Gardens, Nichole was reporting that she was beginning to feel her legs breakdown. Her quads were really tightening up; I think from all the rest and getting out of her normal hydration and eating schedule. Either way I knew we had 4.5 miles of steep climbing in the dark. It would prove to be a life changing challenge! On a side note at Indian Gardens we met a fella who was doing an R3 as his 60th birthday Bucket List challenge. We also met a nice couple staying in the campground. Anyway I was hoping that talking to others would somehow bring energy to my team.
A little ways from Indian Gardens I pushed myself pretty hard. I wanted to test myself a bit. I got about a half mile ahead then waited. Good thing. Nichole’s legs were shot. My strategy at this point was to push for 10 minutes then wait, because my Garmin had stopped! As they caught up with me I would check to make sure they were ok. I always offered a hug to anyone. They weren’t ready for that yet! I also was dealing with issues with my headlamp. It was cutting out. You see I had never intended to use it any ways. I had planned to use my flashlight, but wasn’t sure how much light I had left on my batteries. Remember I had to use my second set at the beginning. This was getting crazy! Something really cool was happening to me at this time. When I got ahead I would find a rock to sit on and turn my light out and just watch the stars and listen to wind. I was captivated by all of this. This allowed me to stay centered to better help these guys. So I kept this pattern going until we reached the stop at 1.5 miles from the top. At this point I made a decision to stay close. Nichole was really hurting and I was very concerned about making sure they got out, safely. Actually Nichole said she would take that hug I had been offering now! Felix never complained, although I knew he had to be feeling bad. Either way the last 1.5 miles were brutal. Mostly knowing how close we were. It was during this point that I ran into another coach, Robin, who was working with a couple, who were also really hurting. We talked a little about our training. This helped to carry me up the last bit. As we approached the top, I reminded everyone about how we promised each other to be smiling when we finished! Hugs all around as we reached the trailhead. We did it! As a team! What a memory!
I really felt good today! Besides some minor cramping near the top of the North rim, and on my way back to PumpHouse. I felt that my training had paid off. Food wise. Sweet Potatoes and bagels were best for me. My supplements were just right. I needed to be drinking more water going up to the North Rim. This was a back pack issue! Overall my legs and joints really felt good. My lungs never felt overly challenged. I’m looking forward to getting back to this wonderful place and see what I’m capable of. Regardless, after 19 hours and 45 minutes we learned a lot as every emotion was experienced. I was blessed to be not only with a great team but my family for my greatest adventure!