I wanted to share with you an account of a running of the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim. It constitutes starting at the South Rim descending through Phantom Ranch and up the to the North Rim and then returning all in one run. This account comes from Duane – one of my runners out of Mesa, AZ. It was only two weeks after he completed the St. George marathon in his first ever Boston-qualifying time – 3:10. It was not exactly what I had in mind as part of his recovery phase from the marathon.
I just wanted to drop all of you a quick note and let you know that I apologize for not being able to attend the breakfast following the hike. I had to get home for Dallins football game and Masons Soccer game. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to hear all of the stories. I know I have a great one to tell. I am sure over the years it will get better as I embellish it.
I have to say that hiking Rim to Rim to Rim was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It challenged me in ways that I never thought were possible. I felt really good until mile 35. Aaron and I hiked together for the first 10 miles and he made it so much easier. He knew the course like the back of his hand (except when he led us the wrong way). I had my iPhone playing ‘How Reagan Changed My Life’ and I was feeling ready to conquer this hole.
When we reached Phantom Ranch everyone told me that Gary had not stopped and that he went ahead. Aaron was in the bathroom, so I thought I would go catch Gary and hike with him. When I hit Cottonwood I asked if they had seen another hiker and they said that one had passed about 30 minutes earlier. So at this I picked up my pace and decided I needed to catch him by the tunnel. Well by the time I hit the tunnel I was moving pretty good and I still had not caught Gary. Every time I would pass another hiker going the other way I would ask how much further. I was told by one hiker that the tunnel was close to the North Rim. I should have clarified what close meant. It was still another 2 miles of hard hiking.
By the time I hit the North Rim I was ready for a break. I finally reached the top and thought I was hallucinating when I saw the table full of drinks and food. The Raymonds are so nice. That was the best grapes and Gatorade I ever had. I feel a great amount of gratitude for the hospitality President and Sister Raymond showed during this hike. Not only for the food, but for driving everyone and making sure we were all okay. (especially my friend Mark) At the top I sat down and did a quick inspection. I had a couple of blisters, but my energy was up and I was making great time. I reached the half way right on schedule at 6 hours and 45 minutes. I then was told that Gary was not out yet. The first thought that came to mind was ‘NOT FUNNY!’ I thought everyone played a trick on me. Then Gary came out and told me that he had stopped before Phantom Ranch.
So, after I loaded up on food and drinks I hit the trail again. I was feeling great! I ran all the way down to the first bridge. My first book had ended and I now had ‘Old Man and the Sea’ playing and I was moving along. When I hit Cottonwood I was still feeling okay, but I was slowing down a little. I ate my peanut butter and honey sandwich (thanks Raymond brothers for all the suggestions on food) a couple of cookies and my drink mix and I was good to go. By now my toes had all blistered and I had a huge blister on my heal. I knew I was going to lose a couple of toenails, but I couldn’t stop now.
The canyon was so beautiful and peaceful. I do not know if I was delirious or what, but I really started feeling a great sense of humility. I found myself with tears in my eyes and full of thanks for this opportunity. I am sure the 40 miles I had gone to this point was taking its toll. My legs were hurting, my back hurt, my feet hurt, and I just wanted to lay down and go to sleep. By the time I reached ‘The Devils Cork Screw’ I was done. I wanted to quit so bad, but somehow I just kept going. I remember thinking if I can just make Indian Gardens then I can finish.
By the time I hit Indian Gardens I was sooooo tired. I sat down and heard someone call my name. I looked around and there stood Lafe. He looked like he was ready to sprint to the finish. We spoke for a minute and then he was off. I just couldn’t get myself to move. In my heart I wanted to, but my body was not cooperating. I had finished ‘Old Man and the Sea’ and was now listening to ‘Moby Dick.’ I was ready to be done. The next time to stop was going to be at 3 mile rest house. That was the plan, but I stopped at least 4 times in between. I made it to 3 mile rest house and was looking for the nearest donkey to carry me the rest of the way.
That last 3 miles is when this hike went from hard to the hardest thing I have ever done. The sun was going down and I was looking over the edge thinking ‘that is a long way down!’ I was a little dizzy and really started to become concerned with falling off. So I stayed really close to the mountain side of the trail. Lafe was about 200 yards ahead and he could have been 2 miles ahead, I didn’t care if I caught him or not, I just wanted to finish. I was stopping about every 500 yards and convincing myself I could do it. My head was aching and all I could think about is ‘I am never going to do this again!’ I could not understand why all these people who had done it before are out here again. Maybe by next year I will feel differently, but right now it would take a miracle to get me to do that again.
Somehow I was able to keep moving and finally I saw the hand rail and the concrete steps. ‘Moby Dick’ was over and I was finished with this adventure. I came out of the Canyon at 5:55 and I have to say that it never felt so good to sit down. My feet still hurt and the blisters are turning all different colors. Last night was the first night I was able to even have the blankets touch them. I am glad I did it and I am even more glad I am done with it. Thank you everyone for organizing so well and making this trip happen.
If this catches your interest you can catch a second R2R2R account with video from Brad Pope a couple years ago.