The Grand Canyon Experience: Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim
  Snaptech Marketing 12:00 AM

The title is just what it implies, running or hiking in the mighty Grand Canyon is an experience, one not to be missed. Most ultra runner's call it the R2R2R, meaning, you run from Either Rim (north or south) over to the opposite rim (direction depending on where you start) and back again. The total distance of the journey itself: 50 miles.

I have read blogs and seen pictures of friends partaking in this grand adventure. This run quickly became a ‘must do' and I thought, what better year to run it than the year I train for Western States 100. Peter (my running partner) and I flew into Vegas from Bellingham, rented a car, and drove to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Elevate Me nutrition bars in tow!

There are 3 key ways in which this run perfectly prepares a runner for a 100 miler that takes place in California in late June, (1) Heat (2) Elevation change (3) Time on feet (distance/time)..

Western States 100 is going to be hot; there is no doubt about it. Some years are hotter than others but it is routinely at or around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Although the temperature in the Grand Canyon reached only 90 degrees Fahrenheit, this was way hotter than any temps I have experienced in Vancouver thus far. As well, I will not likely experience temps this hot before the race. Although I was not in the heat long enough to acclimatize, I have an idea of what to expect come race day, which plays a huge part for me mentally.

Western States has over 40,000 feet of elevation change, which is A LOT. Come race day, if you are not prepared, the constant climbing and descending will not only burn out your quads, it will send your hamstrings screaming towards the sidelines. However, there are no sidelines in ultra running, there are only DNF's (did not finish). I need to prepare my body to handle the leg pounding from the long descents and the fatigue from the punishing hill climbs. The Grand Canyon, in all its glory, offers both, twice! We began by getting on the 5am shuttle bus which had us running by 5:30am. We started at the South Kaibab Trail and immediately descended 7 miles down towards the Canyon. The terrain in the Canyon was amazing and the flowers were stunning. The rock, and all its layers, is unlike anything I have ever seen. The layers tell a brief story of time and evolution. I loved how the trail traversed along the Bright Angel Creek, which offered up a nice breeze as we ran along it. We quickly started up the climb to the top of the North Rim. It took us a couple hours to reach the top but the mighty view was worth it. We filled our packs with water and carried on back down the hill.

We stopped to talk to a few people along the way and once they found out what we were doing, they told us we were "crazy”. I can't even begin to count the amount of times we were told that. People take 3-5 days to do what we were doing. There is something satisfying about completing the journey in one day but on the flip side, it would be nice to just linger in the scenery, take it all in, and not just have it be a flash memory.

The heat had risen on the way back and because of that; taking in fuel became that much more challenging. The heat turns your stomach off and you have to push through or else you will not have the necessary amount of energy to continue on at the pace we were going. I was drinking a lot of water; I worried about taking in too much. Of course, I could tell by the salt crystals on my face and the minor swelling in my fingers that I should be taking in more. And I do.

Just before we started up the last big climb of the day, up Bright Angel Trail, we stopped at a little place called Phantom Ranch. They had a mini cafeteria type restaurant which served up the best Lemonade. We were 8 hours into our journey and nothing has ever tasted so good. The final climb seemed to go on forever. We were lucky in that it was pretty much entirely in the shade. As I looked up towards the top of the South Rim, an overwhelming feeling came over me, wondering how I was ever going to make it all the way to the top. We kept plugging away, and eventually we started to get closer and closer. There were many water stops along the way which broke up the trail nicely. We still had a lot of pep in our step because we were still passing people going up the climb.

Alas, we could see the top. I told Peter to slow down, as I wanted to savour this moment. I wanted to bask in the scenery as I knew it would be a while until I came back. The total journey took 11 hours. It was eleven of the most beautiful, wondrous, exhausting, and mentally challenging hours. The longest I have ever been out on my feet is 9 ½ hours, so this took the cake. We reached the car and I grabbed out my Elevate Me Organic Protein Bar. I asked myself if I would ever be back and the answer, without hesitation, DEFINETLY!

A lot of people questioned why we would go all the way to the Grand Canyon, simply to run. But, that is what I do, I run. Why not run in one of the most beautiful places in North America?

Now I ask you, please share what adventures you have been on lately? One's that took your breathe away?

Nicola Gildersleeve
Athlete/ Ambassador

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