Running The Grand Canyon: Rim To Rim
In addition to this post I also wrote a post about “What I Learned Running the Grand Canyon.”
This weekend I ran the Grand Canyon rim to rim. I started on the North rim on the North Kaibab Trail. On Friday afternnon my brother and I left the Orem/Provo area to drive down the Kaibab trailhead. Before getting to the trailhead we stopped at Jacob Lake‘s Cafe to eat. It has a nice sit down place with great people working there. They didn’t have any high carb dinners on the menu so I just order Salisbury Steak because it came with a baked potato which was the best I could get.
After dinner at Jacob Lake, we jumped back in the car and headed to the trailhead. Once there we just slept in the car until 2am and then got up to get ready for our run. It was a cold morning…the temperature dipped into the low 30s. As we filled up our water bottles our hands quickly became numb. It was tempting to put on a jacket before starting our run, but we knew that the temperature would warm up quickly as we descended into the canyon and it did warm up as we dropped in elevation.
My brother and I were both excited to run, but unfortunately my brother sprained his ankle 10 minutes into our run. It was the type of sprain that caused him to fall to the ground in pain and it didn’t look good. We talked about it and decided since we were still close to the North Kaibab Trailhead that he would turn around and go back and he would come around to the South Rim to pick me up. We did not want to take chances of anything else happening with his ankle. When injuries like that happen the Grand Canyon can be unforgiving.
My brother went back to up to the trailhead and I started down the trail. I felt really bad and started to think that maybe I should not be doing this alone and I should make sure my brother was okay. after these thoughts went through my mind for a few minutes I decided to turn around to be with my brother. When I got to the trailhead my brother had already left and so I had no choice but to head on do the trail and run to the South Rim. All of this added up to about an hour and fifteen minutes before my real run began.
As I ran down into the canyon I decided that I would just going take it easy. I was alone and it was still dark out, I had a headlamp, but I didn’t want any kind of injury from a fall or an accident to happen. As I made my way down the canyon I ran into some friendly hiking groups and I decided to hike with them for a bit. They were talkative and so I talked with them for awhile. Doing this slowed my pace considerably, but this was good and it helped me take it easy in trying to lessen the potential of falling and/or spraining an ankle. Besides, the group of hikers I was with for awhile were great people and it was fun to talk with them.
After a bit, when it began to get light out, I broke away from these hikers and began to run, which is what I was really there for. This is when the real fun began for me! The trails are so runnable in the Grand Canyon especially when you get done with the major decent from the North Rim and the trail becomes relatively flat (there still is a slight decline as you continue towards the Colorado River from the North Rim).
There are a few things that make this run so enjoyable and runnable. The trails are well maintained and are built well, relatively flat (equals very runnable), and relatively rock free…at least on the Kaibab Trail just before Cottonwood Campground to just before Indian Springs. Also, the lower elevation makes this run really nice (you feel like a running god) especially if you live and train at higher elevations than the average elevation of the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Another factor and the main reason doing this is possible is that drinkable water is piped into certain spots on the trail. Water is a must have to make this possible. If it wasn’t for the water there is no way I would attempt running the Grand Canyon.
The not so runnable sections of trail are the sections of trail going up the North and South Rims. They are rocky and have logs and stones laid acrossed the trail to prevent erosion (equals not very runnable). This can make up hill running more difficult than it already is and makes injury more likely when running down from either rim.
Probably the most enjoyable part of the whole run for me was just getting into a running grove and enjoying the scenery and being in the moment of it all. It is a lot of fun to think that you’re in the Grand Canyon running!!
Crossing the Colorado River was fun and I was able to get to Indian Springs quit easily (at least with no fatigue). But something happend during my ascent up to the South Rim. My energy levels plummeted and for the last 3.5 miles I was slowed to a slow hiking pace. I had done this run before and I remembered that I was able to run/hike this section of the Bright Angel trail up to the South Rim. That time most of my ascent to the South Rim was done in the early morning without the sun hitting me.
Probably the main factor that caused my low energy was the sun. For most of my run the sun was not on me until just past Phantom Ranch and then for the remainder of the time I had the sunlight on me. It wasn’t super hot like it can get in the middle of the summer time at the Grand Canyon, but it was hot enough that it was effecting me. I was drinking and eating so it wasn’t hydration or calorie issues. But non the less I was able to get to the South Rim okay. Once at the top I meet with my brother and then we jumped into the car and headed back home to Utah.
It was a fun run, but I wish I could have done it with my brother. Perhaps this fall or maybe next year we can make another attempt at doing it together. I still want to do a rim to rim to rim run of the Grand Canyon. This was actually our original plan until my brother’s sprained ankle. With all that said, the Grand Canyon is a a great place to do some trail running and I plan on going back often to run it again.
For further blog reading on a “rim to rim to rim” run of the Grand Canyon read this post titled “Grand Canyon Double Crossing” from Davy Crockett’s Running Frontier blog. Davy’s blog is a great resource to learn about ultra running.
What I Learned Running the Grand Canyon (dallanmanscill.com)