Saturday, October 22, 2011

10-21-2011 Rim to Rim Speed Attempt, The Grand Canyon

Exactly 18 days ago I said I would never go back to the Grand  Canyon.  If I would have stuck with it, I would have missed out on perhaps the most miserable few hours of my life.  Jared and I ran Rim to Rim to Rim on the 3rd.  I thought we did pretty well, especially making the half way point in 4:20 (9:45 total). I was content.  A few days later Andy went down after working all night and went 3:43 Rim to Rim and finished in 9:12.  He said his 3:43 was pretty casual.  This made me reconsider.

The Rim to Rim fastest known time is 3:06.10 by Jared Scott.  That seemed fast but within reason.  For the last 10 days or so I couldn't get that time out of my head.  I constantly thought of splits and how to make 3:06 happen.  The plan was to run hard through Phantom Ranch and then use poles and try to finish at about the same speed we did on the 3rd.  This what followed:

Cottonwood Campground 45 mins (6.8 miles)
Phantom Ranch 1:31 (13.7 miles)
3.5 Miles to go sign 2:20 (17.4 miles)
South Rim 3:19

North Kaibab as my sun disappeared
The first 15-16 miles were on pace, maybe a bit ahead.  I ran out of drink and felt the first tired twinges about 2 hours in and from there slowly fell off pace.  There's a fair amount of flat runnable trail up the South Kaibab.  Each time there was flat trail I would run but a few steps later would start cramping, not good.  I was stuck moving slow as the watch kept ticking. I repeatedly tried to speed up but the cramps in my legs just wouldn't let it happen.  3:19, not even close.

1.  In retrospect I went out too hard.  That was the plan though.  I figured it was better to set myself up to run fast with the risk of dying then play it conservative and never be close. I died.  A little pace specific training would have gone a long way.
2.  Walking behind a donkey train for 8 mins didn't help.  This probably only cost me 4 mins since I was walking the whole time but it's still a little annoying walking through fresh logs and puddles.
3.  1.5 liters of water just isn't enough in the desert when the high's 85.  I had electrolyte tabs and gu to spare but with no water they did me no good. I guess there's always next time...

After topping on the South Rim I realized I could barely walk.  I had some gnarly blisters on my feet, no food, no headlamp, no jacket, had to work the next day,  and for some reason had no ride back to the North Rim.  That left me with 21 miles back to my car.  Since I was cramping while sitting, I wasn't sure how the rest of the day would go.  Thinking I might end up spending most of the night out suffering while trying to get back, I took the shuttle to the Village to "prepare."  I ate, bought a jacket, and got excited.  As expected, it was horrible.  85 degree temps were nauseating, the sun gave me a headache, trying to run induced cramps, my blisters ached.  Knowing that if I couldn't run the misery would last a very long time was the  worst part. All I could do was laugh, walk, and enjoy the discomfort.  Mind numbing.  I had a phone with music but I kept it off, I figured I would need the battery life since it was my only light source.  I did. Too bad the cop who pulled me over didn't see me shuffling up the North Rim 45 minutes earlier, in the dark, with my phone light guding the way.  If he had, maybe he wouldn't have given me a ticket.


  1. Good write up. Probably your best yet. Let's go back in November when it's cooler to try again. And btw, my time was 9:12...get it right.


  2. I wonder if you could delve a bit more deeply into your methods for 'getting excited' in such a scenario?

  3. If you had set the record, the cop wouldn't have given you the ticket.

  4. so awful. that walk back just seems so miserable. Glad u made it. and thank u Andy for disclosing the real reason u posted...