Wednesday 9th November, Sedona, Arizona
Rain during the day threatening to stop tomorrow’s show. Not what we had
wanted for sure. Cast our minds back to February 2019, Rim to Rim to Rim
(Grand Canyon, R3) attempt ended in a massive snow dump. As ever with
these plans, they rattle around ones head threatening to pop out at a
Back in June of this year Brent, Arnie, Natasha and I were enjoying a
shared Canmore supper, shooting the breeze. Suddenly accommodation was
booked in Sedona, AZ, was booked. In an instance, a timeless flash,
enthusiasm and adventure took over and the R3 project was back in full
swing. Love it.
The timing had worked well, with Natasha and I taking two days off work,
being able to take advantage of Remembrance Day school closures and the
weekend. Most R3 attempts take place in November, cooler temps, more
stable weather, fewer people....
Our journey out was slightly marred with flight delay to Phoenix,
resulting in a late arrival. Poor nights sleep (travel rule list top ten
includes ‘bring your own pillow’) and a frustrating morning of intense
rain whilst trying to buy a simple wrap to eat on R3 day brought on a
hunger grump, but a fabulous feast with good friends later on saved the
day. The afternoon was spent packing the days fare. Cold clear skies
forecast for R3 day, and cool temps. Perfect. The Plan - 2am drive to
Grand Canyon, 4am run off down Bright Angel trail. 14.5 hr prediction.
In theory, Natasha and Arnie would pick us up. Love plans. Who knows
whether they will all dovetail into a perfect day!
Thursday 10th November.
Bed time was an unheard of 7pm. Getting up time 1am. Met Brent outside
his apartment at 1.50am, warming up the taxi - his prized Corvette. Off
we went, unbeknown to us in the wrong direction. Some 60 km east, we
turn back round to head west toward the Grand Canyon. Some 90 mins late,
at 5.30am, we hastily set off down a moonlit Bright Angel trail, at a
chilly -10C. Frost and ice adorned the funky steps which make up the
trail, mainly from the Phantom Ranch mules. We sidestepped, stepped
over, sometimes through the maze of yesterday’s storm, ice crystals
twinkling in our headlights. Slowly the sky brightened, and the moon
disappeared to be replaced by a weak sun. The rays caught the tops of
the majestic sandstone mountain tops of the Grand Canyon, the red rays
accentuating the red tops, as we continued our descent.
Headlights turned off in an hour, heading forever down through Indian
Garden, finally flattening out at River Resthouse at the Colorado River,
elevation a mere 700m above sea level, some 15km and 1300m lower than
our car. The descent was harder than we imagined, with the freezing
water and slippy wood bars. We noticed the trails were incredibly worn
from foot traffic and thousands of mule hooves, making the trails sunken
and rocky. It was hard running and I welcomed the self made rock plates
I had put in my shoes.
Head full of junk and chaos? Well, try getting to grips with the
geological timescale of the Canyon. Billions of years, something I
cannot comprehend. Guaranteed to sort out a messy head :)
However, first challenge to progress was breaking a running pole. Jammed
in between two rocks, snapped as I carried on running. A hasty repair
with tape provided me with two poles again, but to be used with caution.
We trotted through Bright Angel, Phantom Ranch heading north towards
our turn round point some 22km and 1750m climb. Just beautiful running,
the trails less worn, the canyon very different. We met a number of
hikers, but only one lone runner, on his way back to the South Rim on
his R3 quest. Cottonwood, Manzanita, Redwall, Supai, Coconino areas
trotted through up to North Kaibab trailhead, shrouded in yesterdays
winter storm. A snip over 7hrs. Brent did a quick slam on the sign and
headed back down. No stopping. It took me a while to catch him up, but
buoyed by the fact we were on our return journey the km clicked by. It
was a slow trot, but running nontheless. My legs had been pounded by the
first massive descent, and had taken me a long while to get them back. I
had not felt great, but I was slowly getting into my stride. I was
eating well (every 30 mins), staying hydrated and moving. We just missed
the legendary lemonade at Phantom Ranch, which mattered not, and we
headed out to Black Bridge to cross the mighty Columbia, back up to the
South Rim at 62km under our feet.
All was good, climbing well. We were treated to a fabulous lighting
display from a setting sun, and soon after a UFO-esq rising ball of
white light, as the full moon rose above the North Rim. Headlights went
on at about 7km to the end, but found the trail up hard. So many steps,
too few nice trails. The darkness swallowed us up, our meagre lights
just illuminating a narrow pathway in front of us. There was no
destination point to aim for. Just a black abyss to head up into. It
took us an age to finally see two waving lights high above us, Natasha
and Arnie welcoming us home.
I had taken the foolish decision to stop eating with 1.5hrs to go,
believing our destination point was not far away. However, the final 3km
was fueled by thin air alone. I took the wrong path at Cedar Ridge,
putting Brent in front and I just lost momentum. Even though the only
way was up, I was going down pretty fast.
I was a spent force, having gone from being strong to a messy train
wreck in the space of 15 mins. My hands were frozen, I was cold, feeling
decidedly worse for wear. No amount of willing seemed to end my never
ending black tunnel. I finished with a huge sigh of relief, a shivering
energy deficient shadow of what I had been some 90 mins previously.
72km, 3500m elevation/descent. Time to stop.
We were both bundled up into warm cars, whisked off to the local
McDonalds at Tusayan. Just closing, we used the bathrooms, my feet in
the sink, Brent with clothes everywhere. Very funny.
Natasha and Arnie presented us with souvenir T shirts - the logo was
fitting. An old man with a big pack on his back, finishing the Rim to
Rim to Rim. Exactly how I felt. The journey back in the car seemed as
hard as the final 3km in my mind, as I felt so ill, having to stop a few
times. The McD hot chocolate had not agreed with me. Anyhow, shower and
bed within 10 mins of getting in, then sleep.
What an adventure. A bucket list adventure for sure. So happy to have
finally got R3 done. It’s always big running with Brent. Big runner, big
personality, big power, big running, big heart. Loved it. All gear
worked well. However, as ever, another learning curve. I carried way too
much food with me. Should have carried chews, more Hammer gel and
definitely should not have switched from Perpetuem to Heed. Turned my
stomach upside down. Thank goodness my pole stayed usable and my carried
toothbrush was a total hit!
Total gratitude to Natasha and Arnie for making our pick up possible.
They did not manage to do their planned run, but still got a solid 15k
in. Great team, again.
Tim, Nov 12 2022.
Coach Tim’s Grand Canyon run, gear feedback:
Shoes: never do this, but out of the box Salomon Ultra Glides. Perfect.
I had inserted a home made rock plate. This worked extremely well.
Pack: Salomon Advanced Skin 12 litre
Hydration: 1.5 litre bladder, but not used. X2 500ml Salomon softflasks,
Katadyn softflask water filter.
Poles: Black Diamond carbon Z collapsable.
Top: Icebreaker 150 merino wool, Salomon pro T shirt
Shorts: Craft Pro Trail ultra shorts. Look funny, but work great.
Gloves: 150 merino wool mitts,
Hat: Icebreaker 150 merino wool skull cap
Feed: variety of Springer gels, Hammer Montana Berry gel (my fav), Naak
Hornby Hammer bars. X1 Ham/cheese roll, x1 avocado chicken wrap. Carried
but did not eat nuts/chocolate mix, pretzel/nut mix, countless excess
gels and bars.
Drink: Hammer Perpetuem at x2 concentration, Nuun sport caffeine wild
berry electrolyte. One flask Nuun, one flask Perpetuem
Plus the usual windbreaker, long sleeve top, sun glasses, cap, tape,
Head torch: Black Diamond
Bum bag: first time in trying, but worked great to put used wrappings in.
What worked well:
Perpetuem energy drink is a game changer for me. All was good till I
thought I’d run out so I changed to Hammer Heed at KM 50. Never again.
Unbeknown to me, I had another sachet in my pack.
Nuun was great till I tired of the flavour. Switched to water at KM 50.
Most food was excellent. I tired of gels etc at KM 50 (there’s a theme
here), and found an errant Kirkland nut bar (200 cals) which saw me
through, along with the Hammer gel which I can consume most of the time.
I enjoyed my roll and half a wrap.
All my clothing and gear performed well, as expected.
The tape (thanks Brent for pre run suggestion) kept my pole in a working
order. I broke one at KM 15. My clockwork every 30min / 100 cals
feeding. I calculated on 200 cals/hr. In the end, I consumed closer to
300 cals/hr and burned 7500 cals, a deficit of 50%.
What did not work:
Switching from Perpetuem to Heed. The berry seed Springer gels are too
concentrated for my stomach. My mitts caused my thumbs to get worryingly
frozen after dark due to gripping the poles. My foolish decision to stop
eating with 8km to go. I bonked well with 3km to go. Not pretty. I
packed *way* too much food, had so much left over.
Training: elevation gain and loss. Sulphur Mtn was my friend. I tried to
add distance trail running into the mix eg Skyline, Rockwall. However,
it was hard to train for the GC run as the start is a 12km/1800m
descent! My legs took ages to recover. I was extremely pleased with my
days efforts as I was very late in the day with my training due to
Another reminder though of the importance of packing. Everything needs
to be quickly accessible otherwise it won’t happen. I should have put
more clothing on in the final ascent, but instead I got super cold. I
found a spare Perpetuem mix in another pocket.