The Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim to Rim


A little more than two years ago, I wrote a post about how crazy my dad was. We'd just had a conversation that went like this:

"Dad, are you feeling good and ready for your ultramarathon tomorrow?"

"Meh. Not really. But I'm signed up, so I guess I'll do it."

Welp, I am truly my father's daughter. Things came full circle when, last week, my mother asked me the same question, and I replied in the same way. The longest training run I'd done in preparation had only been thirteen miles long. I had no idea  what I was in for in terms of elevation gain and loss. I'd be running with trekking poles and a 10-lb daypack...had I trained with either of those things? NOPE. 

Yet somehow, at 4:30AM last Saturday, I found myself waking up to run 46 miles in the Grand Canyon with my dad.

Had I known what a mother this run would be, I honestly would not have agreed to do it. There are two things that make this run brutal: First, 11,000 feet of elevation gain. That's pretty ridiculous in and of itself, but on paper it didn't seem, like, crazy. My first ultra was four miles longer with 9,000 feet of elevation gain, but it also had an average altitude of 10,000 feet. This ultra crammed more elevation gain into fewer miles, but hey! Lower altitude! That washes everything out, right? WRONG.

Here is what an elevation map of most ultras looks like. Mile 1 at far left, mile 50 at far right.

You gain a little, you lose a little. You gain a little more, you lose a little more. It's a gradual build.

Here is what an elevation map of the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim ultra looks like:

BOOM! Two huge  sections of elevation loss and another two huge  sections of elevation gain. Do you have any idea how hard that is on your quads, calves, and knees?! Not only that, but the miles at which those sections occur are mentally  tough. You gain 5,000 feet at miles 18-23 (for marathoners, this is the zone where most people "hit the wall"), and 6,000 feet on the homestretch (miles 35-46).

So yeah. It was pretty much Thrash City. I became well-acquainted with the Four Levels of Post-Ultra Gimpiness:

1. Frankenstein: Knees don't bend at all, arms out for stability 
2. Zombie: Stiff and robotic, but hey! Knees bend a little!
3. Wedgie Walk: Pretty self-explanatory.
4. Normal

As of yesterday, I'm officially back to normal. And quickly gaining weight being sedentary, so I better get my butt back on the trails. I'll write more about the actual run tomorrow (with pictures). Man, that Grand Canyon is something.

Top of the South Rim, near the start of the Bright Angel Trail.


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