Grand Canyon Trail Run (And More)

Matt here. My brother and I just got back from our Arizona trip, which I had booked as a post-boards celebration.

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Our plan was to fly into Phoenix, then head up to the Grand Canyon for a 50 mile double-traverse trail run. We got there early to scout things out on June 8, and had plenty of time to decide on our route before pitching a tent in the national forest and catching some sleep.

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We broke camp around 2:45am and hit the trail a little after 3:30am. The first couple hours was all downhill, then it was all uphill from there (literally & figuratively). We made good time from the South Rim to the Colorado River – something like 8 miles in 1.5hrs, plus a few short stops. I never EVER get blisters running, but somehow I’d managed to do a number on the fronts of my toes from the constant deceleration of running downhill. No big deal though, because there wouldn’t be any more downhill for quite awhile.

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We stopped for maybe twenty minutes at Phantom Ranch to eat some GU’s and refill water. The sun was also starting to rise at this point, so we were able to ditch the headlamps. Unfortunately, not long after we resumed jogging, I caught a bout of nausea that slowed us down quite a bit. I felt fine again an hour later, but the lost time would come back to haunt us.

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By the time we reached Cottonwood Campground, the sun was peeking over the canyon walls. So we were looking at 8 miles and another 4000 feet of elevation gain in 90F+ temperatures. Yeah, that section wasn’t much fun. I felt like death 2 miles below the rim, while Trent seemed fresh and eager to keep moving. Then, when we made it to the rim, I caught a third wind and felt fine again, and it was Trent’s turn to be miserable. He’d been drinking water instead of Gatorade, and in scientific terms, I think his electrolytes were all sorts of whacked out. Poor dude’s legs were cramping up like something terrible. He could barely even walk.

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It was only lunchtime, so we were looking at maybe 8 hours of rest before we needed to start the return trip (since the headlamp option was much more appealing than dealing with the heat). Given our physical state, though, we decided to bail. Trent just happened to bump into the last rim-to-rim shuttle of the day, which just happened to have two seats left in the back.

Normally I hate bailing, but I think this was one of those cases where “DNF” stands for “did nothing fatal”. If things had deteriorated on the return trip, we’d have been looking at a lot of pain just to get back to the car. Plus, we’d already basically run a marathon, with something like 10,000 feet of elevation change. So I feel like we got our money’s worth out of the trip.

We crashed at a cheap hotel in Flagstaff that night, and the next morning we were both hobbling around like cripples. So, naturally, we decided to do some peak bagging. We spent the day clmbing a couple of mountains in the area, including Humphreys Peak (the highest point in the state of Arizona).

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It was a pretty fun time. Great scenery.

Pro-tip for any other runners out there with rim-to-rim-to-rim aspirations: do it in the spring, or do it in the fall, or do it *entirely* at night. Or get burned, like we did.

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Published in: on June 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sounds like a very wise decision. I’m sure Allison would not have been happy with an injured husband on your Alaska trip!

  2. Great post Matt! I’m glad the two of you were able to enjoy the adventure together. It was quite an accomplishment! Have a wonderful time in Alaska with Allison.

  3. Wow! What an adventure!! (Gatorade was a wise choice, and I’m sure Trent already knew that. Another thing that seems to help against muscle cramps is a huge bite of yellow mustard.) … G’pa Rodgers

    • Mustard?? That sounds…yummy.


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