Hi ShokzSquad! Clare Farrow here taking over the blog today to tell you about my experience running the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim. My boyfriend Gunnar suggested we attempt the trek, and we did it together as a birthday celebration!
For background, the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim route measures anywhere between 67 to 77 kilometres (depending which trails you use), with 6,700 meters. of elevation change. For context, that's like climbing up the Empire State Building seven times. Due to the changes in altitude throughout the route, you can experience temperatures ranging from 0℃ to 32+℃ over the course of a single day. It's recommended only for experienced hikers and typically takes several days to complete. We were going to try to do it in less than 15 hours.
At 4:30 am, we threw on some gloves, strapped on our headlamps and our packs, and shivered our way over to the trailhead to begin descending from the South Rim. By the time we hit Phantom Ranch at 16 kilometres in, I was starting to get a little concerned about how my day would go. I wasn’t feeling great; my legs had already started to ache! And I was worried that my legs (and mind) wouldn’t hold up if I was beginning to falter this early on. How could I do 48-65 more kilometres? My energy levels were low and fell into a really deep hole. As we continued through the belly of the canyon and started climbing up to the North Rim, I was still feeling awful and could not imagine how I would survive the return trip. It took all my effort to not think about quitting. We didn’t come all this way to do Rim to Rim to Rim and quit halfway through!
At the top of the North Rim, we were 6.5 hours into our trek. We quickly refilled our water bottles, turned around, and ran right back down in half the time it took to climb up! The best part of this section was going past all the hikers we had just seen when we hiked up! A lot of people were shocked to see us again. One older man even yelled at us to “be careful,” as we ran past him, which was sweet. While I was starting to perk up a little bit, and I had faith that I could physically complete the remaining 32 kilometres eventually, I was having waking nightmares that it would take us 10 or more hours to make it back to the start, which means we’d miss our 15-hour goal.
My legs were hurting so badly at this point. Usually, when they start to feel this sore, I switch to walking/hiking because it's too hard to keep running. But that day, I decided to ignore the pain for as long as I could. That switch in my head finally flipped, and I convinced myself to keep running through the hurt. It was refreshing to realize that I was 8+ hours and 48+ kilometres into the run, and my body could physically still power through. I wasn’t running very fast, but I was running!
It was empowering and enlightening to push past that self-imposed limit and pain threshold. And, it helped to have some of my favourite pump up jams, like Juice by Lizzo or Celebrate by Ingrid Michaelson, playing in my ears through my AfterShokz Trekz Air.
After what felt like hours, we reached Indian Garden, which meant we had about 7 kilometres left (and 1000 meters of gain!). I focussed on putting one foot in front of the other and tried not to think about how many more kilometres remained. Finally, we reached the end of the dirt trail and broke into a “sprint” (what felt like a sprint to us) towards the trailhead. We made it! We had finished with an elapsed time of 12:57:06, and a negative split of about 8 minutes, meaning we ran the 2nd half 8 minutes faster than the 1st half!
After getting the chance to reflect on this run for the past week and a half, I have mixed feelings about the experience. On the one hand, I made a lot of mistakes that could have been avoided. I threw a couple of temper tantrums during the run that were completely unnecessary and didn’t help anything; I could have done more to improve my overall mindset. On the other hand, I’m so proud of myself for actually getting it done even when I wanted to quit! I beat my original time goal by just over two hours and was able to really get outside of my comfort zone and push myself in a way that I haven't done before. That was amazing.