The journey of our first Grand Canyon double crossing
On May 4, 2019 at 5:00 AM, three friends and I embarked down the Bright Angel trail at Grand Canyon National Park with our sights set on completing a run to the north rim and back. It was the first time any of us had attempted the run. A couple of us had hiked in the Grand Canyon before, so we had a decent idea of the challenges to expect (tough terrain, heat, elevation, etc.), but none of us had any experience with ultra-marathons or extended trail running.
We are all avid runners and outdoor enthusiasts, which may have made us a little overconfident going into the run. On the other hand, the ignorance may have played to our advantage as we were oblivious to challenges ahead.
The famed Grand Canyon R2R2R adventure has grown in popularity over time due to its stunning views and tough physical demands. The trek is roughly 48 miles long with about 20,000 feet elevation change and a potential temperature swing of 70+ degrees between the top and bottom of the canyon. For us, temps started in the 40s on the south rim at 5 AM and peaked at 95 degrees Fahrenheit at Phantom Ranch coming back in the afternoon.
All in all, the run was about as expected. We made it in about 10 hours moving time, 12 hours total time with stops to eat, fill up water, and use the bathroom. Certainly difficult, but not more challenging than racing a marathon all out. The most important aspect is fueling. I fortunately never felt close to bonking thanks to taking in about 15 gallons of water, 4,000+ calories, and many salt tabs throughout. With the heat, it is better to prepare for the worst.
The other important factor is preparing with some hilly long runs in training. I rarely have the opportunity to run hills in Chicago, so my quads took a massive beating on all the steep downhills and left me down for the count for over a week after R2R2R. Small price to pay for an adventure like this one!
Instead of dragging out this post with words, I'll skip to the good stuff: videos and photos.
If you are curious about the gear we used, here are my recommendations: Best trail running gear
Footage from Running Grand Canyon R2R2R
The Strava activity. My watch died on the way back up the south rim so I missed out on a lot of vertical gain (and also some slower miles).
Grand Canyon R2R2R in Pictures
Because pictures tell the story much better than words.