Finally completed the mecca of ultra running. Having run R2R twice, I've never turned around and headed back across the abyss. This past weekend changed that! I went down with Tara Tulley and Jim Skaggs to do a double crossing. It was another epic adventure.We started at 5am. Dark and cold we headed down into the canyon. It warmed up quickly though and within a few miles was getting light. Looking back on the experience we dilly-dallied around way too much in the cool morning. We should have speed it up and taken advantage of the downhill and moderate temperatures.
In and out of Phantom Ranch we pressed forward. The Box was as spectacular as ever as we headed up the North Kaibab Trail. It was much warmer than I had suspected. As we neared Cottonwood Tara realized that her control valve had fallen off her Camelback. She had taken the last of her water a ways back and it somehow went missing. I volunteered to go back and look for it. Without the valve, it would be nearly impossible to finish, so I told her to keep heading up to Cottonwood while I ran back and looked for it. It was nearly a mile back. So add 2 miles to my crossing
From Cottonwood, things started to heat up. This also meant the snow was melting faster which meant water crossings and eventually run-off waterfalls! It just added to the excitement. Tara started struggling and told us to keep moving forward which Jim and I did. That climb up the North Rim was a beast! The last mile+ was nearly all snow as we post holed to the top! At this point I was ready to cruise back. My plan had been to run across with the group and then see how fast I could get back. With us taking a little longer then I had expected to get to the North Rim I was also running out of food. I also forgot my watch. Note that the Phantom Ranch Shop closed at 4 pm.
It was 1:35 pm when we left the North Rim and I was dead set on getting some more food. It caused a serious crash which is still healing plus all the determination I had. Without a watch I just kept pushing. Flying down those last 6 miles was awesome! The terrain is perfect for such running. As I arrived at Phantom Ranch I let out a hoot! 3:47 pm I had run those 14 snow covered, stream crossing, rocky dusty miles in 2 hrs and 12 minutes. I had also forgotten to drink much of anything and taken almost no salt all day. Needless to say I got all the food I wanted including two glasses of lemonade with ice!...but I was spent. Dehydrated and electrolyte deficit I then ate too much making me even more sick. After an hour I decided I wasn't going anywhere fast, so I hung out for another hour until Jim Skaggs strolled in looking all fresh and perky. He laughed when I told him what happened.
We then hiked it on out. It was great having good conversation those last 9 miles heading up the Bright Angel Trail. We made pretty good time power hiking on up. That morning I thought we would finish before it got dark but not today. As we got to Indian Gardens, it was time to turn the headlamps back on. Those last few miles of switchbacks were painful but just after 10 pm we finished! What an awesome yet tough day. Tara toughed it out to finish just after 2 pm.
With my extra mileage I will call this an even 50 miles. I'm not sure why but it was super tough. I got seriously humbled due to my lack of proper nutrition. Good lesson to learn early in the season and I still managed to have a great time. I was surprised how many runners were out there doing a double. There must have been 25+ runners making the pilgrimage. Now my mecca has been achieved but I am already planning my next journey to The Grandest of Canyons!