|Sue took this about 30 mins after I left|
one way to train for something like this is to run on equivalent terrain or what is known as specifity training. The obvious flaw in this particular statement is that there is only one Grand Canyon and finding an equivalent training ground is virtually impossible. Therefore as I live in Europe I had only one option which was go to the Big GC and do a practice run there ... and that is exactly what I did.
I decided that I would run down to Indian Gardens and back. This is about 2/3rds down from the South Rim and a steep gradient of 3500 feet. There and back its about 17k. The trail guides say this should take between 6-9 hours ... but I was going to run it of course. I thought this would be a good initial test to see what is involved, the R2R is 2.5 times longer and about twice the elevation.
I didn't sleep well the night before probably due to jet lag and nervous anticipation. There are so many warnings about entering the Canyon and even a book called 'Death in the Canyon' (which to date has recorded over 700 deaths) and so by the time I was ready to go I was absolutely terrified!
I had breakfast at 5:30 am at the Lodge (this is America folks) and just before sunrise I set off into the unknown. It was very cold with ice and snow on the trail making it a little tricky. I really didn't know
Its very, very steep but the trail was wide enough not too panic too much about going over the edge so I went quite fast ... and of course within 15 minutes my face was in the dirt. I hit a rock, fell and cracked my knee open, not a good start. It was very bloody but otherwise okay and for the rest of the day hikers would comment on it and ask if I was alright. I would of course shrug and act as if it was just a scratch. I didn't slow down after this I just focused more. About half way down I began to get a little concerned about how tough it would be coming back up but pressed on marvelling at all
the beauty around me. It is breath-taking as you descend through millions of years of erosion resulting in giant, vividly coloured rock faces. It makes you feel very small and insignificant, 'We are stardust', I thought to myself.
I'd gone from freezing to quite warm, even though it was only February but they do warn you about this. It was only a few more k's to the river and though tempted I kept my discipline as I had never climbed out of the Grand Canyon before and figured I should respect its magnitude.
I took off really quick though as the first few yards are easier and flatter; consequently I nearly ran straight into a wild deer - scared the hell out of me.
Distance - 17 k, Elevation - 3500 feet, Water consumption only 1.5 litres including electrolytes, 2 gels, 1 shot blocks, 3 S-caps(not really necessary), 1 cliff bar. My gear was 2 running vests plus a cold weather running top, woolly hat, neckerchief, gloves, camel back, side bottle, telescopic poles, rolled up rain top, compression socks, Cascadia 8's shoes, phone (didn't work- no signal), torch, whistle.
I could easily have run a lot further though I doubt faster, my quads and hamstrings ached a bit but the big surprise was that I ached in my hip flexors which I don't normally get; guess I have to stretch even more than I do already. The weather, though cold, was perfect. I realise that the compounding effects of going Rim to Rim will require me to be in superb shape and I will need to run a lot more severe gradients in training. The biggest danger I can see is that if you twist or break something you are in deep trouble. My friend Gemma asked me if I'd figured out an exit strategy if something goes wrong ... apart from a $10,000 helicopter rescue I don't actually have an answer. This is what makes it so dangerous, there is very little room for error if you want to run it in one go. It was an invaluable experience and I learned a lot, preparation is everything and come October I will be ready.