When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Monday, October 24, 2011

Double-crossing the Big Ditch.

What do you do after 4 months of a lay off from running due to various injuries and a couple of weeks with few runs topping off at 6M? You have a tooth extraction with some stitching involved, pick up your other half (who had just had a root canal done), get on the plane and fly to make a Rim to Rim to Rim (also known as a double crossing of Grand Canyon) happen. All of 48 miles of it (we don’t take no short routes, Bright Angel both ways!) with some 13,000 feet of elevation gain. Piece of cake! I truly believe our bodies are made to go the distance; all we need to do is to know how to listen to them and take care of them. And I surely know that part to a “T”. We met sunset and walked around, and we didn't even contemplate much on tomorrow's trip too much. It was going to just be...

Grand Canyon is just that. Grand. There is no reason to describe it, post bunch of pictures (all of which in much better quality can be found on internet) or say words that pale. Still, the main point of the trip wasn't to enjoy the beauty - as much as it was a part of it no matter, because you simply can't avoid seeing breathtaking views and be in awe of the Mother Nature - the main point was to double-cross, no bailing allowed, and in a respectful time, so we can put this behind and go on onto the next adventure. 

We started our trek at 4:29 am (don't believe the watch, Larry took a few extra minutes to make final adjustments and shoot pictures).  It was supposed to be mid-30's at the top of a rim, but literally in 3 minutes as we dropped down, we stopped and shed the layers off. So much for carrying extra stuff!
We took our what seemed to have been sweet time getting down in the dark, especially since I am pretty clumsy and had a very dim light (yeah, I know, I never learn, I took old headlamp with batteries from last 100 miler?) and was tripping over some rocks at time. Larry simply never likes to run down fast when it is next to a few thousand feet drop. Despite that,we felt extremely fluid and swift, and made it to the Colorado river before official sunrise, in a dusk, even if with lights turned down. We made a point to run a lot, but not exert ourselves, and ran small inclines, hills and sand, spooking the hikers. The Phantom Ranch came in just a touch over 2 hrs...holly cow, it promised to be a fantastic day! I didn't let Larry to chat too much (we passed Tina and Bryon, as well as a few others, there) and we moved towards the North Rim, through the Cottonwood campground. This is where things gotten interesting...I was running. Those 7 miles to CC were boring, slight incline with some rolls, open terrain, no vistas, and just blah. But I was running...and Larry lagging behind. What? Larry is the runner in the family! When I reminded him to eat, he kind of brushed me off, but once I saw his mood change for the worse, I knew what the problem was. However, it is difficult to be a couple and give advice, if you know what I mean. After hiking hard and waiting and hiking hard and waiting, once the real climb began, I kind of was gaping him pretty much by lots. We also saw 300 hikers going down - they were dropped off by bus on North Rim to be picked up on the other side - and the trail was narrow, so it broke a flow of a power hike from time to time, but for the most part everyone was smiling and supportive. 2 miles before the North Rim I just took off and was contemplating on what to do next...

I reached the NR at 6:20 into the run, and met up with Steve and Deb Pero, who started their journey from South Kaibab trail. They were waiting up on their own struggling friend (whom I passed). I was afraid Larry would join him in misery, but a mere few minutes later Larry showed up, scolded at me, yet ate a couple of gels, a few beef jurkey slices - and got up for the trip back. He still didn't run and rather walked downhill to let the stomach settle, but he was moving and not giving up.
At the "2M down" water spigot, where I was chatting with Tina and Bryon, Larry caught up with me, and he was running! He was back! And he was smiling to boot! I was thrilled - and I knew we were going to make this thing together, and in a great standing, and with an awesome mood. From now on, we ran, relaxed, easily, but ran, laughed, enjoyed, and really felt like we belonged here.
We spent 25 minutes at Phantom Ranch, between standing in line to get food and chatting with other folks (Larry, as an American, loaded on bagel with cream cheese, I, as a true European, ate a sausage) and then moved on, still having running legs, into the last section, across the bridge, up to Indian Garden and all the way to the Bright Angel trailhead. It was awesome! We felt strong! Larry even ran some half a mile to show off, but overall, we passed a few (or more) dozens of people, and felt like we just started. The trail, even though 3 miles longer than South Kaibab, is more mellow in a grade, had shade at the time we were on it for about 80% of the time, and never let us feel like we are about to die. I, of course, made all kinds of predictions and time goals on the way (obviously, somewhere around North Rim the finishing time was in such jeopardy, I was planning to be ashamed and prepared a speech for leaving Larry with words like "I am a respected ultrarunner and have obligations to people" and "I don't want to ever come back because my time sucked too much"). We blew by Indian Garden and hoped to be up by 6 pm. I even thought may be before official sunset at 5:45, but that was stretching (even I knew that - however I never gave up trying). It didn't quite happen, we finished at 6:04, in 13:35 total time, but with stops and a break-down at North Rim climb, it was absolutely best time imaginable. We can certainly check this one off now!
Exhilarating doesn't even begin to describe how it felt to do so well. It meant a lot to us. As ultrarunners, adventures, and as a couple.Best time together, allowing us to look forward so many things...

My tooth hurt, so did my foot, and I was taking Ibuprofen every 4 hrs to keep pain at bay (dry sockets pain is pretty excrutiating), although by the last climb the ligaments around my ankle felt over-tasked for compensating and hurt too. It didn't matter whether I go slow or fast, the pain bothered the same level, so I was pushing fast - why not? But today the injury itself is not any worse than it was, even if I am limping due to that ankle. My tooth should be fixed tomorrow, and after all, those are minor details. What's left to remember is the beauty, the grandiose, the fortitude - and the love we share for each other.
The sunrise next morning was beautiful and peaceful. Like the beginning of a new era...
PHOTOALBUM for Grand Canyon.
                                                     Walnut Canyon on Sunday.


  1. I enjoyed your pictures. Am planning a R2R2R in early May. Last time I really enjoyed going down the Kaibab trail or whatever it's called. It might be shorted but the views are incredible. Of course there aren't really any bad views there...

  2. Sounds awesome. Headed that way in the spring as well and looking forward to it. Glad you had such a great trip!

  3. Looks wonderful! I enjoyed the Sunday pic too. Glad you were able to make the trip despite your recent injuries. Yahoo!

    I haven't been to the GC since the year we were married - we hiked down to the Indian Garden (I think) where we enjoyed a big can of peaches in heavy syrup. Crazy kids. :-)

  4. Beautiful. SOOooo jealous and happy for you guys. I want to do R2R2R SO bad. Any logistics recommendations? Should I fly into Phoenix and drive up? :) Hope to see you guys at Wild Hare. Ben and I jumped in to the 50K for grins.

  5. Congrats on the R2R2R. Looked like a perfect day for it. Can't imagine how incredible the views must be.

  6. Awesome report, Olga! Such an incredible place to run, eh? Hope the dental issues are getting better for both of you. Ugh!