Elephant Mountain 12k Race Recap

I haven’t been on the trails….well…let’s just say for a loooong time. But I decided to sign up for this race because a ton of my friends were doing it and FOMO (fear of missing out) hit me like a wrecking ball.

It was also a race on trails I’d never been before and I love exploring my little big state. It was an hour drive and I rode up there solo. Luckily, Aravaipa races do race day bib pick-up. Got there early because that’s how I roll.

I’d done my research and saw that it was going to be a glorious day at 80 degrees (you read that right) but the morning was going to be a freeze fest at 45-50. I parked and then ran into some friends at the potty and then we all huddled in a car together to wait for the start. The race started at 8:30 (there were two other distances starting before ours) so when we began, it was warming up and my shorts and tank weren’t crazy pants.

Post potty pre race pic

Post potty pre race pic

At the start!

At the start!

It was a big group of us and we all started together but fizzled out as we ran. I was near the front of our pack with my friend T$ who is a super strong trail runner. The first mile was all uphill and she lead the way. When we reached the apex, I let myself roll with the downhill, and then I was by myself.

It was up and down after that and on the down I was pretty reckless running faster than I probably should have.

holy rollers

holy rollers

On the uphill, I would take it easy but managed to still do a sort of run. This was HUGE for me because I’ve always struggled with hills, road or trail. To see that I was running up them, big ones too, made me feel so strong and like I’ve come a long way from the scared-of-hills runner I used to be.

I finally reached the lone water station that served as a turn around for the 12k. It was a short way back on the same trail as I’d just come on so it was cool to see my friends as I began my way to the finish.

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More up and down, and on the down (as you can see from my splits) it was WHHHEEEEEEEE!!!!! I totally got caught up in my surroundings–the desert does that to me. It was so darn beautiful out. Everything was so perfect. The sun on my face, the weather, the cacti and nature around me, the difficulty of the trail–I was in my own little heaven for 8 and half miles.

Oh yeah, a 12k is around seven miles. When I reached that point, I thought I was close to the finish but then it never came. I kept running and then I saw two girls up ahead. I caught up to one to ask if we were on the right trail– she said we were. I passed her and then made it my mission to catch the next girl. By the time I did, it was well past 8 miles. At a quarter after, I finally saw the finish, and I was glad as my spunky energy was beginning to diminish, lol!

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I ended up averaging a 9:46 pace which for me is hella fast for trails. When I was recounting the race to my husband, I just said that I ran happy and that’s really what it was. I had an absolute blast and enjoyed myself the entire way. 26th overall and 6th female. I don’t know how many people raced but I was pretty proud with the results as I don’t consider myself a strong trail runner. I never run trail races with an expectation to win anything–we have a super strong trail running community–but I know that this race was a good one for me, in many ways, and more so than a placing.

I needed this. Phoenix Marathon training hasn’t been as exciting as NYC since I don’t have an actual goal I’m going for. Running has felt more like something I’ve had to do, and not so much in a fun way. But this trail race reignited me. I had fun. Sooo much fun. 🙂

–Do you like trail running/racing?

–Are you a cautious downhill runner or reckless like I am? (I need to get better about that, lol)

–Are hills your thing? I’m starting to not be afraid of them, finally!

GRAND CANYON R2R2R PART DEUX RECAP: DAY 2

If you missed my recap of Day 1 in which I crossed the Grand Canyon from South Rim to North Rim, you can check it out here.

The second day, the plan was to go back down the North Rim but then go back up the South Rim through Bright Angel Trail. I didn’t remember much from the first time doing the second day two years go because I was beat up exhausted, lol! So in a way, there was a lot of newness for me this time, which I liked.

Unlike going down the South Rim, going down the North Rim allows you to actually run if you wanted to. Last time I did this, I hardly ran at all, but this time, I was feeling pretty good and I was with my husband which automatically makes me feel safer and more adventurous. So as soon as our group started, we all bolted and ran down. All the way down. To Phantom Ranch. A little over 13 miles.

There were some not-so-safe sections where we did slow down…like here

#notafraidofheights

Can you see me? #notafraidofheights

and here

Can you see what's around that corner? Yeah, me either.

Can you see what’s around that corner? Yeah, me either.

but really, the majority of the way down, we ran. It was just so freaking awesome running through the Grand Canyon. I mean, not many can say that they ran through the Grand Canyon!! It was exhilaratingly amazing. Surreal.

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I was definitely sore from the day before but I just had an energy that I can’t describe. An energy that compelled me to keep going and run. I felt so strong and I might’ve not been going very fast, but I felt like a total badass.

There wasn’t much photo-taking or eating on the way down. Hardly at all, actually. I made sure to hydrate and we made one pit stop at Manzanita where I had to use the restroom. There, I munched on a snack, but we pretty much went the whole way without a whole lot to eat. We skipped the last stop, Cottonwood, and went the 7+ miles stretch all the way to Phantom Ranch.

You can see our route coming down from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch in this map

You can see our route coming down from the North Rim to Phantom Ranch in this map

We were anxious to get to Phantom Ranch as we knew that once we got there, we’d eat and then begin our climb out. But when we got there, we realized we had to go through security.

Shhh!!! There's a deer over there!

Shhh!!! There’s a deer over there!

There was a beautiful deer blocking the trail to Phantom Ranch!! We waited a bit and then the deer went running off.

We hung out for about 20 minutes or so, not long all, eating some Beef Jerky and drinking some lemonade. We refilled our packs, and headed out! I thought I’d want more rest but really, I was ready to go. I knew the heat awaited us and the later it got, the worse it would be.

From Phantom Ranch, you can go back up through the South Rim Trail (where we started yesterday) or you can go back up through Bright Angel Trail, which is what we had planned to do. I remembered from my last crossing, that we would be exposed to the sun for most of the climb up.

People ask me if going up the North Rim is harder than going up the South Rim (through either trail) and honestly, each is its own beast. Going up the North Rim for me is difficult because you’re talking about going straight up. You’re covered though, as there are a lot of trees lining the way but it doesn’t make that climb any easier.

The South Rim/Bright Angel Trail is difficult because of the sun. So not only are you going up, up, up, you’re doing it with the heat on your back. If I had to choose though, I’d say going up the first day (South and up through North) is harder.

Anyway, we hit Bright Angel Trail and were on our way.

Go up this way! :)

Go up this way! 🙂

Crossing the Colorado

Crossing the Colorado

Like I mentioned earlier, I had forgotten most of the second day since the last time I crossed, and one of the things I completely didn’t remember was the soft sand that made the up climb even harder.

What is this sand you speak of?

What is this sand you speak of?

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It was so weird to see this soft beach sand at the bottom of the Grand Canyon but it made sense since the trail was right with the water. The trail wasn’t sandy the entire way up but you’d see it in parts along the way, even allll the way up.

We took a pit stop along the way to get some of the sand out of our shoes and eat a snack. Then we noticed that the upness we had been doing started to go back down and we met the water again. This was so disheartening because we really thought we beginning our ascent and now it felt like we were starting over.

But onward we went. I kept on telling my husband that Devil’s Corkscrew awaited us–some not so very nice switchbacks–and I waited for them but really, everything started to look the same to me that when we reach a flat landing where we could look down, we had already passed it!

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I was so tired. The heat was beating on me and I felt like I couldn’t drink enough water. I had been taking salt tabs the entire way and I had some sugar candy so I didn’t feel malnutritioned; it was just the accumulation of two tough days of climbing.

Very little pictures were taken going up. It was like last time where I really just wanted a Coke. I was ready to be at the top.

We reached Indian Gardens, finally, which was our last big stop. We filled up our water packs one last time and took a quick look at the map–4.8 miles to go. Hours.

I was losing steam and beginning to feel bummed, but then my husband would say something funny and I would remember how much I loved having him there.

When you get closer to the top, you start to see a lot of tourists who come down a few miles. It got to be very crowded and I wanted a sign that said, “I’ve been climbing for 20 miles!!! Get out of my way!!!” Some groups would take the entire trail and not pull aside for uphill climbers.

We made a turn and then I could finally see the top top and it was a glorious sight. It was a ways away, but I could see it.

Looking back at what we crossed and kinda sorta done with pictures, lol

Looking back at what we crossed and kinda sorta done with pictures, lol

I was renewed with energy at having seen the finish line and I picked up my pace. Finally, after many many miles–over 45 in two days–we were done!

The smile that is the elevation map of a Grand Canyon Crossing :)

The smile that is the elevation map of a Grand Canyon Crossing 🙂

I sat down on a bench and became overwhelmed with emotion. I held my husband’s hand as I let the tears flow. I was so happy. So happy to have shared this amazing experience with him. This would be something we both could have together, forever.

A woman nearby asked if everything was okay and my husband told her we had just finished a double crossing in two days. She begin applauding me and then told the people she was with who begin applauding as well. A mini crowd of people began applauding, and I smiled a “thank you” through my tears. It was such a special moment.

Crossing the Grand Canyon is something life-changing. It really is. You test your body and mind and when you make it to other side, you really feel like you can do anything. It’s hard of course, and yes, the climbs are difficult, the heat makes it worse; there are snakes, insects, animals, along the way–but you push through all of that. You find something within yourself to make it happen. I know that my husband gave me a lot strength, but he didn’t cross for me. I did. Like so many hard things in life, you just do it.

You just do it. 

Thank you all so much for following my crazy adventures. As I’ve said many times, I’m so grateful to have this little corner of the web world to document my journeys. If you have any questions about crossing the Grand Canyon, feel free to shoot me an e-mail and I’ll help as much as I can. Don’t think this is something you can’t do. ❤ , helly

 

Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim: What I Packed and Other Misc.

Well, I’m back and I’m alive!

It was absolutely incredible and I’m sitting on my couch super sore as I write this, lol! Before I get to the amazingness that was crossing the Grand Canyon twice, I just want to relay the “boring” stuff first–what I packed, what I ate, what some of the places I visited are called, etc. Maybe it will be useful for someone planning a trip soon.

Hydration Pack

Okay, as far as what I used to stuff everything in, I used my Ultimate Hydration Wink hydration vest.

Canyon ready!

Canyon ready!

This pack is uh-mazing. I wrote about it here. It has a 70 oz reservoir which I refilled several times while I crossed.

I love this pack because it’s got a lot of room for storage and it has storage pockets in front for easy access to stuff you’ll use regularly (cell phone, gels, etc.)

What Was Inside

-Emergency card and ID
-Cash (for lemonade when we reached Phantom Ranch)
-My glasses (in case something happened to my contacts)
-Chapstick
-Hand sanitizer
-Tissue
-Sunglasses
-Jacket (rolled up when not in use and on outside of pack–see pic above)
-Phone (for pictures-there is no service down there, lol)
-Hiking poles (on outside of pack-you’d be fine w/o poles but they sure do help)

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You can see my poles on my pack here in this pic

Food

-a small orange
-two tortillas
-4 cookies
-Starburst
-a pickle (packaged)
-pretzels
-large bag of Beef Jerky
-Salt tabs
-2 gels (never used them)
-20oz Gatorade (this was on the outside of the pack where I rolled up my jacket)

I ate all of my food the first day I crossed, but had a lot left over the second as the second day goes a lot faster.

I mentioned that I refilled my reservoir several times. There are water stops along the Canyon that allows for that. It’s recommend you bring your own filter but I didn’t both times I crossed and was fine.

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You can see from the map on the left and the key on the right that there are water stops along the way.

What “R2R2R” means

Rim to rim to rim is what R2R2R stands for. It means you go from one rim of the Canyon to the other and back again. You can see there are two routes you can take coming from the South Rim–Bright Angel Trail or South Kaibab Trail.

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The first day, we went from South Kaibab Trail to North Kaibab Trail with a pit stop at Ribbon Falls and it took us roughly 11 hours. The second day, we went from North Kaibab up through Bright Angel Trail and it took us around 9 hours.

The first day is “hardest” because going up to the North Rim is brutal. The second day is difficult because going up Bright Angel Trail leaves you exposed to the sun for hours. The whole thing is an awesome sufferfest.

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We did NOT double cross on the same day, lol!

Where We Slept 

There is a nice lodge/motel at the South Rim near the entrance to Bright Angel Trail. We stayed there Saturday night before we started the first day Sunday morning. The rooms were like a regular motel and very comfortable. They had a “cafeteria” type-esque place to eat with different types of food–Mexican, Pasta, Grilled.

At the North Rim, we stayed at a little cabin at the Grand Canyon Lodge. They have a restaurant where you can eat and also a smaller “deli”. We ate at the deli.

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The above picture is a lounge area where you can see the views of the Canyon. There’s also an outside deck:

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I would totally recommend visiting this place if you just want to “see” the Canyon and not actually go inside it, lol. You do have to make reservations if you want to eat in the restaurant though; the deli you can just walk in. You also don’t need to be staying at the lodge if you want to eat.

Okay, that’s enough of the “boring” stuff. I’ll whip up the awesome details/pictures of the actual crossing here in the next couple of days.

If you want a sneak peek of pics, follow my Insta 😀

Thanks for following my journey!! ❤ , helly