A-Hiking We Will Go!!!! Off to the Grand Canyon!!!!

I’ve been a little MIA from the blog-o-sphere as I’ve been life busy and life has a way of letting you know who’s boss–lest you ever think otherwise…lol!!

But this weekend, I’m off for another adventure. I did the Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim a couple of years ago with my running group and even though it was absolutely amazing, I said I’d never do it again unless my husband decided to do it.

And this year he decided.

It’s fitting that the both times we’ve EVER visited the canyon it’s to cross it both times, lol! And we’re both native Arizonans!

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The photo above depicts the routes we’ll take. The first day will be South to North Rim and then the second day will be North Rim to Bright Angel. Total amounts to around 45 miles.

We don’t plan on running but taking our time as this will be our last visit to the bottom of the Grand Canyon  and we really want to enjoy it. Though a part of me would really like to do this all in ONE day someday (I know, I’m crazy), I’m really just excited to share this adventure with my husband, and if it’s really the last time I do this, I want it to be with him.

So until Friday, it’s all about packing and making sure we have everything we need. I’ll post the amazing details when I return!!

–Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon??

–What “Wonder of the World” is on your list”?? The Pyramids would be really cool. And the Great Wall of China. There’s so many!! 😀

 

 

 

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Ultimate Direction Wink Hydration Pack {Review}

I’ve been complimented and asked several questions on the type of hydration pack I use. I’ve been meaning to write a full review on it for quite some time and today is finally the day. If you’re in the market for a hydration pack, or just like reading about them, here you go!

The hydration pack you’ve seen me use in my pictures is the Ultimate Direction Wink (the Wink is the women’s version, the Wasp is the men’s).

I bought the pack when I was in the middle of training for my first marathon. A lot of my girl friends in my running club have the Wink and raved about it–knowing I’d also be trekking the Canyon, I figured it’d be a great purchase.

When my marathon came, I went back and forth a million times on whether or not I should run with it. I had trained all the way leading up to the big day and many of my running buddies said I should stick with what I had trained with, so I did. In retrospect, I think I would have done things differently. By mile 18, my shoulders ached and were slumping forward (of course, this isn’t only because of the pack but because I was dying of exhaustion) and all I wanted to do was rip the pack off. When my husband reached me at mile 20, I unclipped it and handed it over. I did feel a lot lighter.

What I recommend: If you want to run your marathon with a pack, I suggest a lighter one with a smaller bladder.

However, I absolutely LOVED the pack when I did the double crossing of the Canyon. Like, I thank all the heavens above I had the Wink.

One of the things we were told in preparation for Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim was that we had to have ample space in our packs for all our gear (food, flashlight, sunscreen, poles, etc. and of course water). The Wink has amazing space. AMAZING.

Canyon ready!

Canyon ready!

When I was training, I’d practice weighing it (by that I mean making it heavy to mimic how it’d be when I crossed the Canyon). Despite it’s weight, it was super comfortable. The straps do not dig in to my shoulders, the pack does not bounce, and it is super easy to refill the water–which I had to do multiple times.

When I crossed the Canyon, I had an orange, four rolled up tortillas, a bag of pecans, a bag of beef jerky, 1 Honey Stinger waffle, a bag of Oreo cookies, 2 Gu packs, a bag of salt tablets, sunscreen, a flashlight, Chapstick, my phone, hair ties, bobby pins, band aids, my EPI pen, a towel, a jacket, a walkie talkie, and my poles. Oh, and with the reservoir filled up to the 70 oz mark.

Whew! But everything fit perfectly and I was actually super comfortable!

With my poles attached to my pack

With my poles attached to my pack

 

at the finish line of the Canyon :)

at the finish line of the Canyon 🙂 45 hours of wearing the pack

I used it for when I did the Adrenaline 27k Night Run and it worked perfect for that race. I was really glad I had it then too.

Adrenaline 27k

Adrenaline 27k

And I also used it this past Sunday for our under 3 mile hike up Camelback Mountain. In this instance, since it was a strict hike and no running, I didn’t mind using it at all for this short of distance. Loved it!

Sunday's #RunEatTweetAZ hike

Sunday’s #RunEatTweetAZ hike

In short, here’s a PRO/CON rundown:

Pros:

  • Large reservoir of 70 oz/2 L
  • Very, very comfortable (designed for the women’s body)
  • 4 front pockets for easy access (this was a big plus for me because I didn’t have to keep taking it off for items I needed often)
  • Simple refuel process (another major plus)
  • Does not bounce
  • A lot of storage space (there are 3 main zippers–a small one for an ID and money, a large one that holds the bulk of your stuff, and side zipper for extra storage)
  • Easy to maintain care

Possible Cons:

  • I think it’s best for longer runs where there might be a shortage of fueling stations. A smaller pack is ideal for distances shorter than 15 miles in my opinion.
  • The velcro clip that attaches to the tube fell off relatively quickly. I just tucked the tube under one of the front straps and went about my way with zero problems (like in the last pic).

I hope you’ve found this review helpful! Let me know if you have any more questions about it 🙂

Do you/have you run with a hydration pack?

Ultimate Direction did not compensate me in any way for the write up of this review. I purchased the Wink and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own. 

Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim Recap Part II

If you missed day one of the Canyon in which I crossed the South Rim to the North Rim, check it out here.

As a refresher of what I had just done, I started at the South Rim and ended at North Kaibab. The following day, our plans were to cross the Canyon and finish at Bright Angel.

Day 1: South Kaibab to North Kaibab. Day 2: North Kaibab to Bright Angel.

Day 1: South Kaibab to North Kaibab. Day 2: North Kaibab to Bright Angel.

When I got to the top of the North Rim, I was a zombie. No really, I was a walking zombie. I was so exhausted, dirty, hungry, sore, exhausted, and exhausted. And sore. Really, really sore. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long for a ride back to the lodge where I could shower, eat, and collapse into bed.

Any place you touched me, you’d inflict pain. I really couldn’t think of any place that did not hurt. Walking hurt. Sitting hurt. Eating hurt. I think even blinking hurt. I ate my dinner chatting with my buddies but in my head I was thinking about what I was going to do. Would I cross again the next day?

I called my husband.

I gave him a brief overview of the day and described how I felt. All things considering, I had done well. I had finished around the time I’d expected. I had had enough food. I didn’t injure myself. I was just normally fatigued. What was expected after crossing a huge canyon in the Arizona heat.

I really wanted to do it. Really, really wanted to do it. I knew mentally, I was capable of crossing again. I knew, or hoped, I was in good enough shape to cross again. The soreness I felt couldn’t get any worse the second time right? Ja!

Once I was back in my room, I re-packed my hydration pack and took out my clothes for the next day. I had made my decision.

Sleeping wasn’t happening. You’d think that after all I’d done, I would immediately pass out but nope. Too sore. In addition, you could hear the winds howling outside. The windows whistling with each gust. My roommate got out of her bed and pulled the curtains to take a look outside. The trees were moving. This definitely was not making us feel better about the next day. A few minutes passed when I whispered to her, “If you just close your eyes, you can make it seem like you’re hearing–”

“A tornado?”

“Well, I was going to say the ocean,” I said, laughing.

We woke up earlier than usual, I think because we hadn’t really slept anyway. On the bus, our leader took a head count of those making the second trek. About half of us were giving it another go.

Jill, Angel, and I decided we’d go across again together. I was so happy that it worked out that way.

If you recall Day 1, towards the end is where we had to really ride the inside of the trail because of the wind. This was what we started with on Day 2. It wasn’t as windy, thankfully, but we still made sure to take our time as the cliffs were pretty scary.

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Drop off to the left.

It was a little past this major danger zone where I’d lost my hat the day before. We joked about how funny it would be if I found it along the trail. But with the winds, I knew there was no way I’d ever see it again.

And then I hear Angel exclaim, “I see it!”

I couldn’t believe it, but there it was, lodged between stones a ways up a cliff. It seemed climbable, and I started to give it a go, but then I decided it was too risky. If I lost my footing, I would slide down and keep on going–it wasn’t worth it.

If you look closely, you can see my black hat with the tiny, white Nike symbol

If you look closely below the dark hole, you can see my black hat with the tiny, white Nike symbol. (Click to enlarge pictures)

We kept moving. Surprisingly, the soreness I had felt before had actually dissipated. As I continued to walk, I wondered if adrenaline or wanting to get to the other side as fast as possible was what was keeping me going. It did seem like we were going faster. To be honest, I think we all just wanted to get the hell out of there at that point. Beautiful views be damned. Lol!

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See that mountain waaaaay over there? All we wanted to do was get there.

There wasn’t a whole lot of talking or picture taking. We stopped to refill our water packs, ate, and moved on. Before I knew it, we were at Phantom Ranch, almost 7 miles in.

I decided another lemonade was in order and I drank every last drop of it. While I really wanted to rest, sitting actually made me feel worse and we all agreed it was best to just keep going. Even though stops after this one would be longer in coming with the next big one 4.7 miles away, I knew the faster we walked, the faster we’d get there.

While Day 1 we battled winds, Day 2 we battled heat. We could feel it as soon as we stepped out of the shade onto the trail. Going the opposite way this time around also meant being exposed more. We knew this but again, nothing can really prepare you for it.

At an open creek, we stopped to dip our shirts to cool off. By this time, we were at the bottom and I told Jill and Angel that it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. Like if someone had just dropped us off in the desert and were were trying to find our way out. I might have been hallucinating at that point lol.

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Relishing the shade.

We kept walking and then we reached one of top spots I’d been excited for–the see through bridge that takes you over the river.

View from afar

View from afar

 

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It was pretty cool. Scary too because as you walked, the bridge would squeak with each step. Def not for anyone who fears heights. In fact, R2R2R is absolutely not for someone afraid of heights. I’m not, and there were still moments where I thought I’d have a panic attack. Mostly the day before when we had cliffs + 30 mph winds.

Like I mentioned earlier, we didn’t stop a whole lot to take pictures. We were seriously on a mission to get to the other side. Plus, it was so stinkin’ hot that we just wanted to keep moving. Stopping meant melting.

Before I knew it, we reached Devil’s Corkscrew–the winding uphill of switchbacks. Basically, hell.

I had no idea where my energy was coming from, but I was attacking that Devil with each step. I might have actually been snailing, but in my head I was in an intense battle with that trail–and I was winning.

At the top. Looking down at the Devil.

At the top. Looking down at the Devil.

We were getting close to Indian Gardens which was our next big stop where we’d eat, use the bathroom, refill our packs, and rest. Finally.

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The sign under the temperature reads, “This is your brain on sun.” (click to enlarge picture)

Indian Gardens meant that we were 4.8 miles away. But we knew that that really didn’t mean much. We were still hours til the end.

But we kept trucking. We had a steady pace and I felt good. I was hot, and that was my biggest complaint, but my body was cooperating with me and I was able to keep up with Angel and Jill. Since the day before, Jill kept reminding us to eat, drink, and take salt. I think it made her feel better to take care of us and by the end of the trip, she was Mama Jill to us 🙂

Unlike last time, we stayed together to the end. When we were near the top, we turned around and there was the other side. The other side, the starting point, where that morning we had taken a picture of the mountain we were now standing on. Our goal–reached 23.5 miles and 10 hours later.

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We started the last climb and could hear our group cheering us on. Angel said from behind, “Let’s run it in!” And we did.

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Jill in front, me in pink, and Angel in red–finishing strong.

I did it!

I did it!

Accomplishing something you never knew you were capable of doing is life-changing. My life is changed having crossed the canyon. R2R2R is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was tested in so many ways, physically, mentally, emotionally–and it was those tests that made me climb up the mountain a different person. Many times during the hike, I would become emotional at the fact that I was doing something so incredible, seriously, something hard to believe. But I did it. I did it twice. I don’t know if it’s a 5k, a marathon, an ultra, or whatever, but doing something challenging, something you’re scared of, something you say you’ll never do–those are the things that you need to be doing.

 

Thank you so much for reading and following my running journey! Your interest and comments make this experience even more special.

❤ helly