Grand Canyon Rim to Rim

A few years ago, I went with my mom to see the Grand Canyon. We went on a chilly January day and looked down at it from the South Rim, spent half an hour walking around and then left. I knew then that I’d be back to explore it, not just look at it from the edge.

During our van trip, Callum and I had big Grand Canyon plans, we were going to spend a week camping at the rim and exploring below the rim. Then there was a snow storm and the 50 miles of road leading to the Grand Canyon were closed. We waited two weeks for the road to open but eventually we had to go to Texas so I could run the Lone Star 100.

When we got back to Toronto in April, I told my Phoenix friends (Krystin and Karl) about wanting to run the Grand Canyon from rim to rim to rim (about 50 miles and 12,000 ft, of climbing). Krystin quickly said that she and Karl would run it with us, whenever we wanted to go to Phoenix. A week later we booked plane tickets to Phoenix for late September.

During the summer, Krystin got a stress fracture, Callum had a foot injury and I think Karl had some sort of injury as well. We decided that we would pull back and do rim to rim this trip and then do R3 another time when everyone could be properly trained.

On Wednesday, Callum and I woke up at 3:30am to get to the airport for our 6:15am flight to Philadelphia. When we got to the airport, we found out that the flight had been pushed back so we could have slept until 5am! The rest the travel was long but uneventful (1 hour plane to Philadelphia, 2 hour layover, 5 hour flight to Phoenix). Krystin and Karl picked us up from the airport and we were off!!

Krystin and Karl surprised us with Rim to Rim buffs and Grand Canyon shirts (they’re the best!). After a couple last minute errands, we started our drive north. We got to the Canyon around 6:30pm (pacific time so we’d been up for 18 hours!). We went to go watch the sunset over the Canyon, ate a quick dinner at the canteen and then went back to our room to organize for the next morning.

We went to bed around 9:30 but when the alarm went off at 3:30am for our 4am departure, I was surprisingly awake. We ate oatmeal, put on too many clothes and then headed out in the pitch dark to the Canyon. We stayed 1.5km from the Bright Angel Trailhead so we walked over and it was go time.

We stopped a couple times for various things in the first hour and thankfully we took a minute to turn off our headlamps and look at the stars because they were incredible. We couldn’t see anything but the person ahead of us and the giant black abyss to our side for most of the first hour and a half. We descended for what felt like forever! It’s also not smooth sailing because of the stairs that have been built into the trail so it screws up your cadence.

Around 5:45am it started to get bright enough that we could turn off our headlamps. It was great to finally be able to see what’s around and get to see the Canyon from inside.

After a lot of descending, we got to the Colorado River and Phantom Ranch. I was so excited to see the Colorado River, I have wanted to cross that bridge to Phantom Ranch for a long, long time. We stopped for a while and took pictures on the bridge before filling up our water at Phantom Ranch. We were almost half way now and everyone was super excited about how beautiful the Canyon was.

From Phantom Ranch, there a long stretch where you’re running on fairly flat ground beside a river. It’s beautiful and lush! It’s also long and your watch doesn’t work so we never really knew how much farther anything was. We took a snack break on a bridge and just sat there for a while taking in being in the Canyon. Our plan was always to take our time and enjoy it especially since we were only going one direction.

We made really great time for the first 30ish km. Krystin had only run a couple times in the previous 3 months because of her stress fracture so by 30km, we decided to hike the rest. Not too long after that you start going up and up and up. We knew it would eventually get tough but I didn’t know the toughest part would be not knowing how far we were from anything. The Canyon has a way of making a mile seem like forever.

We knew we needed to get to Supai Tunnel and we would be just under 2 miles from the North Rim. The problem was getting to the tunnel! We asked every hiker we saw how far we were from the North Rim and for over two hours, every single person told us that we were 3 miles away. Krystin really was hurting, we were in the direct sunlight and it felt like we had been climbing for forever. This was definitely the toughest part of the day.

Eventually we got to Supai Tunnel and filled up our water and started the final stretch. When I’m this close to the end, I’m fairly good at blocking everything out and just hiking as fast as possible. So that’s what I did, I just went for it and then I would wait a few minutes until I could see Callum and I’d take off again. When I got close to the top, I stopped waiting and just out 100% of my focus on getting out of the Canyon. It was such a relief to make it to the North Kaibab trailhead! When everyone got there, it was an amazing moment, we had done it! It wasn’t speedy but it was a great day in the Canyon.

We still had to get to the North Rim Lodge to catch the shuttle 1.5 hours later. Thankfully an older couple came over to talk to us about our run and volunteered to drive us the 2 miles to the lodge.

If there’s one take away I have from this whole experience, it is how amazing it is to go on an adventure like this when everyone is just excited to be there. No matter how hard the run got, we just kept talking about how amazing the Canyon is and it is!

The entire run was 40-44km (we’re not really sure) and about 6,000 ft. of climbing but I’d say it’s harder than any 50k race I’ve ever done. I think I’ll be back eventually to do R2R2R but for now, I’m just happy I got to spend an entire day in the Canyon and a pretty incredible 3 days in Arizona!

Happy running!

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Race Report: Lone Star 100km pt. 2

I was going to write this post as one long race review but then it started to get a little out of control so I’m breaking it into two parts. The race was two 50ish km loops so below is a recap of  loop 2 (55-110km). You should read pt.1 first, if you haven’t!


Eventually, I got the start/finish with Callum, my mom and Anna waiting for me. My plan had been to change all my clothes at this point so I wouldn’t be in wet clothes all night but it turned out that because of how hot it was, I wasn’t very sweaty. I changed my shirt, put a jacket in my pack and got some food. After not too long Callum and I were off. While I was in the AS, the race director, Rob, came over to me to say that it was record breaking heat and it would be smart to walk until the sunset. There were also tons of people dropping out!

Despite Callum’s promise that he’d definitely not be sick by Saturday (ha!), as we headed out he told me that he was feeling 70-80% better. We walked for a long time and then when we got back to the never ending desert, we started running. The problem was that because of all the rocks, you couldn’t run the downhills. My feet were also pretty destroyed from kicking so many rocks by this point!

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Mentally, having Callum with me was a big lift. We walked/ran our way to the west aid station. I was having a tough time again by then. It was getting dark and I was feeling like I’d be out in the desert forever! I kept doing the math about how fast we were going and how much longer that meant we had to go, this is always a bad idea! We sat for a few minutes in the AS, Callum insisted that I put my jacket on (this was a good call) and I had some mashed potatoes and coke.  After some food, I was feeling a lot better and I knew we had to get out of there before we got too comfortable.

We were back in the stretch where all the aid stations are really spread out so besides the relay runner that passed us, we didn’t see anyone again for hours. By the time we were around 75km, I was feeling pretty good but ironically Callum’s cold had gotten to him and he couldn’t run very far without stopping to cough. We were mostly walking at the point and it became clear that Callum should not be running in the desert all night and wasn’t going to be able to pace the whole loop. We started to brainstorm what to do because where we were running was super remote. We decided that we’d get to the east AS and see if could get picked up from there.

Eventually, we got to the east AS and I would have been happy to just sit in the chair in the AS forever. I’m not sure whether this was purposefully but the AS chairs were outside of the tent so when you sat, you were in the wind which was really cold. Good incentive to get up and keep moving!

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It was clear that it didn’t make sense for Callum to stay there so he decided to tough it out to the next AS which was close to the start/finish. The next 9-10km were a struggle. Callum couldn’t run and was sounding worse all the time so we struggled along. My sense of time was completely gone by now and it seemed like whenever I finished eating I’d be time to eat again! Callum thankfully forced me to keep eating. I also kept thinking about how much farther I still had to run and most of it alone!

We got to the next AS (around 85km), they had a heater facing the chairs and once I sat down I would have been happy to stay there. From this point, you climb the mountain, get the bracelet and then go past this AS to the start/finish for a final loop. Because they had a heater and hot food, we decided that Callum would stay there while I climbed the mountain and then we’d go back to the start/finish together.

At this point, I was so ready to be done running! I told Callum and the AS volunteer that I would go up and be down the mountain in an hour. The AS volunteer told me that most people had been taking around 2 hours to go up and down. I said that I had done it in an hour this morning and I would do it again. This is when I started telling myself that the faster I ran, the faster I would be done and I took off at 11:12pm. I climbed as fast as I could and I kept thinking that I was near the summit and then there would be a turn and more climbing. I was so determined to make it back in around an hour and kept checking my watch. I made it up in 40-45min and then recklessly ran down the loose rocks. I made it back to the AS at 12:27am. I was so proud of myself about how quickly I had managed to make it up and down!

I woke up Callum, got more mashed potatoes and coke and we started to descend into the start/finish where he was going to wait for me to do the final loop. This section of the course is so dangerous, it’s loose rocks and sandy dirt that has zero grip. I would have trouble going down this on fresh legs and at 90+ km in, it was brutal.

We walked into the start/finish AS at 97km and was told that I had to go out again. I was super frustrated about how long the course was but decided that I had to go out and run as much as possible to get it done. Just before 2am I headed out alone for the final loop. There was no one else around once I got into the desert but thankfully there were some runnable sections.

I spent the next two+ hours thinking about how angry I was that this course was long and how if it was really 100km, I would be done! It seemed like every time I got into an aid station, they would tell me that I had to go back out and run more. I spent the entire time with a cup of mashed potatoes in one hand and a water bottle of coke in the other. When there were flat sections to run, I’d just hold them out in front of me.

There’s not much to say about this last part except that it was a struggle. My feet were extremely swollen and blistered, my calf started to seize up in the last hour and I was starving but didn’t feel like eating. And the course kept going FOREVER!

Finally at 4:17 am, after around 110km and 14,000 ft of ascent and descent, I finished! I was the second place female but at that point, all I wanted was a bed and a shower.

This race was trying to be the toughest race in Texas and it probably is. Besides the race being way too long, the race management was fantastic. I have also very rarely have met so many friendly people out on a race course! It was a great race but I probably should have looked a little more closely at what I was getting myself into when I signed up.