Rim to Rim to Rim - Page 4
Around the water station at Phantom Ranch, he revealed that he is still writing the book, and was in the canyon interviewing runners, asking questions about training, motivation, etc. He took my e-mail address and promised to follow-up with pictures and more questions. Tom and Tim also met the guy, so maybe, someday, we'll be featured on the cover.
I was familiar with the way from Phantom Ranch to the South Rim via Bright Angel, having hiked it last summer. I knew it represented the end of downhills, and the beginning of the climb out. What I didn't remember, was how many miles remained. I guessed 10 ... and hoped it was fewer (Note: Actual distance is 9.3 miles).
The final leg of my journey began, symbolically, on the "silver" bridge—the one with see-through grates, allowing you to view the river 60 feet below. The one that bounces with each step. The bridge that the guy with acrophobia hates, which was motivation to get across it quickly.
Once on the other side, I met two nice ladies posing for pictures. I offered to take one of them together, and they happily agreed. Thirty seconds later I was on my way, thankful that I had invested in some good karma.
The first couple miles along the river are runable, so I did my best to keep a slow jog. I soon encountered that nasty stretch of sand. But—unlike last summer when this area bogged us down—the day of heavy rain had packed it down nicely.
The first major pull up the South Rim is a nasty switchback known as The Devil's Corkscrew. It was brutal, and power hiking, rather than running, was the only way to tackle it. But up I went, 1000 feet over 1.5 miles. When it got tough, I reminded myself that nine-year-old Kendall had done this, and in 95-degree heat.
My next bogey was Indian Garden. And, between here and there was an opportunity to do a little more jogging. But, damn, I was getting tired. And, damn, the miles were getting longer.
I passed the cove and waterfall that make up the north end of the Indian Garden and soon arrived at the campground. I made my way to the common area, the trail intersection where travelers rest and meet. For the first time all day, I took a seat. I drank. I snacked. I contemplated staying there for the rest of my life.
A few hikers recognized me from earlier in the day, on the North Rim. They congratulated me on completing my R2R2R crossing. While I appreciated their confidence, I reminded them that I had not yet finished. I still had over four (nearly straight up) miles to the finish.
I mustered a little bit of running out of Indian Garden, but not much. The legs were shot and the spirit was weakening. My lower back—tired of hauling around 10 extra pounds—was screaming and tight. How the hell was I going to climb 4000 feet over four miles in this condition?
But climb I did. And as I did, the sky became darker and the air became colder. Time to put the trash bag back on and pin the ears back. I said a little prayer, thanking God for getting me this far, then thanking Him again for delivering more cold and wet for the hardest part of the day. He acknowledged with a rainbow that was even better than the one from The Wizard of Oz.
I considered leaving my pack behind, but that felt like cheating, and definitely would have been littering. So, instead, I opted to wear it on my chest. I found that, if I did that and walked backwards, it took away the pressure. Unfortunately, this strategy really slowed me down, and was quite dangerous. After 20 minutes, I abandoned this approach, resolving to just deal with the pain.
At last I came upon my next bogey, the three-mile water house. This was an important milestone, as the three-mile waterhouse is actually visible from the South Rim. In reverse, that meant that I could finally see the top, my final destination. And, wow, was it still a long way up there.
Relentless forward progress. Remember, Kendall did this, and she had to take three steps for every one that you take.
I came upon a mother deer and fawn. They were confused, but not scared of me. I'm sure they, like the rainbow, were some sort of sign or metaphor. But, I was done with that stuff. Just get me to the damn rim.
At the 1.5-mile waterhouse, I sat again. I drank and ate that fourth piece of pizza, the last solid food item in my pack. To save my back, I wanted to dump the two liters of water from my Camelbak. But—forever paranoid of dehydration—I wouldn't do that unless I could fill up my handheld. Well, in the day's final insult, I didn't have the strength to open the spigot at the water fountain. Nor did I consider that I could have dumped the Camelbak into the handeld to get around this issue.
I eventually came through the first tunnel, marking .75 mile from the summit. That was when I knew I had it in the bag. Soon I could see the second tunnel and, determined to finish strong, started jogging again. Past the studio. One more turn. ... Now I could hear the announcer. And I saw the marching band. The confetti was falling. And, just like that, the beautiful lady put the medal around my neck.
In reality, I quietly crossed the "finish line" with a random Japanese couple, out for an evening stroll. They knew something was up, because I was running around with my arms in the air. Twelve hours and 35 minutes after we had first jumped off of the South Rim it was accomplished. Years of dreaming, 14-months of training, one near-death experience, and I had done it.
Now all I had to do was walk the half mile back to Maswick Lodge, with a preliminary stop at the front desk. I had brought my room key, but didn't remember my room number. The people in the lodge looked at me a little suspiciously, but were generally cooperative. They told me my room number and even gave me map to help me navigate.
The rest of our crews emerged from the canyon around 6:30 p.m. and the drinks, food and stories flowed long, long into the night.