She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts. ~George Eliot
Grief is a suffocating weed. It wraps two gnarled hands around your throat and squeezes until you are breathless, and empty. In order to survive you cry out to the universe for help, and to your amazement she answers with compassion.
She sends you friends and angels. She sends you support and comfort. She sends you music and poetry. She sends you on a journey to the Grand Canyon to renew your spirit.
Running Rim2Rim2Rim was so much more than another “ultra” run for me. It was a team effort, a lesson in patience, and a healing experience.
Before heading out, Fred, Char, Marlee and I decided that we were going to stick together since this was not a race and we were in no hurry- and that proved to be the right decision more than once.
We left the South Rim at 3:30 a.m. with our flashlights in tow. Honestly, I was glad that I couldn’t see where I was going since I have had issues with a fear of heights in the past.
We took our time hurdling the huge erosion posts down and in what felt like no time, left Indian Garden campground as the sun was coming up. The beauty of the canyon was breathtaking, and with every turn we took you could hear someone around you saying “wow”.
The trip down to the bridge took us 3 hours, and we decided that “less picture taking” was probably in order since that meant we were on a “24 hour pace”. We began to run and walk with more purpose, filling our bottles and eating both at Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood Campground. We were still feeling pretty good, and settled in for the 7 mile hike up the Canyon.
Shortly after, Char decided that she was going to turn around and wait for us back at Cottonwood, and you will see later that was a choice that we all would be grateful for.
The climb to the North Rim was tough, but I am pretty good at putting these glutes in motion and was actually looking forward to the challenge of the climb since I will have similar elevation at Big Horn. I was also looking forward to a promised “lunch” at the top. It turns out that the only lunch at the top was us! The deerflies up there were horrible! Swarms of them! You couldn’t stop for a minute without slapping 20 of them. There goes my break. Another runner mentioned that he was going to fill his bottle with snow- and that was brilliant. That saved me, as it was getting hot and I was drinking all of the 140 oz I was carrying until we got back to Cottonwood.
After having a little mental “pity party” for myself over the lack of break, I was hanging on to Marlee and Fred who were hauling ass down the North Rim. I sucked in my fear of falling to my death and went with them. This part was fun. We arrived back at Cottonwood on good pace, and after refilling and a break, we all set off back to Phantom Ranch.
This is where I’m pretty sure that things got ugly for a lot of people. I know they did for me. It was REALLY hot with little shade, and at one point on this stretch I just had to sit down to figure out what was going on. Thanks to patient Fred who encouraged me to take another GU, drink more, and handed me an electrolyte pill. The section from Cottonwood to Phantom Ranch was one of my worst, with periods of more walking than running, and by the time I got to PR, I knew I needed to try something else. Everyone had been talking about the “fantastic” lemonade at the ranch, and I was pretty sure that would do the trick.
Damn it if the store at Phantom Ranch wasn’t CLOSED. I would have paid $20.00 for a coke, but there was none to be found so after a trip to the bathroom, I forced down 2 full bottles of water, another Gu and another E cap and waddled out of there. Luckily, this worked, and I was good to go again because like the sign says, “Going down is optional. Going up is not.”
Fred and I caught up with Marlee and Char by the river and it was Marlee’s turn to bonk. So we worked as a team to revive her and Char drug all of our butts into Indian Garden again. No one gets left behind.
It’s dark. Again. Fred predicts that it is going to take us 3 hours to go up the 4.5 miles to the top, and damn if he wasn’t right. Remember those erosion bars I mentioned in the beginning? They felt like we were climbing over logs. We all keep reminding ourselves to stay away from the edge as our legs are wobbly and unpredictable. But in all this, I am happy and excited. It’s hard, it sucks, I’m tired…but we are going to make it, and I keep moving forward, and keep moving forward, and keep moving forward.
I reach the top and say out loud- “oh my God. I did it.” I hear a smiling voice say “congratulations!”
It is actually another runner who is waiting at the top for his friend, but in my mind I know it is Mike, and I give him a mental high five.
I am so grateful for friends like Fred, Char and Marlee. We laughed, we cried (well, I cried, but that’s another story) and together we SURVIVED! I am thankful to my coach Joe, and all of the other runners who provided support out on the trails. I am genuinely grateful to God for giving me a capable strong body, and for letting me experience such a beautiful place.
R2R2R is no joke, but what doesn’t break you, makes you stronger.
On to Big Horn…….