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Grand Canyon...again

Early morning light as the descent begins

When travelling in the US in June of this year, I had yet another opportunity to run to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and return - my third time.  I feel very lucky, as an Australian living on the other side of the world, to have had so many chances to run in such a spectacular environment.

Reaching the Colorado River

The two previous times, I have visited the Canyon in the depths of winter and have had to deal with snow and ice at the higher elevations, but this time I was there in the early summer and had to deal with high temperatures.  (I heard later that a Japanese tourist had died from heat exhaustion on the same trail the previous day.)

Encountering a mule train on the ascent

Knowing it was going to be hot, I left just before dawn to jog the 3km to the Bright Angel Trailhead, and began my descent in the early light.  It's hard to describe how spectacular the scenery is.  There are overlapping canyon walls receding into the far distance, all becoming more luminescent as the sun rises.  Far below, the Colorado River runs out of sight in the seemingly bottomless canyon.  Of course, you can't run looking at the scenery because one misstep could send you over one of the sheer drops ever present to one side or the other as the trail switch-backs down into the abyss.  Instead, I stopped briefly and frequently to take it all in.

Halfway up the South Kaibab Trail

It wasn't cool, and by the time I reached the river 16km and just over two hours into the run, it was starting to get warm.  A few kilometres later after crossing the river on a high suspension bridge, I refilled my Camelbak with water at the small "ranch" there catering for campers and overnight lodgers, recrossed the river on another bridge and began what I knew would be a tough climb up the South Kaibab Trail.  I was hoping to run as much as possible, but as it got warmer I found it harder and my pace slowed.  There was very little running going on by the time I got to the top in hot conditions and the flattish 3km along the rim back to our motel room was a real grind.  My time was 5:50, a little faster than the last time I ran, but a lot slower than the first.

A spectator at the top of the climb

One day, I hope to run from "rim to rim" which will take some organisation, since the road distance between the two is 340km, though I did notice that there is a daily bus between the two in summer.....hmmmm!

I joined my regular Tuesday morning Trotters friends for their usual hilly course this morning.  I warmed up first with a few kilometres and felt very lethargic, but gradually got going.  I ran alright, but could feel my legs tying up on the hill climbs with fatigue from Sunday.  Otherwise, no apparent harm done by Sunday's run.