52 miles of running in the Grand Canyon
Saturday May 25: our alarm went off at 2am with temps around 30F/0C, we snoozed for 30 mins staying under the warm blankets in our tent.
We arrived at Bright Angel trail head in the Grand Canyon National Park ready to take on my biggest running challenge to-date well before the sun was awake.
Rim to Rim to Rim - Grand Canyon South Rim to North Rim and back. I was SO nervous.
3:45am we started the steep descent into the canyon with our head lamps on and hand warmers tucked into our gloves. Approximately 50 miles of tough trail was ahead of us.
I had no idea of how challenging the day ahead would be.
I was relying on Alex’s experiences with long trail runs and the belief that anything is possible.
I wanted to prove that I could push myself beyond the limitations I had in my head that held me back for so long. Type 1 diabetes played a huge role in limiting how remote I would let myself go in the past. Today was the day I would let go of that fear.
By 8am we were well into the runnable part of the Canyon where there were some long flat miles. My nerves started to settle and I felt more confident in getting to the North Rim. My BGLs were stubbornly high even after multiple microdoses of insulin through my pump. I would end up giving 2 unit injections of insulin throughout the day switching my basal rates on and off trying to get in enough fuel without spiking while giving some insulin but not too much that I’d drop too low. Even with my best efforts I experienced multiple high and low bgls. This was part of my journey of running with type 1 diabetes. Even though I was accustomed to it, sometimes the frustration got to me still. I’d share my self anger with Alex and he patiently listened and gave me sound advice.
At this moment the day was still cool and the sun was still rising and I felt in a happy flow.
What lay ahead was unknown but in this moment surrounded by nature bigger than anything I’d ever seen I was content.
My favorite part of the day was running 🏃🏻♀️ 🏃🏽 through the middle of the canyon in the early morning. This was a long stretch of about 12-13 miles of relatively flat terrain before we began the long climb up North Kaibab. The climb is where the hiking poles came out and really helped!
I am not the strongest climber so having extra support kept me moving at a moderate speed.
These photos where around 10am when we were climbing up the North Rim. A little behind the schedule in my head but feeling like we were keeping a steady pace. 5 hours in I had only consumed 1 gel because of my stubborn high bgls. Definitely not my fueling plan. I managed to eat another 500 calories as we approached North Kaibab after taking on a lot more insulin than I thought I would need. The views climbing the North Rim where beyond what any photo can show. 🏜🤩♥️ ... I was still feeling good and the goal was to get the the top of North Rim to officially make it half way!
North Rim Trailhead - the halfway point. Some quick easy steps so we didn’t spend too much time at the top… Refill water 💧 eat some dark chocolate covered almonds 😋 and begin the descent down back into the canyon 🏜🏃🏽🏃🏻♀️
It was a hot afternoon heading back down into the Canyon from North Rim. The long exposed stretch before we got to the Ranch was tough. I was torn between walking in the heat 🏜 or pushing through to get to the water 💧 and shade as quickly as possible! I had bad blisters on my toes and felt like my run had turned into a fast hobble. My legs did not want to move fast on the uphill 😬 ... I’d find a shaded spot in the distance and work towards getting there. A spot out of the sun made all the difference.
The ranch was a haven for the 5 minutes we were there! Trying to cool down my core body temp was the goal and knowing we would be coming into cooler weather for the rest of the run 🏃🏻♀️ 🏃🏽 kept me going even though my body was sore and tired.
Along the way we stopped and talked to a few people, spending a little more time than I wanted doing that but it was a nice distraction to hear other people’s experiences in this magical place. We stopped at one of the small waterfalls to cool down and someone asked me “Are you type 1 diabetic?” - this lit up my eyes. It was a fellow type 1 who was hiking with a couple of friends, another who also had type 1.
I asked for a mandatory photo - shared my knowledge of looping and CGM advice and said goodbye! We had to keep moving.
Climbing back out of the canyon up Bright Angel Trail as we approached the last 5 miles I was at my lowest point of the day. I was tired, sore and ready to quit.
In reality I knew the only way out was up. Tears started to well in my eyes and I told Alex I didn’t think I could do the climb. He softly reassured me to keep putting one foot in front of the other and we’d make it no matter how long it took.
The 4-mile climb was the longest, toughest climb of my life. The sun was setting and I just focused on going up even though every step felt like forever... we passed many people which made me feel like we were making time although we were death marching 40 min miles at this stage... we made it to the top of Bright Angel trailhead just past 9pm... I had tears in my eyes again but those of relief and achievement 🏃🏽🏜🏃🏻♀️♥️ ... what an incredible 17-hr journey in the Grand Canyon ⛰
Nature seems to find a way to build you up, give you strength and humble you at the same time. This is what I love about spending time outdoors and doing activities that are more challenging than you think you can achieve. Grand Canyon was a special day that made me realize I can go further than I thought possible.
Now to choose our next adventure!