The original article can be found at Austin Fit Magazine
Thousands of people descend and ascend the famous Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trails of the Grand Canyon annually. While it’s not easy, there is one unofficial trek reserved for the crazy: a one-day Rim-to-rim-to-rim Crossing.
While it’s not an official event, conquering rim-to-rim-to-rim has certainly become a popular thing among the endurance world. In one day, participants traverse one rim of the Grand Canyon (usually the south to the north, and then back to the south rim) and scaling over 10,500 feet of elevation change each way. Depending on the trails taken, a typical rim-to-rim-to-rim trek is 46-48 miles, and can take anywhere from 12-24 hours depending on fitness level, experience, and amount of time running relative to hiking.
On May 4, a group of 25 local Austinites with an array of athletic backgrounds including mountain bikers, adventure racers, runners, and triathletes, converge at the Grand Canyon to complete the hike after training in our wonderful city of Austin.
An event of this magnitude requires months of physical training and preparation. While Austin doesn’t have the elevation, there are plenty of hills and trails. Much of the training for this event consisted with weekly informal runs at popular outdoor training sites including River Place Nature Trail, The Hill of Life, the steps at Mt. Bonnell, and Ladera Norte led by Austin athlete and three-time rim-to-rim-to-rim veteran, John Geissinger. As well as Hill of Life repeats for 4-5 hour durations, preparing the group for the long and steep descents of the Grand Canyon.
A large portion of training also consists of working on balance, hip mobility, and breathing work.
“I focus on doing unique movements where I’m constantly thinking about what muscles are firing/relaxing, what my breathing is like, and how my weight is shifting,” says ultra-runner and group member, Mallory Brooks. “It helps immensely when getting fatigued on long runs.”
In addition to mobility, strength and power are also key components for fatigue and injury prevention. Hyperwear (an Austin-based fitness company that makes weighted vests) were extremely useful on hill climbs to build stamina and simulate the weight of a full day pack.
There is also a major difference with hiking than with most other endurance events. Save for a few water spigots along portions of the trail, there are no fully-stocked aid stations complete with volunteers handing out multiple snacks and drinks to refuel, and lending a few words of encouragement as well. For this adventure you’re completely on your own, packing and carrying your own food, gear, and medical supplies, and other hikers serving as volunteers who tender an encouraging word or spare a snack if you’re in need.
You carry everything on your back, including at least two liters of water to start and other necessities like first aid kits, rain gear, headlamps, chapstick, toilet paper, hiking poles and sunscreen. Everyone has their own formula for nutrition success, typically including an assortment of foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, gels, chips, fruit, jerky, liquid calories, gum and anything else you think you might need in the span of 24 hours.
“I wanted to do this as an ongoing search to find the best me,” says Jennifer Dale, a member of the group.
Hiking the entire Grand Canyon is like living a lifetime in a day. There are moments of bliss, tears, laughter, dizziness, and despair. There are moments when you want to stay hidden in the canyon forever, wrapped in the magnanimous arms of Mother Nature. Then, there are periods where all you can think about is getting out of the mile-deep hole that you voluntarily lowered yourself into. While the trek is daunting, and even frightening, the feeling of accomplishment is like no other.