There are people who visit the Grand Canyon, and then there are people who run across the Grand Canyon and back again. There’s even a name for it: R2R2R, shorthand for Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim. It involves running, walking or hiking from one side of the Canyon (usually the South Rim) to the other and then back again—all in the same day! Sure, the majestic beauty of the place beats the view from the back of a treadmill, but the trek is still a significant challenge. We caught up with Teva ambassador Scott DeVore, who just finished a R2R2R run, to talk training, pipe dreams, and mutual suffering (oh, and a few helpful tips for your next epic run—whether it’s across a canyon or just down the street).
How did you train for this beast?
The specific training started on my birthday in mid-August, when I set out to run four hours and 6,000 vertical feet in our front country trails. Every weekend after, I averaged between 20-30 miles (with about 6,000 feet average gain) in the front-country and backcountry trails of Santa Barbara. I sprinkled in a few mid-week trail runs that were a max of 90 minutes, and made sure to rest and recover well after my long runs to be able to repeat the effort weekend after weekend. Knowing my body can’t take heavy mileage, I was extremely cautious ramping up too fast or running miles just for the sake of it. Nothing beats you up more or prepares you better than the Santa Barbara trail network, so that was my focus.
Who was in your run group and how did the group hold up?
My inspiration for the run came from a large group of friends who did R2R2R in April, and with whom I share trails with every weekend. At the time, 20 miles, let alone 46, was a pipe dream for me. But a new guy in town, Mark Hartell, who started running with us, let me know he was going to run the Grand Canyon in November to celebrate his 50th birthday, and so it began. Mark is a highly accomplished ultra runner, with multiple top 10 Western States finishes, and a Hard Rock 100 winner…so he was my “Yoda” for this journey. I was able to convince another close friend, Steve Harding, to join me as well. Steve, like Mark, is an accomplished ultra runner and a master’s national x-country champion, making me the newbie to this experience. We all ran together for the first half. Steve needed a little “pep talk” on top of the North Rim, as he wasn’t feeling well and talking of taking a nap, which was not an option. But we ran down the hill together and he rallied like a champ. We all finished under 12 hours, and the saying the “best of friends are made through mutual suffering” rang more true than ever when we were done.
What are the essential pieces of gear that you brought with you?
• Hoka One One Stinson Trail Shoes: These saved my knees…like running on clouds.
• Nathan 2L Hydration Pack: Essential for food storage, carrying water, random pockets for “stuff.”
• Head Lamp: You start in the dark, and you’re running along a cliff for seven miles, so make sure it works and has fresh batteries!
• Advil + Salt Tablets: I had a nice “cocktail” every 90 minutes, a 1:1 mixture with water.
• Ultimate Direction Hand Held Water Bottle + Nuun Tablets: I used one hand held bottle for electrolyte replenishment every water stop.
• GoPro Hero 3: To document the most epic run.
• Food: Gu Chomps (six packs), Jelly Beans (six packs), Honey Stinger Waffles (two), PB&J (one sandwich), and beef jerky (one pack).
• Teva Originals for kicking it around camp before and after the run.
• Good friends and a clear head: It’s a long day, so make sure you are with people you like and who care for your well being. Also make sure to run alone and absorb some of the magic that 1.7 Billion years of geology provides.
How did you manage your hydration?
Depending on time of year, water is shut off at numerous points along the route. Be sure to talk to a ranger before you set off to determine exactly where water is available. I made it a priority to finish my 16oz electrolyte bottle before each stop (eight total) to prevent my body from shutting down (I’ve been known to get hyponatremic, and it’s never fun). My 2L of water on my back was filled up only three times. Everyone said the lemonade at Phantom Ranch is a must, and at mile 35, we hit that hard. It was delicious, and with a fresh pack of peanut M&Ms, it sent me to a flying start to the final nine mile climb back home.
What was the scariest part?
The day before…seeing the canyon for the first time. It’s way bigger than you imagine, and the horizon (aka North Rim) is a far piece!
The most beautiful part?
The seven miles between the Colorado River and the left turn up to the North Rim. You spend the majority of this flat, smooth trail in a tiny “Box Canyon” next to the beautiful Bright Angel Creek. The color of the rock, the serenity, the sounds of the river and the enormity of the canyon walls on top of you are incredible. Best piece of trail I’ve ever run.
The most memorable part?
Finishing. I wanted to break 11 hours, and I got competitive with myself. As easy as it would be to walk home, I got in a mental state that I hadn’t reached since my years competing in triathlons. Five thousand feet vertical in seven miles brought me back to a long lost yet familiar pain, and a sense of accomplishment that sparked a ton of emotion for me at the top. It was a long journey to that point and a day I’ll never forget.
The hardest part?
On the climb up to the North Rim, Mark was explaining to me the layers of rock. He said once we climbed out of the red, pink, orange, and yellow rock layers and reached the “white rock” we were within 1,000 vertical feet of the top. Unfortunately the “white rock” is the steepest rock, and I cursed it heavily on both rims!
What would you do differently for the next time?
Share it with more people and get a hotel room. The run was challenging enough; camping in 20-degree weather was insult to injury.
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