On May 12th I set out on an epic journey of running the Grand Canyon from South Kaibab -> North Rim -> Bright Angel trail in just over 14 hours.
Read my personal blog post to get the details on my full experience. Here, I ‘m using that experience + my professional expertise to provide some tips and insight for anyone planning their own R2R2R adventure. These are things I think would have helped me feel more prepared going in, as well as complete the run faster and with less fatigue.
I thought the distance would be the most challenging. WRONG! Here are ways I’d advise prepping your body for this run.
- Run stairs. Not just the stair machine, but find the longest set of stairs you can and run them up and down for an hour straight. Get even better prepared and do this at the end of your normal run.
- Practice hurdles. Find a set at a local high school or find something comparable to use. Set one or two on a track and run laps, completing the hurdles on each lap for laps and laps. This will help you lift your legs high when tired to deal with the trail terrain.
- Never hold water while you run? Better get used to how a pack and water bottle feels. Start gearing up for long runs to make sure nothing bounces or rubs.
- Add core, full body, and leg stability workouts to your normal endurance routine.
- Vary your running times. If you only run in the morning, start challenging your body to run in the afternoon, evening, and even in the dark as this run will take most people a full day to complete.
I resisted the urge to take things out of my pack before beginning the run. I didn’t and neither should you.
- You’ll need more gear than you think. Head lamps, first aid, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, camera, phone… even if you plan on doing this as a ‘no frills’ adventure, you never know what could happen while you’re alone miles into the trail and it is best to be prepared.
- Get a good cell phone carrier and pick an emergency contact to keep updated. I ran with T-Mobile. I did not get service at any point during the run. However, several of my group did pick up signal at North Rim and Phantom Ranch using other carriers. Being able to text someone your whereabouts will take the panic and stress away from you and your loved ones.
- Water. More is better. End of story. Bring the largest bladder you can carry and make sure your pack is easily fillable. Many packs require you to empty out gear to get to the bladder. This is a pain and will waste time. Also, the water spigots are rough and difficult to control pressure.
- Trail shoes are a must. The trail is technical. Make sure you have a sturdy pair that is light enough to run in but still offers stability. I did not find gaiters to be necessity. I did not wear them and only stopped to brush one small stone out of my sock.
- Light weight running cap. I can’t stress this enough. If you’re running this anytime when the sun is shining, bring a hat. Your scalp, face, and eyes will thank you. You can also dip it in the river to cool off.
- Make sure your GPS has a long battery life. Most will not survive the full journey.
- Temperatures can vary 40 degrees from top to bottom and from night to midday. You’ll be running through all of this so be prepared with clothing options. I’d suggest dressing cool as you’ll spend the most time in the hottest temps, but make sure to have warm clothes on hand for pre/post run.
Gels alone just won’t do. Be prepared to EAT.
- Practice running on a full stomach.
- Practice eating larger snacks mid run.
- Phantom Ranch offers some snack options and lemonade, so carry cash, however, do not rely on this option as they close throughout the day for camper dinning and you might out of luck.
- Pack nutrient dense options to save weight but still get enough calories. You will likely burn over 5,000 calories completing the run and need be replenishing often. For example, an apple has 80 calories and 21g carbohydrates, a pack of 6 Gatorade chews has 100 calories and 24g carbs and 3 orange slice candy has 150 calories and 37g carbs. Skip the apple, choose the candy. Not great for day to day, but in this case, is the smartest option.
- Choose whole foods. I packed Honey Stinger gels and lot of whole foods. Your stomach will likely get very ill if you try to get by on simple sugars (sport food) alone. Add complex carbs along with small portions of fats and proteins to keep the body satisfied. Macaroons, cookies, brownies, BPJ sandwiches, trail mix, jerky are all good options to supplement gels and chews with.
- The air is hot and dry which will cause you to lose salt quickly. Make sure to bring drink mix and /or electrolyte tablets to enhance hydration.
- Unless you are staying right at the Bright Angel Lodge, you’ll have to commute to your lodging. If you’re running with others, you might be waiting at the top for who knows how long. Depending the time of night you finish, all restaurant and shops might be closed, leaving you alone in a parking lot with no resources. Your body will need food to begin the healing process. Make sure you pack a recovery bag to have in the car. I made sure to have my individual serving pouch of Cocoa Elite on hand. This way, I can just dump it into my water bottle, shake, and consume for optimal and immediate recover.
I hope these suggestions are helpful! Good luck out there!
Lori Nedescu is a Sports Oriented Registered Dietitian. Lori has assisted numerous individuals and mentored several athletic teams. She has helped guide them on how to improve their overall wellness, health, and athletic performance through better nutrition and diet quality. She created The Cadence Kitchen as a platform to provide her expertise to those who wish to change or adjust their lifestyle through fitness, diet and wellness. She is an elite marathoner and a competitive CAT 2 cyclist.
We are happy to have her as a Cocoa Elite Ambassador!