Canada150 Ultramarathon Relay

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Montreal to Ottawa – July 1/17

Who: 7 teams, 57 runners
What: 150KM Ultramarathon Relay
Where: Montreal to Ottawa
When: July 1, 2017
Why: To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, sharing community spirit

We will be hosting a self-supported 150KM Ultramarathon relay on July 1, 2017, as a celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday!

We have brought together 7 teams of 57 runners, united on this journey from Montreal to Ottawa. The motivation behind the Canada 150 was fueled by Kevin’s desire to bring together the run community, in an event that would allow runners of all levels and abilities to accomplish something great together. Sometimes a race distance can be daunting and not possible for one individual to complete alone, so the team format brings together a group of individuals to accomplish great things together.

Each of the runners selected for the Canada 150 represent the diversity of the growing Montreal run community, and together in teams, they will work in unison to cover the distance of this self-supported relay. The segments have been carefully planned to offer a variety of distances and speeds, while keeping the runners sync’d in a group effort.  The shortest distance is 7.2K, with the longest being 15.7K. Speeds will vary from 9-12K/h with the total run time being 15 hours.

Departing from Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue on the West Island of Montreal, the runners will make their way to Ottawa utilizing the Prescott-Russel Recreational Trail, traversing through the small towns and communities along the way. Follow along on our Instagram and Twitter feeds as we post throughout the day on July 1st!

Click here to view our video preview of the event!

We are estimating our time-line as follows:
5:00 AM – Pedestrian Bridge Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue
6:00 AM – Vaudreuil
7:00 AM – Hudson
8:15 AM – Rigaud
9:40 AM – St-Eugene Pavilion
11:10 AM – VanKleek Hill Pavilion
12:25 PM – Caledonia Springs
1:55 PM – Plantegenet Pavilion
2:55 PM – Boudreau Road
3:55 PM – Hammond Pavilion
4:50 PM – Dunning Road
5:40 PM – Milton Road
6:40 PM -Anderson Raod
7:45 PM – Aviation Museum

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Dream Big.

When we became run ambassadors for lululemon in October 2012, we didn’t realize the impact it would have on our lives, nor the path it would take us on.  Initially, we thought we’d simply be product testing some run shorts made by a company famous for their black-stretchy-pants –  instead, we got a whole lot more than anticipated.

Our vision was to give back to the community – to connect with others and help them overcome fears and courageously take on their dreams. To inspire 10 people, in hopes that they would then go out and inspire 10 more. Surprisingly, what happened as this process unfolded was that we gained a deeper understanding of ourselves – the meaning of gratitude and compassion. We learned how to create a long-term vision and set the short-term goals that would guide us.  Initially this was overwhelming, but as we began getting comfortable envisioning the future, it became easier to define what that might look like.  Through community connections and run events, photo shoots and ambassador summits, as we stretched out on yoga mats and took time to breathe, we learned to challenge ourselves – to think big, then BIGGER, then small, then SMALLER.

At the same time, our triathlon and run adventures that began in 2003, were forming the building blocks for our desire to explore more, and push the boundaries of possibility.  We also discovered that our travel and race experiences were most rewarding when shared with like-minded individuals. At some point, everything clicked and our goal setting ability brought our vision into clear view. RunTrippers is the result of that vision, with the goal to travel and run in different countries around the world, sharing the journey with anyone who wants to come along – literally or virtually.

In January 2017, we decided to leap forward and take our first official RunTrippers travel adventure – why wait until all the stars align and the timing is perfect – right now is perfect!

This spark was initiated by our friend Johany Jutras, who had photographed us in the past, with a vision to document our trip so we could tell our story.

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She also suggested we bring along her videographer friend Annie-Claude Roberge to capture some footage of the journey. The question was, where would we go, and what would that destination represent.
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We knew the purpose of our trip was to venture to a place that would challenge and inspire us, and we wanted a landscape that offered incredible scenic beauty.  The choice was obvious – Iceland.  Who else but a couple of Canadians would travel to Iceland to go running in the middle of winter!

We put together a lululemon gear selection consisting of a Run for Cold Jacket, Cool Racerback II, WunderUnder and Inspire II Tights for Kat – and a Surge Warm ½ Zip, Metal Vent Tech Hoodie, Surge Warm Tights and a Pack It Jacket for Kev.  With our plan in place, and our travel packs loaded, we were ready to experience running in Iceland.

We flew into Keflavik on January 27, 2017 and for the next week, we ventured around the island exploring the extreme landscape and delving into the culture. From adventuring through the quiet city of Reykjavik with its soft glistening lights, to running across barren landscapes of the South Island with every-changing weather conditions – Iceland resonated with us very deeply.

The first three nights were spent in Reyjavik – catching the sunrise on Mount Esja, visiting the Old Harbour, Tjornin Pond, and the Opera house – with visuals that were beautiful and striking.
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We explored the Ellioaardalur Valley – right in the heart of the city, and ran along the scenic Reykjavik marathon course.

We drove the Golden Circle route and found ourselves trekking through deep snow across the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates as the sun began to rise.

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Onwards to Pingvellier –  a UNESCO World Heritage site – then stops at Geysir and the Gullfoss waterfall. The air was so incredibly fresh and the vast landscape simply breathtaking.
 
We spent the next three nights in the countryside, living like locals in the beautiful remote setting of Hella. Our days were filled with adventure as we trekked 4km out to the black sand beach at Solheimasandur to visit the 1973 US Navy plane wreck. We hiked up and over the Langjokull and Vatnajokull glaciers, descended into the ice-caves and visited the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon – 370km from Reykjavik!

As we navigated through our itinerary, we also took the time to explore the unexpected places that seemed to appear at every turn in the road.
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With our journey complete, we headed back home knowing there was still so much left to see. This trip taught us how valuable it is to slow things down and take a breath – to step away from everyday life and really look around.

Travel brings an opportunity to step out of our comfort zone and look back on the road we’ve wandered upon, to see where our compass guides us next.  Being courageous enough to take a leap and forge your path is when life truly begins!

We are already planning our next trip and have a long list of places we’d love to run through. It’s a great big planet out there and adventure awaits!

Grand Canyon R2R2R – October 2016

R2R2R – Double crossing of the Grand Canyon
October 10, 2016 marked our 2nd time taking on this EPIC trail run – EPIC is the one word that can best describe an adventure of this magnitude. The Grand Canyon is one of those places that pictures don’t do it justice. You need to be present to understand the sheer magnitude of this landscape as it welcomes you to leap out and explore it’s vast beauty.

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If you look closely, you can see the North Rim – Really!

The Stats
We knew there would be challenges given the terrain, self-supported nature of the run, distance and elevation profile, but we were ready. R2R2R is an extremely difficult task, with 22,000ft of elevation change – 11,000ft up vertically – but if you think about it as ‘only two hills’, it looks pretty simple on paper. Run down the South Rim, across the Canyon, then up the North Rim – take a picture – then turn around and go back. Easy enough, right?  Well, not so much.

The descent down the South Rim drops 5,000ft in the first 8km’s (5 miles) to the Colorado River, the next 17km’s (10.6 miles) takes you across the canyon over undulating hills, with the 8.6km (5.4 mile) ascent to the North Rim climbing 6,000ft up – and that is less than half the total run. Add to that the altitude on both rims, combined limited water resources, no cell service, and zero support makes for a dangerous adventure.  

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Arrival at the South Rim – we are ready, again!

The Trip
We arrived in Vegas late on Saturday Oct 8th, and after a short sleep, we were venturing down the highway towards the Grand Canyon National Park. We arrived on Saturday afternoon, and knew the moment we pulled up to the edge of the South Rim why we had to come back for another double crossing – the Grand Canyon was begging us to venture out and remind us of it’s power.

Once settled in at the Maswik Lodge, we were joined by our Ultra Ohana family of Dave Ahrens and Amanda Weil who wanted to come along and see the canyon for themselves, and partake in some of the run. Dave was also accompanied by his partner Kirk Beckwith, so we had a new member to introduce to our world of ultra-crazy. 

Photo-2016-10-09,-5-28-50-PM.jpgA plan was quickly hatched for Kev & I to depart the by 4:30am from the South Kaibab Trailhead, and have Dave and Amanda run down to meet us at the Colorado River on our ascent back up to the South Rim on the return trip. 

The Route
On this crossing, we would head down South Kaibab (in the dark), then cross the Colorado over Black Bridge, continue past Bright Angel Campground, through Phantom Ranch, Box Canyon, Cottonwood, and up the North Kaibab trail to the top of the North Rim, after which, we would head back down the North Kaibab trail and retrace our path where we would meet up with Dave and Amanda, and take the Bright Angel trail up and out to the South Rim. 

This was Dave & Amanda’s first run into the canyon, so they were excited to make it down to the Colorado river, and cross over Silver Bridge to meet us as we were coming back up. They would be our support crew – think ‘personal entertainment system’ – to help us on the final ascent up the South Rim. Their run would cover 27.6km’s (17 miles) with 10,000 feet of elevation change, 5,000 ft of which would be straight uphill for the last 5 miles! 

Final Prep & Gear Choice
The Maswik is located at the top of the Bright Angel trail, so located near our final exit point of the canyon. After a lovely dinner at the Bright Angel dining room, we headed to the lodge and did our final gear prep before turning in for the night. For shoes, we chose to go with our Skechers GOTrail Ultras for this run adventure, since they offered excellent traction, and the additional support needed given the terrain and distance. We had tested with these at the various Wanderlust hikes we lead in Tremblant this year, and they performed beautifully in all conditions so they were the obvious choice. For clothing, it was our tried and true lululemon run commute gear we had worn over several weeks of build. Kev’s loves his 5′ Surge Shorts and Mental Vent Tank, and for Kat it was the Run Times Shorts and Swiftly Tech T paired with the Energy Bra.  For nutrition, we had our custom Infinit formulas measured out and pre-packed, ready to add into our hydration packs at the planned water stops.

With the gear set, we were ready to GO. What would the next 24 hours hold for us?

The R2R2R
We were awake by 2:58am and began our nutrition intake and final gear cross-check. Amanda was our designated driver to the drop-point about 5 miles from the village, and brought us out to the South Kaibab trailhead by 4:30am as planned. 

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4:30am GO TIME!

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Descending the South Kaibab Trail. The Colorado River down below…

 

 

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South Kaibab Trail view as the sun rises. Getting Closer to the River.
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The Skechers GOTrail Ultra’s belong here!
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Almost at the bottom… we can see Black Bridge over the Colorado!
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Headed through the tunnel…
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Crossing the Colorado!
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Black Bridge…


The South Kaibab trail is quite steep, so the descent in the dark was rather tricky as we carefully descended past Ooh-Aah and Skeleton Point, not wanting to make any early mistakes. The first few hours were spent traversing the tight switchbacks winding down to the river. Daylight was on the horizon as we reached Black Bridge, and we made our first fuel stop to reload at Bright Angel Campground, 11.2km (7 miles) into the run. 

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Box Canyon
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Heading to Cottonwood… The North Rim far up and away in the distance!
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Through Cottonwood

Onward through Box Canyon and out into the heat and sunshine through Cottonwood. Our next pitstop would be at 25km (15.5 miles) into the run as we reached the Pump House. Once reloaded and refreshed, we began the winding 8.6km (5.4 miles) ascent up towards the North rim, past Ribbon Falls, through the Supai tunnel and up past the Coconino Overlook. As we climbed up and out to the North Rim, we were reminded of the altitude and thinner air that 7000ft brings, 33.6km (21 miles) into the run.

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Made it to the Pump House, the ascent to the North Rim is next!
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Heading up to the North Rim… past Roaring Springs and the Supai Tunnel.
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Made it to the North Rim!

Once at the top, we reloaded our packs, and with the luck of a weak cell signal, were able to send off a message to our support crew that we had indeed made it to the North Rim. At this point, we were running an hour or so behind schedule as it was 12:10pm. We received an incoming message that Dave & Amanda still planned to meet us at the Colorado, so we had a great reason to start the descent ahead of the mule train, and make our way back across to the South Rim.

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On our way back down – through Billions of years of rock…
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On our way back, headed into Box Canyon.

Given our updated status, Dave and Amanda set out at 1:45pm and flew down the Bright Angel trail and made it to the Colorado in 1h45 minutes! They continued on through the Bright Angel Campground and onwards to Phantom Ranch where they were able to get some well eared lemonade. They continued running into Box Canyon just as we were running through at 4:30pm. Cheers of joy and excitement greeted us as we saw each other! 

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Devil’s Crorkscrew – aka ‘The Crack’
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WE FOUND THEM… and we’re at the Colorado again!
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Through Box Canyon – TEAM WORK!
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Phantom Ranch/Bright Angel
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Dave leading the charge!
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We can see the South Rim off in the distance, up, up, up!

At this point, we were 56km’s (34.8 miles) into our journey with another 17.2km’s (10.7 miles) to go, so began our way back through Phantom Ranch making another fuel stop before heading back across the Colorado, stopping to savour a bit of the view of this mighty-majestic river on our return.

The sun had set as the view of the South Rim appeared in the far distance. By the time we reached the beginning of the climb up the Devil’s Corkscrew, nightfall was upon us, so out came the headlamps, as did the ‘bats’! Dave’s screams could be heard echoing through the canyon walls as we ran through the darkness up towards Indian Gardens. Heavy rains the week prior to our arrival had lead to some areas of the trail being washed out, so we proceeded with caution over the various water crossings. At this point, things were getting a bit tough for all of us, so we worked to motivate and encourage each other as we made our way up and onto the last section of the Bright Angel trail. Up past 3mile rest house, 1.5 miles rest house, then up and out of the deep abyss. Kirk was waiting with 1/4 mile left to go on the trail, and his reassurance that we were near the top elevated our spirits. We emerged from the Bright Angel Trailhead together in darkness, utterly in awe of our accomplishment – 73.2km (45.5miles) and 17 hours of non-stop running.

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Skechers GOTrail Ultras – our shoe of choice for EPIC adventures!

The Celebration
Back at the hotel, caked in 2 millions of years of red trail dust, celebratory beers and several pizzas were in order. This was significant, not only to mark the completion of our adventure, but to give thanks for the bonds of family, friendship and accomplishment – it was Thanksgiving after all! 

No matter how prepared you are for something of this magnitude, you can never be sure of how things will play out, or what Mother Nature may have in store for you on the given day. Luckily we had great conditions and fabulous support, which made it not only a comforting and safe double crossing, but a very enjoyable one as well. We learned so much on this double-crossing and have a greater understanding of the canyon as a whole, as well as our abilities.

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Million Dollar View@ the South Rim!

Taking It In
The next day as we picnicked rim side, we were awestruck at the beauty of the canyon, and knew we would never see it the same way again. Having flung ourselves over the edge, bravely forging ahead to challenge the impossible, there we stood, shining bright in awe of our accomplishments. To finish off our experience, we dined together at the El Tovar Lodge to complete the ohana family gathering. 

Sharing something like this with others only strengthens the bonds of family friendship which will undoubtedly leave a lasting memory to share for years to come. We all were on our own personal quest, and will carry back great memories in our minds from this shared experience.

When you truly test your mental and physical abilities and push yourself beyond anything you think is possible, it scrapes the bottom of your soul and becomes a part of you.

They say : “Every trips holds the potential to be life-changing, the most valuable stuff you can bring back home doesn’t always take up space in your luggage” – and in this case, it definitely applies.

We left the canyon richer than when we arrived, knowing the limits in life are only those we set upon ourselves, with a promise to return. While we may have little control over the length of our lives, we certainly have control over the depth of it. Until next time.

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United Forever. We’ll be back!

We give a ship!

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Running the ‘double’ for Cutty Sark – Boston & London 2016

This April, we will be taking on the challenge of running the Boston and London Marathons back to back – just 6 days apart, so we wanted to do something special to mark this occasion.

Giving back to the community has always been important to us, and the Royal Museums of Greenwich in London is giving us an opportunity to put our energy towards something tangible that has stood the test of time. Enter Cutty Sark.

Cutty Sark was built in Scotland in 1869 and is the world’s only surviving extreme clipper. In her time, she was an important lifeline for transporting goods between the major ports of call. Her travels have taken her from London to Shanghai, carrying large amounts of wine, spirits and beer, with the return voyages bringing back million pounds of tea. Over time, she also carried coal, jute and castor oil from Calcutta to Melbourne, and wool from Australia to England. She now resides in Greenwich London under the care of the Royal Museums Greenwich, as a memorial to the Merchant Navy and reminder of our past.

We ‘give a ship’!

We were intrigued by the rich history of this magnificent ship, and when we learned of the ongoing preservation effort, we wanted to jump-on-board and support this project. It’s a tangible artifact that we can see and touch, and the funds we help raise will be going towards restoring the ships lifeboats, navigation lamps, Captain’s gig, and chicken coops, as well as varnishing the ships original wooden structure.

Our Boston-London Marathon adventure will surely test our strength and resilience, but we’ll channel the immense energy of Cutty Sark to propel us on our journey and hope to give something back to her in exchange! We hope you will support our effort to help preserve this landmark for the future generations by donating to our Just Giving page at : https://www.justgiving.com/Kev-Kat

Skechers Performance = Speedy Feet!

Our 2015 race season was planned to accommodate a late season build – racing the New York City Marathon on Nov 1st, then taking on the Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii from Nov 27-29th

We chose to do a progressive build towards the November targets by pacing some friends in a few half marathons, racing the 5150 in Tremblant, as well as doing two half Ironmans in September – all for fun and fitness. The ‘lead-up’ races brought in some focused speed-work, and were planned to land right in the midst of our final build phase.kat_skechersjoy_web
The great thing about the variety of races and mileage we laid out was that it gave us a perfect opportunity to thoroughly test various models of the Skechers Performance lineup – both in training and race settings. Shoe rotation is a great tactic for injury prevention, so being able to switch pairs often – especially for those ultra-long two-a-day run sessions, was a major bonus for us this year!

So, after logging several training and race miles in 2015 thus far, here’s our impression of the Skechers Performance lineup:

GOrun4 – The Speed Demon
If you are looking for a speed-demon, then the GOrun4 is for you. It’s lightweight, fits like a glove, and offers enough cushioning to easily take you into the Half Marathon distance.  We love the heel cup design – it’s flexible and thin so doesn’t even feel like it’s there – and the ‘Quick-Fit’ portal makes slipping these on quickly in triathlon transitions a breeze!  The GOrun4’s feature a flexible ‘Resalyte’ midsole and rubber ‘pods’ on out outer edges for durability.  We love their grippy traction on the road, as well as the 4 mm drop, offering superior fit and function.

In the races we’ve done this year, the breathability and drainage capabilities of the GOrun4’s have surpassed our expectations.  We’ve raced in a variety of conditions, from hot humid 41C weather at the Canadian Iron113, then pouring rain and 15C at the Demi-Esprit – every time the GOrun4’s performed beautifully.

Strada – The High Performance Trainer
If you prefer a little more cushion and stability, The Strada takes the support level up a notch, offering an excellent shoe for longer training runs and marathon distance racing. The Strada is built with more dense foam on the outsole as well as a combination of Resalyte and Resagip for a firmer ride. It features an 8mm drop, and feels excellent on flat roads where you can incorporate everything from quick sprints to longer tempo runs.

We love the stability of the Strada, which has become our ‘go-to’ shoe, covering all the bases from traditional trainer right into race-day performer.

Ultra Road – The Endurance Junkie 
After testing in the Ultra2 model for most of last season, and loving its cushioning comfort,  along came the Ultra Road this season, which took things to a whole new level for us.  This model instantly became our ultra-distance favourite. 

Right out of the box, the fit and feel was exceptional, offering great cushioning and a responsive ride. The Ultra Road features a Resalyte sole, with firmer outsole, making for a very responsive take-off for those times when you are looking to pick up the pace! With its  durable woven upper and no seams or liner, it performs great in the heat, providing exceptional breathability and water drainage.

Our first ‘test’ run was a 6 hour city jaunt, and the shoes offered great support and a very   comfortable fit. At the end of our long test run, we both looked at each other and said, ‘Yup, we can keep going in these!’ 

We LOVE the Ultra Road and they will definitely be our 2015 Ultraman World Championship shoe of choice!

In Summary
All of the Skechers shoes in the Performance lineup that we have run in were extremely comfortable on the inside – no stitching, excellent drainage and great breathability. The upper is very flexible so the shoe feels unrestricted, and paired with the stock ‘flat-wound’ stretch laces, the tongue always stays in place.

It’s a great feeling for an athlete when your gear becomes ‘one’ with you and it just seems to ‘disappear’ – it’s there, but it’s not. That’s exactly what we’ve found in the lineup, and with such a broad choice in the series, there’s a shoe option for everyone! Where ever it may be, from trails, to twisty roads to all out track sprints, we’re driven by excitement every time we lace up and head out the door!

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Grand Canyon R2R2R – April 2014

“Every trips holds the potential to be life-changing, the most valuable stuff you can bring back home doesn’t always take up space in your luggage.”

2014 Grand Canyon R2R2R – by Katherine Calder-Becker & Kevin Becker

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After two years of careful planning, research and preparation, we were ready to take on our biggest adventure to date – the ‘R2R2R– a double-crossing of the Grand Canyon (rim-to-rim-to-rim).

If you think about it in simple terms, the Canyon really only has ‘ two hills’ – so on paper it seems quite manageable.  Just run down the South Rim, across the Canyon, then up the North Rim – take a picture – then turn around, go back!  Easy, right?  Well… not so much.

The run consists of 47 miles (76km’s), depending on the route you take, and covers 22,000ft of elevation change – 11,000ft of vertical ascent. To break it down, the descent down the South Rim via the Bright Angel Trail drops 2,997ft in the first 4.8 miles on twisty switchbacks, and then continues down another 1,179ft over 4.7 miles, until you reach the Colorado River.  The next 8.6 miles is on an undulating section of the North Kaibab trail, winding up 1,919ft through the canyon to the Pump-house Ranger Station.  Once there, you face the final 5.4 mile 3,680ft ascent up the North Rim, over steep and rocky terrain, which completes the first half of the journey!  Once you reach the North Rim, it’s time to turn around and run back down, across the valley, and up the South Rim to complete the double-crossing.  Of course we chose the longest combination of trails – Bright Angel to North Kaibab and back – since we figured if it was going to be epic, it may as well be – EIPC!

If the distance and elevation aren’t enough of a challenge, you have to factor in the ‘altitude’ on both rims, limited water resources, no cell service and zero support within in the Canyon.  Basically, if you go in, you have to get yourself out!

Our journey began when we arrived at the South Rim of the Canyon late in the evening of Wednesday April 16, 2014 – staying in a cabin at the Bright Angel Lodge. We figured if we were right at the trail-head, we could run out the door and over the edge.  We had given ourselves a ‘buffer’ day, in case of inclement weather, but with the prime weather day looking like Thurs April 17th, we decided to take the plunge and run it the following morning. We had ‘pre-packed’ our favorite lululemon gear, as well as our tried and tested fuel source of Infinit nutrition. We had prepared everything at home in advance, so it was easy to quickly unpack and lay everything out in a matter of minutes. Since it was late, and the restaurants were closed we settled for snacking on nachos, humus and guacamole that night – not exactly an ideal supper, but at least it was salty carbs.

Before turning in, we figured we’d strap on our headlamps, find the trailhead, and peer over the edge. We quickly found the signage and headed down the first 100ft of the Bright Angel Trail. We stopped, turned off our headlamps and looked out into the darkness. We both experienced a very unfamiliar sensation – you could actually ‘feel’ the vastness.  There before us was a black hole – an abyss – with no sound, just a massive deep, dark, vacuous space that ‘felt’ like emptiness. Emotionally, it was very powerful, and we realized the enormity of what lay ahead. Luckily, our headlamps clearly lit the trail, which stood out in contrast to the darkness – we felt confident we could run it – all systems were GO!

We headed back to the cabin, set the alarm for 3am, and went to sleep. We were up before the alarm could even go off, ate breakfast, got dressed, loaded our hydration packs, and headed out the door.  It was 4am – here we go!

It was a dark night, with the tail-end of a full moon on the edge of the sky – we were surrounded by a myriad of stars. Temps were cool, but not cold. We set off down the Bright Angel trail and enjoyed the still quiet air – it was a motionless night and we descended into the darkness leaving the South Rim quickly behind – our primary thought – SAFETY FIRST!

As we snaked down the narrow, twisty switchbacks, we could ‘feel’ the wall of rock build up behind us. As we peered into the vast open darkness that lay ahead, we also looked up and back at the lights on the rim.

We continued down for the first 3 miles in darkness, and then as dawn was breaking, we could see Indian Gardens in the distance. By the time we reached the Tonto Plateau, our headlamps were off and we could easily see the trail.

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It was striking to look back and up at the South Rim towering over our heads – seeing the terrain rise up behind us as we made our way further down. The color of the changing layers of rock was an indicator of the elevation, and reminded us how far down the millions of years of history in the Canyon we had travelled. We descended Devils Corkscrew, and knew the cheery feeling of light-hearted optimism we were experiencing, would be a distant memory on the return trip through this section.

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After running down 5,000ft in 9.5 miles, we reached the Silver Bridge at the Colorado River. The sun was beginning to rise, along with the temperature – so jackets and arm-warmers got packed away. We reached Bright Angel Campground, and Phantom Ranch as the hikers were rising for breakfast.  At this point, we re-loaded our hydration packs with water and Infinit, on the first of four planned refill-stops, and began the 14 mile, 6,000ft run up to the North Rim.

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From Phantom Ranch, the trail took on a somewhat flatter profile for the next 8.6 miles making it easy to get a solid pace going on this section. There is a constant undulation of ups and downs, always gaining in elevation with each mile that passed. We headed into Box Canyon along the North Kaibab trail, and crisscrossed our way up Bright Angel Creek on a series of short foot-bridges. The walls through box Canyon rose up over-head giving us a sense of warmth and protection – like a security blanket, shaded from the sun. The trail then opened up and the air became more desert like heading up towards Cottonwood Camp. This is the hottest section of the trail as the Canyon walls are further back and there is no shelter from the sun. Once this far in, you finally catch a glimpse of the North Rim up and around to your left into Bright Angel Canyon, as you make your way to the Pump House Ranger Station. This was the location of our 2nd scheduled re-fill stop, at 18 miles into the journey. A quick stop and we were set to take on the final 5.4 mile climb up the North Rim.

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The terrain heading up to the North Rim is very steep and traverses a series of tight switchbacks. It’s impossible to see the trail up ahead, so looking back down after each mile goes by is the only way to gauge where you’ve been. Again, the multiple rock layers that make up the Canyon  reveal clues about distance and altitude.  There are also strategically placed geological trail placards along the way, noting the current rock formation you happened to be at. While informative and interesting, these reminders of how little distance you’ve actually gone, become unnerving – especially on the last 3 miles of the climb!

The summit of the North Rim in constantly coming in and out of view as you twist up and around the buttes and switchbacks so it’s impossible to put a visual ‘lock’ on your target. Your only marker of progress is a change in soil and rock colour, and the detailed placards that seem to scream at you as you ascend to yet another level!  Finally, you reach the white limestone that indicates the final ascent, but there’s still a mile to go to reach the top, and it’s pretty much straight up once you pass the Coconino outlook. Out of nowhere, the North Rim trailhead sign comes into view quickly, and before you know it, a rush of elation floods in as you realize you’ve made it!

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There’s not much waiting there though with the North Rim still closed to visitors until Mid-May, snow still on the ground, and no water resources at the trailhead. The only thing to do is take a picture, check the time, then turn around and head back down the face of the Canyon to the South Rim. From here, you can’t see it, or the valley floor for that matter, but you know exactly where they are – a long way down.  At this point, your body is tired and your mind has lost its edge, so the adventure takes on a more serious tone – SURVIVALISM!

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We headed back down the steep switchbacks, being extra careful not to roll an ankle, or slip on loose rocks, and after a few hours of descending, we were back at the Pump House – refilling for the 3rd time. Our strategy was to keep moving with minimal breaks in order to keep the blood from pooling in our legs – so off we went as quickly as we could. As we headed back through Cottonwood, the temps were still up in the 90’s so the heat of the sun was still a factor. Kev happened to be leading on this section of the trail, and we suddenly came upon an adult male rattle snake in the middle of the trail – in full strike position! Luckily, Kev’s reaction time is faster than mine and he came to a skidding halt, yelled ‘snake’ and leap backwards! I ran to a halt, right into him! We waited as the snake slowly cleared the path and were back on our way, running at a quick pace down through Box Canyon.  At this point, we ran straight into snake encounter number 2 – there he was, right in the middle of the trail – WOAH! Onwards we go.

We reached Phantom Ranch and refuelled for the 4th and final time. At this point, the heat of the day, and the 12 hours of non-stop running was catching up with us. We knew we had to keep moving, so reloaded our packs and got going quickly.  The sun was still in the sky as we reached the Silver Bridge, but we knew the climb ahead would be a long one. The first section was runnable undulating terrain, then we started the steep ascent up through Devil’s Corkscrew and into Indian Gardens. We saw several baby scorpions along this section of the trail, and plenty of deer feeding on the trail-side vegetation. We pushed onwards and upwards to the 3 mile and 1.5 mile rest houses on the Bright Angel Trail – encountering a few bats along the way. At this point, my vision was beginning to do some odd things – at one point, I thought the dust from the trail was affecting my sight, but there was no dust. I also thought my sunglasses were still on, but they weren’t. At least we could see the South Rim towering up overhead – like a beacon, calling us home – that, and the cold beer that was waiting at the cabin!

We ascended to the top, utterly in awe of our accomplishment – 47 miles (76km’s) of non-stop running – in just under 15 hours.  Looking back down across the Canyon, we could now easily see where we had been and were thrilled that we had actually propelled ourselves down into this massive landscape, across and up the other side, then back!

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Looking back on the adventure was a reminder that the Canyon is a very hostile, unforgiving environment, with no room for errors. The sheer magnitude of this undertaking required careful preparation and training on our part. In training, we did several two-run per-day workouts, stair climbs on our beloved Mont Royal, and hours of hill repeats on Camillien-Houde.  We ran with our hydration packs and tested our Infinit nutrition, sweat-rates and hydration requirements.  We extensively tested our lululemon run gear and experimented with different fabrics and outfit combinations to get the comfort level just right.  We also spent a lot of time researching this run prior to going in and had meticulously mapped out our strategy and the trails in order not to fail.

Long before our journey began, we were well aware that this was a self-supported adventure that would require a great depth of mental toughness, as well as physical strength and experience.  Even then, we only realized the enormity of it when we stood on the edge, looked out and had no choice but to push all fear aside. From the moment we peered off into the darkness, right up until we had safely made our way up and out of the abyss, we knew that Mother Nature was in charge.

This was a journey that pushed us to the edge of our limits and scraped the bottoms of our souls.

You can view the photo gallery by visiting our website at : http://endurancetriathletes.com/photos.html

Wanderlust Mont Tremblant!…

We’re thrilled to have been invited to take part in the Wanderlust Festival this coming August in Tremblant!

This is a  unique mountaintop adventure of yoga, music and events celebrating mindful living with a community of yogis and artists from all over the world!

We’ll be hosting  some great runs each day, and invite you to come and join us on the mountains, down the paths, and through the woods from August 21 to August 24, 2014 – this will be AWESOME!

You can find more deets on our Wanderlust bio page HERE! …or on the Wanderlust Facebook Page HERE!

Hope to see you on the mountain!

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