I never thought the Grand Canyon was a place I needed to visit. However, last year I was in Arizona for a race and had some extra time to spare before having to fly home. I noticed I was close to the Grand Canyon and it would be a 2–3 hour detour to go see it before heading to the airport. I was traveling with my dad and asked if he wanted to take the detour. Never having seen the Grand Canyon himself, he agreed to the side trip. I remember the first time we saw the expansive view of the canyon and I was mesmerized. It truly is something you have to see in person to understand just how big and vast it is. After this trip, I knew that I wanted to spend an entire day going into the canyon and I thought doing the Rim to Rim to Rim 45-mile trek would be a great way to see it all.

I asked a couple of my friends if they were interested in joining me on this adventure and they all responded ecstatically, YES! The group included my fellow Team Bellingham and Bellingham Distance Project teammate, Nikki Buurma, my friend Sabrina Houck, and Bellingham Distance Project teammate, Katie Stewart. In the months leading up, we prepared by learning the best route, what supplies we would need, making sure we had maps, and where there was water located on the trail as it can be extremely hot down in the canyon. We flew down on a Friday and started our run early the next morning at Sunrise.

The Rim to Rim to Rim starts at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and can start either at the Bright Angel Trailhead or the South Kaibab Trailhead. We chose to start at the South Kaibab Trailhead because even though it was the steeper and more challenging trail, I read it had the best views, and I wanted ALL the BEST views! You go down this trail into the canyon and then stay along the river until you climb back out of the Canyon to the North Rim. Then you turn around and head back the same way until you’re back where you started! It can be anywhere from a 45–50-mile day with ~12’000 feet of ascent and descent.

We started our run early on Saturday and the sunrise was spectacular. The entire canyon was bathed in golden light, and the red rocks of the canyon were glowing. We started our trip with a 6 mile and 4000+ feet descent to make it down to the river. We started up on one plateau and could see another plateau aptly named “Tip Off Point” as it looks like you would tip right over the edge off that cliff. You can’t see the river until you get past Tip Off Point. We made it down to the river and crossed a bridge and headed toward the famous Phantom Ranch. This is where the landscape changes and all of a sudden, you’re in an oasis of lush green trees/grass next to the flowing Colorado river. A very different scene from what we had just experienced up on the rim.

We ran in the canyon along the river for 10 or so miles and you look up and all you see are these towering vertical rocks right next to you. This was a fun section to run and it kept getting more gorgeous after every corner and bridge that we crossed. It started getting warmer down here, so we stopped a couple times to dip our shirts and hats into the river to keep our bodies cool.

Eventually we made it out of this canyon and came into a more open area and this is when we started the climb up to the North Rim. As we were heading up it started to rain so we put on our rain gear and kept moving forward. We got to a point where the rain turned into snow, and it started getting colder. We were about 1 mile from the North Rim and looking up at the North Rim all we saw were black clouds and snow. As a group we stopped to chat and discuss if we felt comfortable continuing into the snow. I was unsure as I didn’t bring any other cold weather gear and worried that it might get too cold. We decided it would be safer to turn around and head back to the South Rim where there were less clouds and more sunshine.

On the way back we all went into cruise control mode and enjoyed the descent and the run back toward Phantom Ranch. As we were running next to the river, Nikki jumped up and screamed as she had just run past a big rattlesnake. Katie and I were behind her, and we had to climb up on some rocks to avoid encroaching on the rattlesnake’s territory. He was not very happy that we were interrupting his sunbathing on the trail. Once we got past Phantom Ranch it was time to start our climb back OUT of the canyon toward where we started at the South Kaibab trailhead. Now we had to go UP the 4000 feet we had initially descended earlier that day. As we started this ascent, we already had around 39 miles on our legs. We got into a rhythm and kept hiking. I was snacking on my jellybeans which made the hike up not as bad.

As we were climbing out, we heard a loud “boom” and I looked back and saw lightning across the canyon. This definitely made me climb a little faster. Thankfully, the thunder and lightning stayed on the other side of the canyon and on our side, it was still sunny and clear. That is part of the craziness of the weather here. We started off with really hot temperatures around 90 degrees in the canyon, and then we went toward the north rim where we had snow, and then as we were on the way out of the canyon was thunder/lightning/rain across the canyon, but where we stood it was pleasant and sunny.

We finally made it to the top and finished before sunset, which was our goal! It took us 11 hours and 48 minutes of moving time and 13 hours and 18 minutes total which included our bathroom breaks, photo stops, water stops, etc. It was an amazing trek! The Rim to Rim to Rim is a long day and should only be attempted by those who have experience in these kinds of adventures. If you are looking for a shorter day while still getting to see the beautiful views, I recommend hiking down the South Kaibab Trail around a mile to the aptly named “Ooh Aah” Point. And if hiking down the steep terrain is too tough for you, there is a trail along the south rim that is paved and gives you amazing views of the canyon as well. There is truly something for everyone.

I used this trip as a fun adventure but also as a long training day for my upcoming races this year, the Triple Crown of 200 Mile Endurance Runs. I will be running 3 200+ mile races this year. The first one is the Tahoe 200 on June 14th in Tahoe, CA. The 2nd one is The Bigfoot 200 near Mt. Saint Helens, WA in August. And the last one is the Moab 240 in October in Moab, UT.

I would also like to thank my sponsors: Pacific Multisports, Doc D’s Apothecary, and Rabbit Running.  I used Doc D’s Miracle Cream 2000 mg CBD lotion the night after this long adventure, and I was able to sleep without any aching in my legs and wasn’t too sore the next morning! You can get 20% off your first order of ANY of their products by using the code ‘alicia20’. You can also find Doc D’s CBD products at the Bellingham Farmers Market on Saturdays.