To the left of Mike Frazier's bedroom door is a sign that simply says, "LIVE BIG." More on that in a minute.
I sat down today with all intentions of writing a huge "race report" for a run I did last weekend. Recently, a friend told me that all race reports are more or less the same as long as they remain a race report: went there, won/finished/DNFed, and went home. In this light, I decided instead to focus on creating a video that would do the majority of the talking, and would say in pictures what I often struggle to say in words.
The Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim (R2R2R) run has been a challenge I have wanted to attempt for several years. For one reason or another, it never came to pass. I was going to try it last summer but then (as some of you know) I had my severed ACL replaced last June. Frankly, I was starting to wonder and worry if I was ever going to get the opportunity to try the run.
As I started to regain my health through the winter and the spring, the idea of trying the R2R2R suddenly took on a very real meaning. In my friend Mike, I found an eager partner ... someone free of excuses and "obligations", someone not content to let their dreams and hopes end up on a scrap pile, someone willing to LIVE BIG. Accordingly, we threw the trip together a couple months back and resolved ourselves to do it over Easter weekend.
In a nutshell, last Friday, Mike and I flew out of Pittsburgh to Phoenix. We rented a car, and took a leisurely drive up to Grand Canyon Village which included stops to sightsee in Sedona and to visit friends in Flagstaff. Saturday morning, at 4:30 AM, we left the Bright Angel trailhead and headed down/north to the Colorado River. There, Mike and I were treated to a world-class sunrise few are so blessed to witness; one could almost imagine what John Wesley Powell must have been thinking when he explored these waters in 1869. At that point, the temperature was perfect for running.
We crossed over the river, went through Phantom Ranch, and proceeded to head up the Bright Angel Canyon on the North Kaibab trail. We were fortunate to run a couple miles with ultrarunner Darcy Africa and her pacers as she was attempting to break the woman's R2R2R running record, a goal we later discovered she succeeded in doing by over 30 minutes! Wow, amazing!
The climb up to the snowy 8,000' plus North Kaibab Plateau is never easy; we rested for several minutes before turning around and heading back. Once again, we encountered another ultrarunner, Sue Johnston. This was Sue's fourth R2R2R and she seemed just as enthusiastic as if it were her first. Here's where things fall into the "truth is stranger than fiction" category. Sue and Mike had met on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont last summer and she recognized Mike! We ended up running a considerable distance together to Phantom Ranch.
Unfortunately, the heat had really cranked up and Mike had been feeling the effects a bit. Normal, long-run stuff where water and food was the antidote, thanks to the park ranger/trail angel Della Yurcik :-) So after a breather, we crossed the river again and headed up the Bright Angel trail to the South Rim. Tacking on the run to and from our hotel in Grand Canyon Village, we logged 52 miles.
What follows can only be interpreted in some altered dimension. I am vaguely aware of stopping repeatedly for junk food, of pounding Red Bull and chocolate-covered espresso beans until they had no effect, of driving many miles to Rihanna's "Only Girl" blaring on the radio before arriving at our hotel in Phoenix at about 2:30 in the morning. Hell, at least we got a couple of hours of sleep under our belts before heading to the airport for the return flight east.
Tonight I am tired, but it is a good kind of tired. It's a "LIVE BIG" kind of tired, the type of exhaustion one feels when they live their life in the moment, with a sense of purpose and adventure, fueled by love. I have written too much already ... here is the video. Thank you, Mike, for a weekend I will truly never forget ...