There were five of us together: John, Steph, Tracy, Jim, and I. I led the pack for the simple reason that I had ants in my pants and couldn't stay still for the life of me. John was my "buddy" with the group nominated task of keeping me reeled in. It was no easy endeavor, trust me. I felt like a kid on the way to a scavenger hunt and was having a real hard time containing myself. I was bursting at the seams. I trotted ahead a few times then slowed and walked until they caught up to me. I felt a little shy because I only knew Stephanie, everyone else seemed to know and joke around with each other so I felt a bit of the odd man out. I ended up striking up good conversation with Tracy which made me feel a little more “in”. By the time we hit Indian Gardens we were all chatting together, and by Phantom Ranch we were all best buddies and modesty was long forgotten.
We encountered Indian Gardens right at dawn. The moon was still visible above the rim and the sun peaking over the ridge was just starting to brighten everything up with a warm pink hue. It was just about this point that we removed our headlamps and ran in the dim light of day. Indian Gardens to Phantom Ranch was gently rolling, mostly nice easy runnable ground with a soft dirt floor. We picked up the pace and ran in a nice easy rhythm. I saw a large fern or cactus that was 10-12 feet tall. I later found out it was the agave plant!!
Along the way to the steel bridge of the Colorado River we would pause now and then mid run to snap a few pictures, trying to capture the massiveness of the canyon in the tiny windows of our cameras. I remember thinking, "there is no way these pictures are actually going to be as magnificent as what I see right now, right here, right in front of my face." The views were breathtaking and changed continuously as the sun stretched across the sky We posed at the beginning of the bridge for some happy shots and talked with some hikers about the potential water breaks along the trail. Spirits were still incredibly high.
It was encouraging to cross paths with so many hikers. Everyone seemed to immediately recognize our choice of adventure and openly gave their good thoughts and praise to us for tackling such a large feat. People starting talking to us whether we initiated it or not; everyone was so friendly and laid back. It was nice to be in that environment again versus the city life of Denver. This interaction with other hikers, who mentioned numerous times how amazed they were that we were completing the R3, led our group of five into a discussion of people’s perception of our lifestyle. Not that we were cocky or “above” anything/anyone, but we all felt that what we were doing, among with many of our other crazy adventures, was not that big of a deal. We were a group of like-minded slightly psychotic individuals that loved to run, loved to travel and experience new things, loved to push our bodies to the limit and then some, and loved to be outside. We were doing this for fun, not race and be “the best” at it. The fact that so many people were showering us with praise and admiration befuddled us.
And so we continued to run. After crossing the steel bridge of the Colorado River, we ran for quite a long time alongside the Bright Angel Creek. At one point we came to a shallow portion of the creek where we had to cross without a bridge. We removed our shoes and socks, clipped them onto our packs with carabiners, and waded across while holding a line for support. There came almost a unanimous sigh of relief as we submerged our hot feet up to our tight calves into the crisp rushing water. I really dislike "cold" things but the water at this moment felt so perfect and refreshing.
At one of the water stops I dug into my pack to reveal a mashed up, yet still packaged, Granny B’s sugar cookie from my grocery store raid the night before. This cookie wasn’t just any cookie. It was slathered in bright pink frosting with a healthy dose of rainbow sprinkles and it was incredibly soft. It looked yummy in the market when I bought it and it looked even more delectable miles into the canyon. It was soft, fluffy, sweet, and almost “doughy” in texture. OMG it was the best damn cookie in my LIFE, I kid you not. As I shoved fistfuls of crumbled sugar cookie in my mouth, I was washed with regret of not buying two cookies (or more).
I have never really ate solid foods during any runs before as they tended to instantly hit my gut in violent fits of protest, so I was a bit cautious planning this run when it came to nutrition. I had spent approximately twenty minutes going up and down the aisles of the market trying to figure out what my body would approve of the next day. Not knowing my body that way made the choices a pure agony-ridden guess. When my eyes hit that sugar cookie it was almost as if my arms reached out without my brain attached and said “YES! I APPROVE!” I didn’t even second guess, just grabbed and moved on.
****Cowboy surprised me later after many minutes of me rehashing in the car driving home how heavenly the sugar cookie with pink frosting was. He told me to reach down into the door console of my car….there my fingers produced a fully packaged brand spanking new pink covered cookie. True love, I tell you, true damn love. Hands off ladies, this one’s a keeper!