After much gawking, oohing & awing of the GC we finally made it to the N. Rim. There was a bit of snow on the way up but most of it was compacted and easy to navigate. Temps were in the 40's at the top so everyone was bundled up and noshing on some quick energy. For the last several miles I had been taking swigs out of my Liquid Gold flask. That stuff is so good and a lot of it had crystalized so I had to squeeze hard and chew it. It was quite entertaining and I felt like Winnie-the-Pooh trying to lick every little morsel out of his honey jar.
* Note- I have been contacted by the makers of Liquid Gold who stated that the crystallization is something they are in the process of working on by revamping their formula. Personally, I like it a little chewy however I did get very frustrated when I saw there was a lot still clumped in the flask that I just couldn't get to. It was extra weight (I know grams) so I had to ditch the rest once we reached the N. Rim. I still think Liquid Gold is a great product and can't wait to try the new formula which should be coming out soon.
At the top, we posed briefly for pics as I ate my homemade peanut butter protein bar. It was delicious and full of good for you stuff: oats, honey, peanut butter, nuts, whole wheat cereal puffs, and a few chocolate chips pressed on top. It was a beast of a bar and I was glad I wasn't putting it back in my pack.
The last mile up I could feel my knees a little achy and legs groaning a little with fatigue. I wondered if I would even be able to run at all the rest of the way.
We didn't dally long at the top and quickly packed things up to head down. I think the protein bar hit the spot as I found new energy for the descent and we ran. It felt good to run after such a long climb up. We all paced ourselves pretty well although many of us were quiet, plugging ourselves into our headphones for a little "time out". Tracy made it a point to let me know that she was having an awful time with the drop off to the side and how it was making her feel. Running in front of her, she used my feet as visual blinders to keep from looking off to the side. Glad I could help Tracy!
Once we got down to the bottom along the creek we started to run/walk. At that point I could feel pain. Not just soreness, but pain had creeped into my knees, hips, left shin, and for some odd reason the bones along the balls of my feet. It was bearable pain but enough that I needed a little distraction and a bit of walking added into the mix. Tracy had taken over leading the pack and did a fantastic job pacing us and putting in just enough of walking to keep everyone happy. Spirits were starting to fade on all of us and being replaced with the unanimous feeling of "lets get this over with" as we all mentally tried to prepare ourselves for the intense climb up Bright Angel Trail.
The last 4-5 miles felt like eternity. Painful, burning in hell kind of eternity. My entire body was shot. Someone thought it a bright idea when making this trail to put in a bazillion steps with giant posts to stop erosion. You know the kind. Where you have to hoist yourself over the log, putting your hand on your thigh just to pull yourself over the step? Yeah, that kind.
I made sure I paid extremely careful attention to my nutrition and hydration. That was never a real issue. I tried to nibble on a Bonk Bar but found it too dry and tasteless making my stomach churn a bit at every bite. I was out of Liquid Gold and most of my solids so I broke open a GU packet and sucked it down with water. I have to say I was pretty proud of myself for not bonking in that department.
I was, however, very stumbly. By that point my body was trying to say, "All right folks, I'm just going to shut down here. You may try to keep walking, but yeah, good luck with that." I couldn't really control my body and my stabilizer muscles were laying down on the job. I couldn't catch my balance if I started to lean off to one side so the only way to stop myself from hurtling down the edge of the canyon was to throw my arms out for balance and then do a little shuffle step to get my body back under my feet. I probably looked utterly ridiculous.
Someone here or there kept saying, "you're almost there. Just a little bit more." I don't know who it was (at this point it was pitch dark and we all were guided by our headlamps) but at the time I wanted to bind, gag, and toss him off the side. Good thing I had no coordination...
That "almost there" was FOREVER. A quarter mile seemed to take an hour at least and we still had about a mile and half left!
It was one step in front of the other as the five of us were heard sporadically making such comments as:
Who's effing idea was this?
Grand Effing Canyon
What the eff!
God D--- mother effing canyon.
I'm never ever doing this again. Never. Ever.
Yep, it was the grand opening day for the F-word and all words similar. I think there may have even been some made up words in there that just sounded bad. We ALL were feeling it and it wasn't pretty.
About a half mile from the top, again, can we say E-T-E-R-N-I-T-Y...I heard a man's voice boom "Anyone order Dominoes?"
It was like heaven... Cowboy had walked down in search of us to give us a boost to the top. It worked and you could feel everyone's smile. His presence also signified to us that truly the top was near. Through our pain and suffering, we dug deep and picked up the pace. Cowboy kept saying things like, "good job guys, you rock, almost to the top" This time that phrase did not make everyone cringe with borderline mania but pushed us on with gentle guidance.
Not once did Cowboy ask me for my pack and I was grateful. I was determined to finish this thing on my own accord and on my own two feet without assistance. It was a pride thing and I was glad he respected that.
As soon as we peaked the rim we all managed a little "hurray" as we gave hugs all around. It was a bit of a cluster and dim memory to be truthful. I remember Cowboy finally having me shrug off my pack (which I thought wasn't very heavy at the time as most of my food was gone and only about a quarter liter of water, when it came off though I realized just how heavy it really was). I vaguely recall the hugs and the incessant shaking my body was doing. I couldn't stop it and as I looked around I noticed everyone else was doing it too. It was cold, not freezing, but I recognized the signs. Our bodies were acting a bit "shocky". Yeah, thats medical lingo right there.
Stephanie gladly offered a shower to me and I wasn't going to refuse. Cowboy lifted me into the passenger seat of the car and cranked the heat to help me stop shaking. I was stuffing food and water in my face with hands that couldn't manage to navigate the trek from food source to mouth. Hindsight, it probably was either completely hilarious to watch or a bit scary.
When we reached the rustic hotels of the group, I toppled out of the car and realized I had to pee.
Crud, I thought, there was no way I was going to make it with my incredibly slow hobble to the hotel with the great potential that someone was already occupying the toilet. I made a rash decision.
Me: Cowboy, I need to pee. Bad.
Cowboy: Ok the hotel room is just over there.
Me: Uh, no. I can't make it that far. I need your assistance (grimacing, knowing eventually I was going to have to have an awkward moment of our relationship. This was it.)
Cowboy: Ok, what do you need me to do?
Me: Nothing just stand there and let me hang onto your legs.
Cowboy: (with a truly puzzled look on his face, not able to figure what I was up to while I pulled my shorts down)
And there I was, off the side of the parking lot in the dark (thank god)...holding onto his waist as I slowly climbed my hands down his legs into a squat position. As I held a firm grip onto his calves, the pee happened. I couldn't even look up to see what Cowboys face was doing at the time but I could only imagine a look of absolute horror.
Yep, Cowboy, welcome to ultra running and the devastation that follows.
Needless, to say, after assisting me with both the pee and then the hot shower after, Cowboy is still by my side. AND when he talks about the GC experience he is overheard saying, "it was an amazing time. It was awesome and I had so much fun." WOW.
***within 8-12 hrs post peak of S. Rim most of us were admitting "yeah I'd totally do that again". Funny how quickly runners amnesia takes effect! Seems like it always happens that way with big runs though, haven't you noticed??