Moved by the heroic efforts of emergency personnel fighting fires across California, rabbitPRO Sandi Nypaver stayed unfazed by a quick change in plans from racing The North Face 50 near San Francisco to traveling south to Arizona in an attempt to use her fitness, and lay claim to one of the most renowned Fastest Known Times anywhere in the world -- the Rim to Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon...
This story starts in July, 2011.
After a month of confusion and tears, I quit the job that gave me my “acceptable” reason to move to Colorado. Coming from a hard-working, midwestern upbringing, the adventure of living in the Rocky Mountains did not seem like an acceptable reason to move somewhere without a plan. After already doing a month of job training in Tempe, Arizona, where I was working anywhere from 11-14 hour days, I began to think differently. On a hot summer day, with barely any money to my name, I put my belongings in my car and started the drive to Colorado. (Thank goodness camping for months at a time is normal in mountain towns!) There was just one stop I need to make along the way. I had to see the Grand Canyon.
I’ll always remember that as the day I let myself take a “leap of faith” and the Grand Canyon seemed like the perfect place to honor it. Now it seems even more fitting, as my leap of faith actually lead to multiple falls down, forcing me to give everything I had left to crawl myself back to the top of the other side. Needless to say, the Grand Canyon left a special place in my heart. I knew I wanted to do the Grand Canyon double crossing (Rim to Rim to Rim). Unfortunately life, achilles surgery and issues after happened, making it over 7 years before I could give it a go.
This brings me back to 2018.
My originally planned attempt was set for October, but I had a very small time frame to do it. It ended up being a rare week where the Canyon got plenty of rain. Conditions on the north rim made it turn into a recon trip for a true attempt I’d plan for in spring 2019. Then The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler (TNF 50) in California rightfully got cancelled due to the disastrous fires.
I knew I was fit, so I planned my trip to the Grand Canyon, realizing soon after that some of my running role models had the same idea. I had signed up for TNF 50 to compete against the best, fully knowing that’s how I would get the best out of myself. I was still getting what I wished for! On Friday, November 16th, Ida Nilsson broke the previous record of 7:52:20 and lowered it to 7:29:16. I think a lot of jaws dropped when they saw that time. Mine sure did! Yet, part of me wasn’t surprised. After all, Ida is one of the best mountain-ultra-trail runners in the entire world with 2 wins and the CR at TNF 50, 3 wins + a CR at Transvulcania, a win at Zegama...the list could get pretty long so I’ll stop there! I bring this up because failure seemed to be staring me in the face before I even stepped into the Canyon. Then I thought, “I think there’s at least a small chance I could do it.” Here’s part of what Ishared online the night before:
“Should I start something knowing the chance of failure is very high? Admittedly, it took me a moment to come to this conclusion, but my heart has been very clearly screaming at me to go for it. Even my more analytical mind said, "being brave in the face of a big challenge" is the one choice that truly aligns with the person I want to be...No matter what my splits are compared to others, I will run as fast as I can from rim to rim to rim because that's how I run…Here's to being in the "arena"! (Referring to The Man in the Arena by Roosevelt)
November 18th, 2018 - time to run!
The stars are so bright on the South Rim that for a moment I find myself lost in the magic of the universe. Then I’m back to feeling my feet on the ground and the chill in the air. It’s time to embark on today’s adventure. I’m excited, yet calm, because I know I’ll be okay as long as I do my best for the day. I find myself smiling as I acknowledge all the hard work that has allowed my mind to get to this point.In a way, the “war” has already been won.
From there I basically ran as fast as I could for as long as I could. There was no cruising on the downhill.Sage made sure I kept an honest pace as we danced in the morning light around the rocks. After almost 5,000 feet of descending my legs still felt strong as I started the long climb (somewhere around 14-15 miles) to the North Rim. The climb starts off easy and gradually gets steeper. I know I’ve found my edge when I think, “Maybe I should stop at the North Rim and get a ride back.” I know what to do here. I redirect my focus to something better, which is often just the trail right in front of me. I get all the energy I can from the beauty of the Canyon.
The last 2 miles up to the North Rim I force myself not to settle into a hike, though the trail sometimes forces me to take a few hiking steps. At the top, I take a moment to drink and take a breath. Within moments my head once again feels focused enough to run the semi-technical downhill. I’m working hard, but I’m having fun as I love trails that are “runnable” but have enough rocks or roots to keep things interesting. I get to the more gradual downhill and thank my legs for feeling good enough to run after already descending over 10,000 feet. I run as fast as my legs will take me back to the bridge and the final climb. I’m feeling a bit “out of it” from the effort, but I remember to keep choosing to do my best in each moment.
Here we go. Almost 5,000ft of climbing to get back to where I started. I try not to think about it. Sage jogs in front and I follow. I have no idea how my legs are still able to run uphill, but I go with it, only switching to a power hike when the stairs get too steep or I need a deeper breathe. I know I’m close to the record. A few miles from the top Sage and I get stuck behind a mule train. There’s no room to pass. Time is slipping away, but I choose to remain calm, knowing this is part of canyon. Finally we pass. There’s nothing left to do except to move as fast as I can. A couple of miles from the top I realize I’m off the record. It doesn’t matter. I’m there to give my best, start to finish. The crowds let me know I’m getting close and I remember to smile politely as I pass, knowing how important it is to leave people with a good impression of runners in the Canyon. I get to the stop, finishing the day’s challenge in 7:33:05,3 minutes and 49 seconds off of Ida’s time. I didn’t get the record, but I’m satisfied (for now!) anyway, knowing I gave the attempteverything I had.
There you have it. Years of relentless hard work, climbing out of the deepest of lows, and I still “failed” to get the record. Yet, I amhappy,filled with love and gratitude for all that has happened and all the hearts that have touched mine.
I’d be remiss if i didn't take a quick moment to acknowledge it would have been extremely hard to go for this FKT without the unwavering support and belief in me from my adventure partners, Sage and Ray, in addition to rabbit and my north rim crew, Kyle and Danielle. This is truly the best gift I could have ever asked for, inspiring me to seek out ways to give this gift to others.