I have never been a big fan of running. It probably stems from growing up thinking I was overweight and always looking to running to help me lose weight, and always failing. That’s a topic for another blog post though, so what do you do when some buddies text you and ask you if you want to trail run the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (R2R2R) with them? You say yes, of course.
I had 5 weeks to prepare. If you don’t know, the R2R2R is a trek beginning at the upper edge, the rim, of one side of the Grand Canyon, down into it, across, up and out the other side, and then back. It’s about 45 miles with about 5,000 feet of elevation gain on both ends. In the words of Ron Burgundy it’s “kind of a big deal.”
I had been doing my regular General Physical Preparedness (GPP) training, CrossFit, along with some gymnastics focus, but the most running I had done the 6 months leading up to this was about 3 miles in one mile intervals in a WOD, Dallas. The longest distance I had ever run in my life was about 5 miles. You might guess that I immediately stopped all other fitness and started running all the time, but you’d be wrong. Running 45 miles in one go is rather specific so I did begin adding more running into my weekly programming, but I also continued with my normal daily workouts.
That’s the beauty of effective GPP programming, it keeps you Generally Physically Prepared for pretty much anything. If you’d asked me 15 years ago, in my pre-CrossFit days, to run the R2R2R I would have laughed and said there’s no way, and I was 15 years younger! Now, at 35, sure I’ll have a go at it with you!
I began mixing more running workouts into my week, slowly ramping up volume. As time went on and the running volume continued to go up, CrossFit volume slowly went down. In week 4, 1 full week before the big run, I ran a marathon with Ari, my wonderful wife, through the Wildwood trail in Forest Park, Portland. It was one of the most challenging things I’d done up until that point and I was so happy she was there to keep pushing me along, but we finished and other than a few cramps and tight muscles, I was in one piece and at least had hope that I could finish the R2R2R.
A week later I found myself running through one of the biggest and most beautiful natural landscapes I’d ever seen. I ran, jogged, walked, sat, and hobbled along all 45 miles. We’d stop for water at refill stations and only once did I actually run out, which was a bit nerve-wracking. At the halfway point my knee began feeling very unstable so the strategy on the way back was to just keep moving at a consistent pace, but there was never a moment of “what if I can’t make it”, instead it was always, “just keep moving forward and its only a matter of time.” I finished somewhere around the 17 hour mark and I don’t think I’ve ever felt a bigger sigh of relief and exhaustion. Now THAT was the hardest thing I’d ever done.
While I certainly didn’t set any land-speed records, I accomplished something that was completely out of reach to me mentally and physically before I found the magic behind the GPP methodology known as CrossFit. As stated in it’s definition, it’s general, so of course if you want to do something specific, like run 45 miles, you’re going to need to add in some specific sport training. However, through your consistent GPP work you’ve already laid the foundation of conditioning on which you can build upon. Your adventure doesn’t have to be an ultra-marathon. In fact, replace R2R2R, with anything that seems fun to you and have a go at it. As long as you’ve been keeping up with your daily GPP, you’ll be good to go!