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The Grand Canyon: Part III: Of Running in the Cold and the Sunset

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After our breakfast at Bright Angel Lodge, we took a drive to the much talked about El Tovar Hotel, located right at the rim. Known for having its own unique charm, it is considered the crown jewel of Historic National Park Lodges. This world class hotel calls for premium prices. I took a tour around the lobby and helped myself to their washroom (Haaaaa!).

Outside, one part of an area overlooking the rim was cordoned off by police and park rangers. There were a few patrol cars and an ambulance. My dad, being as Asian as ever, went over to find out what the commotion was all about. Apparently, a man fell off the side of the rim and he didn’t survive the fall. Tragic. Note to self: no more jump shots at the edge of the canyon.

As if I wasn’t exhausted from the mini sunrise workout (to stay warm), I was pumped to put in my canyon run! I had planned this before coming to the US and even though I was a little bit tired, I wasn’t going to miss RUNNING IN THE GRAND CANYON!

Before this, I didn’t have any experience running under freezing temps (below 5 degrees C). I was too busy mapping out my canyon rim trail along Mather point that it didn’t cross my mind to look up on anything about running in the cold.

Well, I guess some of the greatest lessons we learn in life are from our mistakes (if we bother learning from them).

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My dad drove out in his car and met me at several points along the trail that I had mapped out just to make sure that I was safe and of course… to take pictures. Best Dad in the WORLD!

Since I made these mistakes, you can benefit by not making them!

Here are some pointers when you’re out running in the cold (my personal experience):

Go Light:

I hate the cold. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word but let’s just say I’m meant to be living in the tropics, definitely not acclimatised to the cold.

Naturally, I piled on layers of clothing because I didn’t want to return looking like a popsicle. I had 3 layers on top including my jacket and 2 layers down.

When I stepped out of the room, I gave myself a pat on the back for putting on so many layers. It was FREEZING! 15 minutes into my run and I changed my mind. My body temperature was rising and well, it was getting a little bit hot in there. Also, the weight from layering wore me down quite a bit.

Conclusion: Think minimalist!

Warm Up Before Heading Out:

The mistake I made was not warming up before heading out. I was feeling chilly which led me to pile on layers of clothes.

What I should have done was: warm up inside the room to get my muscles moving and blood flowing to distribute the heat before jumping out into the cold. 100 jumping jacks should do the trick.

Don’t Rush:

If you’ve just started running in the cold (like me), speed is not your friend, mileage is.

Focus on maintaining your weekly mileage rather than challenging yourself with speed work. If you insist on increasing your speed, make sure your muscles are warmed up before doing so as it is easier to tear a muscle when it’s tight and cold.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate:

There is virtually no moisture in the air when it is cold. I felt the pinch and dryness even just after 5 minutes of running. It was so dry, I could barely breathe.

Bring a small bottle of water along and take mini sips every 10 minutes. You certainly do not want to dry your lungs and throat out. They could crack and bleed.

Shine Bright Like A Diamond:

Well, not really but you know the drill. When it is cold, daylight is usually limited. This point is highlighted when running in the Grand Canyon as there are no street lamps along the roads (to preserve the canyon in its Au Naturel state).

Wear reflective gear, bring a torchlight or put on a headlamp. Other runners/joggers and also drivers should be able to spot you from miles away.

Know your limits:

Above all, always pay extra attention to your body and know your limits, especially if you’re running under unpredictable weather conditions and on unfamiliar ground. Make sure you have eaten enough as more energy is needed to maintain your core temperate when it is freezing cold outside.

After your run, make sure you enter a well heated place or change out of your clothes as soon as possible. You wouldn’t want to catch a chill when your body temperature starts to drop.

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Done and dusted.

At about 6-ish pm, we headed to Mather point to catch the sunset.

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The Parents.

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Sunset faces. Haaaaaaaaa!

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The moon!

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When the light fades…

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The sun is down, time to run!

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I guess this marks the end of my Grand Canyon experience! Too awesome. Wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It was… PERFECT!

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
thy power throughout the universe displayed:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God; to thee,
How great thou art, how great thou art!

 

The Grand Canyon: Part II: Sunrise

The alarm buzzed at 4.30am. It was way too early for me or any other normal human being for that matter. It was -10 degrees C outside and the bed seemed like the strongest magnet. The only thing that managed to pull me out of bed was that image of the sun rising before the Canyon. And I knew that I had to see it with my own eyes.

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We left our lodge at 5.15am. We had already decided the night before to head to Hopi Point, one of the two best places to catch the sunrise (the other is Yaki point). Even though we had a car, we had to use their shuttle services as cars were only allowed up to a certain point.

The problem was that while we knew the shuttle bus comes every 15 minutes, we didn’t know how long it would take to get to Hopi Point. So, we had to catch the earliest bus in order to get there before 6.46am (time of sunrise).

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We wasted quite a bit of time looking for the bus stop (there was nobody around, perhaps it was too early).

Finally, after quite a bit of walking, I saw a flickering light in the distance, about 1KM away. I jumped and started running towards it, before fully processing what I had seen. As I approached the light, true enough, it was the bus! I started sprinting because it was already close to 6am. I didn’t come all the way to miss the sunrise. When I made it to the door of the bus, it closed before me but I managed to wave frantically at the driver (my parents thanked me for my legs -Haha!). He was a nice man who was very welcoming. My family was not even within sight at that time but he waited patiently. Luckily, there was only one other couple on the bus. I wouldn’t want a bus load of death stares (for holding them up) that early in the morning.

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The bus ride lasted 10 minutes. We got off at Hopi Point. It was pitched black and there was no one in sight. The lady at the lobby was right about how you would see 12 people during sunrise and 1,200 people during sunset.

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Waiting impatiently.

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The Canyon’s depth, only one can imagine.

The wind was howling and there was no windshield. The thought of having to wait exactly 36 minutes for the sun to rise sent chills down my spine, literally. The bitter, bone-piercing cold was almost unbearable. I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes.

I killed time and kept warm by doing multiple sets of jump squats, jump lunges and mini sprints up and down along the canyon edge. It worked though, for awhile.

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Thankfully at 6.46am sharp, the sun peeked over the horizon.

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I watched as the fiery ball of flame rose slowly, lighting up the dull morning sky. *Cue The Lion King’s theme song* BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

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With each passing minute, the colours of the Canyon wall changed from rocky-brown to a harmonious combination of red, yellow and orange. The sight of the Canyon grew more vivid as streaks of light continued to illuminate every corner of the Canyon wall.

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Sunrise jumpshot!

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It was so beautiful. I was so taken by the sunrise that the cold didn’t bother me anymore. We waited a little longer for the sun to climb higher into the sky. As the grey sky began to fade, the blue sky took over slowly, glazed with hues of red and orange.

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Excuse me while I run to keep warm.

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After shivering in the cold for over an hour, we were famished. We fueled up at Bright Angel Lodge before driving back to Yavapai Lodge.

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Buttermilk pancakes!

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Protein!

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And more protein!

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Somewhere along Bright Angel Trail.

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The stance.

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The jump! Truly the BEST birthday gift that nature had to offer. Everything else from here would be “MEHHHHHHHHH!”. This should make everyone’s bucket list.

With every sunrise comes a SUNSET

NEXT UP!

…..wait for it….

The Grand Canyon: Part I: Getting there and Yavapai Lodge

After partying up in Vegas, we left to seek the great outdoors – the Grand Canyon.

There are only 3 different ways to see the Grand Canyon:

  1. By helicopter.
  2. By tour bus.
  3. Drive. (Self)

The helicopter ride is an expensive but quick way to see the Grand Canyon. It only takes a few hours of your day, but you do miss the sunrise and the sunset. However, you get to see the Grand Canyon with a bird’s-eye view.

Unless you’re pressed for time, I wouldn’t recommend the bus ride from Las Vegas. Going to and fro would take a total of 12 hours and again, you miss both the sunrise and the sunset.

So, we decided to drive and spend 3 days there to fully soak in the beauty of the Grand Canyon.

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We set out on our journey immediately after checking out of the Bellagio, Las Vegas – to make sure we arrived before night fall.

After six tiring, butt-aching hours, we finally made it to Yavapai Lodge. We only made two stops in-between: one for coffee at Starbucks and the other for my birthday lunch.

FYI: If you ever plan to drive and stay at the Grand Canyon, the park fee (for driving your car in) is 25USD, valid for 7 days.

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Birthday meal at Cracker Barrel.

10009280_10152352063201388_393042486_nFarm fresh southern food.

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Oh, we also stopped for this jump shot with a view.

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Yavapai Lodge is located along one of the many lookout points along the south rim. It is walking distance (0.5 miles) from the lodge to the canyon edge. It is the largest lodge at the canyon with over 198 rooms scattered within the area (rooms are single or double storey buildings) and within convenient walking distance from other village services (the grocer, Chase Bank, the Canyon Village Marketplace and the post office).

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They are slightly more expensive (about 200 ++ USD a night) but we had a forest view which was definitely worth it.

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Our room was 10 minutes (on foot) from the main building which housed the reception, canteen and the gift shop.

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Our ride and our crib.

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I love the room, so homey and warm. It was very decent with two triple sheeted queen sized beds, heater (A MUST!), tv and a refrigerator.

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Toilets are the first thing I check whenever staying out. They have to be clean.

After checking in, we managed to catch the last meal at the Canyon Café (closes at 8pm). If you are feeling hungry after 8pm, you can drive to Bright Angel Lodge which is about 5 minutes away to catch a quick meal. They close at 10pm.

We collected some maps and got some handy tips from the lady at the lobby.

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It was below 10 degrees C outside and the temperature continued to drop throughout the night. We had a very comforting chicken dinner before heading to bed early.

Next post: The Sunrise and Sunset!