FKT: Marie VanZandt, Oscar Tavera - Grand Canyon Crossings (AZ) - 2024-05-12

Route variation
Gender category
Mixed-gender team
Start date
Finish date
Total time
1d 8h 12m 19s

Oscar and I each have our own big plans this summer, tackling some new territory for us in multi day ultra running (200mile+ races). We thought R5 would be the perfect opportunity to flex our grit/sleep deprivation and get some solid training in. The week leading up to the attempt we worried ourselves with the important things: what matching shirt should we wear, what comfort food should we have at the car after the first lap, should we taper for this “event” or just plop it in the middle of the training block.

• OSCAR: Marie was the first one to introduce me to R3 in 2020 and I can't believe how far we've come. Even though R5 would be a "training" run for us, in typical style, we planned it all last minute and made it as hard as we could think up.


When Oscar picked me up at the airport, he immediately decided we should up the ante and “adjust the plan” to Unsupported. It would involve a much heavier pack but also be that much more of a training opportunity. We both aren’t extremely fast but we do know how to make ourselves as uncomfortable as possible, border line masochist, while still having fun. We thought this new plan would follow the spirit of doing hard things, followed directly by things you are not quite trained to do. Let’s do this!

• OSCAR: There's something about complete self-reliance that makes unsupported efforts so much harder but so much more rewarding. Reality hit the moment we started packing. Debating between extra clothes or extra food? Can I really cram 15 liters into a 13 liter bag? Do we have to pack for morning and night? The second I'm finished packing I start doubting myself and my decisions, trying to stuff more items in or change something that I later end up missing - sans that extra handle of Oreos.


We started R5 at 8:36pm at the top of South Kaibab, packs filled to the brim! Goal for first lap: stay conservative so there is something left in the tank and a willingness to head down for lap 2. We trotted down the hill, crossed the canyon and arrived at the North Rim in 6:37:00, happy we brought the puffers and warm gloves. The sun started to creep up as we moved relatively quick across the canyon floor and were at full sun as we marched up south Kaibab. First lap across the canyon and back 13:45:06.

• OSCAR: Going down the rim for the first time felt great, I kept it slow so we had fuel in the tank for the last portion. I've been practicing my night running so starting in the dark wasn't an issue, the trail is so easy to navigate. Heading up the North Rim was effortless when the sun wasn't shining or the rocks radiating heat back toward you. As the sun started coming up I knew it was going to be a race against the heat or the bad weather; we had a 20% chance of thunderstorms and we both skipped our rain jackets. Doubt also started to creep in, did I have enough nutrition for the second trip? After an inventory check and realizing I had crammed 3 frozen bean burritos and 2 mashed potato packets, I knew I'd be ok.


After waiting for a quick hail/rain storm to pass, we mustered the courage to head down the canyon for round two. Oscar started threatening to head back to the car and grab that extra handle of Oreos (I convinced him to stick to the plan of unsupported)! This was one of the many moments I really questioned the whole “unsupported” decision, some hot ramen and a little nap in the car would have been really nice! Lots of direct sun and tired legs slowed us down the hill and made the canyon floor pretty toasty and slow going. We made it to north rim just as the sun was setting and again happy to have the puffers.

• OSCAR: Hitting the trail after a quick 20-minute nap felt amazing, I was absolutely renewed going downhill. However, right after Phantom Ranch the heat started hitting me and slowed me down to a walk. Marie pulled me through by doing walking/running intervals. It wasn't until I stripped down to a tank top, short shorts, and lighter socks that I felt much better to keep running. After hitting the North Rim milestone, 75% complete, I knew we had to speed up and make up some time. We were so close to finishing and that feeling propelled me.


My experience of the final trip back across the canyon was filled with rock visions and trail naps, meanwhile Oscar found a second wind and his trail legs. Thankfully he stuck within headlamp sight and cheered me through the flats. Not the most impressive second lap, just over 18hrs, but mission accomplished and ready to take the nutrition and sleep deprivation lessons into the next big push. Total time: 32:12:19

• OSCAR: The last 21 miles were perfect. It was after sunset and the weather had cooled down enough for me to feel refreshed and ready to end this. I ate through most of my food and felt like floating down the trail. Marie was struggling a bit and I didn't want to leave her behind so I ventured just slightly ahead. We gathered ourselves at Phantom and power-hiked all the way back to the south rim. The goal was to be there right before sunrise, and we did it. Super proud of our effort and it really made me think that we could do R7!


We carried all gear, nutrition and clothes for both laps the entire time. Water was used at the campsite public spigots along the route. Despite being offered rice crispy treats and paydays from friendly rafters (we did not accept) and being extremely tempted to load back up on Oreos for the second lap (we did not go back to the car), we received no support or food from anyone on the trail, minus compliments on our matching outfits ;)

FKT R5 (mixed gender team) unsupported with Marie | Run | Strava