Leadership Lessons from a Dirty Double Crosser

December 11, 2016 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

Fifteen hours, all alone, crossing the Grand Canyon…twice, is a perfect opportunity for considerable reflection, if not hallucination. My recent Rim to Rim to Rim run across this Natural Wonder of the World and back was the fulfilling of a long held goal to run the 50 plus miles from the Bright Angel Trailhead on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Kaibab Trailhead on the North Rim…and then back, in one day. I knew it would be hard, having hiked the entire trail with friends five months earlier, but doing it all, twice, in one shot, running, would be a bit different. I wasn’t flying completely blind however, having completed several ultra marathons in recent years. Still, this would be no walk in the park, covering over 50 miles and climbing (and descending) over 11,000 ft., and with temperatures pushing ninety degrees during the day.

So back to reflection… There is no school better than the great outdoors for learning life lessons. And while some of the best lessons are the result of mistakes, in this case there weren’t many, as I was well prepared. Well, I guess that’s lesson one:If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” I’d made a [training] plan, based on previous ultras, I’d faithfully followed the plan, even when it wasn’t convenient or I didn’t feel like it, and all that training and preparation did indeed pay off, allowing me to complete my goal. The formula, plan, follow, succeed just works!

Ok, so not everything went perfectly. I did make a couple of mistakes: At about 15 miles in, I rounded a corner and to my horror there was a 20 ft. geyser coming up from the water pipe that feeds the seven water stations inside the canyon. I suddenly regretted my last minute decision the night before to remove my water purifier from my hydration pack! After all, the Park Service website said all stations were flowing! I still had the 9 hardest miles to the North Rim ahead and this might mean no more water ‘til the top! Could have been a disaster! Fortunately, the fountains were still flowing. Lesson two: Don’t doubt that inner voice!

The second mishap occurred shortly after the geyser where there’s a hill…a nasty annoying hill, that by itself is not terrible, but after several hours of running and anticipating the brutal 7 mile climb to the North Rim that still lay ahead, I was dreading it. Just before the hill there’s a faint path leading off the main trail to what I knew to be Ribbon Falls, a cool place to escape the sun and enjoy the fall’s cool mist for a few minutes. There’s also a sign at that intersection pointing ahead up the main trail to another trail and a bridge over Bright Angel Creek leading to Ribbon Falls. But I chose the first path thinking I could find a better, easier way across the creek and on to Ribbon Falls… Bad idea! After running into an impassable creek and bushwhacking for 20 minutes I came to the humble and a little bloody understanding of why they’d built a bridge. Lesson three: “Shortcuts make long delays” (thanks, J.R.R. Tolkien).

One more lesson – the climb up past Roaring Springs to the Supai Tunnel, and finally to the North Kaibab Trailhead on the North Rim was…REALLY hard! Add to that it was 11:30 am and full sun! Finally, when I hit the top I thought to myself “I’m done…totally spent…nothing left…NOTHING!” But there was this little issue of now being 26 miles from where I’d begun, and a wife on the South Rim waiting hard for my return seven hours later. No cell service, no way to get ahold of her…oh, and I’ve never quit anything before! So, I choked down another PROBAR, refilled and mixed my water, took one deep breath and headed back down…DOWN the canyon wall! If I hadn’t been there, I’d never have believed it was possible, but, and here’s lesson four: When the need is great enough, human potential exceeds all rational limits! A change in direction helps too!

Well, seven and a half hours later, after a beautiful but grueling day and still other lessons contemplated, I dragged myself up on to a now dark again South Rim, right back where I’d started and right into my wife’s arms! Just kidding – she had no interest in hugging this very dusty, dirty double [canyon] crosser!

 

 

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Entry filed under: attitude, character, courage, determination, Encouragement, goal setting, goals, hiking, leadership, motivation, outdoors, Perserverance, planning, running, Uncategorized.

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