Dakota Jones made the trip to the Grand Canyon last weekend for what’s fast becoming a major pilgrimage of ultrarunning – a double crossing of the Big Ditch. What’s more, he was going after Dave Mackey’s four year old speed record. To break it, he’d need to run 42.5 miles with 10,500′ of climbing in less than 6:59:56. He did, running rim-to-rim-to-rim in 6:53:58. Here’s how it went down.
Early Saturday, Dakota and six buddies plummeted into the Canyon from the South Kaibab trailhead on the South Rim. Dakota went after Mackey’s fastest known time while the others enjoyed their own routes through this marvel of the natural world.
Dakota descended the South Kaibab Trail 6.7 miles to the Colorado River through the morning chill and up to three inches of snow on the trail’s early miles in 49 minutes. He cruised at “80% effort” up the North Kaibab Trail’s 14-mile, 6,000′ climb. The less traveled and higher of the two Kaibab Trails presented Dakota with up to a half foot of untracked snow as he climbed. On the flip side, the warming day turned the snow to mud. That said, Dakota didn’t think either the snow or mud slowed him while the cool weather aided his effort.
This was a record attempt from the get go with Dakota talking smack about Mackey and his record a few weeks ago. The plan? “Run a strong pace to the North Rim and see how I felt.” Dakota was “psyched” as he approached the North Rim, which he crested in 3 hours and 22 minutes. Keep in mind that the northbound route is slower as the North Rim is 1,500′ higher than the South Rim and there’s a 14-mile descent coming off the North Rim as opposed to less than a 7-mile descent from the South Rim. In other words, Dakota was in a great position to go for the record, with a 14-minute slower return trip doing the trick.
Dakota pushed the final climb up the South Kaibab Trail, running the entire first half of the climb to Skeleton Point. From there, he power hiked to the rim. He reported that his climbing legs weren’t especially honed for the purpose, as he’s focused on speed training of late. Still, when Dakota reached the top in 6:53:38, he established a new fastest known time for a double crossing of the Grand Canyon.
After the run Dakota shared, “I did feel good, but people can run a lot faster. No one trains specifically for the run or rests for it.” In posting about the run on his blog, he stated that he thinks the record will go under 6 hours within 5 years. (Kilian you reading?)
One guy who could lower the record is only 20 years old and, given that he feels training has a cumulative effect, should feel confident about his chances. Who is that? You guessed right if you guessed that Dakota Jones. While Dakota’s not one to repeat runs, he said “I’d love to go back next year. So few runs are worth running twice, but the Grand Canyon is special.”
More immediately, Dakota wants to stay in shape for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championship, which he’ll be running on December 3. Last year, he finished fourth behind Miguel Heras, Geoff Roes, and the former Double Crossing record holder Dave Mackey. This year, Dakota predicts it’s “gonna be a pretty wild race” and that he’ll “need to step up his effort” over this past weekend. Given his performance in the Grand Canyon, Dakota should be right in the thick of that “wild race” in less than four weeks.
As is tradition with the double crossing FKT, Dakota carried his own supplies with the exception of being able to take water from public sources. He carried a 70-ounce bladder in his pack. Although he never drained it, he filled it up three times at Cottonwood outbound and inbound as well as Phantom Ranch inbound.
After having only one gel outbound, Dakota downed five gels between the north rim and the river with a plan to forgo eating on the climb. That didn’t happen as he popped two more on the climb.
Just a day after Dakota, Bethany Lewis set a new women’s FKT for the Grand Canyon Double Crossing in 8:15:51 breaking Darcy Africa’s old FKT of 8:25:26. Bethany unconventionally ran her R2R2R from the North Rim.
It should be remembered that the women’s FKT started the year at 9:25 run by Emily Baer in 2003. Krissy Moehl (report) and Devon Crosby-Helms (report) cut the record to 9:12:29 on April 19th. Darcy broke the duo’s record just four days later.