Grand Canyon Double Crossing FKT Double Broken

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.

Grand Canyon from South Rim

One of Dakota

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.

Logistical Notes
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.

Breaking Bulletin

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.

There are 41 comments

  1. Phil Jeremy

    Great run , love to have a go myself one day. I love his honesty in his blogs…always makes me smile; especially his description of Hal Koerner at UTMB…'I have never witnessed such a comical display of abject misery'. Respect and humour all in one sentence.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Art,
      The R2R2R record is runner's choice in terms of route, so no real need to indicate a "short version." Any FKT on a longer version that took more time than Dakota's or Bethany's run would merely be a route FKT rather than the double crossing record.

      Self supported was an inexact word choice based on something a previous record holder recently wrote. In fact, I'm not 100% sure of the minute details of R2R2R FKT etiquette. My speculation is public water is legal, be it from spigot, stream, or river, as would be buying food and drink at Phantom Ranch. Caching and manned resupply along the way would be out. Personally, I'd also think "pacing" would be fine as these aren't closed race courses. I shouldn't have taken a short cut in my explanation here.'

      Anyway, Dakota wasn't paced. He did catch one of his traveling companions in the final switchbacks to the South Rim and they finished together, but the meeting was unplanned. I hope to share details of Bethany's run later.

      1. Slow Aaron

        Bryon –

        "Dakota wasn’t paced. He did catch one of his traveling companions in the final switchbacks to the South Rim and they finished together, but the meeting was unplanned."

        My only contribution was yelling time splits and frightening tourists. Turns out 6 miles and 5,000 feet hurt even when you are hours short of FKT pace…

      2. tommy

        Did Dakota go up South K or bright Angel when returning to South Rim? – Big difference here, one being having no water or shade, the other providing shade/water and longer distance.

        1. Bryon Powell

          Dakota returned up the South Kaibab Trail. The cool weather and his fast pace makes water less of an issue. He went from the river to the rim in 1:41, so well under 2 hours from Phantom Ranch with 70 ounces of water.

  2. Steve Pero

    Wow, incredible! I can so much appreciate what Dakota and Bethany have just done as Deb and I just did our first crossing doing the same route, SK2NK2SK and that last climb was a killer….oh and it took us 14 hours and it was dry 2 weeks ago! ;-)

    Congrats to both new FKT holders…we're going back next year, too, it was definitely one of the best ultra length rikes (run/hikes) we've done.

  3. Stacy

    If I recall correctly, the R2R FKT (N-S) is like 3:05, so sub 6 for the round trip would be pretty audacious. But audacity is one of the things lovable about Dakota, right? ;)

  4. Deep T.

    That's nice that he ran so fast … now, to impress this old timer, be running in 40 years (or longer) and still be enjoying it. Different things I know … but all too often when the records/wins/attention stop coming (as they inevitably do), that runner stops running (and the records get broken and new 'stars' emerge). Me, I'd rather be the runner who got a lifetime of enjoyment versus the heady thrill of going fast and breaking records for a few years. Maybe he will do both, but very very few do.

    I long for the guy who runs the R2R2R unsupported, breaks the record, and tells no one. That would be truly cool.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Deep T, none of us can speak to Dakota's longevity in the sport, but I do know that he greatly enjoys other mountain pursuits. Whatever his goals and mode of transit, I'd imagine Dakota will be tooling around the mountains as long as his body will let him. :-)

    2. Antil0ck

      First off, Dakota, you rock my friend! congrats on such a great accomplishment.

      I love reading stories where people go beyond the conventinal organized trail race and venture into adventure runs and especially when it's completely self supported runs. Five of us ran the Wonderload trail (93 miles with well over 22,000 of climb) in under 35 hours with one runner finishing in under 22 hours. He was not going for the speed record but I am confident that he could set a new wonderland speed record under ideal conditions.

      Deep T, I can appreciate your comment on runners who venture out and break course records and keep it all to themselves but if that was the norm, then there would be no irunfar.com and stories to read on such gifted atheletes :) I doubt that athletes such as Dakota, Krupicka, Mackey and many others are trying to impress anyone by going out and setting new course records. It's what they do and do it very well.

      Will these great atheletes be around 40 year from now still pounding away miles on the trails? I do not know. Ultra running is still too new of a sport to determin if elite atheletes will burn themselves out due to racing or racing related injuries. My guess is that the elite ultra runners will be around for years to come after their prime years of racing are over.

      Not to boast or trying to impress but next year my friend and I are going for a yo-yo wonderland trail run. We will try to complete this epic adventure run semi-supported with only 2 planned aid stations per loop and under 4 days. That is 186 miles with over 44,000 feet of climb.

      1. Anonymous

        "Ultra running is still too new of a sport …" really? Ultrarunning has been around for quite some time although I will admit its practicioneers are few … even post 'Born to Run.' The fact is ultrarunning is a tough sport and it is tough on the body even if you are biomechanically perfect … there are also no softer cutoffs for the aging ultrarunner … it's 30 hours at Leadville whether you are 20 or 70. There are some 'mutants' who can still make the cut as senior citizens, but they are an exception among an already exceptional group of people.

        My guess is the greater the success of the athlete, the more likely they are to walk away (pun intented) from the sport after the podium is no longer in the picture. Nothing wrong with that for sure. "Addicted to winning" is what Warshawer once remarked in a WS video …

        May you run long and strong, DJ …

        1. Anonymous

          I agree that ultra running has been around for awhile, I guess my intended statement is that not until recently has it recieved the attention of a much wider audience and no longer considered an underground activity but a sport. Thanks for pointing this out. :)

  5. AJW

    I did an 8:11 a couple years ago and thought I was pretty cool. This envelope pushing is making me feel old. But, Dakota, he's the real deal. Now, he needs a job, a wife, and three kids. Then, he's mine:)

  6. Jay

    Deep T,

    We all run for different reasons. Some run because they simply love it. Some because they know if they don't the pounds will accumulate. The reason why I run is part for the mental challenge and part because the trails always remind me just how big God is and how small I am. I do know this though. When I see these rock stars like Dakota and Kilian running the way they do it inspires me to get better and I am in total awe.

    Keep rockin' guys because the better and faster you guys get, the harder I will train to somehow try and keep up. Congrats Dakota!

  7. Kim Boger

    Good job Dakota! So proud of you! Some friends and I just did the Rim to Rim in October but I didn't quite finish going back across like planned due to injury. Would love to talk with you about running style and get specifics. Tell your mom hi for me and come see us in Moab!!

  8. Chris Cawley

    I've always thought starting on the South Kaibab was faster because you get the longer of the two climbs out of the way on fresher legs. For reasons of convenience I did an R2R2R starting on the North Rim last fall and can remember thinking how much nicer it would be to cruise back to Phantom Ranch on a long, gradual downhill from the North Rim than it was to grind up 14 miles of moderate uphill at the end of the run. Has anybody done it both ways?

    1. Ben

      Chris,

      I've done it both directions- last weekend North > South pacing Bethany and a previous South > North last April and I agree that starting on the South Rim is easier, even if just psychologically. Grinding up a more gradual 14 mile climb to the North Rim at the end of the run was pretty rough and there is more of an impetus to push hard for the gradual 7 mile climb from Phantom Ranch to the Cottonwood campgrounds which feels interminable. Just my 2 cents.

  9. Paco

    Any record in the marathon to Comrades distance category that is not held by a Kenyan is a 'soft record.' Until the prize money in ultras gets to the level of top European marathons (which isn't going to happen anytime soon I suspect – if ever), then the real talent will not toe the line to take on the Canyon or a standard ultra distance race. How many 2:08 or faster marathoners are running ultras? So, it's cool that there are 'records' but they are soft …

    1. Herman

      That assumes that a 2:08 marathoner would:

      A) want to run for 6-7 hours at a tough pace for fun and to set an arbitrary FKT with no purse.

      B) have the ability to run a 42 mile route with 10,000+ feet of elevation gain without completely blowing up on their chicken legs.

    2. Antil0ck

      Paco, you are comparing two completely different athletes here. One designed and trained for (for lack of a better term) shorter distances on a flat course where all focus is on FAST forward motion without any obstacles or perhaps the occasional pothole to avoid(marathon runners) and the other (ultra runners) for ultra long distances over extremely rough terrain an lots of elevation gain/loss would where speed is only one of many factors in winning or even finishing an ultra event. The fact is that most elite marathoners do not have the body for self sufficient ultras where one must carry 25 lbs or more of fuel, water and whatever else they might need on the trail. Not enough body fat to help keep the body warm on night time runs, not enough muscles to carry multi hours worth of food and hydration. It's like comparing sprinters and marathoners. Just not a proper comparison.

  10. Jay

    Paco, you are cracking me up right now. Anybody who doesn't think that what Dakota has done is not amazing has no clue about ultra running and what kind of physical and mental strength it takes to what he did. Did you say soft record? You might want to rethink that.

  11. Dallas

    Comparing a 100 or 200 meter dash to a 42.195 kilometer event is not the same as comparing a 42.195 kilometer event to a 'short' ultra (Comrades distance or less). Looking at the Kenyan training programs I dare say they could do quite well at the short ultra distances (and why not longer?) with very little modifications to that training.The fact is without the money there is none of these guys who are going to cross over (and a 2:08 will only put a runner in the top 50 or so marathon performances of 2011).

    Dakota ran something very special, but let's not get carried away with saying the world elite at the marathon could not measure up at the shorter ultras.

    1. Antil0ck

      Dallas, I was reffering to self sufficient ultras and by ultras I am talking about 50 mile ultras or longer. Sure, Elite marathoners would fair great and might even win a handful of 50k's on flatter surfaces with aid stations but double the standard marathon distance and become self sufficient on the course? Nah….. not going to happen Dallas. Until I see with my own eyes I will not believe it.

      1. Dallas

        Might not happen because of the money, but think about this:

        Q: Can Kenyans jump over stuff while running?

        A: Check out the world all-time steeplechase results.

        Q: Can Kenyans run on something other than fast asphalt?

        A: Check out the results at the world x-country championships?

        Q: Can Kenyans run marathons?

        A: Yes.

        Q: Can Kenyans run 100-200 miles a week at altitude?

        A: Check out there high school runners; training programs :-).

        Any reason we could not strap on a hydration pack on one of these guys and see some sparks fly? It probably won't happen, but wouldn't it be fun if it did?

        1. Antil0ck

          Dallas, very valid points except the training miles. We are not talking about weekly average here, we are talking about raw miles all at once. anyways, yes, it would be fun to see what would happen if the elite marathoners would enter the crazy world of ultra running :)

          Cheers

        2. Mr. Mediocrity

          Good conversations! It would be interesting to put a Kenyan in a trail race, period.

          Looking at some Pikes Peak results, it is easy to find several sub 2:30 road marathoners who end up blowing up (as in falling apart) on the mountain over the course of only 26.2 miles. A 2:20-2:29 marathoner is no sub 2:10 marathoner, but it would seem logical to expect a similar result from an elite marathoner in the course of an ultra trail race (fast road marathoners usually run terrible on Pikes and Pikes is a speedway compared to more technical trail races).

          Put an elite marathoner in Hardrock and my money will be on guys like Jones and Clark any day. Put an elite marathoner in the Grand Canyon on the same day and time as Jones and Jones takes the elite guy to the woodshed. Put an elite marathoner into Pikes and Old Man Carpenter will make that 30-years-younger elite marathoner look foolish.

          The technicality and vertical relief of a race course flips the advantage in favor of the trail-runner. The trail-runner is a lumberjack of pain-tolerance, the road racer is a pain-eating Machine. Machines need a myriad of aids to keep going. A flat road where footfalls land with no worry. Water at a multitude of aid stations. Cheering fans. Personal coaches. Personal physical therapists. A two-race-a-year running schedule. Days spent resting. Money. Lumberjacks need a little air to breathe to keep going.

          What roadies do is awesome. What trail racers do is awesome. It is like comparing a cheetah to a mountain lion. Both are awesome predators, but are totally out of place in the others environs.

          A corvette on a two-track trail is useless. A four-wheel drive pickup with snow-chained tires on an Arizona interstate in July is insensible.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Ping, you're right, he is surely joking. Dakota's got an irreverent sense of humor, especially with the folks he knows and he knows Dave and knows that Dave beat him at TNF EC last December. Just some friendly smack talk, I assure you.

  12. Ping

    Hoped so. The best part of our sport is that peeps from all walks toe the same line. I dread the day when the starting line of any given ultra looks and sounds like the premadonna fest of any given Sunday

  13. Tracktown USA

    I chuckle when I read that Dakota's 10 minute per mile average through the canyon is held as untouchable by a world class marathoner. No disrespect to Dakota – but really. It's 10 minutes a mile.

    I think about the previous discussions about prize money in the sport. Be careful what you wish for … I think 1000 bucks will feed a Kenyan family for 4 months or so. Start offering some real money and some of these 'chicken legged' second tier marathoners (2:10 or so) will do some 'schooling.'

    Over and out.

  14. Patrick McKenna

    I completed R2R2R a week ago. It took me significantly more than 2x Dakota's time. He is Remarkable!!! (as are the ladies listed above)

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