You’ve heard of the type. The diesel engine that just doesn’t quit. The energizer bunny. Goes the distance. Etc. There is no doubt, this is Bryant Hafler.
Bryant has completed 12 Ironmans (although he actually couldn’t remember if it was 12 or 13), qualified for Kona 7 times and completed Kona 4 times. He’s done a bazillion other races; triathlon, running and cycling and nearly always places in one way or another. I met Bryant in Hawaii where he was still training and having a good time with it, but also had picked up a few other sports, like stand-up paddle boarding. His attitude is laid-back, relaxed (to a fault at times) and easy-going… until he decides to drop the gauntlet. Our very first encounter (and he hates it when I tell this story but its one of my favs) was in December of 2008. It was one of my first rides out in Hawaii and post-baby. Four of us, me in the back and on Bryant’s wheel, were cruising along 20-25 mph. It was Hawaii where the roads are often slick and wet. I had come across the white line and my bike slipped significantly. I shouted out a warning to the guys in front of me and literally 10 seconds later, I see Bryant (like in slow motion), start moving across the white line. And in one fell swoop, Bryant’s bike flew out from beneath him. He landed on his left side and he and his bike were sliding down the road (still at significant speed). I had no where to go and still had too much chub (ha!) to bunny hop over him, so I t-boned and endo-ed right over Bryant. Bikes and water bottles flew everywhere. When all came to a halt in the middle of the road, Bryant and I both jumped up shouting “ARE YOU OK??” (We were.) A couple more seconds of chaos ensued as we scrambled to get all of our gear out of the road. On the shoulder, Bryant looked at me, stuck out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Bryant Hafler”. We’ve been fast friends ever-since.
So I was delighted when Bryant called me up this past winter and asked me to coach him. His calendar was challenging: couple of 5ks, couple of halves, two ironmans, an ultra (50K), a sprint and the grandaddy of them all, the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim ultra run. The order was weird too. I looked at all of this and thought, a challenge!
Fast forward to the present. Bryant has won (I mean, won won) his two 5ks and the ultra marathon. He solo-ed the Grand Canyon run and two weeks later, went 6th OA at the Napa Valley Vintage Half. So needless to say, he is on FIRE. But I wanted to talk about the Grand Canyon run.
Note: Bryant trained very hard to be able to do this run safely. It certainly is not for the wimps-at-heart or for anyone undertrained.
This is a pic of the Garmin data:
Here are Bryant’s notes:
“Well the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim run went fantastic. Definitely one of the hardest and most memorable adventures I’ve done yet. As you know, I came up with this idea last December and with your help and advice, had been building towards it since then. I hadn’t planned on a solo attempt but that’s how it played out. I scoped out the entry and return trailheads on Friday evening and Saturday at 530 am, with all the warnings of imminent death for anyone trying to get just to the river and back in one day playing in my mind, I was heading into the canyon. I used a 1.5 liter camelback and a race belt with two flasks and enough food for 12-15 hours. All the stuff I would normally consume in an IM race.
Halfway down the South rim the sun came up and the views were incredible. Arrived at the Colorado river in 1:07, stopped at Phantom Ranch and Cottonwood camp to fill up with water and made the top of the North rim just shy of 5 hours. I had trained a lot running uphill but not at altitude, and once I was above 7000 feet I would blow up even on the small climbs of which there were none, they were all steep!
The water hadn’t been turned on for the season yet on the North rim so I scraped frozen snow into the camelback with a rock like the pioneers did. Unfortunately that snow wouldn’t melt and a few hours later when I got back down to the first water source the sun was on the trail and the temperature was climbing to 100 degrees. I was already really dehydrated so hung out drinking ice cold snow water. Got going again, but by the time I pulled back into Phantom ranch ( about 9 .5 hours) I was starting to fall apart. Talked to a couple tourists who thought I was insane, and another runner who had bonked and was in worse shape than I was, then was on my way. Crossed a different bridge for the South rim climb up the Bright Angel trail and kept plugging away. Big rocks, hot, oh so steep. These are the strongest images I have of that climb. Eventually I could see the rim and started doing the math figured I could break 12 hours. Pulled my shit together and gave it everything I had in me that last two hours. Ended up at 12 hours 8 minutes. Shouldn’t have stopped to take so many pictures! I’m sure I looked like death as all the tourists at the top gave me a wide berth.
I would do it again but I’d either do it strictly for time with no sightseeing or make it all about the sightseeing. I tried to do both at once, and was unsatisfied on both counts.
So thanks for your great training plan and support. Maybe next time you’ll do it with me.
Do you see the trail? AND the bridge WAY down there?
Every time someone crosses an IM finish line, it is a major achievement. There is glory in being a pro and being incredibly fast and there is glory in plugging along and staying out on the course for hours upon hours. As endurance athletes, we continually press ourselves for that next achievement. As triathletes, we schedule ourselves to death, alienate our families, aspire beyond our wildest dreams, and relish in our tales of long hours and overcoming obstacles. But I wonder if there is more glory than in what Bryant did at the Grand Canyon… alone. No aid stations. No people around. No option to just not finish. I believe THIS might have been an ultimate test of mind and body.
And for an endurance junkie, it was hard. Just ask him about his cankles.
More athlete bravos! to come soon!
P.s. Bryant and I are racing together this weekend at a small sprint. We are similar swimmers and cyclists (I’ve even edged him out a few times), but alas, he always gets me on the run. But Bryant, GAME ON!