Grand to Grand Ultra: the BIG Day

Day 3 – the LONG DAY

Certainly lots of excitement and nerves today. There was talk around camp that if you could complete Day 3 then it was very likely you’d complete the entire event. This also put in to perspective how hard today could be. Today’s cut-off was 34hrs, with 85km’s to complete. This stage would consist of canyons, caves and lots of sand dunes!

Day 3 - G2G

Again, the beginning of this day started with a serious climb. From the start, I found myself focusing on one check point at a time. There were 8 check points between the start line and finish line with each being approximately 10km’s. Today it was obvious that some people were showing the effects of the previous 2 days.

Some of the issues runners were facing:

  • severe blisters
  • chaffing
  • dehydration
  • fueling issues
  • overheating
  • exhaustion (physical/mental)
  • physical pain (imbalances/injuries)

Starting at check point 1, I believe the first runner of the day pulled out. This continued throughout the day. It was sad to hear about another person pulling out as there is so much sacrifice and effort that goes in to getting to the start line that you want to see everyone get to the finish!

As you can imagine, with 85km’s to cover there would be a variety of terrain that we would be crossing. Each section between check points was spectacularly different!

A glimpse into all the beauty of the day

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The terrain for this day consisted of 75% sand! In addition to that we ran on hard packed gravel road, 2 highway crossings, packed sand with rocks, sandy tracks, paved road, and trails.FB-0927-Stage3-118a

Part of our run today brought us through the Best Friends Animal Society. This is the largest animal sanctuary in the US and provides shelter and care for over 2000 dogs, cats and other animals. They work nationwide in outreach programs with shelters and other rescue groups promoting pet adoption, spay and neutering and humane education programs.

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So much sand!

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It was difficult to train for all the sand I had heard we’d be running on. We just do not have sand like this in Ottawa, Canada!

My coach was not concerned though. He said it needs to be experienced, you “feel” how you should run, land, respond to the sand. He believed I would succeed.

Sand as far as the eye could see!

Sand as far as the eye could see!

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Gary and I managed to run together again today and I think by now we figured we worked well as a team.

Starting at check point 6 through 8 there were 2 tents set up to allow people to sleep if they wanted to before heading out to the dunes. At check point 6 we picked up another running buddy who’s team members had dropped out earlier (Matt). We also connected with another Canadian woman (Crystal).

Before we could change our minds the four of us headed out into the dark to get this day finished! Matt was back for a second time as he pulled out of the race at this stage in 2014. Crystal was back for a second time as she wanted to experience the sand dunes at night (her previous go at G2G she slept at this stage and headed out to the dunes during the day). Gary had ran G2G in 2014 with a large group that had a completely different experience for him. My plan before arriving to G2G was to run through continuously, regardless of when I arrived at the dunes.

this is all we could see

this is all we could see

My coach Ray Zahab instructed me on making my own shoe covers to protect my feet from sand (and of course that meant minimizing blisters). Seriously, not one ounce of sand got in my shoes with this set up!!

my DYI shoe covers with Inov-8 gaiters!

my DYI shoe covers with Inov-8 gaiters!

Crystal taking it all in!

Crystal taking it all in!

Capturing as much as I can! Spectacular Night Sky

Capturing as much as I can! Spectacular Night Sky

Once we finally made it through the sand dunes, we hit more sandy track! Then we hit some pretty nasty dense vegetation that ripped into our legs. Thankfully Gary took the lead here and I tucked safely in behind him when I could. This proved to be quite entertaining for me!! It was in this area that we spread out and eventually it would be just Gary and I again.

24+ hours into the day

18+ hours into the day

There might have been some whining happening here, it was my turn to take the lead 😉

I believe somewhere between checkpoint 7 and 8 we managed to catch up to Matt. The three of us stuck together for the last 8-10km and decided to run in together!

I gained some energy near the end and went ahead slightly but stopped and waiting for the boys because we had endured so much together!

final push!

We did it!! Day 3 Completed

We did it!! Day 3 Completed

You would think I would have been exhausted and crashed for hours but I really couldn’t sleep. Instead I ate and cheered on others coming in. Every check point we found out someone else (sometimes a few people) had dropped out. At night they posted names of those who decided not to continue. Today that number was high. I guess statistically this might be common but it made me sad knowing many had to stop.

Day 4 (which is when we arrived back to camp) was a day reserved for relaxing and recovery. Te race organizers surprised everyone by bringing in Coke and ice cream!!

Camp Day 4

Camp Day 4

I hoped that with the lack of sleep and pure exhaustion that had now hit me I’d sleep hard tonight…..music would be blaring again for a 6am wake up.

Photo Credits: a mix of my own personal photos and the official photographer for Grand to Grand Ultra.

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