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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Let’s Get This Started – Grand to Grand Ultra

How do you start a 273km run? Just like any other run, one foot in front of the other 🙂 It seemed like forever to arrive at the start line and then suddenly Day 1 was here!

Day 1

what became my corner in the tent

what became my corner in the tent

I think most of us were awake before the 6am music started playing. This was our first night and morning adjusting to sharing a tent with strangers. There was snoring, rustling mattresses, zippers opening for middle of the night bathroom needs, etc.  We were awake, trying to be polite and discrete as we tried to get organized to run almost 50km’s for Day 1.

myself, Lisa and Gary

myself, Lisa and Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jar of Hope - Team Jamesy

Jar of Hope – Team Jamesy

I had arranged to meet up with 2 runners, Lisa and Gary, to see if our pace allowed us to run the day together. There was such an energy at the start line, lots of excitement and nerves. This is where I was first introduced to Jar of Hope and why this team was running. I listened to James share about how he was literally running to save his sons life. I was inspired by his story, in his fight and would later connect with James to get involved.

warming up - first km of Day 1

warming up – first km of Day 1

Back to the start 🙂  We headed out from a remote location on the north rim of the Grand Canyon (altitude 5344 feet). Before we could think about it,139 runners set out to complete the 49.6kms required for Day 1. Previous Grand to Grand competitors shared that the first day could be brutal: it was flatter, a lot of the same terrain and full on sun, oh and consisted of a cacti minefield! They were not wrong. The temperature was actually not that bad, with a high I believe of 24°C, but with no shade to be found it was certainly hot!

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The cacti were a tad sneaky! I’ve never seen such a variety of cacti before. Some could be avoided but there were some little ones that were difficult to see and if you stepped on them it could go through your shoe. At one point I had one leap out from behind me and attach itself to my leg (or at least that is what it seemed like 🙂 ). It must have been loose on the ground and got kicked up by my foot. Thankfully, it did not really attach and was easily removed.

Canadian Gal Pals

Canadian Gal Pals

There were 24 countries represented with the 139 participants, 11 Canadians. Yvonne and Crystal were fellow Canadian gal pals with whom I had the privilege of connecting with on the course periodically.

 

 

 

There were a variety of challenges on this day, however, heading into camp stands out. We were still dealing with cacti but now there was a barbed wire fence thrown in for what seemed miles. Instinctively, I wanted to grab hold of this fence to help me, to offer some support, this seemed particularly cruel to me!  I was tired, hot, not thinking clearly and now had to remind myself continually to not grab hold of that convenient fence beside me 🙂

so many times I wanted to grab the fence!

so many times I wanted to grab the fence!

...Don't doubt it, don't doubt it Victory is in your veins...

…Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Victory is in your veins…

 

Lisa and I managed to stay with Gary the entire day, until the end, where we ran ahead listening to Katy Perry’s “Rise” on speaker as we crossed the finished line.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2

Remember the cacti? Well arriving into Camp after Day 1 it was obvious that we would be sleeping on top of many cacti! This made me nervous sleeping as I had an air mattress and heard that in previous years some had been punctured. I did not sleep well at all and woke up numerous times afraid to puncture the mattress (even though I had a tarp down to help provide an extra barrier).

Day two: climbed out of Camp 1 and ended up down in Camp 2

Day Two: climbed out of Camp 2 with a big decent to Camp 3

This morning we would spend a good portion climbing. The reality of what we were in for began to set in. I found Day 2 to be extremely hot and hoped my plan for fueling and hydrating was going to work!

These views though!!

These views though!!

2016-09-26_23-31-14_richardsonThe landscape was truly spectacular, like nothing I had ever seen before. Gary and I had decided to stick together for another day and had started to fall in to a bit of a rhythm. We were figuring out our strengths and weaknesses and how to push each other. We started seeing “regulars” at check points and running periodically with other runners who we would pass and then they’d pass us again later on.

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Day 2 Completed!

Although no one had dropped out on Day 1 (a first for G2G), today 5 competitors had decided to not continue. For all the competitors participating this was not good news, we really did want to see everyone finish.

Resting up, so I can start Day 3

Resting up, so I can start Day 3

Coming up….Day 3 and beyond…..