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!
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:
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
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.
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.
So much sand!
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!
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
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!
Crystal taking it all in!
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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
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
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!
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
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!
…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.
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 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!!
The 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.
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.
The Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G) surpassed any thoughts or expectations I may have had about this adventure.
Its been about a year since I first heard about G2G. I was ending 2015 with a sincere desire to inspire others to chase dreams and to not limit themselves. My desire to run G2G was to demonstrate that we can dream big and choose an outrageous goal, make a plan and work hard to achieve it. This race was beyond my comfort level and certainly outside of any experience I had as a runner.
Day 2 of BBU
Participating in the Bad Beaver Ultra (BBU) and the 100K i2P Run proved to be 2 of the best training events I could have done. The BBU gave me the confidence of running a multi-stage semi-supportive ultra. I also gained experience with having an extremely bad run day followed up by an incredible run day. This helped me realize that I could push hard and get through a difficult day, rest/sleep and and do it all over again.
Just two weeks after the BBU I attempted my first 100km run (i2P). The goal of this race was to gain experience running at night (the first 50km), but I had every intention of completing it. During the night portion of the run I experienced an upset stomach from about 5km’s on, and extreme knee pain for at least the last 25km’s. I took off to start the next 50km’s before my coach could talk me out of it, after all we accomplished the primary goal. The pain was so bad during the next 23km’s I had to limp going downhills, eventually it was continuous pain. I chose to pull out at 73kms (after some tears) as this was intended for training and was not my goal race (perhaps I’m maturing??) I had never experienced this kind of pain and was concerned about an injury preventing me from running G2G. This race gave me incredible mental training and confidence that I could keep going even if I experienced pain.
Both of these races were in August, so by the beginning of September, I was struggling to get out for my long runs. I mentally was feeling exhausted and my life was incredibly busy. I managed a few more quality runs, but not as many as I would have liked. I worried I wouldn’t be ready, began to doubt myself, my training, etc.. It came down to making sure I was mentally in a positive place, so I focused on getting my head ready!
I headed down to Kanab, Utah on Monday to get acclimatized to the altitude and adjust to the dry heat (race start was the following Sunday). Runners began arriving throughout the week and it was nice to connect with others who were about to experience this amazing race.
little shake out run
Some I ran with during the week to loosen up and explore, others I had either lunch or dinner with. To my surprise, there were many first time stage racers. Of course there were many experienced and elite runners as well. I loved hearing everyone’s stories as to why they were taking on this challenge, it put me at ease.
My Gold Sticker!
The Grand to Grand Ultra is a self-supported race requiring you to carry everything you need for the 7 days, including food. A tent and hot water was provided at camp every night (and morning) but everything else was your responsibility. The mandatory gear check-in was Friday afternoon, runners were given a gold sticker if they had everything necessary.
My bag weighed in at 23.2 lbs, I believe 10lbs of that was food 🙂 Many of the people I was chatting with had bags weighing approximately 13-16lbs. Of course, this caused me to second guess my gear/food and I wanted to eliminate more weight but I had crazy light gear and I was sure I needed the food 🙂 I purged a little more and think I came back starting around 22 lbs. Turns out the average weight for bags was just over 19lbs.
My coach called me and gave a big pep talk and told me to trust the plan and follow it! He convinced me that I would be happy I didn’t get rid of things and would need the food to fuel properly to get through the event. So, I did what I was told and more than once I said to myself during the race, “Ray, you were right”!
Friday evening was the welcome dinner and a chance to meet all the runners, volunteers and of course race directors. It was a fun evening, but I think we were all extremely antsy to get started! We were given our race bibs, tent mate list, race booklet and other essentials for the race. Much to my surprised I was sharing a tent with my fellow Canadian friend and 5 men! I had a chance to meet so many runners but none of them were the names listed as my tent mates, with whom I’d be sharing a tent with for 6 nights. Honestly, by this point, everything just became all part of the adventure. I guess I would meet them eventually 🙂
There were 139 racers heading to the start line from I believe 24 different countries.
First van out!
It was a long drive so of course there was a mandatory pit stop for a bathroom break.
Bathroom break – boys on one side; girls on the other
Arriving at Camp
My home for 7 nights
Dinner was catered (and delicious), last minute guidelines and rules were given and before you know it we were heading off to bed for hopefully a good nights sleep.
Dinner – What a view!! pc: Grand to Grand Official Photos
Goodnight Moon pc: Grand to Grand Ultra Official Photo
Music blared on speakers at 6am sharp to get everyone moving, hot water was ready. Let’s do this!
Stay tuned for the journey after crossing the start line…..
The i2P Run is a celebration of trail running and intended to highlight some of the amazing trails in Gatineau Park. The distances range from 10K – 100K so as to encourage a wide range of trail runners, it’s not a competition against others but instead against yourself! It is also a fundraiser for i2P (Impossible to Possible) with all proceeds from the run going to support this amazing non-profit organization.
My big training run was the Bad Beaver Ultra (BBU Recap) making my original plan for the i2P Run to volunteer. I asked my coach (Ray) a few weeks back if I should volunteer or run one of the races. His immediate response was to register for the 100K! I texted back a huge LOL and his response was “no I’m serious”. I then ignored him for a bit 🙂 This seemed insane to me. When I connected with Ray on the phone, he explained how the 50K night would be amazing night training for the Grand to Grand Ultra. He believed I could do the 100K but said lets focus on the 50K night and whatever happens the next day we can decide as we go.
So with just a week before my first stage race (BBU), I found myself now signed up for my first 100K! Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, right?
Fast forward 3 weeks, and with the experience of BBU now available to me I was not really nervous about attempting the 100K. I actually felt strong mentally and physically leading up to it. Last week I was experiencing a little bit of tight muscles, more noticeably my right quad, and my right arch continues to need attention but overall feeling very good.
The Night Run (50K)
Participants of the 100K met at Breton Beach at Lac Phillipe in Gatineau Park as this would be the finish line (and most check points). Participants were encouraged to drive and park there as it was a perfect option to go back to the car to rest and/or refuel, again allowing you to carry very little.
From there we were transported to Cafe Les Saisons in Chelsea where the owner graciously allowed the i2P Run Organizers to host a private dinner for the runners. After dinner Ray Zahab, John Zahab and Mike Stashin shared some amazing tips. There was then time to get our things organized, chat with some new and old friends and then walk over to the Chelsea Visitor Centre for the start of the race.
I believe my lessons started with dinner. As with BBU, dinner was provided, more than likely you will be eating foods you do not normally eat. There was a note sent out to us that dinner was casual and if you wanted to bring your own food that was certainly an option. I didn’t worry about it and honestly only one person did bring her own food. I’ve never had an issue with food or hydration (until BBU). BUT then again, I’ve never ran these kind of distances before. Even with my training runs my longest are usually 25-35km back to back runs, with my longest being just under 45km.
my view as we headed out
We started at approximately 9:45pm from the Visitor Centre, up trail #1 (3+km climb), a loop around trail #6, down #30 to catch #8 and make our way up King Mountain. Lots and lots of stairs, no doubt contributing to my quad issue. We then began to make our way back to trail #1 and this is where my stomach issues started again. Gassy, bloaty and a wee bit nauseous. By the time we hit the first check point I felt like throwing up. It took everything inside me not to call it quit right there, but I didn’t. Of course, I did not let the amazing volunteers know I was considering calling it!
From there we made our way to Wolf Trail and headed down. This is when the knee pain started. Pretty mild at first, but the stomach issue was getting much better. I was now only drinking water and eating a few pretzels and crackers. Obviously this is not going to sustain me but it’s what I had to do. I also had a ginger-chew which is a bit like a treat and seems to calm my stomach. We caught trail #1 again and continued down to Meech Lake Parking Lot for another check point. This is when it was confirmed that a trail runner was missing. She was not from Ottawa and had somehow gotten turned around. Short story is she was found, she was fine and I was crazy impressed at how well she handled it all!! She caught up to me (and passed me) just after trail #36 that was very dark and lonely to run in the middle of the night. It is a beautiful trail that I love to run on during the day, if I had company I might have enjoyed it more through the night.
I continued making my way back to Breton Beach going through Lac Phillip camp grounds. I am not sure how long I ran with the knee pain but it continued to get worse, especially all the downhills. I’m guessing at least 15km’s or so till I finally made it in. I had 1.5hrs. to rest, recovery and get ready to head out for the 2nd 50K.
The Morning Run (50K)
When Ray heard my knee was giving me some pain his response was, “okay then were good. You did what we wanted, you got the night run in.” I of course, had not even considered not continuing. I immediately suggested that I’d go out for the next 23k and if I limped in we’d call it. I argued that he knew me and that I recover quickly and I could do this. He agreed 🙂
My running sisters! 85km Lake Superior Gate to Gate Girls (top photo Lake Superior, bottom photo i2P run photo bombed by Ray
So at 8am it was back out to do the next stage, 23km. We headed out onto trail #55 with a smallish climb and then at about 1km we hit a downhill. I immediately felt shooting pain in the knee, I had to stop and walk down. If I was smart I would have turned around right then, but I’m more stubborn then smart. I could manage the straights and the inclines but had to walk almost all of the downhills. I finally hit the 12.5km turn-around. My sweet dear friend was there for the check point. I should have stayed with her and hopped in the van to go back to the finish, but instead we ate some grapes and I told her not to tell Ray 🙂 Again, stubborn!
So now I had to make it back to Breton Beach. At this point I was at the back of the pack. There were 4 walkers behind me and that was enough motivation to keep moving forward. I could not let them get ahead of me. I was now practicing mental toughness and doing everything I could to rid myself of the pain I was feeling (still mainly on the downhills). I started singing out loud for every step, and it worked. I was mastering the pain, I was pushing through and I could now start to run more downhills.
At this point I ran in to Steve and Sylvie and admitted to feeling the pain. They both told me firmly that I had to call it. It wasn’t worth it and I knew they were right. This wasn’t my goal race, I had to be in good form for G2G just one month away. BUT did I mention I’m stubborn?
I was still contemplating doing the next loop of 12.5km as it is more technical which I love but it would also allow me to complete 85km. With 8km’s to go I knew I had to call it when I got in. I finally shed a tear or two accepting that the right thing to do was call it. BUT I still had 8km’s to get back to the beach. I used that time to work on my mental toughness and pushed hard to run without pain! I was lying to myself and it was working. I knew that when I arrived at the beach I couldn’t look at my watch or talk to anyone before finding Ray and telling him I had to call it – I needed the accountability to not let me go on. In the meantime, I came upon 3 separate runners at 3 different times. With each one my goal was to run enough to pass them and keep them behind me. Just a little win for me at the end.
Here is what I’m walking away with:
I ran a night run even though I was scared/nervous to do this alone (yay me)
Every run gives me an opportunity to learn and develop as a runner
I am mentally tough (yes, and stubborn but I can push past hard)
I have amazing and wonderful friends that celebrate effort as much as completion
I get so much enjoyment at seeing others achieve their goals
If you don’t go through the hard stuff, then you miss out on the lessons
I’ve come a long way! I only started running trails 2 years ago. My very first trail run was the i2P 23km run. I only seriously considered doing Ultra running less than a year ago.
So as my husbands said to me, “Did you DNF or did you run an extra 23km?” The goal was the 50k night run, I just wanted to do it all 🙂
Have you experienced a DNF before? What was your experience?
Things are moving very fast suddenly with only 38 days to go before the start of the Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G)! I am flying out early so really I have less than a month to finish getting everything organized.
I have been slowly gathering the mandatory items required by for G2G. Testing out all my gear last weekend in the Bad Beaver Ultra (BBU) had me reconsidering some things.
Things that are working for me:
My shirt: I’ve settled on the Lululemon Swift Tech Shirt. It is moisture wicking, light weight and antimicrobial.
My back pack: I had to try out a few to find the right fit for me but finally settled with the Osprey Rev 24. I’ll admit I’m concerned about getting everything into my pack but my coach will have the final say of removing things 🙂
Eyewear: I was concerned about this as I have had some eye issues over the past few years when wearing contacts for more than a few hours. I now only wear them to run BUT given we will be running multiple days for hours upon hours this could be an issue. I tested out daily contacts for BBU and had them in for 12+ hours every day and I forgot I was wearing them! No infections so fingers (and toes) crossed 🙂 I will be using my favorite Sundog Sunglasses. Prescription sunglasses are also an option but I’m running out of time (and money)!
Shoes:Inov-8 Race Ultra 270 is my shoe. It’s the one my coach recommended to me when I first started trail running. If it isn’t broke why fix it!
Sleeping Bag: Check (light weight and very compact)
Lightweight Down Jacket:Check
Headlamp:Check (need two with spare batteries)
Red Flashing Light:Check (worn at night)
Meals:breakfast and dinner is worked out, most snacks but working on in race fuel.
Medical Clearance Certificate: My doctor doesn’t get it but has cleared me 🙂
What I am now tweaking, re-evaluating or still need to do:
Sleeping Pad: As the G2G is a self-supported race, I will be carrying everything including my sleeping bag and sleeping mat. I had planned on using the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mattress but there are some people that have experienced their mats being punctured on the dessert floor. So the other option is carrying the Solite Sleeping Pad, which is extremely light but bulky and would need to be attached to the outside of my pack.
GPS Watch:My faithful (but old) Garmin has served me well but is not as reliable to charge lately. It has a max. of 12-13hrs. battery life. I’ve been looking at a new watch as I will need one in the future but adding this expense before my trip doesn’t seem like a true necessity. During my BBU experience I chatted with an experienced runner who only uses a watch to track time on his stage races. This seems like a more practical option, as I do need to know how long I am out and keep cut-off times on my radar. I have an old Timex Ironman Watch that might do the trick. However, still considering the Suunto Ambit 3 Sport Watch.
Fuelling/Hydration:This has not been a big issue for me but after my experience in the BBU, with the duration of being out and the heat, I realize I have missed the mark here. After speaking with my coach, we have a plan in place and will test it out this coming weekend at the i2P Run.
Shorts: I have been training with the same shorts since Spring and have loved them, however, with the duration of the time out for BBU and the extreme humidity I was chaffing by day 2. I ended up wearing my sleeping capris on day 3 to avoid being uncomfortable. That sent me on a search for shorts that would be a bit longer to avoid chaffing. Although the temperature will be hot in the Grand Canyon it will be a very dry heat. I do not know if I’ll have an issue of chafing but I do not want to be dealing with it if I can avoid it by adding 1.5 cm to my shorts. I ended up finding a pair from Under Amour and gave them a test run this week. The big test will be at the i2P run coming up this weekend.
Patches:I need to have my Canadian Flag and i2P patches put on my pack and my shirts. It is mandatory to have your countries flag on the left sleeve of your shirt(s). The i2P patch is because I’m a very proud supporter and I’ve been working hard to raise $5,000 for the youth ambassadors heading off to Death Valley in September (they will be running during the time I am running, kind of cool as they will be in my heart)! You can still help me by donating here.
Gaiters:I have two options here and I am still torn as to what to do 🙂 This will be my priority after this weekends run. It is a matter of deciding and then fitting the shoes accordingly.
Compass: need to purchase and get some basic training!
Signal Mirror: min. 6cm diameter still need to purchase
Knife: min. 5cm blade – need to purchase
Emergency Blanket/Space Blanket:min. requirement 1.4mx2.2m (turns out mine is 1.3mx2.1m *sigh*)
Blister Kit:almost complete
Precscriptions: I have the prescriptions (required to deal with nausea/diarrhea and pain) but still need to get them filled.
photo from Nia’s facebook 🙂
I have to say this has been an incredible journey since January of this year. I have felt from the beginning that this journey was meant to be and I still feel very strongly about that. I had the honour of meeting and running with 3 of the i2P Ambassadors that I am fundraising for.
Although the money raised will go directly to support i2P, when someone gives it’s a special message to me that says, “Leanne, I believe in you and am so proud of you”. I’ve taken it to heart and am so thankful!
Next up the i2P 100K! The focus is the 50km night run to get some training in for running through the night but if I can make the cut-off times and feel like I can do it, I will continue and run the 50km day run.
If you have tips or suggestions to help me finish my check list I’d love your input!
The Bad Beaver Ultra (BBU) is a 3-Day 150km semi-supported stage race taking runners on a journey through Gatineau Park, Canada. As part of my training for the Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G) my coach insisted that I participate in this event. Of course that was way back in January of this year so it was only in the last few weeks that I started giving this race any serious thought.
It’s not that I wasn’t training for it, I just wasn’t focused on it. My coach laid out my weekly running scheduled and I followed it, usually without questions. I had settled in to a routine of long runs Friday and Saturday with Sundays thrown in when a third back to back was required.
I’ve been eating mostly “real” food and/or trying out different protein bars for these runs. I’ve also been using a few different hydration mixes as I try to dial in to what is going to work for me. I have had no issues so far with any of the food/hydration that I am trying but I am still working on timing, calories and of course sustaining energy. Days before BBU I had just picked up a new hydration mix that was full of good stuff and more affordable than what I was using. Seeing as BBU was a training race, to give me experience with stage racing, it seemed appropriate to test this hydration out over the weekend.
I was dealing with some difficult news leading up to the weekend, and true to “Leanne style”, I pulled away from everyone, including my coach, in an effort to deal with the emotions I was feeling. I made some race decisions on my own and because of that I experienced some valuable in race lessons.
As I packed my back pack for the three days, I was not concerned with the 15lbs weight (before water) as for G2G I will be starting out with approx. 20lbs on my back. I later learned that most of the other runners packs weighed in at around 8lbs-10lbs. In addition to new hydration (I had a selection of what I was currently using and the new format), I was also determined to get my nutrition figured out. I limited myself to a variety of bars and discovered I really lacked imagination and experience as to what would benefit me.
We arrived Wednesday afternoon at the Wakefield Mill Hotel and Spa giving us a chance to meet the other runners and settle in before we shared a meal together. We were given a swag bag and assigned our own beautiful room. After dinner there was a mandatory gear check and race directors went over the next days race course.
As this was the very first BBU the race was capped at 20 participants. It was clear from the beginning that there were many experienced ultra runners as well as a number of first time stage racers. My goal was easy, learn as much as I could from these amazing people and complete the 3 days!
Day 1 (55km’s)
The start line was just outside the hotel and ended at Brown Cabin near Lac Phillipe. Temperatures were in the high 30’s and was certainly felt when we were out in the open especially on Trail #55. We headed up to Lusk Caves where we dropped our packs and made our way through the very cold water. I was nervous about this very early on in the day, but with the heat it ended up being all I could think of through the day. I was thankful to go through the caves with another runner and the cold water was so appreciated. From the caves it was maybe 7km’s or so to the finish line.
The volunteers were like angels at each check point! After a few check points, I realized the doctor was pretty much at every check point as I arrived. A high five was in order on Day 3 when I celebrated not needing his services 🙂
Day 1 I also realized that there were sweepers on the course to pick up the flags after the last runners. We ended up having Neil as the sweeper on Day 1 who ended up hanging out with us for the first 25km’s. I offered to pick up the flags so he could get a good run in 🙂
When I entered this race, I suspected I was the slowest runner so knowing there was a sweeper on the course was very comforting in the event I was out there at night by myself.
Day 2 (70km’s)
The heat was unbearable over night in the cabin, no air circulating at all. As I was one of the last one’s in the night before I was left with a top bunk for sleeping. After unsuccessfully trying to sleep we were up for 4am for breakfast and coffee.
No sleep but all smiles!
By 6am we were heading out for Day 2. It was another high humidity day with temperatures reaching “feels” like 40+!
From about 12km’s on I was having stomach issues, this is the first time I have ever had issues and it was awful. Another runner was experiencing his own challenges that day and we ended up running together most of the day. I was very thankful for this as he is an extremely experienced runner and had completed G2G 2014. We climbed lusk falls, dealt with full sun as we made our way to the fire tower and down Trail #1. The funniest moment was when Colin suggested we find some shade and lie down for a minute, where he shared his chips with me (I will be forever grateful) and the sweeper caught up with us. She was a little surprised to see us lying on the trail and cautiously asked if we were okay. She shared her ginger candy with me to help my stomach issues (see they’re angels, all of them!!)
Embracing the suck together
We didn’t lie around to long, a few moments at most and continued making our way to Wolf Trail. I was thankful to be climbing down this trail as it would have just been cruel to make us go up. We eventually made it to Meech Lake and then shortly after that came some rain. Most of the day is a blur of familiar and unfamiliar trails, including our last check point at Champlain Lookout. We then made our way to the final trail of the day. Within 10 minutes of hitting Trail #9 (quite technical), it was like the lights went out. We now very much depended on our headlamps as we made our way through the trail to Camp Fortune, the finish line for Day 2.
pc: Jordan Thoms
I’m not sure exactly how late it was that we came in but I found it difficult to eat anything. I forced some pasta down simply because I knew I needed something. Tonight we were sleeping in one large room. This was the night I was testing out my sleeping pad that I was planning on using for G2G. Unfortunately, it was another almost sleepless night with lots of tossing and turning. We were up again early for coffee and breakfast.
Day 3 (25 km)
I felt better heading out and decided early on that I was going to just run for me today. I texted my husband “if all goes well I should come in around 1:15pm”. The route for the day took us back onto Trail #1, #17, down #8 across to King Mountain, did the loop and then out to I think #15 back to P7 and eventually down Penguin to the finish line. I crossed the finish line at 1:11pm, I’d say it went pretty well then. I felt like myself the entire run and enjoyed so much about this route.
There are so many memories mixed up between the days now but the entire race was full of incredible views and experiences.
Crossing the finish line did not mean we were finished yet! Once everyone arrived we headed on over to Le Nordik Spa for a special time in the baths and to enjoy the brand new VIP area. There was an open bar and an amazing post-race dinner cooked on their brand new outdoor grill. It was a wonderful way to end a truly epic event!
The race directors wanted to use this event to highlight some of the amazing trails throughout Gatineau Park but they also wanted to highlight some of the local businesses in the area. We were treated to our first night at the Wakefield Mill Hotel, breakfast and dinner each day were provided by local businesses, bars on the course, and so much more. Instead of receiving a medal at the end of the race we were given maple scented candles, crafted locally as a keepsake of our amazing journey.
My coach Ray Zahab has become like family! His belief in me and ongoing support has helped me succeed in ways that I never knew were possible. He understands the commitment and dedication required to chase my dreams and try to have an impact on others to believe enough in themselves to chase their own dreams.
My coach but more importantly my family!
I would highly recommend this event to anyone who is interested in an amazing 3 day stage race. Whether you are very experienced or just thinking about a stage race, this race has so much to offer everyone. I have no doubt next year will be even better!
Do you have some go to snacks you use on a long run?
Running has allowed me to meet so many amazing people. I’ve met a number of people online and sometimes I get the opportunity to eventually meet in person. That’s what happened with my friend Agnes. Agnes and I met through facebook a little over a year ago when a number of our mutual friends kept popping up in our news feeds. Agnes and I both support i2P (Impossible to Possible) and we have the same running coach, so it seemed natural to connect.
From the beginning we supported one another with our running goals. The very first time Agnes and I met for coffee we chatted about our running goals 🙂 Agnes mentioned an idea she had for an epic run that she wanted to organize to raise awareness for i2P. My hand went up immediately, please sign me up! Over the next several months whenever Agnes came to Ottawa, we would get together for a running adventure of our own making. It’s been fun. She is seriously a beautiful person with a genuine heart to encourage others.
That of course was before I had any idea what my own epic run in 2017 would require of me. When Agnes messaged me recently, with the details of her run, I wasn’t sure if I could commit. Would it sideline me from my own training? Did I want to put finances out when I was already under pressure for the financial commitment to my own run? Would my coach think it was a good idea? When my coach gave the thumbs up, I decided I had to do this with Agnes and the other stuff would work itself out.
I love what Agnes wrote on facebook about what we were doing? (copied below)
“ad•ven•ture: n. A challenging journey that pushes us beyond ourselves in a positive direction and allows us to engage the world directly, defy personal limitations, expand our understanding, and inspire others.” Tomorrow, this team is heading up to Lake Superior Provincial Park. This Saturday, we will be running from the North Gate to the South Gate, along one of Canada’s most scenic routes on King’s Highway 17 (part of Trans Canada Highway). This 83 km stretch hugs the rugged shores of Lake Superior, providing spectacular views that were a huge inspiration to Canada’s Group of Seven painters. This is not a race, there will be no medals at the end – we are doing this to bring awareness to impossible2Possible, an amazing organization that inspires us all to reach beyond our perceived limits and create memories of a lifetime.
The weekend started with a 12hr drive from Ottawa to Batchawana Bay, ON. I picked up Gesine early Friday morning and we were off. We ended up driving 12hrs, including a 2hr detour accidentally, but the drive was beautiful, the company amazing and I gained a new friend family member. Finally we arrived, met the rest of the team, had dinner and then a quick photo before heading off to our hotel to get organized and hopefully some sleep.
Woke up at 4:50 am with the sound of trucks whipping along HWY 17, the same hwy we would be running on. I’ll be honest, this made me somewhat uncomfortable to think that we would be running along this for most of the day/evening. There was no turning back, I pushed those thoughts aside.
Gesine and I realized we were not going to get anymore sleep so we got up and rechecked gear, clothes and of course water/nutrition (in the end we forgot our cooler of extra water/hydration mix)!! We met the other half of the team to start the drive to our drop off point, a 1.5 hr. drive along Lake Superior. We missed our drop off (construction on the road), making our starting time later than we had intended.
On route to our drop off
We finally got started close to 9:30 am and the temperature was already climbing, we knew we were in for a hot day.
The entire route was made up of rolling hills (part of the beauty when driving), with some inclines continuing for 2-4 kms at a time. The final 4 km was by far the the worst and steepest, but we completed it!
Shot this video at the 11 km mark along the route.
Some of my thoughts during the run:
I am not trained for road running
what was I thinking
man this is amazingly beautiful
no doubt people must think we are insane
these truckers are amazing – very supportive – I bet they are messaging other truckers to watch out for us
okay, seriously I am not going to be able to complete Bad Beaver let alone Grand to Grand Ultra
I don’t think I even want to! (see above thought)
Why am I even doing this…oh right, I wanted a BIG goal to demonstrate with hard work and a commitment to working towards my goal I could do the seemingly impossible – to encourage others to dream big….hmmmm
UGH why does this right foot always give me issues? I seriously need to have Ryan assess it
Just focus on counting, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10; 1, 2, 30, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 20; etc.
This is spectacular! There are so many fire flies! It’s seriously magical.
Okay, for sure people think we are insane now – running in the dark on hwy 17 with headlamps/wrist lights and reflectors – what a site!
I’m sure there were a lot more positive thoughts as well but mostly they escape me right now 🙂 The whole experience was truly remarkable, I do not regret any of it! The reward was so great!
By mid-afternoon a thunderstorm rolled in with some lightning. Obviously this caused some concern and we were careful to take cover when necessary. I believe we thought if we took refuge in the van the run could be over! I think we were all avoiding getting in the van. The temperature dropped significantly during the storm and we were drenched. When the rain finally stopped, the warmer temperatures and humidity returned. It did not take long for things to heat up again.
About 11.5 hrs into the run we needed to start preparing for night running. We had headlamps and reflective gear ready to go and of course we were very mindful of traffic (both directions). It was a unique experience for me to be running on a hwy in the dark with fireflies all around. I was accomplishing something I had never done before, the entire experience being etched in my mind and heart.
This video is of Anna and I with 5 km’s to go (for distance runners you get this time in a run when your brains have shut off and it’s hard to think clearly)
The goal: run from the North Gate to the South Gate along Lake Superior, a total of 83 km’s to raise awareness for i2P.
The start – North Gate
The Finish – South Gate
The experience: a total of 85 km’s (look out points/beaches along the route, running in and out of bushes (potty breaks) added to the total km’s. The route provided spectacular views of Lake Superior and gorgeous tree lines. The hwy proved to be incredibly hilly, the first 20-30 km’s seemed to be a consistent incline. The middle portion seemed more flat(ish) with the decent towards the end. There was a final 3-4 km steady, steeper incline to finish the run. The support from truckers throughout the day was really special. 90+ % of them would move over (if possible), honk their horn and wave! Like cheering us on. Parks Ontario were on route to cheer us on and get some photos, they were really amazed that we were doing this.
Some of the views along the way:
(photo credits to Agnes, Pearl, Anna, Gesine and myself – as we uploaded a bunch and I can’t remember whose was whose 🙂 )
Park Warden stopping in to meet us.
Here is what I learned about myself:
quitting was NEVER an option – did not even cross my mind
I will need to have salt tablets with me and use them before my fingers swell
little pieces of cold grilled cheese sandwiches does the body good
my mind truly is able to push my body to do more
I can run 85 km WITHOUT music – yup I did not play music the entire run
long steady inclines no longer intimidate me (steep hills I still despise)
I am trained more than I think – I was shocked at how fast and well my body recovered
I need to start asking more questions BEFORE I agree to do things 🙂
Most of my training has been in trails so my biggest hurdle to push past was the physical and mental exhaustion of running road. It’s boring! With trail running my mind is busy looking ahead and anticipating where my foot is going to land next. I feel more engaged in the run when I’m out on the trails. Thankfully the route was beautiful as road running can get monotonous, just keeping one foot in front of the other.
We were five women who came together to share one goal, raise awareness for i2P (Impossible to Possible). We finished, having accomplished that goal but accomplished so much more in the process. The experience allowed some of us time to heal, a time to be renewed, to gain confidence, and a chance to encourage others. We also witnessed that some of our weakest moments somehow were also our strongest.
My New Family
A highlight of the whirlwind trip was the company, the views were spectacular but the people I ran with are beautiful. When you drive a total of 22 hrs. with someone, you have a chance to get to know each other. I’ve never met any one like Gesine (The German Gazelle), I am inspired and in awe of her strength and her life story. Of course there is Agnes (Aggie Bear) who I admire for her experience and knowledge of the outdoors, her passion for inspiring and helping others achieve greatness and have fun! Precious Pearl is an angel, who took time off work to crew us and genuinely wanted to be with us and encourage us in every way possible. She stayed on course for 14 hrs to ensure we had food, hydration, we were safe and during the storm she circled around to make sure she was available to pick us up at a moments notice! Lastly there was Anna Da Bomb! Anna and I shared the experience of achieving a whole new level of distance together. We had both only ever ran 50 km’s prior to this run, so this was kind of a big deal for both us. Like myself, Anna seems open for anything, seems to enjoy an adventure and doesn’t ask a lot of questions. Anna quickly became my sista, someone who I knew was like me in a lot of ways.
I arrived on Friday in the company of strangers and left on Sunday saying good-bye to family.
Do you have a tribe either in person or online? I’m extremely grateful for the running friends I have, in person and online.
Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend certainly had some extra publicity leading up to the races. Extreme heat was putting some of the races at risk. It’s not like we have not run in hotter conditions, most of the summer training runs are extremely hot, however, this was the first hot weekend of the year, so runners were not prepared for it. The Race Director, along with the Team, needed to be watching the weather very closely. It was amazing how well the information was getting out to the runners. Through the website, emails, social media and of course the media – there was a lot of news circulating leading up to the start of the races. Also, I believe for the first time in Ottawa, the coloured flag system was put in place. To everyone’s surprise, the weather was actually fairly decent at the 7am start of the marathon. We started with the green flags, indicating good conditions, however somewhere along the route I realized we were now showing red flags, alerting us to watch for course changes. Weather Update on Run Ottawa Site.
Only some of Team Awesome Members – new friends!
Being involved with Team Awesome, a social media team to help inspire/encourage and connect with runners online, has allowed me to get to know some of the team at Run Ottawa.
Here is a clip that Rogers TV put together of Team Awesome this year. Team Awesome
There were some tough decisions to be made, and they were not made easily but in the end I believe they made the best decisions for everyone involved. Of course, keeping the safety of the runners at the forefront of any decisions. There were some slight changes to the start times for the 10K and the half marathon races. The marathon course was also cut-off later in the race (for those running over 6+hrs.) when the heat, combined with the hours on the course, could prove to be problematic not only for the runners, but also for the volunteers.
X-Mile Crew after running the last runner in
New this year to race weekend was The X-Mile Crew. I was so excited by the idea of this I decided, last minute, that I wanted to participate. That meant running my own marathon first, and then changing shirts to go back out and run other runners in as part of the crew. I had no idea what to expect of my own run as race day can be unpredictable on it’s own but add to that hotter conditions, it was unclear how the day would go. In the end, it was a tough run. Due to my training for Grand to Grand Ultra, I did not taper as most runners would prior to their races, in fact I completed my first triple long run the weekend prior (3 long runs; 3 days in a row). I also had been dealing with a cold/chest congestion that just wasn’t going away, making breathing a challenge in the heat.
I was doing very well up to the first 16 km’s or so. Then over the next 16+ km’s I watched almost everyone I knew pass me. I knew it was not a race to attempt a personal best, however, I didn’t think it would be my worst time recorded 🙂 At some point in the last 10 km’s or so, I decided the goal was to just complete it and then get back out to help others run it in. I knew how they would be feeling, as I was in fact feeling it as well. Discouraged, tired, and wanting it to be over. Until you see the finish line, then there is a new sense of empowerment and the idea that you did not give up! You did it!
After the sponge station
Water misters along the route
I was so proud of Ottawa/Gatineau and how the cities came together to do whatever they could to help the runners out. The residents were out all along the route with hoses, sprinklers, freezies, even strangers holding up bags of ice for you to grab what you needed to cool off. I particularly liked the fire station along the route with the fire hose ready to open it up when given a simple head nod, confirming yes soak me! It was awesome!
Just before the fire fighters let loose the hose on me 🙂
If all that wasn’t enough, heading back out to run with the runners still out there, making their way in after being on course for well over 5.5+ hours was so rewarding. I met some pretty amazing people, with some remarkable stories. Many first time marathoners who did not quit. I even met a women, 72 years young, who was running her 84th marathon! Many of those in the last few years….amazing!
Being involved with Ottawa Race Weekend, in a variety of capacities, has helped me discover the many wonderful aspects of this race. The team works year round to ensure we have the very best race to offer anyone who would like to experience it, including making it the biggest multi-distance race in Canada! It is also the only running event in North America to be given TWO Gold Label Standards from the International Amateurs Athletics Federation (IAAF). More interesting facts.
If you are a runner can I encourage you to register for one of Ottawa’s races next year. Guarantee you’ll love your experience! If you do not run, volunteering is one of the most amazing, rewarding experiences that allows you to make an impact in a runners life. As a runner, I cannot adequately express how much we appreciate and need the support and encouragements along the way! Volunteers give us the ability to keep going.
If you are on twitter, follow Ottawa Marathon (Race Weekend) to stay informed. Also, please connect with me as well so I can support you along your journey!
Have you run one of the race distances in Ottawa? Are you considering running Ottawa in 2017? I’d love to hear your experiences and your goal race for 2017.
The month of May brought about some crazy weather, crazy training runs and crazy emotions! I am continuing to learn more about who I am during these training runs. Each one bringing more awareness of what I am truly capable of.
The beginning of May brought unusual temperatures here in Ottawa. One weekend training in long pants, t-shirt and sleeves the next shorts and a tank top! Certainly keeping things interesting.
I was finally able to pick up my new back pack and test it out. It is the Osprey Rev 24. So far it is working perfectly, my only concern is that it will not be big enough. It’s hard to imagine carrying EVERYTHING you will need for 7 days on your back! The other options I’ve been testing out are 25L (seems larger somehow) and 34L (love this one as the top rolls down and can be adjusted nicely). However the other two packs do not fit quite as snug as the new Osprey Rev 24 (24L) and fit is so very important.
So now that I’m testing the pack out on my weekend runs, I am needing to find the perfect top. I have always ran in tank tops in the summer, however for Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G) I will need to be running in a t-shirt as it is mandatory to wear your country’s flag on the left sleeve. I’ve picked up two to test out over some long runs. One is from Lululemon and one is from MEC. So far both seem to be doing a good job. It’s important that they are fitted and do not bunch up.
the bear that was likely 10ft. away from the trail I was on, I took this as he wandered off
I’ve been doing back to back long runs on Friday and Saturday. For Victoria long weekend I added a third long run, making it three in a row. Each run ranged from 2.5hrs. – 4hrs and was 22-27.5kms depending on the duration I was out and how many hills were included 🙂
I’ve had 11lbs on my back for most of the training runs. For the triple in a row I had 14lbs (including water). I’ve also been going out on new trails where navigating is part of the training, this can slow me down a tad! Running in to my first bear on the trail was also a unique experience.
part of the ski hill I had to run up
Mentally, it was also a tough month, I began to feel discouraged about my fundraising results. I’m doing okay, but with a minimum requirement goal of $5,000 US and with the exchange rate, it’s not where I would like to be.
Discouragement had begun to settle in and I found myself having to encourage myself to not take things personally. I realize that there are many very worthy causes that are very important to people. People just cannot give to everything! However, knowing that your friends and family believe in you and support you can go a long way. The support I have received has come from some surprising places, and I am very thankful <3
Back to running 🙂 I have never been a fast runner, and I knew going into training for this event I would likely be in the back third of the participants for G2G. My coach insisted that I participate in the Bad Beaver Ultra to help give me experience in a stage race, but also to build my confidence for G2G. I’m now realizing that I am very inexperienced with trail running (although I love it!) and I will likely come in LAST at this event. That is humbling….
Wasn’t that why I chose G2G though? To take on something that is beyond my comfort zone, that stretches me completely beyond what I would ever think I could do. I’m not a seasoned trail runner, I’ve never ran a stage race, I’m taking on a huge event to demonstrate that with a plan, hard work and an attitude to not give up, you can accomplish your goals. As individuals we need to look past what we think we are capable of and begin to allow ourselves to dream BIG for our lives. Make a plan, commit to the process and work hard to achieve whatever goals YOU have!
I have resolved to not give up, even if it means I may come in last. To continue to work hard and to do whatever I can to make this goal a reality.
What about you? Do you have a goal that you want to accomplish? Are there steps that you can take to begin to work towards that goal?
When you set goals, do you count the cost before making the commitment? Do you consider the sacrifices you are going to need to make? What about the kind of support that you will need? Are you willing to put the hard work in to make your goal a reality?
It doesn’t matter what kind of goal you set, these should be questions you ask yourself. When the idea of doing Grand to Grand came about I felt very strongly that I needed to do this. It was outside of my comfort zone, it was beyond what I was currently trained to do. I seriously thought that suggesting this to my husband and coach would get an immediate response of, “you’re just not ready”. I think often its a good idea to bounce ideas off friends and family members, but in this case it only mattered to me what my family and coach thought. To my surprise, my husbands response was simple “you can do it”, not as given me permission 😉 but he believed if I made the commitment to make this run happen then it would happen. Equally surprising was my coaches response, his only question was why I wanted to do it. As I shared with him my desire to encourage people, particularly young people, to look past their current situations and dream big for their lives, it became very clear that it was extremely similar to the vision he has for i2P. I laughed out loud when this occurred to me.
Have you ever met someone whom you just know there is a reason why your paths crossed. That is how I feel about my coach. We connected “by chance”, kept in touch and eventually he became my running coach.
So why inspire young people? Or really anyone who might be limiting themselves to dream big or see a different life for themselves? I was raised by a single mom (with my father in jail), with little extras in life. I grew up in neighbourhoods where patters were repeated, generation after generation. My mom wanted more for us, she wanted to break the cycle. I see young people, especially today, that have many challenges to overcome. Many kids today do not have the kind of support that says to them, “Believe in yourself”! I want to send a message to people to not focus on why you cannot accomplish something but instead start to look at what they would need to do in order to accomplish what they really want.
I knew the message I wanted to say but did not know how to tangibly demonstrate that message. How could I show people, that with a goal and hard work, the seemingly impossible could be accomplished.
Grand to Grand Ultra came across my newsfeed on facebook one day. I remember seeing it and thinking, wow, maybe one day. I had been running for a number of years now and loved training for marathons but this was beyond my current level of running. Then it hit me, wasn’t that the point. If I made a decision to chase this goal, to commit to the training and to work hard, wasn’t it possible to accomplish this. It terrified me but I felt that this was the kind of “out of my comfort zone” goal needed to encourage others to start dreaming beyond their own comfort zones.
To my surprise my coach was immediately on board. Once I shared my reasons for wanting to do it, he said, “okay, lets do this”. He then went on to say how much he believed I could and would get me ready to do it.
I have been doing back to back long runs for a while now. Running 20km Saturday/Sunday, then 23km on both days the following weekend, and even 29km back to back. All of it has been road running as I had sprained my ankle snowshoeing and couldn’t handle the instability of the trails/snow. It’s been good and I’ve been building up consistency. I had been running at least one of these long runs with the Running Room group for company as well.
About a month ago, my coach wanted to add hill training into the mix. Both my long runs were now going to be up in Gatineau Park, still mostly on the road but with lots of hills mixed in. To get comfortable with the hills, my coach had me start with 10km both days, increase to 20km (both) the following weekend and last weekend he had me do 30km back to back. I have also been running these runs alone. I’m learning a lot about myself during these training runs.
What I learned this past weekend:
I enjoy the solitude that running alone gives me
I am no longer intimidated when seeing a huge hill
throwing an extra layer in the car “just in case” is a very good idea
figure out what you need to do BEFORE you set out for your run in order to get it done and not quit (ie., avoid going back to car in between loops)
use positive self-talk while running and recognize how well you are doing
avoid sitting on the “evil” chair (as a friend put it) when doing loops for your long run 🙂
Preparing for these double long runs is requiring a bit more planning. I am now needing post run snack for the drive home and figuring out fuel for during the run. So far Nuun Active and Nuun Plus has been keeping me hydrated well. The weather has also been making it tricky to know just what to wear starting out as it warms up by up to 10degrees by the end of my run. Oh, and of course I’m training with my pack now so am carrying an extra 11lbs on my back!
Getting a recovery week and then training starts back in the trails!
Do you have dreams or goals that you’ve been putting off? What’s holding you back?