Grand to Grand Ultra – Getting to the Start Line

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.

No sleep but all smiles!

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.

i2p night runJust 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

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!

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!

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

Bathroom break – boys on one side; girls on the other

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Arriving at Camp 

My home for 7 nights

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!!

Dinner – What a view!!                           pc: Grand to Grand Official Photos

 

pc: Grand to Grand Ultra Official Photo

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…..

 

 

May Madness

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.

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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

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

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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!

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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?

 

Bags and Hills

So thankful to see the temperature rising!

Making the decision to tackle a huge stage race, completely out of my comfort zone, was for a reason. If I wanted to inspire others to dream big, then I had to believe I could accomplish a big goal for myself.  Read my previous blog on Bringing Together My Two Loves for One Grand Adventure for more information on who I am running for.

Wishing does not accomplish much, you need to commit to working hard for your goals/dreams. Training for Grand to Grand Ultra (G2G) is so very much more than the event itself (although I’m sure it will change me forever), its about the journey getting there.

Once your application is accepted for G2G you are invited to join a private facebook group. The members of the group are either previous G2G participants or current participants training for the race coming up. Grand to Grand Ultra 2016 will be the events 5th year and as a way to celebrate, many past participants have been invited back to run it again. It’s hard not to feel intimidated knowing that there will be very experienced runners way ahead of you on the course. However,  I can imagine that these faster runners will be great cheerleaders for the middle and back of the pack runners, on the course hours longer ever day. Just as intimating is knowing that, like previous years, there will be some who will not complete the race. For some it might be lack of training, but I think for most, there are things that can happen outside of our control. Regardless of why, anyone who does not finish would likely be devastated. There are months and months of training required and sacrifices that need to be made to put long runs in week after week. There is also the cost involved, registration, flights, hotels, etc.

I could not imagine tackling this kind of race without a running coach. I had no idea when I first met my coach that I would be even considering anything like this. My goal when I hired Ray was to have an experienced coach take my running to another level. I’m pretty sure neither one of us could have thought that I’d be training for G2G just 16 months later.  Less than a year ago the thought of an 80K was on my radar, although just barely and that for me is a challenging goal. The way this race came together was bigger then ourselves, and I knew I had to go for it!

Okay, so update to my  training! Ray agreed to the big goal of G2G if I made the commitment to run a local stage race coming up the beginning of August. Bad Beaver Ultra will introduce me to stage racing and Ray’s  goal for me is to build my confidence for G2G. This is the first year for this race and he happens to be one of the organizers. Currently our focus is getting prepared for this 3-day stage race covering 150km in Gatineau Park.

Another focus, is figuring out the right back pack, this has been a wee bit of a challenge. It appears Ottawa is limited in trail running packs, so I’ve had to order online. Obviously this is not ideal as you cannot test it out beforehand. As a Canadian runner participating in an International event I was really hoping to find and use a red pack, I know silly but hey why not. The Inov-8 is a great pack and met that silly ideal, however it only comes in one size/unisex.

I’m only 5’3.5″ and do not have a very long torso so playing with the pack and figuring out just how it can fit right is challenging, although likely can be custom fit if required by making some adjustments to the pack and the straps.

I recently tried an Osprey Hornet 32 and it worked pretty good, but again seems a bit large and I have most of the adjustments on the smallest setting. My coach and I were searching for a women’s specific fit to try out and think that it might be worth trying the Osprey Rev 24.  Most of the packs recommended to me can only be purchased online, so tracking a Rev 24 here in Ottawa was amazing!  I managed to get the very last one and put it on hold so I can go retrieve it.

My favourite spot on the loop I'm running.

My favourite spot on the loop I’m running.

Training now includes a lot more hills to help build up strength and no doubt mental toughness!  We’ve changed my double long run dates, giving me Sundays off completely.  I’m loving this!  It gives me a day off to relax and enjoy before a new training week and work week commences.  Mondays and Wednesdays are now easy runs (for now),Tuesdays are all about hills and Thursdays are off.  Friday and Saturday are back to back long runs with hills throughout the run, increasing the distance on both days every weekend. I’ve only completed two weeks of this and am amazed at how encouraged I am. I feel like I have nothing left at the end of my runs and then I get up and do it again the next day. I’m also encouraged in the improvement I’m seeing in my ability to tackle hills.  Hills that used to be daunting to me no longer affect me the same. It’s not that they are no longer tough, but I view them, or go at them with a different mindset.

I am now entering a stage in training that is new for me. Like when I was training for my first marathon, every weekend promises new challenges but with it new reward.

What about you? Are you experiencing anything new in your training? Are you continuing to challenge yourself with your goals?