Upcoming Race Alert: Grand to Grand Ultra!

Running ultramarathons causes short-term amnesia.  Yup, it is a proven fact. If you are an ultrarunner yourself, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  When you’re in the middle of a race, especially a stage race that goes on for days, you swear up and down that you’ll NEVER do it again. You wonder why you signed up in the first place.  Or maybe you’re happy you’re there and pleased you’ve taken on this challenge, but you tell yourself it is a “one time thing”. You’ve checked it off your bucket list and cannot wait for your well-deserved break.  The thought of doing it all over again makes you want to throw up your last dehydrated meal.

Well, this period of self-delusion doesn’t last long.  It might take a day, or a week, or even a month, but inevitably the memories of the pain, hunger and fatigue fade… and all that is left are the warm and fuzzy memories of the wind in your face, the chats around the campfire at night, and the feeling of reaching superhero status as you cross the finish line. You suddenly miss the training. The challenge. The goal. Yes, it is only a matter of time before you are looking for your next race…

I’ve been through it enough times that I’ve come to expect it.  I know that I will wish in every ultra – at least for a brief period in a particularly low moment – that I will wish it was my last. And I know that I won’t mean it.   Sure enough, during the Gobi March, I was kicking myself for having signed up already for two more international races this year. What was I thinking?? I mean, I live in Afghanistan for goodness sake. This year should not be my most ambitious ultra year yet. And now here we are, just two weeks since the end of the race, and I’m SO excited for the challenges ahead.

I’ll save a post about the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc for another time as many of you will be very familiar with this incredible race.  The race I have coming up this year that I really want to tell you about is the Grand to Grand Ultra!!

The Grand to Grand (or G2G) is the FIRST multi-day self-supported footrace to be held in North America. From September 23 to 29, runners from all around the globe (including me!) will cover 160 miles (257 km) from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona to the pink-hued geological phenomenon called the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah.

Near the start of the Race

Not only will the scenery be spectacular (just check out some of these shots!!!), but so will the competitors.  The cool thing about this race is that there are

allocated spots for each country, ensuring that this race will bring in runners from all over the world.   Already it seems that it is working.  So far, in addition to local runners from the US, the competitor list includes runners from Spain, Holland, the UK, Italy, New Zealand, Canada, Korea, Kuwait, Afghanistan (me!), Australia, and many, many more.

Running through slot canyon

From a brief glance at the featured competitors list, I can tell you that this is going to be an AMAZING race.  I’m really excited to notice some familiar names of friends I’ve met in races in the past, including:

  • The incredible Spanish runner Salvador Calvo Redondo aka Salvo aka my-ultimate-running-crush, with whom I finished races in Vietnam, Namibia and Australia.  When this guy runs, it is an art form.  It is truly beautiful to watch. And he is the ultimate sportsman (did I mention he was my ultimate running crush? LOVE him).
  • Jo Peterson, a South African from New Zealand, who was my tentmate in New Zealand.  A 60 year old bad ass doctor who has more than a few tricks up his sleeve.
  • Ferg Hawke from Canada, whom I’ve never actually met, but I’ve followed through the grapevine and the powers of facebook.  One cool Canadian.

A portion of the profits of the race are going to be donated to my coach’s (Ray Zahab’s) organization, impossible2possible.com, which makes the entry fee all the more worthwhile!

Pink Sand Dunes

Pink sand dunes

The course is sure to be challenging.  From the website:

Participants will encounter a mix of desert and other terrain including hard packed sand, soft sand, sand dunes, forest trails, shallow river crossings, rocky roads and slot canyons. The starting line is situated at the north rim of the Grand Canyon with breathtaking vistas at an altitude of 5203 feet (1586 meters). Campsite 1, which is your campsite on the evening before the start of the race, is close by.

The finish line is on the summit of the Pink Cliffs of the Grand Staircase and provides participants with a rewarding view back over the course that you will have just completed. From an altitude of 9030 feet (2752 meters), look back over the cliffs and enjoy the most amazing panoramic landscape of your journey framed by hoodoos and two billion year old rock formations

Throughout the course, you will trek by geological mesas, buttes and cliffs and enter into a series of unique canyons, hollows and valleys. Part of the long stage will have you cross the majestic coral pink sand dunes. You will cross a tributary of the Virgin River, which you will follow before taking you into an isolated slot canyon. Keep an eye out for wildlife and flora along the route including the endangered California Condors, big horn sheep, mule deer and unique cacti.

Be prepared for a unique experience which few people on earth will ever see, never mind hike and run through.

Red rocks after slot canyon

Ready for the VERY best part? The after party is in VEGAS. Yup.  I foreshadow some debauchery. I’ve never been to Vegas, but I imagine it can get pretty wild, even without having been deprived of good food and alcohol for a week….

85 days to go. September, here we come. Of course, I fully anticipate that mid-race during UTMB in August, I will make plans to cancel my entry and quit ultrarunning entirely… But we all know that will never happen 🙂

HUGE thanks to Zac Addorisio of Runners United, who led me to this amazing race.  He is also an advisor to the race as well – one busy man! Runners United will be open this fall, catering to the ultra and trail running community.  We’re talking top notch products.  Stay tuned for good things to come out of this Vancouver-based company!! Check out their facebook page (and join the 500+ people who have already hit the like button!).

So, see you in September? If you can’t make the race, you’re always welcome to the after party 😉

See the Grand to Grand website for more info!!!

Categories: Race Reports

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