Jeremy Goddard has just returned from the Grand to Grand Ultra, a seven-day, 270 kilometre running race from the lip of the Grand Canyon in Arizona to a section of the Grand Staircase, a mountain range in Utah. Competitors are self-supporting over the six stages in their food and equipment - water and medical care are provided by the organisers. Stages very from 12km to 85 km, a full double marathon and the ‘Long Day’.
He did well and despite a low moment on Day 2, he placed 20th overall and managed to fulfil his goals. Here he describes the pleasures and the pain of the race.
See more about the Grand to Grand Ultra here.
What was Grand to Grand 2018 like?
From registration to race-end the G2G is well organised and very welcoming, and this really makes the race. The welcome dinner on the Friday evening and then the great meal on the Saturday evening at Camp One on the rim of the Grand Canyon really help you to get to know your fellow runners and it develops a great spirit in the camp. Also it’s your last chance to stock up on real food!
In 2018 there was really good weather, which for me meant that it was warm, despite all the training I did in the great UK summer. I hadn’t managed to arrive early and acclimatise, so I felt myself overheating and had to slow down Day One; thankfully there was some cloud cover as it was really hot in direct sun.
There was a lot more sand than I anticipated, though apart from the dunes on the long day the majority wasn’t deep enough to sink into - just soft enough to make running hard.
How did it go?
I have several goals going into any race, and with something like G2G, my primary goal is to finish. Further ambitions were to do well in my age group, and ultimately to see if I could finish within the top 20. With Day One being slower for me and then also a slower Day Two aswell because of some hip pain /ITB issues, I did wonder if I would achieve my goals. However, I knew that if I had a good run on the long day, it was still possible.
I managed to stretch and recover after Day Two, so I was able to perform well on the long day, and I was really pleased to finished it in 11th place. After that I felt I was running and pacing myself well, finishing strongly each day. In the end I managed to finish in 20th place overall which I was so happy with. And in my age group I placed 4th, which just shows how competitive the V50 category is!
Did the race organisation live up to expectations?
The organisation and course really did live up to expectations. The scenery is as impressive as you could hope for. There is a good mix of terrain and although sometimes it did feel like there was too much on sandy tracks, that is just a necessity of getting from A to B. There were so many great spots – the Grand Canyon, Grand Staircase, slot canyons - too many to list, really. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t stop and take in the view.
The long stage was the hardest day – not just because of distance but also the variety of terrain. There were steep climbs and some technical descents. And then the sand dunes (twenty four of them!), which started around mile forty. They were big, steep and the sand was really soft! It was a case of crawl up as best you could, catch your breath at the top, jog down and repeat! As hard as that section was, I went through it in the dark with the stars out and the moon rising, so it was incredibly inspiring.
Were you as well prepared as you could be?
The only slight change I would make would be to carry slightly more food because by the end of the week as I was starving! I had about 2700 calories a day which was mostly fine but an extra meal and a treat near the end of the week would have been fantastic! Everything else I planned, practised and prepared for in great detail.
The big difference for me in this race was that I also included my feet and blister prevention/care in my training and I practised taping my feet from the start – my toes and the balls of both feet. This worked really well and I finished the race with one small blister on one toe. Not only did it mean I could run with no issues, but after each stage I could rest and recover instead of having to queue for the medical tent with feet issues.
One worry I had before heading out to the race was snakes, but this was needless. I did see a few, but it was generally their tails disappearing (thankfully none with rattles on!). It still got your heart beat up though! More concerning was coming across the remains of a deer and wondering whether something big enough to eat a deer would be interested in a runner!
What was the most painful moment?
The most painful thing for me was the second half of Day Two when I was experiencing hip/ITB pain. Psychologically you start to have doubts as to whether you will be able to finish the whole race. Thankfully, for the last part of the stage I had some great company; Neil, another runner from the UK. It really helps to take your mind off things while you’re out there. Once I was back in camp I focussed on rest and recovery and I was relieved it didn’t develop into a major issue.
And your favourite moment?
My favourite moment is always crossing the finish line! During the long training and preparation this is something I visualise, so when the reality arrives it is a really emotional moment. However, there were special moments throughout the week. They make great memories and I will treasure them for years.
What did you learn?
I learnt a lot about what I am capable of on a personal level, but also what we are all capable of. It was inspiring to see everyone else and the way that all the different nationalities and backgrounds come together to support one another, all with the same goal of finishing the race.