Friday, October 13, 2023

The Adventure of A Lifetime (G2G race report) - Part 1


I have taken a slightly different approach to this race report because of the shear volume of information I'm sharing. While I could make this one HUGE write-up, I decided to provide some general narration of the event from a higher level and then split out the details of each stage into a different post.

Click here for Part 2 (stage details)


Check in nerves
Preparing for a race like Grand to Grand (G2G) is the kind of adventure that feeds my analytical engineering soul. I must have checked and rechecked my spreadsheets, trackers and rule book 200 times leading up to the race check in. I have also packed and re-packed my gear to make sure (1) it all fits and (2) it weighs a "reasonable" amount (21-24 lbs is considered "reasonable").

I've invested well in ultralight camping gear and supplies so I had no worries there. It was honestly worried about the food. Would I have enough? I arrived in Kanab with nearly 15 lbs of food before making 2 cuts and weighing in at 13 lbs for check in. I was advised by the RD's to be even MORE critical of my nutrition and weight before getting to the start line. The minimum weight requirement for the race is 7.7 lbs - I would come in just over 10 lbs for 7 days and I was truly concerned that it wouldn't be enough.

I was truly more nervous about the gear check-in than actually toeing the start line. Did I forget something? Have I made good fueling choices for all the stages? Did I label everything as required? Long adventures like this can be completely deflated by a single bad choice and even though I had planned for most scenarios, you just never know how the day is going to go...let alone a week.

A "Bumpy" Start

It felt great to finally be loading onto the buses to take us out to Camp 1. We were provided a nice sack lunch before boarding knowing that it would be 1.5-2 hours drive to the edge of the Grand Canyon starting line. It was a fairly tight squeeze trying to get warm bodies and our 20 lb packs into a single passenger van. Most everyone sat uncomfortably squished with their packs on their laps for the entirety of the trip. It was particularly harsh as we transitioned to the country road which was anything but smooth. Uncomfortable grins, low guttural moans and heavy sighs were the norm for about an hour as we (in the back seat) endured every single bump like kids catching air in the back of the school bus. It wasn't very pleasant.

As the white tents came into view, so did the amazing views of the Grand Canyon. It's hard not to be impressed with the scale and majesty of millions of years of geologic forces at work. Between getting oriented at our tents, making introductions to new friends/tent-mates and wandering out to the edge of the Grand Canyon for photos, no one was really paying attention to the clouds that were slowly rolling up to our camp.

Sprinkles and low clouds turned into the tent-shaking gusts of a full storm system that would relegate everyone into their tents for about 45 minutes. It was actually cool being forced to sit down with new faces and friends to learn who you'd be spending the week with.

The tent 5 (Hopi) residents were:
  • Brooke (USA)
  • Joanne (AUS)
  • Ryan (UK)
  • Nick (UK)
  • Erik (CAD)
  • Patrick (USA)
Tent 5: Hopi

The GC!

Race briefing
Start line on the GC

Eventually, the storm would subside allowing everyone to gather for a nice dinner and short race briefing overlooking the Grand Canyon. The sunset would help ease all the nervous energy at camp and eventually everyone would hunker down in their tents to start preparing for the 8 am start time.

The Journey

In my opinion, journeys like this require a routine that helps not only maintain your sanity but keeps your body in tune with what you're trying to accomplish. From the start of the race, I did my best to keep a routine as close to real life as possible and ensure my exertion was well within the boundaries of my training. What does that really look like?
  1. 6 am wake up, then coffee (no breakfast)!
  2. Change into race clothes, re-pack gear
  3. Begin racing at 8 am
  4. (Back at camp) Wipe down, clean up, wash/rinse clothes
  5. (optional medical tent visit)
  6. Recovery drink/hydrate, stretch and unwind
  7. Eat dinner, hydrate
  8. Prep pack for next stage
  9. Go to bed ~7:30/8
  10. (wake up around 3 to pee) 😜
  11. Repeat for 7 days
I feel extremely fortunate to have met Ryan after starting Stage 1. Our paces, race strategy and outlook were very much aligned as first-time stage racers. Having a buddy for something like this was extremely beneficial both physically and mentally. We pushed each other throughout the day and ended up staying together the entire race. Our celebrity couple status was firmly cemented by the checkpoint volunteers - "Tryan" become a G2G household name!

Team 'Tryan'

Overall, the daily miles clicked away without much incident. Vespa remained the cornerstone of my fueling strategy and was the exact right thing under these conditions (my podcast interview with The Juniper Lab goes into more detail on this). Yes, the terrain we navigated was quite difficult in multiple respects but in my opinion, the most challenging element was the heat of the high desert. I initially thought that my summer training in Phoenix (low-desert) would hold up against the forecasted 85 F high temps but the high-desert sun definitely added to the toughness of the first 4 stages. My calves were sunburned at the end of Stage 2 and I knew I needed to fix this or other problems would arise so I re-purposed my arm sleeves into leggings! They worked wonderfully as protection from the thorny things as well as an extra layer of sunblock. Crisis averted.

Arm sleeves converted to leggings ðŸĪĶðŸ―‍♂️

The only other notable "incident" for me was about half-way through Stage 5 when I stepped off the trail to go pee.
I peed a Guinness (stout) 😎 which is not good. I immediately started drinking what water I had left (~1 L) until I got to the next check point, filled my bottles and drank those down (1.5 L) before crossing the finish line for the day. I then had 0.75L of recovery drink, followed by another 1.5 L of water before dinner. I typically stop drinking water after dinner because I know I'll have to pee all night but in this case, I made sure to have another 0.75 L before bed. If you're not good at the math, that's nearly 6 liters of water over the course of 6 hours. I did not pee again until approximately 4 am that morning ðŸĪŊ I was happy that I caught up on my hydration but also kicking myself for getting that far behind...

Remember, if you're looking for details about each stage, click over to Part 2. It's about to get sappy...

The Climb

Despite being physically prepared for this race, the thing I was honestly not prepared for was the emotional impact it would leave on me. There is something about the community and friendships that are formed from these days of mutual success and struggle. It's easy to say that adversity creates a common bond but this race goes beyond that...

Finish line feels

Various folks were racing for various reasons and they're not always what you think. The Jar of Hope gang races for kids with MS. A tent-mate was racing for her mom who passed last year. Even if you're running only for yourself, you can't help be moved by these inspirational people and their stories.

<over-sharing starts>
My personal emotions cracked the morning of Stage 5 while sitting on the toilet (of all places). The morning music playlist had been updated to include "Over the rainbow" which instantly reminded me of my mother (who passed away almost 2 years ago). For whatever reason, I was overwhelmed with emotion and needed a few minutes to collect myself before heading back to the tent. Mom always worried about me going on crazy runs or adventures but I know she would be enthralled and amazed at what I was doing over this week. I miss her every day ðŸĨ°
</over-sharing ends>

There are no petty differences during the week. No drama. Race, ethnicity and job titles don't mean shit at camp or on the course. Daily banter consists of (a) how shitty the sand was, (b) how many blisters you have (c) what's for dinner and (d) how shitty the sand was 😜 lol. Everyone is invested in everyone from the very start and I love that feeling and camaraderie.

Angela at the finish line

Congrats from Ahmed

David and Anthony

Kim crossing the finish line

Stage 1 head nods eventually turn to high-fives. High-fives turn to hugs. Hugs turn into finish line tears with people you just met a week ago.

Physically hard? Yes.
Emotionally captivating? Yes.
A forever family? Absolutely.

A couple weeks later, my physical issues are slowly fading away but the emotional connection I have to this race/adventure/experience continues to linger. I can't help but look at all the pictures of my new friends and finishers. I hope to see them again in the future ❤️ Congratulations to everyone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Friends, family and other athletes have asked many of the same questions over the last week so I figured why not write them down? 

Why did you do this?

Endurance athletes like myself are always looking for the next challenge - the next hardest thing. Stage racing combines several of my passions - camping, hiking, backpacking and ultra-running to places/views where only your feet can take you. G2G is one of those "local" opportunities that not only checks all my boxes but traverses landscapes that very few people will get to see in their lifetime.

Will you do it again?

Given the positive experience, community vibe and overall good time I had meeting people and doing what I love...yeah, I could see myself doing something like this again. There are plenty of stage races around the world that I love to try but I hope I'm not let down by comparison. G2G has set a high bar!

Are you crazy?

We all have a little bit of crazy brewing inside us - it's just a question of how you channel it. Ultra-running is not just something you jump into. It takes years of patience, training and gradually being able to wrap your head around the solidarity and time it takes to accomplish these distances.

Did you have fun?

Yes. I love adventuring. I also love the community that comes with collective success and suffering. I have never "felt" a race like this before - the family that's created over the course of a week is truly unique and something I'll carry with me for the rest of my life.

What was the hardest part?

Specific to racing, the relentless sand of G2G is a doozy. It gets everywhere and is super-annoying (especially the dunes). However, even if you don't have the opportunity to train in the sand, you can effectively run/hike if you know how to navigate it. Alternatively, the hardest part (especially for a first-time stage racer) is the acquisition and inventory of gear, planning your nutrition and testing EVERYTHING prior to the race.

What did you enjoy the most?

Aside from the stunning visual landscapes, the community of people that come together for this event is truly magical. Athletes, volunteers, physicians, civil servants and race directors do everything in their power to get you to that finish line.

Gear List

Numerous folks at the race this year asked about my gear so I've captured the primary items below. It's also a nice intro for folks who are looking at this race in the future - supported or self-supported, your gear choices are meaningful both for your comfort AND weight in your pack. 

  • Running Gear
    • Pack: USWE Hajker Ultra 30L
    • Shirt: Montane Dart Lite
    • Shorts (base): 2XU core compression
    • Shorts (outer): Nike Stride
    • Poles: Leki FX.Superlite
    • Shoe: Hoka Speedgoat
    • Socks: Injinji mid-weight trail
    • Gaiters: Awksports shoe covers
  • Nutrition
    • Vespa
    • Gels: VFuel
    • Electrolyte: First Endurance EFS
    • Dinners: Pinnacle Foods
  • Camping gear
    • Sleeping bag: REI Magma 30
    • Pad (inflatable): Therma-a-rest Neoair Uberlite
    • Pad (base): Gossamer Gear thinlite
    • Shoes: Xero aqua cloud sandals
    • Pants: Patagonia Terregonne jogger pants
    • Top: Rabbit Deflector
    • Jacket: Feathered Friends Eos
Don't forget, there's more of the story in Part 2!!

The Adventure of A Lifetime (G2G race report) - Part 2


My strategy going into G2G was to hike 60-75% of the time and run the downhills and/or flats when it felt reasonable. I gave myself some grace on the first couple stages knowing that I'd be experiencing various things physically and mentally. Turns out, I would learn some valuable lessons on packing my bag as well.

I was not expecting as much sand quite honestly. Deep. Fine. Sand. EVERYWHERE.

I did not train one minute in sand during the summer but I've run in enough sand to know how to do it efficiently. I think this combined with the right shoe choice (Hoka Speedgoats), socks and poles were a couple of the key elements for successfully navigating the true sandy deserts of Arizona and Utah.

My #1 tip? Do not stew over the total miles (for the race or stage). Focus only on the miles for the day and hone in on whatever it takes to get from checkpoint to checkpoint. Every checkpoint has information posted on the distance to the next checkpoint. Focus only on that!! You'll find the miles melting away quickly and you can revel in the energy and excitement of the checkpoint volunteers.

Don't skip Part 1 - read the overview here. In Part 2 I've tried to recall the things that were meaningful to me during these stages without ruining the experience for future participants. Enjoy!

Stage 1

Distance: 30.8 miles / 49.6 km
Stage Time: 8:53:15
Standing (Stage 1): 17 overall / 11th male

My goal was to take it easy out of the gate and let the adrenaline pass over me to ensure a consistent and steady baseline for this 50k. My memorable moments of this stage include:
  • The JAR of Hope crew doing pushups at the starting line
  • The LeAnn Rimes rendition of the national anthem
  • Connecting on course with Ryan
  • Pausing at checkpoint #1 to (1) tape my lower back and (2) cut the (brief) liner out of my Nike shorts
This stage is relatively flat and a mix of soft track sand and hard packed sand. It was fully exposed and required traversing a few stretches of desert vegetation full of cacti, native grasses, creosote bushes and Russian thistle.

There is a mood of general excitement but that slowly dissipates as the sun comes out, packs start to settle and idea of a 50k Stage 1 begins to sink in.

Pro tips: (1) Reign in your adrenaline and run as much as you're comfortable. (2) Concentrate on looking down more than looking up. One wrong step and you can end your race with cacti needles in your toes. (3) Gaiters are not necessary for this stage.

Stage 2

Distance: 26.9 miles / 43.3 km
Stage Time: 8:18:34
Standing (Stage 2): 9th place / 5th male

The onslaught of desert vegetation, cacti and fence lines continues in this stage. You'll need to hone your sighting skills to find the flags amongst the bushes, cacti and fence lines but depending on the summer weather, you may or may not need protection for your legs or gaiters. The climbing and descending were a welcome change from Stage 1 - definitely 2 of my favorite things! The last 6 miles were pretty brutal due to the overgrowth of Russian thistle scraping my shins.

Pro tips: (1) Continue to focus on what's at your feet over what's in the distance. Cacti needles will ruin your day. (2) Enjoy the downhill if can. (3) Calf sleeves and gaiters are not a bad idea for this stage but you can get by without them.

Stage 3

Distance: 53.2 miles / 85.4 km
Stage Time: 18:54:23
Standing (Stage 3): 6th place / 4th male

The long stage is (apparently) what separates the wheat from the chaff at G2G. The highest percentage of drops occur before Stage 3 and yet, the finish rate for those that complete Stage 3 is 99+%. Pretty amazing.

It is every bit as hard as you might imagine. With 5,000' of climbing with predominantly deep sand everywhere you go, pacing, hydration and nutrition play a key part in getting you through this stage. I chose not to wear my gaiters until CP6 (right before the dunes) and that did result in some blisters/hot spots on my feet during/after this stage. I think they were a function of the hiking/walking motion over a longer duration of time. I'm pleased with how my Injinji toe socks performed during the race but especially during this stage.

Memorable moments:
  • Bob's badass playlist at CP3
  • The pet cemetery
  • Climbing the coral sand dunes under a full moon
  • Glowing cow eyes
  • Laying in my tent fading in and out of consciousness around 5 am while eating cold Thai green Currey for breakfast
  • Chugging a can of Coke that evening
  • Enjoying not 1, but 2 s'mores in celebration of the 10th G2G anniversary

Pro tips: (1) Treat this stage more like a 100km. Be ready to spend 16-30 hours on your feet. (2) Keep a level head on the dunes. It's easy to get frustrated but patience and pace are key. (3) Use the highest setting on your headlamp after the dunes to more easily sight the course markers. (4) The weather, fatigue and your endurance will determine whether you sleep at CP 6, 7 or 8. I recommend to keep moving through the night so you don't have to deal with additional sun/heat of the next day.

Stage 4

Distance: 26.0 miles / 41.9 km
Stage Time: 7:07:05
Standing (Stage 4): 7th place / 5th male

This stage is net downhill and it's quite interesting to see the mood in camp shift in such a positive way. The notion of doing "just" a marathon is utterly insane coming off a 53 mi Stage 3. Comparatively however, this stage was an absolute pleasure. There is a nice climb soon after the start and you make your way into some beautiful wooded areas but eventually find yourself in more sandy track enjoying the net downhill miles of this stage.

Pro tips: (1) Enjoy the cooler temps as you start to gain elevation. (2) Take advantage of (e.g., run) as much of the flat and downhill as possible. (3) Embrace the confidence of finishing stage 3 - a marathon is easy by comparison!

Stage 5

Distance: 26.3 miles / 42.2 km
Stage Time: 7:48:09
Standing (Stage 5): 13th place / 8th male

This day proved to be the hardest stage mentally for me despite the "wow" factor of the slot canyon and other natural geologic wonders you'll experience in the first couple hours. Once this wears off and the remainder of the day sets in, you're left with a fair amount of climbing (~3,200') to get to camp. Of course, those miles are a mix of sand, gravel, cross-country vegetation and lava fields.

I apologized to Ryan that day because I was intensely focused on just getting through the miles. Like an old married couple, we didn't talk much that day. A few groans, grunts and swear words perhaps but it was obvious we were both struggling with the monotony of the miles, nutrition choices and the incessant sandy track. The notion of 'just being done' had surfaced as well, which happily launched us into that foreshadowing conversation of 'what's the first thing you're going to eat/drink?' when we cross the finish line tomorrow...

Pro tips: (1) Stop and enjoy the scenery (slot canyons, general geology and colors). (2) Navigate carefully and observe all the race flags and wrong way signs. (3) Be safe and mentally sharp as you navigate the rocky climbs and lava fields.

Stage 6

Distance: 7.9 miles / 12.7 km
Stage Time: 1:40:19
Standing (Stage 6): 9th place / 8th male

It's brilliant to stagger the start times for the last day. The slower-paced athletes leave first and the leaders leave last. This way, you get to see nearly everyone come through the finish line. Ryan and I were mid-pack and got to leave at 9:30 am. We both had some issues flare up overnight but at this stage of the race, you're pretty much on auto-pilot and ignoring anything that hurts. Your pack is the lightest it's been all week and in your head, you equate the miles to some familiar loop or route you know back home...easy-peasy!

We did not pass many people during this stage - the adrenaline is high and everyone can smell that finish line. The mostly hard-packed road makes this stage highly runnable but there are some decent climbs to crush before you can enjoy the downhill.

I found a certain irony that I had not fallen, tripped or wiped out for an entire week but managed to trip on a branch in the last 400 meters to the finish line. Ugh! Thank goodness no one has it on video!

The finish line is pure emotion and exhaustion. Families. Friends. Athletes. Volunteers. Race directors. Photographers. All the people that have invested in you and your success were there to celebrate the achievement. I truly love this G2G family and definitely can see myself being out there again (likely, as a volunteer first!).

Pro tips: (1) Revel in the final miles but don't do anything stupid! (2) Don't hold back the pride and enormity of your success. You are a BFD (big fucking deal!)


Distance: 171 mi / 275 km
Time: 52: 41:45
Standing: 7th OA / 4th male OA / 1st AG (50-59)

I never had any intention of placing or trying to podium. It was always about the finish line. Reflecting back however, I've always felt that stage racing is the perfect synthesis of the things I love the most and am actually good at when it comes to endurance sports. A strong and stable mental outlook comes with a consistent nutrition strategy...something I've worked really hard at over the last couple years. Training in the desert and summer heat definitely has its advantages as well.

I am humble enough to be surprised (and thankful!) at my place overall but reflecting on all the elements that go into having a solid race, I have the confidence to say I knew what I was doing, had trained well AND had the necessary daily routine to keep me fresh, happy and mentally strong.

Old guys kick ass! 😏


I can't thank Tess and Collin for the opportunity to be a part of this family and for creating Grand to Grand. They put on a helluva race. All the volunteers, medical staff and camp crew were completely awesome. I still have not come down off this cloud and continue to connect with many of those athletes in our 'graduating class'. I'm extremely thankful for their unconditional support and friendship. There are some badass humans out there and I watched them do amazing things.

Friday, September 22, 2023

The Final (G2G) Countdown

We're leavin' together
But still it's farewell
And maybe we'll come back
To Earth, who can tell?
I guess there is no one to blame
We're leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again?


(the title of this clever blog post went down a severe rabbit hole and the lyrics seemed highly appropriate)

How Things Started

Most folks my age are happy if they don't crack like a glow stick when they get out of bed but my 50th this past January seemed to light a fire in me. Maybe it was to prove to myself that I wasn't actually old. Or maybe it was to embrace this new 'season' of life knowing that I'd have more free time (kids graduating, wife's new job, etc). The pandemic had allowed me to do more exploring, camping and backpacking than ever before and honestly, it feeds all my personality traits - organization, planning and communing with nature both gives me purpose and prevents me from being a complete asshat (ahem, feeds my soul!). lol


I signed up for Grand 2 Grand knowing that it would combine my loves of running, hiking, backpacking and being outdoors. Yes, it would be one of the hardest things I've ever done and something in that 'completely new' category of life experiences. I was looking forward to the meticulous planning, strategic gear purchases and of course all the testing and real-world usage prior to the race.

I also came to grips with the fact that I'd be training through the summer AGAIN for a Fall race. This always sucks but I decided that taking my training up north during the heat would kill 2 birds with 1 stone. It would allow me to train in cooler weather and test out more of my gear over longer weekends.


The past year has not been what I would call my best 'season' as an adult. We're not talking about committing heinous crimes or anything but most of us know when we have fallen outside the bounds of what we consider our ideal (or authentic) self. I think it started with work and not feeling (a) appreciated (b) valued and (c) inspired. That daily tailspin really started to impact my mental health and often resulted in drinking more than I should...EVERY. DAY. I could feel myself pulling back from group activities, social situations and other friendly invitations. I could tell that I was being an asshole to my family. Snappy. Terse. Moody.

Numerous other stressful things were going on at this same time as well. Preparing our oldest to move out for college. Finalizing a 4-month remodel. Installing new carpet. Oh, poor us right?! First-world problems to be sure but wrapping all these things together brought me to a place where my best self had left the building. My wife tagged it as 'man-o-pause' 😃 I'd like to think of it as just a new season.

Breakdown? No, Breakthrough

As a coach, I typically tell my athletes that your mental strength (and state) accounts for more of your success when it comes to any endurance event. To be honest, I'm not even sure when the breakthrough came but there was a clear realization that if I was going to be successful at this 7-day stage race (Grand 2 Grand) at the end of September then I needed to be firing on all cylinders, physically and mentally.

In a way, I used the race as an excuse to implement these changes in my life knowing they would (primarily) help me with my (physical) training but also my mental training/health.

Let's just say, I'm glad I did.

How It's Going

Get Your Head Correct

I still have a hard time saying the word, but I've been going to therapy now for about 5 months. I prefer the word counselling but it all amounts to the same thing...someone to talk to. The social stigma around men sharing their feelings and personal hardships is not wildly accepted (even after that stupid pandemic) but having someone validate your concerns, thoughts and feelings has been super-helpful in this transition back to my best self. I get to unpack a ton of stuff that goes through my head but is never really verbalized to anyone.

Just remember: Everyone is dealing with their own shit whether they show it or not.

Healthy Heart

Despite my ability to run for hours, I had discovered that my health was not as great as I thought it could/should be. A recent physical told me (1) my bad cholesterol (LDL) was high and (2) I was borderline anemic.

This medical information combined with the general acknowledgement alcohol had been playing in my daily life, I decided to take on the 75 Hard Challenge. But (and it's a big butt), I adapted it to be more of a lifestyle than an absolute black or white challenge. I called it 75 Hard-ish. Sounds like bullshit...what does that even mean?! lol

75 Hard Rule ------> 75 Hard-ish Rule
  1. Pick a diet --------> Intermittently fasting (17 hours), low-carb lunch and normal dinners
  2. Gallon of water --------> no change (this is actually harder than it sounds!)
  3. Work out twice a day, 45 min each, once outside ------> 1.5 hours a day total (outside, in the AZ summer?! F-that!)
  4. No alcohol -------> totally, but N/A beers and zero-spirits allowed
  5. Read 10 pages a day -------> read or journal for 15 minutes a day
  6. Daily progress photo -------> weekly progress photo
There's no "starting over" with my program. Just make the commitment and do the best you can for those 75 days. I planned the program so that it would end on race day. It's not really surprising that sticking to this program vastly improved my running and recovery. I could write another blog on this program and the benefits...we'll see.

July 2023

September 2023

Race Day Is Here

I am about 2 hours from checking into the race and have never felt more prepared for a race in my life. I'm still reflecting on both the physical and mental gains I've made over the last 75 days. Admittedly, I was scared to break the cycle of recreational alcohol - which is one of the clear reasons I needed to take the leap. It's not as hard as I expected and the benefits have spanned my life physically, mentally and biologically (e.g., my health)

Yes. I dropped about 15 pounds.
Yes, I am less moody.
Yes, I have better outlook at work and home.
Yes, my physical health (indicators) have improved.
Yes, my mental health has greatly improved.
Yes, I like unraveling various topics with my therapist.
Yes, I like how I feel without alcohol.

I realize this is less about the race itself but honestly, this milestone has been largely symbolic and more of a target to take back my authentic self and accept this new 'season' of my life with integrity and pride. I'm anxious to toe the line in a couple days and get these miles underway. Truthfully, I'm tired of stressing about the preparations and am looking forward to a celebratory beer at the finish line! ðŸŧ

What Comes Next?

This has been a recurring theme with my therapist and after a number of conversations, I have some ideas but nothing really solid. Here are a few things I'm sifting through:
  1. I'd like to enjoy some time with my wife on the weekends
  2. I'd like to enjoy some time off from training
  3. I'd like to enjoy the outdoors recreationally this Fall/Winter season
  4. I'd like to continue to explore my relationship with alcohol
  5. I'd like to set some additional endurance goals for 2024
I have 7 days with no technology or electronics to think about all these things. Hopefully, I'll receive total enlightenment on my Grand 2 Grand "walkabout" ðŸĪĐ LOL

See you in a week. Stay safe out there!

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Grand 2 Grand Training/Gear Update

The Grand 2 Grand Ultra is one of those races that appeals to my sense of order and organization so I've been obsessing over what gear I'll be using ever since I signed up back in February. Additionally, the type and volume of training is historically quite different than my training plans of the past. I figured I'd capture some of it in case others are looking for insight or comparisons to what/how they're doing with their preparations.

Disclaimer - though I've done many multi-day hiking/camping trips and ultra-marathons, this is my first REAL self-supported stage race of any kind. I'd like to think I have the experience to plan for the basics but there are a couple blind spots that I'll talk about later. So basically, don't take any of this as gospel! I'm only sharing for the sake of sharing 😎

FWIW - none of the links below are affiliate links. Just sharing where I bought everything.

Training Summary


It's pretty simple.

1. Time on feet

2. Hike 75% and run/jog 25%

I am formally doing back-to-back training days on Saturday and Sunday with a few lower-mileage walks during the week. Now that it's hot as balls here in Arizona, my weekends include a 10-15 mile workout on Saturday and then a longer workout 20-30 miles somewhere farther north (where the temps are cooler).

In the coming weeks, I'll be heading up to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff and other places up north not only to beat the heat but to leverage both my pack, gear, clothing and food I intend to take for G2G. This includes long back-to-back workouts and relying only on what I expect to bring both for during the workout and after.

These weekend workouts are typically structured so that Saturday miles are at lower elevations but longer miles whereas Sunday's are typically shorter miles but at elevation (6000-9000 ft) with significant amounts of climbing (3000-5000 ft of climbing).


I realize this term is fairly general but in this case, it means non-food items that you would take in your pack. This includes the (primary) items Grand 2 Grand has on the required and recommended gear list.


Prior to signing up, I had invested in a fair amount of ultra-light articles for my everyday use (praise that REI rebate!) so I did not have to invest a lot to meet the gear list. The places where I did invest, I made sure that it was something I would use for future everyday camping/hiking trips. Generally, I went as light as I could afford but in some cases, ultra-light make make the item impractical. You'll find some examples of this in the 'Rejected' section.


The list below have been used and vetted extensively and are confirmed parts of my pack.

Required Gear Selection
Backpack                     Raidlight Ultralight 24L Trail Running Vest    
Sleeping bag REI Magma 30 (regular)
Sleeping pad Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite (regular)
Down jacket Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket
Headlamps Petzl Tikka Core
Red flasher(s) StupidBright tail lights
Water container(s) Racing The Planet Running Bottle (2)
Shoes Hoka Speedgoats
Socks Injinji ultra run mini-crew / ultra run crew


The following are still items I have either not tested or remain undecided about including in my pack.

Gear Selection
Poles Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z (110 cm)
Gaiters Awksports gaiters
Toothpaste tablets     Tooth Tabs by Unpaste
Powdered soap Summit Suds powdered soap
Camp sandals Xero Shoes Aqua Cloud Sandals
Ear plugs Matador travel earplug kit
Mug/cup Sea to Summit X-series (16 oz)
Dry bags / compression sacks


The following items I've tested and decided not to use. I've tried to include insight to the item I replaced it with for perspective. I'm sure this will grow over the next 2.5 months.

Gear Original Selection Replaced With
Toothbrush             Ultralight toothbrush     Aurelle TOOB Brush



I have a detailed spreadsheet of food, calories and weight that helps me find the best calorie-to-weight ratio possible. The only problem here is that meeting the daily weight limit (1.1 lbs) means I'll generally will exceed the caloric minimums that are in place for the race (by quite a bit) - resulting in carrying more calories than I need for the duration of the race.

Additionally, I am fat-adapted when it comes to racing ultra-marathons so the idea of hiking and running at a slower pace means...well, I'm not sure what it means yet. See Blind Spot section below for more details here.

Here are some examples of high calorie-to-weight foods that I'll be bringing.

Food Weight* Calories Cal/Ounce
Pinnacle foods (dinner, single serving, tuscan chx)     4.5 oz 850 189
Ultrafat almond butter 1.25 oz 247 198
Packaroons 1 oz 170 170
ProBar 3 oz 400 133
Sesame snaps 1.05 oz 160 152

*packaged. I plan to re-package and vacuum-pack larger portions to reduce weight

Blind Spots

Foot care

I really am that guy that 'never gets blisters'. I call this out because in all the lead-in calls for this race, the medical director and RD's consistently say, "don't be that guy that says...I never get blisters!" I've used Injinji toe socks for my entire running career (20+ years) and can probably count the number of blisters I've gotten on one hand.

On the recommendation of the RD's I went out and bought Fixing Your Feet. Apparently the Bible when it comes to this stuff but honestly, I'm just going to be buying a bunch of stuff and throwing it in a bag. I don't have much experience fixing my feet because nothing ever happens to my feet!

I'm not trying to will away any issues because I know there will be sand. This can be a game changer. I also never use gaiters either. I've read mixed reviews on races like this and how the fully enclosed gaiters may actually be the cause of blisters given all the moisture they keep from escaping.


As a fat-adapted athlete, I can typically get through endurance events (even training) with about 50%-60% fewer calories than most traditional athletes who rely on carbs and sugars. However, my previous experience with doing multi-day hikes is that fat adaptation only gets you so far when you're running/hiking 30+ miles a day. My theory is that my body will need more carbs and protein as the week progresses.

Here is a nutrition example from a recent training run/hike to highlight the point I'm trying to make.

Distance: 18 miles
Time on feet: ~4.5 hours
Calories burned: 2100
Calories consumed: 300 (3 VFuel gels @ 100 calories each)

I guess my blind spot here is figuring out how to best balance fat-adaption with longer, slower miles across multiple days. Previous experience tells me that longer days like G2G force the 'engine' to idle for more hours of the day. This translates to more calories throughout the days and nights so keeping a fat-focused nutrition plan may not be sustainable.


I am super-stoked to start putting all this together. Part of the fun is trying things out and seeing what works and what fails. The other headwind I face in the coming weeks is dealing with the unpredictability of the weather here in the Southwest. Most folks don't realize that monsoon season is just about to hit here in Arizona - so (typically) between the months of July through early October, we see a rise in humidity, combined with hot temps (110-115F / 43-46C) and late afternoon thunderstorms. It makes for some interesting training weekends and camping trips. Thanks goodness we just purchased a new treadmill!!

Happy training and stay safe out there!

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Training smarter, not harder

I went into this post looking to write up a detailed blog for those folks interested in trying out Vespa. That was almost 2 months ago (so hard to find time to write!)ðŸĪĶðŸ―‍♂️ While Vespa is a very critical part of my training, there are other things I'm doing that ensure I stay fit, healthy and mentally ready to take on new challenges. Now that I'm "over the hill" 😝 in this new 50-59 age bracket, I have securely latched onto the idea that it's ok to train smarter, not harder.

Reflecting on 2022

Let's be real for a second. Since the pandemic, I have lost some passion for running. I still love being out in places where only my feet can take me but the grind of running every day is not appealing or healthy. As I've searched for things to replace that passion, I've discovered that new adventures, challenges and the unknown is really what makes me happy. Camping, hiking, off-roading, destination races...just being outdoors with like-minded people is how I charge my battery.

Anecdotally, I feel the best I've ever felt and engaged in WAY more types of activities than ever before. Ultra-marathons (Jangover 75k, Cuyamaca 100K), a multi-day hike through the Black Hills of South Dakota, and a century bike ride (for charity) are only some of the examples I've been able to accomplish on nothing more than a little planning and being "smart" with nutrition, training and sleep.

I guess you could say I have a newfound passion for variety. It is the spice of life (so I've heard) 😉

Long ago when I started running, the veterans would say, "Make sure to cross-train". As a snot-nosed kid, you're either invincible or don't know what that means. Well, now I do and let me be the first veteran to say to you, "Make sure to cross-train!" (and get off my lawn!) lol


What if I told you I run 2 days a week for a 100k ultra-marathon? My younger-self wouldn't believe it either but that's been my MO for the last 3-4 years now.

Cuyamaca 100K (2018) ✅ - 16 hours 9 minutes

Waldo 100K (2021) ✅ - 15 hours 11 minutes

Cuyamaca 100K (2022) ✅ - 16 hours 15 minutes

Am I out to break records? Podium? No - I'm just looking for that WSER qualifier. Enough to gitt'er done and have some fun!

It's not as though I'm sitting on the couch eating ice cream the other 5 days of the week however. The rest of the week is filled with cycling, rowing, weight lifting, boxing and hiking. Again, there's that variety.

So what does that week look like?

Mon   Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Easy spin
- Stretch
- Massage
- Row
- HIIT workout
- Endurance spin - Weights
- Box
- Row
- Recovery spin
- Meditate
- Yoga
- Long run - Long run
(plus vert)

I am currently ramping up miles using this same plan as I get ready for Zion 100k in mid-April. All of these things have been essential in helping not only keep my attention but free from injury and burn-out. The other beauty of this regiment is that I've left any periodicity behind. I do this week-over-week for 14-16 weeks instead of 3 weeks on, 1 week off/rest. There is ALWAYS enough active recovery during the week to prepare for the next weekend of long runs.


So let's talk about Vespa. I would not be able to get through those long weekend miles or recover without it. What's the big deal you might ask? Let's get a few fundamentals out of the way (keep reading or watch this 1-minute video). There is also a more detailed FAQ here.

What is Vespa? It's a naturally occurring catalyst that helps you body tap into your body's fat for fuel.

Do you use other gels with Vespa? Absolutely. The calories in Vespa are not meant to replace traditional gels or carbs. I typically take a Vespa (concentrate) every 2 hours and a gel every hour when training or racing.

How does Vespa provide energy? Gels provide energy via the sugars they contain (largely sucrose and/or fructose). Vespa tells the body to look for fat as the source of energy instead of carbs. Fat is a cleaner-burning naturally occurring fuel source.

What are the benefits of Vespa? The most prominent include: (1) Minimal lactic acid-related soreness, (2) fewer GI-related issues, (3) sharper mental acuity and (4) a consistent source of energy without the ups and downs (e.g., no bonking during the Arizona summers).

If it sounds like I'm "drinking the Kool-Aid", it's because I LITERALLY AM! The Vespa Kool-Aid! ðŸĪŠ I would not have applied to be an ambassador if I didn't believe in the benefits or experience them first-hand.

I think it helps that I practice intermittent fasting (I don't eat between 7 pm and 12 pm the next day - 17 hours). This doesn't happen overnight so do some reading if you think it's right for you. As you continue to work out and/or burn calories in a fasted state, the body has to adapt and find fuel wherever it can. I believe the physiological changes that accompany intermittent fasting helped me realize the benefits of Vespa while training but certainly there others who maintain a traditional diet and also see similar benefits.

Otherwise, I eat what I want throughout the day. No special diets - I'm not keto nor do I cut out certain food groups. I eat responsibly across all the food groups (beer is a food group right?!)

Some small nuggets I've learned while using Vespa

  1. Gels that are dextrose-based (like VFuel) are easier to digest for me. My body gets very confused when I add sucrose or fructose.
  2. You don't have to eat fat-heavy foods (like avocado or bacon) to experience the benefits of Vespa
  3. Vespa does not eliminate the need for calories (but it DOES significantly reduce the total needed!)
  4. Managing your electrolytes and hydration is critically important

Sleep & Supplements

If you're not getting 7-8 hours of sleep, you're doing your body (and mind) a disservice. I believe quality sleep is one of the best things you can do when training for endurance events. Your muscles, cells and mind depend heavily on the regeneration of red blood cells to keep you going.

I am definitely not interested in giving up my IPA's but also recognize that alcohol does have an impact on the quality of sleep you can achieve. Because of this, I try not to drink after 6 pm...but sometimes that first beer tastes so good you need another 😉

Aside from sleep, I've found value in taking vitamins and other supplements to keep my endurance and body feeling good. There is a list of the supplements I take but you-do-you...there are a ton of options and ultimately, it's your choice what you put in your body.

  1. Multi-vitamin
  2. Vitamin D-3
  3. Flaxseed oil
  4. Probiotic
  5. Chondroitin-Glucosamine
  6. OptygenHP (First Endurance)

Final Thoughts

Remember, there is no magic training formula that meets the needs of everyone. Your personal commitments, time and life circumstances will help guide you down a path that's comfortable for you. My objective here is just to provide insight to the things I do based on my life, needs and goals. Perhaps you can use some of these ideas for your own training. Best of luck with your own goals!

Be safe out there!

(if you're interested in trying Vespa, please use my referral link or 'RunRovertRun15' as the coupon code when you check out)