The Grand to Grand Ultra was my first exposure to self-supported multi-day stage racing, and it was not what I expected. Going in, I had visions of a long, grinding race of attrition with lots of grim, zombie-like racers staggering across the finish lines in various states of exhaustion and beat-upedness. They would then have to survive the night huddled alone in their sleeping bags in primitive improvised campsites before repeating the whole thing over again. And again. And again...
In fact, what I saw was almost the polar opposite. Don't get me wrong: it was a long, tough, grinding course that took a toll on most of the racers. There were 11 racers who could not complete the entire course, either due to (non-serious) injuries or simply being too exhausted to make the cutoff times. There were seemingly endless flat stretches of scrub desert or sandy 4x4 tracks, lung-bursting climbs, and soul-destroying sand that made every step hurt. But wherever I looked, almost everyone was smiling.
Some of it had to do with the gorgeous and varied scenery they were running though each and every day. I won't bother trying to describe it with words. You can get a taste of it HERE, several thousand words' worth at least.
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