Stage 2 featured the first significant climb of the race, as from the start racers headed uphill into the Kaibab National Forest. This is unlike any forest I've ever seen, being composed almost entirely of junipers growing in what is, in fact, the world's softest sand. As such, in addition to the climb, the racers were now facing their first long stretches of trying to run said sand. If there's a nice sandy beach nearby, then go and run up and down it for 4-5 hours. It's bloody hard work.
The sand is also a challenge to blister-prone feet, as it gets into shoes and greatly increases the friction between foot and shoe and between toes as well. Many - but not all - of the runners had various types of gaiters strapped or taped or velcroed to their shoes in a effort to keep the sand at bay. The leaders, however, all run without gaiters. Likely they don't want the extra weight.
The tail end of the pack got a nasty surprise as a hefty storm blew over the forest. The double rainbows it created were great. The cold rain driven horizontally by strong winds, not so much. To add insult to injury, the rain turned the surface into a sticky, heavy glue that stuck tenaciously to shoes, adding a good 5 lbs to each foot. Several racers were slowed enough by the climb, soft tracks, and rain to come in well after dark. The medical tent was a popular place, treating a few racers with borderline hypothermia in addition to the usual bevy of blisters. A total of 5 racers dropped with various non-serious ailments during this stage, and the attrition of the field had officially begun.
The front runners continued to impress. Stefano Gregoretti of Italy and Salvador Calvo Redondo of Spain crossed the finish line again holding hands in a time of 5 hours and 52 minutes for joint first place while Caroline Richards of the UK finished strongly in a time of 7 hours and 12 minutes in first place for the women. Again, complete stage and cumulative results can be found at : http://grandtograndultra.com/race-coverage/official-results
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