Last month, Ryan Adam competed in the Grand to Grand ultra – a self-supported, seven-day, 273km endurance race from the Grand Canyon in Arizona to Utah. The 22-year old Oamaru building apprentice, who was the only New Zealand competitor and the youngest in the field, won the under-30 category. He talks to Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Pattersonabout his experience.
Q My first question has to be – why did you enter?
That’s what I was asking myself all week, actually. I don’t know, I just like a challenge. I did the Alps 2 Ocean Ultra marathon at the start of the year and I met an Aussie girl who invited me over and I thought ‘why not?’.
Q Is it the most extreme race you’ve done?
Definitely the most extreme. I definitely have not done a lot of running. I’ve done one marathon, probably three half-marathons and two multi-day ultra marathons – you’re not getting a high profile athlete interview here, just Joe Bloggs having a go.
Q What was the format of the Grand to Grand?
The race is divided up into stages, with a camp site at each stage. They set up the tent and supply hot and cold water and you carry all the food and sleeping bag each day. There are eight people in each tent so you get to know each other pretty quickly and become pretty good friends. Everyone starts off together each day, so for the first half of the day you are pretty condensed and in the second half everyone is spread out just trying to get to the end of the day. It was about 40-50km a day and the third day you had 84km to run, but you had two days to do it. There were checkpoints every 10km, with doctors at each checkpoint, so if they see someone that is really struggling, they will pull them out, or people will get to the next checkpoint and say ‘I can’t carry on’.
Q What was the atmosphere like?
The people were unreal – really nice. When I signed up to the Alps 2 Ocean Ultra I thought they were going to be snotty, up-themselves athletes but they are all really genuine people, just out there to challenge themselves, not really to compete against each other. There is a lot of camaraderie.
Q How was the course marked out?
They had pink flags between 20 and 50 metres. Everyone had a go at getting lost, because you are absolutely buggered. One guy on the long stage was about 15km off course. They found him, took him back to the last checkpoint and said ‘mosey on’, and he still finished the day. I would have just packed it in. They had to call search and rescue to find one lady who got really disorientated and lost.
Q What were the conditions like?
It was just below 30degC each day, a real dry heat. It was cooking, it really messed with me, actually. The first two days I was sweet, but on the third day you had to run 80km. I got to 40km into the middle of that day and I was pretty done for the rest of the trip but I kept moseying on. The course was over sand dunes and hard-packed sand.
Q How many people competed in the event?
There were about 120 people and they had a 24% did-not-finish rate this year, which is the highest they have had. I don’t know why that was, it might have been people going over there less prepared – like myself.
Q What about wildlife?
I saw a few rattlesnakes and there were a few scorpions kicking around. The coyotes would be howling at night, which was pretty cool.
Q Any tears shed?
Yeah, day four I really cooked myself. One of the other competitors found me under a tree, sleeping. There were 4km to go that day so I got in and had a wee tear. I spent the last couple of days spewing up, I couldn’t really eat anything – that was pretty challenging.
Q What did you eat along the way?
You have to pack all your food at the start of the week – and that is everything you have. I just took freeze-dried meals, one for each day and a pack of lollies, a few bars and electrolytes.
Q Any plans for more adventure racing?
Running and I have had a divorce. Although I told myself after the Alps 2 Ocean Ultra that I would never run again and then signed myself up for this.
Q What were the highlights?
That is the thing, you are absolutely hating it and then, without a word of a lie, the next day all you can think about is the good times. My girlfriend Tannah McLay has been overseas for the past three months and she was at the finish line, so that really helped. We went to Vegas for a few days then Hawaii for a few days.