Thursday, September 15, 2011

Post Grand Slam Thoughts

Well, now that my Grand Slam adventure is over, and I’ve had a few days to let it sink in, here’s some random thoughts on the experience.

I had already decided that if I made the Western States lottery cut, I would sign up for the slam.  So, once I knew for certain, I signed up for the remaining races as soon as I could.  Who knows when I would get another chance?

I’ve kind of had it in the back of my head that one day I would do the slam, especially if I could afford it and make the cut at Western.

I definitely spent some cash this summer doing this little adventure.  Four entry fees that weren’t cheap, a plane ticket to Boston, a rental car, hotels, food, gas for my car on the road trips, etc.  It added up pretty quick.  Couple all of that with the other races I did this year and this has been a pricey race year.  Was it worth it?  Some people would say no, the average person can’t afford it, some of the races are way overhyped, entry fees are too high, you shouldn’t race that much, etc.  Well, I’m happy to say that I’m not an average person, I could afford it, and who cares about the hype, whether I race too much, etc.  I had a great time.

Did I find running four 100's difficult?  Well, yes and no.  The actual races all went very well.  I ran within myself, knew what to do and just got the job done.  There was never really any point in any race where I had serious thoughts of dropping or giving up.  You always have those fleeting thoughts, but serious ones never really entered my head.  Did I have to "dig deep" to finish (or any other of those metaphors).  Nope, I just ran or walked until I got to the finish line.  I think my biggest concern was the possibility of getting injured, either by taking a good fall and breaking or spraining something, or just an overuse or over training type injury.  That kind of had me stressed, especially as Wasatch got closer.  But that didn't happen, and I finished injury free.  Indeed, I actually feel pretty good just a few days after Wasatch.  Goes to show just how amazing and adaptable our bodies really are.  You can train to recover quickly.

I was able to go do some races that maybe I would have never done without signing up for this adventure.  So here’s a little recap of my thoughts on each race.

Western States – The granddaddy of them all.  Lots of history, lots of extreme talent show every year.  Lots of hype.  I let myself get sucked in and enjoyed the event.  Phenomenal organization and attention paid to every runner.  I had a great time with Aric and Alicia.  Went in a little undertrained, but managed a respectable finish.  I wouldn’t mind doing WS again, but it gets pricier every year, plus you have the lottery to contend with.

Vermont – Another old school ultra.  I got to run with horses and that was a real treat.  Vermont is beautiful in the summer.  Running the back roads, topping out on hills with great views, past the farms.  I also had a great race, sub-24 hour and my fastest 100 in many years.  Larry was great at pacing me for the last 30 miles.  I would go do this one again.

Leadville – Now the largest 100 mile event in the country with 600+ this year.  Very scenic, not a tremendously difficult course other than the cutoff time of 30 hours and the altitude.  Corporate owned now, which makes for a different atmosphere and vibe.  Not sure I like it, but it is what it is.  Great organization, aid was spot on.  Once away from the headquarters, it was more like the typical ultra.  My lovely wife was able to crew for me for the first time, and Carolyn was another great pacer I had.  Fun.  I don’t think I would do this one again.  Running with that many people doesn’t interest me a whole lot.

Wasatch – What can I say?  It’s my home course and I love it.  Always a great event.  Intentionally kept low key and low cost.  It was also the cheapest 100 I ran.  The support is always superb.  One of the reasons I love this race is that so many of my running friends are running it or volunteering and it’s way too much fun to see them, socialize a little, cheer them on, etc.  My pacers were great, and I felt good for the most part.  Run it again?  Hell yes.

I’m not sure what I can do next year to top this year.  Maybe I should not race so much and do more adventure type runs.  That actually appeals to me quite a bit.  Still, I do have a few other races that I would love to do, so who knows what 2012 will bring running wise.

So, should you do the slam?  I would recommend it if you manage to get into Western States.  Doing one or two 100’s a year is an achievement that an extremely small portion of the population can or will do.  Doing four of them in less than three months is an achievement that very few ultrarunners will do.  Completing the slam certifies you as a truly badass runner, one not to be messed with at all.  At least that’s what my friends tell me.  I think they're just stroking my ego ;-)

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