Grand Teton Race

Mud_shoes_1This is an old post I composed after the Grand Teton race.
Tuesday September 27, 2005
Over the weekend as you were all probably enjoying the last days of fall, I was racing in The Grand Tetons First 50 Mile. Located in northwestern Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park protects stunning mountain scenery and fantastic wildlife. The central feature of the park is the Teton Range — an active, fault-block, 40-mile-long mountain front. The range includes eight peaks over 12,000 feet (3,658 m), including the Grand Teton at 13,770 feet (4,198 m). Just getting there from Toronto was an adventure in itself. Paul and I flew from Toronto to Seattle (for business), then caught a flight to Boise (Idaho) and drove to Alta in Wyoming and landed at the Grand Targhee Resort  – the race headquarters.

The race was organized by Lisa Smith-Baden (my trainer) and Jay Smith. They are both the US/Canada representatives for the Marathon Des Sables. The race included a marathon, 50 miles and 100 miles.

I madly registered for the 50 mile and the man at the control desk at the weather station up in the sky probably heard about that because we had hellish weather. Hard to believe: the 6:30 AM start of the race saw us all depart in complete darkness and rain. The race included a series of daunting climbs (for me!). And if rain was not enough we got: hail, more rain and snow. The terrain became muddy and there was no running, mostly coping with mud, mud and more mud. It was an amazing Marathon Des Sables training: mud is basically the wet version of sand. Same characteristics: it swallows your foot, your footing becomes unsure, you can’t properly run and you need to keep an eye on the trail not to end up with your nose firmly planted in the middle of the trail. I loved the race, can’t wait for the next one. I only managed to complete 25 miles in a hellish 12 hours – I wasn’t even running anymore, there was no point, the mud was unbelievable. Got a cramp on my left leg at mile 20 and the last 5 miles prior to the aid station where the longest in the world. This actually turned out to be a pulled calf muscle! I was excited when I found that out because it meant that it was not my doing again: I get cramps while running long distance because I am not properly hydrated and I don’t drink enough.
Lisa thought that I should have been able to finish the race; I was in high spirit until mile 20. The left leg problem changed everything. I mean what the hell was that? Moving the leg was painful, stopping was painful, I think it would have hurt less if I sat down and cut it off! The scenery was fantastic, beautiful fall colours. Not finishing the 50 miler was a bit disappointing but when I look at the challenges during that race I kind of think that I did not do too poorly for a first 50 miler! Given the weather conditions, Lisa and Jay ended up pulling all the maximum allowable times for the race completion. That meant that you could be out there as long as necessary to complete your 50 or 100 mile. When I pulled out all I could think off was Nantu who was doing the 100 miler and was hoping for a 30 hour finish. When we left for Boise the next morning at 9 AM we saw him a few miles away from the finish line with his pacer!

Can’t wait for the next 50 mile race!

A couple of things about Alta and Grand Targhee Resort: it was beautiful and we are definitely going back out to Wyoming. I should have gotten there a bit earlier too to get used to the altitude. Running at 10,000 feet is sure not like my training runs in High Park. What have I learned this time?

  • I am a sissy! I mean not completing the 50 mile because of a bit of pain. What the hell is that? I never think of myself as a sissy but boy did I ever feel like one.
  • I need more training: building mileage and cross training are big on my training schedule now
  • Need to better prepare clothing and food for the races. Most of the participants had drop bags containining full change of clothes including shoes. My drop bag contained a clean T-shirt and a pair of socks. Maybe looking up the weather conditions a day or two in advance would have helped. Of course my trainer does not cover these basis things. I mean who goes to a 50 mile race without a set of change clothes appropriate for the weather conditions they will be running in. Basic stuff for your runner. For me: I actually have to remember that I will be outdoors and therefor there will be no Starbucks, no internet access and that unless I am wearing it, it is not going to miraculously materialize in the store around the corner on the trail!

Bottom line: training, clothing, supplies. I am attempting another 50 miles in 4 weeks. Preparations start now.
I am in love with long distance.

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