Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Grand Slam of the World Update

La Misión is out, La Réunion is in.

The originally planned 4th and final race of the Grand Slam of the World (GSW), La Misión, will not be held this year and has been rescheduled for February 2014. This change of date didn't come as a complete surprise to me since Uruguayan and 2012 La Misión finisher John Tidd mentioned this may happen when I spoke to him at UT Mt Fuji last month. Well, the change was recently announced. Since the purpose of the GSW is to complete 4 of the world's toughest 100 mile ultramarathons during a calendar year, I had to find a substitute for the ultimate race.

And find one, I did. It's La Diagonale de Fous (translation: the madmen's diagonal), located on the
Cartoon-ish graphic belies pain that awaits
Indian Ocean island of 
La Réunion. Yeah, I had to look it up on a map, too! The race is also known as the 
Grand Raid de la Réunion and is in its 21st year. I'd be lying if this race didn't have me a little concerned. At 102.5 miles, its got 35,400' of climb. That's 3.5 miles longer and 8,000' feet more climbing than La Misión (and 1,400' more than Hardrock!). Plus, the race will be held in October, compressing the GSW by 2 months. Now, each race in the GSW will have a total climb in excess of the altitude of Mt. Everest and the combined climb of all 4 races will exceed 125,000'! It's going to be a challenge.

Here are videos for last year's Diagonale:

Monday, May 13, 2013

UT Mt Fuji and a R2R2R

It's been a busy two weeks of traveling and running! On April 26th, I finished the Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji (UTMF) 100 miler, which is the 1st event in ultrarunning's Grand Slam of the World. Then, two weeks later on legs that were still pretty shot, I ran the Grand Canyon double crossing (aka Rim to Rim to Rim).

I brought Camille with me to Japan for the five day trip. Her passport has been getting quite a few stamps in the past year. We lived-large the first night at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo located in Roppongi. Roppongi is an area of Tokyo known for plentiful (and expensive) shopping and restaurants. It had been raining for several days before we arrived and was still sort of drizzling our first night. That didn't matter to us since we were both exhausted from the long trip and weren't there to shop anyway. We had an early night after going out for sushi. Both Camille and I are sushi lovers and were really looking forward to some authentic Japanese sushi. The menu was all in Japanese, so we ordered a set dinner course and spent half the time trying to figure out what bizarre sea creatures we were eating. Some Japanese dining at the sushi bar were celebrating something (maybe just being off work for the day) and kept offering sake champaign. I'd never heard of it. Thinking I still had a day and a half before the start of the race, I had a few glasses. I taught our new Japanese friends to say "cheers" and they went a little nuts with it the rest of the night.

The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast next to the hotel at a 'hipster-ish' restaurant and afterwards took a bus ride down to the Mt. Fuji area. On the bus, we met a runner from Hong Kong and one from Italy who'd we see off and on while at Fuji. We stayed at a small, traditional Japanese minshuku (guesthouse) on the banks of Lake Kawaguchi which was set up by a group associated with the race called Avid Adventures. Avid not only set up hotels for foreign runners, but their crew also acted as personal aid station helpers during the race. Their enthusiasm for the whole event was great and their crew was a lot of fun. The guesthouse was full of other foreign runners as well and it was great meeting them and hearing their ultrarunning stories. Our room was completely traditional and had no beds, just a tatami and some thin futons to sleep on. Camille channeled the Princes and the Pea and stacked at least six futons on each other trying to make a comfortable bed. No matter how many futons she'd lay down on top of each other, it just never got softer. It really wasn't that bad and we slept OK.

The race started at 3:00 PM the following day (Friday). We were all thankful that the rain that had been in the area for days had moved out and we continued to have great weather for the entire race.  As far as my race went, I ran at a leisurely pace with the goal to just enjoy the experience and to finish. UTMF is only in its 2nd year and already has the reputation of being one of the hardest ultras in the world. It has over 30,000' of climb and some 3rd class rock climbing in the race's latter stages, which really came as a suprise. Also, for five weeks before the race, I'd been in flight training for the Boeing 777 and didn't have much time then to even run. I've done enough of these types of races, however, to know how to pace conservatively when I'm not 100% and avoid cratering. It was a tough run (maybe one of the toughest 100's I've done), but I managed to get myself to the finish in the top 10%.


After we got home to Dallas, I was "on-call" for work but not used for the next week. This gave me time to further recover and also knock out a few projects at home I'd been putting off. I'd also been looking at buying a 2nd car since Camille would be getting her learner's permit to drive next month. I found the one I was looking for in very good shape out in Sacramento, CA and decided to get it and make a cross-country drive home to Dallas. I love big drives out west and the open road. This would also give me a chance to attempt something I've wanted to do for years: the infamous Grand Canyon double crossing in a day.

So, after flying to Sacramento, buying the car and driving to my in-laws in Reno for the night (with flowers in hand for Mother's Day, I might add), I then headed for the big ditch. I got to the Grand Canyon Park near midnight on Thursday night and took a couple hour nap in the back of the car. The next morning at 6:00 AM and somewhat later than I'd planned, I left the South Kaibob trailhead for the ~42 mile roundtrip. The run was as beautiful as it was hard. I still hadn't fully gotten over my Mt. Fuji run two weeks earlier (hey, I'm 51 now!) and the last 5 mile climb out of the canyon in 100F heat near the end of the day was a real effort. The trip was great, lived up to the hype I'd read, and was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Grand Canyon selfie

On the trip home over the weekend, I picked up John and Camille at the Albuquerque Airport after they'd flown out from Dallas. We spent the night in Albuquerque, then drove all the way back to Dallas the next day. They were very excited for the new car. Of course, no trip through the Texas panhandle would be complete without stops at the Cadillac Ranch and the Big Texan in Amarillo. My kids are a complete blast to travel with!!

Cadillac Ranch
Black Bridge Grand Canyon