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Part 1: Grand Slam Dreams by Ian Torrence

I donít know when or why the idea occurred to me. It can probably be traced it back to a single October afternoon, when I was poring over race calendars, trying to decide where my running focus was going to be during 2002.

My motivation to pursue ultrarunningís Grand Slam grew from several factors. I had set some lofty running goals for myself last year. Unfortunately, most of these ambitions were snuffed out when I was injured in a weight room accident. That injury left me frustrated and unable to run for four months. I stood on the sidelines of some of my favorite races wishing I could be there too, running along with the others. I lived vicariously through the phone and Internet to learn about race results and hear about my friendsí most recent adventures. I did, however, also learn a lot about myself during that down time. I discovered that mountain biking and returning to the weight room (albeit with a smarter approach) kept me in decent shape. I also believe I rekindled some enthusiasm for my running that was waning before the injury occurred. In retrospect, it turned out to be a good break for my mind, body and soul. After the injury healed, I was anxious to return to ultrarunning.

I recently relocated or, more fittingly returned, to the great Southwest desert. Moab, located in southwestern Utah, is now my home. I couldnít have planned it any better; Iím smack dab in the middle of the ultrarunning scene. By car, I am within a dayís drive of some of the finest ultrarunning races in Arizona, Colorado, California, and my home state of Utah. From my front door, I have access to some of the most rugged and scenic trails Iíve ever experienced. Trailheads that lead into the La Sal Mountains, that reach heights of 12,000 feet, are within a twelve-mile drive to the south and the broken slick rock paths that parallel the mighty Colorado River truly give my spirit, lungs and muscles what they crave. I believe these surroundings provide me with the ideal playground to prepare for the toughest of 100-milers.

Each one of the four races that will make up my attempt at the Grand Slam is unique. I am familiar with Western States and Vermont, as I have participated in them both before. Leadville and Wasatch will present the most unknowns. I have not run, crewed or paced at either of these races before. I plan to travel to both courses during the summer and scout out their entire lengths. Roughly a month between each 100-mile should leave me enough strength to recover and move on to the next race.

My 2002 Grand Slam Schedule will be as follows:

  • June 29 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run
  • July 20 Vermont 100-Mile Endurance Run
  • August 17 Leadville Trail 100 Mile
  • September 7 Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run

It is only January, yet Iíve already completed what I think to be one of the hardest steps of the entire Grand Slam. Iíve managed to get all four race applications filed on time, so that my name will appear on the official entry lists. Knowing that I have a tendency to over-race, I feel that I have arranged a well thought out ďpre-seasonĒ schedule of races that will get me ready for the stresses that the 100-milers will present, but wonít leave me burnt out mentally and physically early in the year.

When I informed UltraRunning Magazine publisher Don Allison of my ambitions to give the Grand Slam a try, he suggested that we let the story unfold on the UltraRunning web site. Initially I was reluctant to do this. I didnít want to jinx myself by putting my goals in the spotlight. Things seldom go as planned in the world of ultrarunning. Many mistakes, mishaps and problems can and will arise. Could I possibly make it through four 100-mile races in a single summer? Could I possibly do the proper training for each of them and still remain healthy, happy and motivated?

After further thought, I realized that making my story public could be one of the best ways to go about my pursuit of the Grand Slam. I would not only be committing myself to the Slam, I would be involving others in my adventure as well. I enjoy sharing my ultra stories with friends and family. The ultrarunning community is comprised of many of my friends, so I felt the two fit well together. Journeys are enriched by sharing experiences with others. Perhaps some of you will take interest in my story, cheer me on and learn something from my endeavor. If nothing else, I hope I can perhaps inspire you to one day take on your own ultrarunning challenge.

As the summer nears I hope you will check back periodically in order to follow my progress. I am always open to suggestions, comments, and advice. Hearing your stories may help me as well. I can be reached at itgoes@moci.net.