Ever since early in December when my name was drawn for this years running of the Western States 100 I have been singularly focused on getting myself into the best shape of my life by June 28. For the past couple of years training has had to take a back seat to the work that my wife and I put into opening Great Plains Running Company, a specialty running store in Topeka, KS that is the culmination of our 20+ years of retail experience and nearly as many running. During this time I have continued to "struggle" my way through numerous ultras, even a few 100's, but all done on very little structured training. With our first full year now behind us and a strong team at the store, I found myself totally psyched to start training for Western States, then it happened.
It has always been a struggle of mine to keep balance and perspective when I increase my training. I don't know if there is such a thing as an abusive gene, but excessive behavior has long been part of my make-up. Whether it was drugs and alcohol in my teens and twenties, my career in my thirties and forties or running for the past 20 years I have always had trouble knowing when to say when. So when a friend suggested that since I was going to go to all the effort to get myself ready for Western States that I might as well register for Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch ( the other three races that comprise the Grand Slam of ultra running), I knew I was on the edge of letting this year get way out of control.
I am a runner of very modest ability, and should probably have dismissed the notion before it ever had a chance to take root in my imagination. Attempting the "slam" would certainly be met with skepticism if not laughter and rightfully so. Only 183 runners have completed the Grand Slam, and many runners far more talented then I have tried and fallen short for one reason or another. But running ultras is not logical business, it's more about emotion, and thinking rationally has never been my forte. What do we have if we don't have dreams, and if we don't pursue our dreams what does that say about our personal view of what is possible. In Philippians Paul writes; "in Christ all things are possible". I'm sure Paul was referencing things far more significant then running, however I don't believe we should put limits or restrictions on God's promises. So it is with a dream, God's promise and my wife's blessing that I decided to submit my entry for the 2008 Grand Slam.
It is now late January and my applications have been sent in for all four races, which will be held across a ten week period this summer. The four events cover four Hundred miles, 75,000 feet of elevation gain and 78,000 feet of downhill. The time allotted to do this is 126 hours. Oh Boy!
Today, January 23, my name was officially posted on the Grand Slam web-site. I must admit it is kind of humorous to me to. While there are many logistics (travel, lodging, crew, pacers, etc...) that need to be worked out, the training is once again the focus and the goal remains singular, to finish the Western States 100 on June 29, keeping my life in balance between now and then. Pray for me.