With just under two weeks until the start of the Tor des Geants (TDG) on September 11th – there is no more training to be done, just stewing over my plans and race strategy. Since a 205 mile race with 77,000 feet of vertical gain is all new territory for me (last year’s winning time was 80 hours – I can’t even begin to get my head around being “out there” for three-plus days), my strategy is based solely on gut instinct and advice from others, rather than any relevant experience.
Essentially I’ve got a three-part plan. 1) Good nutrition – a minimum of 100 calories every 30 minutes. 2) Pole pole (Swahili for “go slow”) for the first 100 miles. 3) Stay healthy – no falls, good foot care, dress smart. My usual tendency is go out fast and hang on. For TDG I need to go out slow and run smart. A race strategy that is not instinctual for me.
Years ago I used to fly. As a pilot you are taught to constantly monitor your aircraft to maintain the most efficient flight– do you have the right fuel mixture, is the aircraft properly trimmed, is weight and balance optimal? This is a good analogy for monitoring the human variables that will be critical to prevent a fiery crash during the 80+ hours I will be running - am I eating and drinking right, am I keeping my heart rate at the optimal level, do I have the beginnings of any physical ailments that need attention? I plan on having an instrument panel drawn on my arm to remind me of the important variables I need to monitor.
I’ve had the good fortune of having help and assistance from a variety of folks. Canadian ultra-athlete, Jen Seggar who ran TDG last year has been gracious in sharing with me information about the race and answering my myriad questions. For the past several months of my training she has constantly admonished me to 1) climb and descend – and do it again, and again, and again, and 2) practice using poles to develop arm strength and endurance.
Christian Johnson who downloaded the course GPS data and created a 6 by 11 foot map of the course. Not only is the map extremely useful for planning strategy and logistics– but it is a piece of art that will be a wonderful keepsake. Thank you Christian!
My wife Adrienne who has provided me with expert guidance and advice regarding nutrition. Being gluten intolerant makes eating, and in particular, eating during races a bit tricky. With her help I’m at my optimal racing weight, I’ve got great energy, and I have a host of race food options that not only provide the nutrition I need – but sit well in my stomach.
Planning and assembling the required kit has been an interesting exercise. Before signing-up for TDG I’d never used a hydration pack. But, with an extensive required gear list for the race, a hydration pack is necessary. I’ve selected the Solomon XA-20 and with the help of the design team at Gregory Packs have modified it for my build and the functionality I am seeking. Fully loaded with water, food and the required gear – it weighs in at 14.5 pounds. Yikes!
Critical gear I plan on using includes Montrail Badrocks as my preferred shoe, Black Diamond Ultra-Distance poles, and of course my favorite Armani button-down shirt (weather permitting). Entertainment has proven to be a bit of a challenge given the battery life of an iPod is about 20 hours. Fortunately several friends have offered to loan me their iPods so that I can have more than 20 hours of music AND be able to listen to some new music. Thanks guys!
I hope my training will be adequate. Earlier in the summer I was working on duration/endurance – lots of long runs and a fairly heavy race schedule. The last month has been focused on climbing/descending with a healthy diet of Kessler, Grandeur, Gobbler’s Knob, Sunset Peak and the likes. I’ve been healthy all summer and am pleased that I will be going into TDG healthy.
So, we’ll see what happens. I really don’t know what to expect. Everything is new to me; the course, the distance, running without a crew, European style aid stations and logistics, carrying 14 lbs, and the vert. Perhaps my naïveté will be to my advantage. More realistically, I’ll be facing challenges and solving problems that I never anticipated. At some level, it’s the unexpected and the newness of the race that I am so looking forward to that I know will make this a truly grand adventure!