Leadville. It is always the great collector of broken Grand Slam dreams.
In a normal year Leadville will claim a full 1/3 of the souls attempting this incredibly hard feat. This year is not a normal year.
This year the Slam started with a higher than normal number of participants, 37. Thirty plus seven of us went to Squaw Valley in hopes of completing Western States and the three other jewels of the Slam.
June 28, 2008, Western States: I've seen Fire.
Without even firing the starter's pistol 10 Slammers called it quits at Western States. The race committee at WS prudently cancelled the 35th running of the Western States 100 due to raging wildfires throughout California, several of which threatened the race course.
The Grand Slam committee quickly chose an alternate race, the Arkansas Traveller 100. This is where 10 Grand Slam Applicants, either unable to secure more time off work, short of funds, travel weary, or simply no longer interested with Western States out of the picture, withdrew from the Slam.
Now we were 27.
July 19, 2008, Vermont: And I've Seen Rain.
Vermont is normally the easiest of the Grand Slam races, but following the lead of Western States, this is not a normal year! Vermont's temperatures soared to near 90 degrees with humidity approaching triple digits. This humidity turned into significant rainfall and hail storms on the course. Still, Slammers are a hearty bunch and 24 of the 27 of us made it through the entire 100 mile journey. Our times and our bodies suffered, but most of us were alive to fight another day.
Now we were 24.
August 16, Leadville: This would not be the Sunny Day that would Never End.
Leadville normally claims a full 1/3 of the Slam participants. Last year there were 30 signed up for the Slam and 10 didn't make it through Leadville. At Leadville this year, I guessed that Leadville may claim up to 1/2 of the 24 remaining Slammers. That proved to be an optimistic assessment.
500 races stood on 6th Street in Leadville with cold rain pounding on them as they waited for the 4 AM start. Within a few minutes after the start that cold rain would turn into hail. A couple of hours later the hail turned into sleet and later still snow. Leadville with it climbs to near 13,000 feet of altitude is never an easy race, with the challenging conditions on this August day the race was near impossible. There were some heroic efforts, most of which ultimately ended short of the 100 mile goal, and only six of which ended happily at the 6th Street Finish Line in Leadville.
And Now they are 6.
How tough was it?
Out of the 24 well trained Grand Slammers, none finished in less than the 25 hours required for the "big" buckle.
The fastest time by a slammer was from Arkansas' Stan Ferguson at 26:20:45.
Perry Edinger of Arizona, the fastest slammer at Vermont in 18:34:16, came in less than one hour before the cut-off in 29:18:33.
And then there was me.
I entered the Slam having finished 10 of 10 100 miles races.
After Vermont I was a perfect 11 for 11.
I've been training for this for a solid year.
I didn't even make it 1/2 way.
The Leadville website will tell you that I timed out at Winfield, the 1/2 way point. In truth search and rescue found me at mile 48 and the sherrif cut my wrist band on the spot. A race official then drove my wrist band to the Winfield aid station.
This was not a normal year. The slam saw fire and it saw rain, I am hoping for the remaining six that Wasatch will be a sunny (and not too hot!) day that will end in victory!
Congratulations and best wishes to:
Allan Holtz, MN 29:39
Carol O'Hear, 28:31
Dan Brenden, 27:55
Kristina Irvin, 28:53
Perry Edinger, 29:18
Stan Ferguson, 26:20
Please soldier on, please keep the slam alive!
I'll see you in Arkansas.