OK... A bit of a start on the long overdue race report from the Grand Raids Dentelles Ventoux. My apologies up front as I weave and wobble here...
The 2011 Grand Raid took place 14 - 15 May; starting and finishing in Gigondas, France. Gigondas is an amazing Provincial village in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azure region of France. Gigondas lies at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail mountains.
The Grand Raid Dentelles is a charity event hosted by the Rotary Club and Inner Wheel of Orange. The race benefits the treatment and study of Glycogenosis (Pompe's, Gierke's and McArdle diseases). I've participated in or been associated with the Grand Raid since 2009 and must say that each year it simply get's better! The Rotary Club, Inner Wheel and associated race volunteers are an amazing group. My thanks go out to them for their hard work planning and hosting this event. A special thanks goes out to the ladies at Brantes and Les Rissas; you all are wonderful! Texan first - always!
As I think I've mentioned here, this was my first race following my colonoscopy for colon cancer in February 2011. That said, yes I was scared to death of racing, much less of attempting a race of this magnitude with cancer and following my surgical recovery. You might imagine the worry, concern and thoughts that persisted at least until kilometer 93...
As a runner each time I go into a race I'm nervous. This time around I faced a different kind of fear based largely on the unknowns associated with colon cancer, my surgery, my physical state and my body's ability to endure and survive. Each step of this race included a deliberate decision on my part to continue. These decisions included: visiting with a number of doctor's well prior to the race to ensure that I was on a good recovery track. I completed a physical in April and visited with a surgeon friend to assess where I was prior to making the journey to Provence. I may seem foolish at times, but I am no fool - visit with your doctor if you're considering racing any distance following or during treatment for any type of cancer. Some of my "silly" decisions going into The Raid included signing in for the race; not participating in the race briefing or pre-race dinner (just in case I wanted to back out); setting my alarm for 0230 in the morning; getting out of bed and getting to the start line (you get the picture). I incorporated a deliberate decision process throughout the event that would include a review of my physical and mental state at each check point. This decision process is one of the lessons I took away from The Grand Raid and I will incorporate it in future races.
I still consider myself a junior ultrarunner. Running races like this is much like racing a car - you have to have a plan or you either loose time or fail to complete. Framed around my physical condition and medical history I decided that prior to entering a race check point I would evaluate where I was physically and mentally and would have a plan for what I was going to do at that check point (dump trash, refill water and food, rest or call it quits). This framework provided me with a psychological means of assuring that I was on track both physically and mentally and it saved time over the course of the race. I assure you that I was prepared to drop from the race at the sign of any undo physical complication related to my surgery, GI track, or simply the lack of endurance to finish based on the above.
Some race specific issues and lessons learned as we draw closer to this year's goal of completing the UTMB include:
Much like the UTMB course, the Grand Raid is a mountainous, semi-technical course. Starting on the first of many "hills" it leaves Gigondas and proceeds through check points at Lac du Paty (18KM), Comb Curnier (30KM), Sommet du Mont Ventoux (39KM, 1912M), Brantes (54KM), Veaux (68KM), Les Rissas (73KM), Malaucene (80KM), Saint Amand (91KM) and Gigondas (100KM). The associated elevation change of The Raid is 5215 meters over the length of the course. Much of the route is over undeveloped farm, hiking and technical trail. There is a lovely "break" between Brantes and Veaux. Unlike my brute force effort in 2009 I mixed my progress over the race course between a slow mountain jog (25 minutes running/5 minute walk breaks), Nordic Walking with poles and brute force climing and descending. This technique paid huge dividends.
My UTMB training and ultrarunning lessons included...
I imagine the UTMB course to be very similar to that of The Grand Raid with long ascents and descents that simply crush your quads. Based on the physical work associated with The Raid I plan to increase the amount of time I'm spending in the gym to three times a week; working both upper and lower body.
Over the course of The Raid the weather turned on us three times with thunder storms and a lot of rain. This combined with the onset of limited visibility and nightfall revealed to me that I've got to run more at night and under trying atmospheric conditions. I plan to adjust my long runs to include periods that force me to run tired and run in the dark... I look to get up early and run a 20 - 25KM route; spend the day working; come home in the evening to spend it with the family; and after they go to bed and darkness has set in take off for another 20 - 25KM run. I also plan to throw a couple of midnight runs in to that I'm going out in the dead of night and tired. During The Raid I was reminded of how psychologically hard darkness can be on you.
I am still working on my race execution diet...
In addition to some of the fruits, soups and chips available at check points during The Raid I consumed 16 energy bars, 20 energy gels, 2 Succeed Tablets, and almost 9 liters of Gatorade, Hammer and Succeed beverages. All of the sugar/sweetness associated with fruits and energy food can be a real challenge. I forced myself to eat a solid or gel on an hourly basis; rotating between the two. I limited the amount of caffeine I was using prior to going into the race. I didn't stop drinking my two cups of coffee in the morning, but I do not drink soft drinks at all. I incorporated caffeinated gels with every other gel I was using and switched completely to caffeinated gels starting at Veaux. I stopped using caffeine at kilometer 90. Overall I consumed almost 10,000 calories over the course of the 19:15:36 it took me to complete this race.
I was curious (yes a bit worried) about the impact of my racing diet on my GI track particularly given the GI issues I had following my surgery. My key to success remains the consumption of a well rounded diet. I have not shifted to a strictly vegetarian diet, but do however consume primarily colorful vegetables. I followed my insane race diet up with a meal including a salad, cheese, bread and lots of water. My next meal included a delicious post race pizza! I can happily report that I had no major GI changes or problems following the race.
Well, there you have it - some refined impressions from the 2011 Grand Raid Dentelles Ventoux. For more information on the course itself visit Steppenhahn and my report from 2009.
The Grand Raid is a great race! It is one that has drawn me closer to it because of it's personality and flair and the reward I found there as a cancer survivor. Asked if I'd do it again the answer will remain, always - HELL YES!