Ultra Run Canada Blog

This site is dedicated to ultra running with a primary focus on the Canadian ultra running scene. It will cover athletes, races, cool trails and routes, nutrition and generally all things ultra running and more.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Bruce Grant Slams the Slam

I've been one of the lucky ones to meet Bruce Grant, a true ambassador to the sport of ultra running. Bruce decided to take on the big bad Grand Slam 100 Mile ultra running series in the U.S. The series consist of 4 100 mile races (Western States, Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch) in 3 1/2 months. That is almost 16 marathons in 3 1/2 months to put it in perspective. Even more impressing it is over 50 000 feet of climbimg some of the most demanding mountain trails in the U.S. The quiet Canadian keeps on trucking while many of us have called it quits. BrUce keeps getting stronger every year and I expect this trend to continue. Thanks for the interview Bruce!

Age: 40
City reside in: Delta, British Columbia
Races for: Team Montrail/Mountain Hardwear

When did you start running ultras?

My buddies and I started mountain biking in 1986 and we did some touring down the West Coast, and that morphed into my first triathlon in 1987. Ironman Canada followed in 1988, and I was hooked on the long distance distance stuff. I did a bunch of Ironman races, then spotted the Wildhorse 50k in Naramata in the summer of 1998. And an ultrarunner was hatched…

Years with Montrail?

Bruce: Three. I am very proud to belong on the team.

Who got you into this madness?

Bruce:I started out by myself, but I met Sally Marcellus in my second ultra, the H2H 100k. We bonded pretty well and became good friends and training buddies. She had been running ultras for years, and got me out onto the trails a lot more. I credit her with really opening my eyes to the possibilities and broader horizons out there. When she completed the Grand Slam in 2001 as a single mom with a full time job and two teenage kids, it really inspired me.

How long have you been running ultras?
Bruce: Nine years. Wow, time flies!

How did the idea of running the GS come up?

Bruce: I guess the concept was there after Karl Jensen and Sally did it, but it started becoming a real possibility about two years ago when I had a couple of 100’s in my legs and I could start planning and coordinating the logistics to support doing it.

How does training in BC prepare you for 4 demanding races?

Bruce: are so lucky to be in BC! We have the weather to train all year around, terrain that provides some serious hill work and technical, rocky trails that makes us skilled runners. I can honestly say that I never saw anything as technical as what we see on a regular basis here in BC. The only thing we are missing here is altitude – you just can’t train around here for a race that is at 10000’ elevation.

What was your training prior to the first race in the GS and in between.
(run only, gym, yoga?)

Bruce: I did a lot of running, naturally, and appended that with some cycling. I only averaged forty miles of running a week between New Year’s Day and Western States, with individual weeks ranging from 210 miles to just 10k – it depended on my fatigue and the training cycle I was in. I also bicycle commuted to work (30k each way) about once a week. There were several races to push the pace a bit and provide some training incentive – these varied from the Yeti 10k snow shoe races to 50k’s. In between it all, I do a bit of regular self-massage and stretching as well, but that’s about it.
Once I started the Grand Slam series, I did very little in between. Believe it or not, after all the kilometers of preparation I ran four just times all summer outside the actual race events, never longer than 15k, and cycled three times. However, I did do a lot of walking, including a three-day backpacking trip. It proved to be an excellent way of getting active recovery in between those races.

You've seemed to get stronger every year, what's your secret?
Bruce: Thanks, I appreciate the comment. I have certainly been pleased with my own relative gains in the past few years. However, I still have much to learn from those who are more experienced and/or faster than me, and I hope to improve even more. I don’t feel there was any great secret to my own relative improvement, though – the reality was probably more that I finally started paying real attention to what I always knew. What was most important was finally figuring out that consistent calorie and water intake, supplemented with regular electrolytes balanced to the temperature, allowed me to run at a high level of effort for a long period of time. I also started putting in some very hard training sessions regularly, and training on a consistent basis. It sure isn’t rocket science, and it is frustrating not to have nailed down some of this stuff years ago.

Ok-Let's break it down.

What was the hardest race of the 4?
Bruce: I have to divide this up:
Objectively, Wasatch is the hardest due to it having the greatest elevation change, some very challenging terrain, and moderate altitude (8000-10000’).
Subjectively, I personally had the toughest time at Western States, but that was because of the incredible blisters and cramped legs that I had.

What was your biggest challenge?
Bruce: My biggest hurdle was recovering enough after Western to be healthy for Vermont just three weeks later. I lost seven toenails, and pretty much all the skin on the soles of my feet and between my legs. I was amazed at how quickly it all healed up, though, and the feet were in pretty good shape for Vermont. My legs muscles were really beat up as well, but I managed OK.

What was the fondest memory from each race?

Bruce: Western States: reaching the top of the climb up Devil’s Thumb and feeling like a million bucks. I was dancing as I went through the timing station, I felt so good. The two other times I ran this race, I was cross-eyed and delirious at this point.

Vermont: going to the awards barbecue brunch where they gave everyone a half chicken. It was insane, they couldn’t cut them up and I could only eat a little bit.

Leadville: I was pretty worried about the altitude at Leadville, the physical difficulties I had at Western and Vermont, and whether I would be able to finish. I ended up having an amazing race there and had a huge grin every time I saw my wife Martha at one of the aid stations.

Wasatch: Martha ran in with me for the last mile of the journey, and we did half of it with me all teary, clutching each other arm in arm running an 8-minute pace without tripping ourselves. It was so symbolic having her by my side then, as she always is for me and especially had been throughout the summer.

How did you recover in between each race?
Bruce: I ate a lot, especially protein the week after a race. Physically, there was pretty much no running, but I did a fair lot of walking.

How did you cope with the terrain of Vermont considering it is quite different from the mountain terrain here?
Bruce: Vermont is constantly rolling but does not have the long sustained climbs or descents that we get here. I wasn’t used to that, but that is part of the appeal of running in different places – you just run it, wherever the trail takes you. There is no point in complaining about it!

Your GS time is a Canadian record, was this your goal?

Bruce: It was not a particular goal at the beginning, but a motivational “what if” concept. The same could be said about thoughts I had about having the fastest overall time this year, or finishing all races under 24 hours. I think you have to visualize yourself in scenarios beyond your current boundaries that are not totally unreasonable, or you will never exceed where you are. Despite my vague imaginings, the main priority always was just finishing the series. Going into Wasatch, however, because times were more definite at that point, I had several distinct benchmarks in mind for personal motivation. I never calculated the other Canadian GS times until Leadville was done. Having the men’s record might mean a little to my own fragile self-esteem, but is really irrelevant – we are all equal finishers of a very challenging race series. The point of real pride for all seven of us is that we represented Canada out of the 198 other finishers through the 21-year history of the Grand Slam.

Who has played key roles in your ultra success?
Bruce: My wife, Martha - she is my best coach and always believes in what I can do.
Sally Marcellus, Rob Lang, and Gail and George Forshaw all have provided me some incredible motivation and inspiration through their examples, experience, support and friendship. I have learned so much about running and myself from all of them.

What do you do for training in the off season? Do you even have an off season?
Bruce:I have really been enjoying running the fall cross-country series, and the Yeti snowshoe races. These short, intense events make me feel some serious pain and are a nice change from the long, steady-state pace in ultras. I try and do more mountain biking through the fall and winter as well, it’s a hoot.

What was approx. cost of running the GS?
Bruce: With or without our trip to the Patagonia Outlet store in Reno?
Martha came to all the races, and we did three of them on airline points, so that really helped with the costs. We also camped a lot. Overall, with entries, flights, lodging, cars, gear and food…it was probably around $5000. It was about $1000 for entry fees alone.

As the Director of the BC Montrail Ultra Series, what have you learned from running the 4 majors that you can bring back to Canada?
Bruce: We really need a 100-miler in BC!
I can’t really say that there is anything I could apply to the BCUT Series – all our races are independently organized by the various RD’s, and I see the Series as providing an environment that encourages participation by runners, and broader exposure for the sponsors that contribute to all the races.

Who do you see as leaders in the Canadian ultra community?

Bruce: The race directors: they provide the opportunities and venues for the athletes. No RD’s, no races.

Do you have a vision for ultra running in Canada/BC?
Bruce: I think there is real opportunity for more inter-provincial communications and the encouragement to race in different places within the country. We always see calendars for races in the US, but hardly know what we can do over in Alberta, for example. Maybe as Canadians, we’re just too humble and don’t self-promote enough! The national ultra community is very disconnected and seems to be localized within the provinces. The ACU has good intentions and the potential to be a true national body for promotion of the sport, but they have suffered some credibility issues over the years and need to regroup. I would like to start with more cooperation between the various provincial Montrail series, with promotion of the other races and maybe a transferable point scoring scheme.

Why don't we have a 100 miler here (Pemberton to Van corridor)

Bruce: It is a big challenge finding 100 miles of contiguous trail that you can get easy and adequate aid access and volunteers for. Our spectacular geography makes for great trails, but difficult logistics and support. I would sure love to see something here, though. George has some ideas I would like to help with.

Bruce: How do you rate BC terrain to your experiences in North America?

BC has it all, I don’t think our trails can be beat. I really value the experience of running in different places, but always like coming home to our terrain here.

Goals for 2007?

Bruce: Undetermined at the moment, I’m still catching my breath. Ideas at the moment are for doing other races across Canada, trying to get into Hardrock, maybe some stage racing somewhere. Since 2006 was the Summer of Bruce in our house, it is also very important to me that Martha and I do something that she wants.

Single most memorable trail experience of the GS?

Bruce: About 50 miles into Wasatch, I was running on singletrack along an exposed ridge with Salt Lake City down on one side, the valley with Park City on the other, the Wasatch mountains laid out in front of me, the sun in the sky, and feeling absolutely fantastic. I had this huge smile on my face and my arms stretched out as I realized how fortunate I was to be there and how beautiful it all was. It was trail running bliss, and makes me smile just thinking about it.

Favorite beer?
Bruce: Imperial IPA. Bring on the hops!

Be honest, how many did you have after Wasatch?
Bruce: Despite pre-race bravado, it was all I could do to choke down one pint of Autumn Bock at the Wasatch Brewery in Park City. I’m making up for it now.

You dig on beef or veg?

Bruce: We are as veg as possible, with a bit of naturally-raised seafood or alternative red meats like ostrich or bison. I’m really opposed to factory and aquaculture farming and try and avoid anything from those sources. But sometimes nothing but a greasy burger will do.


At 7:47 AM, Anonymous said...

great motivation Bruce. One year I'll get to this!

At 2:39 PM, olga said...

Great interview, thanks!

At 4:10 PM, Eric Grant said...

As his younger brother, I am sooo very proud of him. Listening to his stories over family dinner is truly inspiring, but his humbleness prevents direct answers like in this interview. Even for me it is still "WOW". Congrats on all the success.


At 9:31 PM, Anonymous said...

WOW! Bruce did not realize you are 40 now! Yikes - seems like only yesterday you were 30 and we were in Penticton! Congratulations, those of us that know you, have raced on the side of light and good (Ironman) with you (and who frankly wish you would back away from the darkside and play with us again) are very proud of your SLAM!


At 6:09 AM, Anonymous said...

Truly Awesome

Ran with your brother in Everest. Think you should drag him along on your nxt one

Trying to talk mine into the trans333

Rob & Steve Brown xx


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