The “Grand Slam” of Ultra Running
By Katherine Alba-Swanson
This summer Firefighter David Gordon, Truck 18 completed the “Grand Slam” of ultra running. This event consists of four specified 100 mile trail endurance runs during a 3 month period. They are the Western States, Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch endurance runs. Each is nonstop, individually unique in its terrain and weather, and must be completed within a specified time limit of 30 (WS, Vt, Lv) or 36 (W) hours.

The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run (24-25 June) starts in Squaw Valley, CA, traverses the Sierra Nevada Mountains on trails, crosses the American River, and finishes in Auburn, CA. This year’s runners had to deal with snow fields in the high country and 100 plus degree weather in the canyons. Only 52 percent of the starters finished - the lowest rate in 20 years.

The Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run (15-16 July) is held in the mountains and countryside surrounding Woodstock, VT. Two nights prior to the race it rained 3 inches. Additional downpours during the run created fields of muddy muck and extremely high humidity in 90 plus degree heat.

The Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run (19-20 August) has the highest altitude to negotiate with two ascents over 12,500 feet and two over 11,000 feet. This out-and-back run starts and finishes in Leadville, CO, in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver. Not only was the altitude difficult to deal with, but runners were confronted with rain, hail and electrical storms day and night.

The final event is the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run (9-10 September). It is considered the most difficult due to both terrain and the cumulative wear and tear on the body from the previous three races. It is a run in the Wasatch Front Mountain Range that overlooks Salt Lake City, Utah. The course starts in Kaysville and finishes in Midway with challenging climbs to over 10,000 feet and steep descents throughout. Again, runners were confronted with thunderstorms and cold weather day and night.

The “Grand Slam” series was initiated in 1986. Since its inception a total of only 198 runners have successfully completed all four events in a single summer. This year 29 runners started the series with only 11 finishing. David is one of only 9 runners over the age of 60 who have succeeded in completing the “Grand Slam”.

David has been participating in ultra running for the past 10 years. He has completed several events of 50K, 50 Mile and 100K as well as eleven 100 milers. Last year he finished the Hardrock 100 Mile Run in Silverton, CO. The race was nearly cancelled due to very heavy snows and extremely high rivers. Hardrock is considered by the ultra running community to be the toughest 100 mile trail run in the country. It is located in the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado and consists of several climbs to altitudes of 14,000 and 13,000 feet.

David would like to thank the member of Station 18 for their interest and help. He is also very thankful for the love and support he received from his partner Trilby, who crewed every race through the day and night. He is grateful for the several friends who paced him at different races. David especially thanks his mother (who passed away unexpectedly in March) for the love, energy and internal strength she bestowed, and has dedicated his “Grand Slam” in her memory.


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