On Sunday, June 6, I finished my personal challenge to summit all four of Boise’s Grand Slam peaks in one day. I started at Heinen at 5:20 a.m. and finished Kepros at 6:51 p.m. for a total time of 13 hours and 31 minutes over the course of roughly 35.7 miles and 11,493 vertical feet. Even typing that blows me away.
This challenge was first and foremost a personal one. I wanted to see what I was capable of, as I’d never done anything so physically difficult before. The thought of being the first female (at the time that I made the decision) was exciting (we know now that I’m the second—that we know of…). I didn’t really know what to expect as far as a finishing time, but in training I was pushing toward James’ time (see the Idaho Climbing Guide for recorded results) because he’s an acquaintance and a friend told me that he’s fast. Last year, he finished in 14 hours and 2 minutes. The standing fastest time for this challenge is 13 hours and 29 minutes.
Aside from my motivation to get home before my son’s bedtime at 7:30, I can’t tell you how I pushed hard enough to finish within two minutes of the fastest time. Good company who also served as great pacers, thoughtful planning around nutrition and hydration, decent training and tapering, mostly ideal weather conditions, and upbeat music all played their roles. I talk about my prep and give a rundown of how the day went below.
I hiked Heinen for the first time on April 30. It was a mess. I got off trail because of the snow, didn’t drink enough water because I was sharing it with my dog, and wrecked my toes in running shoes because I was still nursing blisters from Kepros. I layed down at my car aftwerwards. Heinen was supposed to be my test run. After that first run I got my footwear in check and focused on training.
There were six weeks between Heinen and when I’d planned my attempt—not a lot of time. I knew I needed to build my endurance and my climbing fitness. I inched my mileage up every week and had at least one “climbing day” each week. My first long day was Lucky Peak/Shaw. I then combined Shaw/Lucky Peak and Kepros for a total of nearly 21 miles (about 2/3 the total Grand Slam distance). The next week I combined Heinen and Cervidae (about half the total elevation). A trusted friend, with undoubtedly more hiking and backpacking experience than me, hiked Heinen with me that day and afterwards said, “you could probably taper and go now.” Knowing it was only going to get hotter and that I didn’t have much to gain from waiting a week, I looked for the fairest weather day I could find. Sunday, June 6, looked like the coolest option. I tapered the week before, doing a couple workouts at the beginning of the week and a short run on Friday so I’d be rested but not stiff from lack of movement.
The week leading up to the hike, I made sure I had all the food I needed, calculating a rough estimate of calories I’d need based on my estimated time for each hike. (I found this blog SUPER helpful.) I prioritized real food, hoping it would cause the least GI distress. Each bag had an assortment of dried mangos, salted cashews, a Clif block, and sometimes a Luna bar. I forced myself through peanut butter and jelly sandwiches after Heinen and again after Kepros. I also packed a full CamelBak bladder full of water (3L), a full 1.5L Osprey bladder in my running vest (for Cervidae), a gallon of water, two Gatorades, and Nuun recovery tablets.
The Big Day
I woke up at 3:30 and met Emily Wooley at the trailhead at Heinen a little after 5 a.m. Yes! For some crazy reason Emily volunteered to hike Heinen with me. I was really grateful to have her. We plugged away at Heinen and both finished with PRs. This was a great start and set the tone for the day, as I had Emily’s “I’d run this” approach in my head on the other hikes.
In between Heinen and Cervidae I tried to plug in my watch to charge. Emily’s had died in the last bit of her attempt and I was worried about that happening to me. I didn’t know that when I charged my watch it stopped my activity. When I looked down ten or 15 minutes later, I panicked. Luckily I’ve done that before on a trail and knew I could combine activities in Strava. Still, I was worried my time wouldn’t count because I missed a section of the drive. I arrived to Cervidae frazzled because of the watch and a bit under-fueled. In the process of my mini stress moment, I dropped my keys in the grass while going to the bathroom and had another little panic moment. A lady said, “you probably dropped them where you squatted” (we’re all adults here, right?). I’m so grateful for that woman. I tried to shrug it off, plugged in my headphones to a classy ‘Dance Hits of 2011’ playlist I’d downloaded from Spotify and half-danced my way up Cervidae. Cervidae was the only time I thought, “I can’t do this.” It already felt warm at 10 a.m. and my quads started to cramp halfway up. I forced my way through a Gu and most of a Clif block. I finished on pace with my best Cervidae time at around 1:30, likely only because of the dance music and my propensity to match cadence to rhythm. I’m only half joking. My spirits and quad cramping were lifted after some Gatorade and salt/electrolyte chewables at the car.
At Shaw/Lucky Peak, I met up with hiking buddy number two. Again, it felt hot. I was slathering sunscreen and drinking water, but nothing made climbing up the rocky, dirt road feel easy. We finished in about 3 hours and 45 minutes. I’d roughly calculated my pace against James’ time to get an estimate of how quickly I needed to complete each hike. At that point I knew I’d come in under my goal pace each time. It wasn’t until I got to the bottom of Shaw/Lucky Peak that my hiking buddy for Kepros told me that if I got my butt in gear, I had a shot at P.A.’s time. Lets just say, he was more excited and motivated by that news than I was.
We drove out to Kepros for the final leg. Aside from the infestation of Mormon crickets, the hike went well. We clipped along at a quick pace, again, thanks partly to the same Spotify playlist on repeat. As a side note, if I never hear “Sexy And I Know It” by LMFAO one more time, I will be happy. At some point during those last few miles, I said to him, “I need to run my race, we can’t keep looking at the clock.” I’m sure that was the difference between hustling to make up those two minutes, but I don’t regret it. It was always about me finishing this hard thing for myself anyway.
Even as I write this, it’s crazy to think I accomplished this feat only a few days ago. I keep saying to myself, “why would anyone ever do that?” I’m not sure I would do it again. I don’t feel like I have anything to prove; I’ve already accomplished my goal. I’m also happy to report that we exceeded my challenge fundraising goal for ITA, which means more resources for them to do their thing in the future! Also exciting, I heard from several friends, family friends, acquaintances of family and friends, and co-workers that this has inspired them to go hike, take their kids hiking, set a stretch goal, and/or contribute to a cause that they also care about. I also hope that someday I can share stories about this brief period with my son and that he’ll be inspired to take on his own challenge, whatever that is.
I know that these things don’t always go as planned and that in many ways the cards were in my favor. I am extremely grateful to my support system and to the new friends I’ve made through this process. There aren’t enough words to say thanks. And to everyone else, thank you for reading!