Not one for being the center of attention, Jeff Boggess - our fearless leader here at Trail Butter - kept his race entry and buildup to Tor des Géants (TOR) pretty quiet.
We got Boggs to sit down just before heading out on this epic mountain adventure and answer a few questions about his build-up and expectations for TOR.
When did you find out you were selected to run TOR? What was your first reaction to finding out you'd be tackling this event?
It was one of those classic ultra moments where you hit 'sign up' for a difficult race months before it actually happens when it feels so far off and exciting. Especially knowing how difficult it is to get into TOR, I didn't really expect to receive a spot but one early morning in Portland, still sleepy-eyed, I noticed an email for the organizers that said, 'Congratulations, you've been accepted to take part in Tor des Géants." I had to do a double take to make sure I was seeing that properly, but sure enough, that was the case.
How did your training go overall?
Overall I'd say it went pretty well, as I tried to find balance between training and other parts of life. Definitely couldn't have kept at it without the support and encouragement of friends and family!
Actually getting into TOR came after months of not quite feeling the passion I once had for trail running, and subsequent lack of training. With the race being the monumental and inspiring undertaking that is, one motivation was that it might shake me out of this stupor, which it certainly did.
Having TOR as a goal on the horizon motivated me to talk to friends like Krissy, Willie and Jenn, experts in training for big missions, which gave structure to the preparation, a key to staying on track. I had about 6 months to get ready which didn't feel like much, but the miles gradually grew, with focus on building long weekend back-to-back runs around the Cascades of OR and WA and getting as much vert as possible.
On the week that I was supposed to peak by doing the Tahoe Rim Trail, I came down with a bug that forced me to lay low but after a couple weeks of that, and possibly feeling even more recovered and rested than before, I was luckily able to close out the final month with a solid round of long runs on Mt. Rainier, the Goat Rocks and Three Sisters Wilderness. A main goal was to show up at the race uninjured and not over trained which I feel fortunate seems to be the case.
We'll see if it's enough!
What do you rely on in training when it comes to nutrition?
TOR is famous for its aid stations full of real-food, often heavier, such as polenta, pasta, cheese and meat, made right there at the huts and towns the race passes. So with that in mind, I mimicked this menu by eating foods like pizza, sandwiches, and wraps out on runs, along with Trail Butter of course, and fruits like grapes, and watermelon. Electrolyte drinks from Skratch, and Nuun were also mainstays to avoid GI issues.
Do you have a nutrition strategy for race week?
An overarching goal will be to force myself to eat and drink regularly and try not to fall behind into a deficit. It's been my experience that if you can do this, the run as a whole goes much much better. On the flipside, if not, it seems almost impossible to come back once you've gone down that path.
I'll have a few of my own snacks along like Trail Butter, Honey Stinger waffles and chews, along with dried peaches and jerky from Ma Boggs, but plan to fuel as much as possible on foods at the aid stations.
Using Jeff Pelletier's ziploc bag trick, I'll fill that up at the aid stations and continue to snack down the trail.
What do you find helpful in getting through tough times while out on a race course or a tough adventure?
If you can go through those experiences with good adventure buddies, that certainly seems to help. Solo adventures when you're in the pain cave can be pretty lonely sometimes! Also trying to maintain a positive attitude and not allowing yourself to fall into a more negative frame of mind definitely seems to help.
I also try to avoid thinking about the end which can be pretty depressing if you're far off from that, instead thinking about an incremental goal of the next aid station or top of the next climb.
During TOR training, I've found a little good music or a podcast can go a long way as well to keeping the moral high - or at least keeping me distracted. ;)
Any memorable parts of training that made preparing for TOR fun?
I'd say the best part was how it motivated me to set aside weekends to seek out new trails and adventures around my home of Portland, OR that I probably never would've done had I not been training for the race.
Did you do anything differently in your training for TOR compared to past events?
In addition to long weekend back to back adventures, which I hadn't done much of during training for previous ultras, I focused on core training for the first time, thanks to my friend Jenn Love-Fisher, which had noticeable gains, especially at the tail end of long pushes, when my body seemed to hold up and endure the abuse much longer than before.
What are you most excited about when it comes to attempting TOR?
I'm extremely excited to experience the mountain culture of Northern Italy's Aosta Valley by foot. Other than that, really testing my physical and mental limits on such a challenging and long undertaking is both daunting and exciting.
What are you most nervous about?
Having never done a race longer than 100 miles, I'm probably most nervous about going well beyond that distance and the physical toll of being out in the mountains, sleep-deprived in the mountains for so long will take, ultimately determining whether I can get to that finish line.