Completing the 35.7 miles with 11,493 vertical feet elevation gain that is the Boise Grand Slam is no small feat in itself. 

Especially, Heinen. Blessed, Heinen. 

For those unfamiliar, the Grand Slam is made up four hikes in the nearby Boise area. All are gnarly in their own right. Completing them carries some street cred among area hikers who care about that. More importantly, the accomplishment also means you’ve been privy to some pretty gorgeous Boise views, especially in the springtime when the hills are yellow with wildflower blooms.

While many have checked all four off their list over the course of a single or many seasons, few have taken them on in one day. A home run of sorts. There are at least two to have taken on this lesser-known challenge publicly to post a fastest known time of sorts, and I’m sure there are others who have done it for “fun” to test themselves. I know of at least one and that’s without casting a wide net. 

Of those two documented, both were men. I stumbled upon James Petzke’s blog about his record time last year, which got me thinking, “maybe I could do that.” 

Never one to shy away from things that scare me and full of optimism from feedback I’d heard from equally audacious friends I’d floated the idea past, I set a goal date of mid-June to make an attempt at the challenge. This date was chosen based on feedback from avid hikers of these trails and those who have completed this feat as well as the reality that it’s about to get really hot in southwestern Idaho. I will also follow the “rules” that James attempted to outline in his blog post.

  • View from Cervidae

AUDACITY MEETS GOOD INTENTION

Idaho was about to begin Idaho Gives, our annual nonprofit fundraising campaign period, a week after I got this idea. ITA had set a $10K fundraising goal intended to fund more projects, offset the cost of new equipment, and support the year-round work that ITA does (e.g., trail maintenance, education, stewardship, among other things). They exceeded it—hooray! 

It seemed to me that documenting this journey to become the first known woman to complete the Grand Slam home run would be an interesting platform to raise awareness about the organization. So, I contacted ITA. 

I’ve been a member donor to ITA for several years. I’d even set a goal to sign up to volunteer on a project. Then I found out I was going to be a mom. Then I became a mom. Then that little thing called a pandemic happened. Needless to say, it hasn’t happened yet. I should note that I did sign up for a one-day event this summer and am excited. 

And, while this adventure wasn’t exactly how I imagined I’d get involved with ITA, I am very excited for the support and to be able to share my experience through the ITA blog as I prepare. I will also be raising money for ITA leading up to my attempt. While they met their Idaho Gives goal, additional funds mean more resources to maintain and make Idaho trails more accessible.

THE CHALLENGE AHEAD

This leads to the daunting task of preparation. I’ve spent a lot of time on trails and digging through resources these past few weeks. With a toddler and a full-time job, my efforts have to be efficient if I’m going to pull this off. 

Fortunately, while I’m not an ultrarunner or impressive thru-hiker, I do have some physical base to start with. I’ve dabbled in running for years and have become more of a trail running enthusiast since my son was born. (There’s really something zen about cruising around Boise trails.) 

I’ve slowly started to add mileage, knocking out some of the Grand Slam hikes as I do so. My training consists of a couple days running with or without the stroller, depending on the day, and a couple days doing some sort of strength-based cardio. Weekends are for long hikes. My son usually hangs out with family, though he did join me for a few miles over Mother’s Day weekend. I will talk about logging miles with a small person at some point. 

Recovery is arguably the hardest part for me. Managing work and home responsibilities while triaging a toddler’s daily needs isn’t exactly a recipe for rest. Sleep is also variable (we’ve had one night of puking just since this training has started). I do my best by sleeping as much as I can, stretching, drinking water, and eating well. 

This leads me to the scariest part for me. Fueling. The challenge of these hikes is real. Last year, a woman from Twin Falls lost her life on Heinen due to heat exposure. Not having enough calories and water on a trail isn’t just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. I’ve been doing a lot of research about fueling for the day, borrowing advice from ultrarunners and triathletes. I will continue to experiment on longer hiking days and share resources that seem helpful—food, timing, hydration, electrolytes, sodium, caffeine, all of it! 

This is where I make an important disclaimer: I’m an amateur. I enjoy hiking and being outside, but on the whole, I’m a pretty standard Treasure Valley native with an array of hobbies, a family, and an adventurous spirit. Some may already be well versed in the resources and lessons learned that I share; others may find something new. 

Either way, I hope you will follow along as I document my journey over these next few weeks. If you feel compelled, donate here. Consider donating $35 in honor of the 35 miles my feet will carry me during this challenge.

Thank you to the folks at ITA for being stoked to support this adventure! 

-Alexis Bennett