HELENA — Longtime Helena distance runner Tor Gundmunsen’s mind-boggling training regimen consists of almost superhuman proportions.
Gudmundsen runs seven days a week, 365 days a year. He runs at 5 a.m. during work days, and he averages 85-90 miles per week.
"Last year I logged about 4,500 miles, and I have not missed a day of running for 12½ years, since Nov. 6 of 2006," Gudmensen, 55, said. "Yes, I love running."
That love/obsession recently propelled Gudmundsen to victory at one of the country’s most prestigious ultramarathons: the 100-mile Grandmaster Ultra, in Littlefield, Arizona. Gudmunsen captured the Grandmaster championship – which is for runners over 50 years old – clocking a time of 17 hours, 42 minutes, 34 seconds.
Gudmundsen, competing in his debut at 100 miles, beat runner-up Andrew Locher (Henderson, Nevada) by nearly 7½ hours. Locher, 52, was timed in 26:19:20, ahead of third-place finisher Linda DeWeese (Inyokem, California), 62, at 26:39:30. There were 34 contestants at the starting line, with only 21 finishing the race.
And perhaps no one was more surprised with his title than the Capital City athlete himself.
"This win is so far beyond what I thought I’d be able to do," said Gudmundsen, whose time ranks No. 5 in the nation in 2018-19, and is the fastest for 55 or over. "I obviously didn’t think I’d be able to do anything close to that in my first try at a 100-miler, if ever.
"The key to success, or failure, in Ultras is proper fueling. For the Grandmaster, I took in 4,450 calories - Perpetuem, Heed and some gels, plus 450 ounces of liquids, from Hammer Nutrition out of Whitefish."
The Norway native had to overcome several obstacles during his 17½-hour run, including encounters with a barbed-wire fence at Mile 3 and at Joshua Tree at Mile 16. He experienced a few rock trips, as well, during the "rugged 6-mile sections," on Miles 3-9 of the four, 25-mile loops.
"(Also) an initial panic at Mile 91 when the lights went dark — and it’s (pitch black) dark in the desert — when I least expected it," said Gudmundsen, when he inadvertently swapped a dead battery in his head lamp. "But the spare battery was quickly installed and I dimmed the lights enough to make sure it would last the remaining two hours."
Gudmundsen grew up in Raufoss, Norway, where he competed at Orienteering, a sport moving at speed whilst requiring navigational skills using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain.
He spent one year as a foreign exchange student at Flathead High before attending Montana Tech. Gudmundsen ran cross country and track for both the Braves and the Orediggers. He moved to Helena in 1990.
From 2005-10, Gudmundsen competed in numerous Orienteering races, garnering six U.S. National age-group medals, highlighted by the 2010 national championship. He has participated in multiple Le Grizz 50-mile runs, with his best time of 6:23:17 coming in his first Ultra attempt, when he placed runner-up overall in 2011.
A month before the Grandmaster, Gudmundsen placed second overall (first male) in the 52-mile Coldwater Rumble ultra at Phoenix, with a time 8:56:56.
Besides those career highlights previously mentioned, Gudmundsen considers competing against legends of the sport, along with having his wife and daughter being his "crew," as the "best parts" of racing.
At the Coldwater, Arnulfo Quimare of "Born to Run" fame was in the field, and at the Grandmaster, "running royalty" Gordy Ainslaugh and Ann Trason, finished 16th and 21st.
"I’m very fortunate to have either my wife Terri, or my daughter Erica, and sometimes both, crew for me at the Ultras," he said. "It is definitely the key for these long races to have a good support crew that knows what you need and what to say.
"My daughter took time off work from the Red Cross to join me to crew for the Grandmaster, and the reward for the great crew work was a Backstreet Boys concert in Las Vegas (afterwards)."