Monday, December 19, 2011

December Running

Not too much to report on the running front.  December has been a bit of a wash with 2 weeks of sickness along with poor air quality in the valley.  Have now had a couple false starts in getting up and going with some real quality training but have managed several threshold efforts on longer climbs as well as a few light fartlek workouts.  Thinking of 'running' the Kahtoola snowshoe festival 50k late January but it is looking like my first race in earnest will be the Antelope Island 50 miler in March.  
On Grandeur Peak, socked-in valley below.
Black Mtn.

Bethany, somewhere bushwhacky in the snow-free foothills.

Lookout Peak run w Brent.  

On Mt. Aire, overlooking the inversion.

Rime covered foothills

Surreal evening run up Mt. Wire, above the inversion.


Temple Square Xmas lights.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bethany Lewis R2R2R New Female FKT

While this blog is predominantly devoted to singing my own praises, frank boasting, outright provocation, and general chest beating there are times when mentioning the achievements of other people is also acceptable, namely when I can bask in their reflected glory.  Rephrased in existential terms, sometimes one's death anxiety can be mitigated in a profound way by the assumed strength and grandiosity that accompanies close association with another person who you have endowed with God-like powers.  One such instance of this phenomenon is when your wife bests the Grand Canyon r2r2r record.

 Caravanning down to the North Rim on Saturday morning were myself, Bethany, Ada, my sister Zoe, Jason Thompson, Matt Vukin, Rob Corson, and Alexis Recine.  We didn't arrive until mid afternoon at Jacob Lake Inn given the weather conditions in the valley as we were leaving- a nice harbinger of things to come.

We had some good times, had 3 men in a bed (Jason declined to make it 4), ate a nice late lunch of french fries, ate a dinner of french fries, and went to bed reasonably early, consoling ourselves with the additional benefit of daylight savings time the next morning.

Eager to get moving as early as possible, in typical fashion Rob woke everyone up at the crack of dawn with jubilant song and steaming coffee.  We drove the 44 miles out to the snow and rime covered North Rim, the temperature gauge in the car reading 14 degrees.

Bethany, Jason, and I started at 7:09 on the dot, at which point I started my stopwatch, intending to have both my running time as well as Bethany's watch time to document the journey. (Yes, waiting another minute till 7:10 would have been just too much time in the cold.)  Neither of us having attempted a FKT time before I gotta say I'm amused by the tradition of taking photos of one's watch at the finish as well as significant markers en route, in particular by the assumed legitimacy this is supposed to lend to an endeavor that is entirely driven and monitored by the honor system, as well as the fact that there is no clear gain to be had in being dishonest about such a thing.  Nonetheless, photos of watches were on the docket for the day.     Matt, Rob, and Alexis started off soon after us, intending a shorter but still burly rim-to-river-to-rim-run.

The footing for the first 1500 vertical descent or so was icy and slow.  Within the first 5 minutes of running Bethany had already called off a record attempt.  I knew better but didn't say anything, an amazing accomplishment for me in and of itself.   Once the trail cleared up we ran a comfortable pace down to Phantom Ranch, the 3 of us hitting it in just under 2 hours I believe (actually forgot the exact time we hit this marker).  We stopped to fill our water bladders and then headed across the river and up the South Rim, crossing 2 mule trains on the way up.  The pace here was very controlled and Bethany and I hit the top of the South Rim in 3:47 and change (the watch reads a bit slower given the delay in getting my Iphone out to snap a photo).  Jason hit the top shortly thereafter in about 4 hours even.  I had (mostly arbitrarily) set 3:50-3:55 as a goal time for being on pace (taking into account the longer ascent on the North Rim) and at this point I think Bethany realized that a record could be in the cards for the day.  
South Rim time, upper watch is my stopwatch, lower watch is Bethany's  time-of-day watch.

We descended at a pretty slow pace, as downhill-pussified Lewises are wont to do, hitting Phantom Ranch in the vicinity of 5:10, again having had to make our way around the 2 mule trains we hit on the way up.  From here we pushed hard over the next 7 miles, realizing that the final 7 miles would involve a lot of power hiking on icy trail.  In retrospect we pushed a bit too hard here and about a mile from the Cottonwood campgrounds we had to tone it down a bit given an imminent blow-up.  At this point we caught and passed our 3 compatriots doing the shorter version who cheered Bethany on and offered encouragement.

The last 7 miles from the campgrounds to the rim went pretty slowly, in part due to our unfamiliarity with the route and mile markers.  I was constantly doing math in my head, projecting our finishing time but didn't share this out loud to Bethany.  There wouldn't have been much to do about it as we were hiking about as fast as we could go at this point.  I watched the watch turn over to 8 hours, to 8:05, to 8:10... I knew we were close but didn't know if this meant 5 minutes or 15.  And then, suddenly and unexpectedly, there was the trail head sign and we were done: 8:15:51.  The upper watch is hard to read but shows 8:15:54, 3 seconds after summiting when we arranged our watches to snap the pic.

We then sat in the car shivering uncontrollably as we waited for the rest of the crew to arrive.  We quickly drove back to the Inn in a growing snowstorm, took frantic showers (some longer than others) and everyone except Bethany and Ada hit the road needing to work the next day.  The next 8 hours of driving were by far more difficult, dangerous, and harrowing than any running done earlier given the white-out conditions, slick roads, and poor visibility.  I did arrive home with at least a couple hours to spare before I needed to be at work.  I learned on the drive home that it had been a busy weekend in the canyon with Dakota Jones setting a new men's FKT the day before at 6:53.

Finishing on the North Rim.  

Overall, a fantastic accomplishment for Bethany in low-key fashion and a great weekend with friends.
Everyone made it back alive.

Finished with a hard day.

Grinding it out, about 8 miles left to go. Bethany looks more tired than me, right?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The best time of year

Nothing too intense over the last several weeks since the Bear 100- just some nice mellow fall running.  I did set a PR up Mt. Wire last week (north trail) at 27:32 (2000 vert)  but I think this was only the 3rd time I'd timed myself running up to the top.  I still bet it's faster than Bethany could do it, although not by much.

Black Mtn
Lookout Peak

Off Great Western Trail


Upper Millcreek w/ Peter, Ada, Zach

Nice Fall Colors

Aspen, enhanced

Bald mtn

On Mt. Olympus

Mt. Olympus

Monday, September 26, 2011

2011 Bear 100 Race Report

 2011 Bear 100 Race Report

"What the hell IS this?"  I thought to myself during my increasingly desperate, wincing death march on the long descent towards Fish Haven, finishing the last 5 miles of what would be my first 100 mile run.  This no longer seemed like a race.  Hell, it didn't even seem like an athletic event.  My heart rate was about 100.  My quads and feet just were no longer able to withstand the pounding and not having consumed any significant calories since mile 75 had left me weak, reeling, and woozy.  In all honesty, I could have been passed by 30 people on this stretch and not really cared: my mental state and whole being (what was left of it anyway) was just focused solely and intently on putting one painful foot in front of the other to simply get this thing done with.  On paper it looks pretty decent: 2nd place and a 21:18 finish.  The first person perspective of those last 25 miles told a different story however. 

I had spent about a good amount of time on this last 15 mile stretch heading the wrong way at several junctures and then backtracking and I was now paranoid about being off course.  (This time off course was significantly less than Nick Pedatella, first place finisher, who lost what must have been close to 1 hour in those last miles and still managed to pass me again going about twice as fast as I was).  I had left my written course directions at the last aid station accidentally, emptying them out of my waist pack with a bunch of unused GU and Shot blocks that I had no chance of being able to ingest given my compromised GI system.  As I hit pavement, in my semi-delirious state I was certain it was only a quarter mile or so to the finish.  In reality it was 2 miles on dark, deserted country road.  Running along I became increasingly certain that I was off course and doomed to wander around the rest of the night looking for the damned finish line.  In retrospect I could have used a pacer just for this reason: my running pace probably wouldn't have been faster but having had a working brain out on the course, even in a different body, would have been nice.  I remembered Mindy Campbell describing how in a previous year Jared had finished to find just Leland Barker asleep in a sleeping bag with a sign-in sheet so I wasn't expecting much as far as finish line hoopla.  I came across a lodge on Fish Haven Rd with a big sign welcoming "Bear 100 Runners."  Thinking it might be the finish line I weaved my way down the long driveway and entered the building.  "Hello?  I'm finished!"  I called out hoarsely.  No response.  Someone probably turned over in their bed.  My neurons fired in sludge, muffled sparks.  Turn around, back out the driveway, back down the road, finally to cross highway 89 and find the finish, this time with cheering spectators including my sister Zoe and Billy who had graciously come out to support me that night for those last painful miles.

If I were to have written a race report from mile 65 it would have read something like this: "What's the big deal with these 100 mile races anyway?  This isn't bad at all, just a nice mellow jog in the woods." 

I'd do a mile marker by mile marker summary but the whole thing can basically be boiled down to this: a relatively quick and easy 70 miles followed by 30 miles of slow death.  People say that if a 50 mile race is like 2 marathons then a 100 mile race is like 4 50 mile races back to back but that's inaccurate.  It's exactly like running 100 miles, it's just that the 2nd 50 is much harder.  This is the same pattern with the marathon, its just that when you extrapolate the existential suffering of the final 6 miles of the marathon to the scale of 100, rather than lasting 35 minutes it lasts 6 hours.  

People talk a lot about mental toughness in 100 mile events as well and I suppose that this has got to be a significant part of it.  But it felt like that aspect never really entered the equation.  I never thought about dropping out- although I did have moments where I realistically considered the likelihood that it might take me 10 hours to cover the last 25 miles.  I never felt particularly tough or weak- rather, I just did what my body was capable of doing at any given moment.  At times this was running effortlessly up hill at a quick pace.  At other times it was weaving back and forth across the trail in a drunken walk of 2 mph.

I've done a range of different endurance sports and I love the idea of comparing them.  I'm always trying to identify what was harder- a 170 mile road bike race with big climbs or a 50 mile running race, a road marathon or a trail 50k, a 1500m track race or a 100 mile mountain race.  Before my thoughts turned solely to feeling sorry for myself I did have a productive bit of thinking in the early going and developed a preliminary rating scale for overall difficulty of endurance events which I will have to spell out in more detail in a later post.  Suffice it to say, these are not easy questions to answer, nor is there a linear relationship between length of the event and difficulty or level of suffering.

While I'm musing, it seems to be fashionable in writing race reports about never-ending extreme endurance sufferfests to speak at length about insights or personal growth sustained on the run.  I've always been a bit dubious.  Sure, I've learned plenty of things about myself during athletic events and I learned plenty during this one- it's just that the scope of these insights is pretty circumscribed around a few variables which generally involve some fairly generic and unsurprising observations about what happens to my mind and body when I collectively put them through the wringer.  This can be interesting stuff, for sure, but more on the level of frank, clinical appreciation for the kidney rather than an asymptotic approach to some deep underlying metaphysical truth.   I will say that I have never felt as raw physically and emotionally during a race as I did both during and after this one.  Even several days out I can feel a deep emotional vulnerability and sentimentality and I broke out in tears of gratitude this evening with my family.

So, rather than give a play-by-play I'll do some general impressionistic brush strokes of what I took away from those couple days.

1. An unbelievably beautiful course in remote wilderness.  I had multiple transcendent moments in the first 50 miles with some of the most profoundly euphoric moments I have ever experienced while running.   I was thinking a lot about Ada (whose 1st birthday party I was planning on attending only hours after finishing back in SLC) and Bethany (who had supported me in doing this race despite the fact that it overlapped with her mother's visit and the logistics of this party), and how spectacularly lucky I was to have them.  And how spectacularly lucky I was to be able to do this with my body and get a chance to run having not been able to do Wasatch.  The combination of these thoughts, the beautiful fall colors and spectacular terrain, the comraderie of other runners, and the experience of doing this simple activity that has been an intrinsic part of who I am and how I make my way in the world was quite intense for me and I teared up multiple times with goosebumps.

2.  The comraderie of other runners. 
While I am a competitive moth#rf*$ker and get huge amounts of motivation and pleasure out of just competing with other people, in this event I got the most satisfaction and meaning out of running with other folks and working together.  This included a stretch early on with Mick Juryneck that in retrospect I wished lasted longer and then a long 40 mile stretch with Gary Gellin.  I can't overstate how helpful running with Gary was.  When I caught Gary at mile 40 or so there was the initial sizing each other up, competitive vibe going on.  He was peppering me with questions about my PRs and racing experience. Over the next 40 miles however we truly evolved into a team.  I would be faster at getting out of aid stations and would walk until Gary caught me.  He navigated the course flawlessly and walked for a long stretch after mile 75 when I was on the verge of puking and could not even muster verbal responses to him and his pacer.  I felt pangs of guilt and remorse when at around mile 80 I pulled off ahead of him as he walked slowly downhill nursing a hurt knee- particularly as he had clearly been the stronger runner all day to this point.  Earlier on we would come into aid stations and I could barely muster shoving my water bottles in the direction of a volunteer with a grunt while Gary would be exuberantly chatting away and cracking jokes.  I know I would have finished much slower and likely spent considerably more time lost if not for Gary.  I seriously spent a lot of time during the last 5 miles wondering if I should just pull over, plop down, and wait for him to catch up so we could finish together.

3. Zoe and Billy.
I ran this race without pacers and had no crew until seeing Zoe and Billy at Beaver Creek Campground at mile 85 where they were cheering and giving me support.  It was a huge boost to see them there and then again at Gibson Basin at mile 92.5.  They took care of me at the finish line where all I could do was moan semi-incoherently and then drove me back to SLC in time for Ada's party.

4. Leland Barker. 
I got a really good feeling from this guy immediately on meeting him.  He gave off a mellow, Zen-like contentment that made me feel really good about doing this race.  We exchanged only a few words:

Me: "Hi, I'm number 462, where do I sign in?"
Leland: "No sign-in. You can pick up your bag over there."

In line with this laid back approach, this race gets some flack for minimal marking of the course.  It also seemed that vandalism of existing course markings was also at play.  This certainly played a factor not only for me but for other runners as well, many with much more significant time lost.  But I knew this going in and, truthfully, should have been better prepared with knowledge of the course beforehand.  I also continue to love the low-key, low-maintenance, make-your-own-adventure nature of some of these ultrarunning events which just reinforce the basic nature of what we are doing and why.  If you want to run PRs, run fast, compete neck in neck with minimal other variables to contend with, and have total control over the race environment there is a way to do it: it is called Track.  I did plenty of this equally absurd pastime through highschool and college and have made a concerted effort to never again have anything to do with measuring distance, split times, pace, etc.

5. Pre-race time with Jeff Bertot, Naoki Ouchi, Chris Helfer, Mindy Campbell, and Tetsuro Ogata.  It was great to ride down with Jeff and Naoki (eventual 4th place finisher!) and pick their experienced brains for advice on surviving 100 miles.  Chris, Mindy, Tetsuro, and I stayed in my friend Peter's Logan home the night before which was perfect and right next to the start.   One of the most impressive performances of the day was Chris Helfer who completed 100 miles having just started running this past spring.  Over the last several months he has turned himself into a fit endurance athlete who I have trouble keeping up with on daily runs and he persevered in this race to finish despite having bad foot problems from mile 30 on as well as a scary asthma attack in the last 15 miles.


Course Profile:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What the Hell Happened? / Looking ahead to the Bear 100

Well, it was Monday night, just a little over 3 days before lining up for the Wasatch 100 and I suddenly vomited.  Then I vomited again.  And then again.  And then I had shaking chills and a fever.  And then it didn't stop for the next 2.5 days.  Hmmm, poor timing.  I can get over this thing in time to line up Friday morning, I told myself repeatedly.  No big deal.  I won't be at 100% but I'll still make a go at it.  This strained mentality continued over the next several days where I stayed home from work, didn't leave bed except to make it to the toilet, and ingested 0 calories.  Not the ideal carb loading regimen.

Thursday AM I finally felt better enough to go to work, although I was still orthostatic and broke into a cold sweat just climbing up the stairs from the basement.  I laced up my running shoes that morning and went out for a lurching 15 minutes in sugarhouse park.  Immediately upon returning from 1 loop around the circuit I puked in my driveway.  Hmmm...

I didn't see a lot of options so figured I'd just line up and take my chances, as dismal as they currently appeared.  I tried to eat all day, maybe getting in about 500 calories or so.  Then Bethany texted me and asked why didn't I consider doing the Bear 100 in 2 weeks time just a bit north of here in Logan: similar terrain, similar difficulty, a bit more low key, and beautiful fall scenery.  I realized then and there that regardless of whether I did the Bear or not there was little sense in lining up to race the following day given my condition and the fact that I was still having trouble standing up for stretches of time.

I had to do some difficult re-prioritization with some other obligations that weekend but ended up pulling the trigger and signing up for the Bear 100 on Friday, Sept. 23rd.  I'm psyched to be able to parlay this fitness at least into a 100 mile race but was definitely a bit bummed to not be able to do the Wasatch which I had been looking forward to all year.

It turned out to be an exciting race this year.  I didn't feel well enough to actually spend any time out on the course but watched online from the comfort of my couch.  Some great local talent.  Will try again next year...

Onward to the Bear!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Taper Tantrums

Peter on Mt. Raymond
4 days till race day!  

Bakers Pass
Pool buddies.

Bethany's Sat. run up Timpanogos

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tired Pegs and Death Anxiety

After a planned easy jaunt this evening I'll finish this week with just under 17,000 vert in 6 days to essentially wrap up the hard training for the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run in 2 weeks time.  Despite cutting back on the mileage and vertical this week, the pegs felt pretty dead and I felt like I was fighting off a cold.  I made a couple half-assed attempts at getting some decent turnover in the legs but they were pretty tame affairs.  For sure feeling some accumulated fatigue and welcoming the upcoming taper.   

I'm definitely having some pre-race jitters and, perhaps as to be expected, am finding myself second guessing my preparation and race plan in fairly neurotic fashion unprecedented by any other races this season (which have been uniformly characterized by no forethought and minimal expectation.)  The last time I recall feeling this wound up about a race was prior to my first marathon in 2002: the Cleveland marathon which I travelled to with P. Terrence McGovern and which turned out to be a spectacular display of suffering (although not so spectacular as Mr. McGovern's display.)  I went into that race with a calf injury that reared it's head at mile 7 and forced me to finish the last 19 miles with a lurching, antalgic stride, eventually stopping the clock at a desperate 2:59:59 (despite having stubbornly forced a number of sub-6 minute miles around half-way).  

That 98% of my already limited mental energy is currently devoted to this endeavor (that only a handful of people in the world care anything about and even a smaller handful of whom care about doing as fast as possible), in the context of residency, fatherhood, spousehood, home-ownership, etc, nicely illustrates the peculiar projection and  sublimation characteristic of endurance feats and also provides an immediate and facile answer to the ever-present question of just why in the hell anyone does this: the Sisyphean project of denying death, of course.  

With this in mind I will attempt to harness my ever-present death anxiety over the next two weeks to the unlikely project of maintaining a Zen-like complacency.

Mon- 2 hrs with 2300 vert, Bonneville to Black Mtn Ridge.
Tues- 2:05 hrs with 2600 vert from Kaysville out and back, reconaissance on the course.  8x 1 min on 1 min off fartlek
Wed- 2 hrs with 3,200 vert, Lookout Peak with Helfer.
Thurs - off 
Fri- 1:45 with 2000 vert up above Alta with 15 min tempo.  
Sat- 4:10, approx. 20 miles with 4,700 vert from Brighton out and back on Wasatch 100 course w/ Bethany.
Sun- easy 1.5-2 hours with 1500-2000 vert.

Totals: 6 runs, around 13.5 hours, about 17k vert.  LEWIS!

With Auntie Zoe

Above Alta

Indian Paintbrush

Sunset Pass

somewhere around Pole Line Pass

Climbing back up the flip side of Sunset Pass

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Brighton Marathon Loop

Saturday 8/20/11, Brighton Marathon loop with Jason Berry.

Jason picked me up at 4:15am and we drove up to Brighton, starting out for the first 60-90 minutes or so with our headlamps.  This course is run as an informal race in July but our goal today was just to accumulate some more miles and vertical before beginning the taper for the Wasatch 100 in 3 short weeks.  The loop course initially heads up on Great Western but quickly veers off at Dog Lake to climb first up to Snake Creek Pass then over the rocky top of Clayton Peak (we were greeted here with glimmers of the sunrise).  From Clayton you make a slow, bony descent to Guardsman's pass and then traverse the rolling single track along the Crest trail to Mill D which you descend down to eventually cross the road at Jordan Pines.  (We has stashed a couple gallons of water here).  The route then climbs up Day's Fork to the top of the ridge, traversing across to Twin Lakes Pass and then dropping back down to finish at Brighton.  25 miles, 6,200 vert by my Suunto t6c.  5:12 total time with some time spent early on doing some route finding in the dark.

Felt strong and steady all morning, although not particularly spritely given the approx. 45,000 ft cumulative vertical and 34 hours of running (what I really mean by this term is "running") over the last 2 weeks.

Taking the scamble-route up to the top of Day's Fork

Glad we weren't going down this slope...

Jason topping out.

Beautiful descent back to Brighton from Twin Lakes.

Wildflowers in full force.
On top of Clayton Peak, still pretty dark.