Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Zion Traverse 2012

This past weekend I traveled down to Zion NP with Jason Thompson, Pete Stoughton, Matt Hart, Meghan Hicks, and Brian Kamm to run the stunning 48 mile Zion traverse (total was slightly over 50 miles for us given a couple scenic detours).  We ran west to east, from Lee's Pass in Kolob to the East Rim.   There was no rush: the priority for the day was just enjoying the terrain and the company and, as such, we started in the dark and finished in the dark. Thanks to Jay Aldous' generosity we stayed in style in a luxury suite just outside of the park which was a much preferable situation post-run to camping in the cold.  Here's a video of our adventure (soundtrack is another LEWIS! composition: guitar and banjo recorded on my iPhone).

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Updates: TNF 50 and Tumbledown.

This weekend Bethany is running The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile championships and I'm headed out to San Francisco to pace her.   She's as fit as I've ever seen her so watch out!  You can find pre-race predictions courtesy of the folks at iRunFar.  

You can find my dad's annual Health Benefits of Running newsletter on TOR, telomeres, and more on The Matt Hart's blog.

Here are some recent photos and a video I made several weeks ago while in Maine of a run in the Tumbledown Range, one of my favorite places in the world.  I wrote and recorded the soundtrack using my mom's Irish harp and my iPhone.

Maine trail.  Dad, Russ, Zoe.  Hunting season.

Mt. Wire.

Neat log.

Our fair city.

Off desolation trail.

Tracy Aviary.

Twin Peaks wilderness

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Running and Banjo

For your viewing pleasure.  Showcasing some running clips over the past year as well as my 2 week old banjo skills

Thursday, October 4, 2012

the soon-to-be-past

The Wasatch 100 has come and gone, the aspen are blazing, my daughter is somehow 2 years old, and the LEWIS! family has returned to the routine of being productive working members of society after what has been a blissful summer of playing.  While this latter has its pros and cons, the implications of the former- namely it being autumn- are indisputably grand.  The cooler mornings, the angle of the light, the imminence of winter's stillness: all climatologic reminders of  impermanence and transition.  This must be the feeling of living in the present moment.  A heady awareness -almost by the minute- of change, a peculiar dislocated nostalgia, not directed towards the past but somehow towards what you are experiencing right now.  The appreciation of the soon-to-be-past.  

Running has been a casual and relaxed affair in the last several weeks characterized by lingering musculotendinous tweaks but little reason to devote much concern or worry without any big events on the immediate horizon.  I've lazed about and read some books.  I bought a bottle of good whisky.  I may just learn the banjo.   From a running standpoint the highlight of course has been pacing The Matt Hart over the last 25 miles of the Bear 100 last weekend to an impressive 3rd place finish in 19:29 through the still woods of the Bear River range. This was the capstone to an inspirational triumvirate of pacing duties for yours truly this past summer: Erik in the Millwood 100, then Jared at Hardrock, then Matt at the Bear- all heroes of mine in the world of endurance suffer-fests.

Chris, Peter, Matt, aspen.

Chris and Peter on Gobblers Knob

Squid cake.

Matt, Me, Chris up from Porter Fork.

New bike.

The view from my runs since I've started work.

at Beaver Mountain crewing for Matt

Headed up Lookout Peak.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

2012 Wasatch 100 Race Report.

Over the last few days I've tried to mentally put together an account of my experience at the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run and have come up short.  Maybe it's been the post-race cognitive fog (it seems this is a unique post-100 mile state facilitated by sleep deprivation, prolonged bodily pain, metabolic dysregulation, and emotional exhaustion.)  Maybe it's the fact that this mental state has been exacerbated by wisdom teeth extraction and the subsequent narcotics (yesterday).  And perhaps it is due to the fact that I take my boards in two days and feel an immense pressure to spend my waking hours studying (and an equal pressure to procrastinate by blog writing).  Yes, these factors certainly must contribute.  But the writer's block seems deeper and due in large part to intrinsic aspects of the distance and experience itself- indeed, I recall the same paralysis in trying to describe my first 100 miler last year, the Bear 100. (race report here). 

Every race, even an 800m run, has a way of disrupting the normal progression of time, offering up a seeming lifetime of small moments, sensations, and emotions within a small window of chronological time.  Jarred out of your previous life, for a moment you exist in a different space.  Perhaps it is this cracking open of the world that keeps me coming back to these ridiculous endurance pursuits.   From my limited experience in really long running events it seems that the 100 mile distance is uniquely suited to the production of this phenomenon.  To risk invoking the tired metaphor of psychedelics and the overused, quasi-mystical, pseudo-spiritual, and soft-headed Merry-Prankster associations thereof, if a track event provides the equivalent of the brief dissociation following inhalation of nitrous oxide, a 100 mile run is a prolonged, epic, frightening, brain-scrambling, and ultimately world-altering LSD trip.  Words can elude.

It is also a long, plodding, block-legged, relatively mundane shuffle in the woods experienced predominantly as the increasingly unpleasant and gag-inducing sensation of forcing foil-wrapped simple sugars into your mouth at 20 minute intervals.  

What a weird sport.

The first 40 miles went by quickly.  I didn't feel particularly great- the legs felt tight and my effort was higher than I had wanted but I was moving along fairly well.  I ran a number of the early miles with Chris Cawley and then Brendan Trimboli which was a lot of fun but I noticed that both of them seemed to be moving much more fluidly and effortlessly than I was, particularly on the climbs. (These guys are both impressively fit but were hampered by stomach issues and, for Chris, getting off course.  Look for good things to come in future events.)  As expected, both achilles started barking at me after the first 15 miles or so but didn't ever get to the point of altering my stride too badly.  I came into Big Mountain in 5th place- right around my goal of 12:30pm- feeling good if a little hot and excited to see family and pick up my dad, Craig, who would be pacing the next section to Lambs Canyon.  

Within the first two minutes of the first climb however it became clear that this hadn't been the best of plans.  Having come from sea level without having done much running recently and being relatively unfamiliar with rocky trails my dad quickly fell off the pace and I didn't see him again until I showed up at Brighton at mile 75.  I became increasingly worried about him out alone in the hot sun (this section is notoriously exposed and toasty) but this concern faded with the exponential increase in self-pity as I ran out of water, stopped sweating, developed goosebumps, stopped eating, and dropped my pace to a crawl.  The stretch from Alexander to Lamb's Canyon was harder for me than the whole 2nd half of the race combined.  I came into Lamb's feeling pretty wrecked and discouraged not sure how I was going to turn this around.

Had I been left to my own devices I would have spent 5 minutes, forced down as much fluid into my rebelling stomach as I could, and then hurried out eager to not lose too much time.  And that likely would have been the beginning of the end of my race.  Rather, Peter and Bethany sat me down and spent 15 minutes putting cold towels on me and pouring ice water on my head and down my back until I was shivering.  Matt Hart was there and remarked that when he ran this in 2010 (3rd) he felt the worst right here at Lamb's.  This gave me a good deal of hope that things would improve.  I then walked all the way up to Bear Bottom Pass without running a step (per Peter's instructions) and by the top of the climb I had fully rebounded.  I caught up to Brendan Trimboli and Adam Lint on the climb up to Dog Lake, now moving into 3rd (although well behind the first 2 runners). 

For the duration of the run from here I was surprised to find myself continually feeling better and better, and then surprised again to find myself genuinely enjoying the present moment.  I found myself remarking repeatedly to my trusty pacers- Peter, and then Bethany- that I felt great and was really having fun.  This was certainly not what I was expecting late in the race- sure, I looked forward to 'fun' in that abstract and contradictory sense that ultrarunners use to describe epic sufferfests marked by continual vomiting and crawling forward progress, where you look back days post-race and it all has a hazy glow of appreciation and gratitude that was markedly absent at the actual time- but I didn't anticipate actually experiencing pleasure in the later stages of the race in any honest sense of that term.  (This is probably where my constitution diverges from the truly tough such as Jared Campbell who, as impossible as it sounds, actually seems to derive vast quantities of enjoyment out of genuine suffering- a quality that likely explains his success this year in doing the Barkley, Hardrock, Nolan's 14, AND Wasatch.)

The last 25 miles from Brighton to the finish with Bethany passed quickly (5:55) save the last few miles.   I grunted the uphills as fast as I could and ran the flats and downs fairly well all things considered.  We were talking about this and that, the temperature was perfect, the stars were out, I was with the love of my life: it was a truly special night and I kept pinching myself telling myself to remember this.  I felt so lucky to be out here, running the last stretch of the Wasatch 100 with my wife, and feeling totally great.  While I haven't done many of these things I knew that the way I was feeling was unusual and lucky.  At Pot Bottom (mile 93) we were told that there was a pack of 'around 10 guys only minutes behind me'.  This was quite a surprise as at Pole Line we had been told that we had about an hour lead on #4.  While this did encourage some faster running in the last 7 miles it had an air of desperation about it.  I had flashbacks of getting outkicked on the track in high school conference meets and kept looking back to see if there were lights coming.  (As it turned out the aid station volunteers must have had their wires crossed as we had a good margin the whole time).

We ran 8 minute miles along the last short stretch of road to the finish where we found my dad, Zoe, Billy, and GG the dog cheering us in.  Given the way I had been feeling I anticipated a pretty mild post-race aftermath but almost immediately after crossing the finish line I felt incapacitatingly wrecked.  We made our way to the cabin that Jason and Kristin Berry had generously offered us to share.  We showed up at 3am (having had to call Kristin to get directions)- now 5 people and a dog instead of the 2 that we told them to expect- and I promptly starting chundering all over their driveway.  

All in all I think I caught a lucky break.  The race went about as well as it possibly could have given pretty mediocre training and fitness.  I was definitely more fit last year before the Bear but it is hard to overstate the difference it makes having a solid stomach all day and being able to continually take in calories.  It is also hard to overstate just how much of a difference my crew and pacers made- these guys really saved my race and made for a much more enjoyable experience- thanks so much.  Thanks as well to all the great volunteers out on the course who really supplied a ton of positive energy and congrats to all the other finishers.  The only way I can see not running this race in the future (lottery permitting of course) is if Bethany decides to do it and I get to pace her instead.    

Uncharacteristically, here are a few relevant details.  As this formula seemed to work for me I would at least like to be able to refer to it in the future:

-Basically all gels except for one package of shotblocks, one honey stinger waffle.  Primarily EFS.  Took about 100kcal swigs every 20-25 minutes.  Carried 2 bottles, 1 of which was either Heed or EFS drink which gave an additional 100kcal or so over 2-3 hours.  In total probably around 300-350 kcal per hour which I did for the whole time except for the stretch from Big Mtn > Lambs where I wasn't able to eat.

-No caffeine at all until Brighton where I downed a 5 Hour Energy.

-In retrospect should have carried one extra bottle from Big Mtn > Lambs.  

-Started in Montrail Rogue Flys for the first 53 miles then switched into Hoka Bondi Bs for the remainder of the run.  In retrospect should have switched out shoes at mile 40.

-very short.

Temperature regulation:
-Towels doused in ice-water were key.  Also taking off shirt and soaking it in streams on the way.  Should have cooled more aggressively earlier in the day.

-Ipod shuffle for the first 53 miles or so.  Beach House, Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire, M83, Japandroids, Red Heart the Ticker, the Walkmen, WU LYF, Lotus Plaza, and some Pavement for good measure.

3am race morning.  Sleepy.

Jason Berry at the start, with Bethany.

Ada's in charge of fluids.

At the start.

Big Mtn Aid Station, about mile 40.

Trying desperately to cool down at Lambs Canyon, mile 53.

@ Lambs, Peter Adler getting me back on track.

Craig Lewis after his 'pacing' duties.

Brighton Aid Station, mile 75 and feeling perky.

Award ceremony.

Youngest inductee into the Royal Order of the Crimson Cheetah.

Pre-wisdom teeth removal.

Post-wisdom teeth removal.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pre-Wasatch Photo Dump

Just a few photos from the last couple weeks leading up to tomorrow's Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run.  Really looking forward to a good long run in the mountains.  I've assembled a rockstar crew and pacing team (Bethany, the whole Lewis family, Peter Adler) so this run should stand in stark contrast to my first 100- the Bear last September- which was characterized by no crew, pacers, or planning whatsoever.  Regardless, it should be an epic week with a 100 mile race, wisdom teeth extraction on Tuesday, then my National Board Exam on the following Friday, and then starting my new job Monday.

Chris and Matt on Deseret Peak.  Watch-out for Chris at Wasatch- the dude is fit!


Lookout Peak w Bethany, Geof, Paige

Showcasing the range of inseam cuts on running shorts. (Look for Geof to have a strong finish at Wasatch as well).

Monday, August 20, 2012

2012 Tahoe Rim Trail FKT Attempt

"The secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is to live dangerously" - Nietzsche.  This is an apt quote for our 165 mile Tahoe Rim Trail FKT attempt which had been variously described as "bold," "audacious," "foolish," and "hubristic."  One thing that everyone on the team was sure about however was that if you are going to challenge one of Kilian Jornet's records you better have cards to play other than running ability.  In our case, lacking the innate talent and fitness of the precocious Spaniard, our cards were preparation, planning, and efficiency- not getting lost and minimizing sleeping.   The devil was in the details, or so it seemed.

And so it went.  It is hard to overstate the exceptional attention to detail Gary Gellin put into this project.  He and his wife Holly assembled an impressive support crew and a game plan that would take us around the circuit just under Kilian's record of 38:32.  We left at 5:30am on the nose, Gary firmly in the lead with GPS and heart rate data, elevation profiles, splits, The Plan.  While things didn't exactly go according to this algorithm, at least past 60 miles or so, the time we spent in Tahoe and the subsequent crewing we did for Victor Ballesteros as he finished out the damn thing in 53 hours and change (with a beautific smile on his face for most of it) was a highlight of the summer and one of the more inspirational athletic activities I've been a part of.  A very close second to being a part of Victor's effort was witnessing the herculean efforts of the support crew: Holly who tirelessly masterminded the crewing effort, Brian who paced what must have been close to 100 miles of the route (yes, covering more terrain than 3 out of 4 of the 'team' members), Janet who stayed up the entire duration to help out with anything and everything (and do some child care to boot!), Steve, Faye, and many others whose names escape me now.

While this approach may have been the only one with any probability of success for our team it seemingly led inexorably to a Catch-22, at least for this runner.  For while our fighting chance may have resided in ruthless efficiency it ignored the fact that success in ultradistance events often relies on flexibility, adaptation, riding the ebbs and flows.  From the outset the pace felt harried and stressful- not fast per se, but awkward, too fast here, too slow there, without rhythm.  Given the long stretches between aid I was carrying up to 110 oz of fluid and it felt wieldy and burdensome.  Long story short, between my stomach and injured achilles things went south and I dropped at Big Meadow, mile 65, having not been able to eat for the previous 5.5 hours.  I could have trudged along a bit further but it just didn't seem like a lot of fun.  Adam had dropped previously around mile 45, again stomach issues, and Gary unfortunately had to drop at mile 85 (but had to hike out 5 miles) with an exacerbated knee injury.  This left poor Victor alone to shoulder the burden of our collective aspirations.

It was not a burden that went unnoticed.  As Victor slowly made his way into Tahoe Meadows late the next day he remarked that he felt "held hostage emotionally."  It was an apt observation given his physical and mental state at the time, and one whose troubling philosophical and ethical implications have stuck in my brain since.   Indeed, many hours earlier after going off course for 4+ hours Victor had limped into Spooner Summit announcing his intention to throw in the towel.  The crew present gently sat him down, fed him, pushed fluids, tended to his blistered feet, and then cajoled him out of the aid station and back down the dark, lonely trail.   This response is almost unthinking and rote for most crew and pacers at ultradistance events: it is an accepted given that 'your' runner will at one point tire, fatigue, lose heart, want to quit, and it is somehow your job to preclude this possibility.  And most of the time, when the runner finishes what they've set out to do they're grateful for having at least partially outsourced their will.  But this doesn't necessarily have to be the case.  

Ullyses, aware of his own fallibility, instructed his crew to bind him to the mast as they sailed past the Sirens.  Knowing he would not be able to resist their call he took action in advance to obviate that course of action.  As folks age it is advisable to write-up advanced directives that specify medical decision making in the likely event that at some point they will no longer have the physical or cognitive capacities to make decisions according to their underlying personal values and wishes.  In endurance events often the software gives out before the hardware: beyond a certain point (for most of us at least) it becomes very difficult to care.  A recently publicized example of this that comes to mind is that of Jure Robic, the Eastern European endurance cyclist who has won RAAM along with a number of other ultradistance cycling events that take course over many days.  After a certain point, Robic literally loses his mind and is maintained on a delirious, disoriented, and psychotic journey solely by his loyal crew who will go as far as to lie to him about his whereabouts and distance remaining, doing whatever is necessary to keep him moving forward on his bike despite his verbal rebukes and threats.  See a great writeup of this here

This is all very peculiar.  

If we take it as a given that our interpretations, assessments, and ultimately experience of other people is in large part an amalgamation of our own idiosyncratic and distorted projections (based on prior relationships, past experiences, core beliefs, the unique refracting surfaces of our own lenses for interpreting the world) then this dynamic becomes even more peculiar.  The heightened drama and precipitous tension involved in taking part in an event like this ensures that the question of what it is about is enormously complex and has as many answers as there are participants, most of those answers being at best only tangentially and distantly related to the task at hand.

As I watched Victor make his way up to the group of 30 or so cheering crew and spectators at Tahoe Meadows (still with an improbably large amount of running left to be done) I reflected on how disappointed I would be if he dropped there, and then was immediately surprised by this reaction.  Sure, part of this would be disappointment for Victor, but a good deal of it was unrelated to him as a person and due only to the fact that Victor was now the only remaining member of our team: his failure- whatever that means- would be a representation of our team's failure as a whole, which, per logical extension of this argument, would simply be a stinging reminder of my own.  Conversely, his 'success' would provide a validating, if substituted glow, an affirmation of us all.   This is a troubling and potentially unfair synechdoche.  For 'success' and 'failure' here refer not just to the localized particulars but are proxies for their capitalized cousins: Success, Failure, and all their deep-rooted associations and personal meanings which can't help but be brought to the fore under these circumstances.  Victor was indeed held emotionally hostage- not just to the specific ambitions of the 4 team members but to a blanket of the barely conscious psychological economies enveloping him.

Of course, this isn't necessarily bad.  Certainly it's unavoidable.

While I've succeeded in my main goal of entertaining myself I feel obligated to offer at least a partially sincere apology for the poor few souls who continue to read this blog hoping to find something useful in the way of concrete detail (I ate 63 Gu Chomps, I wore Montrail Rogue Racers) and, rather, find themselves barraged by a veritable vomiting of abstracted gibberish.  In consolation I'll offer some observations/suggestions for future attempts that may prove useful.  As this is just my own take on things it may not reflect that of the other runners so take it with a grain of salt.

1. Do it in the fall.  Carrying 110oz of water is a lot.  It would be nice to ensure cooler temps, especially if you are anticipating riding a very fine line of feasible physical output.

2. Do it clockwise.  Some may disagree with this but hear me out.  We ran counterclockwise (opposite Kilian)- the rationale being that we would get the tough, more technical running through the Desolation Wilderness out of the way while we were still relatively fresh.  This makes a fair bit of sense but it neglects the fact that a huge determinant in running this far is psychological momentum.  We could have expended the same amount of energy and covered nearly 100 miles of the buffed-out smooth single track characteristic of the northern and eastern aspects of the TRT.  Sure, we would have been slower over the last 65 miles but at that point you are going to be moving slowly anyway and it is much more discouraging to be moving slowly over eminently runnable terrain.   Hammering out the first 100 clockwise in under 20 hours seems like the way to go if you want any reasonable chance of getting under Kilian's record.  

3. I think the group FKT model has a lot of promise but needs some kinks worked out.  While you stand to benefit greatly from the synergy and comraderie of a group there is a clear dialectic between rigidity and flexibility in this sort of endeavor with both needed.  At a minimum I think each runner needs his or her own independent crew so as to maximize the possibility of individual and varied approaches to the task at hand.  I'm sure Gary's analytical mind is working on this already.

Some photos in no particular order:

5:30am start from Tahoe City.
Jane Hewey, Theo, and Hazel.

Even bad-ass ultrarunners play with stuffed animals.
The team.  Adam, Victory, Gary, me.

A sample of the whole crew.

in the early miles.

Steve, carb loading for his epic crewing.

At Tahoe Meadows.

Janet and Brian, the true endurance athletes of the bunch.

At the finish.


Ultrarunner / Professional Mime.

Tireless crew.