Sunday, June 20, 2010

Born to Run

In March, I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougal. One of the premises of Born to Run is not only that humans evolved to run but that humans evolved because they run. A central focus of the book is the Tarahumara indians who have a legacy of long distance mountain running. The Tarahumara run incredible distances in sandals. McDougal argues that the body is not born to run in the types of shoes that have been marketed and produced in the last 40 years of human history and goes so far as to suggest that the modern running shoe is the root of many injuries associated with running because it promotes landing on the heel as opposed to the mid or forefoot.

Over the last couple months, I've been testing his theory: Am I, the SLC Samurai, born to run?

Initially, I was skeptical. I have never loved running. In fact, I've always disliked running. I think I might have even told one of my runner friends that "running is gay." Sorry.

But I was truly inspired by Born to Run, and became somewhat enamored with the thought of being able to run | in the mountains | without injury |in an effortless manner | for a long time. I became somewhat enchanted with the Tarahumara and their minimalist approach. After all, they are the literal embodiment of the motto, Light and Fast.

So, I bought a pair of New Balance MT 100 shoes, a minimalist shoe that promotes the "natural" way of running. They are very light, very flexible, and most importantly, the heel is not as bulky or raised up as the modern running shoe. And very quickly, I determined that they weren't all that comfortable. A week before the WURLOS (in April), I strapped on the MT 100s and attempted to run home from work -- about 6 miles or so. After about 4 miles, I couldn't run anymore because my feet and calves hurt. I could barely walk the next day, and I was so sore that I worried I might have to put the WURLOS off. I almost concluded then that I was not born to run.

The WURLOS has come and gone. The Uinta Highline traverse has come and gone. And I still wonder whether I am born to run. I continue to run trails. I run home from work -- successfully I might add -- once in a while. I continue my search for the perfect shoe. My feet always hurt. And I am happy to report that I have begun to believe that it is possible for me to run | in the mountains | without injury |in an effortless manner | for a long time.

Case in point: yesterday I ran in my first-ever running race, the Wahsatch Steeplechase. I ran it in 2:37 for about 16th place. It was a 17 mile race up Black Mountain and down City Creek canyon. Most of it was on trails. There was about 4500 feet elevation gain. And I enjoyed it. Running up Black Mountain at 6:00 in the morning, chasing some fast guys that were obviously born to run, was inspiring. While I took a fair amount of Vitamin I(buprofen), I ran the race without injury, and more significantly, there were moments when I felt like my effort was relatively effortless -- in the "zone" you could say. But I admit there were also times when I thought to myself, "man, if I only had a bike right now." And it was a pleasant surprise to discover that 17 miles is not too far out of my range.

Even though I can barely walk today, I'm beginning to think that maybe, after all, I was born to run . . .

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Highline Traverse: The Stats and the Route


Distance: 59.7 miles.

Total Ascent: ?? My GPS and software won't accurately calculate this. . . grrrrrr.

Time: 38 hrs 16 minutes

Put in: Henry's Fork Campground

Take Out: Mirror Lake Highway, 4-5 miles below Hayden Pass

Partner: Brother Sam -- A tough dude who you wouldn't want to get in the cage with. He's forced me to tap out a couple times.

Ski Gear: Trab World Cup Duo Race w/ Dynafit Low Tech Bindings, Dynafit DyNA boots (me); Sam borrowed Bart's setup -- Dynafit SR 11s w/ Low Tech Bindings, Dynafit DyNA boots.

Other key Gear: CAMP X3 Pack, Jetboil, Mont Bell Thermawrap parka and pants, Mont Bell Tachyon windshirt and wind pants, Mont Bell spiral hugger sleeping bag, Thermarest pro lite pad.

Hrs. of Sleep: Not so much. The wind kept ripping off our sleeping bag and space blanket.

Miles left when toilet paper ran out: about 30

Wildlife seen: a grouse and a bobcat (did not eat)

No. of miles traveled with only 1 skin on: 10+

Okay, that's probably enough. Here are some illustrations of the route.

We started off at Henry's Fork Campground at about 5:00 am. We meant to get up earlier, but we slept in. At about 9000 feet, there wasn't much snow.

From 2010-06-02

Head of Henry's Fork.

From 2010-06-02

From the Henry's Fork Drainage, we climbed Gunsight Pass, and traversed and climbed Anderson Pass.

From 2010-06-02

Here is Sam on Anderson Pass at 12,700 feet. We didn't consider making a summit bid on King's Peak, which was easily within striking distance, because the winds were maching. I'd say about 80 mph. I was scared I was going to get blasted into the void, seriously.

From 2010-06-02

From Anderson Pass, we skied across a large valley, and headed toward Tungsten Pass.

From 2010-06-02

And from Tungsten Pass, we climbed to Porcupine Pass.

From 2010-06-02

We milked this slope for as long as we could. As you can see, the relief in the Uintas is BIG and BAD. Cliffs everywhere. Mountains in every direction.

From 2010-06-02

A little friend and a good omen.

From 2010-06-02

Once we climbed one pass, this is the view that often greeted us. Ummm, we have to go clear over there now?

From 2010-06-02

We got lost a couple times. The first time, we climbed midway up this cirque (the one in the far distance) before we figured out we were off route. Sam wanted to put me in a cage and give me a thrashing, but was a good sport.

From 2010-06-02

As the sun was setting, it peaked through as if to smile at us. See you in a few hours . . .

From 2010-06-02

Just as the sun is setting is a very peaceful time in the mountains. You have to enjoy it and remember it because once it gets dark, the mood changes.

From 2010-06-02

At 3:30 am, we were ascending Red Knob Pass. Skiing under a full moon was both eerie and comforting.

From 2010-06-02

When it got light, we were able to look back and see Red Knob Pass. Here is the view.

From 2010-06-02

And then we ascended Dead Horse Pass. Before we did that, however, we took an unintended detour. See the saddle on the right side of the picture below? We thought (or rather I) that was Dead Horse Pass, and climbed it, and skied off the other side of it. Once we were on the other side, we realized our mistake. It was 8:00 am and we had been skiing for 27 hours. Not a happy moment as we booted back up to the pass. Awesome terrain though.

From 2010-06-02

Getting back on route, we got a few turns in.

From 2010-06-02

Self portrait, frazzled and tired on Dead Horse Pass, with about 17 miles to go.

From 2010-06-02

At the bottom of Dead Horse Pass, this was the view that greeted us, with Rocky Sea Pass way off in the distance. It was about here that we ate our last ramen noodles.

From 2010-06-02

Here is Sam, ascending Rocky Sea Pass, with about 11-12 miles to go. Lucky for us, some snowmobilers had poached the pass (it's wilderness), and we used their tracks as an uptrack. Never have I been so grateful for poachers.

From 2010-06-02

And I didn't take anymore pictures after that . . . .

Special thanks to Mont Bell who provided much of the necessary equipment for the trip. Go Light and Fast!!!