Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Genius of Kip Litton

Kip at the 10K mark of a marathon in 35:30,
dressed as a chicken
Legend
If you have never heard of Kip Litton let me fill you in.

He was ostensibly a 48 year old dentist who was trying to run a sub-3 hour marathon in all 50 states, with the stated purpose of raising money for charity.

He was well on his way to accomplishing this, completing 19 of the races when people started to notice peculiar things about Kip's performances:
  • He doesn't actually run the entire course
  • He mysteriously changes clothes midway
  • At least one of the races he claimed to run actually didn't exist. 
I won't rehash the entire story. Details of his antics can be found in the following places:


Kip photographed at the halfway mark of the same marathon in 1:24:43
Now in a different outfit
Genius
Reactions to the Kip Litton saga have been divided, and comments in forums are usually one of the following:
  • Kip is a horrible "cheater"
  • Kip is an honest family man, dentist, and runner and would never cheat. (These comments are all actually Kip himself posing under pseudonyms)
  • Who cares? Enough of this already.
These are all missing the point, which is:

  •  Kip Litton is a genius. 
This is satire. He's not a cheater anymore than Andy Kaufman was a wrestler. 
Kip Litton is a performance artist working in the medium of Kaufman and Sacha Baron Cohen. 
Hell, maybe Litton is Cohen in character filming his next movie.

The physical part of Kip's comedy is his amazing skill of cutting the course without getting caught in the act,  while still making it ridiculously obvious. Starting last? Changing clothes? While finishing the BAA 5K in 17 minutes? Come on people, that is funny! 

Those people yelling "cheater!" unwittingly become part of Kip's performance. He is making fools of those taking it seriously.

The satirical element of his performance is aimed directly at people like me. He is skewering those 40-something men who spend enormous amounts of time, effort, and money to achieve some arbitrary and fruitless goal like a sub 3 hour marathon. We peruse Marathonguide.com looking for an "easy" marathon to score our target time and analyze results in Athlinks.com looking for a boost to our fragile egos. 

Kip mocks us by taking this activity to a ridiculous extreme. Not just a sub 3 marathon, or one in all 50 states. A sub 3 in 50 states! Further, he has fun with both of those mentioned websites, creating make believe races, and even profiles of those who ran them! Genius.

Is it over?
Alas, it seems that Kip's performance has taken a hiatus.
I would have liked to see him push it further into the heights of absurdity until everyone appreciated the joke.

  • Kip runs a sub 3 in Boston, while showing up in photographs dressed as a different Star Wars character at each 5K split. 
  • Kip wins the Olympic marathon trials after taking a break midway for a 30 minute television  interview.
  • Kip live streams video of himself running the London Marathon backwards while juggling, in a world record time of 1:59:58
But maybe Kip wants to keep his comedic art pure, enigmatic. Never breaking character, never pushing it too far to be obvious. Maybe the controversy and the chorus of "cheater" from the self -serious dupes was the level of success he was hoping for. 

In any case, I fear his performance will be lost to history, misunderstood and unappreciated.
But if you read this Kip Litton, I get it.
Genius. Pure genius.



Kip stops to take a long nap on the way to his 2:52 finish.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

2012 Iron Mountain Trail Run Report


DNF
Last Saturday I was running the Iron Mountain Trail Run in Damascus VA... and I was hurting.

Some of the pains were old and not surprising: aching knees, tight calf, swollen metatarsals on the left foot. Recent additions were trashed quads that had still not recovered from the Continental Divide 10K last weekend.

But it was the sharp pain in my hip flexors that was shockingly new and getting worse quickly.
I had felt this before at the end of the Uwharrie 40 miler, and I knew that in a few miles I wouldn't be able to lift my feet up. After that, my inevitable destination was sprawled on the trail bleeding profusely.

I looked at my watch. I was only at mile 3

“Well, this isn’t good at all”, I thought. I was still on the flat, easy Virgina Creeper and hadn’t even hit the real trail yet. Severely under-trained going into this, I had dropped from the 30 miler to the 16. But even 16 miles of the mountain was way too much for me that day; I’m not sure I could have even hiked it.

So I stopped and stepped aside, much to the confusion of those running behind me.

“You OK?”
“Twist your ankle?”
“Going the wrong way?”

It was too hard to explain, so I just smiled and waved. I took off my bib, and walked/jogged/limped back to the start. I wished luck to the rest of our crew as they passed, and Heiko gave me a big sympathetic hug. I made it back and let the race director know I was dropping out.

I may have set a course record for futility as the first person to DNF the 16 miler, and the first person to not make it to the first aid station. Here is a quote from the race director’s report:
Unfortunately, the first casualty dropped in those first few miles- a 16 mile competitor realized it wasn’t his day and decided to return to the finish and avoid injuring himself on the trails.
But it actually turned into a good day. At least I got 6 miles in, which capped off my mileage for the week to a robust... 6. I walked back to the rented "Running Down Endurance Flop House" that was just a couple blocks away, showered, ate, and napped.

Debs
I woke up and found Debs downstairs.

Debs ran in college and has posted some fast times. But she normally avoids trails, especially after she wrecked her ankle, leaving it filled with bone chips.

Despite the bad ankle, she managed to finish the 16 miler. Even with several bathroom breaks and walking the most technical sections she still placed 11th overall and 4th female. I was jealous.

Jeff declines to pose for a photo

Jeff
Debs and I had a beer and walked back down to the finish to find Jeff sitting at a picnic table. He had just finished the 30 miler.

Jeff is one of my rivals, and when I had signed up for the race I had secretly hoped to score a win against him. But I probably never had a chance, as he ended up crushing his first ultra, running the tough 30 miles just under 5 hours and taking 8th overall. I was bitter with envy.


Heiko
Shortly after Jeff,  Heiko also finished the 30 miler, no worse for the wear.



Shannon descends into Skulls Gap aid station
at mile 37
Skulls Gap
After Jeff showered we drove up to the Skulls Gap aid station to see the 50 milers come through at mile 37.   I snapped a few photos (see here) as the runners went by. This race has a pretty tough time limit of 12 hours, and runners had to be past this point before 3:45 pm or they would be pulled from the course.
Jay Spadie, senior member of the Shirtless Douchebag Club
Spadie
First we saw Spadie come flying by around 2:30pm, smiling and laughing. Despite having 4 pounds of tape around his toes, he was moving pretty well.

Shannon
I wasn't sure when to expect from Shannon, as she is capable of a having a great race (winning Uwharrie) or a bad one (trying to drop out of Uwharrie). Her plan was try to take it as easy as possible for the first 37 miles, relax, and stop to take photos on the way (see them here). Then if she had anything left, run the final downhill sections hard.

Humidity and steeps climbs are two things she struggles with, so I wasn't optimistic. And if she gave into her competitive streak and tried to keep up with the leaders, it would certainly end badly.

Shannon pausing to snap a pic at mile 5.
-photo by Beth Minnick
We saw Shannon come through Skulls Gap at about 2:45 pm, an hour ahead of the cutoff. She was in good spirits after trying to drop out at mile 22. The volunteer there had told her "You are going to have to wait here a while. Why not run another 10 miles?" Now she was feeling better and ran right through the aid station on a mission.

Kelly Bruno 
Kelly
Waiting for Kelly and Brandy to come through, we started to worry as the clock ticked closer to the cutoff. Finally Kelly popped out of the trail with 7 minutes to spare.

Kelly's prosthetic blade is designed for running on flat roads, not mountain trails, and she was discovering this at her first mountain ultra. The springiness of it made the steep climbs and drops even more difficult. Further complicating things was that sweat collects in it, giving her horrible chafing and blisters. She to had constantly stop and change the sock to keep it dry. Still she was all smiles coming through.


Brandy
Right behind her came Brandy.
This was Brandy's 3rd attempt at a 50 miler. On her second attempt at Cheat Mountain, her feet blistered badly, she missed the cutoff , and had to call it quits at mile 49½.
Here at Skulls Gap, she was getting some bad blisters again. She took some time to lube up her feet, and was out of there at just ahead of the cutoff.

Finish
Jeff and I drove back to the Flop house, had another beer, and then lazily wandered over to the finish to see the 50 milers come in. Amazingly, Shannon beat us to there, finishing in 10:23. She had speed up the last 13 miles, passing about 15 people and ended up 20th overall, 4th female, and only 18 minutes behind the lead woman. Such a feat of endurance I can only dream of.

Shannon is escorted to the finish line by a pack of feral children
and the sound of  "Chariots of Fire" blasting from a car stereo
- photo by Heiko Rath

Shannon collapses at the finish,
still clutching her camera
-photo by Heiko Rath
Fortunately Heiko was there to get some shots of her finishing.

-photo by Heiko Rath

Next in was Spadie, getting out-kicked to the finish by the newest member to the SBD club.


Kelly was the only one of us to participate in the Iron Mountain Man/Woman competition. This requires as many push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups as you can within 5 minutes of finishing the race. Kelly ran 50 miles and then proceeded to do more push-ups and sit-ups in 5 minutes than I can do in an entire day.
My male ego has never taken such a thorough beating. I need to quit hanging out at these races and go find a chess club or a Scrabble tournament.


The minutes ticked away to 7pm and the 12 hour time limit. Later we learned Brandy was desperately trying to figure out which way to go at some of the final turns into town. Finally we saw her crossing the bridge at the far end of the park.

"One minute and thirty seconds!", the race director called out. Jeff ran down to let her know that time was running out. I didn't think she would make it, it seemed so far away.

But somehow she found the strength for an all out sprint to the wild cheers of the crowd, crossing the finish line in 11:59:15. She finally got that 50 miler, on one hell of a tough course. Behind her 22 of the 72 runners missed the cutoff or DNF'd.

Right behind Brandy was an 18 year old girl who incredibly ran the 50 miler in 12:00:56, just missing the final cutoff by 56 seconds.

Residents of the Running Down Endurance Flophouse
Brandy, Jeff, Kelly, Heiko, Shannon, Me, and Debs
(minus Spadie who drove back after the race)
- photo by Heiko Rath
Despite the somewhat humbling DNF, it was a great weekend. Many thanks to the race crew and volunteers. We may be back!



Monday, September 3, 2012

2012 Iron Mountain Trail Run Photos



Shannon and I took some photos at the Iron Mountain Trail Run. Almost all of them are of the 50 milers.

Photos Shannon took while running the 50 miler and at the finish: click here for facebook album

Photos I took at at mile 37 aid station and finish: click here for facebook album

The albums are public so you should be able to see them without a facebook account.

Feel free to use them as you like, though attribution would be nice.

If you really like one, let us know and we will touch it up and send you a high resolution copy.
Email: photos@running-down.com














I will follow up with some race reports and other stuff.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

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