Interview: Andy Anderson on Breaking the Longs Peak Speed Record
|Andy in the Keyhole on Longs|
* * *At some level, it is possible to claim that every race is equally difficult. After all, every race is run to exhaustion. However, imagine that the effort you were about to undertake was an all-out run up and down the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. Not only that, the race would involve scrambling up 5.4 grade climbing with thousands of feet of direct exposure. Finally, the race would take approximately the same amount of time as a world-class marathon. Such an attempt might make you think that indeed some races are harder than others.
At any rate, this was precisely the situation that Andy Anderson faced as he attempted to match Chris Reveley's 1979 Longs Peak round-trip speed record on August 23rd. Here's a thread from Fastest Known Time that gives the statistics on Andy's record (2:02:54 - 1:18:32 up, 44:22 down) and also tells a little about Chris' Reveley's record and Mike Sullivan's ascent record (which Andy missed by one second!)
Before we get to the interview, you should know that Andy Anderson was my first running partner, and he's such a close friend that I count him practically as a brother. Though our friendship goes far beyond running, it always comes back to it. We ran and raced together in high school in Chattanooga, then ended up on the team together at Williams College as well. We've run in many places: off an interstate on a moonlit night in the middle of Wyoming, on the Hood to Coast relay (Andy took the infamous first leg), up Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts, across both rims of the Grand Canyon, and through the deserts of Southern Utah. I did the hardest workout of my life with him: 10 times up a hill on the trails behind my house in Signal Mountain, Tennessee.
Obviously, this effort was more challenging than those 10 hills. (That Andy claims that they were harder than this speed record tells you a little about Andy.) He has been kind enough to answer a few questions about the race, how to train for something like this, and his general approach towards running in the outdoors. Enjoy!
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LLD: I believe I was with you the first time either of us had seen Longs Peak. We were 14 years old, a couple of Tennessee boys our first time out West with our cross-country coach Larry Hale. Why did you choose Long's Peak for this attempt?
|Just before the Epic Snow Battle|
LLD: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the speed record on Longs?
AA: Chris Reveley set the previous record of 2:04:30 in 1979. Before him Roger Briggs held the record of 2:09. Each of these gentlemen have a long and storied history with Longs Peak as technical climbers and runners. Chris worked as a climbing ranger on Longs for 4 years before he set the record. The same year he set the speed record he also won the Pikes Peak Marathon. Roger has probably been up Longs by more different routes than any other person, and he pioneered many of the routes on the Diamond. He coached a cross country team in Boulder for many years. Both of these guys still climb and run on Longs.
LLD: I imagine there are many ways to get to the top of the peak. How did you plan your route? Obviously the peak is the turn-around, but where do you start? How many miles is the route? What's the vertical gain?
|The North Face of Longs Peak|
LLD: Did you worry about falling off the mountain?
AA: Someone once told me you can't fall off a mountain.
LLD: For a successful ultrarunner, I know you don't run a ton of miles. What's your training like? Do you have a training philosophy?
AA: Its all about reindeer milk :)
|Andy running in the Tetons|
I could say something deep and philosophical about how running rejuvenates my soul, provides me solace in times of need, or how it grants me spiritual enlightenment and allows me to see beauty in the world, but really I run because it is just plain fun. My training philosophy revolves around two central premises:
Train enough to be faster than Jeff.
Train enough to be faster than my little brother John. [Andy's brother John is an established ultra runner on the scene, you can read about him here at the Rock/Creek Race Team website.]
LLD: Did you carry anything or just go? Were you supported in any way?
AA: I carried a handheld waterbottle with a caffeinated Clif Shot dissolved in the water. I did not have any outside support. I did have a deadline to be back at home before 9am so that I could watch my son Huck and my wife Rebecca could get to work.
LLD: Do you think you could beat me in a 50k? 5k? Marathon?
AA: HA! See my training philosophy.
LLD: You've got a pretty nice resume on the trails (Winner of Rucky Chucky 50k, Woodside 50k, Pacifica 50k (CR), Muir Woods Marathon (CR), Timberline Marathon (CR), 13th at Way Too Cool 50k, 6th and 3rd in Stumpjump 50k, 8th and 5th at Zane Grey 50 miler). How did this compare with other really hard efforts you’ve had?
|Andy and brother John in the Zane Grey 50m.|
LLD: How long before someone else comes along and breaks your record?
LLD: What's next for you?
I get to be a stay at home Dad till I start work for the avalanche center in November. Hopefully I will get to run a lot this fall and get some speed back. I am planning on running the Stumpjump 50k on October 1st and the California International Marathon this December.