HIGH UINTAS — Running a standard 26.2-mile marathon on paved roads is certainly a grueling, endurance-testing experience.
But then there's the next step up: mountain ultramarathons at even longer distances, where there may not even be trails at oxygen-starving high elevations — absolute stamina-testing ordeals, with no aid stations or anyone to cheer you on.
Craig A. Lloyd, 37, of Holladay, completed an unusual ultramarathon on July 16, running an estimated 29.2 miles over a 17,200-foot change in elevation while reaching Utah's three tallest summits — Kings, South Kings and Gilbert — all in less than 10 hours from his car and back.
His time of 9:41:46 from the Henry's Fork Parking lot and back shattered the previous unofficial record of 14:40.00, set by Davy Crockett in 2008.
"Awesome. That was one of the coolest things I've ever done," Lloyd said with a huge smile as he finished his adventure, much of it over trail-less ground.
He admits that a lot of the credit for his record-setting run has to go to his strategy — finding the shortest possible route for the run, even though it meant careening down some cliff faces and unstable rockslide areas.
His unorthodox route involved going to Gilbert Peak first, then descending a tricky slope to Gunsight Pass, next climbing up to Kings Peak and South Kings and then dropping down toward Gunsight directly — instead of climbing the Kings Summit a second time, as most people do.
That made his overall mileage significantly less than the route Crockett took.
Lloyd made big headlines in the Deseret News back in 2003 when he and Deseret News photographer Ravell Call hiked to Utah's three highest summits — Kings Peak (13,528 feet), South Kings (13,512) and Gilbert Peak (13,446) — in a single day from a wilderness base camp, the first known time for such a feat.
"Over time, the hike began to make a little buzz in the world of 'peak-bagging,' " Lloyd said. "People were making attempts at it themselves."
In 2008, Lloyd's wife convinced him to take up running, and he became addicted to trail running, as well as becoming aware of how far people were taking their peak bagging efforts — such as Crockett's car-to-car summit record.
Enter July 16, 5:20 a.m. at the Henry's Fork trailhead/campground, when Lloyd was ready to vie for a new record. A longtime friend, Scott Wesemann, 38, from American Fork — who had also attempted the "triple crown" in 2003 — was doing his own run that day, but to Kings Peak only and back as fast as possible.
Lloyd enjoyed perfect weather in the Uintas but suffered some cramping that finally went away and had some scary, unsteady moments coming down steep slopes, some covered in snow.
"Even as careful as one can be, when you are moving over car-sized boulders that are precariously situated on top of each other, it is unnerving when they move, even if just a little," he said.
"Shocked" was how he said most hikers he encountered along his run reacted as they realized the staggering accomplishment he was making.
Keeping his energy up was difficult, and climbing up the Kings Peak ridge from Gunsight Pass was one of the single most difficult things he had ever done.
Water from springs and snowfields refilled his supplies to keep him hydrated.
The various "false summits" encountered around Kings were also frustrating to him, even though he'd visited them before.
He had his lowest energy levels as he climbed his last peak, South Kings.
"It's amazing how accomplishing a goal can give you new life," he said.
But then those last five miles from Elk Horn Crossing through the trees to the parking lot are always the most difficult. Lloyd described then as a "death march" in the past, but thanks to extra salt and fluids, he was able to run most of those final five.
"I stopped a couple of times to answer questions by shocked hikers," he said. "They all reacted the same way and were amazed at what I was doing."
After finishing, he refreshed himself by sitting in the river for 20 minutes.
He hopes his record will stand a while, but "imagination plus nature equals adventure" is his satisfying formula.
(Wesemann finished his Kings Peak run in 10:42.29, despite a bad knee.)
For a complete report on Lloyd's latest triple crown, including a link to a YouTube video on his ultramarathon run, go to refusetoquit.blogspot.com/2010/07/utah-triple-crown-speed-record.html