Adam Hewey is a busy person!
Between training and racing – he recently placed 24th (in 31:50) at the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run 2017, co-directing the Needles 50k in Washington (which took place just a week after the Hardrock!), organizing the Cascade Crest 100 in August, writing for cascadiadam.blogspot.it and running a successful food company, Adam kindly managed to make time to talk to us at Italy on Trail, about food, the Trails, and chaos – Italian style…
Adam is a foodie, and not just for professional reasons, he has a deep interest in international cuisine and trends.
“Italy is one of the Mothers of ancient and modern cooking. The different regions of Italy and their specialties based around what is grown in the area is something which inspires the new American focus on “locally” sourced food.” Adam tells us. “As a food guy and a runner, I have been known to meld the two and travel to places to experience both the food and the trails.”
“I’m still haunted by the pasta I had at the Sports Center in Courmayeur during the UTMB 2014!”
Rewind – mid 1990’s
Italy On The Road
The Euro still had to make its appearance and Italian soccer was at it’s best…
Imagine a curious backpacking twenty something, a faded pair of Converse All Stars at his feet, making his way down a dusty street in Florence. A young(er) Adam Hewey, yet to become a runner, was spending three months hostelling round Europe, taking photos, meeting people and enjoying his initial taste of all things Italian.
”My first city was Firenze and it was magical. Romantic, delicious, yet way too fashionable for a vagabond like me to feel comfortable in the clubs and restaurants. But the coffee! The Gelato! The Pizza being sold by the kilo! I loved it all!” Then, traveling down to Rome, Adam embraced the buzz that the Eternal City had to offer, and hit the busy, bold and chaotic streets with a flourish.
With an urge for some tranquility, a weary Adam headed up to Switzerland for a peaceful climb in the Alps. “I was left with the feeling Italy is like a very good espresso: Exciting, classic and fervent. Though too much espresso can leave one jittery and sleepless!” He concludes.
Fast Forward – UTMB® 2014
A Whirlwind Run Through The Alps
Let’s take a leap to 2014 – Adam is now an extremely accomplished Ultra Marathon Trail Runner, check out his race bio at DUV Ultra Marathon Statistics. Having just placed 32 in the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, Adam arrives in Europe once again, this time to participate in the brutal world summit of trail-running: the UTMB® – Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. We asked him how it went.
“My UTMB® experience was unique in that I was trying to do it as the final of 3 Hundred Milers in seven weeks. Hardrock, Western States and UTMB.”
“I’d signed up for the lotteries and got picked in all three! Lucky me? I named the challenge The “Mondo Slam” as a homage to the “Grand Slam” – group of races in the USA. I trained hard and then life got in the way.” Adam declares. “My daughter, my step daughter and my wife all spent time in a hospital bed before the summer was through. I’d run the Western States very hard and may have done some damage to my kidneys. 12 days later I attempted Hardrock and was half way through when my body had enough and I DNFed, thus ending the Mondo Slam.”
“UTMB® – I had a wonderful, horrible race!”
“Five weeks later I was in Chamonix for UTMB®. I knew my competitive flame was still lit but my body and mind were a shambles.
“I felt pretty bad from the start to the end but every time I turned around there was Mont Blanc. I absolutely adored the way the trails, the markers and the atmosphere changed with each border crossed. France was elegant, Italy was relaxed and Switzerland was stiff. I suffered with a smile and ran the slowest 100 miles of my life.”
Nonetheless, Adam took home some treasured memories from his UTMB experience: “The Aosta valley was enchanting. The Rifugios called to me to come back and stay a while. The food was memorable. There was pasta in the Sports Centre in Courmayeur that was the equal to anything I’ve eaten in a restaurant in the US. In the middle of the night somewhere on a mountain, a woman was doling out honey on freshly baked bread. And chocolate, really good chocolate at every aid station.”
So when will Adam come back to Italy? “My time in the Italian part of UTMB® lit a desire in me to run a race entirely in Italy. The North Face® Lavaredo Ultra Trail sounds perfect. The Dolomites are a bucket list mountain range and as a ski racing fan, Cortina is also on my list of places to visit.”
Trail USA – ITALY
Not Just Miles Apart?
Italy – USA, so far apart. Yet both with strong trail running scenes. I asked Adam his perceptions on the Italian scene. “It’s mostly formed by Facebook posts from Italian runners I have met. The trails look like postcards whether on the mountains or seaside. They also look well worn from eons of use. In contrast, here in the Pacific Northwest, we have some trails which you wouldn’t recognize as a trail unless you knew where to go.”
“The forests and weather are always trying to return our trails back to nature. Trail races here need a lot of flagging and course markers. Our mountains are big and wild and not very populated. If you go off trail you will not find a quaint village or friendly shepherd. you will find endless mountains and trees in all direction.”
We get the idea, Big Trails, Big Nature – yet, hardly any mandatory kit required by trail runners! Which in Italy would be unthinkable – you can read our article on ‘standard’ required equipment here. I asked Adam, what his views are on the subject, who, at the time this interview took place, was packing for the Hardrock 100.
“Hardrock is the most exposed, high altitude race in the USA. There is no mandatory gear.” He told us. “The Hardrock board has thought about making a mandatory gear list but haven’t. The qualifying races for Hardrock should prepare runners for the extremes of the HR course.”
Other differences between the American and Italian Trail scene are participant numbers.
“Most trail races in the US are limited in size due to permits from the Forest Service. The goal is to protect the trails from over use and to limit the interruption of other users enjoying nature. It is a balancing act. Many races such as Cascade Crest and Hardrock limit their field to maintain a quality experience for the runners.”
“It seems to me, the European trails and villages are more open to larger fields of runners because it is a bigger sport and falls in line with SkiMo, xcountry ski races and bike racing. Americans see the mountains as more of a place to get away, to camp, fish, take photos and unwind. It is hard to relax when 300 runners come crashing down the trail by your tent!
“Each way has its merits. I enjoy the solitude of the long trail races here and I really had fun with 2,400 starters at UTMB®.”
Food and Trails
Gourmet Aid Stations!
In 2016, Adam, along with friend Rich White, Race Director for the Cascade Crest, started a race company – the Cascade Running Adventure Project, and put on the first edition of The Needles 50k, (10,000 feet // 3,333 meters of elevation gain) – in the Cascade Mountains to the East of Seattle. Due to the remote area, the race has only two aid stations along the course.
In view of Adam’s love of good food, I asked him what his ‘ideal’ fuel choices would be in designing a race logistics for a 50 miler.
“It would depend on the time of year and time of day. Avocado is the first choice for me in any situation. The perfect food for running fuel. Watermelon is also a life saver. Another great combination is Nutella and Jelly sandwiches. Bacon yum…. I would not allow Gummi Bears at any aid station! Coconut Icecream would be the best thing ever if there was only a way to keep it from becoming a puddle before the runners arrived….”
He then adds…
“I’d also love to hire those little old Italian men from the gym in Courmayeur to come make some pasta for me!”
….Adam, we look forward to seeing you again in Italy in 2018… in time for the Lavaredo, and a bowl of pasta!
Maria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.