Monday, June 9, 2014

Scout Mountain and Squaw

This past weekend Bethany and I raced the Squaw Peak 50mile and the Scout Mountain 100k (formerly Pocatello 50), respectively. While this combination involved impracticality, higher financial burden, and larger CO2 emissions, it did presumably reduce the possibility on my end of getting (unfortunately resorting here to that chauvinistic and distasteful term) 'chicked'.  So, probably worth it on the whole.

As I've pointed out elsewhere, there are limited occasions when it is acceptable on one's own personal running/adventure blog to mention the accomplishments of others, even if those accomplishments far outshine your own: namely when you can bask in the reflected glory and thereby gain status, meaning, and existential authenticity by affiliation.  

As such, Bethany ran through bronchitis to a solid win in the Squaw Peak 50mile in about 9:20.  She didn't have too much to say about it other than it was hot and that she coughed a lot.  Amazingly, she did not even consume any CPT during this effort.

It should also be mentioned in this section that Brent Kious notched a solid run in Pocatello in the 60k despite the rigors and limitations imposed by a medical residency.  He also refused to eat any CPT which in and of itself is mindblowing.

Getting back to myself, I returned to Pocatello this year for another stellar event put on by Luke Nelson and his group of diligent, savvy, and friendly volunteers.  I've now been at this run at least in some capacity- running, volunteering, or supporting- each year since its inception now.  The event now offers 3 different distances: 100k, 60k, and 35k, all on the same terrain through the beautiful Bannock and Pocatello mountain ranges and overlapping in time.  As a result runners from all distances are crossing paths out on the course which lends a nice comraderie to the run.  This fortunately resulted in some running in the latter half with the gracious and talented Emily Sullivan who was crushing the 60k course.

I managed to run 10:28 in the 62.7 mile distance for 2nd overall, in the process getting handily beaten by an 18 year old.   Happily, getting beaten by someone half your age is increasingly acceptable for me with each passing year now. Recent sickness and only a couple of efforts longer than 2 hours had me a bit nervous for this one but I managed to stay fairly consistent and move up in the field through the race.  In my mind, the absence of longstanding achilles pain is more than enough to make up for a lack of fitness and training (knock on wood). Nonetheless, my current state of decrepitude has me wondering why, exactly, this race (in its various forms) is so difficult.  I believe there are (at least) two primary factors at play here:

(1) Despite the relatively forbidding elevation change numbers, the Scout Mountain 100k / former Pocatello 50 is eminently run-able.   There are a couple stretches where you are power hiking some steep ups but otherwise the ascents are perhaps best characterized by the (similarly unfortunate) descriptor 'douche-grade'.  It's hard to use that term without the derogatory connotations and, to be clear, the course itself is beautiful and decidedly non-douchy.  You are just quite often on long graded uphills that continually nag at you to trot rather than hike which has biomechanical, metabolic, and psychological implications for a race of this length- particularly if you spend a majority of your training time hunched hands-on-knees grunting up steep stuff.

(2) It can be hot and at this point in the season the majority of folks are not heat acclimated.  Having had legitimate heat stroke twice in my life this is a tough one for me, and a factor I took seriously this year in my strategies to thermoregulate.    

The increased motor recruitment and aerobic cost of (1)  both necessitates a certain level of metabolic expenditure as well as facilitates escalation of that expenditure while (2) ensures a milieu where that escalation has increasingly significant ramifications in terms of performance.

It's a fine line.  And I'm happy this year to have avoided skewing off of it too significantly.  Thanks to Luke and his merry band of helpers for another great weekend in Pocatello.

Dr. Kious and myself, pre race.  Brent ran the 60k.

Ada, gamely camping with aunt Zoe and uncle Billy while her crazy parents destroyed themselves.

Cool hats this year.

Bike riding day after the race.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Some Bodies in Motion

I've been meaning to make a compilation LEWIS! video of some 'running' footage of the past year for some time now.  The combination of warming temps, clearing trails, and happily compliant connective tissue have left me inspired and excited and I finally put it together today, accompanied by a new tune I wrote for banjo and piano.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Death Valley

Falls Canyon

We had a nice family camping trip to Death Valley National Park over the last several days.  Camping at Wildrose Campground allowed quick access to both Telescope Peak and Wildrose Peak, both of which offer stunning views of the immense and imposing desolation.  My camera died but I was able to snap a few shots early in the trip.  Jason Thompson drove out from San Francisco to meet up for some iconic trail running.


Falls Canyon





Jason Thompson on Wildrose Peak

Wildrose Peak

Towards Telescope Peak.

Long day.

Monday, January 27, 2014


As the Salt Lake Valley fills with increasingly toxic levels of PM2.5 consider the following:

Some numbers for you:

Over the last 7 days we have produced approx. 140kWh of energy from our solar array, or about 20 kilowatt hours per day.  This is using #17 230watt panels on the southern aspect of our roof.  These have been sunny days for sure, but it is also January.  In an average day we use between 5-10kWh of electrical energy for our household needs.  We just added an all-electric vehicle (2013 Nissan Leaf) which will require on average 6-10kWh per day for our transportation needs.  This is between $0.60 and $1.00 per day (at 10cents per kWh) to charge the vehicle (converting this to miles per gallon equivalents yields approx. 115mpg, or 129mpg with city driving).  A Nissan Leaf gets approx. 3 miles per kWh (with 0 emissions).

This week I accumulated 7000meters of vertical climbing via running and skiing.  Taking my approximately 70kg body (optimistic) to this height would yield 1.33kWh of potential energy.

Over the course of this approximately 15 hour training load I burned a rough 9,000kcal, or 37,656,000J (or 90 packets of Gu for you crazy ultra runners) which is equivalent to 10.5kWh of energy.  Translating this to flat running energy expenditure would yield somewhere in the vicinity of 90 miles, or 8.6 miles per kWh.

Some simple math shows that if you could harness the energy efficiency of my Nissan Leaf in my 70kg body (instead of the 1600kg vehicle) I would be able to travel 68.6miles per kWh, or 720 miles with the same 90 Gu equivalents of caloric burn.  Shit, even the paleo diet won't make you that efficient (sorry Matt Hart).

Some other, perhaps more relevant numbers for you:

Net cost of all materials and installation after accounting for the Rocky Mountain Power Solar Incentive Program Rebate +  State Rebate + Federal Rebate  = Approx. $0.00.

Savings per month on electric bill = Approx. $30.00

Savings per month on gasoline = Approx. $250.00

Cost to lease a 2013 Nissan Leaf = Approx. $250/month.

PV racking

Crucial help from Jared and Billy.  Jared was the inspiration for the project and an enormous help in getting this off the ground.

#17 Canadian Solar panels with Enphase M190 microinverters.

Photovoltaic family.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Uinta Highline Trail Video

Here is a short video I made of the recent magnificent Highline Trail run I did with Erik Storheim, Peter Lindgren, and Jason Berry, put to some tunes I wrote.  We covered the 87 miles (a few bonus miles thrown in for good measure) in 27:52.  Pockets of Level III Fun were involved.*  Big thanks to Erik's father and brother for the drop-off and pick-up.


* Per Outdoor Fun Rating Scale as described by Peter Lindgren et al, 2013.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Microstates: a race report, of sorts, of the 2013 Ronda dels Cims

It is 11am on Saturday, about 28 hours deep into the run, maybe around mile 90 (distance and time are smeared at this point), and I’m descending a steep and muddy drop to the river just north of the town of Soldieu with Jared and Ty.  The day is warm.  We’ve now run together as a trio for 12 hours and I’ve been running with Jared since the start- although at this point my contribution to the strength of our team feels minimal.  In fact, I feel embarrassed at my lack of current ability.  And then embarrassed again at this self-consciousness.  Due to the sustained trauma in my quadriceps my downhill running is uncoordinated and wincing- increasingly reliant on the bracing support of poles which I plant outstretched in front of me in an octogenarian shuffle.  Whenever I close my eyes I am bombarded with garish, blasting colors.  ‘The wheels on the bus go round and round.’  One of Ada’s favorite songs, the refrain has played continuously in my brain for hours now.  Two confident pole placements and almost immediately my feet slide out from under me and I’m on my back, both carbon fiber poles shattering simultaneously in a succinct and strangely satisfying ping.  I elbow my way up and immediately fall again.  And then, improbably, in perfectly scripted physical comedy, again.  I hear people on the road above call out in Catalan, concerned- or amused, I'm not sure which.  I have no emotion.  I’m not even startled.  There is only the acceptance that this - like every other step in the preceding difficult 12 hours, and every step still to come before I will somehow finish this strange, disorienting journey- happens: happens in a way that is fundamentally no different from any other moment; a wave of temporal infinitesimals rising up and then instantaneously vanishing.  I sit in the river but am still coated with mud.  This does not help my chaffage.

4:30pm Saturday, 33 hours and 33 minutes after starting, Jared, Ty, and myself cross the finish line in the narrow, Romanesque streets of Ordino brimming with spectators, all three of us hand in hand, the crowds screaming.  We place 7th, 8th, and 9th.  But beyond the immediate (and long desired) relief to stop moving, a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction eludes- or rather, seems somehow beside the point.  I have survived perhaps the most intense intersection of physical, mental, and emotional challenges I’ve faced but doing so has seemingly extracted something vital, leaving me shelled, vulnerable, exposed.  I curl up on the pavement in a patch of shade.  I realize for neither the first nor the last time that this undertaking is not a race, not an athletic contest, but an existential tool.

It is Tuesday, 6/25, several days after the race, and I’m trying to write about the experience.  It is difficult to think about.  I’m falling short.  There seems to be a certain dishonesty at play, an evasion- or at least a re-writing.  When within days (or weeks) after a long and difficult endurance pursuit the memory traces of suffering lose the associated darkness that at one point felt inescapable and omnipresent, what is it that we allow ourselves to forget and why? What is it in this process of subsequent revision that ropes us in to the strange repetition-compulsion of doing the same thing again?  

It is 4:30am, about 70 miles into the race and Jared and I leave the small, warm shelter of Refugi de Illa (with its ample if inedible surplus of chorizo, cheeses, and tuna salad) back into the sub-freezing alpine granite expanse that extends over the southern portion of the country.  Ty leaves shortly after and catches up to us.  I'm grateful to have these generous and solid friends with me.  The moon is so bright it almost hurts on direct gaze and I look away at the scattered illuminated mountain lakes and towering surrounding peaks- Roca Sibaneja, Alt de Gargantillar, Tosseta de Vallcivera.  The names are as foreign and inscrutable as the rapid Catalan that meets us at each aid station- the only identifiable linguistic fragment being the refrain of 'Animo!' that greets us every several hours.  Small logs are placed over torrential streams and they are frosted and frictionless in the cold.  Virtus unita fortier: "a united action is much stronger" - it's Andorra's official motto.  We enact it silently, unknowingly, automatically, making slow but steady progress.

It is 6am and I drag my body into el Pas de la Casa at 128km into the race.  I’ve fallen hard twice on the long, technical descent and I’m burning straight ketones having not eaten any significant calories since 9:30pm the previous night.  I can’t recall ever feeling this poorly.  My dad is there, hands outstretched with a bundle of gels, none of which I can eat (out of the 90 total I presumed to consume during the event).  He has a look of pity and concern on his face.  I remember seeing him as I would circle the oval in so many of my highschool track races.  Thirty-five years old and a father myself I'm nonetheless conscious now as I was then of wanting his approval.   

It is 7am on Friday and we are lined up in Ordino to start the race.  Next to me are Ty and Jared, Roch just behind us.  I watch, perplexed, as Dave James lines up shirtless and with only a handheld water bottle- this despite the extensive mandatory gear list (tights, long shirt, gloves, hat, waterproof pants, jacket, safety blanket, ace-wrap, headlamp, extra batteries, water, food).  Within 50 feet Ty drops a flask of fuel and it skitters across the crowded road.  From the get go Jared and I run together at a very controlled pace, Ty just a little behind.  Somewhere in the first 15 miles or so Jared suggests we run the whole course together.  It sounds like a fun idea to me but I am aware that I stand to benefit more from this arrangement than he does and am concerned about limiting him- a worry he shrugs off easier than I do. 

It is 1:30pm, 6.5 hours into the race, and Jared and I have run every step together to this point.   We do a brief out and back within a majestic, snow-filled amphitheatre rimmed with steep coloirs and graceful ridges- Refugi del Pla de l’Estany.  We glissade the gentle slopes.  I suddenly get goosebumps and am overcome.  The joy is deep in my belly- hard, fierce, exquisite.  I squint tears out of my eyes.

This year’s version of the Ronda dels Cims was a 177km (110mile) mountain route encircling the Pyrrenean country of Andorra- the 6th smallest nation state in the world- with cumulative vertical gain (and vertical loss) of over 40,000 feet.  Because of historically unprecedented amounts of snow in the high country the original course was slightly rerouted, avoiding dangerous terrain on the northwestern aspect of the country that traverses the 2938m Pic de Comapedrosa.  To compensate for this adjustment, the race directors added mileage, the majority of which was over wet, excessively muddy, rooted, technical terrain that climbed and descended relentlessly.

The country of Andorra, a roughly triangular core of land nestled in the heart of the Pyrennees, covers only 468 square kilometers on the border between France and Spain.  From the high points on the course one can easily look across the whole country into its bigger neighboring sisters.  (However, if one were to pick European microstates to encircle on foot I would suggest the even smaller nation states of Monaco, of Liechtenstein, or even the improbably diminutive Vatican City, the circumnavigation of the latter taking only a few relatively painless minutes.) 

Co-ruled by the Bishop of Seu d’Urgell and the President of France, Andorra surrounds one long main valley- the Valira- at the foot of which is the densely bustling capital: the duty-free shopping mecca of Andorra La Vella.  However, quickly disseminating from this modern and over-developed mercantile center are a huge number of lush side valleys with pristine mountain landscapes punctuated with stone Romanesque architecture and ‘refugis.’  Narrow ridges link up the surrounding rocky peaks which rise up from deeply trenched, serpentine valleys.  The terrain surveyed by the course (all of which horrifyingly difficult) was enormously varied, from the shale/slate scree surfing of Alt de la Capa on the northwestern aspects to the predominantly granite peaks and boulder fields of the southern aspect of the country (the latter of which we traversed by night under a luminous and cold full moon).

The density of precipitous peaks in the region has shielded Andorra from the ravages of world wars.  As Thomas Eccardt points out in Secrets of the Seven Smallest States of Europe: “microstates don’t make history, they are affected by history.” But the cumulative effect of traversing this neutral sanctuary on foot has left its mark on my body and mind.  The climbs and descents are breathtakingly steep, technical, and relentless.  For denizens of the Wasatch, think the west face of Grandeur with no trail and much more loose rock.  Fixed ropes were commonplace on the higher passes to help negotiate steep scree or snow fields.

The earliest historical document of Andorra, the Carta de la Fundacio d’Andorra, establishes the independence of the (co)principality and was allegedly written by Charlemagne to his son, Louis the Pious, in AD805 as a reward for the courageous help the local inhabitants gave to his armies in the wars against the Saracens.  In fact, it was actually written many years later by Andorrans to justify their independence and fend off claimants to their territory.  The deception as both self-justification and self-realization: a careful revision, maybe a necessary one, folded into the national narrative so as to be eventually indistinguishable from truth, the difference forgotten. 

To truly forget is to forget that you forgot, to forget the act of forgeting itself.  I can’t tell if my writing is an attempt to remember or an attempt to erase.  Maybe both.


Church in Ordino.

Roch and Catherine at the finish line.

The crew at the start, photo courtesy of Ian Corless.

Jared and I headed up Alt de la Capa in the fog, photo courtesy of Ian Corless.

Around el Pas de la Casa (?) 128km. Photo courtesy of Mindy Campbell.

Finishing, hand in hand. Photo courtesy of Mindy Campbell.

Post race, still alive. Photo courtesy of Mindy Campbell.

Visual metaphor of the state of my mind and body after this adventure.

Post race.

Thanks to the tireless and generous support crew!


Took a little too much Ronda...


Wednesday, June 19, 2013


After a brief stint in Barcelona I've been here in Andorra for the last several days with a great crew of folks- Jared, Mindy, Teresa, Steve, Roch, Catherine, and my dad Craig.  We're all getting pretty excited for the 106 mi Ronda dels Cims that starts Friday AM.   The 44k ft of climbing and 44k ft of descending in addition to an unprecedented amount of snow this year will ensure a good long struggle on surely the toughest run I've ever attempted.  With fairly limited internet access I'll limit my post to the following images for now.

Course reconnaissance. Inexplicably right on the GPS track.

 "What the f*%@ was that?" - Roch Horton.  Barkley style.

The Grandalla: the national flower.

Roch and Jared.

Big climb up the other side to Alt de la Capa.

Refugi les Fonts.  Storm rolling in.

The crew.

Craig Lewis, above Soldeu.

Getting excited.

Snowfield at about 147k into the race.