Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jemez 50k recap.

This past weekend I loaded up and headed out to Los Alamos, NM to run the Jemez 50k. I was actually staying in Santa Fe as my Gpa, aunts/uncles, cuz'ins all live there and so I would be seeing some of them on this trip as well.

I arrived in Los Alamos Friday afternoon to check out the town and see where the race start and parking would be and kill some time before packet pick up and pasta dinner. Long time ago, when I was in 4-5th grade I lived in White Rock, NM. which is just about 10 miles down the road from Los Alamos and my parents both worked "on the Hill" as it was known. I remember Los Alamos for the most part and oddly enough, It has Not Changed! Okay, so they got a Starbucks and some other new store, some more new houses but that's about it. Driving around I was looking for my dad's old work place and the local track where some of the first 5k, 10ks I was exposed to when dad first started running. It was all in good condition and across from the high school with a bit more road construction.

I finally went to packet pick up and it was a quick process and they did a great job organizing and herding us through like cattle. I quickly got my race bag, shirt (which are pretty sweet with the Elevation profiles of the 50miler, 50k and 1/2 marathon on the back) and a great Jemez poster that was a print of an original painting. I also picked up an extra Jemez shirt that was being sold which is pretty cool too.

I was going to leave after this but then I noticed that dinner was already starting so I followed the signs that lead around the back of the church, stopping by the GoreTex truck to chat with the them about some of there products. Once inside the food line, again very well organized tables of the classic pasta feed at all races and I was quickly sitting down at a table with a couple of guys from Dallas. We ate and chatted about our run experiences and then it was time to head back to Santa Fe, about 30 min drive.

I already had all my race gear packed and ready to go and just needed to put my race number on and mark my drop bag so after that it was basically relax and bed time as 4am would come early.

I was at the race site about 5:30am, and we started at 6:30am. As I was parking and getting last minute things put together I saw Sweet Baboo and GeekGirl pull up and they started getting there things ready. It was cold out, 37* and I was concerned about the temperature for the day. Weather reports said it would be a high of low 60's with wind 15-20mph so to me that didn't sound too warm, esp. at 9000+ feet elevation. I was actually pretty undecided what to wear on my upper body and not be cold. After changing twice I finally decided I would wear my North Face jacket and just a shirt. This jacket is the one from Labor of Love 100 so I know its pretty warm and wind resistant. At the start of the race it was fine but about 3 miles in it was too hot and I would eventually take it off and have to carry it the whole damn race!! I made a wrong choice but learned that this jacket is best for temps 40* and lower.

At the start of the race I was hanging with Baboo and GeekGirl and met some locals. I was quick to notice that a lot of the runners here really looked serious and had this hard core game face! I told Baboo, dude, there's some serious people here. He said Yea, that this race brings out some tough competitors. I thought Great! What the Hell am I in for?

As quickly as we were talking the gun went off and we started running down the street in the middle of the road. We had about a mile of road then it dumped us on the trail and there would single track trails and fire roads the whole race. I was with a group of runners for quite some time and I noticed that we were slowly climbing in elevation. At times there would be great hills but overall we were climbing for a while. Once the first aid station came and went things were going really good. I was enjoying the trail, the run and the people. The Sun was shining and I could see we were heading up to the mountain. Soon after the first aid station it was the start of the first climb which involved a lovely switch backs that took about 20 mins to summit. It was tough and the more I looked up the far ahead I could see so I quit looking. Along the switch backs there were about 4 of us runners together and we all quickly introduced our self's.. I basically remembered them as Delaware, Kansas and California and would shout at them later in the race at different times I saw them. Once at the top of the first climb it was a great view of the city of Los Alamos and here we were in the first section of the burnt area, the fire was in 2000 and burned 80 square miles.

After reaching the so called summit of the first climb I took a few pictures and then continued on the side of the ridge still climbing and heading to the famous Caballo summit climb of 10,480 feet. When I reached the aid station at the start of the climb the lead runners for the 50k were already down and coming though this check point, this basically means they were about 5 miles ahead of me. The start is about mile 9 and climbs about 2.25 miles from about 8200 feet to 10,480. Some serious climbing, switch backs and straight up trails! It took me quite some time to get there and I was passed by a few runners. It also got colder and I was super glad to reach the turn around as our picture was taken and down I started. Coming down I thought I was going to be able to make up some lost time but I really didn't realize how steep some it was and simply couldn't run the down without thrashing my quads so it was a steady hike down in some parts and jog in others. I saw GeekGirl heading up and she looked like she was doing good and focused. Baboo had passed me long ago on his way down where I first started up the climb and I estimated he was about 3 miles ahead of me. At one point on the downward section my left calf cramped up and I had to turn around backwards facing up and just stop and work it out. I figured I was behind on salt and my plan was to use my Succeed drinks for salt only but with the temps warming up and working climbing the mountains I figured quickly I was behind so I popped some S-Caps and away I went. Here is where I met a guy named Peter Shoemaker. We would run together for most of the remainder of the race and swap stories and thoughts about the event as we ran. Once at the bottom of Caballo we both checked in, got some food, water and off we went to the next aid station which they said was only 3.7 miles, if I recall.

What they failed to tell us was that it was 3.7 miles of what Peter and I later called Baby Caballo. This damn section had some more switch backs and long grades to climb and just seem relentless! Every turn where you thought you were going to get a break was another section of steep funness! It was a long hike followed by about 10 steps of running. Finally we made it to the next aid station at what is called Pipeline. Here we would run out to Ski Lodge and return to Pipeline and take a different road back, almost like a Y figure. I grabbed some more food at Pipeline, refilled my two hand held water bottles and off I went. Running into Pipeline the last mile or so was nice. We had finally reached the top of baby Caballo and then it was a nice easy run on a wider road/trail so not only was it a chance to make up some time but get back to running. After Pipeline it was again run time but now more on a single track and through a wonderful section of grassy area and a tree lined section all the way to the Ski Lodge.

As I was running there I had left Peter behind at the aid station and I noticed runners retuning but I noticed they all seemed to be walking and I thought Why? I took note of the trail grade and realized it was a nice gradual downhill and I was running pretty good which meant I would too be walking back as they were. With that I picked up the pace to make up some more time I would lose getting back to Pipeline. I checked in at the Ski Lodge, grabbed my drop bag from the volunteers and resupplied my nutrition of gels and bars, although some of the bars had melted with the bag in the Sun so I just left them. I grabbed some more Salt tabs as I had not brought that many and wanted to make sure I didn't run out. Coke, some chips, and snickers, then the bathroom and it was time to head out. Once leaving I saw Peter standing around as he had checked in while I was eating and heading to the bathroom. I yelled at him as I walked by.. "Let's go dude, this ain't no rest home, We got work to do!" haha.. We both took off and started making our way back to Pipeline. Once back I had told Peter about the Popsicles that Baboo had mentioned before the race so when we got back to the aid station I yelled out, Hey is there Popsicles here? They all quickly pointed out a freezer off to the side and sure enough, a huge assortment of them! Peter and I quickly dove in and I grabbed two sets, root beer and banana. I had my water bottles refilled and said Let's Go!! Peter was like, dude, we just got here! haha, I said I know we gotta go! Come on, we can eat on the walk. Just then two gals started leaving with us at the same time, they were ahead of us since the start and we had now caught them. There was a nice climb leaving Pipeline and the volunteers told us that we had another 3-ish miles to the next aid, we were now about mile 21.

As we made our up the next couple of short hill climbs our nice grassy tree lined trail soon turned to burnt area and then dove back into a single track tail heading down. This was a nice part and I picked up the pace, passed Peter and the two girls and away I went looking to get to that next aid station knowing that once there, it was completely downhill for 5 miles back to the finish! I would have this wrapped up in a short time, Yeah Right!

I noticed that the two girls stayed with me on the single track downhill and were actually right on my heels for a while but then somewhere they dropped off and I just kept on. I finally reached the aid station where we had come through one the first set of switch backs, refilled my water and off I went, as they said the next aid station was 5 miles. As I left I was a little nervous as 5 miles seemed a long ways and it was 2-3pm in the afternoon and the heat was cranking and now I was completely in the burnt section

and would be till the last 2 miles. There was absolutely no shade or cover and the ground was now rocky, technical and soft dirt which kicked up a lot of dust. I would eventually get passed by a few 50 milers that were cranking along and it was good to see other people because I had seen no one for a while so when I got caught by them I ran with them for a short time and then it was nice to follow them down the winding snake like trail. Here is where I realized that I took that previous downhill single track way too hard and started to pay the price. The heat was getting to me and I was being conscious not to drink all my water and run out. I finally caught two previous 50'kers and passed them and realized I was about a mile from the last aid station! I also noticed another 50k'er hot on my heels and so I picked it up as to not get passed before the last aid station. Finally running into the last aid station I realized I was in survival mode and needed to cool off, get some coke, soup and just take it easy for a second. I did all this but was in the ahh shit mode when the gal behind me just blew through the aid station, dang, I just got chicked! hahaha.. I had not seen her all day so I knew she had been in the back of the pack and picked me off, no wonder she was pushing me at the end. Really wouldn't have matter even if I had blown through the last aid station because she was looking strong and there was a nice little climb leaving this last aid and I know she would have passed me before the end.

Once I left this aid station, there was only 1.9 miles left and the trail was actually really nice, in and around the local neighborhood now. It was like on a small ridge line and roller coaster little hills but even though it was simply enough, I was Toast! I really had nothing left in my legs and with less than 1.5 miles to the finish my only concern was not to get passed by any more 50k's. I would run and walk and mostly walk. A couple more 50 mile runners passed me and then it was the last 1/2 mile when I see Baboo coming back down the trail the opposite direction heading back out to find GeekGirl. We chatted quickly and I said Thank God I listened to you and didn't sign up for the 50 miler!! He laughed. I really wouldn't have made the cut off for the 50 miler based on my pace anyway. I finally made it up that last 400 ft climb to the finish and some people were cheering and said run it in, be strong! So I took off and ran the last couple hundred yards. Done!!!

10 hours 33 mins! the longest time for any 50k I have ever done and hands down the HARDEST 50k and hill climbs I have ever experienced!

I quickly grabbed some food and sprite and sat down. I ate and took it easy for a while before heading back to my car to change clothes and wait for Baboo and GeekGirl to finish. I was really tired, exhausted! and did I say Tired! I really thought I was going to fall asleep, I didn't but I was close.

The finishers medal is actually an Indian little pot which is really cool. It has taken me 5 days to get rid of the deep quad, hip and lower leg soreness. This run was tough, no question about it but also since it was my first Big trail run since LOL100, I could tell I was really not prepared for some of the trails and technical work I had to run. I am glad I did it and now its time to get back to trails and build some leg strength.

Next up is Badwater.. that's a whole other blog post.


1 comment:

Peter said...

Nice job, John. It was good to spend some miles on the trail with you. See you at Badwater (we've got an 0800 push-off).