Sunday, May 30, 2010

2010 Jemez Mountain 50 Miler (a.k.a. 'Satan's Desert Suffer-fest')

To begin the recap, and get my opinion of last Saturday's race in Los Alamos, NM, just read the first couple paragraphs of Kim Bogins race recap.

Allow me to elaborate...
'Survival-Mode' is the best way I can describe the state I was in for the first 8+ hours of the race. Going into Jemez I realized (on paper) that it was supposed to be the 2nd hardest 50 miler in the U.S., but that didn't  fully register in my brain until I'd been running for over 4 hours yet had only covered about 17 miles. In that time I had already climbed above 10,000ft twice and gained/lossed over 5000ft elevation in each direction. I had also stopped on two separate occasions to feel sorry for myself and whimper because of the level of mental anguish and physical pain I'd already endured (right there was close to 20 minutes down the drain). Also in this time period I had the privilege of 3 emergency pit stops and bad calf cramps. When I wasn't sitting on my butt, or running off into the bushes, I was mostly hiking both the uphills and downhills. Despite not even being halfway through, I had already mentally lost the battle and was considering dropping out at the Pipeline aid station (mile 17).

It was at this point, however, that I finally received my first spark of life and determination. This came when I realized two solid runners I know, who had been quite a ways ahead of me early, had decided to throw in the towel on their race day. One was Nick Lewis, last year's 2nd place finisher at the Leadville 100, and the other was Harry Harcrow, a very experienced local ultra-runner who has had his fair share of top-3 finishes over the last several years. Even though I knew my chances of hitting my goal time of around 10 hours were gone, I realized that eveyrbody out there was hurting too, and decided to make it my new goal to make up as many places in the second half of the race as possible. Position at this point: Approximately 40th place.

Immediately after the aid station we were treated to the opportunity to either tumble off the edge of a mountain or slide your carcass down the loose scree:

I opted for the 'lose your footing and slide on your backside' option, and have the scabs to show for it!

By the time a runner reaches the bottom of this descent, he realizes he's committed to at least making it 4 more miles to the next aid station, 'cuz there's no way you're getting back up the hill! The next stretch of the race was the first section of easily runnable jeep road and this afforded me the opportunity to begin getting my running legs back, and start making up ground on the rest of the field ahead of me. Between miles 17 and 21 I made up approximately 5 positions. The next climb we encountered had no defined trail and was a series of bushwhacking and tallus field scrambling. Here's an example of the terrain going up (you just played the 'look for the orange ribbons' game):

Shortly after this slow ascent we were treated to a nice long descent to the mile 28 aid station. This section of the course is the longest without aid (7.8 miles) and happens as the day's beginning to really heat up. This is when runners started to fall off the pace and I again was able to make up about 5 positions (while losing 1 to a stronger downhill runner). Rolling climbs and descents made up most of the next 4 miles, despite a net gain of over 1000ft. It was at the mile 32 aid station that things got fun (sarcasm)!!!

The mile 32 aid station is the bottom of a ski lift, so take a wild guess where we had to go next? You guessed it, despite me wishing it was the bar at the ski lodge, it was in fact, straight up 1400+ feet of blue/black ski slopes and woods in just over a mile! As much this gruelling climb killed my leg muscles, it was nothing compared to the descent that followed shortly thereafter. After just 5-10 minutes of rolling terrain on the summit of the ski area, we were taken to the sign for a DOUBLE BLACK DIAMOND right off the side of the mountain! The orange flags were unfortunately going straight down this run! I honestly thought getting down this extreme of a slope with the wet grass from all the snowmelt was HARDER than ascending it in the first place. If a runner was to trip, or lose their balance and go forward, it would be inevitable that they wouldn't stop for the next 1100ft. Finally, the lodge aid station at mile 36 appeared... here I could pick up my pacer (Andy Henshaw), and tackle the home stretch. All the significant climbs were now behind me and it was all about making up positions at this point!

These were hard miles because of the fatigue that was setting in, combined with the 83 degree heat, but Andy did a killer job of pacing me, tolerating my irritability, and at times saying something so absurd that I had to laugh despite being gassed. (Example: "Not to sound gay or anything, but has anybody ever told you that you have amazing calves?") Awesome. Thanks, dude!

This was an uneventful section of the race except for the amount of 50 mile and 50k runners I was passing at last. I can safely say I passed at least ten 50 milers in this 14 mile stretch, and even though my original goal had been 10 hours, my redefined goal (based on my horrible first 17 miles) of sub-11 was achieved!
Final time: 10:56.xx. 15th overall.

So while this wasn't my best race, it was excellent training in that it simulated the mental and physical exhaustion that I'll inevitably contend with at Hardrock on an even greater degree. Pushing through the defeatist thoughts and legs that were exhausted from a marathon just days before is exactly what I needed to start toughening up for the challenges that lay ahead!

1 comment:

Harsha said...

You are on fire. Great at all the races this year. Keep up the momentum.