Race Report for Jemez Mountain 50K & the Beginning of our Grand Adventure
Lead up to Jemez-
For the three weeks following the Leona Divide 50M, I ran a lot of easy runs, and no real long runs. I really needed a good recovery from the training leading up to Leona Divide and the race itself. The one area I did focus a bit on was running faster on down hills. The last week and a half I started to feel stronger and more comfortable than I have in a long while going up and down the trails. My splits for a number of my common easy run routes were faster than ever and I felt particularly strong on the down hill ascents.
The last week and a half before Jemez was particularly stressful and busy. Separating from the Air Force requires a lot of appointments and work, especially if you are an hour from the nearest AF base. Secondly, I had to prepare a final for my classes and then do final grades and attend the graduation and commissioning of this year’s senior AFROTC cadets. Lastly, Maggie and I were scrambling to pack up all of our belongings for storage, pack all we needed for the next year into the truck and camper.
We departed Boulder on Thursday afternoon and began our year plus adventure abroad, it felt wonderful.
Our first stop out of Boulder was Buena Vista to see our friends Len and Amy. We met up with Len and Amy at DeerhammerDistillery. Their distillery as a fantastic place, fun, comfortable, while still capturing the fact that you are at a distillery. We enjoyed a few delicious beverages made with their own Whitewater Whiskey and then headed to their beautiful house just a few miles away. Thank you Amy and Len for an awesome time and having us over.
Friday we made our way to Los Alamos New Mexico. Los Alamos is surprisingly forested and beautiful. Thanks to Bill, the Jemez RD, we were graciously provided accommodations just a few miles from the start at Henry and Suzzy’s house. They had a wonderfully beautiful house in the forest. We were taking care of like royalty, to include attending a pre-race party/get together just down the street where we met all sorts of great people and enjoyed a great dinner.
Quite a start to our trip… now I just needed to race well.
Everything went smooth before the race, I slept relatively well for a pre-race night, felt good and was ready to roll. I think the temps were in the low 50s at the start, which was fortunately early at 6AM. I opted to race shirtless with my visor, hand water bottle with Vitargo along with some flasks of Vitargo concentrate and of course Hokas (Bondi) and Injinji Socks. At the start line I was surprised Michael Dominquez from Boulder wasn’t on the line. Mike was going to be my only real competition. Honestly, I was happy to be able to run my own race today. All my races this year have been unbelievably stacked and I quite enjoyed a race where I could just focus on my game and the watch.
Right off the bat, I was moving at a quick pace maybe in the low 7s or high 6s. This race has great trails that wind through Ponderosa, Aspen and Scrub Oak forest. The trail stays “interesting” with a lot of funky soft volcanic rock, dusty sand, soot and dirt. A few miles into the run I was at least a few minutes ahead of anyone and running solo.
The trail wound around the foot hills of Los Alamos making its way gradually up to the base of the local ski area where things get very steep. The trail leading up to the base of the ski area was scant at best and was a bit challenging to follow, but the constant flags along the course kept things relatively sane. Once on the actually ski area, I tackled the steepest climb I’ve ever raced. The footing on this super steep ski hill was pretty rough. The “trail” was grown over with weeds, there were all sorts of lose rocks and wood as well from last year’s fire. Up one false summit followed by a descent straight down the ski run that was truly just weeds and not a trail. Back at it again to the true 10,400 summit of the ski area, the trail was mostly a real trail this time. I was passing a lot of 50 mile guys and galls on the way up this section, but this was the one section of the race where I know I could have done a bit better. From the top of the ski area I could see down to the beautiful Caldera meadow… I hope to come back one year and run through this amazing treeless meadow formed from where the volcano collapsed.
I was grossly under prepared with the course, where aid stations were and what mileage I would have left at the aid stations. Things leading up to the race were just too hectic.
At the pipeline aid station I knew from the pre-race brief I had to go a different direction than the 50M runners, so I made sure I went the correct way to a short out and back before making my way back via a number of ridgelines to the finish. At Pipeline I began to regret not know the mileage and the aid station volunteers didn’t know either. I was feeling great pretty much all day up to this mid point in the race and things continued to go well as I began the mostly down hill descent. It was nice to be able to really change gears and have fun during the second half of a race, albeit a 50K race. The heat wasn’t much of an issue for me, event though it was in the 70s I would imagine, there was a bit of a breeze and overall, I was well recovered from Leona and ready to race today. Halfway down the ridges I ran into, literally, my biggest challenge of the day: joggers from the half marathon going the same direction and route to the finish. Running fast down hill on technical single track is challenging during the last 8 miles of an Ultra, but passing tons of people running significantly slower is really challenging. I would say maybe 70% of the runners on this stretch of trail followed trail/trail racing courtesy and at least moved a little bit over. Only about 25% totally moved over for me to pass, but no less than 30% did nothing at all and were usually annoyed that I was passing totally off trail. I actually bumped the foot or shoulder of 3 ladies that were stubbornly not going to even move an inch to accommodate my passing. I would have run a few minutes faster if it wasn’t for this “challenge”, but then again, I assume every fast 50K guy will have to deal with this each year so I consider it part of the race.
Just before last chance aid station, I would really have appreciated doing my homework on this race as I for some reason thought the course record was either 4:12 or 4:19 and had been gauging myself off that benchmark since the top of the ski area, which had me thinking I was almost done at around 4hrs. The course record was 4:55. When I went through the last aid station and was told I had 2 miles to go, I cursed at myself for not running faster and then I cursed the RD as surely the course was long. I kept pushing, but I was a little bummed at the same time. On the final steep ascent to the finish, I fell for the first time and cut my knee, got up and rounded the corner where Felix and Maggie were ecstatic to see me. Their emotion and cheering was wonderful and I proceeded to pull out the small sand stained American Flag I have raced with ever race since I’ve returned from Iraq. The Jemez 50K was the first time I have removed the American Flag I brought back from Iraq. I carry the flag as a reminder of my time in Iraq, but more importantly, I carry the flag to remember and honor all the Americans who are still deployed in hostile environments.
Maggie caught up to me and congratulated me on my win and new course record of 4:28, I quickly corrected her that I hadn’t set a course record. Then, the announcer congratulated me as well for a new course record. I still didn’t believe I had a new course record until they showed me the old listing. Kyle Skaggs had run 4:55 at the Jemez 50k, but he ran that time on a course that was different than the one I ran. Kyle ran quite a bit more vertical than I did. The race director, told me that he is pretty sure that I would have ran a new course record had I ran the old course that day. Changes in the course are a reality of ultra trail running and I’ll never really know for sure if I ran a better race, but I do know that I ran well, felt great and did my best.
|Sporting the winners pottery, the Hokas, Injinjis and the new Ryders Glasses (love them)|
I felt better after this 50K than any other ultra race I have done to date. I attribute the total lack of soreness and overall good recovery on really recovering the last 3 weeks, running in Hokas and good nutrition: Vitargo during the race, Udos and Ultragen during my training.
We are in Flagstaff AZ (camping by Shultz Pass) and then heading to the San Juan Mountains of Colorado to train and then race the San Juan Solstice June 23rd.
After the race, we camped and had a fun time with our friends Bones (Chris) and Treva Morath.
Leona Divide 50 Mile Blurb-
Long story short, I had a great time at Leona Divide. Maggie, Felix, my parents and brother Jaxon all came out. The race was cool, fun, well put together, etc... my 6:22 was fast but I never felt "on" or "good". I did manage to put in my best training leading up to this race and that training will pay dividends down the road. How I felt last weekend at Jemez is further evidence that I wasn't ready to run that weekend in California. It was disappointing for me to miss this opportunity, but there will be more races in the future!