Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Jemez 50. May 21st, 2016.

Ultras, especially 50+ miles are such a journey, and it seems that there are so many memories from the day, that I forget most of them, as it's just one big extended adventure, with millions of moments packed into a folder in your brain.  I kind of like that.  Sometimes when you pull up anything from the past, it's better to think of it as a feeling, and conceptualize that time period, or event, rather than focus so much on the little details, and particular moments.  When I look back as the continuum of time extends, reflection is more complete, complex, and my perspective on happenings are more well rounded after I've had time to let emotions, and sentiments ease.  This is for me, at least, which is exactly why I rarely write a race report until at least a couple weeks afterward.

I had traveled to Los Alamos at this time last year, with the intention of getting one last really long run in before Western States about a month later.  Like this year, I had traveled solo, and had drop bags planned accordingly.  It wasn't my day, and I'd be taking much longer than I'd originally anticipated, so I dropped out early.  I wasn't about to ruin anything for Western, as the investments, and planning are no short of hearty, a result of being the most competitive, most historic 100 there is.  Out of my three DNF's thus far, this was the only one that didn't really piss me off, or bum me out.  This year, however, there was no way in hell that I was going to quit, especially since my focus race (Eastern States 100) isn't until August.

Arriving on Thursday for a Saturday morning start was a great idea, something I didn't do last year.  I sucked it up and bought a hotel room Thursday, and camped at the start/finish the night before the race.  I think it's safe to say that I slept worse the night before than I ever have before a race.  I must've woke up 10 times.  It's strange because the night before Black Canyon 100k a few months ago, I had the best pre race sleep ever.  It's likely that it was just pre race jitters.  Either way, I slept like shit, and had to get out of my warm sleeping bag twice to pee, which pissed me off even further.  As a result, I was really glad to get up and get going, which I'm not sure I'll ever say again, because I love sleeping way more than waking up.

After much anticipation, they told us to get out of there, and we took off for the single track a short ways down a dirt farm road.  I was not stoked to have taken off in 1st place, but the pace seemed overly conservative at first.  But damnit, what am I doing ahead of Nick Clark (now 3 time winner of Jemez) at only 4 miles in?  It was not what I had in mind, but I just said, "oh well, just run your own race."  So I did.  Shortly down the trail, Nick Clark, Ben Lewis, and I think Matt Preslar and Michael Carson caught up to me.   Nick and Ben, and I chatted a bit, and it was rad, as those dudes are super nice guys, and also exceptional athletes, especially Nick.  He's got an ultra resume the length of Alaska.  That's rather large.  Anyways, Nick, Ben, and I think Matt, and Carson passed me, and I wasn't too upset.  For some reason, I didn't really feel all that great the first 20 or so.  In fact, I really didn't feel great all day.  A stupidly missed turn that cost me over a mile got me a little out of position, but I did my best to let it go, and move forward, with still lots of race.  I was pretty sure that I'd pick off at least a couple of them before the end, but I was pretty sure that no one would catch Nick.  He was moving very efficiently and fast as shit.

Jim Stein Photography

I did eventually catch up to Michael Carson, and Matt Preslar.  I remember running down the jeep road into the canyon with Matt.  We were getting after it.  Carson and I eventually pulled away from Matt on an off trail climb right up a mountain.  Dude, that shit was gnarly.  For real.  Michael and I ran together in 3rd and 4th for quite a while around the 50k distance.  We both left Pajarito Canyon aid station (~mile 32) for the last big climb of the day.  I was really lucky to have grabbed an extra bottle for the climb, as it was hot, and almost completely exposed to the sun.  I felt good on most of the climb and pulled away from Carson.  Though I was pushing pretty well the last 20, he must have been too, because he only finished ten minutes after me.

The last 8 miles of Jemez in Los Alamos, New Mexico includes a very hot, exposed 10k descent, followed by 2 miles of hills and flats.  It was sometime on that last descent that I realized what I was in for when I finished.  But, I didn't care as I was ready to be done, and was already not too satisfied with failing to break 9 hours.  So, I did what I knew I should; push to the finish, finish strong, and get the damn thing over with!

I finished in around 9:29, securing a solid 3rd place, tried to drink some water and ginger ale, then  walked over to my black car baking in the afternoon sun.  Sure enough, I lost what little I had in my stomach to the gravel parking lot, then looked around to make sure no one saw the dude resting on the front of his car, puking his guts out.  I then said to myself out loud, "Love running ultras", grabbed a sleeping bag, and pillow from the corolla, then proceeded to find the only shaded spot under the few trees in the lot to lay down, and feel like garbage for about a half hour or so.  Of course, a couple of 50k runners that were camping where I decided to throw down my sleeping bag looked after me to make sure I was okay.  This happened again with more nice people, as I decided that I'd try to be a functional human being, get up and go try and get something into my stomach.  This time, a very nice couple with a very cool camper gave me a seat, a coca cola, some kind of electrolyte pills to help the stomach, and nice conversation to help me forget about feeling like hell.  Again, I was committed to integrating myself back to the finish line festivities, so I thanked these kind people, proceeded to the porta john, purged all that coke, water, and electrolyte pills, right on top of someones fresh shit.  It was a great time.  Jesus.  If I ever think I'm having a bad time, I'll just think back to this moment, and realize that things could be way more shitty.  See what I did there?

Lucky for me, that was the last of the vomiting for the day.  Shortly after, I did in fact pull myself together enough to go back to the after party, slowly got rehydrated, had the medical staff wash the dirt and rocks out of my elbow (from falling too many times), and eventually ate some real food.

The volunteers knew their stuff.  Photo: Martha Katko

This race felt like what most races in the sport try to embody; a grassroots/local feel, with professional execution, and a comfortable atmosphere created by like minded people gathering together.  I think Jemez does it even better than most.  You can tell that they've really honed  everything involved in hosting a great event.  Like most races, the volunteers were spectacular, and really helped me out before, during, and after the race.  I really like it when I succeed at making them laugh at my stupid sarcasm, and terrible jokes.  I think with all the training, and seriousness involved in being a committed ultra runner, it's important to laugh, and have fun, and not be so self-involved all the time.  If I still do this nonsense when I'm an old man, I'm going to hang around the aid stations for at least 10-20 minutes each, tell a few jokes, flirt with all the girls, and laugh about it the rest of the day.  Basically, I will be my father, but a runner.  Oh man, it's going to be a long road ahead.

Thanks to everyone that helped put on a great event.  Thanks to all the wonderful, kind people that I got to meet.  Thanks to my family, and friends.  Thanks to my coach Justin Ricks, and Mad Moose Events for the support.

Thanks for reading!  Next up is Speedgoat 50k on July 8th.  Here's some music for listening.

Some new punk rock from an old local band that got back together to record this one song.

                                                    Their new band 'One If By Land'

   And just to make sure you're feelin aight...some flashlight.  Don't forget to put on your sunglasses.