I ran the Jemez 50 mile race this past weekend. Tough, tough course. The trails either seemed to go straight the hell up a mountain, or straight the hell down and steep as crap in both directions. The best word that I can use to describe the course is relentless... it never lets up. Also as I was contemplating my situation during the 50 miles it seemed to me that if one has any weaknesses, Jemez will pull them out of you and beat you severely over the head with them. And... if you have any strengths, it won't matter, this course will crush those too. Okay maybe it wasn't all that bad but it is a course that will challenge anyone and demand the respect that it so well deserves.
The race started at five a.m and never before have I began a race with so much "crap" on the brain. The week before had been tough with work and other things so I really felt tired even before we started. The first couple of miles or so were downhill, in the dark and through what I can only guess by smell was a very large stockyard. Soon there was light and soon we were climbing.
Oh, and we climbed some more.
Through burn areas and through the woods. Up and then down steep technical trails. All I can say is that for the first 17 miles and until that first full Aid Station at Pipeline Road, I just felt like I was the victim of a cruel joke withstanding the abuse of the trail. Then came a descent that about made me stop the race then and there and never want to run on trail again for the rest of my life. It was so steep that I had to grab tree branches as I went down to prevent me from careening out of control to my death.
Oh... then we got to run up some more.
Seriously, I struggled the first 32 miles or so. Took a big header going into the 29 mile aid station in front of god and everyone. Fortunately I did not get too hurt and bled only a little. It could have been a lot worse. One of the aid station guys wanted to know if I wanted anyone to clean the wound or look at it... I told him it seemed like it would stop bleeding and that I had work to do and that I would wait to cry over it back at the hotel. I smiled, he laughed and then I was out of there.
Even though I struggled for nearly 2/3rds of the run, I was somehow making my split times while also staying pretty much in the same part of the pack as I had been. I was not losing ground.
At the Townsite aid station, I had two cokes, a piece of a sandwich and chatted with a volunteer before taking off and heading up again. But now I am not struggling so badly. I am feeling pretty good. Starting to catch and pass a few people. I was up and down again to the ski lodge before I even knew it.
The next 14 miles or so were just perfect. I left the ski lodge feeling great. I knew that I still had plenty left to burn and that I had run smart (though it didn't feel good) the first 30 miles or so. Now it was time to really get to work.
I started passing people as soon as I left the lodge and the whole way to the 2nd Pipeline Road Aid Station. Nobody passed me at all the last 14 miles. After that I think that I only got faster. Leaving the aid station there were two people a few hundred yards ahead going up a hill. It took some time but I passed them. I actually passed a lot of people. One guy at about mile 46 I had to actually run down... he knew that I was closing in and he sped up. Now it was my turn to be relentless and I just hounded him till he gave up and went wide on a turn allowing me to pass. A few more people were passed the rest of the way in.
This might not be my best 50 mile time but I have never run a 50 miler any better than this one. I did not fade, burn out, blowup or anything the last ten miles or so. My best case goal time was 12:22 and I feel great about the 12:54 that I ended up with. I could have shaved more time off by spending less time at the aid stops but dealing with drop bags and stuff at this point that was unavoidable for this race. In my post-mortem list of things that could have been done "better" not much was avoidable.
All in all, a very tough race that kicked my ass almost every inch of the course but at the same time, maybe my best run 50 ever. Now to focus on San Juan for the next few weeks. Judging how things went in Jemez, I think that I stand a chance to get the finish that I want in San Juan and that is going to be great.