Sunday, May 17, 2009

Jemez 50 2009

This could be the most boring race report yet.
With tweaks blowing into injuries during the Greenland 50K, I was left in a tough dilemma. I could either sit at home and feel sorry for myself, or I could walk Jemez for 50 miles.
I walked.

The pre-race dinner was the same spaghetti, and great crowds. Actually, there were more people than ever. It was fun meeting people, laughing, talking, etc. Good for the soul.
After the pre-race meeting, I won an Ultimate Direction 24oz bottle and fanny pack holder. Retails for $36. With tax, that paid for my gas for the whole trip.
Last year, I took my camera and took plenty of photos, so this year I left my camera.

The night before the race, the weather was unbelievable. I slept in the back of my CR-V with the windows open and didn't get cold. The air was so nice and I slept like a baby. Good thing I brought three alarm-clocks - the first two didn't wake me.

4am - breakfast was all the trailbars I got at the Greenland 50K race. Coffee - I had thought ahead and poured hot tap-water into my thermos, then a pot of boiling water. Then I had driven to Kaladi's for a 20oz cup. I poured out the hot water, poured in the hot coffee, and left it sealed until race-day morning. Awe yes!

Check-in. More meeting of friends and sharing stories and wishing luck. As we headed out, I hooked up with Uli Kamm and he told me how he walks EVERY race.
As usual, We're all talking and suddenly everyone starts moving, so I guess the race is on. Funny how low-key ultras are.
So I started with a nice little walk - but I couldn't keep up with Uli. Yikes! I HAVE to walk this one! If I can't keep up with Uli, this isn't going to happen.

Well, the plan was, no running - not a step. And if I can't keep up, then DNF at Pipeline aid and volunteer until the race is over. That would give me ring-side seat at an aid station that everyone in the 50M and 50K would pass through twice. And because the 50K started an hour later than the 50M, the flow would be constant all day long.
I took a fanny pack that held two 20oz bottles. In the pack was my ultra-skimpy Salomon Fastwing Hoodie jacket, a cotton bandanna, and toilet paper. I always wear hiking shorts during ultras because I like the big pockets. One pocket was stuffed with 5 gel-paks, and a baggie full of 500mg vitamin C, 200mg ibuprofen, 81mg aspirin, Tylenol, calcium, lots of Hammer Race caps and Endurolytes, and omega 3 capsules. See all the pills I pop during races?
When the sun hits your skin, it converts vitamin C into vitamin D. Natural process. Run out of vitamin C and you burn. Lots of sun = lots of vitamin C lost. In intense sun, you have to gulp about 500mg every hour. You can overdose on vitamin C. It's an acid. It's all about balance. You wouldn't guzzle salt capsules during regular life. Taking over 2000mg of vitamin in a day in pill-form is not a good idea. Better to feed yourself smaller doses regularly as-needed, with food.

Oh yeah, the race...
So we started out and I could barely stay within conversational distance with Uli. But there's always a traffic jam about a quarter-mile into the race as we get funneled down into a double-track trail. So it didn't do any good to hurry. After the jam, Uli and I were walking together with ease.
Then I got in a conversation with some other friendly guy. The trail is a mixture of light-gray powdery dirt and the rock it came from. The rock seems to be from a pyroclastic flow. For you non-geologist types, that like a Mount Saint Helens volcanic ash and mud flow that settles and turns to rock. It's a somewhat soft rock. There are ruts a couple feet apart in the trail. I comment to this guy that they look like very old Conestoga wagon ruts. He said he thought they had to be also. The width is so very uniform to have been carved by hand, and sometimes the ruts get too deep for any vehicle to have made, except for a large-wheeled wagon.

The weather was almost uniform all day, and almost the same temps as the night. I started with a short-sleeve shirt and a long-sleeve shirt. After the first couple of miles, I tied the long-sleeve around my waist.

At the oput-and-back section on Caballo mountain, I noticed Betsy Kalmeyer flying down rather earlier than I expected. Last year, we climbed together the whole way. Then before the descent, my downhill ability sent me way ahead for good. But this year, Betsy was WAY ahead of me!
The 50K runners were mixing it up with the 50-milers, by then, so it was impossible to figure out where I placed in the whole mess.
One young guy was giving it a good go. He looked very out of shape, but it was good to see him trying. Early on, we climbed a ladder after attacking a couple of ridges up and down. He asked me if it's all so crazy-difficult like "this". I just said, well, yeah, I guess - but you get to rest for several miles in the Caldera. I don't guess he finished, but I hope his spirits weren't crushed by the difficulty of this course. I last saw him going up the bottom of Caballero while I was finishing Caballero. That put him too far back to finish, but I hope he got to see the Caldera. It's my favorite part of the course.

At the Pipeline aid station, I had to sit down and probe my injuries. This was the final check-up. I decided it was a "go".
Basically, I was letting my feet flop around on the ends of my legs. I wasn't using any muscles below the knees, except minimal stability. No air-time, no rising up on toes, no stresses applied to the Achilles or plantar. While this took/wasted more energy, I had plenty of energy to spare. I had to stick to the plan, and the plan was working.

Leaving Pipeline aid, you plummet off the rim of the Caldera. It's almost a cliff. No doubt, this is a dangerous drop-off. It is possible to "lose it" and tumble to a broken and bloody heap at the bottom. The footing is extremely loose, and everything you try to grab is also loose. And you're also trying not to cause anyone else to fall.

Usually the Caldera is a great place to make some time. It's several miles of easy-going and extremely runnable on the road sections. Once you pass the aid station, though, there's a huge expanse of grassland. The grass grows in frustrating clumps that defy attempts to run, but it is possible to run very ungracefully through this, with a wipe-outs. But no running for me this year.
There's a small pond at the low point, and the frogs were croaking extremely loud. There were lots of birds. Some Mountain Blue Birds, owls, finches, and some birds I don't think I've ever seen before with jet-black bodies and bright-yellow heads.

Then up through the boulder-field. I attacked each uphill with all my frustrations. People who kept passing me on the flats and downhills saw me blaze up, even through the jutting boulders and fallen trees. No stopping, no slowing, and yelling, "Yeehah! Downhill all the way up!" and crap like that the whole way. What a knucklehead.
I wasn't alone. "John" looked and acted like a gung-ho sergeant straight back from the Middle-East. He was lots of fun and was also very vocal and good-humored. A really good guy to "run" with.
First-timers to this race struggle up this bouldering and deadfall-hopping and get to the top of the ridge and... they're crushed to see the flagging continue to climb up the ridge to the left, steep, and through the same clumps of grass found in the Caldera.
Finally up, over, and many miles of gentle descent. This descent was hard on me. Last year, this a was deliriously fine spree through beautiful meadows and forest. This year it was a walk, but still beautiful - without the exhilarating speed.
Then cross the barbed-wire fence.
Then miles of fairly boring stuff where I let my mind wander to my injuries and did a moving reassessment. Things seemed to be right on-track.
Up Pajarito mountain. A guy was lost - first-timer. I showed him the way. He had mis-read the map but wasn't far off.
Then down the expert ski-slope. This year was easier. Last year had been slushy snow. It was nearly impossible to keep your feet under you. But this year was just STEEP.
The only cut-off for this race is the ski lodge - 5pm. I made it in 4:30. Not great, compared to last year, but still right on-plan.
On towards Pipeline aid the second time. I like this figure-8 course. Had my picture taken kissing the inflatable sheep mascot - "Show the sheep some lovin'!"

I figured that with walking, I wouldn't fade, but I did. It wasn't the energy, but the swelling. When you don't use your feet, you flop down on them all day. You get no "spring". Even though I hadn't stressed my injuries in the wrong ways, everything from the ankles down swelled. The swelling put pressure on my injuries. So the pain in my injuries made it difficult to assess was the pain from furthering damage, or just side-affect of swelling? Wasn't sure. With 8 miles to go, I started slowing down. With 5 miles to go, I started slowing down a lot.
It was now dark. The race started in the dark and I was finishing in the dark. I had carried my flashlight the whole way, using no drop-bags, and planning for a night-finish.
As the pain below the knees intensified, and I kept slowing, it was still a very enjoyable experience. I didn't let myself mope. This was such a beautiful course. How very lucky that I was there. My life is so much richer with every experience, with all the people. Nature is something I like to experience face-to-face. I want to feel the wind, the rain, the snow, sleet, sun, the heat and cold (hopefully not too much heat). I want to feel the trees, bushes, and grass - and if they leave me bleeding some, that's okay! I kept telling myself, if I end up DFL, I'd still rather be there than sitting in Denver feeling sorry for myself.
I wasn't DFL, but not far ahead.
Last year: 12:20
This year: 16:30
I grabbed my crutches. J.T. got me some ice. Oh, my feet hurt and were swelling. I had another very nasty blister on my right heel. I need to return to my Injinji's and Vaseline. I never had blisters with that system. I had to poke about 30 holes in the blister to get all the layers and pockets of fluid emptied. Then I wrapped Ace bandages around bothy feet and ankles.

Paul Grimm is always telling me, "You'd be surprised how good you feel after one night of sleep." He is so right. I wasn't even limping the next morning. Moving slow, but still not limping.


  1. Way to tough it out, Jeff. Take care of those injuries! Think I'm done racing until Hardrock.

  2. You know you're supposed to update your blog every once in a while...


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