Sunday, June 19, 2011

San Juan Solstice 50 - 2011

Wow, where do I begin. Mixed bag.
This is one of the hardest - if not the hardest - 50-mile race in the world.
This year, the water was so high, there was no way we were going to do the traditional route. The creeks and rivers are raging with the most possessed, ugly, brown, frothing water you ever saw. There was no safe way to send 200 runners across 18 (I think) stream crossings. So they created an alternate course, in the same region, avoiding all the major stream crossings.
Hearing this, lots of people who had to drive a long ways, and weren't already locked into tickets or reservations, bailed. This allowed everyone who was on the wait-list to get a spot.

One of the best things about the alternate course was that, for those of us who had already done SJS50 multiple times, this time provided new views. The morning views through the aspen and meadows with Uncompahgre and other huge mountains around was breathtaking.

The volunteers were the best! No doubt, these people are the best folks you could ever hope to staff a race with, and the terrain this race is in is so forbidding that it's a daunting task.
Because this course was thrown together at the last minute, there were a few minor glitches. There are several places where the course leaves a trail and bushwhacks up a slope, across a meadow, etc. If you didn't see the markers off-trail, up the slope, through the trees, you'd miss a turn. Most courses mark such a turn by making a line across the trail with white flour (it's biodegradable), or they take a long strip of course-marking tape and tie rocks to each end and put it across the trail. If you're looking down at the technical trail, you can't miss these types of "wrong-way" markers.

I didn't find anyone - not one single runner - who didn't get off-course at least once. I missed a marker and only went about 50 feet before having to back-track. Worst-case was a pack of 20 who went two miles off-course. Several of these people ended up calling it quits. It really sucker-punches your morale, especially when the terrain is so difficult, and you tell yourself that the alternate course, if you PR, won't actually mean anything - so why keep trying?

As for me, I just wanted a finish, a good time, and to not get another injury. My open dog-bite wasn't hurting. Band-aids were still coming off with some bit of blood and lymph, so after two weeks, it's still not totally sealed, but it wasn't hurting. The new course avoided all the deep water, and that allowed my wound to stay dry.

The weather was like at Jemez 50 - perfect.
Sorry I don't have photos, but I already took a camera on the previous two races, and I was car-pooling, so I packed light and ditched he camera.

There was a miscommunication that somehow occurred about the Divide aid station. We were all told that it would be at mile 31, but that it wasn't certain - they would go as close as they could. Apparently everyone thought that worst-case would be 1-3 miles away. They said aid stations #2 and #3 were at miles 11.5 and 22 and my GPS concurred. Then at mile 29.00, there was another aid station. They said the next aid station was at 31M. Not trusting, I went loaded with about 40oz of water. At mile 31.5 there were two non-athletic girls sitting on a rock. I assumed they were from the nearby aid station, right below the Divide rim - I was wrong. I asked some other racers if I missed the aid station. They replied that they never saw one either. So we continued up.

We found the yurt, but no sign of life. At mile 36.6, we finally found the Divide aid station. The aid station was great, the people were great, but we could have been warned that maybe it could have been that far. While only 7.1 miles, it was the 3rd brutal climb after many high-altitude miles, and it was slow. When each of us ran out of water, we could no longer eat or take salt. So not only did we get dehydrated, we dropped into glycemic deficit. So the Divide aid station had to do a lot of nursing of wrecked, staggering, mumbling runners. I must say they did a great job, in an exposed area, no tent, providing hot Ramen soup and all the other things runners' bodies crave. My hydration bladder also got stuck closed, and a guy managed to fix it without tearing it, which I thought was impossible. So I really appreciated his efforts. They got my feet back under me after about 15 minutes and I headed down.

In 2009, the descent into Slumgullion is when my lungs flooded with fluid, so I was apprehensive. But everything went okay. I ate a whole pocket full of Oreos and guzzled fluids, trying to recover from the deficits that almost caused me to collapse above treeline. When I got to Slum aid, Kristin Alvarez was there and helped me with everything I needed. Not long later, I ran out of there feeling almost human again.

...Until I hit the last Big Climb up to Vickers ranch. Beautiful area. The aspen, meadows, and views are so serene you just want to lay down and soak it all in - but you gotta keep movin'. Seemed like the climb would never end.

I finished a minute under 15 hours. A terrible finish time, but a finish. Still waiting for official results, but thinking there were epic numbers of DNF's, from demoralized drops to people missing aid station cut-off times.

I had a great time. Made some new freinds. Actually it's not the running and races that keep me coming back - it's the eclectic bunch of people I keep meeting.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds brutal. I am sure still beautiful. One of those days, you curse, you smile, you curse some more.


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