Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jemez 50 Mile 2011

I had been talked into running this 50 mile trail race months ago by my 320 friends Steve and Amy. At the time they sold it as a non-competitive easy stroll where we would all stay together and just have a good time. I knew once the race started it would be every man, women and child for themselves. We (Amy, Steve, Jayna, Shaheen and I) rented a condo in Santa Fe. Jayna, Shaheen and I would be running our first 50 mile race on the most brutal course you could imagine. Later on Edgar ended up moving up to the 50 mile race and Steve came out to just run 31 miles in the mountains. We all had the best time together and after seeing how we were so relaxed the day before the race compared to a marathon it is going to be hard to go back to that (marathon) type of racing. We got up at 3 AM race morning and were on the road by 3:45. We got to the race by 4:30 and it was real close getting to the starting line in time.

Mile 1 - 11:39 we started out on a road in a big group. At a 1/2 mile we hit a single track trail and it created a large bottleneck. We were standing still for 30 seconds. After we got on the trail we were walking the trail when we could have been running a better pace.
Mile 2 - 10:24 I continued real slow till about 1.5 miles when we started to pass people. At this point we were still with our whole group. Steve B, Amy, Edgar, Shaheen, Jayna and myself. At this point the trails were still easy and only about 130’ ascent.
Mile 3 - 10:55 it was still dark and Amy and Steve got a little more aggressive passing people. The rest of the group hung back a little.
Mile 4 - 11:41 we started to climb a little (189’ ascent) so the pace started to slow. We were starting to see light.
Mile 5 - 11:29 287’ Ascent so we were walking more uphill’s.

Mile 6 - 13:47 we hit the first aid station here and as we approached we talked about a game plan for the stop. Although we weren’t racing we didn’t want to get stuck at the stop too long. We dropped off our headlamps here.
Mile 7 - 17:01 (643’ Ascent) A lot of slow climbs on switchbacks.
Mile 8 - 16:51 plenty of switchbacks both up and down. I was getting use to the narrow trails and I was probably overly conserving energy at this point. Our group was also still behind lots of slower runners holding down our pace.
Mile 9 - 15:45 another mile as I think back I could have run a bit faster. I have to learn that when the terrain turns downhill you need to pick up the pace. This mile was mostly downhill.
Mile 10 - 13:43 in my head I was always thinking a 15 min pace average would be a good goal. This was actually a pretty good mile considering it had its fair share of ups.
Mile 11 - 19:21 we hit an aid station (Caballo Base) here and started to climb Caballo Mountain. This was going to be 2 miles up (1800’ ascent) and the same 2 miles back down. It was mostly a walk up the mountain. At the time it seemed so difficult. I could feel my breathing getting very heavy. In retrospect this is another section I could have handled a little better going up.
Mile 12 - 26:57 this was one of my slower miles still going straight up the mountain. I was having a lot of problems with my left leg. It had gone dead almost to the point where I was limping on it. Here is where I had my first doubts because of a bad patch. I though the rest of the group would need to drop me as I was going too slow. Here is where the leaders started to come back down the mountain on the same single track. We would step off the track and give the downhill runners the right of way.
Mile 13 – 18:21 we reached the top of Caballo Mountain at 10,500’ elevation. It was beautiful as we turned around a tree to head back down the mountain. We stopped and took some pictures with the group. This is the first scary descent as we headed back down going against all runners coming up hill.

Mile 14 - 13:03 this mile was all downhill and although it felt very fast I was obviously going pretty careful as Edgar and Shaheen were pulling away from me very quickly. Most of the runners coming up hill were very good about yielding to the downhill runners. We ran into a few runners that would just stop the middle of the track. I caught up to Shaheen and Edgar. SS is covered in dirt and doubled over. She had tripped and gone down pretty hard. She said her calve was really sore but after a few miles she was running strong again.
Mile 15 - 17:40 we got to the bottom of the hill and stopped at the aid station. As usual we spent too much time at aid stations waiting for all 5 of us to get together, eat and fill our water bottles.
Mile 16 - 23:44 (881’ Ascent) we crossed a bunch of streams. All of them were small enough for us to jump over and not get our feet wet. We ran into a ladder and stopped for pictures as well as there was a line to get up the ladder.

Mile 17 - 13:10 fairly flat mile
Mile 18 - 19:55 we hit the pipeline aid station and spent a long time here. This is our first bag drop. I left my gloves here and got some brew GU for my handheld and filled it with water. I ate cookies and chips. I waited around for the rest of the group to get all their stuff taken care of. Jayna came in a little behind us with her nose bleeding and she told us to go on and she would keep plowing along. She seemed in good spirits so after a got a few pictures we headed out. As soon as you leave the aid station you hit this ski slope going down loose dirt/Scree. (500’ ascent) This was my favorite part of the race. As most people were going down real slow and holding onto everything they could find I just skied down the slope. The dirt was loose but soft. I was down to the bottom in about a min. I pulled my camera back out and took pictures of Edgar and Shaheen as they came down 4 min later.
Mile 19 - 10:37 the next 3 miles were the easiest of the race. Mostly jeep trails with a slight decent.
Mile 20 - 9:53
Mile 21 - 9:21
Mile 22 - 13:06 we hit the next aid station. (Valle Grande) We had the longest gap between these stations at over 7 miles and some massive climbs. With only one water bottle I was concerned I might run out of water.
Mile 23 - 25:04 (760’ ascent) I was heading across fields with no real trail. I would walk for 30 seconds and then run for 30 seconds. It was hard to run very fast in the clumps of grass. We hit the rock field here.

Mile 24 - 27:47 (770’ ascent) after the rocks it was 2 miles straight up Cerro Grande. Here is where I had to drop back and Shaheen and Edgar went on. They were able to climb faster than me. In the back of my mind I figured I might catch them by the end.
Mile 25 - 15:20 (740’ descent) once we got to the top of Cerro Grande there was a nice downhill. This mile however was a case of too rocky and steep as well as I was recovering from climbing the mountain.

Mile 26 - 10:29 (580’ descent) I was rolling down the Caᾖon de Valle pretty good now. I had to slow down a little cause every time I would get below a 10 min pace my ribs were starting to hurt. It felt like I had been in a prize fight. I guess it was all the descending and ascending had used a lot of new muscles. I will need to kick up my core work a bit before my next trail Ultra. For the first time in years I am going to stop worrying about my weight and try to build some muscle. Maybe I can stop looking like a skinny runner.
Mile 27 - 10:41 the next two miles were more of the same. I only saw a few runners as the field had spread out. I kept wondering if I would see my friends at the next aid station.
Mile 28 - 12:20 I was starting to feel some bad chafing on my right thigh.
Mile 29 - 11:56
Mile 30 - 19:57 I reached the Pajarito Canyon aid station where our second drop bag was located. A young boy brought my bag as soon as I got to the station. They would see our number from off in the distance and call it out so they were ready for us. As much as I tried to have a game plan going into these stations I was not getting everything I needed. I got my body glide and GU Brew drink done and trash disposed as well as reloaded with gels. I probably should have dropped my camera as I was no longer taking pictures. I could have loaded up on drink mix for the next couple of stations. At each stop I would grab a cup of coke and chips and cookies.
Mile 31 - 18:14 (400’ ascent) It was 4 miles to the next aid station and it was getting hot and each mile was uphill. Each mile I kept saying to myself. “Make this mile the best it can be.” I was trying to stay as close to a 15 min pace as possible. At this point my overall pace was still below a 15 min pace overall but some real tough miles laid ahead.
Mile 32 - 15:17 (200’ ascent) I did a good job of picking off some runners as others were starting to struggle in the heat. I ran by one guy that looked like he was dressed for Badwater with full white long sleeve and hat with flaps to cover his neck. It was probably 60 degrees so I didn’t find it all that hot.
Mile 33 - 18:38 (400’ ascent)
Mile 34 - 22:33 here I hit the Townsite Lift aid station. Filled my water and ate some cookies and took a gel. Once I left the station I was talking to a guy that had run this race many times and he was sure I was not ready for this race as a road racer and he was surprised I was doing this well. When I explained that my friends were ahead he said I would see them again because they were going too fast. I wasn’t paying attention and just following him and three other people. He said we had gone too far so we yelled at the people in front of us and turned around. I was very mentally defeated at this point. I just started walking back as everyone else in the group ran. This was the start of the worst patch in the race for me.
Mile 35 - 27:11 we found the trail again and we started to climb up Pajarito Mountain. It was a big ski slope with some switchbacks and lots of straight up climbing. There was almost no running the next few miles.
Mile 36 - 24:40 this area was very hard to navigate. There were plenty of tree covered areas were marking were hard to locate. I would have to stop and look around for orange flags. A couple times I had to go back 50 yards as I missed the trail. This could have been marked a little better. I noticed that I was going uphill so slow and yet I was breathing very heavy and sweating. To top it off I would see snow on the ground so it couldn’t have been too hot. I thought about dropping out so many times going up this mountain. I kept thinking that my body was in trouble and running out of gas. I reached the top of Pajarito Mountain at the end of this mile.
Mile 37 - 25:21 (1000’ descent) Here is where I had to go straight down a ski slope. It was so steep that I was not able to go all that fast. Here is where the good trail runners separate themselves. That is a skill and confidence I will have to develop. At the bottom I reached the Ski Lodge aid station. Edgar and Steve B were just leaving. Amy had already bombed down the hill and taken off by herself. Shaheen was in a chair with her ankle wrapped up. She would have to drop here. I would find out later that Jayna would arrive just after I left and would be forced to drop here as well. I ate a brownie, filled my water bottle and took off. I had a huge since of relief that I had passed the last cut off station and all I had to do was walk it in from here and I would finish. I started to feel better each mile.
Mile 38 - 14:30 finally a flat mile and I was able to get in a decent pace. I was running with another man that was real nice and he too was surprised I was where I was with almost no trail or altitude experience.
Mile 39 - 16:21 another mile with only a little uphill. I knew I was getting close to the pipeline station so I continued to push a little more.

Mile 40 - 20:19 I finally reached the Pipeline aid station. This would be the last time I would see my drop bag. I dropped off my camera after I had one of the people take a couple of pictures of me. They were laughing at me because every time they would offer me anything I told them that would be awesome. I also left my t-shirt in the bag and just ran with my singlet. I had a root beer Popsicle. As soon as I got out of there I had a long climb the next mile. This was the last hard miles. I realized after I left the station that I didn’t fully restock my fuel belt and all I had for the next 11 miles was 3 gels. As long as I didn’t bonk I would be fine. I was also wearing a fuel belt with nothing in it.
Mile 41 - 14:44 A flat mile along a mountain ridge and I was able to pick up the pace. For about a 1/2mile I didn’t see anyone of markings and I was a little worried I had missed a turn.
Mile 42 - 13:22 (300’ descent) this was a nice downhill mile. I could see some runners and I was starting to pick them off.
Mile 43 - 14:28 I passed a woman in sandals before the Guaje Ridge aid station. She skipped the station and passed me back. After the station I ran her back down. She would stay on my tail the rest of the race and push me thru the finish.
Mile 44 - 15:07 from here to the end was my best miles of the race. I felt in control and plenty of energy.
Mile 45 - 12:14
Mile 46 - 12:29 all these miles were out in the open with lots of sun light. Runners were pretty spread out. I would pass about one person every half mile.
Mile 47 - 12:37 thru all of these last few miles I could feel the women in the sandals right behind me. I kept pushing because I didn’t want anyone to catch me. She must have also been a big deal cause when we got to the last aid station they had a birthday cake for her. I told her to eat a piece while I took a small lead.
Mile 48 - 13:58
Mile 49 - 16:19 last aid station. Before I got there I saw all these signs advertising last chance for beer, whine, whisky and pie. I stopped and had a cup of beer. As soon as I left the aid station I ran into David Hanenburg. We exchanged a few quick words and I kept moving up the hill as best I could. I decided it was time to start running the up hills as best I could.
Mile 50 - 11:41 Overall these last miles were relatively flat I and I am very happy I could still move this good.
Mile 51 – 12:37 because of some missed turns my race was 50:68 miles long. I kept pushing the pace and waiting for the finish. Finally I got to a big rock formation that went up hill so I had to walk it a few seconds.

Total - 13:30:59.
I finished 68 out of 118 finishers
162 started, 31 DNF, 13 switched to the 50K

It is so hard to put in to words what I felt after this race. I was the last to finish of the group but I still felt such a huge since of accomplishment. So many emotions came over me during this race. So many times I questioned if I could run 50 miles. I am so proud of the other runners in my group. Amy finished in 12:21 and was the 5th overall female. Steve B finished in 12:58 and Edgar right behind him in 12:59. Jayna and Shaheen had foot and ankle injuries that forced them to drop out at mile 36. As I walked into the shack I had the biggest smile on my face. I hope to come back next year and go sub 12 hours. The reality is because of where I live I will need to predominantly train on the roads but I will race on the trails. I came out of the race feeling pretty good.


  1. Congratulations Nick! It sounds like a life-altering event for sure. Exciting to see what you'll be up to next, because it's obvious this is the start of a long trail/ultra running love affair.

  2. Nick,

    This is a really great blog. I can't wait to get back to Taos later this summer to climb Wheeler Peak after reading your account of Jemez. It sounds as if Wheeler would be almost too easy for you after Jemez. I hope you get to run many more trail races soon.

  3. Gaston, you are so incredible. I love how you always accomplish each goal you set before yourself. I know that you can go sub-12 next year. That would be awesome. :)

  4. Wow, Nick, awesome job! What an incredible accomplishment. I'm so inspired by you to do the trail running that I've always wanted to. So hard to train in Dallas for the trails . . .

  5. 50 Miles is a huge accompishment! Congrats!

  6. Nice report Italian Stallion! I love the way you plan, train and execute. I read your comments about bulking up in order to be better prepared for endurance races and about no longer wanting to run marathon pace?? Yeah adjust to whatever race you have coming up. Why limit yourself? Just do it all!! I'm happy for all you guys and gals! I saw the terrain in your informative pics and I said to myself, "Oh, hell no!" Oh by the way, I'm still holding on to that Navy Seal application you told me to pick up for you :-)