Monday, June 20, 2011

San Juan Solstice 50 mile....year of the alternate course

Yeah...alternate course. Many of us were thinking...easier, not going up over 13,000 feet, less snow, most likely personal bests on this "easier" course. Well, it was anything but! The consensus of most runners, including David Coblentz, who has run this 10 times, that this alternate route was for sure more difficult. Look at the profile above.

David Coblentz, Brian Crone and Tom Stockton from Los Alamos, NM.

The race went pretty much as planned for me eventually....but I sortof got pulled into an early quick pace for a couple of reasons. One, as we ran through the streets of Lake City heading to the trails, I noticed I was breathing quite hard at this elevation of 8800+ feet, not what I was expecting after having lived at 8100' for the past 5 months, but running along with Bogie I was charged, felt great and ready to roll. We powered up the first climb and once was able to, I dieseled up ahead of many, with a complaining Bogie all the way to the top ;-). Then after we crested the first climb and started to run down, I saw a bunch of chatting runners coming out of the woods to my upper right and I could see that the course markers were clearly going down through a field to the left. Immediately after merging with these runners, I got sucked into their pace and saw Charles Corfield directly in front of me. We started to talk (Charles would normally already be well ahead of me) and I learned that they went off course for about a half mile. Once at the bottom of a way too fast downhill, I stepped aside and saw Tom Stockton fly by me, too. Poor Tom got sucked into the herd that went off course, too. Then as we were running down another hill, we all almost went off again, until Tom caught the right turn into the woods and up a small hill. We all ran into the mile 11 aid station together.

Christine Coblentz and Marge Stockton were a lot of help during the day
They took this photo of me
Me showing my new Wasatch Speedgoat skin

Next section was possibly the most difficult of the race. It was an 11 mile loop that started with a steep 4 mile  climb from below 9000' to above 12,000'. I was climbing up with a great group of runners and made several new friends as we talked and chugged up the climb. At the top the climb seemed to double in steepness for the final 100 yards to the point that traction was difficult! But we were rewarded with a wonderful ridge run that led to a much too fast 4.5 mile downhill on a dirt jeep road. At the bottom of his downhill run was where I decided that things were going just a little too fast with Hardrock less than 3 weeks away. Time to back off and back off is what I did, all the way to what felt like a Hardrock pace. Walk anything that resembled an uphill, jog and walk any flat sections and jog easily down the hills. This decision was made after coming into the mile 22 aid station feeling a little fried with legs starting to feel it, much too early for that!

Running across a snowfield near the 12,000+' summit

Awesome ridge running up high, this was the highlight of the day

Annette up ahead, 7 time finisher!

From there we entered the section we all dreaded, the road section around Lake San Christobal. What made that section enjoyable was the awesome views all the way around the lake. What made it bad was all the vehicles going by and kicking up the dust. Most of this section, which must have been around 7 miles long, I just got into a rhythm of walking/running until it was over. While walking one of the uphill long stretches, Scott Eppleman of Texas came flying by us. He had gone off course for about 2 miles and was now trying to get back to where he should have been in the field.

Lake San Christobal with Sunshine and Redcloud in the distance

This was the river we were running alongside, it was rough and fast
Glad we didn't have to cross the rivers this year!

At the end of this road stretch, we had a small aid station where I sat down and dumped some rocks out of my shoes. I needed this short break because this was climb #3, which rivaled #2 in that it was long, steep and went up over 12,000 feet. The early fast pace was starting to take it's toll and my tummy wasn't feeling too good all of a sudden, so I took 2 electrolyte caps with some water and ate a package of Honey Stinger chews. Most of the day I had been consuming First Endurance EFS Liquid Shot, but didn't think I was going to get any more of that down, so had to try different things now. The climb didn't seem as bad as the last one after mile 11, but man it was long...and as we neared the top and got on the Colorado Trail, I was starting to hurt from the altitude, getting a headache and breathing real hard. The headache was mild, but close to the one I got up on Santa Fe Baldy (12,600+') last weekend. Guess I'm still not acclimated with only 5 months under my belt of living and training at altitude.

Up around 12K for the 2nd time, this time around 30 miles or so

Some of the views up here, which were incredible

Breathtaking country

We reached the Divide aid station at around mile 35 and I sat down and had some soup for the first time. Good Ramen noodles, washed that down with a cup of Coke and headed out. I was there for maybe 5 minutes only, I don't like spending much time in aid stations, it can be your undoing. I headed out and remembering this section from when I ran this in 2007, it's a long time up high on a rutted jeep road. It wasn't a fun stretch, but the reward at the end of it is a general downhill to the finish.

The road to Slumgullion, it went on and on...

There was another small aid station before we reached the start of the downhill and I just grabbed a couple of cups of Coke and kept going. Before I was at the start of the downhill I heard a call out behind me and looked back to see Jody, my Wasatch Speedgoat teammate coming towards me. At this point Jody should be well ahead of me, so I knew something had gone wrong and sure enough, like many, she went off course. I will add here that the course was well marked, more of us did not go off course than did. It's easy to just follow the runners in front of you, especially when you're starting to feel tired and I'll bet this is what happened to these runners who went off. Jody and I hung out for a bit, as we began the rocky downhill, but I told her to go on because I needed to back off for Hardrock, can't even pound the downhills like I usually do. She went on and I didn't see her again until back at the house after the race. She finished about 15 minutes ahead of me.

Jody coming up from behind

At the bottom of the hill is the Slumgullion aid station at mile 40. Here I again sat down and had a cup of Ramen, followed by a couple of cups of Coke. I then asked to have Coke in one of my bottles to help fuel these final 10 miles because there were no more gels going into this tummy! What I forgot was to get ice in the bottle, warm Coke = yuck! But I did sip it to keep the stream of calories coming in because coming up was difficult climb #4!

Controlled mayhem at Slumgullion, mile 40.
Jerry Gray, RD in the gray cap and red shirt observing

Once leaving the aid station, it goes downhill for a bit which I couldn't run much of because my bottle of Coke kept popping open and spraying sticky sugar on me. At the bottom of the hill you have a somewhat difficult stream crossing and several areas where you had to go across some dirt hills, not on the top, but on the side. I was hoping there'd be no cramps, because it would be disaster here. At the side of the dirt hill I came upon a woman who had no idea what to do, so I scrambled across it pushing against some trees to keep from falling down the side of the hill into the woods and said "There you go, that's how you do it!" She wasn't impressed ;-)

After that the climb began through a beautiful stand of Aspens and I just had no climbing left. I was barely moving, but kept putting once step in front of the other. One guy slowly went by me and mentioned that he was going full throttle, but then I noticed I was gaining on him. It was comical because here we are yo-yo-ing back and forth and we were probably moving at 1 mph ;-)

The Aspens took my mind off of how lousy I felt during this climb

Near the top of the climb I heard Bogie behind me. Bogie and I had started together, but when I had to stop to make a pit stop early after the first climb, I lost him and figured I wouldn't see him again, but guess what? He went off course and was now catching this slow slug. He asked what my plans were and I told him #1 priority was to not get hurt or too beat up for Hardrock and he asked if he could join me, so we did our easy walking jogging thing talking all the way about many different things.

Bogie at Vicker's aid, mile 46

This sign at Vicker's was good to finally see

We soon came to the final aid station, Vicker's at mile 46, got some ice in my bottle of now half gone Coke and moved on. Time to get this thing done! 

Goodbye to the views
Hello to Lake City !

First sighting of Lake City since 5am...

I remembered this section from 2007 as being a pleasant rolling downhill until the last bit of trail, which is really rocky and easily a place you can get injured if you try to slam it. In 2007 I did fly down it and ran hard through town, but this year I was being very careful, so just jogged down the trail with Bogie in tow...once we hit the road into town we ran a  little harder, but then once we reached the paved road that is ever so slightly uphill, we walked. I saw a guy jog by us that looked like he was in my age group, was tempted to go after him but laziness took over and I really just didn't care at this point. Turns out he took 3rd in my age group of 55-59, so I could have easily had a small slice of tree if I wanted it ;-)

Bogie and I crossed the finish line together in 13:34, two minutes faster than I ran it in 2007 when I did finish 3rd in this same age group. This was done with several handicaps...a more difficult route, less time living at altitude (5 months vs a year in '07) and having gone out too fast, which usually crushes me in a race. So all in all good and I'm on track for somewhere around 40 hours at Hardrock. It's a common known thing that you generally triple your SJS50 time to get an approximation of your Hardrock time.

Awards ceremony the next morning is always a good time

Yesterday I really felt lousy, my stomach was messed up and my legs felt really beat up, but last night I had a steak, some ice cream and a couple of Guinness and all is well today. My legs feel a lot better and I'm ready for the big dance. The highlight of the weekend was getting a text from Deb on the drive home that I got into Hardrock. Happy Father's Day it was! :-)

Up next!!

Shoes: La Sportiva Crosslites (feet felt beat up a little after the run, but are fine today)
Fuel: 4 flasks of 1st Endurance EFS Liquid Shot, one pkg of Honey Stinger chews, maybe about 5 electrolyte caps (not enough), several cups of Ramen and lots of Coke.

To see the rest of my pictures go here: 

Results will eventually be posted here:

So now it's on to Hardrock! Until next time...