Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jemez 50: A Lesson in Crash Landings

Keith and I got a bit of a late start on our trek to Los Alamos Friday evening, but eventually pulled into the parking lot at the race start (which offered convenient camping) and curled up in the back of the Subaru for some surprisingly good sleep.

Race morning was a bit of a blur and I was on the can when I heard the RD on the horn lining up the start.  So a bit rushed, but I made it just in time to run into Steve at the start line.  It was a nice surprise as neither of us knew the other was going to be there.  In any case, the race was underway and I settled in behind the lead pack and started picking my way through the rocks.  Here I saw Brendan taking photos, and I'd see him a bunch of times throughout the run (always nice to see a familiar face).

The Start Line
Photo: Jason Halladay
For the first 10 or so miles I ran with Matthew from Arizona and another nice guy from Santa Fe (sorry I forgot your name!).  We chatted about upcoming races and what to expect on the course, but before long we were starting the first 3K' climb up Pajarito.  I was in 5th here and throughout the climb I began to pick up places and close the gap on the two leaders.  Much of the climb was off trail and you needed to pay attention to make sure you didn't fall off course. Somewhere near the top I ran face first into a low tree branch and split my lip, the course was fighting back...

I passed 2nd place at the top of the ski area and then at the base of the ski area I took the lead (mile 20).  I should mention that the downhills at Jemez are otherworldly.  New Mexico does not believe in switchbacks it appears and you simply run straight down a ski hill.  Now I was starting to feel really good, but didn't want to dig myself a hole and tried to keep it under the hood during the mellow climb to the 50K junction.  At the split, 50 milers head down a really really steep drainage.  It was awesome in a masochistic way.

Photo: David Hanenburg @ endurancebuzz.com
Now we're in the fast section of the course and I start to push the pace and get out of sight.  The loop here turns onto a section of cross country running and then onto an old fire road which wasn't much of a road, but covered in tall grass.  Before long I was at the lake which marked the start of the climb back to Pajarito.  The entire climb is off trail and heinous. Many things were said during that climb, none of which can be posted here...

Happy to be at the top of the ski area again, I was not excited about the nasty downhill to the bottom, but it was over before you know it and now I was into the back of the 50K runners.  Climb, climb, climb and I was working my way to the start of the long down on Guaje to the finish.  Here, about mile 40, it was getting really hot and I'd been in the exposed terrain for a long time.  The beginning of the downhill is really nice pine needle covered trail and I was lulled into a false sense of security thinking it'd be like that all the way to the finish.

Photo: Brendan Trimboli
Only a mile or so later, the burn area opened up and I began to melt.  If I were a plane, there would be alarms and blinking lights all over the place.  It was not good, I was overheating and struggling to keep it together. I still couldn't see anyone behind me, but I knew someone had to be closing the gap.  The miles leading up to the final aid station were brutal and when I looked over my shoulder just above Last Chance Saloon (tequila shots for the brave...) only a few hundred meters back was what I had been dreading, Jason Taylor closing fast.

I ripped into the last aid station (mile 48) and poured water on my head in a lame attempt to cool down and ground out the climb from there and simply did everything in my power to keep the legs moving.  I used 50K runners to pace off of and chase down, and kept looking back for Jason but I was just keeping him out of sight.  I was relieved to see the grooved rock that meant I was there and struggled across the finish line exhausted.

The closest shade
I found the nearest shade and laid down.  A kind and well meaning volunteer grabbed me a glass of HEED and in my state I didn't think to politely turn it down and drank the whole thing.  A few minutes later I was puking it all over the place and scaring the small children.


In the end I won by a mere 90 seconds after holding a 8-10 minute lead for much of the race.  After I recovered from the puke fest I caught up with a bunch of people and met some really cool inspiring people from Diana Finkel (women's winner in 9:26) and Blake Wood.  Bill (RD) gave me the winner's "medal" which is a really cool pot with artwork describing the fire that devastated the area one year ago.


I can't say enough about the direction of this race, everything from camping at the start, course marking, organization and aid, finish line atmosphere, food and beer (Santa Fe brewing).  Definitely a must do for anyone who loves a great and tough as nails 50.

11 comments:

mike_hinterberg said...

You were due. Way to let it rip!

Patrick Garcia said...

Thanks Mike, feels good to get one right.

SY said...

Hell of a run! Congrats on the huge performance. Wish I could have run with you for a bit but I didn't stand a chance.

GZ said...

WOW! Congrats man! Impressive.

brownie said...

It was so great at the Last Chance Saloon hearing you won! But I was really hoping Finkel would take the overall win just so I could make fun of you.

Chris Boyack said...

That pic of you laying down says it all. Way to leave it all out there. Congrats!

Jim P. said...

Really impressive performance!

Patrick Garcia said...

JT- You had better have taken a tequila shot for me at Last Chance!

Woody said...

Looking forward to the sequel in 25 days!

Jaime said...

So impressed with you holding on like that during those last few miles. That downhill stretch sounds easy but man is it taxing. Awesome job out there.

Mike Dixon said...

Nice win Patrick! Los Alamos looks pretty intense. I'm sure that the changes in the course made it more challenging too.