Monday, May 23, 2016

2016 Jemez Mountain Trail Run 50 Mile and Montessori Community School Fun Run Race Reports

This past weekend I notched another 50 mile finish (well, 52.6) at the Jemez Mountain Trail Run, finishing 2nd in 9:08 to Nick Clark and in the process delivering another relatively solid if unspectacular performance.  I think this may be my athletic specialty: squeezing out reasonable performances from modest talent and minimal to moderate training.  

This week also marked the annual Montessori Community School Fun Run which Ada competed in.  While the distance of this event remained unspecified the course involved an inflatable bounce house with an imposing climbing wall, scary slide, mixed-gender competition, and a range of participant ages.   Even though the event organizers worked very hard to remove any competitive overtones to this afternoon activity- including lack of timing, awards for all, and emphasis on community building- both Bethany and I were pretty sure Ada podium-ed.   

This run in the Jemez mountains outside of Los Alamos has had a number of course variations in its 11 year tenure due to wildfires, making result interpretation and projected pace somewhat difficult.   The course itself is a spectacular and varied mountain track with a combination of low-angle runnable climbs, off-trail steep grunts, beautiful Ponderosa pine single-track, technical descents, and a long, eminently runnable descending single track along the Guaje Ridge to the finish.  The crown jewel of the run is a mid-race segment through the Valles Caldera, a remote 13.7 mile wide volcanic crater that is home to grassy plains, lava domes, hot springs, gas seeps, and fumaroles, whatever those are.  This was the most compelling terrain feature for Ada, our budding family geologist /volcanologist.

My race started out in relaxed fashion.  I was running with Nick Clark, Devon Olson, and Michael Carson, plugging along conversationally.  Prior to the 10 mile aid station, Camp May Road, Nick had already begun to pull ahead.  By the time I climbed and descended Pajarito mountain for the first time he already had some 12 minutes on me.  This lead would only continue to expand to his 30 minute winning margin (although estimates from well-meaning aid station volunteers ranged from 20 minutes to 40 minutes).  While I initially held on to fantasies that the second climb up Pajarito in the heat of the day would be Nick's undoing, he just continued to pack minutes into his lead.  Contrary to other competitions where this asymptote peters out, hinting at a possible future convergence of pace, the math on this became pretty clear: an infinitely long race would result in my losing by infinite minutes.

Georg Cantor be damned, I continued to plug away gamely.   The only real rough spot of the race for me was after Pajarito Canyon and climbing the ski mountain again: I had inadvertently filled both bottles with unusually concentrated TailWind- whatever that is- and felt acutely nauseated for this 90 minute stretch.  It was a warm day, made all the more toasty by minimal acclimatization due to the temperate, wet spring we've had in the Salt Lake valley.   I took advantage of the sparse patches of snow atop the peak, stuffing the dirty crystals under my hat, in a neck bandana (see discussion of neck bandanas here:, over my chest and arms, and even in my mouth.  I allowed myself some moments of self-congratulatory affirmation for this thoughtful, strategic veteran move and then descended again to the ski lodge, Radiohead playing on my headphones.

From here there are a few mild rollers to get up to the Guaje Ridge where you can then bomb recklessly down the relatively low-angle, meandering descent to Rendija Canyon (mile 50.6).  The last 2 miles involve a surprisingly extended and slow climb up out of the canyon to the finish line where a range of delicious post-race libations await.   Truly a unique event and beautiful course worth returning to.

The trip and run were made all the more special by both the hospitality of David Hayes' mother Anne and stepfather Pat who put me up in style and fed me like a king, as well as reconnecting with David Berkeley, singer-songwriter extraordinaire and old college buddy who graciously met me for coffee in Santa Fe.  If you haven't already heard his music you absolutely should check this guy out- some of the most beautiful, articulate song-craft I've heard in a long time.

For those interested in such things here are my best estimates on splits:

Pajarito Mtn Ski Lodge #1  (mi 18.1)- 3:07(?)
Valles Caldera (mi 24.9)- 4:07
Pajarito Mtn Ski Lodg #2 (mi 38.2)  - 6:50
Guaje Ridge (mi 44.5) - 7:55

*Total climbing per race description = 11,298ft. Per my Suunto= 10,200ft.
*Amount by which I beat Bethany's 2015 time: 52 minutes, or approximately 1 minute per mile. (1) 

                                                                                                                                                           (1) A substantial margin.

Valles Caldera

Valles Caldera

Ada, pre MCS fun run, warming up with her competitors.    

Ada, striding it out mid race. Running swiftly but within herself.

Pre-race, Google Cardboard virtual reality visualization.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2016 Moab Red Hot 55k/33k Weekend


This past weekend Bethany's brothers Wes and Tim came to town and we headed down to Moab with my sister Zoe, Billy, and Finley to take part in the Moab Red Hot 55k/33k.  Bethany ran the 33k together with her siblings and Billy while I tried my hand at the 55k.  Good times were had by all, however my end of the deal seemed to involve an inordinate amount of suffering.  Unsurprisingly, slogging slowly uphill on soft, snowy trails hasn't provided the specific adaptations to running quickly on dirt and slickrock.  My legs could detect this early on despite a seemingly untaxed aerobic system.  I tweaked my L. calf around halfway, then rolled my L. ankle and was frustratingly relegated to antalgic walking on the sections of downhill cambered sandstone.   In short order my whole left leg was seizing up on me given my wonky gait.  I finished in a quiet 4:35 for 10th place overall.  The sibs and Billy finished seemingly unfazed and then proceeded to prance around drinking beers while I focused intensely on muscle spasms.  Thanks to Zoe for watching the kiddos.


Team Chocolate Peanut Butter Treat.


Hubble Ultra Deep Field.

Slickrock. Wes, Tim, Bethany, Billy
Smog Lake City.

Wes and Tim.

Post race.
Post Race. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Canyonlands 101

Over a week ago I had the privilege of heading down to Canyonlands with Jared Campbell to do a spectacular 2 day route highlighting much of the park.  I say 'much' here but the reality is that one could spend months here and just scratch the surface.   Drawing on the beta from Buzz Burrell's and Peter Bakwin's similar route a couple weeks prior, as well as borrowing their 1.5lb packrafts, we set off from Island in the Sky.  We descended to the Colorado off of Gooseberry trail with an approx. 80 foot rappel to get down to the river.  We then inflated the (quite delicate) rafts and paddled 18 miles down the Colorado to Spanish Bottom where we ascended a sneaky little route that took us through the Doll's House to Chimney Rock.  From here we descended into the Maze where we slept out under the stars right beneath Chocolate Drops.  Rain earlier in the week allowed for multiple water refill options here.  The next morning we hiked out through the circuitous and dramatic Horse Canyon.  Improbably, this veritable highway ends only a stone's throw from the edge of the Green River with a large and impassable pour over.  Bypassing this and heading north is a sneaky alternate route that beautifully drops you off just upstream.  We plopped in the Green, paddled 8 miles down to Stove Canyon and then began our hike up White Crack trail which eventually intersects the White Rim and brings you back to the foot of Island in the Sky.  From here ascending back up to the mesa looks improbable, to say the least.  Buzz gave us clear direction however for a tricky ascent through cliff bands on the southeastern aspect- the "Government Trail."  We ascended with headlamps after sunset to finish up our 2 day, approx. 80 mile trip.
Mr. Campbell himself.

Where's the water?

Infinite playground.

Mini me.

I know what I'm doing.

No fun to be had here.

Pool toys.


Big walls, Horse Canyon


Turn. Green River: exiting at Stove Canyon.


Places not to be lost. 
Feeling on edge.

Make me a road from here to there.




Appeasing the dermatologists.  
"Government Trail" (improbable looking weakness in the cliff right above Jared's head)

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Millwood 100 Attempt

This past weekend Bethany and I attempted the Millwood 100- a 100 mile mountain circuit in the Wasatch designed by Jared Campbell.  As one might expect from Mr. Campbell, the route is pretty tough with over 40,000 feet of climbing on gnarly terrain with only 3 previous finishers in one push (to my knowledge): Erik Storheim, Matt Van Horn, and Jared himself.  This was one of Bethany's major goals of the season and we figured it would be a unique experience to do this as a husband and wife duo.  With Bethany's mother in town to watch Ada, it seemed like a nice opportunity for a long date in the mountains.  (I do recognize here how lucky I am that this also constitutes Bethany's idea of a 'date'.)  Not all the stars were perfectly aligned however.  Bethany had torn her medial quad a little over a month back at the Fat Dog 120 and had done minimal running since that time.  A few tests drives suggested the whole circuit was worth a go so we set out at 3am on Saturday morning from Neffs Canyon, intending to do the route counterclockwise so as to complete the trickiest sections first during the day.

The day before we had planted drops with food and water at Thayne's canyon, S-curve, Mineral Fork trailhead, Brighton, Bear trap fork, Spruces campground, Terraces, and Church Fork.  Peter Adler met us at Alta and Brian Kamm was generously intending to meet us in the middle of the night at Big Water with supplies.  

It was a beautiful, if warm, fall day with spectacular colors and - save a few hair-raising sections around Kessler where we went off course and spent considerable time clinging to rotten, chossy cliff bands- we had a total blast.  I was pleasantly surprised to be feeling quite good despite very little focused training since Hardrock.  

Comparisons don't generally make much sense with this sort of thing but I found myself thinking that relative to other tough 100 mile courses I've done (Hardrock, UTMB, Ronda dels Cims) this route was definitely the most consistently difficult.  As such, (for most mere mortals such as ourselves) a successful completion likely demands treating it as an A-race goal rather than an end of the season add-on.  

By the time we were descending off Kessler into Cardiff Bethany had developed a noticeable limp and our downhill efficiency was slowing considerably.  We made it into Alta and met Peter, slogged up Hidden Peak and then Baldy but by that point- 16 hours and 45 miles in with approx. 20,000 feet of climbing, it was clear there was no way her body was going to sustain this kind of effort for another 55 miles.  We bailed out of Albion basin and were kindly picked up by our friends Peter and Zoe who drove us home where we ate some bacon, kissed our sleeping daughter, and went to bed.   All in all, it was a great way to spend a day together.

3am start at Neffs Canyon

Sunrise towards Mill B

Descent to S-curve.
Lake Blanche trail.

About to descend into Mineral Fork.

Looking into Cardiff from Kessler.

Cardiff pass with Peter Adler.

Heading up Hidden Peak.
Peruvian Ridge.

Impromptu seat on some pallets.