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.