"Wow -- that was freaking hard!" - I believe those were the first words I said to the RD when finishing the Jemez 50 miler this past Saturday. This truly is a first class race held in the mountains surrounding Los Alamos, NM. It was quite an adventure to say the least.
There is 12,000 feet of elevation gain and 12,000 feet of elevation lost during the event. And to be honest, I'm not sure what was harder --- the long climbs at altitude or some of the insane straight down descents. We climbed 3 major peaks that were over 10,000 feet and a couple of minor peaks.
The first climb of the day -- look at the tiny people on the switch backs.
At the top of Caballo -- our first peak -- you can see the town of Los Alamos in the distance.
The Talus Field
There were so many memorable sections to the course. I'll list a few here (I've made up these names -- they are not listed in the race)...
1) The Ladder --- fairly early into the race, you are running next to a beautiful mountain stream. Then out of the blue, there is a dam and you climb up this 15 foot ladder to another level of the stream. It wasn't hard or anything, just memorable --- not something you normally see in a trail race.
2) The Drop Off --- coming out of Pipeline A/S you literally drop off the side of a mountain and slide down a 45 degree washed out loose gravel and rock shoot for about a 1/4 mile. There was no trail -- just pick your fall line and get to it. It was crazy. I remember thinking to myself while staring down the lip of the funnel -- "Hell, I don't want to run down that!" But I have the cuts on my hands and bottom to prove it.
3) The Barb Wire Fence --- after a 4 mile long downhill section (awesome running!) you run into a barb wire fence roadblock. This is around mile 28 of tough effort and my legs were a little trashed. This wasn't hard -- just kind of funny to sling your tired legs over a barbed fence and flop onto the other side.
4) The Talus Field --- OK, this actually made me nervous. We climbed over these furniture sized boulders up hill for about 100 yards. The only thing was these boulders were loose and moved when you stepped on them. I could not wait to get off this boulder field. It reminded me of last year in Colorado when my entire family climbed up a large talus field to get to some leftover snow in the summer. After visiting the snow, we started climbing down. My 5 year old son, Joe got really scared of falling into these giant holes in the talus field. He kept saying, "why did we do this? this is not fun!" I had the same exact thoughts on the talus field during this race!
5) The Black Diamond --- after making your way up to the top of a mountain, you have to come down right? Well there are easier ways to run down than straight down --- but that's what we did. We literally ran straight down a ski slope. No switch backs -- no gentle curves -- just straight bloody down. And if you fell -- God help you! And this section was right before the 12 hour cutoff -- so I had to push it. My quads were on fire and my legs felt like rubber, but I made it to the A/S with 15 minutes to spare.
I loved the cross country sections where there was no trail -- just flags to follow. I also liked the mountain that we climbed that had no switch backs -- we just went straight up. I remember looking at my fellow NTTR member, Fred as he was about 100 yards in front of me. I remember thinking why is he going straight up? I quickly discovered that we weren't on a trail -- we were just following flags up a mountain. I slowly trudged after him and an hour later was rewarded with an amazing vista.
"Hey, Fred -- wait up!"
This was such a beautiful course -- if I wasn't in so much pain for most of the race, I would have enjoyed it more. I told my running buddies, that I won't be back next year -- but never say never. Now that I know the course, (where you can run hard, where you just have to hold on, etc.) I believe I could do a little better next time. But overall, it was a good confidence boost for WS100 in 6 weeks. It was a very challenging mountain race and I held my own. I was running hard until the end on tired and beat up legs. One more tune up until WS100 -- Hell's Hills 50K on June 6th in Smithville, TX!