Jemez 50k part 3! I don't usually do the same ultra over again, but it's hard not to with this one so close to Santa Fe. It was the most beautiful I have ever seen this course too, due to all the moisture we got this winter (what a far cry from last year!). I'm still working with coach Heather, and going into this race my longest run was 12 miles, which is completely opposite of what I did last year! Last year before Jemez I had 5, 5-7 hour runs and a bunch of 4+ hour runs under my belt already. My weekly mileage was about the same though, and I felt fit from the 5k training.
I shared some early miles with Stephanie, who was doing her first 50k ever! Once a line of people started to pass us though, I tried to stay in front of them because I always seem to have issues getting around people on this course. I'm not very pushy, and people don't care that if you come up on them, you're probably going faster...
I felt okay in those early miles. It's a looooong stretch of douche grade and like last year I tried to run as much of it as I could without tiring myself out for the many miles ahead.
I was going back and forth with a woman, Heather, so when I caught up to her after the Pipeline AS (where I saw Kurt volunteering! Thanks volunteers!) we chatted and ran to the ski lodge together. I didn't want to spend too long there, but I did make sure to reapply my sunblock and drink an entire 16oz of Skratch Labs (my go-to electrolyte drink. #dietitianapproved). I ate a couple pieces of boiled potato and headed back out for the 1000 foot climb straight up the ski hill.
At the very top a group of us had to spend a few minutes finding the course- I think some course markers must have blown away/been vandalized but with some good old fashioned teamwork we were back on track.
One part I wish I'd gotten a picture of was us sliding down a snow bank off the top of the ski hill. I think that's the only time I've seen snow on this course?? We were all laughing and hollering as we slid down, fun stuff.
The section after the ski hill is so technical and where I ate it last year. I almost fell about 6 times this year, and rolled my ankle hard twice, but no falls (well, not until later when I slipped on a rocky down climb and into a tree). I felt like I was at exactly the same time as I was last year, but wasn't really sure. I never place well at this race, so my A goal was just to beat last years time. At halfway I was around 3:45, and almost exactly 6 hours for 26.2 miles. In the last 10k I managed to pass a handful of women, which was a surprise! Even with a longest long run of 12 miles before the race, I still felt strong (ish. I still had the usual upset stomach and hiccups) at the finish and ended up 10 minutes faster than last year in 7:09, 7th female. It being slightly cooler definitely helped I think, but also Heather keeping me in shape after 5k training.
So another Jemez 50k is done and done! Thank you so much volunteers, I'm sure I'll be back again!
If you have never been to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, put it on your list! I lived there for a year waaaaay back in 2008/2009 and being back there for Run Rabbit Run was special for me. I've struggled to get started on this report, partly because I had to jump right back in to work and partly because I haven't been in the right mindset to write positively. But here it goes!
3 weeks before race day, on my second to last long run before taper with my friend Kurt, out of nowhere I started to feel tightness around my left ankle, then sharp pains, and before I knew it Kurt and I were walking the last 7 miles of our 30 mile run, and I was spending all my time ice bathing, gua shaing, and of course, not running (and here I thought my biggest obstacle for this race would be the month+ that the trails in New Mexico were closed for fire danger). I did a 10 mile test run with my pacer Dan the Saturday before the race, and my ankle was sore for 5 days after that. Ugh. This was not looking good. I had stayed positive for 2 weeks, but that 10 miler had me a little panicked. It was so hard to keep my disappointment at bay at that point. I knew there was pretty much 100% chance I would experience a flare-up of my injury during race, but the big question was, when? 5 miles in where I would most certainly have to DNF? 50 miles in? 80? I wasn't looking forward to the race at all- in fact, try as I might not to, I was dreading it a little. I'm proud of fighting for my finishes and a DNF would be a bit soul crushing.
The night before the race, Tori and Mitch came over to our AirBnb to hang out for a bit, and I asked Tori if my injury flared up during the race would I be doing lasting damage to the ankle if I ran through it. When she told me no, I perked up inside. It was so on. I didn't want to be stupid and start the race if I would potentially be hurting myself in the long run, but if it was just a matter of some suffering without damage, then heck yes. Let's do this. I didn't even want to think about missing cutoffs if I'd have to start walking early. I kept saying we'll just see what happens...
There are positives and negatives to starting at 8am (which is relatively late for an ultra), and a nice leisurely race morning was definitely a plus. Terry, Dan J, Dan K, Melody, Joel and I were all up with plenty of time before the race!
The race immediately heads up the ski hill, bushwacking at a 45% grade. My watch shows 1400 feet of climbing in mile 2!
Already I was getting to know some really friendly people from all over the country. The first aid station came and went pretty quickly! The other 100 milers I've done were much smaller than this one, so it was weird being caught in a line of 10-15 people for several miles even after the first aid station. It was a super slow and easy pace that I decided to just go with- no need to blow up before we even hit Long Lake! Long Lake was supposed to be at mile 10.8, and already my watch (which underestimates both time and elevation gain) said 11.5 miles when I got to the aid station. Oh boy.
The next section was a long downhill to Fish Creek Falls and it was starting to get warm!
The Race Director warned us it was going to be the hottest Run Rabbit Run on record, and doing the 6 mile climb up Fish Creek Falls during the hottest part of the day was just brutal, but at least gorgeous! My heat-induced headache would start here and not go away until after dark. I drank 1.5 liters of water in those 6 miles!!!
Despite just overall not feeling good AND the course already being 1.5 miles longer than advirtised, I came into the second Long Lake aid station stop 15 minutes ahead of a 30 hour pace, so I didn't worry too much about pushing the next section. My head ached and I could feel my ankle, but so far it was completely manageable, and I was so relieved! I arrived at Summit Lake Aid station EXACTLY on time for 30 hour pace at 5:45 p.m.
Now, the table of prediction times that the race uses must have expected us to BOMB the next section, because all of a sudden, I was totally off the time predictions. My feet were hurting quite a bit, and I just wasn't able to run the next section very well. It was GREAT to see Jenny and Amanda working Billy's Rabbit Hole aid station where I had a rice krispie treat mmmmm. Once I realized I was all of a sudden WAY off the time I had told Kacie I might be at Olympian, I texted her and Dan to let them know they could sleep a little and I wouldn't see them for quite awhile. That was a bit disheartening. It was 8:00 pm and the aid station was supposed to be at mile 44, but I was at mile 43 and passed a sign that said Dry Lake was in 4 miles... I took out my head lamp and my pace slowed, but I finally started to feel better as the heat of the day dissipated.
During this section one Hare passed me and then leaned over and barfed up at least a liter of all liquid stomach contents, and then kept running. It was the most impressive puke and rally I have ever seen.
The last couple miles before Dry Lake were pretty dark and lonely, but I wasn't as scared as I thought I'd be. More Hares were passing by so there were at least people around every once in awhile. When I finally got to Dry Lake I was ready for some soup and grilled cheese, and my friend Filip was there to fill my hydration pack. There was an impressive amount of people lining the last bit of trail and their cheering was a total pick-me-up! On my way out of the aid station I caught up to a couple guys and ran with them for several miles so I wouldn't be alone. Once one of them stopped to pee though, I kept running all the way to Olympian because I felt good for the first time all day!
To my surprise, I rolled into Olympian AS (which is supposed to be mile 50.9, but I was almost 54 miles in) in 15 hours. While I was an hour and a half slower than the race's predicted 30 hour time for arriving at Olympian, I was relieved that I wasn't slower than an actual 30 hour pace, because I knew if my ankle held up I would speed up. I found Melody, then Kacie and changed my clothes. I make a point to change out of my sweaty sports bra and shirt before doing the night sections in 100 milers and it has always helped keep me warm. Though- this year, that was not an issue! I rolled into Olympian at 11pm just wearing a t-shirt and shorts!
I was going to write that I made a big mistake here, but there really was no good choice for me. I spent April to August training in my Salomon Sense Ride shoes with no problems- until the extensor tendonitis began. I had bought some Brooks Cascadias trying to find something else, but I was never able to do a super long run in them. I decided at Olympian to keep the Cascadias on, because my ankle pain was manageable, and I was afraid putting on the Salomons would cause the tendonitis to flare. Well, while Kacie and I ran the 13 mile section on Emerald Mountain, the Cascadias started to give me EPIC blisters on my little toes. I've had some blisters before, but nothing like that. I could feel my right little toenail jiggling around in the shoe as the skin all around my toe got loose. I knew I HAD to put the Salomon shoes on when we got back to Olympian- there was NO way I could keep wearing those shoes. So I did. And that was the beginning of the end.
If I needed more proof that the Salomon shoes are what caused my injury, I got it within a couple miles when my RIGHT ankle- not the one that was initially injured- flared up in the exact same way. I did my best to loosen the shoes, but their quick lace system doesn't let you take the laces out at all. The pain of my blisters kept me from solely focusing on the ankle, so that was at least something.
I feel like all I can write about now is how much pain I was in. It was obviously self-inflicted, so I'm not looking for pity here, it's just what happened and why my race fell apart. The section up to Dry Lake was uneventful. I was a bit spooked by being alone in the woods and kept shouting "Hey bear!" to keep from surprising any cuddly teddy bears with cubs. When I got to Dry Lake Dan found me easily and I sat down with some soup but tried not to stay too long. When Dan and I left, I was already walking gingerly on my feet and we had another 35 miles to go. It was slooooow going back up to Billy's Rabbit Hole, but I was excited to see familiar faces there!
The next 20 miles are honestly just a blur. My right ankle stayed about the same the rest of the race, but my left ankle did start flaring up at some point, and it was awful. The ankle pain along with the brutal blisters I had probably changed my gait because then my left knee started hurting and swelling up a little just like at Hardrock. I never had ANY trouble with my knees during training. Ever since San Juan Solstice I have also had an issue with my neck and shoulders, and those were burning as well. No matter how I adjusted my pack, rolled my neck or massaged my shoulders, nothing helped. I was pretty miserable. Dan had to listen to me sigh and moan, sometimes stopping to lean on my poles for a second. When I sat down at aid stations it was so hard to get up again, and would take a little bit to get back to a walking pace that was faster than 60 minute miles. I remember leaving the Long Lake aid station before he did (knowing he'd catch up) and just letting big fat alligator tears roll down my face until he caught back up.
All day I had been breathing in a ton of dust from all the runners and had the black booger blues and probably black lung (I had a raspy voice for almost a week after the race) but it wasn't until nearing the end of the race that smoke from nearby fires was an issue. The race director re-routed the 50 miler because of it!
There were a couple times I was worried about finishing under 36 hours- mostly because the course was clearly long, but I wasn't sure how long. I've read reports that say everything from 104 to 108 miles. For the most part though, I think I knew I was going to finish. I was definitely relieved, but it did not make being passed by DOZENS AND DOZENS of people who were able to run or walk faster any easier. I pride myself in my pacing ability and I felt a bit humiliated, feeling like somebody who had paced poorly. I wanted to let everybody know that this wasn't my fault! My training was smart! My pacing was smart! I swear! I developed a nice rash on my legs from getting into some plant on the side of the trail when getting out of people's way. Or maybe from one of the 20 pee breaks I had to take because I was mostly only taking in water, Coke, and soup at this point. I was seriously surprised I needed any food at all for how slow I was going! I ate my chews at the gentle prodding of Dan for the caffeine and to keep the hunger at bay. Occasionally I felt like maybe I could try to run, but it never lasted more than 10 steps. At one point I felt a blister between my big and second toe burst and a gush of warm liquid surround my foot. What on earth was going on? I have NEVER had blisters between my toes...
When Dan and I FINALLY got to the last aid station I was part SO READY TO BE DONE, and part SO DREADING MILES OF DOWNHILL. It sure was gorgeous though. We took pictures, I tried hard to ultra shuffle, we stopped to pee. It was another hot day and Dan and I were just melting. He doused my hat with water a couple times, which was amazing! I'm proud of making it through 2 hot days without a sunburn!
I have no idea how I managed a couple "running" steps into the finish, but I did. Right before I crossed the stream, my friend Amanda who had been at Billy's Rabbit Hole AS all day and night cheered me in with "you're a stubborn bitch, Ellen." I think this race even more than Hardrock brought that to my attention- I am stubborn as hell. And I like to finish things I start. Despite this trait causing all that pain, I'm proud of that part of me. I don't like giving up. Though- once I sat in that chair at the finish, no amount of will could get me to stand up again on my own! Mitch and Tori carried me to the car and we went straight to Walgreens and bought some crutches. They are now my "100 mile crutches" since apparently my body doesn't hold up well in these races.
The BEST part of the race was being with friends. Huge, huge thanks to Kacie and Dan for pacing, Tori for being my PT, Tori, Mitch, Madge, Amy and Tim for being a super post-race support crew, Melody and Joel for jumping in and crewing, and Amanda, Jenny, Billy and all the volunteers for all their hard work! Huge congrats to Terry and Dan J. for getting it done and making it look easy. Sunday morning we got breakfast and cinnamon rolls at Winona's and I really enjoyed just being with friends, laying on the grass and spending time in the Boat. I'm so grateful to see those that made the trek!