YABRR: Jemez 50 2019 Edition
For anyone that reads my Race Reports for good advice, stop right now - this one is probably the best example I will ever have of what not to do at a race. If you want to be mildly (hopefully) entertained, read on.
First, and as always, foremost, thanks. To the DDR traveling idiot show (Nikki, Martha, Billy, Ginny, Michael, Casey, Voon, Brent, John, Ben, Jen, Alex) and the IRC (probably just as much idiots as DDR, but I don't know them as well (Ben, Srinivas, Sridevi and Vignesh); thank you for being out there, and motivating me. Also, to Shellene, who kicked my ass in this one, and then drove me home.
Ok, that's the important part, what follows is just fluff.
This year I backed out of Franklin Mountain 200, because I figured that I was 75% physical condition, but 40% (or less) mental/emotional condition. About 2 weeks ago I rolled my ankle badly (I've had numerous issues with it this year), and would have actually skipped Jemez if Shellene hadn't registered for it. I figured I was the exact opposite of Franklin, being 75% mentally on point for the race, but less than 40% physically capable. Do Not Do This! Really, this is a "do as I say, not as a do" point. The good thing was, I knew that the odds were I wasn't going to do any lasting damage (unless the foot fell off), and I don't "have" to run anymore races this year (yes, that was my mindset all along - again, do not do this), so off I went.
Had a good dinner Friday night, courtesy of the race, then we drove to check out the start location, followed by a good nights sleep.
Saturday morning the weather started out perfect (which meant it was going to get warm), where Jen and I headed to the back of the pack. I had almost my full UTMB kit with me (I was short 1 headlamp and spare batteries for both), since I wanted time with it on a long climb. My plan was to not run hard at all, power-hiking and the occasional run - mainly up hills. I knew downhills were going to be painful to my ankle, so there was not going to be any bombing them (which was a shame, some of them looked fun). I slowly watched everyone leave me behind, I was also being extra careful in the dark. During the first few miles I spotted someone wearing a 2016 Silverheels 100 shirt, caught up and we talked briefly. It was Gregory Luffey from El Paso, he and I had run together for a little bit at Silverheels.
Once the sun came up, and I got more confident with my ankle I did pick it up, mainly on the uphills (this caused the least amount of stress on the ankle) so I could try to put time into the bank. During this time I ran with Jen, then Ben and John. As we approached the Pipeline Aid Station, I slowed down on the descent, but caught Ben and John as they left it. We had just hit a nice section of open field which was quite runable when my ankle decided to not fully lift my foot, my toe caught a clump of grass, folding under me as I went ass over appetite and hit the deck. I knew how badly I was hurt, but didn't let them know the full damage. I broke out my poles, and Ben and John got me to my feet, asking if I was ok. I told them I was, and told them to get moving, I'd be fine. Again, Do Not Do This! After they started running, I reached for the Advil and thought about it. I could either walk the 1/2 mile back to Pipeline, and wait for a ride, or continue on to the Ski Lodge 2 miles away. For those that know me, the answer should be obvious, whichever is more stupid - and I really wanted that hill.
One of the things that I am a firm believer in, you cannot train for a long climb without having a long climb. While repeats at CRP are good, they physically allow a break as you descend. Also, the mental aspect of looking up hill - forever - and seeing other runners struggling above you is something that you need to experience, before you have to deal with it in your "A" race. That is why I was willing to suffer through to get to the Ski Lodge.
So, from mile 13ish onward it was about 2 miles per hour pace. Using poles the entire way. I won't say it was fun, but I was actually still on good spirits. On the actual climb out the ski slope, I managed to pass a few runners, lending one of my poles to Eve from Fort Worth (she had left hers in her car). I did that climb in about 45 minutes (felt faster, but the GPS is right), and then the fun really began. I had to get down the backside of the mountain. There was one point where I mis-stepped, and added more insult to my ankle. I also got to watch my carbon fiber pole "flex" as I tried to use it to say myself. It flexed, but didn't snap.
On the section to Camp May Road, I got passed by Michael, and then by Shellene (both running the 50k). She knew I was suffering, and figured that I'd either make it or not. A little bit later I heard a runner slip a little, I yelled back "Are you ok?", only to hear "Yeah. Is that Bryan?". I stepped off as Sherpa John and Emily caught up to me, I hadn't checked the 50k start list or I would have told Gregory that John was here as well. We talked for a bit, and then they continued their hike. Note that at this point, all the 50k runners that had already caught me started an hour behind me, and there were more of them to pass me as I continued.
When I left Camp May, I asked when the cutoff at the next aid station was (I already knew I was outside the 50 mile window there, and was now concerned about the 50k cut), and was told 3PM. It was ~ 3.9 miles, and 1PM already. It would be close. Of course, the person who answered told me what time the cutoff was for Camp May, not Quemazon. The Camp May to Quemazon section was the only one that gave me the "am I off course" feeling, since it was more open rock then easily navigated trail. One time I had to stop and scan to make sure I was good, and was able to spot the flag in the general direction I was heading. At one point I was about 1/2 mile from the aid station, and thought I had 15 minutes to get through it - time to move. I got there at 5 minutes to 3, only to find out that it closed at 5PM, and was the last official cutoff until the finish. I spent a little time talking with Vignesh, he was going to wait for me, but the aid station volunteers told him that waiting on another runner was a bad idea. When a runner wearing a Hardrock 10 year finisher makes a suggestion, it's time to listen. "Mongo" (not sure of his real name) wasn't even the most experienced runner volunteering there, Blake Wood was there as well. I chatted with both of them, as I needed to rest my ankle and eat. Since I was depending on both poles, I had to not be in motion to actually eat, and they had homemade chocolate chip cookies.
After about 20 minutes, I left the aid station for 2.5 miles of hell on earth. This section actually went through Los Alamos National Lab property (no photography please), and was probably some of the most beautiful section of trail. It includes some nice, steep switchback descents. Those I took as follows: Step right, plant both poles, check both poles, step left, plant both poles, check both poles - repeat. I made it to the Mitchell Aid Station, again choosing to sit, rest and eat (this time it was homemade banana bread), and continued my slog to the finish. Now, at some races they have a nice finishing chute for the runners, at Jemez the finishing chute is an actual chute in the rocks, and as I exited it I heard Ginny yell "Run Faster". I sprinted the final 1/10th of a mile in record time (2 minutes+), finishing in 13:25:54, figuring I was dead last, but I wasn't. One of the folks behind me was Ray, he ran escort for a friend.
After it was over, and I took a good assessment of the damage, I knew that I'd be scratching races, even if I heal quickly, I won't have the miles I need to run a 100 miler in August, I may try one before the end of the year though. When I started this race, and I still believe, I figured that if I made it through without much additional damage I would have been well worth the effort. Mentally, having to push through was worth it to me - I had to undo the mental damage I took at Running the Rose. All in all, if I had to do it all over again, knowing that I'd worsen the ankle, I'd do it again.