Will run for scenery.
Mt.Taylor is an 18,000 foot volcano in NW New Mexico. Or at least it was until it exploded. Now it looks like this :
On Saturday, I ran a 50k there. It was my first 50k, my first ultra. Here's the elevation profile :
It looks brutal, but slow mountain runs with lots of elevation change is what I do. The big difference with this race : I was not ready ! Some minor but persistent foot pain over the last month or so led me to back off on my miles : So I prepared for my first 50k by not running.
At 6:00 AM the temperature on the mountain was a nippy 28 F. Strangers huddled together in the dark for the imagined warmth it provided. The porta-potties had festive christmas lights inside ! A boxy RV pulled up with the words "EMT Services" on the outside. But we all knew it was a meth lab.
At 6:34-ish sharp, someone said "go" and we were off.
Absolutely nobody, including me, did any kind of warmup. So the transition from standing around freezing to running a rocky trail in the dark was a little rough. I was wearing shorts, a base-layer top, hat, biking gloves, and a tall kitchen trash bag.There was just enough light from the pre-dawn sky and other folks' lights that I was fine without a light of my own. Within a mile, I got a pain in my lower shin that felt like barbed wire scraping deep into my shinbone.
Here's the shadow of Mt. Taylor cast out onto the western plains.
By the time we got up the first climb, the sun was up, but it was still cold. The bananas at the 4-mile aid station were semi-frozen, the puddles in the road were frozen solid, and the cattle guards had a dangerous coating of frost on them. But once over the hump I was able to run smoothly and the pain in my shin went away. In fact that whole descent to mile 10 was really pleasant. I even warmed up enough to take off my trash bag. I cruised into the mile 10 AS (aka "Spud Patch") all by my lonesome.
Normal races have awesome volunteers. Ultra races have ultra-awesome volunteers. Everyone asked me what they could do to help, filled my bottle, and I pigged out on yummy home-baked goodies. The pic above was taken looking back at Spud Patch as I left at 9:00 AM. You can see all the frost still on the ground. I still saw some ice on a stream as late as 10:45.
From miles 10 to 16 I fell into pace w/ a guy named Dan. We chatted and he navigated (he had run the race the year before). It was nice not to have to watch the trail markings. We followed a lot of soft and luxurious single track, like this :
and this :
Because the course was a figure-8, the mile 16 AS was where we had started out in the dark. I was just putting some things in my drop bag, when a volunteer said something that changed my day profoundly : "Here, have a seat". I had a bad feeling about it, but I went ahead and sat. The volunteers were like waiters, getting you anything you wanted. Great people who were fun to chat with. Most of them were ultra-runners themselves.
Then I stood up. Holy crap ! In those few minutes of sitting everything from my bellybutton down had tightened severely and now I could barely walk ! Not a huge problem (I says to myself) b/c the trail is uphill and I'll just walk and warm up as I go. The problem - that never happened. The rest of the day was about just getting my legs to move and enduring the pain. After an hour of uphill, I would start to feel almost okay, then the trail would switch to down. Start all over again.
Here's a view leaving the 16 mile AS :
The one silver lining was the climb up Mt. Taylor Peak. Two summers of training and running at high altitude made 11k feet feel pretty easy. So even though I couldn't move my legs much, I was able to power past a number of heavy-breathing folks who hailed from lower elevations.
At 24 miles, there's an aid station on the rim of the caldera (crater). As I creaked in, I heard one of the volunteers say there were 26 more runners behind me. This changed everything. The RD had told us at orientation that 17 different people had assured him that they would be the last to finish. So I was joking all day that I didn't care about time, but didn't want to be in the last 17. Suddenly I realized that it was now a very real possibility : I was now in a back race. From now on I kept a tally of my position and kept a keen eye out for people sneaking up from behind. One young woman who passed me said that in her previous 50k she was DFL. I was glad she was doing well, but that didn't exactly bolster my pride.
The saddest thing was that much of the trail in this part of the race (the downhill, at least) was gorgeous and should have been very runnable. But I was just glad to be able to walk and not injure anything. Sorry, Mabel.
Long story short, I finished in 9:20, about 2 hours more than my optimistic goal set a month previously. At the start of the day I was still hoping for a 8:30. More importantly, I was 23 from the rear : I won the back race.
Congrats on your first ultra, jjs! Love the pics. I can only imagine what that elevation would do to me. I was sucking wind just walking up the stairs of our rented condo when we vacationed in Park City.
Nice, congrats on your first. Trail ultras are more fun than the pesky road ones we have down here. So, when is the next one?
What the hell is it about ultras that they think it's not a race without an insane amount of elevation change? Dayum.
Short term goal: 17:59 5K
Mid term goal: 2:54:59 marathon
Long term goal: To say I've been a runner half my life. (I started running at age 45).
Holy toledo, man! That elevation profile is nuts. Great job on your first ultra and leading the back race!
Great job finishing your first 50K! That looks like I fun race, I might have to put that on my calendar for next year. Thanks for sharing the RR and pics.
Smaller By The Day
Very impressive. It takes balls just to start a race like that.
Weight 100 pounds lost
5K 31:02 Sept. 2012 / 23:36 Sept. 2013 (Same Course)
10K 48:59 April 2013
HM 2:03:56 Nov. 2012 / 1:46:50 March 2013
MARATHON 3:57:33 Nov. 2013
uʍop ǝpᴉsdn sǝʇᴉɹʍ ʇI
Oh man, that looks awesome. You did great. A 50k!!!! That looks like quite a challenge, but fun, in a weird, demented way. Too cool!
Great job! I just signed up for my first 50k, altho the course is not nearly as daunting as yours, that elevation would kill me!
My running blog
Goals | sub-18 5k | sub-3 marathon 2:56:46!!
Are we there, yet?
Have you so quickly forgotten NC24 with it less than 10' of gain per lap?
05/15/21 - 3DATF 50K
TBD - 12-hour
TBD - 100K (maybe) TBD - 24-hour (maybe)
You picked one incredible race for your first ultra.
Wow! Congrats!!!! What a race! I will try to stop complaining about my upcoming half that has a 4 mile section that us uphill and gains 150 feet....LOL.... you rocked that ultra!
PRs: 5K- 28:16 (5/5/13) 10K- 1:00:13 (10/27/13) 4M- 41:43 (9/7/13) 15K- 1:34:25 (8/17/13) 10M- 1:56:30 (4/6/14) HM- 2:20:16 (4/13/14) Full- 5:55:33 (11/1/15)
I started a blog about running :) Check it out if you care to
Very smooth race report j! At least you were able to toe the line and complete it. What's next?
Nice work! That looks like a cool race. I may have to look hard at that one next year.
Trail and Ultra Running User Group
I totally recommend it. I loved the scenery, the organization was top notch and laid back at the same time, and most of the trails/roads are very runnable (for those who can!).
My only unhappy surprise was how horribly nasty the local tap water tasted. Even with horribly nasty electrolyte powder mixed in, it was still horrbly nasty. I ended up getting nearly all my fluids from soda.
As for what's next, I need to let my feetsies recuperate. I haven't treated them well this summer (too many long runs, not enough base miles) and they're sore. But I will definitely be doing more 50k's. Seems like the perfect distance for me.
If I get faster/smarter at it I might try a 50 miler, but hard as I stretch my head, I still haven't got it wrapped all the way around that. We'll see.