Saturday, July 11, 2015

San Juan Solstice 50 Miler 2015

So Jemez had given me great confidence for this race.  It had been four or five years since I last ran it and now I felt confident that I could finish it.  I knew I would not approach the 10:30 time from then but hoped to just finished.  After having been injured for so long and for a time thinking I may never run again, Lake City was a celebration that I was back and so time did not really matter.  This was a run just to be happy to be running and Lake City is my favorite and most beautiful race of all time.  Though when my chest is beating and hurting at 13000 feet and you can't get air, I really began to wonder why I thought it was my favorite race.  This race is sooo tough for flatlanders, especially coming out less than 48 hours before the start.

This was also part of a larger and epic family vacation and I am happy to report that the race and the vacation was awesome.  We camped at the Great Sand Dunes National Park on Thursday night.  I had driven by there many times but had never stopped in part because I just didn't get how sand dunes could be that special.  It was awesome.  I've never seen anything like it.  Against the backdrop of 14ers are these incredible sand dunes that are 700 feet high!  We lucked out and got a great campsite in the National Park.  Really lucky because I had not made reservations.  Me and the kids hiked to the top and played in the river that runs through it.  We ate quesadillas off the camp stove and all was well although I could definitely feel some altitude sickness.
Jim and Olivia atop the Great Sand Dunes after a very tough hike!

The next day we drove on to Lake City and as you drive over Slumgullion pass which is also the mile 40 aid station, the San Juan Mountains are beautiful but are so intimidating knowing that you are going to attempt to run 50 miles up and around and over them.  But unlike Jemez, I did not really have a sense of dread.  Strangely, I felt confident that I could finish and that it would be great.

We stayed at the Town Square Cabins which is perfect because I could look out the back door of the cabin and see the finish line.  So when I did finish, I didn't have to worry about making it back to the cabin.

Ready to Start at 5 am

The next morning the race began and I felt confident so I set a pretty good pace and climbed the first mountain at a very good steady pace.  As we climbed, we had to cross the stream about ten times and it was really moving!  A couple of times I thought myself or someone around me might be washed downstream it the current was so swift.

After we climbed, I descended rather quickly and felt good until a few miles from the Williams Aid Station.  It was there that I got of course for about five minutes and I began to feel a little bit of the altitude sickness.  I also had a sock that was rubbing and I was worried about a blister after all those water crossings.

Luckily at the Aid Station my Mom and our friend Deanna were there to crew for me.  I told them to sleep in and not come out but I was glad they did.  I basically stole the socks off of Deanna's feet and got rid of the wet ones.

I continued on to the next aid stations at Carson but the altitude was really killing me.  But I struggled up to the aid station but now the other foot was beginning to blister.  I asked if anyone there had a sock.  I would normally never do that but I was desperate.  I knew if I didn't get a different sock on that foot, I was in for major problems.  It was really my fault because I should have had a drop bag there but I never do drop bags because I'm always able to get what I need at the aid station.  From now on, I will be packing a sock drop bag.

Luckily there was an older woman there and she gave me her sock!  It was a long tube sock and she said it was her husbands and just make sure to turn it in at the finish line.  At first I refused because it was just too generous.  I've heard of giving someone the shirt off your back, but sock off your foot!?  But I went ahead and accepted and that sock made it to the finish line.  I did end up with a large blister but it had only started to form the last four or five miles.  Needless to say, I did not turn the sock in at the finish line.  There was no way any one would want that sock after I had finished with it.  But I wish I could thank that aid station volunteer more!

As I left Carson and continued up toward the Contintental Divide, the altitude really began to take its toll.  Last time I ran this race I was able to kind of push through it but not this time.  Every time I got higher in elevation, my pace slowed and my chest really began to hurt.  The aid stations are really far apart and after Carson, runners have a four mile huge climb to the Divide and then another five plus miles to get tot he Divide Aid Station.

After making that climb, I was at about mile 26 or so and if I could have dropped out there, I would have.  I just struggled to make it to the next aid station.  There was also a ton of snow to deal with and we had to posthole our way through some of it and walk very gingerly so we wouldn't end up on our back side.  It's during this stretch that a lot of runners began to pass me and I would like to have picked up the pace here but the altitude was just making it very difficult.

Running along the Divide

As I came into the Divide Aid station I began to feel better and knew that I would finish.  After the Divide Aid Station there are still some good climbs but nothing to difficult and then a long down hill to Slumgullion Aid Station.  And sure enough, with every foot of elevation I descended, my ability to run increased and the chest pain began to subside.

As I came into Slumgullion my family was there waiting for me.  That was great.  I was feeling good again and so I gave high fives to the kids and I now had 2 1/2 hours to break the 12 hour mark.  I began to think I could do it which was really great because at certain times, I thought it might take me 13 to 14 hours especially as I was crawling along on the divide.

Kids Waiting for Me at Slumgullion ( I was behind schedule)

I was even lucky enough to pick up a pacer, Kristen Snyder, the last ten miles.  We cruised downhill and then began the final ascent.  I did remember that last climb being the toughest of the whole race the last time I ran and it did not disappoint this time either.  I could barely walk up that mountain and as I got higher, the chest pain came back worse than ever.

Even after cresting the top and beginning the downhill, I still had trouble running.  I think I was just spent.  Eventually I did begin running again and at the Vickers Ranch Aid Station I was told I had 3 miles to go and I had about 40 minutes to make it under 12 hours.  Long story short - it was definitely more than 3 miles because it took me 50 minutes and it was downhill (although very rugged terrain).  So I stumbled in at 12:10 and I will take it.  It was the toughest race I've ever done.  Tougher than Leadville 100, tougher than my other hundreds.  The altitude just made it so tough to finish so I was proud to make it through.  I had a lot of stomach issues for about 24 hours following the race.  I blame the altitude and the tone of gatorade/water I had drank during the race.

Family Photo During the Breakfast Awards on Sunday Morning

Afterward, we resumed our family vacation and we made it to:
Arches National Park

Jim at Delicate Arch - That was a hot and tough hike!


Swimming in Mirror Lake at Yosemite

Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco

What a Great View!

Limkelin State Park and the Pacific Ocean
Our Campsite at Limkelin State Park

Swimming at Pebble Beach

It was the I think the best vacation I've ever taken - what an adventure!

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