Race Report: Jemez Mountain Trail Runs 50K

When I first got into trail running, for some reason this race popped up on my radar early. Beyond the local races in Arizona, it looked like one I’d like to try. It just so happened that my buddy Tom really wanted to run it as well, and the stars aligned to make it happen this year.

I drove up to Flagstaff from Phoenix on a Thursday so that we could spend Friday road tripping from Flag to Los Alamos, New Mexico. The drive there wasn’t too bad, and after a quick mile or so run to shake our legs out – we felt pretty damn good and ready for the race the next morning.

We stayed at an Airbnb, and got to chat up the owners, who both worked for the National Park Service. I’m not going to lie – it made me a bit jealous, and doing something working in the forest is something Laura and I will probably look into at some point in our lives.

We got to the Posse Lodge for the start of the race with plenty of time to spare. It was decently chilly out, so we spent a little time in the car, keeping warm. With a few minutes left, we got to the start line where I took this photo and we bid each other adieu until the finish.

About that time. See you on the other side! #jemez50k

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Tom is pretty quick, so I didn’t expect to see him for quite some time. In fact, he had more than a couple hours to wait once he finished before I came in!

That’s not to say I was disappointed in my effort, though. The first half of the race was actually really nice. I kept a decent pace between running and power hiking hills. The weather was great. What more could I want? But then, we came upon the ski lift hill…

Send help! #jemez50k #runsteepgethigh

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Having to go up this hill smack dab in the middle of the race was TOUGH. I imagine earlier runners through the area got a decent bit of running in as they climbed, but folks in my section of the race were all power hiking and walking.

It felt like a nice accomplishment at the top. The only problem? A decently steep descent, with miles of trail littered with uncomfortable rocks. My feet were having none of it at that point, and I wasn’t wearing my Altras with the added padding. I feel like that may have made a difference, but hindsight is 20/20.

For a while after that descent, I was in a rather grumpy mood, and it was hard to break out of the negative mindset. I never felt quite like that during a run before. I wasn’t going to drop, but I also wasn’t going to rush myself. That sure seems counterintuitive to running a race, but weird stuff happens in your brain on these long distance jaunts.

At a certain point with 5 or so miles remaining, I did the mental math and figured out that I could still finish under nine hours if I wanted. If I wanted? Hell yeah! I originally wanted to come in under eight hours. But since that was off the table, let’s make the nine-hour mark happen.

I was hustling pretty good (relatively speaking, of course) the last few miles and passed quite a few people who previously passed me while I was feeling sorry for myself. Each person I passed added back to my excitement and I used it to push myself even harder.

A well earned finisher award today. Super unique, locally crafted pottery! #jemez50k

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In the end, I’m glad to have made the run of four ultras in nine weeks, but it sure was taxing. I don’t know when I’ll run another ultra, but I’m in no rush at this point! We’ll see what happens. 🤔

Feature Photo Credit 📷: Jim Stein Photography

Race Report: Sinister Night Runs 54K

In March of this year, I got revenge on the Mesquite Canyon 50K. Then, in April, I was able to take on the Crown King Scramble. A couple weeks later, Laura and I ventured to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in a single go (rim to river to rim). Lastly, I had committed myself to a third ultra within a 9 week period by agreeing to join Tom in May for the Jemez 50K in New Mexico.

Why not throw in a fourth ultra for good measure? For my 35th birthday weekend, I decided that I shouldn’t think too hard about it and just run the Sinister 54K out at San Tan Regional Park. The course looked relatively flat in comparison to the other races on my schedule, so I should be able to get a decent time out of it. Let’s see what I could do!

All in all, this race consisted of six 5.6-mile loops.

The first loop

I ran most of the first loop with Raul, as we chatted about our other races and life in general, as trail runners often do. It was pretty enjoyable, and I was pleased with the pace we kept. By the end of that loop, Raul began to drop back a bit, and I could tell he may be in trouble of dropping from the race at some point. This race was in the midst of some heavy training days for him as he was preparing for a 100 miler.

The second loop

The next loop was just plain nutty. As I came in to finish my first lap, the 9K runners were lining up, preparing to start their race (a single lap of the course). I slapped hands with everyone as they made a tunnel for me to run through en route to the start / finish aid station. By the time I got back onto the trail, I could hear the crowd counting down the start timer behind me. I proceeded to spend the rest of that lap being chased (and often being passed) by this large group. It was pretty fun being caught up in the excitement of what was the first trail race for many people!

…and the rest

The rest of the laps sort of blend together in my head. It became a bit monotonous and grueling to see the same scenery over and over. On my fourth lap, the awesome Team RWB people at the remote aid station pretty much force fed me a Red Bull. Man, what a game changer. It pretty much powered me through the rest of that lap, and I yelled for more Red Bull as I approached them on lap five. Luckily, they had one can remaining at that point!

Motivation to finish within a certain time went out the window somewhere around the start of my last lap, but in my head, I did calculate that I could still finish the initial 50K of the race under seven hours, which seemed pretty appealing. I did, in fact, manage to accomplish that en route to the remote aid station – it was pretty damn rewarding to whoop and holler at that milestone all by myself in the dark. Ha.

I got to the remote aid station one final time to find a fellow runner seated with a beer in hand. That looked great to me. I didn’t dare sit down, but I pounded a Founders All Day IPA and continued down the trail to finish strong. Not a bad way to start my 36th year on this planet!

Feature Photo Credit 📷: SweetM Images

Race Report: Crown King Scramble 50K

The Crown King Scramble: an infamous race that takes place every April, from Lake Pleasant up the mountain to the town of Crown King. To me, this became a sort of bucket list race – one that I’m not sure I would’ve wanted to do more than once, but also one that I wasn’t sure how to get it on my schedule.

This is happening!

Logistically, it seems to always be scheduled the same weekend as WrestleMania. My friends and I have made a habit of traveling to Mania, thereby eliminating this race as an option. But as fate would have it, I decided to skip this year’s big event – which freed me up nicely to run Crown King.

I talked it over with Laura and she decided she wanted to take her Jeep up the very roads we’d be running, so she could drop me off at the start in the morning and then we’d get together with our friends at the top for celebratory beers that night!

The Race

I sort of went into this race with a similar mentality as the Mesquite Canyon 50K, running at whatever pace felt comfortable. That worked out pretty well for me.. for about the first half of the race. Then it became tough, and power hiking became my MO for the rest of the race pretty much.

I was a bit disappointed in my inability to muster out much uphill running after a certain point, but my power hiking skills are (I’d say) above average so I still kept pace pretty well in relation to the people around my position.

Crown King 50K: The ultimate uphill battle! Happy to have been able to do this race this year.

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When all was said and done, I was happy enough with my finishing time. I know I could do better, and I’ll admit – part of me wants to give it a go again to see what I’m capable of. We’ll just have to keep an eye on that WrestleMania schedule!

via GIPHY

Post-race shenanigans

After the race, a group of us got together to run a beer mile. For the uninitiated, a beer mile consists of: (1) Chug a beer (2) run a quarter mile (repeat four times). I’ve done some pretty quick beer miles (sub ten minutes – nowhere near record setting, but I’d consider it to be pretty quick) – so this was nothing like that. I pretty much chugged beers and hobbled my way around the pseudo-course we had made up. Others with fresher legs were quite a bit speedier. Luckily (or not) this whole thing was captured for posterity:

…and for some reason (*cough* Erica *cough*), a human pyramid seemed like a good idea at the end. Don’t mind my poor form here – it’s the best I could muster!

Beeramid. #CrownKingScramble #beer #beermile

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To cap off the weekend, Laura took us home on the dirt roads en route back to the I-17. It wasn’t anything like the steeper uphill trails we took to get there, but it was still pretty fun to blast some country and kick up some dust!

Thanks for the hospitality, Crown King! We had fun running and Jeeping and eating and drinking!

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Let it be known: I survived the Crown King Scramble! Also, I apparently survived Jurassic Park!

Feature Photo Credit 📷: SweetM Images