2009 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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  THE JEMEZ MOUNTAIN TRAIL 50-MILER & 50K

SUNDAY, MAY 17

 
"The fourth running of the Jemez Mountain Trail Runs was a success. Over 400 hundred runners
were treated to excellent running weather. A cold front moved through the night before the
race, resulting in temperatures in the 60s with mostly cloudy skies. This was a welcome
relief from the 80 degree heat in Los Alamos during the week before the race . . . "
 
- from the Jemez Mountain Trail Runs home page after the race
 
 
That weather would prove to be a welcome relief for Jim during the 50-mile race. Yesterday was cooler and more overcast than any of the nine previous days we were in the Los Alamos area. It was cool and windy all day long at the start/finish area on North Mesa. Even though the temperatures were chillier in the mountains, it was great running weather.

And hiking weather. This is a challenging course with all of the elevation change, high altitude, and rocky, uneven terrain. For all but the fastest runners, a fair amount of time is spent walking as quickly as possible on the ascents and running slowly and with rapt attention on the descents.

Here's a peek at the 50-mile elevation profile. This is the distance Jim chose for the last race in his training buildup to the Bighorn 100-miler five weeks later:

According to the race website, the 50-miler gains 12,011 feet of elevation and loses the same amount, for a total elevation change of 24,022 feet. The lowest elevation is about 7,000 feet in Rendijo and Bayo Canyons near the race start/finish. Runners in the 50-miler climb to over 10,000 feet three times during the race to the peaks of Caballo Mountain (10,480 feet), Cerro Grande (10,200 feet), and Pajarito Mountain (10,441 feet). There are some long, nasty climbs and descents, as you can see in the profile above (obviously condensed, but tough none the less).

This isn't your grandma's 50-miler any more than Promise Land is your granny's 50K. Even less so.

The 50K and half-marathon aren't a whole lot easier than the 50-miler, just shorter and with more generous time limits. The 50K goes up the two highest peaks but avoids Cerro Grande (and misses the beautiful Valle Caldera National Preserve section of the course). It gains and loses a total of 15,562 feet in elevation. The half marathon tops out on Guadje Ridge at 8,852 feet but still has some tough climbs and 5,446 feet in elevation gain and loss (total) in only 13 miles.

Everybody got a good workout on that course yesterday, whether they finished or not!

This was the fourth running of the Jemez Mountain Trail Runs, the brainchild of our good friend Aaron Goldman and his running buddies in the High Altitude Athletics Club in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

I remember when Aaron first notified the internet ultra list about the race. Each year he sent personal e-mails to Jim and me, encouraging us to to come out and run one of the races. They've been quite successful without us -- in only four years, the event has grown to over 400 runners! That says as much about the great organization and fine people involved with this event as it does about the course.

The race just never quite fit our schedule until this year. We were also a bit intimidated about the reputed difficulty of the course. I'm at the point now where the Jemez terrain is too hard for my knees but the timing was good for Jim's buildup to Bighorn this year. And he's a tough dude, running well without any injuries for as long a period of time now as I can remember in the decade I've known him.


A two-way part of the course through Bayo Canyon

We needed a good excuse to leave Virginia in May. Although Jim ran enough distance in several races in the East in March and April, they weren't at altitude like Bighorn. Because of late spring snow in the Bighorn Mountains, we couldn't just hang out there the whole month of May and expect to get in any decent training on the race course. So we had to find some mountains that were high enough for Jim to get some altitude training but far enough south that they wouldn't be covered with snow. He prefers an ultra-distance race to a solo long training run, so he hoped to find a suitable race that would meet all of his criteria.

In fact, Jim researched May races that would give him not only altitude, but also attitude. This time, Jemez' reputation as a tough course appealed to him. It's a character-builder, just the kind of challenge Jim needed before another attempt at finishing the rugged Bighorn 100.

We even got some heat training in the bargain. We lucked out with better weather the past week in Los Alamos than we had wished for. Our morning training runs were quite pleasant before the temps got up to 80 F.  Although there were a few patches of snow at the higher elevations during the race, they weren't on the course itself; the trails were dry yesterday.

There is a wealth of information on the race website, including detailed maps of each course and a runner's manual that can be printed out. Neither of us had very many questions when we got to registration on Friday night because the race rules, aid station and crew information, weekend schedule, and other details were so complete.

ACTIVITIES ON FRIDAY

After Jim and I got our camper set up in the parking area near the start/finish on Friday morning we ran some errands and took a walk on the last mile of the race course -- conveniently, right out our door! We just followed the little white arrows and orange flagging.

The Mitchell Trail was marked with the distinctive race markers (below) and ribbons last Sunday when we ran there. Other trails in the national forest and the caldera area that we didn't see were cleared and marked during the week. To avoid sabotage, the trails in town were marked the day before the race.

Jim felt the entire course was well-marked except the spot on Pajarito Mountain between the Townsite Lift and Ski Lodge aid stations where he got lost for about 30 minutes. We don't know if anyone else got off-course at the same place. When he returned to the last marker he had found, he still couldn't determine the correct route and had to wait for a runner who was familiar with the course to lead him the right way. More about that later . . .

In the afternoon Jim packed his drop boxes for the two aid stations where the 50-milers are permitted to have them. He'd be going by one of them twice, giving him access to his boxes a total of three times (at about 17, 29, and 39 miles). All he ended up needing from his stashes were a resupply of Hammergel and baggies of powdered Heed. The race supplied Heed at the aid stations but Jim carried more with him to mix up between stations that were the farthest apart.

HUGFEST

A little after 4PM on Friday we drove to the high school cafeteria for packet pick-up, the pre-race spaghetti dinner, and the race briefing by RD Aaron Goldman and his main assistant, Kris Kern.

As always, it was great to mingle with our running friends in this casual atmosphere. Some we hadn't seen for a couple of years, others just a few months ago. It usually doesn't seem like much time has elapsed; conversations often pick up where they ended the last time, or from the last e-mail correspondence.


Jim Sullivan, L, and my Jim. The hand on the right probably belongs to Matt Watts.

We were happy to get to spend more time with Matt and Anne Watts than we usually do. They both still have jobs during the week, so although they manage to run a lot of races, they can't hang out as long before and after them as we can. Our time is usually limited to a few minutes before and after each race -- if they don't leave immediately. They are faster than us! The last we'd seen them was at Rocky Raccoon in February.


Jim talks with Matt as they wait in line for their packets. Ulli Kamm and his wife are next to the table.
Aaron Goldman (white shirt) and Kris Kern (sage green shirt) are in the rear.

This time we got to eat dinner with them AND have time to socialize Saturday night after the race. Ditto with Sandy and Dick Powell, who we last saw at Ghost Town in January. The Powells live in a town north of Los Alamos and are active with the local running community. Instead of running the race this year, each manned an aid station (different ones) during the race. I mentioned in the last entry the difficult job Sandy had on Guadje Ridge, and the magnificent job she did there. So did Dick at his aid station. You folks are awesome!!

As you can tell from that photo, these guys know how to have fun! It'll be great to see both couples again soon at Bighorn.

Packet pick-up went smoothly. We are very pleased with our race and volunteer shirts, which feature the artwork of another one of our running pals, Deb Pero. This beautiful painting is called "Morning in the Jemez:"

We love it, Deb!

Each entrant also received a poster with the image. You can see examples of many of her other fine paintings on her website. Deb is a very talented artist who hopes to be back living in the Jemez Mountains as soon as she and her husband Steve can sell their house in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, they weren't able to come out for the race this time.

HELPING OUT

Jim and I have always enjoyed volunteering before, during, and after races. As I race less and less, I'll be volunteering even more at ultras.

At Jemez, we started informally on Monday when we unexpectedly "ran into" Aaron at Smith's Grocery. He was just checking out with two truck loads of food and supplies for the aid stations and race start/finish. We followed him to the home of Aid Station Director Emily Schultz-Fellenz to unload most of the supplies from the trucks -- and do some catching up since we'd last seen him at ATY in December of 2007.  


Aaron and Emily model their handsome race/volunteer shirts

Before supper I introduced myself to Emily to see if she needed any help with registration. She and her crew were doing OK so she suggested I eat first and then come back so another volunteer could get dinner. I'd been in e-contact with her for several weeks about my volunteer preferences, since she also multi-tasks at this race as the volunteer coordinator. Busy gal!

After I got done eating I wandered back over to the 50-mile registration table to relieve one of the other volunteers. That was fun, and I remained there until Aaron and Kris were done with the race briefing.


Kris Kern, standing far left, watches as runners go through the dinner line.

Jim and I left about 6:30PM to return to our camper so we could finish getting ready for Jim's 5AM race start. Since we already had most of our clothing and supplies ready, we were able to relax and watch the parking area fill up with other runners who'd be sleeping in their vehicles (from vans to truck campers to trailers) overnight. What spaces weren't taken Friday night were soon filled with runners' cars early the next morning.

Jim was in a good mood and slept fine on Friday night. I was pretty pumped up about the race, too, even though I wasn't even running it (or maybe because I wasn't running it!!), but I slept very poorly. My nose was stopped up from trail dust and the very dry air and I simply couldn't sleep. I ended up on the too-short couch in the camper living room and was awake most of the night. In retrospect I should have read a book or something.

I was still half-awake when cars started coming into the parking lot at 3:45AM for the 50-miler. Jim slept through that until his alarm went off at 4.

Show time, Sweetie!

THE RACES BEGIN

Jim and I wandered over to the Posse Shack about 4:30AM so he could check in. Emily and crew had check-in under control for the 50-miler and, an hour later, for the 50K, so I just mingled with runners until time for the race to begin.

Since it was chilly and dark outside, most of the runners waited for the start inside the cabin, socializing, eating bagels, stretching, going through their other pre-race rituals, or just trying to keep their eyelids open. Not everyone is used to being up this early, including us.

Promptly at 5AM Aaron sent the runners off into the dark, through the stables area and down a rocky trail to the Bayo Canyon and beyond. Jim was happy to begin his new adventure!

The first place that crews can see their runners (officially) is five miles later, at the Mitchell Trailhead. There wasn't much point in driving over there because Jim was only going to get some water and drop off his flashlight. I knew there was virtually nowhere to park at that location AND I'd lose my spot next to the camper -- or maybe even be turned back by traffic volunteers from the start/finish area and have to park in a remote location.

So I stayed put, socialized with Anne Watts and other 50K runners gathering for their 6AM start (above), and took some more photos. Emily and her crew still didn't need help with runner check-in.


Good choice: Anne happily snacks on a banana before her race begins.

After sunrise Aaron sent off the 50K runners in the other direction, not through the stables:

They ran on, then near, North Mesa Road for about a mile before dropping down to the Bayo Canyon trail where the 50-milers tunneled under San Ildefonso Road (below). The half-marathoners also began in this direction.

It was another two hours before the half-marathoners would start at 8AM. No help was needed in the Posse Shack so I returned to the camper (only a couple hundred feet away) for a some breakfast and time on the computer. Cars came and went until the parking lot was totally packed.

Now I *knew* I wasn't going to move our truck. I really couldn't go out to any of the aid stations to see Jim anyway because he wouldn't reach the ones where I could crew in time for me to get back for my mid-afternoon volunteer duties at the finish from 3-7PM. I regret that now. It would have been a lot more fun for me during the race to work at one of the aid stations than inside at the finish -- where I couldn't even see anyone finish. I didn't get to see very many runners, take photos, or crew for Jim.


Clouds over the Jemez Mountains mid-morning during the race

I went back over to check-in at 7AM and my help WAS needed then with the half-marathoners. My job was to give out shirts and packets to runners who hadn't picked them up on Friday. That went fine, but I didn't know any of the runners in that race. None. It's the same phenomenon we've discovered at events with both 100-mile and 50-mile (and/or 50K) races: the longer the race, the more runners we know or recognize.

After the half-marathoners got started Cody and I had a nice five-mile run/walk through the stables and out on Kwage Mesa. I noticed a lot of clouds over the nearby Jemez Mountains (photo above) and wondered where Jim was on the course. Was it raining up on Caballo Peak? I hoped not.

The clouds were in constant flux, as clouds are wont to behave, and even during my rather brief run I could also see large areas of blue sky:

It was like that all day -- a mix of sun and clouds. I was happy to find out later that Jim didn't encounter any rain during the race. He considered the cloud cover and cooler temperatures to be near-perfect running weather.

JIM'S RACE

Jim's not fond of carrying a camera during training runs, let alone races, and absolutely not in a race where time is of the essence.

The photos I'll include here are ones I took when we ran and hiked parts of the Mitchell, Perimeter, Rendijo, and Bayo Canyon trails last week. They show some of the tamer sections of the race course -- because that's what I wanted to run on. So don't get the idea from these photos that they are representative of the majority of the race course! They are not.


Dot Grand Trail through Rendijo Canyon, about a mile from the start/finish

There are additional photos of the course in the last entry.

Even though Jim is better trained right now than he's been in a year or two, he knew he might have some difficulty beating the one and only cut-off in the race: everyone in the 50-miler and 50K has to reach the Ski Lodge Aid Station on Pajarito Mountain by 5PM or they must stop. Anyone who beats that cut-off is allowed to continue to the finish -- no matter how long it takes them to run the remaining (almost) 14 miles.

I like that concept. It's pretty novel in the world of ultra races. Usually there are intermediate cut-offs AND a final cut-off, at least for official finishes.


View of Caballo Mountain (I think) in the distance, as seen from the Dot Grant Trail

Now you'd think that twelve hours to run 36.2 miles would be a pretty generous pace, close to 20 minutes per mile, that just about anyone and his grandmother could beat. You'd be dead wrong in regards to the Jemez Mountain race, however. This is one rugged course. Only about two-thirds of the entrants in the 50-miler finished the race, and those entrants were primarily self-selected runners who are tougher than most.

The 50Kers had it easier: eleven hours to get 19.2 miles, a 34+ minute pace per mile. If my knees weren't shot, I'd have been entered in that race so I'd have half a chance to finish.

Jim reports that he felt fairly strong throughout the race, motoring up and down all those giant ascents and descents as quickly as he could without doing face plants in the rocks. There were some very steep descents where he had to brace himself on trees to avoid gaining too much gravity-induced momentum and falling. The two-way traffic up and down Caballo Peak on narrow single-track took extra time getting out of the way of other runners. In other places he slid on loose scree, or had to move carefully through boulder fields where there was no dirt or flat terrain for even one foot to land.


Looking SW toward Pajarito Mountain from the Perimeter Trail

Despite all that he had energy, his feet felt pretty good, and his stomach didn't rebel. Jim drank Heed at the aid stations, supplementing it with water and soft drinks. Despite grabbing Hammergel and packets of Heed from his drop boxes twice, and eating some real food from the tables (ham & cheese wrap, boiled potato, cheese crackers), he was in and out of aid stations faster than most of his companions.

Jim had fun running and talking with several runners off and on during the race Sometimes he'd get ahead of them by leaving the aid stations faster and they'd eventually catch back up to him. He leap-frogged several times with Joe Prusatis, Henry Hobbs, Ulli Kamm, and a woman named Laurie from Canada (she didn't finish).


View of the Valles Caldera National Preserve from Hwy. 4.  The 50-milers ran through part of
the valley between Caballo and Cerro Grande mountains in the middle of their race.

Jim even had the presence of mind to enjoy the spectacular scenery from the ridges and peaks and through the caldera, above. I'm glad he was able to enjoy the beauty of his surroundings. That's become one of the most important factors of running and hiking to me since I don't have a lick of speed left in me anymore!

WHERE AM I??

Jim knew at Dick Powell's aid station, Townsite Lift at 32.6 miles, that he might be very close to the cut-off at the Ski Lodge 3.6 miles away. Dick cautioned him about the time and Jim was out of the aid station quickly.

Maybe too quickly.

Somewhere in that section on Pajarito Mountain he got off-course for about two miles and lost a good 30 minutes or more, time that he didn't have to lose. He also added to his elevation gain and loss. When he realized his mistake he returned to the last marker he saw. He hunted and hunted for the correct route. Unable to find the next marker, he finally just waited a little while for a runner familiar with the course to catch up and show him the way. By the time he made it to the lodge about 6PM, it was too late and he had to stop. So did a bunch of other runners.


Switchbacking on the Mitchell Trail up to Guadje Ridge about 6 miles into the 50-miler

I knew about the 5PM cut-off, of course, but forgot about it until about 6:15. I had a bit of an advantage crew-wise in that I was working the food line in the Posse Shack at the time. That's where the multi-tasking Emily was now in radio contact with the various aid stations. I know Aaron better than Emily so I asked him if he knew if Jim made the cut-off. He checked with Emily and came back with the bad news that Jim had just come in a few minutes earlier and was cut.

Well darn. I was concerned how he was doing, as much mentally as physically. I asked Aaron if Jim or any other runners needed transporting back to the finish; I could drive up and bring several people down. Aaron said there were enough volunteer and crew cars to handle it, so I continued working the food line.

I knew how much Jim wanted to get in all 50 miles on this course, even if it took him 15 or 16 hours. It would be great training for Bighorn. He was disappointed, of course, but in pretty good spirits when a volunteer brought him back down to the finish. He was philosophical; he knew he gave it his best shot. He doesn't blame anyone but himself for getting off-course. He realizes he wouldn't have made the cut-off even if he hadn't gotten lost.


View from partway up Guadje Ridge on the Mitchell Trail

Jim summed up his feelings about the race this way in an e-mail to his oldest son, who is training for his first 100-miler at Tahoe Rim Trail in July:

"Well, another DNF. I don't feel too bad about it. I had a fun time, got lost, saw a lot of friends and saw a lot of beautiful scenery. I feel bad I didn't finish, but it was a great training run for BH & TRT. I missed the 12-hour cut-off at the 36.2 mile mark. This course is a mini-Hardrock. If there are some nice switchbacks to get up to or down from mountain, they don't use them. They take you straight up or down and over cliffs. And how do you train for running from 8,800' to 10,2400' when you live at 980'? Anyway, no regrets."

I consider the 38+ miles (including the distance wandering off-course) that Jim completed in 12+ hours to be better training for Bighorn than the 50 miles he ran faster at either Rocky Raccoon or Umstead, which are relatively flat, smooth, and less than 800 feet in elevation.

He still would have preferred to get in all 50 miles at Jemez., of course. If he wants to run it again we need to get out here to train longer than a week; that wasn't enough to get acclimated to the altitude -- or the rocky terrain that's even gnarlier (Spell-check doesn't like that word!) than the rocky Appalachian Mountains in Virginia..


As I said, I didn't get photos of the roughest parts of the course.
This section of the Mitchell Trail on the way up to Guadje Ridge is tame, Jim says.

Jim's not the only veteran ultra runner I heard say that this is the gnarliest* course he's ever run. It is only the second 50-miler he has ever DNF'd since he started running ultras in 1997. Guess what the first one was?? The answer is below.

* Ha! Spell-check doesn't like the superlative degree of "gnarly" any better than the comparative.

SUE'S DAY

After I got cleaned up from my run with Cody, checked e-mail, watched runners finish from my living room window in the camper(!),

and ate lunch, I wandered over to the finish to cheer on some of the finishers

and see what was going on inside the Posse Shack. Tired but happy runners were sharing war stories from the course. Several volunteers were busy keeping the foods and beverages flowing to hungry finishers and their crews. Emily and Aaron were keeping radio contact with the aid stations and handing out handsome locally-made pottery awards to the overall and age group winners in each race.

I wasn't needed to help with anything yet so I went about my own business in the camper until it was my shift to work the aid station inside the Posse Shack at 3PM.

The time passed quickly from 3PM until Jim came back a little before 7PM because I was busy. There were only two of us working the food table during my shift, plus a woman who kept us supplied with hot BBQ beef and veggie burgers, tortilla wraps and buns, chips and other salty snacks, fruit, candy, nuts, and various beverages. I'm no big beef lover, but that BBQ was good. I eventually got sick of smelling it after making dozens of sandwiches, and switched jobs with my cohort.

Crews were welcome to share the goodies at no cost. In some races, they have to pay for post-race food.


Orange course markers on the Mitchell Trail at the intersection with Natural Arch Trail

I enjoyed serving the hungry runners and their families but missed seeing folks finish because I couldn't see outside. I also couldn't talk much to the people I knew as they came through the food line. I really wanted to talk further with Jamil Coury, for example, about the hiatus of ATY this year (the public notice on the website and ultra list finally came out last week). I was too busy to carry on much of a conversation with him and he was gone by the time I could get a short break.

After almost four hours of steady work, I was real happy to see Jim and be able to leave my post. I had committed to four hours, and I put in a couple hours more that with the various jobs I did this week. That's nothing compared to the work the race committee and many other volunteers did, though. This race has attracted a very dedicated group of volunteers to clear and mark the rugged course, haul supplies to remote locations, (wo)man the aid stations for long hours, and do a multitude of other tasks to make the race the success it has become.

And that's one very big reason the race is a success. If all a runner does is run races, (s)he's long overdue to put in some volunteer time at one.

POST-RACE

After Jim got to the finish we talked a little while with Karen Pate and Anne Watts, who were done with the 50K race. Jim got pretty cold waiting for the ride down from the ski lodge so he was more interested in a hot shower than talk at the moment. It took that hot shower in the camper, a fleece jacket, and two tasty BBQ beef sandwiches to warm him up enough to walk back over to the finish to resume socializing.


Spring flowers poke through charred remains
of trees along the Mitchell Trail.

By then more of our friends had either finished the 50-miler or had come in from their aid station duties. It was fun to sit around and share stories about the race with Matt and Anne Watts, Dick and Sandy Powell, Karen Pate and Pat Homelveig, and other runners who did and didn't finish the race.

We finally went back to the camper and to bed around 10PM. Jim was tired but not trashed. He had one blister on the front of his ankle from the steep downhills. His Injinji socks prevented any other blisters. He was mostly pleased with his choice of Asics 2140 trail shoes for the race. They are lightweight and comfortable but didn't have enough traction for some of the loose trail surfaces (sand, scree) on this course.

We enjoyed a full ten hours of sleep after the race, although Jim tossed and turned some during the night. That's typical after a hard race, or even a hard training run. The feeling is probably similar to Restless Leg Syndrome with its sudden and uncontrollable leg twitching.


Not that direction! That's OK. This guy was doing a training run.
On race day, runners turned right in the last mile of the race.

By the time we peeked outside this (Sunday) morning all the other vehicles were gone and we had the place to ourselves again. Sweet! You couldn't even tell a race had been run there, the area was so clean. The volunteer in charge of the post-race food said the race would be charged some huge fee if the Posse Shack and surrounding area weren't spotless after the race. The rules were so strict, we couldn't even leave leftover ice in the freezer for the next group to use.

After breakfast Jim and I decided not to stretch our luck any more and moved back to the official town RV parking area where we stayed last week. I would have preferred staying near the Posse Shack so I could run on Kwage Mesa again today but we had other, more "touristy" plans for the day and needed to get going.

The runners really lucked out with the weather they had for the race yesterday. Today it was sunny and in the upper 70s again.

RESULTS

You can link to race results from the Jemez Mountain homepage.

The overall winner of the 50-mile race was Ryan Burch with a time of 9:13:52. Darcy Africa lead the woman with a time of 10:48:44. Darcy's time sets a new course record for the current route. In the 50K race Paul Saladino won in 5:25:33. Keri Nelson was second overall and first female in 5:31:53.

I don't know how many runners started either the 50-miler or 50K so I can't determine the finish rates of either race. However, based on the number of entrants (161), 65% of the runners finished the 50-miler (104) and almost 83% of the entrants (116) finished the 50K (96). That makes sense; the time limit for the 50K is much more generous and the runners face fewer grueling miles.


Final climb to the finish; Jim and Cody on a training run before the race

Out of curiosity, here are some age-related facts I gleaned from the ultra results:

No women over 60 finished either the 50K or 50-miler. I don't know if any started because there are no ages given on the entrants' lists. That's interesting to me since I'm now 60. I haven't looked at previous results to see if any F60+ finished either race the first three years.

Five women in their 50s finished the 50-miler. The oldest is 55. She and two of the others in her age group have also finished the Hardrock Hundred, which is one of the toughest 100s in the country. Nine women in their 50s finished the 50K; the oldest is 56.

Five men over 60 finished the 50-miler, all between age 60 and 62. Note that no men over 62 finished that race this year. Again, I don't know how many were entered or started, as ages aren't included in the entrants' lists. Four M60-69s and two M70+ finished the 50K. The oldest finisher in the 50K is 74. Good job!!


Kris Kern, L, and Aaron Goldman at the pre-race briefing

And for the record, the mastermind behind this race, longtime ultra runner Aaron Goldman, is now in his late 70s and still going strong, although he's too busy on race day to run his own race!

Aaron's been one of my favorite ultra running role models since I ran about thirty miles with him at the Vermont 100 in 1998. It was my first attempt at the distance. Although I came up 15 miles short of the finish that day, it's one of the most memorable races I've ever run, in large part because of all of Aaron's sage advice and interesting running stories. He's a gem.

ANSWER TO THE QUIZ

The only other 50-miler Jim has ever DNF'd? 

It was Bighorn, which is really 52 miles -- Jim's first attempt at the distance. Picking Bighorn for your first 50-miler is about as risky as picking Mountain Masochist as your first ultra. (That was silly me, but I was younger and faster and finished.)

So what's next on Jim's race agenda? The Bighorn 100-miler, which is more than twice as tough as the 52-miler on the same course. I'll explain why another time. Although he's since been able to finish the BH50 in good time, a finish at the BH100 has eluded his grasp in his four previous attempts.


Jim looks happy at the start of the BH100 in 2007.

Will he succeed in Number Five?

You betcha!!

Next entry: goodbye Jemez Mountains, hello Black Hills of South Dakota

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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