Hint to race directors: make your race sound especially challenging and
it'll fill up quickly. The tougher an event sounds, the more appealing it
becomes to many trail runners! The same is true these days for adventure races,
mountain bike races, and other similar events.
If it's highly "technical,"
they will come.
I haven't been on that much of
the Jemez course but I've read the detailed course descriptions and heard what
runners had to say last year about the 50K and 50-mile races. Everyone who's
run either of the ultra races agrees that
JMTR is one of the tougher events at
those distances in the country.
The 50-miler is especially rugged, with some very rough terrain and
four ascents over 10,000 feet high; there is "only" one ascent that high
in the 50K but it's a doozy with the additional challenge of loose footing and
a narrow trail that is used by runners going up and down at the same time. Jim's attempt last year to finish the 50-miler was dashed when he
missed a turn on Pajarito Mountain more than two-thirds of the way through the race and
subsequently missed the cut-off at the Ski Lodge Aid Station.
His goal this year is to have more fun in his races and less stress trying
to beat cut-offs. Two good ways to accomplish that goal are to run more 50Ks
with generous cut-offs (like JMTR) and continue entering fixed-time races (like ATY).
Friday morning we moved our camper over to North Mesa to a
parking area between the Posse Shack (start/finish of the race)
and the North Mesa Stables. We really liked the convenience of
this spot last year so we snuggled in between some large trees
just like we did then:
By late afternoon several other Jemez entrants in various types
and sizes of RVs and vans had settled in for one or two nights.
We were especially happy to see our friends Marcy and John Beard
and socialize with them for a while before we left for packet
We were surrounded by other vehicles all day today during the
race but nearly everyone had gone by 10 PM. Most of the campers remained
overnight and left Sunday morning.
Since I wasn't running the race I volunteered again to help with
various duties before and during the race. My
assistance wasn't needed mid-week for stuffing the race bags but we both
helped on Friday afternoon with packet pick-up at the church
where the pre-race briefing and dinner were also held.
There was a steady line of runners for the two ultras and a half
marathon. Four of us handled race numbers and raffle tickets
for numerous giveaways during the briefing and after the race:
Runners picked up their handsome shirts and posters at another
table. The light sage green short-sleeved "technical" shirts
sport this year's new race logo:
The runners in all three races received the same shirt, as did
some of the volunteers. I was happy to get one of the
attractive, comfortable race shirts when there weren't any of
the bright orange cotton volunteer t-shirts left in my size this
The poster is quite nice, too, from a painting by local artist
About 60% of the 600+ entrants picked up their packets on Friday
Jim and I worked from 4:40 to 6:30 PM handing out
race numbers and explaining how the raffles worked (one drawing
at the briefing, one during the race).
By the time the line dwindled down enough for us to go get some
dinner in a nearby room, most of the pasta and other items were
gone. I had encouraged Jim to leave earlier to go eat but he
felt responsible for processing as many runner numbers as
possible and simply waited too long. Ironically, he hadn't even
volunteered for that job. I did. He saw the need for more help
and jumped in. We supplemented dinner in the camper when we got
Finding a place to sit inside to eat during the race briefing was
also a problem. Although the new church has a large auditorium,
the place was packed. Since he's run the race before, Jim decided to
skip the briefing and
go outside to eat where there was more room. I eventually found a seat inside
when a kind young lady who was finished eating let me have her
I stayed just long enough to hear what Micah True AKA Caballo Blanco had to
say. He's one of the central characters in the popular book
Born to Run and was invited to speak during the briefing. He
spoke for only a couple minutes, then showed a short video of the Tarahumara Indians in Copper Canyon,
Mexico. A longer talk is scheduled in Los
Alamos tomorrow afternoon but we will be gone by then.
Micah True, left, speaks to the runners as
co-RDs Kris Kern and Bill Geist confer to the right.
I also heard a short tribute to race founder and veteran ultra
extraordinaire Aaron Goldman, who died of liver
cancer a few weeks ago. There is a
picture of him in my Jemez
entry last year.
Aaron was a special friend to us, always full of
encouragement and good cheer even after his terminal diagnosis. I first
met him at the 1998 Vermont 100, my very first 100-miler
We ran together for thirty miles or more in the middle of the
race. I'll never forget that
experience, listening to many of his running stories and great
advice to a 100-mile newbie. We saw him at several races since
then, including ATY, and periodically corresponded by e-mail.
What a genuinely nice man he was!
I'm really missing his hugs and smiles this
weekend. Rest in peace, Aaron.
Friday night's sunset over the Jemez
Mountains, as seen from my desk in the camper
As always, it was fun to see a bunch of our other ultra running friends
when they picked up their packets and after the briefing.
Because of all the 100-milers we've attended in the last twelve
years we tend to know more runners who enter the longer ultras.
At Jemez we saw more familiar faces in the 50-miler than the
50K, which is typical. Many of them are using Jemez as a
build-up for tough 100s like Hardrock this summer or fall. We
don't know any of the half-marathoners, who are mostly
We were in bed by 9 PM last night for our multiple wake-up alarms at 5:15
We deliberately missed the 50-mile start at 5 AM. I was wearing
ear plugs and didn't
hear any of the commotion going on right outside our camper. Jim was real happy to sleep in
"late," get dressed, and have only
a short walk over to the Posse Shack to check in before his race
began at 6 AM. That's Jim in the white sun shirt below:
He needed that shirt to ward off the sunshine during the race
all day. Although he enjoyed cooler weather and wind on the
ridges, the canyons got pretty hot. He finally took it off in
the last couple miles of the race through the Rendijo and Bayo
Jim was one of 141 runners who began the 50K at 6 AM; it
was the smallest of the three races. He lined up at the back of
the pack with John Beard. I took these pictures as the runners
started their first half mile on the North Mesa Road before
dropping down onto single track trail at the Bayo Canyon
John Beard waves to me and Jim (on right)
smiles for the camera. The adventure had begun!
THE 50K COURSE
From the JMTR runners'
The 50 kilometer race has several steep long climbs. Runners
will ascend Guaje Ridge, drop into Guaje Canyon, take a side
trip to the top of Caballo Mountain and back, ascend out of
Guaje Canyon, run along the rim of the Valles Caldera National
Preserve, run an out and back section to the Pajarito Ski Area,
and descend Guaje Ridge back into town to the finish.
Here is the course
The high point in the 50K is Caballo Peak at 10,480 feet. The Pipeline
Road aid station sits at 9,580 feet, Ski Lodge at 9,220 feet,
and Guaje Ridge at 8,852 feet. You can see other aid station elevations in a
chart in the runners'
It's obvious from the elevation profile that most of the course
is run above 8,000 feet. The lowest point is in the Rendijo and Bayo
Canyons near the start and finish.
Here's a Google topo map with the 50K course superimposed on top
so you can see its configuration. The line at the top left is
the out and back to the top of Caballo Mountain between 13 and
16 miles into the race. The line at the lower left is the out
and back to the Ski Lodge AS between miles 19 and 25. To zoom in
or out on the map, click on this
That link also shows how the 50-mile course is laid out.
All Jemez runners in the 50-miler and 50K must reach the Ski Lodge AS by 5
PM. That's the only cut-off in the race. If they reach that one in time, they can continue on
to the finish. The 50-milers have 12 hours to reach that aid station at 39.1
miles. The 50K runners have 11 hours to reach it 22 miles into their race --
a much more generous time limit.
That's no guarantee that all the 50K runners will finish the race, but it
sure gives them a better chance of completion. This year a little over 94% of
the 50K runners who began the race beat that cut-off and continued to the
finish line. Only 64% of the 50-milers did.
One new twist this year that was advantageous to the slower 50-milers was
being able to drop down to the 50K during the race when they reached the
Pipeline aid station. Nineteen runners out of
156 starters took that option to avoid a possible DNF. They got credit for a
50K finish but were not eligible for overall or age-group awards.
THE CALM AFTER THE STORM
No, there weren't any storms today but race morning at the Posse Shack
was plenty busy from about 4 AM when the 50-milers began checking in
until the half marathoners began their race at 8 AM.
The Posse Shack is calm during the lull between the
half marathon start
and the time when runners in all three races began
crossing the finish line.
I didn't volunteer to help with check-in or late packet pick-up for
either the 50-mile or 50K race because I knew Jim wanted to sleep as
late as possible before his race began. If I'd gotten up to work at 4 AM
or 5 AM for those races I would have awakened him.
So I did what I did last year: worked the half marathon
check-in and late packet pick-up from 6:30 to 8 AM. It was pretty hectic
the last half hour but with three of us working the crowd of 242 runners
who showed up for the shorter race, we survived. I have my own ideas
about how the process could be stream-lined with one little modification so runners don't have to
stand in line so long (Jim said that was a problem with the 50K check-in
also) but let's just say that this is how it's always been done and the
woman in charge of the process sees no reason to change it . . .
I helped transfer the half marathon starters' information to a master
list, then joined in the group effort to reorganize the Posse Shack to accommodate runners at the finish
(packed away the shirts and registration materials, set up tables,
chairs, awards, food, etc.).
With such a large number of runners this year (653 total entrants and
539 total starters) there was plenty of work to be done at the finish
and out on the course all day -- as well as all the work that was done to organize and set up everything
before the race, including several remote aid stations.
Volunteers at the finish were almost
as exhausted as the aid station volunteers who straggled in during the
afternoon and evening after their long shifts in the mountains were
done. Finishers came in over a 12-hour period of time. Some were on the
course over 16 hours. This race has a dedicated core of volunteers who work very hard to
keep the runners safe and happy.
Half a mile into the 50-mile course runners get a
great view of Caballo Mountain
and the Jemez Range. This trail quickly drops
down into Bayo Canyon.
About 10 AM I went out for a two-hour walk with
Cody. We followed the route the 50-milers take down into Bayo Canyon the
first half mile, then went the other direction so we didn't interfere
with any of the race participants returning to the finish.
It was a beautiful morning but already hot in Bayo Canyon. I hoped
Jim was drinking plenty of fluids and getting enough electrolytes. I'd
later see some seriously dehydrated runners come into the finish with crusty salt all over their bodies.
Clear, sunny skies + high elevation + arid atmosphere = perfect
conditions for dehydration and sunburn.
Before returning to the camper to eat and clean up, Cody and I watched some of the
runners come in on the Bayo Canyon Trail about a third of a mile before
Runners then negotiate one last rock climb, top out on North Mesa Road,
and turn right to hustle to the finish line as fast as they can.
Like last year, I was able to sit in our camper, look out the back
windows, and watch the runners make the turn off the top of the trail
onto the road. The next view from my desk looks toward the finish line,
which runners could see as soon as they hit the road:
The Posse Shack (red roof, below) was a busy place from the time runners
began returning mid-morning until the last ones finished after 9:30
The timing crew worked the finish line next to the white canopy,
above, which housed the
computers that kept track of all the runners.
Terrific burgers were grilled up
outside and more delicious food (like shredded chicken and bean enchiladas in a tasty
green sauce -- yum!) were served up inside the Posse Shack. There
appeared to be plenty of food even for the finishers who came in during
the evening and night.
After my morning hike I relaxed in the camper until about 2 PM. From
then until Jim finished about three hours later I watched runners
finish. While outside near the finish line I had to keep moving my chair
to find shade under the relentless sun. A breeze helped, but not much.
I worried about Jim frying out on the course, but he said he didn't get
hot until the last couple miles when he dropped into the canyons before
the finish. I mingled with runners and helped inside the Posse Shack
when volunteers needed a break.
Recognize this runner?
That's Karl Meltzer right before he reached the finish line. On a good day he
probably would have won the 50-mile race. Today, doing a "training run"
because of his broken left arm (see the purple cast?), Karl
was 7th overall out of 100 finishers in the 50-mile race with a
time of 10:02 hours.
I was real happy to see Jim approaching the finish:
Jim was more than happy to sit down, eat, socialize, and relax inside the
Posse Shack for a couple of hours after the race:
L-R: Jim, John Beard, and Naresh Bhagavatha
after finishing the 50K
He patiently waited in line for a hamburger hot off the grill and
enjoyed some of the homemade Mexican food volunteers prepared.
Volunteers and crews were also invited to share the food both pre- and
post-race. That's generous these days when rather steep additional fees
are required for uninspired meals at some races. Although volunteers
almost always get to eat free, runners and especially crews
sometimes have to pay extra.
INTERESTING POST-RACE STATS
Jim is very glad that he chose the 50K distance this
time. He finished in 10:52 hours and placed 120th out of 152 finishers.
That's his slowest 50K since he began running trail ultra marathons in 1997. He also
says it's the toughest 50K he's ever done, primarily because of the footing.
You can find 50-mile results at this
link and 50K results
Briefly, 193 runners entered the 50-miler and 156 showed up at
the start. That's a very high 19.2% DNS (Did Not Start) rate! This race
does not keep a wait list. Runners have to enter several months
in advance and the race fills to capacity quickly. Thirty-seven people dropped or didn't
make the cut-off at the ski lodge, 19 switched to the 50K at
Pipeline (a new option this year), and only 100 runners finished
the 50-miler, a 64% finish rate.
The top three men in the 50-miler are all in their 30s. Nick
Clark was first in 8:26 hours. Diana Finkel, age 38, was
first female and 12th overall in 10:32. The third female was
Susan Gebhart, age 55, in 12:21. She was an impressive
30th overall of 100 finishers. Good job, Susan!!
The oldest female finisher in the 50-miler was Rickie Redland,
age 56. The oldest male finisher was 67-year-old Ian Maddieson.
The overall winner in the 50K was 32-year-old Sean O'Rourke in
5:29. The first female, 38-year-old Petra McDowell, was 5th
overall in 6:08. The oldest female finisher was Janice
O'Grady, the only woman over 60 to complete the 50K; the oldest male finisher
was Bill Moyle, age 71.
In the 50K, 171 runners entered and 141 started the race. That's
a 17.5% DNS rate, also high. There were 133 finishers
eligible for awards. Including the 19 runners who dropped down
to the 50K during the race, the total number of 50K finishers
That leads to an interesting statistic: 94.3% of the
runners who were initially registered for the 50K officially
finished the race, partly (mainly?) because of the generous time
limit. When you add in the nineteen 50-mile runners who switched
to the 50K mid-race, you have a finish rate of 107.8%!
That amuses me.
You can find some other interesting race stats
The top three overall male and female runners in the 50-miler
and 50K were honored in a mid-afternoon awards ceremony in which
they were presented with handsome pottery pieces made by
Birdell Bourdon of the Santa
Clara Pueblo. I took these photos of some of her pottery before
the pieces were awarded to the runners:
One of the nice traditions of this race has been the
locally-made pottery pieces given to the runners. That was one
of Aaron Goldman's original concepts when he began the race
five years ago. I'm glad Bill and Kris have continued the
tradition. Birdell was also selling other pieces to interested
collectors after the race.
Smaller pottery pieces were awarded to each finisher, who got to choose
from a variety of figurines. There were so many left when Jim
finished that I don't think all the runners realized they got a
Jim asked me to pick one out for
him. I chose this cute little bear from dozens of
figurines that remained:
He's about 3" tall and makes a nice paperweight.
We travel light in our Cameo 5th-wheel camper and can't take
decorative objects with us on our extended treks across the
country, except those we collect in races on each trip. I think
this little fella might become a permanent travel buddy, though.
I'll always think of Aaron Goldman and his ultra running legacy
when I see it.
FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE JEMEZ MOUNTAIN 50K
Jim's a tired puppy tonight, not fully trained
for the altitude, elevation change, steep slopes, or bad footing at Jemez. Even
though it was "just a 50K," he didn't have as much fun as he
would have if he'd been better trained and acclimated.
He also dislikes the unattractive burn areas through which part
of the 50K runs. That's not the fault of race organizers but a
fact of life after the devastating Cerro Grande fire ten years
ago. It's a much bigger problem for local runners and residents
who have to look at these denuded mountains every day,
remembering how beautiful they looked when they were full of
thick pine trees.
Jim was able to get enough fluids and food at the aid stations
but by the time he arrived at most of them, the special
food items were already gone. He appears to have taken in enough
fluids, calories, and electrolytes during the race. He still had
energy at the end; he just had to go slow because of the
altitude and treacherous trails.
On the positive side, Jim did have fun seeing lots of our
friends before, during, and after the race. He ran and walked
carefully enough to avoid injury. And he's not totally spent,
just tired and a little sore. He'll recover in a few days and be stronger for his next race, another
challenging 50K, in two weeks. This was good, strenuous training for subsequent
races this summer and fall.
Right now he says he'll never run this race
again -- because of the terrain, not the ambience and people
involved. We'll see what happens when registration opens for the 2011 Jemez
Mountain Trail Runs!
Next entry: scratching the travel itch -- adios
Los Alamos, hello Colorado Springs
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil