No wonder this race sells out so fast in recent years. It seems to me
that the more gnarly trail races are, the more enticing they are to
runners who are hungry for a new challenge. And the addition of the half
marathon race at Jemez breeds even more potential ultra runners who are
exposed to the possibility that they, too, can complete the 50K or 50-miler
in the future.
Race management knows how to draw hundreds of runners to Los Alamos
on the third Saturday in May.
Several hundred runners line up
before the start of the half marathon.
Fortunately, they also do a great job with this race.
Despite the tough course it's one of our favorites to run and work.
That's because of the dedicated people who are involved with it, the
excellent organization and amenities for runners and volunteers, the
friends who come from far and near to run the race, and the wide variety
of trails and scenery in the Los Alamos area.
There are many advantages to
parking our camper about a hundred yards from the
start/finish area at the Posse Shack on North Mesa Road -- being
able to sleep later on race morning, not having to find a parking spot
before the start, having Cody nearby in the camper while I was
volunteering at the Posse Shack, watching runners come up the hill near
the finish from the back window of our camper or right out the door,
Jim being able to take a shower soon after finishing and then
going back to socialize with other runners at the post-race party, and
having our bed right there when we're ready to crash at the end of a long
There is one disadvantage, however -- being awakened by
the arrival of the 50-mile runners, some of whom were slamming their car
doors near our camper at 4 AM. Even my ear plugs didn't block that out.
The advantages far outweigh that disadvantage.
Although I was awake, I did not get up to watch the 50-milers start
their race through the
stables at 5 AM. I waited quietly until
our alarms went off at 5:30 so I didn't wake Jim up earlier than
planned. He sleeps more
soundly than I do and he needed all the rest he could get before
tackling the difficult Jemez course.
BZZZ. 5:30. One hour till 50K show time.
Jim showered, got dressed, and went over to the Posse Shack to check
in with race officials. It's critical to know exactly who started the
race and who didn't.
Jim returned to the camper to eat some breakfast and continue getting
ready for the race. Here he makes a last-minute adjustment to his shoes:
He wore his
lightweight Camelbak backpack so he could carry some supplies and a
light jacket in case a storm blew in during the race -- always a
threat in the mountains. He did not have a drop bag out on the course.
Fifty-K runners were allowed to have a drop bag at one aid station,
50-milers at two.
We both walked over to the start a few minutes before the 50K race
began at 6:30 AM:
I mentioned in the last entry that race officials made a few changes
to this year's race.
The 50K start time was one of the modifications based on runners' comments from
previous years. Moving the time from 6 to 6:30 was designed to reduce congestion of
50K-50-mile runner traffic on a narrow out-and-back section up/down Caballo Mountain.
Jim said the half-hour delay did seem to work better in that section
this year, and he was glad to get another half hour of sleep --
Runners and crews wait in front
of the Posse Shack for the 50K to start.
Jim was cautiously optimistic at the start of the race. He was a
little concerned about his lack of training since his meniscus surgery
last winter and subsequent knee problems this spring but he was excited about
running a race again.
The sky was mostly blue, the weather prediction was good (less heat
than last year), and -- despite the odds against him -- he
was fairly optimistic about equaling or improving on his time from last
He had a big grin on his face when the gun went off and he could
After the 50K runners took off westbound on North Mesa Road (they
accessed the Bayo Canyon Trail differently than the 50-milers), I went
inside the Posse Shack to give packets, numbers, shirts, and posters to the
half-marathoners who hadn't already picked theirs up.
Rebecca (far right), Nena (pink
shirt), and another woman
verify the numbers of the runners
who started each race.
I was working at my table with a man who recently moved to Los
Alamos. While running on one of the trails in the Jemez Mountains a few
days ago he saw trail markers with the name of the race and started
asking questions about it. It was too late for him to register for the race (it
filled before March 1) so he volunteered to work it. He plans to run one
of the distances next year.
When we had bits of time between runners getting their packets, he
told me about some of the great trails he's found at nearby Bandelier National Monument. Jim and I plan to go down there to hike
early next week.
Almost time to start the half marathon
The half-marathon began at 8 AM. When the runners were all gone I
helped correlate the names/numbers
of runners picking up their packets this morning with Rebecca
Clark and the two women who were checking all the runners in who
began the race. I was done with this job at 8:20.
Then it was time to relax for a while.
I went back to the camper to eat more breakfast and get on the
computer for a couple of hours.
The start/finish area and
parking lot were pretty quiet. Other volunteers set up the
awards table, manned the communications system, and began
preparing post-race refreshments. It wouldn't be long before the half-marathoners
and faster ultra runners
would be back.
Right side of photo: communications trailer
from the Los Alamos Amateur Radio Club
Around 11 AM
Cody and I went for a two-hour hike on Kwage Mesa, through the
stables adjacent to our parking lot and out to the far point
above Bayo and Pueblo canyons. I'll show photos from that hike
and a bike ride in another entry.
The views of the Jemez Mountains are superb from Kwage Mesa. I kept looking
over at them as I walked, wondering how Jim was doing. The weather
was perfect for my hike -- mostly sunny, mid-60s F., dry,
and breezy -- and should have been comfortable for the runners
at their higher altitudes:
Jemez Mountains, as seen from Kwage Mesa on
I marked 10,480-foot Caballo Mountain with
a red arrow.
Cody and I hiked a little under six miles.
I didn't notice the
altitude since I was just walking, the terrain was fairly
flat, and the elevation was only about 7,300 feet. Jim got up over 10,000
feet in the race, however, and he said he felt it. He
isn't acclimated to that elevation yet.
I got back to the camper about 1 PM, took a shower, and watched
a few runners approach the finish. Our position in the parking
lot (the same as the last two years) affords a perfect view out
the back window of runners coming up the last hill to North Mesa
Road and the finish area. It's convenient to watch
from the comfort of our camper -- but more fun to be
outside cheering on the runners.
I didn't take any pictures out the camper window this time. The
photo below shows the turn onto North Mesa Road from a different
I didn't stay in the camper long. I put on my volunteer shirt
and returned to the Posse Shack to get some of the yummy
enchiladas Jim helped deliver yesterday and to see if I could
help any of the other volunteers until Jim finished the 50K.
By now the start/finish area was buzzing with activity. Friends
and families waited for their runners to finish:
One of the other improvements made this year was a different
approach to the finish line.
Instead of dodging traffic on North Mesa Road, a path was marked
through the field next to the Posse Shack. Runners approached
the finish clock from the side, ran under a tree, and finished in the
grass in front of the building:
Runners in the 50K and 50-mile races were treated to a full
spread of tasty New Mexican cuisine (rice, several kinds of
delicious enchiladas and bean dishes) and more traditional
post-race foods like freshly-grilled hamburgers and hot dogs
after 2 PM. Also available was more traditional post-race fare
like fruit, brownies, and salty snacks.
One nice thing about the Jemez Mountain runs that hasn't
changed in six years is the type of award for each finisher in
the ultra-distance races -- local handmade pottery
pieces. My favorite of the three Jim has received is the little
black bear he got last year.
This year's piece is handsome, too.
All 50K and 50-mile finishers, and age-group winners in the half
marathon, received small pottery bowls like these:
Jim's little bowl is about 3" across the top.
Benjamin and Geraldine Toya of the northern New Mexican Jemez Pueblo (below), were
present just outside the Posse Shack after the race to sell
other pieces from their collection:
The top three male
and female finishers in each race received larger pieces
Co-RD Bill Geist (L) and Angela Shartel
(center, the female 50-mile winner).
Runners in the 50K and 50-mile races continued coming across the
finish line all afternoon and evening; the last finisher
came in a little before 10 PM. (There is no final cut-off at the
finish. As long as the runners clear the Pajarito Ski Lodge aid
station by 5 PM, they are allowed to continue on the course.)
Between the various volunteer jobs I did during the afternoon I
mingled with friends, congratulated finishers, and took photos.
Here's a very happy Blake Wood (#303), who came in 7th overall
in the 50-miler and got a course PR -- at almost age 53.
His daughter Heather is in the green top at right:
I started watching the finish line more closely at 4:15 PM so I could
get a picture of Jim finishing his race. He was trying to get under 11
hours, which would be by 5:30 PM, but I didn't want to miss him in case he
was having a great day.
Susan Gardner finished her race and advised me that Jim should be
finishing soon; she ran part of the race with him and knew the pace he
was on. Pretty soon I could see him through the trees, approaching the
finish. He crossed the line at 4:43 PM in a time of 10:13:28 hours:
Jim was very happy with his time, considering the reduced
training he's been able to do in the last six or seven months. He beat
his time from last year by 39 minutes.
Jim finished 123rd out of 148 50K finishers. He was 2nd of three male
finishers in their 60s. (There are no age group awards in the 50K or
Only one 70+ male finished the race. No females
over age 60 finished the 50K In fact, the oldest female finisher I see
in this year's 50K results is 57.
I don't know how many runners began the 50K or how many dropped out.
HANGING OUT AFTER THE RACE
We stayed at the finish area for about half an hour after Jim came in so
he could eat a
freshly-grilled hamburger, one of his favorite post-race foods.
John Cassidy from Colorado Springs joined us for a little while:
After he got something to eat we went back to the camper so Jim
could take a shower. Then we returned to the finish line for
another couple hours, socializing with friends and watching
more runners finish.
One of the runners Jim ran with was a young man named Garrett,
who was in the 50-miler. He recognized Jim and asked, "You're
Jim O'Neil, aren't you?" When Jim said yes, Garrett asked if
he was related to "Runtrails.net." He reads our website!
I'm sorry I didn't get to meet him afterwards.
It's really cool when we meet or hear from folks who've found
our website. We've made a lot of friends this way.
Several of our friends were out at aid stations during the race.
Anne Watts was helping Dick Powell on Parijito Mountain. They
got done with their aid station early enough to return to the
finish area and enjoy the post-race food and festivities. Here
they gather 'round the grill guy:
Dick's wife Sandy was manning the aid station up on Guaje Ridge,
as she's done for several years. Deb and Steve Pero captained
the last aid station. Both of those aid stations closed
relatively late in the race and by the time the volunteers
packed up their stations and got back down to the Posse Shack,
we were gone.
We were able to spend some time with Karen Pate and Pat Homelvig
when they finished the 50K:
Anne joined our little group as we waited for Matt Watts to
finish the 50-miler:
Ah -- there he is!
Good job Matt W., Karen P., Pat H., John C., Susan G., Garrett
B., Blake W., Dave C., Rickie R., Mike J., Larry H., Diana W.,
Joe P., and all the other finishers of these difficult races!
You can find race results for all three 2011 events at this
Race staff did a great job with this whole event once again,
from registration and course marking to aid stations to pre- and
post-race activities. They didn't rest on their "laurels" from
previous races, either. They made several changes that improved
the race this year and encouraged the runners and volunteers to
make suggestions for future possible improvements.
I'm glad to see that most of what Aaron Goldman originally
envisioned for this race is still intact, such as the course and
the local handmade pottery awards. I sure miss Aaron;
this is a picture I took of him at the 2009 Jemez pre-race
He looked just as happy and healthy then as he did in 1998 when
he ran with me for thirty miles in the Vermont 100-mile race, my
fist attempt at that distance. We continued to see him through
the years at ultra events around the country. He died at age 78
from a relatively rare form of cancer a few weeks before the
2010 Jemez race. What a loss.
Aaron's sporting one of Deb Pero's beautiful designs on the 2009
Jemez race t-shirt in that photo. Deb's another one of my
favorite people. We love receiving shirts or posters at the
Jemez and Hardrock races that have prints of her scenic
paintings. My only regret is that this year's design was printed
only on the runners' posters at Jemez and not on
the shirts again.
All in all, we both had a good race experience this week and
today. This is our third consecutive time at this race and we'll
probably be back again.
L-R: Pat, Karen, Jim, and Anne share
race stories while waiting for Matt to finish.
Jim was tired, thirsty, and hungry after the race but he felt
good about his performance. During the race he looked at his
splits from last year; it was motivating to him to see
that he was ahead of those times at the aid stations.
Even though his training was pretty sparse this year he finished
faster than he did last year. He wasn't acclimated to 10,000
feet elevation. He hadn't run/walked over 13 miles in the past 4½
months or over 18 miles at a time since the end of January. He
figures all the time off for recovery from his meniscus surgery
possibly made him stronger.
Now he's really pumped for Bighorn, North Fork, and The Bear
Next entry: photos from Kwage Mesa
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil