Kyle McIntyre of El Paso, Texas, recently ran the inaugural Mt. Taylor 50K near Grants, New Mexico.
Kyle finished this high altitude adventure in 10:53:39.
Enjoy as Kyle shares his adventure with us.
Jemez Mountain Trail Run 50K was my first ultra; I went without a set plan or time goal. I just planned on finishing and having fun. I was very intimidated by the mountain and not even sure of how the day would play out. I was still fueling with honey buns I bought at the gas station. I had only tried the GU brand fuels once, and didn’t like them. I was still unaware of the other brands. When I finished JMTR, I felt very accomplished and also knew that I wanted to train smarter and figure out my nutrition/hydration needs.
Fast forward five months to Mt Taylor. I am a Cavalry Scout by trade, so maps are my thing. I can spend hours studying and memorizing them. I spent a lot of time comparing the maps from Jemez and Mt Taylor. I also trained harder and on better terrain for Mt Taylor. I felt based on those factors that I had a good shot of running a strong race and finishing in eight hours. In my mind the same climb broken up with a lot less extreme terrain in between was a positive. Having been intimidated by the altitude at Jemez and then it not being a factor, I figured Mt Taylor wouldn’t be a problem in that aspect either. Whoops.
I went into race day feeling very ready and almost a bit cocky. The race started out decent no big surprises, I held back on the initial climb like I planned. When I got to the saddle and started on the downhill, I was only five minutes behind my 15 min/mile pace. Not a big deal, I had planned on losing time on the climbs and regaining it on the descents.
I had a great run from the first aid station to spud patch, probably too good, my quads were pretty stressed when I left spud patch and started the “rolling” section to the rock tank aid station.
After that I was still feeling good, but a headache started creeping up on me and my legs just kept getting heavier. I went into the halfway aid station now a half hour behind my schedule and fairly worn out. I sat down for 20 minutes or so, changed my socks and had some lunch.
The whole day had involved my buddy Josh and I playing cat and mouse, between mile 16 and 21, he caught me and became the mouse I couldn’t see, much less catch. I ended up walking most of that section, and trying to get my head back in the game. The clock started messing with me a lot as I knew my eight hour goal was slipping away rather quickly. Josh was on out from the gooseberry aid station as I was arriving. I sat down and took a break for about 10 minutes, six hours into the race and well aware of the two major climbs remaining.
At this point I was already assessing this race as harder than JMTR. I am still not sure if it was a hallucination or not, but at one point I saw a very large (size of a big German Sheppard) coyote. The altitude was defiantly messing with me all day.
I started the climb up Mt Taylor itself feeling a little better. The trail through the woods was beautiful and refreshing; the trees were helpful in hiding the rest of the climb from my altitude addled mind. All that changed when I came out of the woods and into the meadow. Holy Shit, I’m not even half way up yet.
So on I slogged, knowing that eight hours was way out the window, and I hadn’t even bothered to learn the cutoffs. I didn’t think they would come into play. Now I began to worry a lot about them. About another half a mile up the trail I saw an individual sitting next to the trail, at first I assumed it was a volunteer making sure everyone was ok. Then as I got closer I realized it was Josh.
“How you doing man?” I asked him.
“Good, just taking a little break.” He replied.
“Cool, I am going to keep moving, my legs get tight when I start sitting.”
I continued up another 200 meters or so, and then decided a good sit was what I needed as well. By this time Josh had climbed up to where I was and sat down with me. When I turned to sit on the side of the trail, it was the first time I had turned away from the mountain to get the view of the valley below. Wow. That was amazing. I am pretty sure we could see all the way to four corners.
After a few minutes Josh and I got up and started moving again. We got into a routine of climbing for 10-15 minutes, then sitting and resting for five. I started setting my goals a bit more narrow, get to the next turn in the trail, get to the top of the mountain. Even if you don’t make the next cutoff, at least you will have climbed this mountain. It was a slow steady progression. I think we finally got to the crest and took a break around 230 or so. We rested at the top, and then headed down to the 25 mile aid station.
My brain was really fuzzy at this point, the altitude really had me feeling broken off. Josh started to take over, setting goals and pushing me on. The downhill was not difficult, but my legs were thrashed and my brain wasn’t being very positive. It took us just over two hours to complete that portion of the course. We rested at the aid station for about 10 minutes and took in some calories.
Then it was out, Josh pushing me down the hill I knew we had to climb, just to get back to the spot we left. That’s how my brain was looking at it. The positive part of that descent was however, the lower we got the better I felt. Josh set a goal for us to get back up to the aid station and mile 29 in an hour and a half. We made it within 10 minutes.
Josh pushed me through that whole section and listened to all my negative statements, putting a positive spin on them. We made it up to the top of the road and started a good shuffle for the final two miles.
We crossed the finish line together at 10 hours and 53 minutes. Sitting here now almost a week later, I am thankful that Josh was there and helped drive me in, my last couple of hours may have been a lot less pleasant.
I also think that the way the course was broken up, it was more challenging than the JMTR 50K. Apparently, in my world, multiple climbs are harder than one big climb. I also think the altitude played a big role, a couple thousand feet higher than JMTR and it whooped my ass.
– Kyle McIntyre
Congrats to Kyle and Josh on their Mt. Taylor finishes!!
Posted on 30 Oct 2012