Over 500 runners laced them up, filled their hydration bottle or pack, kissed their loved ones, and spread BodyGlide in all those important areas before embarking on a half marathon, 50 km, or 50 mile adventure in the mountains of Los Alamos, New Mexico at the Jemez Mountain Trail Run.
Mild temps in the upper 50sF made the early morning prep quite pleasant for all. Sunny skies and rising temps that reached 80F required a bit of extra attention to hydration and electrolyte balance as a good portion of the course leaves you exposed to the elements but also able to see the beautiful images throughout your journey.
Since last year, there were a few course tweaks for the 50 km and 50 mile folks with the half marathon remaining the same.
The biggest grunt for the half marathoners is the climb up to Guaje Ridge which has you peaking out near 9000 feet.
The ultra boys and girls scamper up and down Pajarito mountain which takes you up to 10,500 feet once or twice depending on your adventure.
The 50 mile men’s race that became a 16 mile sprint to the finish!
In the earlier miles the lead group unfortunately ran off course and added a number of bonus miles before they eventually realized something wasn’t right.
Behind this lead group included Utah speedster, Matt Hart, who put together a solid effort four week earlier and broke the Yakima Skyline 50km course record but finished second.
“The Yakima Skyline 50km was sort of an early season check-in to see where I was fitness-wise. I felt good from the gun, and had a pretty good day. I was able to push, to race, the whole day with no lags. I lost the race on the first climb trying to be conservative. I simply couldn’t catch this young hotshot Maxwell Ferguson after that. We both went under the course record, but he beat me by four minutes.”
After a couple course navigation issues for Matt on top of Pajarito and in the decent to the Ski Lodge, the adventure continued into the flat, fast, exposed, and beautiful collapsed volcanic region called the Valles Caldera.
After the Caldera loop, Matt approached the straight-up grunt up the backside of Pajarito mountain but did not see any of the flagging.
“I sort of scoured the terrain looking for flags. Mike Le Roux was a few minutes back and then 15-20 minutes later, Sean Meissner, Jason Poole, Diana Finkel, all arrived. We didn’t know it at the time but all the runners in front would either drop out or get so lost that they were no longer a factor. It’s a total bummer, I wish we could have all stayed on course the whole time. After some searching we found the flags and got back on track.”
After a 30+ mile warm-up, the race begins anew!
Matt moved to the front during the grunt.
“I just took off and slowly but surely distanced myself from everyone until I couldn’t see them behind me anymore on the climb. Before that happened though I could see Diana Finkel (she eventually finished second place overall) the monster climber she is, picking off and passing dudes one by one. Felt like the Terminator was coming for me.”
To add significant more excitement to the run, Matt was just about to realize he was leading the race.
“It wasn’t until the Pipeline aid station [mile 39.5] where a local guy, Andy said, “Your the first 50 miler.” I dismissed him as just being poorly informed at first, but he convinced me on the run up to the aid station.”
Being at a point in the course that is mostly downhill, fast, and runnable, and you are a runner that loves and excels at the vertical grunts, the adrenaline was pumping for this 38 year old.
“I pictured this Chinese Parade Dragon of Pearl Izumi guys charging after me once they got back on course.”
The race isn’t over until you cross that finish line and Matt kept the personal tachometer pegged in the red even in the final 50 meters that included a steep, rock-channel of trail – “drenched and dripping, head down, heart about to explode.”
Matt crossed the finish line in front of the Posse Shack and won the male adventure in 9:04:57!
Jason Poole of Colorado would earn runner-up honors.
Top 5 male
- Matt Hart (Montrail, coaching endurance) – 9:04:57
- Jason Poole – 9:23:41
- Mike Le Roux – 9:37:58
- Sean Meissner – 9:41:08
- Eric Pope – 9:48:46
Colorado-based mountain crusher, Diana Finkel, was back to defend her 50 mile female win from 2012. While last year Diana enjoyed running with a small group for at least half the race, this year it was mostly a solo adventure with bonus miles kept to a minimum.
“I missed being in a pack through the Caldera where you can see the winding trail in front of you. There was some confusion when we started to climb out of the Caldera but, in my opinion, navigation and a bit of adventure are part of why we run on trails. I know there was a group that got quite lost but I was lucky and found my way without getting too far off the route. I always get a bit lost when my mind starts to wander so being off the trail was expected.”
Diana was moving through the front of the overall race and positioned behind race leader, Matt Hart, with less than 10 miles to the finish.
Diana finished second overall and won the female race in 9:15:00!
This adventure in the Los Alamos mountains is a special one for Diana.
“There are always crowds of runners from the half-marathon, the 50 km and the 50 miler lingering at the finish Posse Shack. It’s a fun scene, very supportive with great food and great people. It’s an ideal post-race combination.”
And to put quite simply.
“Jemez is a fun time to go for a run and hang out with friends – that’s what ultras are about.”
Santa Fe local, Katie Arnold, finished second.
Top 5 female
- Diana Finkel – 9:15:00
- Katie Arnold – 10:17:41
- Katrin Silva – 10:44:49
- Amanda Ewing – 10:55:25
- Missy Gosney – 10:57:22
After a third place finish last year in the Jemez half marathon, Los Alamos local, Petra McDowell, led the female dash to the finish with a seventh overall finish and female win in 5:44:16!
Around 45 minutes later, Aimee Hoyt crossed the line for second.
Top 5 female
- Petra McDowell – 5:44:16
- Aimee Hoyt – 6:33:43
- Jennifer Price – 6:42:53
- Jean Herbert – 6:47:05
- Liz Sanchez – 6:53:23
Some of Petra’s strongest memories from the day, are the physical highs and lows of ultra running.
“I remember the first long downhill, feeling great and flying down Pajarito Mountain, singing. Then I remember the second, even longer downhill down Guaje Ridge, dealing with cramps and heat. Did not feel like singing on that one. Feeling great is just good for the soul, one of the reasons I run. Dealing with issues is always a learning experience and it feels good afterwards, knowing I’ve worked through something tough.”
The race for the male win came down to Eric Bohn, runner-up in 2012, and Dan Vega, a trail veteran but new to the Jemez event.
From the word “Go!”, Dan pushed the effort at the front of the race.
“I took the lead from the start and at around 400 meters, I started to pull away. I intentionally never looked back even on hairpins turns, so that I would solely focus on my race only. I came into the race with the intention of pushing it from the start till I would have nothing left.”
Eric was tucked into second position, with the focus on a course PR.
“I placed second at last year’s Jemez 50km, but it was embarrassing having finished over 50 minutes behind the winner (Jason Schlarb). I went into this year, not hoping for a course record, instead hoping to at least shorten the gap between me and the record. Training was going well and I felt winning was definitely a possibility. Being familiar with a difficult course such as Jemez was definitely an advantage this year. I knew heading into the race that my staying power in the second half of the race was going to make the difference.”
Dan had created around a minute gap to Eric in the Pajarito mountain climb snuggled in the middle of the race. This gap continued to increase as Dan seemingly flew down the mountain into the Ski Lodge aid station at mile 16.9. This effort may have been a bit too much – too soon but the push at the front continued.
After leaving Pipeline aid station (mile 19.7), Dan was beginning to feel the miles, power-hiking some of the climbs leaving the aid station.
Five minute later Eric arrived at the Pipeline aid station.
With the majority of grunt climbing complete, Eric had one main thought – “It was time to roll.”
The push began.
Dan continued to push the flats and downhills, but the uphill legs were fading. Dan arrived at Guaje Ridge aid station (mile 23.3) and skipped the water refill as a handful of fellow runners were refilling their bottles.
“I opted to pass on the water and not wait, then no one could tell which way to go for a second, then finally someone spoke up, so I was off. Was probably a bad mistake going without refilling but I didn’t want to get caught, though I never knew where Eric was.”
Dan continued to slow on way to the final aid station, Rendija aid station, and used whatever mental strategies he could to pass the miles.
“While running, I didn’t want to know the distance on my watch until I passed 10 people that were running the half marathon in hopes of not to be discourage by how far the finish was because of how slow I was starting to move. At one point there was a sign that said, 1 mile to Last Chance aid station. At that point I was catching people very slowly and at times not even wanting to pass them so I could rest more.”
Finally Dan arrived at Rendija aid station with less than three miles to the finish.
Sometimes three miles can feel like 100.
“When I got there [Rendija aid station], I filled my bottles and then put both hands on the table leaning over not wanting to leave, I was so tired. The wheels had fallen off and replaced with tractor tires, so very slow moving. I finally left after being offered cold beer and tequila but took nothing and started walking up and out of a little canyon with two miles to go.”
As Dan left the aid station and dug in for the climb out of the canyon, Eric was now in sight of the aid station.
While Dan had tried to regroup at the aid station, Eric blew straight through.
“I skipped refueling at that aid station and charged ahead in order to catch Dan. Right out of the aid station there was a steep switchback climb. I caught up to him and passed him on these switchbacks and he never responded.”
As Eric made the pass, he encouraged Dan to up the effort and hook-on for the climb.
It wasn’t happening for the Colorado Springs runner.
“At that point going uphill, I was done.”
Eric went on to win the male race in 4:50:25!
Dan kept moving forward and held onto second place honors.
Top 5 male
- Eric Bohn – 4:50:25
- Dan Vega (Mizuno) – 4:56:45
- Jeremy Duncan – 5:15:53
- Brian Crone – 5:37:19
- David Coblentz – 5:37 :53
After finisher runner-up last year, Albuquerque speedster, Kristopher Houghton, returned and earned the male win in 1:35:15!
Three minutes later, Jace Nye, crossed the line for second.
Top 5 male
- Kristopher Houghton – 1:35:15
- Jace Nye – 1:38:16
- Justin Ricks – 1:41:13
- Nicholas Hill – 1:50:59
- Gavin McKenzie – 1:52:09
Erica Baron returned to Jemez for yet another adventure. Last year, Erica placed second behind Diana Finkel in the 50 mile scamper. This year, a return to the half marathon distance.
As a past winner of this event, Erica has a simple strategy for this pyramid style course profile.
“Climbing is my strength, so I really try to push the climb, and then run the downhill scared. It can be tricky, because I want to make sure I have enough left over for the downhill so that I don’t get passed!”
Erica executed the plan to finish fourth overall and win the female race in 1:50:36!
One of Erica’s strongest memories on the day was pushing the effort with local cross country runner, Nick Hill.
“I think we both ran faster because of it. There are a lot of tough high school runners around here, and I admire what they can do on the longer mountainous courses after training for the track.”
Kay Ulrich earned second place honors.
Top 5 female
- Erica Baron – 1:50:36
- Kay Ulrich – 2:00:58
- Marisa Asplund – 2:04:17
- Magdalena Donahue – 2:07:36
- Shari Marshall – 2:12:32
Check out some of the wisest finishers. I hope this stuff fires you up as much as it does me.
- Joanne Demay (age 69), William McQueen (age 66), and Kenneth O’Connor (age 74) celebrated the half marathon or 50 km adventure!
Can you dig it?!?
I love this stuff!
Life is play. Play is life.
The Tough-as-Nails Award
The final finishers of an ultra distance event are some of the toughest athletes that are willing to stick with it to the best of their current ability and cross that darn finish line.
The Tough-as-Nails award recipients:
- Kyle McIntyre crossed the 50 km finish in 13:27:13!
- Erik Shores got it done in the 50 mile with a time of 16:27:16!
I am the only one that notices an interesting finish time-stamp between Kyle and Erik?
More great professional race pic by Jim and team. (Btw, all proceeds of these photos will be donated to the High Altitude Athletics Club, which runs the Jemez Mountain Trail Runs.)
Special thanks to Matt Hart, Diana Finkel, Eric Bohn, Dan Vega, Erica Baron, and Jim Stein of Jim Stein Photography for their gracious support with this article.
Check out the TALON Race Guide
There are 150+ regional trail/ultra races in the TALON Race Guide. Be sure to check it out if you are looking for the most complete list of events in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. New events are always being added.
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com
Posted on 12 Jun 2013