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Jemez Mountain 50 km 2013 Race Report – The Tale of Two Legs

At the end of May I returned to Los Alamos, New Mexico for my third consecutive visit to the Jemez Mountain Trail Run.

On top of Pajarito Mountain.

On top of Pajarito Mountain.

This run has become a celebrated yearly pilgrimage for me that contains a collection of moments that signal Jemez:

  • Roadway sign – Welcome to New Mexico
  • Eating a tasty local breakfast and conversation with New Mexico EB contributors, Jason Taylor and Jim Breyfogle.
  • Driving through downtown Santa Fe and stopping at the Whole Foods for coffee and Kombucha with the beautiful mountains within the Santa Fe Recreational Area standing proudly in the background.
  • The beautiful, white-knuckled drive (for this Texas low-lander) as you approach Los Alamos.
  • A drive by the Posse Shack which marks the start and finish of this race.

In many ways it felt like a return “home”. That is strange to say for a state I haven’t spent more than three weeks of my life, yet that is how it feels. Maybe it is the welcoming nature of the community. Maybe it is the increasingly familiar faces. Maybe it’s the beer.

As a low-lander about to play in the mountains between 7,000-10,000 feet, all I felt was comfort, community – home.

After a Friday morning in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, I was up in Los Alamos by mid-afternoon where I hung out in town at a little city park enjoying the warm sun, dry air, and views in the background.


After packet pickup and the pre-race meeting, I headed over to the start area, the Posse Shack, and talked with some of my fellow car and tent campers. I chatted with a nice gentleman and fire fighter from El Paso who was running his first 50 mile the next morning. He also received a bit of a surprise when he arrived in town – his hotel was shut down. A tough surprise but he was cool about it and ready for a night of sleeping in his vehicle as well.

A confession – I think car camping is fun. The convenience, simplicity, and somewhat wackiness…I smile and almost giggle when climbing into the back of our Subaru Outback which is just big enough to allow me to sleep comfortably – diagonally.

Race morning was very mild, close to 60F.

After check-in and a bit of chatter with fellow low-landers, it was time for the 50 km adventure to begin. I knew today would be a challenge and I was looking forward to it. A day in the Los Alamos mountains with our trail running community, hard not to be grateful.

A short section of road before we jump on the good stuff.

A short section of road before we jump on the good stuff.

On the dirt!

The dirt!

For me, the race was broken up into three main segments:

  • Get to Pajarito Mountain
  • Grunt up and flow down Pajarito Mountain
  • The scamper to the finish

Get to Pajarito: mile 0 – 9-ish

The initial miles are nice and relaxed single and double-wide trail. The sun highlighted the local hills and mountains. Beautiful.

Within the first couple miles, there is a fun little downhill switchback section where a stream of runners worked back and forth down the hill. Kind of cool.

Over the next handful of miles, we scampered along a fairly gentle uphill grade that included a few small grunts but mostly lots of nice running as you move up into the hills West of town.


Looking East, you see the sun rising over some grand mountain silhouettes in the distance, and the town of Los Alamos already looked pretty small as we glide along the surrounding hills.

We danced along another steep, short, loose-footing switchback section as we cross Camp May Rd and head towards the climb to the top of Pajarito mountain.


I felt good. Kept the pace easy but steady.

The Grunt Up and Flow Down: mile 9-ish – 16.9

Last year, the 50 km and 50 mile course took us straight up a steep section of Pajarito, had us bomb down a ski run, and then had us grunt our way back to the top before bombing back down to the ski lodge.

This year the initial straight-up, steep section was removed and we ran along more flowing trail before starting the major climb to the top sitting at 10,500 feet.


The grunt up basically a steady power-hike.

Check out the cool view.

Head down.


The final 1/4 of the climb was tough.

I wanted to stop. Rest.

Yet at this altitude, I don’t feel completely normal, and just want to keep moving, to get through it and back down to a lower altitude.

Breathed in deeply. Exhaled with force. Sounded like a grunting moose.

I take a couple 15 second breaks during that final section because my progress looked more like one step forward, two steps back.

Finally reached the top. Hung out for a couple minutes, absorbed and embraced the views. Looked into the Caldera thinking of all the 50 milers working through that section. Also noticed the final Caldera aid station in the distance before runners grunt up Pajarito for yet another time. Reminded me of my first 1 hour, 1 mile split on that climb.


Time to get off this mountain and down to the Ski Lodge aid station!

Going down!

Going down!

In past years we did quite a bit of bombing down to the Ski Lodge. Bombing is not an exaggeration.

This year we ran much more runnable wooded singletrack back down the mountain before popping out to the Ski Lodge aid station.

Great to see and chat with Jason, Anna, and Addison!

Ate lots of watermelon.

Swapped out shoes.

Tiger Tail’d the legs.

I think I arrived or headed out of the Lodge around 4 hour 30 minutes into the adventure.

Back on down the trail.

13+ miles to the finish!

The Scamper to the Finish: mile 16.9 – 30.4

Leaving the Ski Lodge aid station, my body made me aware of the impact Pajarito had on the legs.

My uphill legs were gone. Goodbye. Not coming back today.

I have accurately determined in post-race analysis how my body interpreted each grade with the following formula.

Perceived grade =  (actual grade) X (10)

So a 4% grade actually felt like 40%.


Pipeline Road aid station was a nice runnable three miles away. “Runnable” as in uphill runnable. This meant no running for me (see formula above).

Walked lots during these next three miles. But such a beautiful section from wooded to open meadows.


I think I actually found the tree David Pearson and I sat on two years earlier. Had to sit on it for a few minutes in reflection of our adventure in 2011.

Up and start moving again.

Hey a little downhill grade. I am running. Well look at that.

The uphill legs were gone but the downhill legs were still in the game and ready to go.

In and out of Pipeline Road aid station. Just over 10 miles to go.

Leaving Pipleline you make friends with three nice roller climbs. I believe the escalator was going down when I wanted to go up. Will have to get that changed before next year.

Working up one of the rollers...lookin back.

Working up one of the rollers…lookin back.

After the first or second of these rollers, I happened to find a beautiful rock that looked like it would fit my butt just perfectly. It did!

I sat looking straight at Pajarito mountain over yonder.

Couldn’t help but reflect on a short time ago I was over there…now I am here. That seemed pretty cool.

Pajarito mountain ski runs in the distance.

I was just over there. Pajarito mountain ski runs in the distance.

The good news – A lot of the run from here to the finish is mostly downhill so I ran a fair amount of it and had fun with it. If the grade moved above zero, it was walk-mode. I was cool with that.

During this stretch, the top 50 milers Matt Hart, Diana Finkel, and others glided by. I Wooted lots!

The close-but-yet-so-far-from-the-finish aid station, Rendija Canyon, sat two miles from the finish at the base of a small but fairly steep climb out of the canyon.

I arrived and offered a few worn out Woots before I sounded like someone that had wondered the desert for hours, maybe days, and found an oasis.

The oasis.

The oasis.

“Beer please. I hear there is beer. Would love beer please.”

Two great homebrew mugs later…OK, maybe coffee cups…Dixie.

Time to finish this or stay and drink a lot of Dixie cups worth of fluid.

Step…..step………….step……………………….step out of the canyon.

Run. Walk. Run. Walk. Walk. Walk. Run

I see what I think is going to be the turn to guide us up through the rock-grooved path. Nope.

And then the turn!

The rock channel to the finish!

The rock channel to the finish!

Grunt, grunt, grunt to the top before a 12 minute/mile dash across the finish.

That was fun!


The Tribe

A special part of this event is the wonderful fellowship post-race. So many people hang around for a good part of the day cheering on fellow finishers, eating tasty food, and trying to wash off all the dirt that finds its way in more body locations than I wish to discuss here. Seeing a number of Texans and familiar faces required another beer and a look to the mountain in the distance to fully realize where I was.

It was good to be back.

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

7 Responses to “Jemez Mountain 50 km 2013 Race Report – The Tale of Two Legs”

  1. on 21 Jun 2013 at 6:56 pm olga

    You took almost as many pictures as I did, but I beat you in punches:) Did you sit on that blue bench??

  2. on 21 Jun 2013 at 10:48 pm Dan

    Great write up David and cool pictures.

  3. on 21 Jun 2013 at 10:53 pm Run Nature

    Great write up, David. Sorry I had to miss the race this year, but reading your post was the next best thing to being there.

  4. on 23 Jun 2013 at 2:53 pm Bill

    Glad you enjoyed the race again this year. Always nice to have you run it. Cheers!

  5. on 24 Jun 2013 at 9:32 am David Hanenburg

    Olga – I didn’t sit on the bench…had to keep movin’.

    Dan – Thanks man!

    RN – Thank you. If it works out, maybe next year you will be back.

    Bill – Always a joy to be back with the NM tribe!

  6. on 24 Jun 2013 at 3:07 pm Jonathan

    Dude, you have to take a picture on the blue bench. That was my highlight last year with Betsy. Least we can say we took the hard way up and down Pajarito, although I’m sure the effort was the same. I really want to go back but I have Miwok on my calendar that month. Gotta love Santa Fe! Awesome finish Dave!

  7. on 25 Jun 2013 at 11:46 am David Hanenburg

    Jonathan – Thanks man! I was ready to get down to lower elevation. Later along the course, a downed tree and friendly rock provided some beautiful moments without the uncomfortable body sensations. 🙂

    Happy Running!