If you do this stuff long enough, at some point you’re going to make a wrong turn.
That said, I’m sure some watching thought it was cute that Christy and I finished together at the San Juan Solstice 50 miler last Saturday. If they only knew what different days we had out there.
Due to excessive snow, an alternate course had to be put together for the race this year. The creek crossings through Alpine Gulch were dangerously high (more-so than the high water year of 2008), and the middle section of course that runs along the Continental Divide hadn’t melted enough and would have been miles of tedious post-holing, with the potential for some pretty serious sliding falls.
While the organizers did a great job putting a different course together with little time– one that seemed at least as difficult, if not more, than the original– some deficient trail marking in one particular spot sent whole packs of runners off course. Many managed to follow the route. Others, like Christy, missed the turn but figured it out quickly and got back on course with little consequence. Others still, including many of the race leaders, barreled down a steep jeep road for a good distance before realizing something wasn’t right. I found myself in a group of twenty or so runners chasing the leaders, who did just that, and a quick decision was needed– keep going down the road off course, or turn around and go back up the hill and find the missed turn.
I opted for the latter (everyone else kept running down the trail), and walked back up the steep trail, and when I finally reached the point where I missed the turn, a pretty big chunk of time had passed, and I found myself amongst the back of the field. The RD posted his take on the whole situation here.
Running races, and particularly ultras, obviously have a huge physical component to them, but when things don’t go as planned, the mental game can fall apart really quick. In this case, the time I wasted getting lost so early in the race (about 5 miles in) combined with the realization I just added a few extra miles to an already long day, required some serious refocusing in order to keep going.
So realizing the primary goal of the day was to log miles before Hardrock in a couple of weeks, I tried not to dwell on it and just kept plugging ahead. I would try to catch Christy and run with her, which I thought I could do pretty quickly.
Wrong again. Christy was having a great day, and ran most of the course as the 3rd place woman. And after repeatedly telling myself, ”I’ll catch her on this next stretch”, and never seeing her, I began to resign myself to finishing behind her. Unfortunately, she had a tough few miles near the end which cost her two spots in the women’s race, and which also allowed me to catch her, barely 2 miles from the finish.
We finished together in 12:05. The full results are here. Christy was the 5th woman, 1st in her age group, and was right on target for her goal time. I had plenty to be happy about too. Measured times and finishing places don’t always tell the whole story of how a day goes. My biggest take-away was that I felt great all day, which is just what I needed with the big 100 miler right around the corner. Plus, by sticking with it, I spared myself a year of grief for almost finishing behind her. That was close.
And it was great to catch up with Jesse Rickert and family from the Global Extremes days. As always, he did really well, nabbing 3rd place in his first time ever running this far. I don’t know how he’s so good at everything. Nice work, Jesse.