Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Angel Fire Report

Well, here's my Angel Fire Endurance Run report. We made the trip to New Mexico and would have liked to got there a week earlier, and/or stayed a week afterward. The area is so beautiful, and there were jeep tours, horseback rides, restaurants, zip-lining, other trails to run, and who knows what else. We did the tourist thing at Taos, and also went white-water rafting--besides running the race.

I slept well the couple of nights before the race, which is a switch for me! We were lined up and ready to run Saturday morning at 5:00 am, we being (from left to right) me, Russell (50 mile), Kathy (100 mile), Bill (100 mile), Arnold (100 mile), Eric (50 mile), Caroline (50 mile), and Polly (50K). A good group from Tulsa--well, Eric is a Wichitasaurus. Roman and Dana and Bill's future son-in-law Cody were along to crew, which is always appreciated.

Arnold posted this course map, which hints at the incline of the course. Overall, the course went up ~1,900 feet, and then descended ~1300 feet over 12.5 miles, Then, you ran the course in reverse. Simple math would tally the elevation per out-and-back as 3,200 feet, but that does not take into account all the small ups and downs along the way, and I suspect the total climb per out-and-back would have been over 5000 feet.

A new pair of Brooks Cascadias were on my feet, and they served me well all day. I had decided against wearing my sunglasses, and could have used them, as the skies were clear and blue for most of the day, with a partial could cover moving in during the late afternoon. The views were amazing atop these mountains, giving views across the valleys of even bigger mountains. Would we have to climb THOSE?

As best as I can tell, we only climbed one, but multiple times. And it was a doozie!!

The air was clean, and the 45° at the start gave way to temps in the mid 60s early on. Evidently, this area has had enough rain to keep things a little green. every step of the course was beautiful.

Covering 100 linear feet, and climbing 100 vertical feet. Yup--parts were that tough. This stretch was at 9200 feet. Yes, I was huffing and puffing--but not for long. Actually, although I was really concerned about running at altitude, I never felt whipped. Later in the race, I was marching up the longer climbs non-stop. I am sure my overall pace was slowed somewhat, but I felt strong during the majority of the race.

Caroline was doing the 50 mile, and our pace was close early on, so we hung out most of the day.

The race had a little wide chat trail, asphalt roads through a neighborhood, gravel road, jeep road, very rocky jeep road, nice single track, mowed swatches across a field, and a follow-the-ribbons across a meadow such as the picture above. All was beautiful, and there was never enough of one particular type of terrain for it to be boring.

At the top, we were at 10,000 feet, with ~400 more to climb.

After 6.5 miles into our race, we started seeing the fast runners on their way back. By my fuzzy calculations, I figured they had ran almost three times what I had. Still, I was on a pace to narrowly make the 50 mile cut-off of 14 hours.

Finally after ~8 miles, we started down. The descent was STEEP--some of it too steep and rocky to run. I felt like I actually lost time on some of the descent here, but there was a good 3 miles of nice jeep road that was runnable.
We saw our friends on their way back, and most everyone was amazed at how tough the course was. Russell was looking good, as was Polly, Eric, and Bill. Arnold was feeling a bit of pain in his Achilles, and Kathy was battling nausea due to the altitude, yet she was still moving well.

Down down down we ran, all the while knowing that we had to run around and go right back up. I still felt awesome, and the extended run segment blew the aches and pains out of my legs.

I met a Facebook friend, John during the race. We played cat-and-mouse for much of the way. John was doing the 50K as his third marathon to qualify for Marathon Maniac status. A hard earned finish this was for him, and he got it done. After a porta-john break, I was off to tackle the mountain we just climbed. It was powerwalk 100 steps, stop to drink, repeat repeatedly. I think this was the toughest stretch of the race.
I put my iPod on and cranked up the volume. My bizarre mixture of tunes kept me going.

I was surprised to see my friend Julie behind me. Seems she had taken a few wrong turns on the way out, and had added maybe 5-7 miles to her run. She was contemplating stopping at the turn-around. I took note, and purposed to make sure we did not make any wrong turns on our way back. Famous last words....

I took far less pictures on the way back, which is the usual practice for me. For one, the giddy factor has gone. Taking pix takes up a few extra minutes here and there, and I had probably burned too many extra minutes. Caroline and I ran quite a bit of the return trip, as most of it was downhill. BUT--what I feared jumped up and bit us! The return trip has a lot of switchback while coming downhill. There were several turns, and they all were marked with pink ribbons, but not many ribbons. What happened to us was we were watching our feet around a downhill turn and blew right by the turn. Our bad. We got a full two extra miles in at one point. I stopped to pee and Caroline went ahead. In catching up, I stopped to talk to Eric, Bill, and Russell who were on their way back out on their second lap. Trying to catch up with Caroline, I stretched it out and blew right by another turn!!  This time, I noticed it after about a half mile. ARGH!!

Hitting the start/finish, I ate a quick burger and a piece of watermelon, and we headed back out. Caroline was tired, and we decided to take it easy. By now, I knew I would not make the 50 mile 14 hour cutoff, but Caroline did not have a cutoff, as the 50 miles had the same 32 hours to finish that the 100 milers had. I decided I would be happy with 50 miles--might even get a listed finish time for the 50 miles, but I was ok either way.

Caroline and I walked most of the way once we passed the first aid station. Once we made the top of the long climb, we ran here and there. On the long decline to the turnaround, I hammered it--again, to blow the cobwebs out. I averaged 8:14 and 8:28 in the last two miles and felt like a million bucks. Caroline came running in a few minutes behind me, and we ate and got our lights and warm clothes to go back out.

I'll come back to our story later in the post.

Most of my friends had battled the course and gutted out some good miles. Kathy had altitude issues, bad nausea, and almost an asthma attack. She dropped after 25 miles, rehydrated and got some salt in her system, and felt like going back out, but instead jumped in with Dana to crew. I don't remember who I swiped the following pictures from, but thanks anyway.

Russell finished his 50 miler in a few seconds over 14 hours. He looked great every time I saw him. WTG my friend.

Polly ran the 50K, and did well. Did not look like the altitude bothered her a bit.

Eric finished in 12 hours and change. I think he worked really hard at it, yet seemed light hearted and all smiles when I saw him 4 miles from his finish.

Bill dropped after 50 miles, yet felt proud of his 50 miles. He did make the 50 mile 14 hour cutoff that the hundred milers had, and was one of three out of 16 runners who made that cutoff. In fact, he was so happy, he made a dirt angel to celebrate.

Sixteen 100 milers signed up. Three of them made the imposed 14 hour cutoff for 50 miles. Only one runners went beyond fifty miles. This 100 mile race had only one finisher--Chris White, who finished in 29:20. Could it be that this race was WAY harder than anyone imagined?

I liked the race for the most part. The course was beautiful, the trailz varied, and like I said earlier, it was never boring. It had some monster climbs--I liked that. The aid station workers were great--very helpful, and they had a pretty good selection of food. There was a manned aid station at the start/finish, mile 3, and mile 12.5. There were unmanned water drops at mile 6-ish and mile 9.5, and by mid day, the water was hot. I run with two water bottles, and actually had three on the way back. They are insulated bottles and have canvas sleeves which keeps water cold for a long time, so having to drink hot water was not a problem for me. But there were some runners who needed ice since it was near 90°. I do realize that getting aid to these locations was very difficult, and carting ice and food stuff in would not be feasible--but maybe next year there might be a way to get one of these stops manned. Or maybe it won't be so hot.

Back to the story of my race. When we hit the aid stop at the turnaround, Caroline and I were buzzing. We felt good, having ran a spirited 3 miles into the station. We knew we only had the one climb to get done, and then it was mostly downhill again. I was looking forward to being out there at night too. The aid station workers were nice, making sure we had anything we needed to eat. We were sipping soup and noodles, when one of them received a phone call that they wanted us to wear GPS units on our return trip. After all, it was gonna be dark. I thought the GPS was a good call, and  I put mine in one of my many pockets, along with a few food items. Then the phone rang again. I heard the aid station dude repeating something about someone being pulled, and then found out it was US they were talking about. The cell phone was handed to Caroline, and of course, she was not at all happy with the news. Clearly in the pre-race meeting, it was stated that the 50 milers had the whole time the course was open (32 hours) to finish. People even joked that someone could do one lap, take a nice long nap, and then go out for their second 25 miles. My time limit for the 100 miler of 14 hours for 50 miles meant that I would not be allowed to continue beyond 50 miles if not there by 14 hours. But because they knew I could not make it to the 50 mile mark by 14 hours, they pulled me right there at mile 37.5!! I told the RD he could have my race number, and he (knowing what I was gonna do) told me I was not allowed to go back out on the course on my own. Now I knew I could do that if I wanted in spite of what he said, but being a race director myself, I respected his call although it was a very flippant one. As for Caroline, he simply told her he was revoking his previous rule.

For me, I did not expect a buckle. In my races, I have always tried to accommodate people in situations such as this. I would give someone dropping at 50 miles a 50 mile award and time, although I would list it as a runner who dropped down. It is the right of the race management to make the rule on that, and that's fine. I think the rule was bent in my case, and broken in Caroline's case to relieve the RD's mind about two runners being out on the course alone at night. (I was told that it was going to be dark, cold, and dangerous.) This same ruling should have also applied to the other runners who were on the course at night. Caroline and I would have finished without a problem, but were not allowed to.  I am really disappointed in some of the inconsistent rulings. I do understand the stress involved with being responsible for runners out in the wild, but the "cold and dark" conditions is part of EVERY 100 mile race. There are 4 other inconsistencies in the handling of other race matters that concerns me, but it does no good to air them out here.

Still, I loved our trip. It was a good mini-vacation.  I do appreciate all the hard work that goes into pulling off a race of this magnitude. David and Peggy Woods, Keith McCombs, Larry Flies, Jack Christian, (and probably others I am forgetting) helped Chisholm Deupree put this event together.

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