Thursday, September 17, 2015

San Juan Solstice race report (2nd overall) JUNE

SAN JUAN SOLSTICE: A true mountain race.  2nd place overall. 9hrs 34min
Lake City is a great little “untouched” mountain town in the San Juan’s, evident by the amount of “for sale” signs we saw on local businesses and property. It’s a 90minute drive or so from Gunnison. You could probably hike from Lake City to Ouray as fast as you could drive; since you have to go all the way around a few major mountains. This race has been going on for 25 years and is truly a classic ultra. 50 miles with almost 13k of vertical many have dubbed it the “mini hardrock”. It’s truly a town run race, and I heard a good chunk of the town’s residents help and volunteer for the race. Look at the top times on ultra-sign up and you’ll see a who’s who of talented ultra-runners.

We had a great little Cabin just a couple blocks from the start. Race morning we got ready, ate 3 eggs with spinach and a couple cups of coffee. Me and Becca woke up Ryder, who was honestly just super pumped to be up at 4:30! And he kept telling us this was the earliest he had ever been up, It was a great boost to see him get psyched for something so simple and was a good reminder to be happy and positive going into the race . Max and my Mom slept in in the other cabin. Myself and the legendary Casey Hill jogged to the 5am start in the dark where we met up with our teammate Greg  and Becca, Ryder and my Dad. We waited in the street for the start with a few hundred other head lamped folks all tackling a long tough day in the mountains. Boom….nice mellow jog out of town on some dirt roads as we gradually started uphill. Everyone was perfectly content to take it easy this early. A couple miles comes the first of several river crossings. It’s a smaller creek but was raging enough there are ropes (that you need to hold into!) to help you across. I think we crossed through the water about 7 or 8 times with the deepest one getting my shorts wet. At this point we were just a few miles in and the climb really starts to go up once we got through soaking our feet. The field had thinned out and I found myself in 3rd place with Casey and a couple other guys just behind us. Jesse Rickert from Gunnison and Micheal Barlow (Aspen) where the two dudes I found myself off the front with. I found out Jesse had run the race several times and our pace was solid but very manageable so I settled in and decided he was a good person be with. Michael basically dropped us halfway up the first steep climb! Me and Jesse powerhiked and wondered out loud if Michael would blow up or crush us (he crushed). The race climbs roughly 5k in the first 10 miles and as we got above tree line I made sure to slow down a few times and breathe in the views as I was sucking wind around 12,000 feet. Jesse and I just kept a good cruising pace over some pretty rough sections up high and could see Mike about 60-90 seconds in front of us. As we started the few mile decent into the first aid station (mile 15-16) I pulled away from Jesse and actually caught Michael. We chatted and jogged into the aid station in 1st and 2nd place. I was reminding myself we still had a ton of racing and don’t be dumb. Becca, my Dad, and Ryder had everything ready to go. Dropped off my headlamp, grabbed some gels, and filled the flasks with Skratch and water. We left the aid station at the same time and ran the few miles of dirt road to the next big climb. Around mile 18-19 we veered off the road and started up a steep 4x4 road/trail. Within a couple minutes he dropped me and was running super solid. I wasn’t feeling stellar so I settled down and started power hiking the steep stuff, soon I was mostly just hiking and my legs felt slow and heavy. I looked back as one does when feeling crappy, and saw Jesse quickly gaining on me. We rolled into the Mile 22-23 aid station together and he left just before me. I ate some watermelon and even grabbed some coke. I could see him just a minute or less in front of me as we once again where above tree line. I continued to struggle and lose time, I kept waiting to feel better, but I just got slower and my quads were hurting pretty bad. After a couple false summits to the highest point of the race (around 12,500ft) I got passed again, this time by Dustin Simeon. He was moving well and I tried to stay on his feet, it didn’t work. I was warned the 9-10 mile section up on the continental divide was tough and be ready. Since I was already hurting and had dropped to 4th I wasn’t exactly “feeling it” at all. I had to stop and stretch the quads a couple times, and the snow sections really slowed the pace. A couple times I was up to my waist in snow drifts. I just tried to keep moving and hope things got better. Once I got a little lower my pace increased in a bit but I felt like I was losing ground and was truly waiting for more people to pass me. When I got close to the aid station around mile 34-35  I saw Dustin running out so he was only about 4-5 minutes in front of me. This gave me a little boost knowing I wasn’t totally dragging. I made sure to eat some more food and coke, fill up on skratch and get moving. The race volunteer’s here were awesome and really encouraging. After a mile or so I slowly started to feel better but my quads were totally fried. I could still run, but it hurt. After stressing for a bit thinking I was off course for 10-15 minutes (I wasn’t) it was a steep descent into mile 40 aid station. I knew the whole family was there so I tried to hammer it in. The legs hurt whether I walked/jogged/ran so I ran as best I could. I decided to ditch the vest and go one handheld bottle for the last 10 miles. I made a fast transition at the aid station and it was great seeing the boys cheering. Becca jogged out with me and told me 2nd and 3rd place guys where 7-8 minutes in front of me, she also said they didn’t look great (she would never say they looked strong right?). I had to dig deep, real deep. I was hurting and knew we had 10 miles left and a one more tough climb (2-3miles long). I decided I would absolutely bury myself to see if I could catch them, and if I didn’t then 4th was ok. It was a huge mental challenge, but mentally I didn’t want to give up and I wanted to see myself pass them or completely implode trying. I grabbed two sticks (nature's trekking poles) at the start of the climb and power hiked really well up the 2+ miles…I finally saw them both together in a big meadow opening. I timed the gap and I had closed it to 4min. This was another good boost, but we only had 5 miles or so to go. I ran a couple downhill sections pretty reckless but I knew I had to do everything I could to catch them. I saw Jesse and right as I passed him I saw the last aid station and Dustin was there dumping water on his head (it was pretty hot by now) I just filled my bottle and kept running. When I passed Dustin I decided to run as hard as my legs would allow for 3-4 minutes just to gap him and Jesse. The adrenaline surged and I felt awesome for a couple short minutes…then reality hit and I thought for sure they would catch me again. The steeper stuff was killing my quads and I even had to run backwards a couple times to help. Once I could see the river and town I knew I was ok since it was only a mile or so to the finish. As I ran into town it felt so great to see the family and I could hear Becca before I could see her (as usual!) Felt really good to know I had raced my way back into 2nd place, but I was smashed…totally smashed.
Gear List:
Shoes:  HOKA Challenger ATR the whole way
Socks: Stance Fusion Run (awesome, no blister, fast drying)
Nutrition: Skratch labs drink mix, some GU gels,  Epic bar, Watermelon/coke at aid station
Other: Patagonia shorts, Champ system Jersey and Jacket, Salomon s-lab vest (killer)

1 comment:

Chris Boyack said...

Such a killer race (and report), Luke. I'm blown away by your effort and result! Sounds like you dug deep, then just kept on digging. Awesome.