“Tahoe training.. Tahoe training..” This was my mantra with each breath as I simply tried to zen-out. I was about 7 hours into the Jemez Mountains 50 Mile in Los Alamos, New Mexico and the course was absolutely kicking my butt. All I could do was think of why I was out there in the first place, as my big summer race was a major part of the reason I was continuing to truck along through the mental low points that Jemez delivered in spades.
Going into the Jemez 50 I knew it was going to be a tough one and that is what I was looking for, even if it was just 3 weeks after running the Miwok 100k. On paper Jemez offers over 12,000′ of climbing and 3 peaks up above 10,000′, however what it really provides is a beautifully brutal course with frustrating false-summit climbs and punishing descents. There were several moments when I couldn’t help but laugh at myself as I was getting eatin up by the course, but growing stronger in the long-term with every step.
This wont cover the small details of Jemez, but know that it is a beautiful course and a fantastic and well organized race. It left me with a great sense of personal accomplishment, some funny stories to tell to friends and family afterward, but most of all a desire to get back on the course and run it again (and try to get punished less). For a great race report check out Nick Clark’s recap of his win at Jemez this year.
Personally I learn more about myself as well as about racing ultras from the races that I don’t do well in per my personal pre-race goals or once the paper results are posted. Jemez was such a race for me along with Where’s Waldo ’09. These are races that would have made for easy DNF’s, but instead I got myself out of what I started (even if I had to walk for 25+ miles like at Waldo) and because of that I learned a tremendous amount about myself and am able to continue to draw from the adversity of experiences and turn them into positives.
On to post-Jemez…
With my big May races completed I’ve spent June, and early July gearing up for the Tahoe Rim 100. I am of course super excited for the opportunity to run my second hundred of the year and also to be back at Tahoe Rim as it is a beautiful and challenging mountain course and was the first 100 that I ran (2009). Hundreds are no small undertaking, and I feel fortunate to even have the opportunity to embark on the adventure of running 100 miles through the mountains, pushing myself to the brink, and experiencing the gut-check feeling of truly seeing what I am made of. This fuels me.
Hundreds for me are a continual mental chess match, but one that I am playing both against my mind as well as the race course. I smiled and enjoyed my way through Tahoe last year, and I huffed and at many times cursed my way through HURT this year. Tahoe gave me the knowledge that I could complete a 100 in good shape, and HURT gave me lasting confidence that I can run through low lows and fight back against both my mind and an epically technical course. One hundred miles is a long distance and anything can happen in the time that it takes to run from start to finish. Strengths are tested and weakness is exposed for everyone, however the mentally strong can push through. The physically strong toe the start line at the front, and the mentally strong cross the finish no matter if they ran at the front, back, or somewhere in between. I know that lows will show at Tahoe this year, and I want the tougher course to throw what it has against me, as in the end I know that if I run smart I will give myself the opportunity to say checkmate to both my mind and the trail.