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Sunday, April 15, 2012

SJT 50K 2012

Rain stormed down upon us all day Friday and into the morning hours Saturday.  When I write “stormed,” I’m talking the full shebang – thunder, lightening, wind.  I barely slept a wink in preparation for Saturday’s race.  The wind and rain was so loud, it woke me all night long.  I wonder however, whether or not I would have woke all night long regardless. 

Turned out, the rangers closed down The Main Divide, which meant much of the course, including West Horsethief would not be in this year’s race.  A new map was nailed to a tree when I arrived to the start line.  The first 19 mile out-and-back of the original race became the last 19 miles.  The “new” first portion of the race would wind around the trails near lower Blue Jay, taking me along trails that I rarely run. 

Bummer.  I knew every bump in West Horsethief (not to mention Trabuco & The Main Divide).  At the same time I was a little relieved that I didn’t have to go up Horsethief.  I felt a bit disappointed too since I trained so hard, specifically for that trail.  What a great way to practice my newfound spontaneity.  Of course, first thing I did, or rather didn’t do, was start my garmin!

Scenes from The Start Line:

I felt good when we ran off down the road toward the trail.  I took up the back of the pack with several other runners, telling myself, run smart!  It took me a while to warm-up.  I didn’t push it.  I figured I had time to speed up. 

The trails were beautiful, lush with moss covered tree trunks and a variety of ferns.  Other parts were exposed with orangish-pink boulders to run up like stair steps.  The exposed trails became pretty muddy, but nothing terrible, or ridiculously unavoidable. 

The first loop was not too confusing, though I did take two, TWO wrong turns.  The second wrong turn I ran with two other racers.  Then after that first loop, we began criss-crossing trails we had already run.  Several runners took wrong turns, some of them front runners.  Worried that I might not make that 14 mile hard cut-off, I focused hard on looking at my surroundings and not taking another wrong turn.  I believe focusing on my direction kept me strong, as I didn’t have time to think too much about my running.  I simply kicked out the back, tried to run quickly.  No negative thoughts popped into my head – it really was a wonderful, though only slightly frustrating, time for the first third of the race.

When I made it back out to the road again, I passed my truck at about mile 10.  I threw the trash in my pockets into the bed, as well as, my long sleeve shirt and beanie.  Next stop was a quick one at the 1st aid station where I found myself AGAIN, extending my stay as I chatted away with the workers.  I stopped myself short and rushed off onto the single track behind the station which I ran for a short while to come out on a road that I have run many times.  I headed down and then up toward Chiquita to finish off the final 18 or so miles (this new last-minute route was actually a little short, more a 45K than a 50K).  Fortunately, Jody V., a local runner who knows these trails very well was a bit behind me.  She helped me out a great deal finding my way.  Everything was backward to me.  When I had run this road before, I ran it in the opposite direction.     

Before Making my Way to Chiquita (I’m not sure what to call these trails, since I don’t know their names.  I heard someone refer to this portion as “The Sugarloaf Loop” since we ran by Sugarloaf Peak):

Making my way to Chiquita was a task – not physically, more just finding my way.   When I didn’t have Jody nearby, I questioned bikers, whose responses didn’t reassure me.  Keep in mind that this race was nearly cancelled and that the planners came up with a new route in a rush.  And they were pretty much marking the trail that morning as we ran it.

At one point on the way to Chiquita, we met two runners trying to figure their way, and Jody was able to set everyone straight.  Then some time later, I took both those runners down a wrong turn!  Jody to the rescue again.  She yelled out my name and pointed in the other direction, where we turned around and chased off after her.  Following her, she brought us right to the Chiquita trailhead. 

The run at this point was tiring, but not too tiring for me to get out ahead of the small pack I was running in.  It was muddy, and it was rocky, and it was mostly downhill.  Yay!  Then I ran down a large wet boulder leading into a creek and my feet slipped out from beneath me.  I fell on my back and my elbow and wrist slammed down onto the rock.  Blood smeared from a small cut on my hand.  I feared for a second that I may have broken my wrist or elbow.  “Don’t let the fall throw you,” I said to myself, stood up, and continued running.  Soon, my wrist and elbow felt okay, definitely not broken, just sore. 

Running Chiquita:

I ran past the next aid station, not knowing how far back the few runners were behind me.  With about three or so miles remaining to the candy store aid station I came upon the first place runner making his way back.  (This portion of the run is referred to as “The Candy Store Loop” because it’s an out and back with a loop at one end to Ortega Highway, where there’s a candy store across the road).  Anyway, slowly but surely, I came upon more runners making their way back.  At one point, I came upon running friend, Lisa making her way back, looking strong and smiling.  She too had fallen, but she broke her garmin (& had to run back and look for it.)  We took pictures of each other and we were both off again, running in opposite directions. 

Lisa on Chiquita:

Me on Chiquita Looking so Funny because (I think) I was Describing my Fall Here:

The next mile to the candy store aid, where Steve and Annie Harvey worked, was EXCRUTIATING.  It took F O R E V E R.  Imagine my relief when I could finally hear cars from the highway.  I ran into the station with even greater relief.  Steve was so helpful to get the pack off my back, while I grabbed my knee brace deep in the back zipper (as ever since the fall, though I didn’t hit my knee, it ached).  I learned at this station that one of my running friends didn’t make the cut off.  Just then, one of the guys in the race behind me, ran on up to the station.  I was quick up on my feet and running hard back onto the trail.   I didn’t even stop at the outhouse bathroom, which I needed to, and should have because I would have to find time later in the land of no outhouses.

The next several miles was VERY difficult.  Occasionally, I’d catch a glimpse of the male runner behind me, and that pushed me onward faster.  Two hikers stopped me at one point to ask me where they were on the trail, and I looked at them as if to say, “I have no idea what you are asking me”  I remember when I stopped to answer them, I swayed a bit and almost lost my footing.  I had to keep going, or else I’d fall.  LOL.  Then I remembered as I ran off, “Chiquita Trail,” I hollered back to the hikers, “We’re on Chiquita!”  That’s when I saw that guy coming up right behind the hikers.  I took off running uphill with great determination not to see that runner on the trails again.  He had been running with a female (wife/girlfriend) who I did not see.   And at the next aid station, I found out that another running friend had dropped out while running Chiquita.  : (

Mile 24.5 was my low point.  I was so dang tired, I felt I could drop to the dirt.  This is when the bad thoughts crept in.  I said to myself, “I suck!”  Then I said, “NO!  NO!  NO!   Don’t think that again, just KEEP RUNNING.”  I continued running, hardly hiking at all because I wanted THIS TRAIL TO END.  But it would not end.  Chiquita went on and on and on (mostly uphill).  The bad thing for me was that I did not know when it would end because I had not trained on this trail either. 

Reaching the Chiquita trailhead was GLORIOUS.  Simply Glorious.  That’s all I have to say about that.

More Chiquita:

With Chiquita under my belt, I literally had to FIND my way back.  I came to an intersection with markers and arrows on all three options.  I stood there thinking, thinking, thinking.  I recalled the race’s beginning and looking up at the topography I decided upon the route that I did not want to take – the steepest route.  I asked a couple hikers, a teen and a woman with keys in her hand, as I made my way up, whether this was the way to the parking lot.  They said with a worried look that they didn’t know, they were lost.  “Well,” I said, “I believe it is.” 

Further up, I ran up on a young girl sitting on a boulder.  I asked her also if I was on my way to the parking lot.  She said that she didn’t know, but her Dad went ahead to look for it.  Awesome!  I ran ahead to find him.  He was running up the trail when I hollered to find out whether he found the lot.  AND HE DID.  He told me when the trail forked to go straight.  I was so happy, and happy for him and his family too who seemed visibly worried over being lost. 

My feet hit the pavement barely able to run the remainder in to the finish.  I ran on in though, so, so, so relieved that I had finally finished this race. 

Posing with Big Baz at The Finish Line:

Look at that UPHILL finish!! Miles totaled 28ish (45k), others reported 29 point something:My Activities SJT 50K 4-14-2012, Elevation - Distance

My Activities SJT 50K 4-14-2012

I came in at 8:10.  I hoped for less than 8 hours on the original route.  That was going to be tough, but doable. When I learned of the change, and the fact that this new route was short, not to mention I was very pleased with my time for the first half of the race, I thought FOR SURE, I’d come in well under 8 hours.  But alas, this course was more difficult than the original.  Oddly, much more difficult.  I would have never guessed.  I’m not too broken up over my time though.  I am HAPPY, so, so happy that I finished, and happy that I can be part of such a wonderful community.  

Lest I forget . . . The Movie : )

San Juan Trail 50K


  1. Congratulations! Looks like a beautiful but grueling race.

    1. Thanks Alma. You are absolutely correct. It was a beautiful but grueling race. Thanks for reading!

  2. Congrats on pushing through and finishing! Always love your race reports.

    1. Thanks Lumberjack. This one was a tough one. I'm glad you like my reports.

  3. Wow Lauren, you did great! Congratulations! I think 8:10 is awesome for this course and circumstances. I love the photos and video!

    1. Thanks Johann. I'm happy you like the photos. The video is so much easier to take, because it doesn't blur when I run. : )) I'm not too sad about my time. Really, I just so happy to finish.

  4. Congrats! That sounds like quite an adventure- I'm sure the conditions and new course made it more of a challenge than the original race.

    1. Thanks Rachel! I am so surprised that it was more of a challenge than the original race. I mean -- what can be harder than going up Horsethief at mile 23? (I know! Going up Horsethief at mile 30 -- which I'm going to attempt in October. Yikes!)

  5. Great! You made it! BRUTAL hard course too!

    1. Thanks for reading Paul. I am so happy I made it. Very brutal for me. I don't know how those guys and girls can do it in half the time! They are superhuman. LOL.

  6. Yay! Congrats on your finish :) Nothing like a course change to really mess up your day, but awesome job gettin' er done!

    1. Thanks Jimbo. Definitely never had a course change before, especially after a long-trained-for-race. In the long run (no pun intended), I think the change-up will have taught me many things. Thanks again!

  7. I had a blast reading this and racing "with" you. Bummer indeed that the course was changed because I know how hard you have been training on the intended course.

    Those are some muddy looking trails! Hope the elbow and stuff is ok. I surprised myself by not falling any on my first trail experience, but I went so slow to try and avoid it Im actually not surprised.

    I think you did an excellent job for the course being changed last minute.

    1. Thanks Khourt!! My elbow is doing great now. I'm doing great now. Falling and trails goes hand-in-hand. The trick is learning to fall well. I didn't fall well in this race. But I am so happy that I finished and without any bad injuries. I appreciate compliments! Awesome job not falling on your first trail experience. : )