Monday, April 21, 2014

Cedro Peak 45k

On April 12 I ran the Cedro Peak 45k trail ultramarathon outside Tijeras, NM for the second year in a row. Last year when I ran Cedro Peak, I lead the race from the start through ~mile 23 where I was passed and ended up second overall. I knew I wanted to return and run a smarter race. Although leading from the start last year was fun, it wasn't the smartest strategic race for my fitness level.

Nice looking elevation profile!
I was determined to go back and run a better race this year. Training was going well and I was feeling strong with no aches and pains to limit my mileage. All my normal runs were ending up faster than last year and my long runs were finished feeling like I could easily keep going. Pretty much all my weekday runs were done while pushing my son in the stroller, with a trail run or two on the weekends. About a month out from the race, things went downhill fast. I had a low mileage week due to travel, during which I picked up a bad cold and my foot started to hurt badly. So I dialed back the mileage for another week and got in one decent long run before then getting the flu. I didn't realize I had picked up the flu until I was heading up the La Luz trail on what was supposed to be my last big training weekend. I had terrible body aches and no energy, and didn't know if I would make it off the mountain. It ended up being my slowest time and most painful run ever on what is my favorite local training route.

So I was forced into taper mode without getting in much of a final training block. After a few days of no running, I headed out to test the legs and it was bad news. I just felt run down and slow. My runs continued to be a struggle and I was not sure how much the extended taper and sickness had taken out of me. As seems to be a common occurrence in this sport, my hopes of a good race were fading quickly in the weeks leading up to the race. My strategy changed from race hard and go for the win, to run easy and hope for the best.

Race day came and my crew and I were out the door early for the short drive to the start. My wife, son and dog would be joining me and everyone was up early and loaded without a hitch in the plan. We got to the race start, checked in and I headed out with the dog for a jog around the picnic area for a short warm up. It was nice to chat with a few people at the start who I had met last year.

At the start I headed out as planned, at what felt like a really relaxed pace. It helps that the first couple miles are a pretty gradual downhill. My legs were feeling better than in the previous weeks, but still not great. Initially, I was running in second and was happy to let Mike blast off down the trail without giving chase. It was early and the plan for the day was to run steady in hopes of having something left in the tank at the end, for what I expected to be a battle to the finish.

Pecos wishing he could run with me as we hit the trail near the start.
After a couple miles, Brian, who I recognized from last years Sandia Crossing, and another runner, who I didn't recognize, passed me and slowly pulled away. I was still content to let them go and just continue at my own pace. They never got too far ahead as I would catch glimpses of them when we got into the more open areas of the trail.

A rare stretch of smooth trail. Photo: Perky Garcia
I came through the first aid station at 4.5 miles in 35 minutes, compared to 38 minutes last year. I ran right on through as I was carrying two 16oz bottles filled with Tailwind Nutrition, and planned to not use any aid stations.

After the first aid station, there is a 1.5 mile climb to the top of the steepest descent of the race. This is also where things started to get rocky, really rocky! I took it nice and easy on the climb and before long was at the start of the 2 mile rough rocky downhill. Just after starting the descent, I caught and passed the unknown runner ahead. He was running strong but seemed to slow a bit on the more technical terrain. Last year, I had a blast tearing up this descent but paid for it later on in the race, so I stuck with the plan and kept things under control this year. Towards the bottom, I started to close the gap on Brian who was still ahead.

And here come the rocks! Photo: Perky Garcia
 The bottom of the descent marked the lowest point on the course and the beginning of the climb up to the Cedro aid station, ~4 miles away. We were starting to pass quite a few of the 45 mile runners by this point, so it was nice to have some human interaction after running mostly alone since the start of the race. I was slowly gaining on Brian on the climb and finally inched past him on a steep section of jeep road. I was now back in second place.

Steep rocky jeep road climb. Photo: Perky Garcia
Somewhere around here I was told by a 45 mile runner that the first place runner was about 10 minutes ahead! I couldn't believe he was that far ahead, but remained calmed and convinced myself that 10 minutes could be made up quickly on the return trip. As we were getting closer to the aid station, I was told both 3 minutes and 2 minutes to the lead runner. So I was either gaining on him or was getting inaccurate information, hard to say which was true.

I ran into the Cedro aid station at mile 12 about 1:38 into the race, this was a couple minutes faster than last year so I was still ahead of schedule even though I was taking it easy and feeling good. I ran in and dropped my bottle and grabbed a 10oz bottle mixed with Tailwind from my wife for the short out and back section up and over Cedro Peak.

My crew and personal aid station waiting for me at the Cedro aid station.
As I was heading out I gave my wife instructions for a slight modification to my fueling needs in the water bottles for the return. I got a blank stare.... I wasn't sure what the problem was, has I had written instructions the night before and went over them with her. Turns out she misplaced the instructions and had no idea what I needed. It all worked out though and she got it figured out.

Top of Cedro Peak as seen from Cedro aid station.
The climb up and over Cedro Peak is a highlight of the course as there is quite a bit of runner and spectator activity between the aid station and the 45k turnaround. As I approached the turn to go up the peak, I noticed Mike ahead, who was currently in first place on the downhill side of the Peak. I figured this meant he was in fact 5-10 minutes ahead. I got up and over Cedro Peak and back to the confusing intersection to find chaos. Each of the four times I approached this area, I had to redirect runners who were going the wrong way. The trail in this area looped back very near itself, which made it easy to miss the turns and either skip the climb up the peak or end up going the wrong way on the section of trail over Cedro Peak. I was more winded from yelling directions than the running! Since I had previously run the race, I didn't have a problem finding the correct way and I tried getting other runners back on track.

Single track leading off the top of Cedro Peak. Photo: Perky Garcia
After getting some runners back on course, I headed down the service road to the 45k turn around. I kept expecting to see the first place runner coming back. I was getting closer and closer to the turn around and not seeing him. I couldn't figure out where he went and figured he must have missed the turn somewhere. At the turn around, which I hit at about 1:58, still a couple minutes ahead of last year, I asked if the first place 45k runner had come through yet. They said "you're the leader!". What? There was a guy in front of me! He must have gotten off course!

After the turn around it was like a flashback to last year. The second through fourth place runners were right on my tail. All I could think was that this was going to be a replay of last year--running in the lead, only to be passed right before the finish. Only one thing was different, I was running a real comfortable pace this year and I knew I had plenty of gas left in the tank.

I ran back up and over Cedro peak for the second time, once again redirecting confused runners at the intersection and was still feeling good coming back into the Cedro aid station. I ran through the aid station with 2:17 now on the clock. I grabbed my refilled 16oz bottles from my wife and headed back for the finish.

The rocks never end... Photo: Perky Garcia
 Last year, I was running scared at this point and all it did was wear me down. This year I kept calm and just kept it comfortable. I knew it would do no good to push it at this point so continued with my plan. I kept my pace under control for the downhill to the base of the steepest climb of the race at mile 20. The encouragement from the runners still heading out to the turn around was a much appreciated boost.

Heading up the biggest climb of the course. Photo: Perky Garcia
I mostly kept looking forward and avoided looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was closing-in on me. At the base of the climb, there are some long stretches of open where I allowed myself a peak over the shoulder. I saw no one! I couldn't believe no one was catching me after that long stretch of downhill. So I just kept cruising along up the steep, rocky 2 mile climb. Near the top was a mountain biker sitting on the side of the trail. He said I don't see anyone behind you! That was good to hear as this is where I was caught last year.

Getting steep near the top! Photo: Perky Garcia
At the top of the climb, I resisted the urge to pick up the effort. I wanted to keep it easy until I was either caught by another runner or until after the final aid station. I cruised through the last aid station with still no sign of anyone approaching from behind. Once again I was able to go right through the aid station as my Tailwind nutrition was working awesome and I didn't need anything else. I hit the last aid station in 3:25, about two minutes faster than last year.

Now through the last aid station, I started to debate with myself whether or not I should hammer it home or just keep cruising. I settled on cruising and I thought I would maybe pick it up the last three miles. As I approached the last three miles, there was still nobody in sight. I finally gave myself permission to pick up the effort, so I was able to crank out a decent pace on the flats and small downhills. I felt way better than at this point last year and was able to run pretty much all of the climbs to the finish. I covered the last 4.5 miles to the finish in ~40 minutes, 3 minutes faster than last year.

Home stretch into the picnic area.
As I approached the park,  I saw my crew waiting beside the trail. I tried to bust out a final sprint to the finish but I got all choked-up and had to slow it down until I got past them. It's a weird feeling at this point in an ultramarathon, tired, excited, and just generally emotional. I was able to pull it together for the final push into finish line, 1st overall in 4:06:04 after 28 miles and ~4000ft of elevation gain on rough rocky trail.

Cool handmade metal award.
Although the official finish times indicate otherwise, according to my watch data(4:05:25 this year, 4:10:43 last year) I finished a little over 5 minutes faster than last year in what I believe should be a new course record(or very close). Apparently there were some problems with the timing equipment last year and they decided to knock ~10 minutes off every ones finishing time, although my watch and others indicated the actual times were only off by a small amount(~1 minute). I'm a bit bummed that I don't have the "official" course record, but I guess that's not my decision to make.

Overall, I had a great race and ran according to plan. I didn't have any low points and felt great the entire way. My hydration and nutrition intake seemed to be just about right and I didn't have any stomach issues.

Hanging with my crew after the finish.
Besides the confusion near Cedro peak and the timing issue from last year, it was a fun race with tons of great volunteers. The post race food and atmosphere was awesome. Thank you to my wonderful crew, you did an amazing job once again! And thank you to everyone out there who made it a great day on the trails.

Watch Splits:                 2013          2014
Juan Tomas(4.5mi)         38:00         35:36
Cedro(12mi)                  1:41:20     1:37:40
Turnaround(14mi)         2:00:11     1:57:30
Cedro(16mi)                  2:17:58     2:17:15
Juan Tomas(23.5)          3:27:20     3:25:40
Finish(28mi)                  4:10:43     4:05:25

Pearl Izumi EM Trail N2 shoes
Drymax socks
Patagonia Strider Pro shorts
Amphipod Ergo-Lite 16oz bottles
Nathan Quickshot 10oz bottle
Suncloud Star sunglasses

~600 calories Tailwind nutrition
~70oz water

1 comment:

  1. Great race, Adam! Great crew and great report! So fun to live through these races with you when your dad and I can't be there to watch you tear up the trails! So proud of you and your crew! Love you!