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San Juan Solstice 50M || Notes for next time

It’d been seven years since I last ran the San Juan Solstice 50M, and wish I’d kept a record like this one:

Training

  • After the Colorado Marathon, I increased my mileage and — much more significantly — my weekly vertical. Before the taper, I put in three consecutive weeks with 80+ miles and 15k+ climbing. I did not feel short on endurance.
  • On the Monday before the race, I shot up Audobon. With a mere five minutes at the summit, I doubt it helped me to acclimitize very much, but it was at least a confidence-booster — I felt fine.

Race data

Clothing & equipment

It was reportedly warmer than average at the 5 AM race start, with temperatures around 50 degrees. Beyond Williams I intentionally ran in the shade when possible; a few cumulus clouds had developed by the time I’d reached the Continental Divide, but it was still mostly sunny.

At the start I had liner gloves, a Buff, and windshirt, thinking that it might take me a while to warm up or that I might want these items atop the first ridge. Wrong. I had pulled everything off before even reaching Alpine Gulch Trailhead, and ditched everything when I reached Williams Aid.

There was just enough ambient daylight to make my way up Alpine Gulch Trail without a light, though I probably could have gone faster (and more safely) with one. However, the absence of a light makes for a good speed governor (which is needed at that point in the race), and it meant one less thing to carry to Williams.

With 519 miles on my first pair of Salomon Sense Pro's (left) and nearly 400 on my second (middle), I picked up a new pair (right). Per usual, they were a perfect choice.

With 519 miles on my first pair of Salomon Sense Pro’s (left) and nearly 400 on my second (middle), I picked up a new pair (right). Per usual, they were a perfect choice.

Skin care

  • Officially, there are seven crossings of Alpine Gulch, miles 2-7. But there are more than that. On the road climb to Carson, there is another unavoidable crossing; and on the Divide, there is a very wet patch just before Divide Aid. My ultimate point: Feet cannot stay dry on this course, even with multiple shoe rotations.
  • Starting a few days before the race, I applied Bonnie’s Balm the bottom of my feet before bed. So long as it has some time to soak in, this helps to reduce maceration (pruned skin).
  • In the dark at 5 AM, sunscreen is not high on your mind. But don’t forget it!
  • Don’t forget SPF lip balm, either. I overlooked this and paid for it with chapped lips.

Food and liquids

  • Overall, I ate about 1,000 calories. To Williams I had two half-rations of a Larabar (one full bar total). Beyond that, gels all the way.
  • Between the altitude, accumulated fatigue, and increasing temperatures and sun intensity, it becomes increasingly difficult to remain properly fueled and hydrated. Get on it early in order to have some reserves. And become more metabolically efficient to reduce caloric needs.
  • Natural water sources are abundant, except for atop the Divide and on the Vickers Ranch. I’m sure they are contaminated with heavy metals and pathogens, but in mid-June the ratio of contaminants to water volume is favorable. Plus, nothing will act so quickly that your race is effected.

Pacing

  • As always, don’t get so panicked at the start when you’re not in the position that you expect to finish in. This happens at every race — nearly everyone goes out too hard, and many of them come back.
  • Average HR was 140 bpm; at the CO Marathon, it was 152. So why did I let it stay at 150+ for the first 90 minutes? Stupid. You’re eating up energy that could be more efficiently applied later in the race.
  • Beyond Williams, I hiked every moderate or steep uphill. I should have done that from the start. The question to ask is, “Will I be running up this in 30 miles?” If the answer is no, start walking.
  • If your legs are not destroyed, you can make up massive time atop the Divide, starting at Coney and continuing for the next 15 miles, to the base of the Vickers climb. It is primarily downhill, with many flat or gently rolling stretches.
  • Save some for the final six miles, between the Vickers high point and the finish line. There are some flat and gentle rollers before the steep drop into town. And the final drop is a quad-buster.
  • The adjusted average of Schlarb’s and Trimboli’s splits proved to be a great pace for 9:15.
As you're running a 7-minute mile through town and towards Alpine Gulch Trailhead, consider all of the climbing ahead of you.

As you’re running a 7-minute mile through town and towards Alpine Gulch Trailhead, consider all of the climbing ahead of you.

Crew

  • Emotionally, having a crew is an asset. I look forward to seeing Amanda at crew stops.
  • But the tangible assistance of a crew or a pacer in a 50-miler is minimal. I spent about 3 minutes total in the two aid stations where crews are allowed. Maybe Amanda saved me 30 seconds as compared to relying solely on the aid volunteers — that’s a small help considering the effort to get to Lake City.

Recovery

  • Quads were beat up the most, as would be expected.
  • No running on Sunday. A short bike ride on Monday; could have run, but didn’t.
Cabin 14 at G&M Cabins, in the heart of town. It was clean but in need of an update, or at least a new mattress.

Cabin 14 at G&M Cabins, in the heart of town. It was clean but in need of an update, or at least a new mattress.

Lake City

  • It’s a long drive from Boulder to Lake City — 6 hours including stops. It’s a pretty drive, but I would play to stay longer next time in order to make the effort more worthwhile.
  • Our G&M Cabin was clean, but had not been updated in about 30 years. I think the mattress had been purchased used from the Motel 6 in Gunnison. The owner is very nice.
  • There is free camping at the community park. If I had been alone, I would have done this.
  • Cannibal Grill had good food and service.
  • Restless Spirits had good food and good service, but it took forever to get our food.
A lovely finish line scene at the city park. Finishers linger on the grass with their families, soaking up a beautiful Colorado afternoon.

A lovely finish line scene at the city park. Finishers linger on the grass with their families, soaking up a beautiful Colorado afternoon.

Race organization

  • Flawless management, time-tested pros
  • The entire town is very welcoming, and everyone is very relaxed.
  • A great scene in the park as racers are crossing the line — earlier finishers hanging out with their families and friends on the grass, enjoying the sunshine.
  • Aid stations are really friendly, and must be very dedicated, too, since it’s a huge effort to reach Carson, Divide, and Vickers.

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