What a day. Sat. June 21st was an epic race day in the rugged San Juan Mountains. 160 people toed the line for the annual San Juan Summer Solstice Benefit Race. Some big names were there: Nate McDowell, Anita Ortiz, Andrew Skurka, Zeke Tiernan, Zach Crandall, Ryan Burch, Helen Cospolich, Diana Finkel.
The start at 5am was warm; probably around 40 degrees. The race started out and quickly (before the first turn-off), there was a lead pack of 8. This pack leap-frogged all the way up the top at the first aid station (Alpine Gulch) at 90 min. Nate Mcdowell held about a 2 min advantage up on top (about 2hrs. into the race). The stream crossings going up were epic; I think there were eight of them (each roped and manned.) It was cold going through there in the early AM… but the cold may have staved off early leg inflammation.
Up on top of the first ridge section it was amazing; An almost full moon was setting, and a full sun was rising. The air was warm, but still had the early AM crispness to it. Incredible. We sort of trained along the top there, and then the group spread out on the first big drop down into the Williams Creek aid station at mile 15.7. I came in through there in 7th, and after kissing my wife and grabbing a new bottle; I was off in 4th. Annie did awesome; got me what I needed, and jogged with me for 100m or so. I was feeling pretty good at that point.
There was then a long 2.5 mile dirt road section which I ran fairly hard until we got to the base of the climb up to Carson and the divide. At this point, I remained controlled, but made up huge time on the climb. I caught Zach and Ryan Burch at the mile 22 Carson aid station. I proceeded to gap them, still feeling really good on the way up to 13,300 feet and the divide trail. I was closing in on Nate at that point. I was probably 1 min back of him on the divide section the whole way. The snow was not that bad up there. There were several sections where I post holed only once or twice. There was only one section to really slide on … I flew down it in hot pursuit of Nate. My stomach was a little “off” up on the divide, and I took a few ginger chews… and it started to feel better.
At this point I really did not know what was happening behind me… but I was focused on Nate. I flew into the 31 mile Divide aid station, and was probably 45 sec down to Nate… I grabbed some cyto and took off after him. Within 1.5 miles I caught him after the long gradual dirt road section. We ran together for a little bit ( I briefly took a 1 step lead) It was pretty clear that he had been lallygagging for a while and I may have woke him up. Nate dropped me on the 3 mile downhill into the mile 40 Slum aid station. I came in there in just over 7hrs. 30 min and about 1 min down to Nate. We felt really clear of the field at this point; and I made a real mistake here. I did not take enough. I should have downed a cup of coke, a cup of water, and a small amount of food. Instead, I took a small amount of watermelon and refilled my bottle. I was out of there in 30 sec tops; but at what cost? Another 1.5 miles of tricky downhill running and we came to the base of the Vicker’s climb; the last of the day.
At this point I was a minute down, thinking I was much more back… I started pushing hard up the climb and began feeling a little weak in the heat. After 20 or so minutes of climbing we came out in the open meadows around 11,000ft? and I saw Nate… my spirit was briefly lifted; instantly at that point I keeled over and puked everything out… . that was that… I felt better, but periodically had to stop to dry-heave after that. I was cramping in the stomach too, and I was almost out of liquid… and weakening. I resolved to keep moving .. slow and steady.. I came into the Vicker’s Aid Station at Mile 46.5 ( God Bless Those Aid Workers)… I grabbed two cups of coke, and a half bottle of coke, a banana slice, and I took off fast.. my stomach was cramping really bad and I was slow on the down.. and in trouble. I was looking back too much.. and not focused on moving forward.. and it showed. Zeke came by me with about 15 min. left.. and I really had no response.. he quickly gapped me.. and I pushed in; in 3rd place in 9hrs. 29 min 33sec.
Nate won in 9hrs. 19. Zeke was 2nd in 9:27 I was third in 9:29. Ryan, Andrew, Zach had great races, and Anita Ortiz almost broke Anthea’s course record; she finished in 9hr. 53 min and 42 sec. WOW!!!!