Wednesday, August 15, 2012

El Vaquero Loco 50k - Race Report

Yes- this place is real.

Warning: This report may be long so I broke into parts. So much happened and I really hope I don’t miss anything and can do it all justice.

Let’s start this at the check-in……Afton, Wyoming is a small town so we approached the RD Ty to get some ideas for dinner. He referred us to a local Tex-Mex restaurant on Main Street in town. We parked the car and threw on our brand new cotton race hoodies. Once we got there I looked over the menu for something bland. I wanted to make sure my stomach was in decent shape for the day ahead and what I would normally order at a place like this was sure to cause havoc. I opted for plain nachos and a quesadilla. Was this the right decision??????(More on that later). After dinner we went over to Maverick to get some snacks and beverages for the night. The 3 of us opted for PBR tall boys! As we were checking out I was very happy that the cashier only asked for my ID. She said- “of the 3 of you, you are the only one I questions.”- Oh how I love Afton, the oldest one of the bunch must have looked rather young in his “I Love Bigfoot” trucker hat.
As we drove up to Cottonwood Lake campground to find a place to set up the tent we couldn’t help but notice how beautiful this place was. The mountains were so green and lush, gorgeous streams and the temps were perfect for a guy like me. Unfortunately all the campsites were taken so we got a little “cheeky” and thought- hey let’s just throw our sleeping bags on the picnic tables and sleep under the stars at the race check in…BRILLIANT! We unloaded the car and got our bags and pillows out and I set off to find the port-o-john (Tex-Mex was just setting in). As I strolled back to “camp” I felt a few sprinkles and when I looked over I see Joe and Sue (names have been changed to protect reputations) struggling to put up the 3 room Kelty tent I brought.  I immediately jumped in to help….after I put my tall boy in a safe place. Before we knew it the skies opened up and in the darkness of the pouring rain we looked like a bunch of soaked dogs. About 10-15 minutes on fumbling around in the dark I looked inside the tent and it more less resembled a blow up pool. DAMN! Now what? We decided to drag the tent close to a tree and go to plan C. Joe happened to have a one person back pack tent and Sue and I got the joy of sleeping in the car.  After we all changed into something dry we hunkered down for a few hours of shut eye. About an hour later as I try to sleep, you hear the sound of a car horn- WTH! Scared the Tex-Mex right out of me. It was Sue trying to get comfy. I had enough of the Lexus recliner so I grabbed my sleeping pad and bag and laid it outside next to the car on the wet gravel lot (rain had stopped by now). I tried to sleep but hearing all the cracking of limbs in the woods as well and the big crawlies that kept trying to get in my sleeping bag it was futile.  I think I got a solid 2 hours before the alarm went off at 4:30 am. Ahh---refreshed and energized I awoke and started off to the port-o-john yet again (do you see a theme coming on here?).

Game Time
I got my UltrAspire Kinetic vest ready, run gear on and slapped on my brand new HUMR trucker hat and I was good to go. Joe and I were set as we toed the line for a long day in the hills. Sue opted for the 25k since she had a larger animal tame in 7 days time. I did the best I could to wake up and get ready but the lack of sleep was no bueno. Ty hollered- Go and we were off. We ran through the campground a few hundred yards before we jumped on a trail and started our 4 mile climb. I got a little worried after only about a half mile. My breathing was really labored and my heart was racing way to fast. It was early and I had to really back off to a pedestrian pace (yes slower than my normal pace) to see if I could get things under control. I felt like the entire field passed me here and I started to wonder what in the world the day had in store for me. After about 4 miles of heading up we hit the top and WOW- what a view. It was stunning! My legs felt heavy still from SpeedGoat but I finally got my heart rate down and my breathing under control. Here is where I knew I had to go hard to catch up on some lost time. We had a set of switch backs and we descended quickly.  We hit the first AS and I just filled up on a little water and kept on trucking (I was in a trucker hat after all). The next few miles I just tried to keep my head down and slog away on my tired legs. The scenery was unreal and I stopped many times to take a few pictures and just take it all in. 

After running on plush single track surrounded my wildflowers and passing a few waterfalls we hit the first lake. Breath-taking! As we ran past the lake I couldn’t help but feel so lucky that I was able to be there right then. Ultra-running has given me such a blessed life of seeing some of the most spectacular things I have ever seen.
Almost to the first lake

There it is
After lake #2- hands on thighs buddy

We passed the lake and headed up a sort steep little climb only to come up on another beautiful lake. We descended a few hundred feet and started up a real steep climb that would lead us to 7 miles on downhill running to the turnaround. Here I had to make a few Tex-Mex stops which are never fun and just tried to cruise into the turnaround. We ran through waist high to shoulder high flowers, crossed streams, ran through meadows and pockets of trees- this my friends was surreal! About a couple miles before the turnaround the 25k runners started heading towards us. I saw Sue as she went across a stream on a log.
At the turnaround I saw Joe and he waited a few minutes while I refilled my bottles and we started the long 7 mile climb back to the lakes. 
Heading back after the turnaround

This section was a grind! If it wasn’t’ for the view this day would have felt like an eternity. As we approached the lakes we knew we only had a few more climbs and 4 miles down to the finish. It was uneventful through here and when I got to the last AS I saw the long switch back climb back to the top. YUCK! I was in no mood for this. When I do these silly races I like to stay motivated and play games in my head. My goal in every race is to not get passed by anyone after the last AS. Today would be a challenge. I was beat. I left the last AS and started the steep grind. It didn’t last too long but I was on tired legs and fueled by Tex-Mex. As I slogged up out of nowhere some guy came cruising by me. WTH? He had to be a 25k runner..checked the bib…nope 50k – DAMN! This too was no bueno.  As I approached the top I tried to keep him in sight because being passed was not acceptable. I hit the peak and now it was time for business. The descent to the finish was steep and rocky. It was flat out ugly. I had about 4 miles to catch this yahoo and I was really in no mood for it. I took off down the mountain and didn’t see anyone in front of me. I started to increase the pace best I could considering my condition. After about a mile of this I saw him….walking. BONUS! He then glanced back and saw me and was off. Okay- you wanna play that way I thought. I kept gaining on him until I was side by side- I said hello and nice job but he was silent…..dink. As I passed I felt him fall right in behind me and match my pace. So this was how my day was going to end, a 50k course and I would be racing 2+ miles of it. After a few hundred yards he was still right on me. I knew what I wanted to do but doing was going to be no fun at all. With about 2 miles to go I decided it was time to go to the pain cave and see what I had. I immediately picked up the pace and took off. The bandana wearing drafter stayed right with me. Uh-oh….the plan was not working. I took it up a notch and kept my head down. He was still there. I knew I didn’t have another gear this far from the finish so I just kept it there and hoped for the best. We were approaching a small hill and I decided to try one more thing- when we got to the base of the small hill I gunned it! (okay it felt like I gunned it). I kept my head down, told my legs to shut up and do what I told them- literally I spoke out loud. Once I started down the back side of the hill we had about a mile to go and when I glanced back he was gone. I kept the pedal down and didn’t take any chances. As I approached the campground and the finish I felt a sense of relief. People cheered and kids gave a few high-5’s and I strolled across the finish in 8:07. Much slower than I predicted but oh well. I closed it out and felt good about that.

After the race I spoke to Ty, got my finishers award and just plopped down in the closest chair. Sue (who had been done for a few hours) got me some Ultragen and water and I just relaxed and cheered on the other runners. The guy I battled came in about 5 minutes after me- my guess is he almost walked it in. I was happy to see Joe come across followed by Emily. Bryce was done long before us and we exchanged how great and tough this course really is. It was a great day for HUMR nation and the most beautiful course I have had the pleasure of running. Overall this was another good trainer for Wasatch that is just over 3 weeks away. I recommend this race to all and I will definitely be back. Ty does a great job and the course is second to none. El Vaquero Loco- you got a huge fan! Congrats Bryce, Emily, Joel and Shawn (oops I used real names) - proud to know you all. Lessons learned: No Tex-Mex the night before and get at least a decent night’s sleep.

Sometimes I focus too much on my time, place, finishing and how slow I go when I need to shift my focus on where I am and what I am doing. This race was a great reminder (even if it has taken a few days to figure out). I am healthy and have a great life. I have great friends who I get to share my mountain passions with. I belong to a unique community that is hard to understand unless you too are a card carrying member. I am lucky to be able to do these crazy things and for that I am truly thankful. Running ultras has taught me that I really can do anything I set my mind too and with the support of so many it can even be fun. I am healthy. I am happy. I am lucky. I am blessed. I am a HUMR!