It's about 10 days til the Jemez 50 mile run - and I couldn't be more excited to head west to New Mexico for a little R&R (and running!). The first 4.5 months of the year have been a blur with a tremendous amount of things going on with family, work, etc. I've logged quite a few miles and had some fairly strong races, but I haven't been as focused as I'd like to be at this point in the season. I see light at the end of the tunnel with things calming down a bit the second half of the year which will be a welcome change to the frantic pace so far in 2011.
I'm starting to think about a race strategy for Jemez and what my game plan in to get through all 50 miles. Last year, as a reminder, I fizzled at the Pipeline Aid Station (around mile 18) and pretty much waved the white flag by dropping down to the 50K and walking it in. Yah, it was incredibly hot in the long exposed sections, and the winds were gusting to 50 mph with blowing dust. The conditions certainly didn't help, but overall I didn't run a smart race which was frustrating. I had hydration issues, I partnered up with someone that was also having issues and didn't run my own race, I was a mess.
This year I'm focused on having a better race. I'm battled tested having experienced a large portion of this course last year, and enduring the Speedgoat 50K out in Utah. There's no amount of training that can substitute for experiencing the course of a race. Last year I know the section where I mentally collapsed - the climb just after Caballo up/down. For some reason I had mentally prepared for a flat, runnable section after the up/down - and when the trail started climbing up, up, up my mental toughness went down, down, down. Now I know what to expect. I'm also physically stronger than I was last year and I've done some hill training in the heat. There's no way to simulate the conditions of long climbs in thin air that you have on long mountain runs when you're in Texas - but I feel I've done the best I can with hill and gym training.
I haven't decided what I'm going to carry during the race - if I'm going to go with a handheld or a hydration pack. I've been training with a handheld - but I'm not sure it's enough with one section between aid stations being around 7 miles. The hydration pack is nice - but I pack so many things in it "just in case" along with the water that after a few hours my shoulders ache. One thing I'm considering is carrying a handheld to the Pipeline Aid Station where I can pick up a second handheld in my drop bag - carry both through the middle section where there is a greater distance between aid stations - and then dropping one off at the Pajarito Aid Station. Another option is to carry one handheld and clip a few smaller bottles on my hydration belt.