Tanae, Myself, Dusty, Kathleen happy to be Sporting El Vaquero Hoodies post-race.
I ran the 50k Vaquero Loco this past weekend and it once again proved to be one of my favorite races to date. Going in to the race the weather was looking little questionable which had both my wife (she ran the 25k) and I over-packing and preparing for the worst. Starting at about 11:30 the night before the race it started raining and hailing which continued off and on for most of the night. Although I slept very little, I got out of my sleeping bag feeling pretty good, outside it was much warmer than last year, even though it was overcast. As I jogged back and forth between our tent and the start I could tell my legs were feeling really good and it was going to be a good day. In my mind I had hoped to beat the previous years' course record and perhaps even go under 5:30. In addition to my goals I knew there were plenty of heavy hitter runners including Jared Campbell, Leland Barker, and many more that I figured there would be some good competition and lots of pushing the pace.
At 6:00 we lined up at the line drawn in the dirt, got some last minute instructions from Ty and headed out to the sound of a cowbell. A very light rain was falling, the temps were nice and cool, and there was barely enough light to see the trail under your feet. I pretty quickly moved into the lead were I commented to Jared Campbell- " I always go out to fast and pay later" to which he replied " Life is too short to go out slow," so I went. I know that I run uphill better than anything else and the first 3+ miles are all uphill. I pulled ahead enough that I could no longer hear anyone else breathing or stepping. I woke the Sheepherders up as I ran by there tent and all of their dogs came out to wish me well, snow began to fall instead of rain. Just before I crested the top of the climb I glanced over my shoulder to see how close Jared and co. were behind me, I saw no one. " Well," I thought, " I better put some more distance on them so when it falls apart later I might be able to hang on". I crested the pass and descended the switch backs at a nice rolling pace.
The aid station volunteers were in the beautiful valley at the bottom of the switchbacks and they greeted my as I ran on towards the aid station. Just past the aid station I startled a small black bear (he startled me as well when he barked at me), who quickly scurried up a pine tree just to the left of the trail. After the scare I sang out loud for the next couple of miles to make sure I didn't scare any other forest residents. The predominant landmarks seemed to show up much faster this year than last, the 3 short switchbacks just prior to the lakes, the sign marking the beginning of the long descent, and the slickrock just before the swift creek aid station. I continued to feel really good and actually passed the aid station volunteer about a 1/4 of mile down the trail from were he would be setting up, he asked if I needed anything but because of the cool temps I had hardly touched either of the bottles I was carrying, I told him thanks, went off the trail to get around his horses and pushed on down trying to make it to the turn around before the 25 K start. About a mile from the turn around I ran into Wray Landon followed by a the rest of the 25 K racers, including my beautiful wife who was running her second trail race and the furthest she had ever run before. She and our friend Cathleen were in good spirits and cheered loudly as I went by.
I hit the turn around in 2:36:00, spent a couple of minutes dropping layers, pulling the gels out of my "drop bag" (a small ziplock), and topping off the bottles. I headed out taking note of the time to see how much of a lead I had on the rest of the racers. 7 minutes later I passed Jared and Kevin, and I also began to catch 25 k racers. The traffic stayed fairly constant of 50 k racers headed down and passing the 25 k racers going up for probably 30 minutes before it started to be more spread out. I passed Tanae and Cathleen again and again they boosted my mood with their cheering. Surprisingly I continued to feel really good throughout most of the climb back to the aid station, which I ran through without filling up again because I still hadn't needed much water. I power hiked and ran up the next steeper portion of the climb, I looked back once to see a runner in red, who I thought was Kevin closing quickly, this lit a fire in me and I hammered up the next few hills, got a little off course and hammered some more, when I crested the climb I glanced back and saw no one but did not feel at ease, I pushed hard all the way to the second lake where I slowed a little to take in the outstanding scenery. I caught another 25 K runner, who surged when I approached which helped keep the pace really moving, this went on until the aid station, he stopped and I rolled on- hoping that I had just enough water to finish.
Just before the start of the last climb I glanced at my watch 4:56 it read, I thought that if I pushed I might be able to go under 5:20. The last climb up the switchbacks went well, I was able to run a lot of it and still felt good as I topped out. I spotted another 25 k runner and set my sights on catching him to help push the pace, I passed Mike Sullivan from Pocatello just before the sheep camp, and then rolled on. Every thing felt better than it should have, I was able to just keep pushing. I crossed the line at 5:23:33, breaking last years course record by almost 17 minutes. Over all I was surprised with how well things went, I never really bonked, nor felt like I had to really hunker down in the pain cave. I then promptly stripped down to just my shorts and jumped into cottonwood lake to celebrate, it was soo cold, but very refreshing. I had to hurry to my tent to avoid hypothermia, I changed and came back to the finish to enjoy Huckleberry Soda, Hamburgers and good company while I waited for my wife to come in. My good friend and training partner Dusty Pena came in just 6:59 and change squeaking in under his goal of 7 hours. Kathleen finished in 4:34 a few minutes ahead of Tanae (4:40), both of them had huge smiles on their faces. I was so proud of Tanae for accomplishing so much this summer to get ready for this, and to do it on her birthday made it even sweeter! Tanae- you are simply amazing!
I can't say enough good about the Vaquero, Ty does an amazing job, has wonderful aid station folks, and just an amazing event, but do not take my word for it- put in on your calendar and come race it yourself next year, you will not regret it!