25 October 2010

Race Report: Deadman Peaks 50 Mile

Desert Solitaire...

[caption id="attachment_659" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Deadman Peaks. Photo: Jim B."][/caption]

I enjoy running in New Mexico. Something about the landscape, so vast, colorful, tenacious, yet fragile makes it seem like a charismatic familiar friend.

I had my eye on the Deadman Peaks 50 mile trail run for a long time. It was relatively close (8 hr drive), fell on a time frame when events are becoming scarce, and was intriguing since it's all on the Continental Divide Trail in a remote location that, in Race Director Jim's words,"sees about 20 people total a year." Unfortunately, for me, the race sold out quickly.

About ten days before the race I was floundering with an ankle still sore from the Bear 100 race but eager to get back out for another race. I was already registered for the Antelope 100k on Nov 6th but I'm impatient and wanted something in between, so I contacted Jim and asked him to let me know if a spot opened up. He emailed me right away and said I was in. I hadn't lost a lot of fitness but I had definitely lost strength and power. I was a little concerned the week of the race that the weaknesses would expand and become a problem like most weaknesses are summoned and exploited in long races. Regardless, I felt I could get through the distance and at least enjoy a day in the desert while preparing for the 100k two weeks later.

The trip to New Mexico saw everything from snow to warm sun.

[caption id="attachment_625" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Snow driving techniques (taking photos while driving) over a mountain pass in southern Colorado."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_626" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Abiquiu Reservoir, just a couple of hours after the above photo."][/caption]

When I arrived in Cuba NM I had some time to kill, so I headed over to the race start where I planned to sleep in my car. I met John a BLM Ranger (these guys make real cops look like sissies). He was there surveying the "parking lot", which was merely scrub brush covered desert on either side of a rough dirt road. It had been raining off and on all week there and was sprinkling while I was there talking with John (likely the only five days that see rain out of the calendar year, very rare). Considering the rain and the low temps in the 30's, I opted to check out the cheapest motel in Cuba. Not a difficult thing to do since any motel in the town is lucky to have a semblance of a paved parking lot. I settled on the Cuban Motel. I was dry and warm, which would likely be the only selling points on any brochure they may have.

I went to the packet pick-up/pasta dinner. The food was good and a representative from the Continental Divide Trail Association presented a slide show about the trail with some terrific photos. I chatted with a couple of other runners (one from Calgary Canada) and headed off to Cuban Motel paradise.

I barely slept, mostly because I was getting worried about my ability and fitness and I didn't want to embarrass myself with a DNF or another miserable showing like the North Fork 50 in July. Though, once I started getting ready in the morning I felt the adrenaline forcing out the doubt and replacing it with an eagerness to run.

The start was pitch black at 6am with thick clouds blinking out the full moon, so headlamps were imperative. We got started for about 1.5 miles on the dirt road then abruptly turned off into desert with no trail, just a fair amount of flagging. Still, we were making good time and into a nice flow. There were four of us at that point, which dropped to three about 5 miles into the race. At the first aid station at mile 9 the two guys I was running with stopped and I just yelled out my number and kept going. That was the last time I'd run with any others.

I usually get into a zoned-out groove for miles on end in these events but the trail, rocks, cliffs, sand, mud, bushwhacking, and path finding kept me focused. It remained cold for most of the day, so I kept my gloves on for all but about an hour of the race. The nice part about the coolness and cloud cover is that I only drank about 7 oz per hour, so I was able to run the entire race with just the 60 oz in my hydration pack.

I kept expecting someone, mostly Brooks, to catch up to me and sometimes even hoped someone would so I'd have a little company. I was holding a good pace, running every step.

I reached the mile 21 (actually mile 23, I'm guessing - the course is 54 miles) aid station, which took a solid two hours since the mile 9 aid station, so you better have some supplies to make it from one to the next! I ran straight through that aid station as well, just pausing long enough to say hi to Susan Reynolds, the Race Director of the Ghost Town race I barely won in a sprint finish last year in Hillsboro, NM.  I hadn't seen her since the race, so it was a pleasant surprize to have her there helping out a fellow RD.

From there it took me 41 mins to get to the turn around point where I just grabbed the gels I had in my drop bag and was back running in less than 20 secs. It took me just 38 mins to get back to the 21 mile (now 29 mile) aid station, so I knew I was going to have a good run back. I was able to gauge my lead at the turn around. I had just 4 mins on Brooks and 10 mins on the third guy. I was determined to push hard to avoid a sprint finish.

Some course photos taken by Race Director, Jim Breyfogle...

[caption id="attachment_650" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="A little carin marking the trail"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_653" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Here's the barely discernible trail with a cute little barbed-wire fence you had to gingerly get over. "][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_654" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="So many beautiful views. Unfortunately, you'd trip and smash your teeth out if you looked anywhere other than directly in front of your feet."][/caption]

I encountered two low points, one was the first wave of pain that always seems worse than the rest and the second was likely due to dehydration since I ran out of water 2.5 hours from the finish. Instead of just plodding along like I normally would in rough patches, I kept running. I learned this from Bear 100 where I realized it actually didn't help by slowing down and often made matters seem/feel worse. I had to jump over a tarantula, which made my heart skip (and I may have let out a girlish yelp...).

For the last 10 miles of the race I kept looking over my shoulder (something I almost never do). I had it in my head I would win since mile 20 and wasn't going to let someone creep up on me. As it turned out, I had put substantial time on everyone over the last 27 miles. I finished in 8 hrs 55 mins (gives one the idea of length and difficulty of the race). And Brooks came in second 31 minutes after me.

It began to pour rain with cold, strong winds driving it, so I felt for the folks with a lot of time left in their race. I changed into my McDavid compression pants and some comfy clothes and drove home. Thanks to Happy Trails for watching (spoiling) Pippit.

Jim Breyfogle did a superb job putting on his first event. It had a good mix of structure and spartan-ism to it. I'm not sure I'd recommend it for a first 50 miler but I'd certainly give it the thumbs up for anyone looking for a full day of challenge and fun. Jim gives 100% of race profits to Pancreatic Cancer Research and Support. It's the disease that took his grandfather's life. I met and had a nice chat with Jim's grandmother, who came all the way from Ohio to help with the event.

[caption id="attachment_628" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Handmade (I don't think a machine could reproduce something like this) award and finisher's mug."][/caption]

Will add more photos to this post as I get them!


Highgear Axio Max altimeter watch

Pearl Izumi short sleeve

Pearl Izumi shorts

Nathan arm warmers

McDavid calf compression sleeves


Inov8 Rocklite 312 shoes

Buff headband

Petzel Zipka headlamp

Nathan HPL 020 race hydration vest

Next up: Antelope Island 100k on November 6th.


  1. Congrats, Tim. Good luck at Antelope.

  2. Footfeathers? I now name you Tarantula Jumper.

    Well done.

  3. Awesome race Tim - we knew you would take that one! And don't try to blame us for spoiling Pippit - he already has years of that under his collar....

  4. 7 oz. per hour...I cramped up just reading that!

  5. Tim, you're a frikin beast. Nice win - if anyone deserves this one it's you.

  6. Jim: Thanks much. It's really a fun race that I know you'd like.

    George: The only thing worse would've been a scorpion. I would've fainted.

    Darren: I could've used more water but felt "ok" with about two hours to go, so just pushed through it. I must have drunk 150 ounces of water on the drive home.

    Thanks Nathan and Jeff. These small accomplishments mean a lot to someone like me who doesn't normally even see the first place runner. It's fun to get a faint sense of what it's like to lead a race.

  7. Congrats Mr. Long! I myself also ran this race, never ran a race farther than a 10k. I always wanted to do an ultra and this one was close to home so i signed up. No to sure if i'll ever do another one ever again, lol! When I turned back my watch read 5:35, but when i finished it was 12:50 something. It's crazy what u all do! I always thought that I could go forever at a 6mph pace, wrong! My cardio was fine, it was my quads, ankles, left ball of my foot that started to give up, etc. I'm just glad i finished! Thanks to all the volunteers, Jim Breyfogle and family for putting up this race and ALL the competitors, you ROCK! Happy Trails!

  8. Thanks Harris. And nice job getting through that race. It was a tough one.

    Thanks much Simon. I appreciate it.

  9. [...] teeth out if you looked anywhere other than directly in front of your feet.” – by Tim @ Footfeathers (race [...]

  10. Great photos and a great read. Cheers for nabbing the win Tim.