Wednesday, August 29, 2018

2018 Ruby Mountain Trail Half Marathon - Lamoille, NV

Official Time: 3:54:00 for 14.78 miles
Placement: 1st male.
Results:  Here
Race WebsiteHere
Weather: Low 40's at the start, upper 60's at finish
Garmin Dump: Here
Previous Years: First time at this race


How could I resist this race?  It fit perfectly well into my calendar and it was located in one of my favorite places on earth: Lamoille Canyon.  Lamoille is located about 25 minutes south of Elko, NV -- about 200 some odd miles from Salt Lake City.

I've hiked most of the trails there and it has been a solid year since I've done any hiking.  The Ruby Mountain Relay / Trail race primarily caters to team relays and some ultra runners.  However, this year they added a solo "half-marathon" event.  Typically half marathons run around 13.1 miles, but this race was at least 14.5 and probably closer to 15 miles.

The concept of the race was pretty low-key and easy to follow:

Just show up around 7:00 AM, check in with the race director and then start one of three loops.  Once you finished your loop, return to the race director, tell him you finished and then let him know when you were starting the next loop.  Your total time was clocked but while at base camp you could drink, eat and recover a bit.

There were 3 loops:

The Liberty Pass Trail: a 6.8 mile loop up to Liberty Pass (around 10,750 feet elevation)
The Lamoille Lake Trail: a 3.8 mile loop up to Lamoille Lake (a subset of the Liberty Pass)
The Island Lake Trail: a roughly 4 mile loop up to Island Lake.

The Race

I rolled in around 6:30 AM, earlier than I expected to get there.  There definitely was a different vibe than what I was used to at a race.  With it primarily being a relay race there were plenty of people camping and basically lounging about waiting for their turn to run.

I talked to a few people and used the restroom before going to the starting line to figure out how things worked.  I quickly found out that if you were a solo runner (me) you basically could start whenever.

So I went back to my car, put away the stuff I didn't need and grabbed the things I needed and used the restroom one final time.

Liberty Pass highlighted

Liberty Pass

I opted to go for the hardest and longest route first.  I was starting at about 9000 feet elevation and had to ascend to around 10,750.  

I really didn't know what to expect.  I had hiked the trail a few times and the footing wasn't too awful but I knew it was going to be tough.  Plus it had been a while since I had done any serious hiking / workouts at 9000 feet of elevation.

So I started off tentatively. I had a long way to go and I am not a trail runner nor am I in the best shape.  I had hoped to run most of the uphill and power hike what I couldn't do.

Almost right away I was breathing hard but I just took my time watching where I was running and making progress.  In fact, I felt like I was doing better than I expected.

There were a few other people running various sections of their route but for the most part I was running alone.  I just knew I needed to get to Liberty Pass.

The trail was well marked and already well defined.  They had some flags on them and some blinking lights for the night runners.  I knew where I was going and about the only confusing spot was the Lamoille Lake turn-off.

Eventually I came upon Dollar Lakes.  They were amazingly tranquil and I just wanted to stop and take a break and look at them.  It was a beautiful back drop against the Ruby Mountains.  I was actually surprised they had water in them:

I was pretty tired at this point and my running was started to already stutter.  I was trotting the flats at this point and definitely power hiking the steeper inclines.  I knew it was going to be a long morning, but overall I was fairly happy with my pace, which was hovering in the 12 - 18 minute per mile zone.

Eventually I came across the first checkpoint: Lamoille Lake, but I didn't need to check in there.  I had at least another 2 miles or so before I came across the Liberty Pass check.  I was still largely running solo but I had passed the occasionally relay walker.  The temperature was still cool and not too warm (I was wearing shorts and two t-shirts).

The trail got a lot more rocky and steeper as I passed Lamoille Lake.  I more or less at this point was power hiking more than I was running.  The air was certainly thinner and my breathing was pretty labored.  My legs felt good though but my ears were ringing a little from the elevation.  I was starting to wonder if I was going to be able to finish this without hurting myself, passing out, or puking.

After a series of switchbacks and scrambling up rocky trails, I finally crested Liberty Pass.  I love the view from up there.  It was chilly up there with a stiff breeze coming across the top of the pass.  A runner had warned me that the checkpoint was sort of hidden and off to the right and off of the main trail.

I am glad she told me that as I might've run right on by.  Luckily I spotted the volunteer with a flag and his cot at the edge of a rock formation.  He said I was the first solo runner there -- did I actually have a chance at this?

I stopped, drank a little Tailwind and took some photos:

Liberty Lake Below

I told the guy I just wanted to keep running to the canyon below there (I had only been down there a little in the past) but he said that was forest property and we weren't allowed to race there.

Sadly, I made my way back down the rocky trail before reaching Lamoille Lake again.

Here the trail deviated from the original trail I had taken up.  It led to the Stockman Trail, which I had heard of before, but never hiked.  I believe it is primarily for horses to use and is an alternate route to Lake Lamoille.

It was far easier running down on this trail than it would've been going down the way I came.  It was more grassy and single track and a less steep.  I was actually running at this point and while I couldn't go all out on account of the ruts in the trail, I was beginning to have hope of actually surviving this race:

I had been pursued by another solo half marathoner for most about the last 2/3rds of my ascent to Liberty Pass and along the way he passed me on the way down.  I was happy to let him go.  I really didn't want the pressure of competing.  I just wanted to experience the trail and get through the race without worrying about too much.

At base camp, I refilled my water bottle with some Gatorade I had brought.  I saw that my competition went for the Island Lake Trail.  I had wondered if I should do that one for my second route as it tends to get a little warmer on that trail, but I wanted to run solo.

So I went back and more or less repeated the first route I had taken except, I only had to go up half way to Lake Lamoille.

Lake Lamoille

The second trail for me was the 3.8 mile loop for Lake Lamoille.  I had hopes I'd be able to run it like I had for the Liberty Pass trail, but as soon as I had to climb anything more than a molehill, I resigned myself to power hiking.

I just didn't have a lot left and I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have anything for the Island Lake trail.  I was just winded and sweating profusely.

I had dumped one of my shirts off at the base camp, so that help and I found myself hitting my water bottle a lot more than I had for the first go-round.

A few other runners plodded by me and there were some speed demons that roared by me.  I was so jealous, but I remembered that many were coming off of lengthy breaks as they were part of a relay team.

I reached Lake Lamoille and checked in with the volunteers there.  They recorded the time I arrived and wished me good luck as  I made my way down the Stockman's Trail.

Once I was heading downhill it wasn't too hard to get into a running motion again.  Before I knew it I was back in base camp and ready to start on the Island Lake Trail.

Coming off Stockman's Trail for the second time

Island Lake Trail

I was pretty woozy at the base camp as I chugged what was left of my Gatorade and refilled my water bottle.  At this point I was rapidly going through my bottle as the temperature increased.  I was tired but I knew that I was going to finish.  The question was how much was it going to take.

The Island Lake Trail is roughly a 2 mile uphill climb that goes to an lake with a tiny island in the middle of it.  You can see a ton of photos here.

I pretty much sauntered to the trail head and ran a few hundred yards before succumbing to a power hike.  I was gassed at this point and while my pace was okay, it was definitely dwindling.

I've hiked the trail several times and the views are really nice as you ascend switchbacks.  There were some day hikers who were super cool about letting me pass them and there were occasionally other runners climbing the hill.

I was really struggling once I got about half way.  I was taking greedy gulps of my water bottle and actually by the time I had reached the lake, I was out.

Picture taken at the top of Island Lake
Island Lake

I was so happy to see the cheery volunteers at the top, who took my name and time.  They had plenty of cool water which I sucked down and refilled my bottle.  I was so tempted to hit the lake.

I chit chatted for a while with the volunteers.  I was honestly in no hurry and was wondering if I'd be able to run down.  It was pretty steep and I was just gassed.

However, once I started to make my way down, I realized I could run and for the most part, I did run all the way back down.  I love the downhill portions and I made pretty good time actually.

However, once I hit the Road's End Road and I had to run to the finish line, I just ran out of gas.  I just plodded along, and casually walked under the finish line.  I think the volunteer who was collecting times didn't realize I had just finished, but I did.


After I finished, I found a bench and just sat there.  It had taken me nearly 4 hours to finish the race.  I was sort of surprised it had taken me that long because it didn't feel like 4 hours had transpired.  Had it really taken me what it kind of takes me to run a full 26.2 marathon to run a hilly 14.75 mile run at elevation?  I guess so.

Finisher's belt buckle

The race had a TON of food: pancakes, eggs, ice cream, fruit, drinks and strawberry milk.  I cautiously ate and drank as my stomach was super touchy.

I chatted with various runners from Utah and Reno and I wound up killing a good 45 minutes after the race socializing and enjoying the 78 degree sunshine.  Despite a slow time, I had a nice runner's afterglow and a huge sense of accomplishment.

Customary shirt
Then my name was called and it turns out -- much to my amazement -- that I had won the male half marathon race.  If you do look at the results though, there were less than 10 solo runners, so my changes were okay to begin with.

Cool prize

That was a nice ending to a tough day.  Again, totally unexpected.  This is the second time I've outright won a race in Elko, having won the Ugly Sweater 5K in 2015.

Days later as I write this, I am still on a "high" after running this.  Yes my time wasn't super great, yes I had to do a lot of walking, but it was such an awesome experience.  I love Lamoille Canyon and I got to experience all my favorite trails there in one morning.  It was humbling to be blown away by a lot of really efficient trail runners but I managed to get through it and I did run quite a bit of it.  Perhaps I'll start to do some of my training on trails.

The race was expensive: $80 + service fees but considering what I got, it was money well spent.  The logistics and time it took to set this up obviously makes the race an expensive one to put on.

They also had great post race refreshments and I spent a lot more time than usual after the race hanging out and enjoying myself.

Would I do this race again?  Yes, definitely. 

No comments:

Post a Comment