Race Report: Josh Arthur's running of the San Juan Solstice 50 miler


Josh (3rd) in 8:39:03, Dakota Jones (1st) in 7:35:03 with a new CR, and Jason Schlarb (2nd) in 8:07:13

Just one of those days… Battered, bruised, & a little bit bloody. On Friday afternoon I caught a ride down to Lake City with my friend Lara Moscatelli. We were both running the SJS 50 along with some other Valley locals: Allen Hadley, Jesse Rickert, & Chris Dickey. As soon as we turned off of HW50 and crossed the Lake City Bridge, we saw the big road sign reading: “Road Closed Ahead, Forest Fire” Whoa! That’s not good. Luckily for us though, it was somewhere past Lake City, so we proceeded on our way. In the distance we started to see the smoke, as we got closer it seemed to get more intense. Once in Lake City, we had a clear view of the massive smoke plume billowing up from the other side of the ridge. Everyone was watching it and before the pre-race meeting there was talk of an alternate course or even cancellation of the race. In the end though, RD Jerry Gray assured everyone that the race would go on as planned and that the winds were in our favor. He was right, Saturday turned out to be a perfect day with perfect conditions.

At 3:50 AM my alarm rang, and after a short and restless night of trying to sleep it was go time. Check in was at 4:30 so I quickly ate a small bowl of oatmeal & fruit, downed a can of double espresso (a race day tradition since I don’t normally drink coffee), grabbed my race gear and was out the door. The temperatures dipped a little lower than I was anticipating and with a slight breeze, felt a bit chilly. I instantly started kicking myself for not packing my arm sleeves. Rookie mistake. Regardless, I just got a new long sleeve tech shirt at the packet pickup, so that would have to suffice. At 4:58 I made my way to the start line, said hello to a few friends along the way, and at 5:00 AM sharp we were off. 

JA15Unlike last year when I cruised along with the pack for a few minutes before chasing down the leaders, I quickly went to the front and within a mile it was just Jason SchlarbDakota Jones, & Myself. The first 2.7 miles was mostly on a dirt road with a steady uphill grade. We made it there in about 19 minutes, averaging 6:55 miles. At the turn onto the single track, I tossed my long sleeve to Brendan Trimboli who had set up an aid station of his own offering PBR & TP to anyone who wanted it. The three of us did not partake, but we later found out that 6 runners enthusiastically indulged. The next couple miles we got our first dose of singletrack. It winded up a canyon crisscrossing the river a number of times. There are plenty of logs to use, but watch out, some of them are wet and even icy. Jason lead the way though this section, closely followed by myself and Dakota. On one of the final log crossings Dakota & I both found one of those ice covered logs and ended up with wet feet. They dry out quick though, and soon we were at the Alpine Gulch aid station where my friend Kris was volunteering. We were now 1:21 into the race, and after capping off my bottle with some water I was on my way.

JA2The next 9 miles were a similar story. I would lead the rest of the climb to the top, then Jason took a turn pulling the train, and eventually Dakota would take control of the descent to Williams Creek aid statoion at mile 15.7. The three of us were still together at that point, getting to the aid station in 2:24, just 2 minutes behind Matt Carpenter’s CR pace. Dakota made a quick bottle exchange and was out first, I traded my handheld for a fresh one plus another 20oz bottle which, after last year’s warm temps, thought was necessary, and Jason made a longer stop leaving a gap between us. Over the next couple miles on the dirt road, I worked my way back up to Dakota and we ran/hiked together for the next 5 miles. It was somewhere just before the Carson aid station where Dakota gaped me. I could not match his hiking pace and was forced to run some steeper portions just to try and maintain contact. I reached the Carson aid station in 3:35, about a minute behind Dakota and 5 minutes behind Carpenters CR split. In my drop bag I had a UD Jurek Endure Belt with another 10 VFuel Gels which I grabbed, along with a fresh 20oz handheld. (A note for next time: I ended up only drinking 20 of the 40 oz which I carried from Williams. One handheld is enough through that stretch.) From Carson there was still a 3.5 mile climb up to the Continental Divide and 1,800′ of climbing.

That climb ended up being my first low point. With the lack of power hiking in my training this season, my uphill strength began to fade and I watched Dakota gracefully open up a large lead. A few miles later, Jason closed the gap. It was all I could do to maintain contact for a short few minutes before I had to watch him pull away as well. This was not how I saw the race going in my head, and I hoped that I could make up some ground once we crested the climb.

JA3Just as I thought, my legs started to get some life back in them up top and for a few miles I was able to move pretty well. Once I started running downhill, they felt even better and I had a spark of hope thinking I had a chance to chase. That was about the time I hit my second, and deepest low point. There was a snow patch that the course markings went around, dropping down off the ridge, before climbing back up. Once around it I glanced up looking for the course markings and clipped a rock with my left foot (possibly the cause of my black toe nail). When I tried to catch myself, my right foot also tripped up and I went down face first. I felt my nose hit a rock first, along with my lip, then because of the steep pitch, did a full roll down hill hitting my right hip and scraping up my back. Looking over my body post race I had marks on my nose, lip, left hand, left wrist, right elbow, inside of my left knee, a bruised right hip, and a big scrape on my back… all from that one fall.

I quickly got up and scrambled to the ridge where I stopped for a minute to assess the damages. There was blood, and my hip was sore and throbbing, but it was nothing too serious and I could still run. After a few seconds of venting, I got up and started running again. I quickly took a couple Advil which I always have on hand in case for situations like this and hoped that it would keep any swelling and pain at bay. The next mile or two to the Divide aid stations was rough though. My hip was bothering me, and all I really wanted to do was sit down. That made me think about last year and I definitely did not want to repeat it. (I was in 2nd until mile 40, then got passed by about 7 people before finishing in 9th. All due to a sore hip, only that time related to lack of fitness) I knew I had to just keep moving. When I got to the Divide aid station, I was at 5:41. I still had 19 miles to go, and probably 3+ hrs. That though did not help either. My racing focus was nearly all but gone and I now just wanted to get to the finish line. Hopefully still in 3rd place.


Leaving the Divide aid station, the trail continued to climb for a couple miles. My hip slowly began to feel better, probably due to the Advil, and I was able to start focusing on the task of finishing the race. The following miles on the two-track seemed to drag on and on, but before long I was on the steep and rocky descent to the Slumgullian aid station. Just before I reached it I saw Brendan and some other friends hiking up. A quick “not the best day I have ever had” as I passed did not even phase them. Their responses were encouraging and definitely helped lift my spirits. A few minutes later I was at Slum, my time was 6:56, and Holly Rickert & the girls were there to give me a fresh bottle of water and my UD Essential belt with just enough VFuel Gels to get me the rest of the way to the finish. Just like seeing Brendan and crew a few minutes before, seeing everyone at the aid station gave me another boost and I left feeling positive for the first time since falling an hour and a half earlier. 

The last 10 miles were neither rough or great. I was able to move consistently, hiking most of Vickers (except where the lady taking photos was.. can’t be seen walking in the official photos, right?). The climb through the Aspens and through the field was probably the hottest part of the day and left me feeling a bit dehydrated. Good thing it was only a few miles to the final aid station, which I reached right at 8 hours on the dot. While I was filling up my bottle, I was told that Dakota broke Matt Carpenter’s 9 year old course record and finished in 7:30 something!! I later found that the exact time was 7:35:03, nearly 25 minutes faster. Hearing that gave me one last boost of energy as I left the aid station and headed out for the final 3.5 miles back to town. Those few miles are not easy though, since they practically drop off the mountain side via a steep and rocky trail. Eventually you start to see some openings in the trees and houses in the distance. With town getting closer, and my feet getting sore from the sand in my shoes and rough rocks on the trails, I could not wait to be finished. Soon, I was on the dirt road making my way though town and in a time of 8:39:03, just over an hour behind Dakota, crossed the finish line and was glad to be done. 

A couple friends from CB came down and I was greeted by Benn Dunn and Jake Jones at the finish line. I barely had time to take one shoe off before Jason & Dakota were over there too and a bunch of people were taking photos of the three of us. Even though it was not quite the race I was hoping to have, I learned a lot and am now more eager than ever to perform well at Leadville in 8 weeks.

I want to give one final shout out and congrats to Dakota for such a stellar race. 7:35:03 is going to be a tough time to beat. Thanks to the aid station crew for keeping everyone fed and hydrated, to Jerry for putting on a stellar event year after year, and to everyone else who put in the effort to cover those 50 miles. Holly & the Girls, thanks for crewing for me, that was a huge help, I really appreciate it! The rest of the local crew did great, everyone winning age group awards – Jesse, Chris, & Lara, awesome job! Complete Results Here.

Race Splits

Alpine (1:21), Williams (2:34), Carson (3:35), Divide (5:41), Slum (6:56), Vickers (8:00), Finish (8:39)  Click Here For My Garmin Stats

Gear Used

Nutrition: VFuel Endurance Gels
Hydration: Ultimate Direction Belts & Handhelds
Footwear: Altra Zero Drop - The One
Apparel: Griggs Orthopedics Tech Shirt, VFuel Hat, & Swiftwick Sustain Socks
Post Race: Luna Running Sandals

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