Local Tiernan takes second at Lake City ultra marathon
LAKE CITY, Colo. Zeke Tiernan often refers to his ultra-running adventures as experiments. His latest nearly blew up in his face. On Saturday, 10 miles into the San Juan Solstice a burly 50 mile race beginning and ending in Lake City that winds through the secluded San Juan Mountains Tiernan found himself in a bad spot. The designer protein powders he planned to use to propel him along did just the opposite, making him vomit and leaving him to run on fumes. Off his planned pace, 16 runners back of the leader, Tiernan made the decision to switch to solid food.Turns out, Tiernan said he runs better on turkey and avocado sandwiches, mini bean burritos, potato chips even M&Ms. Once he got some real food in his stomach, the 32-year-old local found his stride and started reeling in the runners who had gone out ahead of him.By the time hed reached mile 49, on the way down to the finish line, Tiernan had overtaken all but Nate McDowell, who won the race in 9 hours, 19 minutes, 26 seconds.Tiernan finished second in 9:27:59, an encouraging result for the local who plans on running the Leadville Trail 100 in August. For a former scholarship cross-country runner at the University of Colorado, Tiernan is proving to be a quick study when it comes to his latest hobby.He won the first ultra race he entered last summer, the Run Rabbit Run in Steamboat Springs, and applied the lessons he learned from that experiment to the Solstice, revered in running circles for its unforgiving climbs and postcard views.My legs felt a lot stronger for this race, said Tiernan, a history teacher at Aspen Country Day School. Im not sure if I was as fit as I was in my first ultra race in Steamboat, but Im stronger on the muscular end of things. I recovered a lot sooner, and my legs didnt really feel as tired as they did at the end of the race.Tiernan admits, despite his early success in ultra events, that he is still has a lot to learn when it comes to the nuances of the sport. Coming from a cross country and track background, Tiernan approached the Solstice wanting to run traditional splits out of habit.The course which features three long climbs and a combined 12,000 feet of elevation gain taught him otherwise.What surprised me most about this race was the amount I walked, Tiernan said. Its more efficient to walk on the uphills, because youre going nearly as fast and expending a fraction of the energy as opposed to running.The key, Tiernan learned, was to run the runnable parts of the course as fast as possible. Along the level and downhill sections of the course, which included jogging along the spine of the Continental Divide, some 12,000 feet up, Tiernan pushed himself through sub-seven minute miles. On the steep uphills, his pace slowed considerably, dropping to as low as 20 minutes a mile. Not many ultra runners come from the competitive track background that Ive had, Tiernan said. Once I have the opportunity to run, I have a real advantage over people. I was able to really push hard on the downhills. Usually, what happens with that, is your quads are going to blow up, but my legs did fine.Tiernan said he has also learned how little mistakes get compounded in an ultra race. His first mistake Saturday was putting too much faith in protein powders. His second was minuscule, yet costly: He forgot to secure the lid on the water bottle he was carrying after filling up at an aid station at mile 40.Running low on water, Tiernan ended up running into a race spectator out in the remote wilderness, and asked the man for a few sips from his water bottle.Certainly not something that happens in an average marathon. As Tiernan explained, its one of the reasons hes become so enamored with his newest athletic pursuit.For me, its like being a kid and being out on an adventure, he said. Running through snowfields, glissading down mountainsides, running through mud bogs, finding old mining towns. Its so much firstname.lastname@example.org
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