Just before Christmas we headed down to the ABQ Biopark to check out their annual River of Lights display. They fill the botanical gardens with festive lights, generally Christmas or winter related but always fun.
It was cold enough to feel cold even though we dressed appropriately. Never mind that. Dinosaurs!
Last weekend I took the opportunity to run down by the Rio Grande. I don’t get down there often, preferring the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. It can be gratifying to run through the Bosque though as it is much lower in elevation, generally very flat and runnable and it is a delightful change of scenery.
A quick 1 mile down to the Rio from the Baha’i center let me run through this beautiful forest. The Cottonwoods were not quite as thick here as in other spaces in the Bosque but they were still magnificent.
The traffic sounds faded quickly and I was soon running right next to a quietly burbling river. Quite soothing.
An unknown benefit to running in a new area is the little surprises you will find. The Rio Grande is closer to downtown and I think more heavily trafficked than the foothills. Which means people will surprise you.
Today (Thanksgiving) I participated in the 2nd Annual Gratitude Run by local group: Running Medicine a part of the Native Health Initiative. It was a nice, loosely organized event. I ran a 10 in 47:17 (7:44/mile pace) which is fast for me. Another lovely run by the river. If you are in ABQ next year I suggest you check it out. It is a free event with a good soul behind it.
1st attempt:DNF: 44/53 miles but I did them in Vibram Five-Fingers and my feet felt like hamburger at that point. Initially I thought I had wussed out but it was the right decision. Better to try again than cause some lasting damage.
2nd attempt: Finished 13:22:48. Solid Run. A bit hot but some cloud cover and sprinkles to cool us off.
3rd attempt:DNF 36/53 miles. It was HOT and I was having stomach issues. I couldn’t really eat after the first 9 miles and at the turnaround I was not able to drink anymore. I stumbled back to 36 miles but I was hot and dizzy and the nurse in me knew it was time to call it.
Score going into this year: DP50: 2 – Josh 1.
I didn’t want to leave it like that. So, off I go again.
I camped at the Start/Finish again. It was cool but not as cold as last year despite being November. It was also a full moon and my traveling companions and I enjoyed the rabbit as always.
This year the race was pushed back a couple weeks in order to capitalize on cooler temps and it payed off big time. Temps maxed out in the 70’s and it was overcast all day. No rain and chilly at the start but not hot at all. Pretty much perfect running weather.
On my way into the first Aid Station I caught my toe on a clump of grass and took a dive. Luckily the ground broke my fall. And it was soft and I didn’t hit any of the spiky, woody shrubs populating the area. Landing on my left shoulder I managed to punch the ground with my right hand.
That will teach you!
Unfortunately I am not tougher than the loose sand on the earth. I heard my knuckle pop and there was some light pain in my hand. I didn’t notice anything for a while though and kept right on running.
I’m not sure how long afterwards but looking back it feels like right away: I noticed minor swelling in my hand and some lateral pain on my radius, just above my wrist. I cinched down the strap holding my water bottle in place (that is the same as compression right?) and kept tabs on my wrist
Throughout the course of the run it continued to hurt and I spotted swelling at the site of the pain above the wrist. I couldn’t hold that hand upright due to pain so I carried that bottle level. Other than that nothing to do but keep moving and enjoy the beautiful desert views.
I came into the halfway point (26.5 miles) feeling pretty good. I was moving arounf 12 minutes per mile and had no hydration or fueling issues. I changed my socks, applied more Body Glide. Ate, drank and headed back out. By my estimate at that point I was the 12th person on the return.
I had a solid if slower beginning to my return trip but definitely lost steam as the miles piled on. By the time I hit 36 miles I had slowed enough to get caught by two of the runners behind me. I didn’t really care. I keep count of my place in the line to occupy myself instead of focusing on how much I hurt.
I continued to slow, but was able to keep steady pace. I was passed by two more runners but no more after that. I had a lot of pain in my right hip. I had a lot of pain there on other occasions so that is s spot for me. Better look into it more.
I’d admit I had daydreams of getting to my truck and giving myself a Toradol shot (ketorolac or a buffed up ibuprofen). That helped me make it a few more miles. I’m a nurse folks, I have it in my Go-bag in the truck (along with saline, IV start kits, dressings etc).
I’ll also admit after I heard a couple crew members discussing another runner stating his “chest hurt a bit” I imagined he had a cardiac event and I had to stop running to perform CPR until medics evacuated him. Yes I was that tired. Thank God and Baha’u’llah it didn’t happen and I’m just a crazy ass.
I finished in the dark, just like I started. I had hoped to shave some time off my previous finish but was happy to simply finish. I honestly spent a great deal of time tightening and re-tightening my water bottles in my hands. I probably lost close to the 20 minutes I was slower just there.
I had purposefully brought then as I’ve had hydration pack issues before and I like running unencumbered. A pack or hydration vest would have saved me that hassle. Time to look into the Salomon vests. (Hey@salomonrunning you looking to sponsor a technically overweight Mexican? Or at least spot him a vest?) Serisously though I love their products and I’m already a running billboard for them.
Also, when the sun set and I was still on the trail I made the decision to walk until I hit the last few miles of dirt road. It was dark (I had my headlamp) and I was tired and on an unfamiliar trail. Not worth the risk to push it in that environment.
When I did hit that last stretch of road I picked it back up to a jog that I normally would have considered walking pace and ran it in.
Happy to have finished, I’ve been resting since then. Stretching and eating. I just put a few miles under my feet yesterday and today.
For next year, assuming I run it (I mean I have to get ahead in the score right? Leave it a draw? Harumph) I’m going to focus my training on maintaining strength over the distance. I seem to run the first half fine but lose it slowly on the return. Going to look into changing that.
As always this race was immaculately run by Kim King. Perfectly stocked and spaced Aid Stations, knowledgeable and supportive crew who are out there having a blast while we are suffreing as well. I look forward to volunteering next year at her events.
I’ll leave you with one of the happiest things ultra-runners can see:
I was lucky enough to get an invite to the 6th Annual Mt. Taylor 50k Trailrun here in Grants, New Mexico. I was initially worried I had waited too long as I was #46 on the wait-list, but slow movements were followed by big jumps at the end and on Tuesday I found out I was running on Saturday.
Good thing I had kept up with my training.
After accepting the spot I hurriedly rented a KOA cabin in town and made travel plans. After work on Friday I stopped at REI to buy some food and Honey Stinger packets (seriously they are the best ones out there). Despite leaving work late due to patients (grr) I got my cabin and made it to packet pick-up in time for dinner and the pre-race brief. Summary:
Be careful it’s muddy and snowy and sloppy out there.
Be careful of animals (bears/mountain lions etc)
Carpool and don’t litter.
Afterwards: back to the cabin to pack my drop bag and get some rest. Traveling by yourself can be lonely so I made sure to bring a friend.
Yes it’s a dragon pillow pet and YES his name is Phil. Seriously though pillow pets are the right size travel pillow and they are cute as a bonus. Everybody wins.
I’m not lonely YOU ARE!
I packed my bag and settled into a chapter of Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff before accepting what sleep would come before race day.
Morning came early as it always does on race day. I packed my gear into the truck in the cool dark, feeling the beginnings of that nervous energy that precedes the start.
I noticed a big wet spot on the bed, my hydration pack was leaking! I quickly took the bladder out and inspected it: no leaks. Hmm..I must have set it down on the valve. I hung it on a hook in the truck and drove up to the start.
When I got there and was packing up the truck there was a big wet spot below the hydration bag! a more intense search revealed the valve in the line had lost the rubber rings and thus was not sealed! This explains why on my recent long runs I’ve had more water at the end than I thought. Once there was not enough water to fill the gap in the valve it stops working. Shit!
I grabbed by camelbak handheld and the collapsible hand-held I found two years ago when my bladder leaked during a 53 mile race (seriously this is the third ultra I’ve had leaky bladder issues ha!). I filled them up from the bladder and resigned to my fate.
I always laugh at the nervous energy and bravado that emerges just before the start of a race. Runners fidgeting, boasting about previous exploits. I tend not to speak ( general habit for most of my waking hours) but I’m sure I do it too.
Despite grey cloud cover for the entire day we did not get more than a few sprinkles. It was gloriously cool and cloudy and wet. You’d think I was running through the Scottish highlands instead of the New Mexico high desert. At points I could barely see 20 feet ahead of me the clouds were so thick. I warmed up enough after about 6 miles that I took my jacket off and remained grateful throughout the rest of the run that I was not fighting the heat.
Yes folks this is New Mexico.
The course shared its time between steep jeep roads and even steeper trails, some of which was The Continental Divide Trail. All of it was gorgeous with occasional glimpses through the clouds of lush valleys or far off mesas.
At several points we ran through groves of aspen whose colors were brilliant in the grey clouds that surrounded us.
Mt. Taylor is an open mountain, meaning lots of people use it for lots of different things, including cattle. Immediately after one Aid Station we ran straight through THROUGH a small herd of cattle. I think they thought we were stupid for being out there. They weren’t entirely wrong.
The course is essential a figure-eight with two big loops. During the second loop you climb to the peak at 11k feet. From mile 20-23 you are essentially hiking to the heavens on the steepest fucking mountain. It was miserable and could only have been made worse by being in the boiling sun. Again, the misty clouds were welcome.
After the peak there was still a lot of snow on the trail making for precariously sloppy descents. I was essentially sliding down the next couple miles in my Salomon Speedcross shoes which are super grippy. This repeated a few times on the trails and road leading to the end but it was a fun kind of tough.
Mt Taylor is a tough but runnable course that I recommend everyone try. I look forward to going back and attempting it dry and seeing even more of the incredible vistas offered by this holy mountain. The race is very well organized, the Aid Stations are well staffed and stocked and no more than 6 miles apart so I never went dry despite running 30 miles with only two hand-held water bottles.
The Race Directors and staff take their responsibilities seriously including having fun. This was exemplified by the various motivational (?) signs posted throughout the course:
7.5 hrs of running/shuffling/sliding through mud and snow and slush and I found the finish (after a very well chosen 2 mile downhill so no matter what you feel fast and strong at the end). I’m curious to see what I could do on a dry course but I am very happy to have enjoyed the scenery and spent some time with myself. I keep finding I am more than I used to think.
Thanks for all of your prayers and thoughts. They helped more than you know.
Another weekend long run come and gone. I’m very much enjoying all the time on my feet. It’s been four weeks in a row of actual long runs. Over the last months I’ve been keeping to the weekly mileage (40-45) but I had skimped on the long runs. Saturdays that should have been 25-35% of weekly mileage (11-15 miles) I had not gone much beyond 9 miles.
So here I am, week four. I decided to head south this time. Simple route: up to Tramway, south to Commanche and then up into the Foothills and onto the trail. After that head south and make a loop back up. Some elevation gain but mostly gentle ups and downs with some technical terrain.
The first section of trails was in a narrow corridor between houses and the mountains. I had one scare where a rock loomed up out of the dark and made me think it was a mountain lion. It wasn’t.
In the end it was 2 hours and 50 minutes for 16 miles. I’m happy with the Average HR (151) and Average Pace (10:39). This placed me solidly in the Aerobic Zone for most of the run. I guess that makes for a strong workout.
It was pretty damn beautiful out as well. Desert mornings are the best.
I can take a hint. Back down to the road and off to home.
Keep running folks. Or walking. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I’m pretty happy with all of this. I’ve gotten faster each time, which means the intervals are paying off. and I always feel like I am just getting started at the finish which means all those long runs are paying off.
Speaking of intervals. Today is normally Workout Wednesday where I run about 8 miles with 4x1mile intervals. Not wanting to drop my mileage only to add it later in the week I still woke up and ran this morning.
So my time today in the 5k is after getting up and (very casually) running 5 miles on the trails the same morning.
I’m happy with that.
Keep on keeping on people. Doing that daily work pays off in increments.