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.