Bull of the Woods Trail Marathon

26.2 Miles Total time 7:47:54 (7.04:19 moving time)

This is a tough one!

I signed up last minute after the Taos up & Over 10k, having seen how beautiful it is in the Taos Ski Valley. The views on this trail marathon course did not disappoint but you really need to earn them!

I drove up the day before to get a campsite prior to packet pick up. Taos is beautiful as you approach and my eternal traveling companions thought so too.

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It was a rough and I mean ROUGH climb to the first peak. I think I was a little dizzy but it might have been lack of oxygen.

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Kachina Peak was our first ascent bringing us to 12,488′ within 5 miles of ‘running’.

Then is was back down to base where we started another long wander up to Mount Frasier at about 12,200′.

My last pictures are from Frasier Peak. After that I was too tired and concentrating on keeping moving.

It was a really beautiful marathon, but not one to be underestimated. All that climbing (over 8000′) adds up. I’ve got time to train before next year. Until then…

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Deadman Peaks 53 Miles Triumph

I’ve not been here in a long time. I’ll just skip the recap and get right into the new stuff shall I?

This year I ran my 5th consecutive Deadman Peaks 53 mile Trailrun. As I’ve mentioned here, it is a Beautiful but difficult race that really has captured (and tortured my heart.

Total time: 13:49:55 Pace: 14:18 per mile

This year I not only ran the 53 mile but offered to volunteer as well. I had volunteered at a trail event earlier in the year and really enjoy the aspect of giving back.

I arrived mid-day the day before the race and was immediately swept up into placing directional signs and marking the start line for the Marathon start which is at the turn around point for the 53 miler. Then, back to the start/finish to set up my camp.

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This was the first year I was able to get out of town early and it was a joy to set up in the daylight. After making camp, I walked down the first two miles of the run which follows a dirt road linking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and I placed reflective flags. The 53 miler starts (and often ends) in the dark.

IMG_3480I spent some time next to the campfire chatting with a couple other healthcare professionals I had just met about the state of our profession, then headed to bed before it got cold.  It got cold anyway and I work to frost on the tent exterior though I stayed plenty warm inside with many layers and a hell of a sleeping bag.

I did bring along Mr. Egg and Phil (who is also my pillow). They helped keep me warm and comfortable too.

6 am race start. 42º F and dark as usual. The day did not warm up much reaching 50º in the afternoon, but with winds gusting up to 31 mph all day it was cold! I wore the windbreaker all day and could have benefited from tights and gloves.

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I started feeling some right hamstring pain around 17 miles, an old nag back to bother me for a bit. I felt pretty good going into the turn around (26.2 miles. Yes we run a marathon then turn around and run it in reverse. Yes it is dumb).

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I was able to run pretty much constantly right up until 40 miles where I hit a big wall. Limped into the last Aid Station at 44 miles and was hypothermic and defeated.

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not happy. Also windy.

I was convinced I was done, but the AS workers wouldn’t let me. They threw some ramen and broth down my throat, pulled a pair of women’s tights onto me (I did not have mine in my drop bag) and shoved me out of the station.

I walked/ran the mile and a half to the base of Mesa Portales, which mean I had a 300 foot climb after running 45 miles. That’s just mean. Once at the top though I was able to run it in (read slowly jog). Plus I was able to catch the pink mountains (thanks feldspar) at sunset.

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I finished in the dark in almost the exact same time as last year. But I finished.

This is my third finish in five attempts. I am ahead in the count and I said when this happened I’d look at moving on. Time to start looking into 100K and maybe a 100 mile race.

I’m going to need a coach.

 

Mt. Taylor update

Quick follow up to share a few more pictures from the race. These pics were snapped by the race photographers.

I want to express my gratitude for all the support personnel out there enduring the same conditions as the runners.

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Coming into the halfway.
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Climbing to the peak in the clouds.
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Grumbling
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tired
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What emotion is this? Anger?
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Finally a smile!

Mt. Taylor 50k recap

Strava overview here.

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:

  1. Be careful it’s muddy and snowy and sloppy out there.
  2. Be careful of animals (bears/mountain lions etc)
  3. 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.

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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.

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Does this look ‘resigned’?

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.IMG_2437 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.

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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.

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At several points we ran through groves of aspen whose colors were brilliant in the grey clouds that surrounded us.

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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.

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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.

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Faking it.
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Is this heaven?
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Smiling or crying, not sure which.

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.

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The valley was beautiful until I realized we would go down into it and then back up!

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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:

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Forget it, he’s rolling.
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Posted during the climb to the peak.

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.

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Thanks for all of your prayers and thoughts. They helped more than you know.

Josh