About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed a few 100 milers and many other ultramarathon trail races and marathons. I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Inaugural Franklin Mountains Trail Runs

This past weekend I participated in the inaugural Franklin Mountains Trail Runs, but not as a runner. What? I know. Well, this was a perfect opportunity for me to give back to the sport I love by volunteering at the race throughout the weekend. The event was organized by Trail Racing Over Texas, a husband and wife team, Rob and Rachel Goyen, who are very passionate about trail running and ultramarathoning. 

The race was run in Franklin Mountains State Park on a 50K loop with over 6000 ft of elevation gain, including a climb to N. Franklin Peak (7192’). Since the race is run on gnarly, rocky, technical single-track trail, several shorter distances were also offered, a 5K, 10K and half-marathon. The shorter races also included plenty of climbing and knee scraping rocks, giving finishers bonafide bragging rights not to mention some colorful bling. 

My efforts started on Wednesday when about 10 volunteers began hauling water 2.5 miles up to a remote aid station on Mundy’s Gap. The trail is very steep in places and climbs about 1000’. I used a backpack to carry four 1-gallon jugs and carried one in each hand. In addition, some very hearty volunteers also hauled food, tables, canopy, Gatorade coolers, and a bunch of 7-gallon water jugs. A park ranger helped by driving the heavier stuff part way up in a UTV, but a narrow washed out section of old road prevented him from going further.

(L to R) Mike, Rob and Kris hauling water and marking the course
Since Team Red, White and Blue was the beneficiary of the race, I also worked the Team RWB booth at packet pickup Friday afternoon. I talked to a lot of runners about our mission, which is to enrich the lives of veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activities. I should also mention that over the past month I had been recruiting and coordinating our volunteers to ensure packet pickups and aid stations were manned on race day.

 Rob Goyen 
(Photo: Trail Racing Over Texas/Myke Hermsmeyer)
The highlight of Friday evening though, was getting to meet Western States 100 founder, Gordy Ainsleigh, the first to run a 100 mile horse race on foot in 1974. The race director, dressed in a neon purple Día de Muertos suit with matching tie, introduced Gordy to a packed house. Dr Ainsleigh gave some inspirational words and then explained that he had suffered a concussion when he fell at the Javelina Jundred several weeks earlier. Since he hadn’t completely healed yet from this injury, his doctor recommended he wear his climbing helmet during the 50K race. To help Gordy fit in with the Day of the Dead theme, Rob promised he would have his helmet painted purple in time for the race start. I really thought he was kidding, but just check out the photos of Gordy. 

Gordy Ainsleigh
My race morning started at zero dark hundred with a hike up to Mundy’s Gap with Heather and several other volunteers carrying bread, oranges and bananas. Santiago, the course sweeper joined us, but continued on to N. Franklin Peak with wristbands to give each 50K runner, their proof of making it to the top. It was light by the time we reached the pass and we had our little encampment set up in no time complete with PBJs, fruit, cookies, pretzels, goldfish, potato chips, gels, crackers, and pickles. Yes, pickles.

Our first customers, the front runners visited us about 1:45 after the 6am start. At mile 10.45, they were running about a 10 minute per mile pace! I’m lucky to do 17 minute miles on a good day on this trail. I thoroughly enjoyed watching all the runners and especially entertaining was seeing the look on their faces when our aid station captain, Jeremy pointed the way towards the 7000’ peak. Needless to say, there was a lot of cussing going on. “JESUS, WE HAVE TO GO UP THERE!” 

Come on Jacob keep moving, it's not a resort.
Well, at least we were waiting to serve them a pickle and Hammer gel smoothie with Oreo crumbles on top when they returned after their 4 mile trek. It was great seeing all my running friends working so hard to finish this course. 170 runners ran the 50K representing Team RWB, the Run El Paso Club, Juarez Running Team, Houston Area Trail Runners, Albuquerque Runners and even one guy from Great Britain. 

Local inspiration, Angelica 
who led many training runs leading up to the race.
Of course Gordy came through sporting his purple helmet, matching running skirt and a bloody knee. After his trip to the peak and back, a few youngsters were running behind him, completely out of breath, trying their damnedest to keep up with him. Well, I’ve got news for you; you’ll need to have a lot of grit to keep up with this mountain man! 

Don't be afraid to say yes, no matter how crazy your idea.
Our aid station became quite busy at times as large packs of runners arrived at the same time, but Jeremy and Heather did an awesome job taking care of them before they continued on their epic journey past the tin mines, along Scenic Road and Sotol Forest, through Hitt Canyon, up the Northern Pass and on to the finish. 

Heather, Santiago and Greg —Team RWB
We also saw our share of scraped hands, elbows and knees not to mention swollen ankles, wrenched knees, upset stomaches and all the other things that come with a day spent running a brutally tough Texas mountain race where everything bites, scratches or stings. One runner came back from the peak with a shoe that had completely disintegrated so we wrapped duct tape around it and sent him on his way. Another guy was running in only Luna sandals and Injinji socks. Well…not only in sandals, but you know what I mean.

Jeremy, Aid Station Captain
(Photo: Trail Racing Over Texas/Myke Hermsmeyer)
Once most of the runners had passed through I made a trip down the mountain with some of the gear and then hiked back up to help breakdown the aid station. By this time, it was quite hot and we had a tough time on the way down carrying bulky items like storage bins, tent canopy and water coolers. 

I spent the rest of the day at the finish line ringing my cowbell and cheering for my running family as they finished the race. Everyone I talked to loved the course even though there was a great deal of "carnage”. Shane, our Team RWB Captain even stitched up a ladies knee after the race. On her blog, Woman on the Run, she said, "Rob Goyen even presents me with a 'Best Carnage' award — a good thing to offer in a race as tough and technical as this one...Thank you, Shane, for the seamstress work on that knee.Runners also commented on how well the course was marked. “The excellent trail marking was very appreciated. Even with my eyes glued to the trail in hope of avoiding further blood loss, there was never any doubt as to where to go.”, said Gordy.

You can never have too much cowbell during an ultramarathon!
(Photo: Perky Garcia)
There were over 400 total finishers in all four races and for many brave souls this was their first trail race or ultramarathon. Indeed there were a lot of rock stars in the mountains this past weekend. All the winners and finishers, Rob and Rachel (TRoT), Cesar (Texas Parks) Mike who mapped and helped mark the course, Leesy (Visit El Paso), Shane and Team RWB volunteers, aid station captains and TRoT volunteers, ultra legend Gordy Ainsleigh, Myke Hermsmeyer photography and the list goes on and on. I can’t thank my fellow Eagles enough for all their support with this race! While everyone was truly awesome, the real rock star of this event is the Franklin Mountains that I so love. See you on the trail.

(Photo: Trail Racing Over Texas/Myke Hermsmeyer)
Don't miss this photo gallery by Myke Hermsmeyer

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Rattlesnake Bite, Again!

While I was out of town running my 50 miler last month, my personal trainer and number one running partner was bitten by a rattlesnake. Cara and Maddie went to her parents’ ranch for the weekend since I was traipsing around in the mountains morning, day and night. Our dog Lucy, along with six other dogs were out on a walk with the family when Lucy started to limp while holding her front paw up. On closer inspection, the family noticed she had two puncture marks on her front leg. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Deadman Peaks 50 Mile Trail Run

Deadman? I have no idea who the dead man is, but I can’t wait to start running the Deadman Peaks Trail Run a few miles outside of Cuba, NM. I have been freezing all morning since the mercury dipped to 35 F last night. What a rude awakening I had; especially since the high was 90 a few days ago in El Paso. I rolled into Northern New Mexico last night and simply blew up an air mattress that lay in the back of my hatchback. It’s surprisingly roomy and I didn’t have to worry about setting up a tent.

This morning I was greeted by a star filled sky as I did my pre-race preparation to include attempting to poop in an upended wooden coffin outfitted with a 5-gallon bucket with a toilet seat placed on top. I checked in at the race start and dropped off several drop-bags with some extra shirts, shoes and socks in case I get drenched by storms that might come through today. I spent the rest of the time shivering in my car trying to save precious energy. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Guns, A Millionaire and Ladybugs

Any race with the words “Dead” or “Death” in the title should make for an awesome running adventure, don’t you think? That’s why I signed up to run the Deadman Peaks 50 Miler, a 53 mile journey along the Continental Divide Trail in Northern New Mexico next month. To get ready, I have been putting in a lot of miles at the base of the Franklin Mountains with occasional trips to the top of N. Franklin Peak (7192’). 

Training for a Fall race is challenging in West Texas though because heat is off the scale especially in August when humidity adds to the swelter factor. In fact, a French couple tragically perished this summer just up the road in White Sands National Monument while hiking in the hottest part of a 100 degree day.  About once a year I have a really bad day while running at the end of the summer. This time it happened while running with a friend on the Sierra Vista National Recreation Trail in New Mexico. 

White Sands National Monument

Monday, September 7, 2015

Polly Wants a Cracker?

A saying amongst ultrarunners goes, “If you run long enough something is bound to happen.” Sometimes weeks go by without anything out of the ordinary happening on my runs, but occasionally I see something quite unusual. Last year I was running under a bridge several hours before sun-up and discovered a colony of bats returning to their roost. In fact,  just the other morning a friend and I were stopped dead in our tracks by a rattlesnake crossing the trail, although that really isn’t that unusual for those of us who run trails in the desert. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Top of New Mexico

A few weeks ago I went to Taos, NM to run the Ski Valley Up and Over 10K (see my previous post below). Since Wheeler Peak (13,159’), the tallest mountain in New Mexico, was looming above the village where we were staying, I decided to give it a try. The loop trail is about 12-13 miles long, but there is a shorter out-and-back route that starts near the Bavarian Lodge and Restaurant.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Taos Ski Valley Up and Over 10K

Last weekend I drove with my family to the Taos Ski Valley in Northern New Mexico so I could run the Up and Over 10K. I usually don’t travel for such a short race, but this one takes you up to 11,000 ft elevation making for a tough climb in thin air. Besides, any excuse to travel to the “Land of Enchantment” to beat the West Texas heat is an opportunity not to be missed. The trip itself is worth the effort because you travel along the Rio Grande which is much more grande the closer you get to its source which is actually in Colorado. The Rio Grande Gorge is on the way and you can see the large gash in the plateau, which resembles a mini Grand Canyon, as you approach Taos.