Madeleine, newest member of the crew
I came here with my family and in-laws, Betsy and Raymond, who are going to run the 10K race near the Rio Grande Village. Crew Chief Cara and Madeleine just bade me farewell and went to take Grandmother and Granddad to their starting line. While looking for the place to put my drop bag (with clean/dry shirt for later), I see a long line in front of the port-a-potty. Fortunately, I already clogged the toilet back at the lodge. (The front desk clerk looked, at the very least, irritated when I reported the problem.)
"SEVEN MINUTES ‘TILL START”, I hear someone shout. OK, better get to the start line. I walk down a dirt road and see a line drawn in the sand. This must be it. I scan my surroundings and can’t help wondering if I’m in the most gorgeous spot on the planet. This is big sky country where you can see forever.
Mountains surround me with desert vegetation in the foreground. Everything out here has thorns, barbs, spikes, spines or bites, stings, or scratches. There’s very little water, the terrain is rugged, and the nearest hospital is a two hour drive from here. Sounds like the perfect place to have an ultramarathon!
The sun is shining with just a little chill in the air and I’m ready to get my run on. After a few words from the park superintendant, the race director, and official timekeeper, announces, “8 seconds, 7, 6…GO!”
This dirt road is fairly rocky, but very runnable compared to the trails I train on. I try to keep up with the pack, but pretty soon I’m falling behind. No need to go out too fast. What’s the hurry?
I stop at the top of a short steep hill to get a photo of the runners behind me. I feel completely at home out here. These are my people and I’m glad to be sharing the trail with them. I check out the scenery and take a few more shots. I’m never going to finish if I keep this up. I step up the pace a little and after a few miles notice that my foot isn’t hurting. I did a good job taping it up this morning and think it will hold until the finish. I’m pretty sure my plantar fascia will be on strike tomorrow, though.
Soon a runner, that I recognize from my running group back home, catches up to me . After butchering her name, I ask if she has any family here supporting her. Leesy responds, “Yeah, my husband. He’s running too. He’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay up there.” Wow, he must be really fast. I wonder what that’s like, but before long, I’m smelling the daisies and taking pictures again as Leesy cruises on effortlessly.
I slurp down some Vanilla flavored Hammer Gel and chia seeds and chase it with water. Somehow I catch up to Leesy and pass her. I’m trying to make up for lost time and in a few more miles I arrive at aid station number one. I’m almost a third of the way home so I celebrate with a cup of Hammer HEED while watching Leesy streak by. The day is heating up, so I strip off one of my layers, tie it around my waist, and fill my water bottle. A little more dawdling and then I’m off.
I try my hardest to catch back up and in a mile or so I pass a young lady who is fiddling with her i-pod. She soon lets me know that it’s not an i-pod, but her insulin pump. “Don’t let anything happen to that.” I say. She responds, “Yeah, that makes for a really bad day.” I’m amazed at the spirit of runners every time I run a race. I wish her a good run and keep going.
I’m now running along the Glenn Springs Road. A small village was located here back in the early 1900s where people manufactured wax from the candelilla (Euphorbia antisyphilitica) plant. The spring was a coveted resource and when the Mexican Revolution broke out, bandits raided the village, killed soldiers and villagers and also destroyed the wax factory. Everything is peaceful now as I look in every direction. I can see the Elephant Tusk in the distant. This 5,157 ft high mountain looks more like a rhinoceros horn to me.
I realize that I’m approaching the half way point and try to push ahead. I still feel good and concentrate on keeping a fast pace. Finally, I catch up to Leesy and we run together for a while. An eroded canyon appears to our right with layers of colored sediment. I’m looking at a living geology textbook --the chapter on stratification. This place is too cool.
After more running, we can see the next aid station. A little more than three miles to go. After downing some more sports drink, we cruise home. I try to push as hard as I can, but I’m starting to fade. Soon the finish line comes into view and I get a burst of energy. I cross in around 2:35 and turn around to watch Leesy finish.
Her husband, Mike is waiting for her. He Won! Congratulations Mike and Leesy. Another club runner, Jim, took 1st masters (4th overall) in the 50K. Betsy and Raymond finished the 10K 30 minutes sooner than they expected. And me? Well, I won too by finishing the 25K and having a great time with my family in one of our least visited (and most beautiful) national parks.
When I return to the village, Cara and I, along with her family, enjoy a nice soak in a natural hot spring that is near the Rio Grande. I know… that is the worst thing for recovery, but I can’t even think about taking an ice bath right now. The spring’s healing powers are calling me. After all, it has cured rheumatism, eczema, indigestion, pellagra, dropsy, alcoholism, tobacco, running…