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 four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I spend countless hours running in the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, TX. I call it "going to church". I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sierra Vista Trail Half Marathon

Spanish bayonet, shin dagger, prickly pear, horse crippler, pin cushion, fishhook barrel, cat claw, devils claw. Just a few of the pointy cactus and succulent species we will be avoiding this morning as we run the Sierra Vista Trail Run in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The organizers have posted the following warning on their website:

“The Sierra Vista Trail is desert, rocky, sandy, uneven, ankle twisting, scraping, pokey, rough, rattle snake biting terrain...Please be prepared for this and know your own abilities and expectations...Try not to die.” 

OK, I will try my best. I have opted for the 1/2 marathon distance, but will run a few extra miles to help me prepare for the Bataan Death March (26.2) next month. The temperature is just around freezing with a light breeze. Yesterday’s rains have created a thick fog that has blanketed the valley and low lying areas of the Organ Mountains, the backdrop of our run this morning. 
I chat with a few friends and then watch the marathoners start on their way through the desert. My race doesn’t begin for another 30 minutes so, instead of waiting around in the cold, I decide to get my extra miles in now. I hope I won’t regret this decision later.  The 5 mile race route, which is a nicely groomed trail with rolling hills, provides a nice warm-up. I take it easy, but realize after several miles that I’m over dressed, so return to my car to shed a layer of clothing.
I make it to the start line with 60 seconds to spare. About 30 runners take off on the single track trail. I  keep my distance behind the fast ones, because I know I’ll be stopping to take pictures, look at the scenery and smell the daisies...uh...I mean prickly poppies. (Everything is sharp out here, remember?)
The trail is very runnable, except for the occasional rocky section which keeps me alert. The overall route is descending, but there are steep hills which climb down and then out of numerous arroyos. Crossing the dry washes requires negotiating loose sand and gravel, but the traveling is pleasant so far. 
While traversing one of the arroyos, the gentleman that I have been trailing loses the path and then starts to swing back towards the correct route. “HEY, NO SHORT CUTTING!”, I yell. “I lost the trail.”, he says. “I’m just kidding.” -nervous laughter. Now I’m in front of him. Hehe.
After a few miles, I reach an aid station that I bypass, but take some electrolyte capsules and a pull on my flask of Hammer Gel and chia seeds. (My own concoction.) My pace feels fast and my energy level is strong. I’m all alone at this point and enjoy the beautiful day with towering  peaks to my left and the Mesilla Valley to my right.
I approach a lone lady who is stopped in the trail, but I can’t make out what she is saying. Something about leaving her DNA on the plants to help them grow. I finally get it; she had to relieve herself in the desert. As I pass her she begins to laugh hysterically at her joke for at least a solid two minutes and then proceeds to sing. 
"Where, oh where, are you tonight?
Why did you leave me here all alone?
I searched the world over, ...”
I hear more gut-busting belly laughter as I run. I’ve heard of a runner’s high, but I fear she may have found some peyote out here in the wilderness. 
I make it to the turn around point aid station in around 1:15 and have some more “chia gel”; Montana Huckleberry flavor. I chat with the Organ Mountain Technical Rescue Squad volunteers that are on call just in case.
I better not dawdle, it’s a long way back. After leaving the aid station, my legs begin to feel like lead. I realize that the return trip is a gradual up hill grade. You don’t perceive it when you are running down, but it is very apparent when you are slogging back up.
The mountains keep me company as I run and I catch up to a young lady who is walking a little bit. She reaches an arroyo and questions the way. I think it is to the left on a jeep road, but don’t remember running on any roads. We do a little scouting and then see the aid station ahead. I’m tired at this point and don’t want to delay my return. 
The last few miles are quite taxing. My back and shoulders have stiffened and my quads are burning. I do my best to maintain the pace and finally see a few spectators. I make it back in around 2:50 which seems slow for me. According to one runner who was wearing a gps, the half marathon was closer to 14 miles so I feel good that I ran somewhere around 16 miles today. 
Thank you Eugene, Dan and Dan; the BLM; and all the volunteers for organizing a great run in the Organ Mountains. I Hope we can do it again next year. Until my next adventure...
see you on the trail.


  1. Thanks Greg for the great commentary...I, too did the half and took a few head-first dives onto the trail. I will be sharing this link on my FB page, if you don't mind. It gives a great overview of the course and event. Great job!!!

  2. Thanks for sharing Daniel. Taking a "digger" on the trail is the price paid for a fun time. Hope you weren't hurt. See you on the trail.

  3. Thanks for writing this...Saturday's race was great fun in wonderful country, even for those of us whose DNA contribution was in blood!

  4. It seems I was the only one I know who didn't fall on this run. I suppose I was going too slow. I'll have to work on that!