“There are hills on this race?” I said to a young lady as I passed her. “You're kidding, right?”, she replied. “I thought it was flat.” That’s when she looked at me like I was crazy, because this race ascends a 5280 foot mountain pass. This past weekend I ran two half marathons in a row. (See below for Part 1). The second was the 35th annual TransMountain Challenge which ascends and descends the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, Texas.
We had beautiful weather for the start of the race which began at sunrise. After the pack thinned out a bit, we started our long arduous climb. My legs were tired from racing the day before, but I was able to keep a decent pace going up the mountain. Once we were halfway up the grade, the wind started to pick up and became stronger as we climbed.
|Run El Paso Club, we run the border.|
In this area gusts frequently come off the mountain and are pushed through canyons where they gain strength. We were running straight into the current which, combined with the steep uphill, made for a tough assault. Nevertheless, I was able to pass some runners, but stopped occasionally to snap a few photos.
|This guy has a lot of grit!|
Three runners who were in the 70 or older age bracket completed the race and I’m pretty sure I saw one of them as I was fighting the wind. I admired this hero’s tenacity and thought to myself, “this man has a lot of grit!”. I can only hope for half his perseverance when I’m his age.
|Fighting the wind|
As we were progressing up the mountain, Mammoth Rock came into view which indicated we were finally approaching the pass. The prehistoric mastodon looking formation was a welcomed sight, but the gusts were biting and chaffing like never before. Eventually we made it to Smuggler’s Gap though, and then began our lengthy descent.
Most runners complain about the pounding of their joints on the downhill stretch of this race, but I had been doing a lot of mountain running lately and my daily neighborhood run is also on steep hills. I stopped at several water stations on the way down for a quick cup of water, but otherwise kept up my pace.
As I was descending, I met a lady who had qualified for Boston by completing the St George Marathon in Utah the week before and was out racing already the very next weekend! Really, who does that?
Well, I managed to finish my second half marathon race in two days in 2:04. I was 10 minutes slower than the day before, but felt strong throughout and thoroughly enjoyed the morning. The climb and wind tested my mettle, but this race isn’t called TransMountain Challenge for nothing.