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."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sugarloaves’ Ultra Vista Trail 60K

If you had told me that I could attempt a 60K trail race last week I would have thought you were nuts. I guess I’m the one who’s insane because, despite having run the Bandera 50K a few weeks ago, I started the Sugarloaves’ Ultra Vista trail run in Vado, NM this past weekend.

Bishop Cap

Lets just say my body has not exactly been pleased with me lately. It seems that as soon as I get over one annoying injury another one replaces it. If a pain disappears in one part of my body, it creeps up somewhere else moving around like a phantom in the night. Hip, groin, arch, achilles, shoulder. A feeble old man wobbling down a mountain track once told me “growin’ old ain’t for sissies.” He’s right especially if you are an ultrarunner who won’t give in. I suspect most of the pains are caused by inflamed tendons, which attach muscle to bone. 

So with that, I set out along the Sierra Vista Trail with 100 runners including some fellow  Team Red, White and Blue members to tackle one of the distances offered: 6,15, 29 or 37 miles. I knew I could stop early and still get credit for finishing one of these distances if need be. I decided that I would run until my body told me to quit and then run five more miles. That seemed reasonable to me at the time.

The weather was balmy at first with clouds shrouding the towering peaks of the Organ Mountains. After running on a paved road to thin out the pack we entered a twisty trail through creosote bush and ocotillo cactus. We rolled in and out of some shallow drainages and toiled through deep sand in a few spots until we reached a turnaround with some water. I took this opportunity to eat a fig bar and drink some chia mixed with juice for energy since I bonked in the middle of my last race (Bandera). 

Backtracking on the same path, we soon returned to the staging area and then completed another lap minus the paved road section. Six miles were done and I felt fine, but stopped by my car and ate some blood orange slices and grabbed a cream cheese on cranberry-walnut bread for the road. 

Blood oranges
I headed out all alone towards Bishop Cap Peak (7 miles roundtrip) and again ran through some arroyos and sandy areas before reaching a very flat trail through an overgrazed cow pasture. Most of the land around this area is BLM (gov’t) owned and is used for livestock grazing or mineral extraction. Quite a few of my fast friends were already on their way back from the turnaround when I hit this flat part so I stopped and took some photos while offering some words of encouragement. 

Marco won the 60K in 5:44
Once through the pasture I ran along the base of Bishop Cap, through a short hilly section and made it to the terminus. Here I rehydrated and then started back. By this time the wind picked up and the sun was usually hidden behind the clouds which made it feel a bit chilly. I made it back to the start/finish area and then had to run the shorter trail for the third time, a total of 15 miles. When I returned, I stopped by my car again and ditched my camera. I know, can you believe it? 

Rosalba knocking out the 15 miler
Each time through the staging area, volunteers were checking our bib numbers and recording our time. According to the turn sheets provided at the beginning of the race, we were supposed to alternate running a short out-and-back (South) and a long out-and-back (North), but when I headed out, the volunteer said to run 4 times (total) out to Bishop Cap (long out-and-back). Wow! Now I was confused, but didn’t really care. This was just for fun after all.

Even so,  I couldn’t help but calculate the distances in my head as I ran. Hmmmm..., lets see. I ran the 2.5 mile section three times which equals 7.5 plus the 1 mile paved road. Now was that roundtrip or one way? Well, I already ran 15 and then four times the 7 mile section...4 X 7= 28 plus 15, but the first 7 mile section should be included in the 15. Watch out for that cactus!

Perky took this early in the race.
The second trip was enjoyable and there was always someone coming the other way so I never felt alone. One of the highlights was seeing Perky from Albuquerque on the trail. 
Usually she is heard before seen because Perky is always giggling, cheering and encouraging other runners. When I returned from trip number two I had run somewhere around 21-23 miles and knew I would make at least one more trip out.

To get ready I had a ham and cheese sandwich and another fig bar. The wind was picking up even more and I was getting cold so I changed into a dry shirt and took off. I was feeling the mileage by this point and my right hip and pelvis was starting to nag. The pain was worse while running through the flat cow pasture and on the downhill sections, but didn’t feel too bad when I was walking the uphills. 

I once again heard laughter and then Perky and a another runner appeared on the horizon. “NICE, WAY TO GO!” she shouted. We chatted for a few minutes and she asked if I was on my last lap. I told her I was signed up for 60K, but thought I might quit at 29 miles. She encouraged me to come back out for the last 7, so I told her I would wait to see how I felt when I returned to the start. 

Sand pit
On the way back I I experienced on and off pain, but was able to push through it by taking a few short walking breaks. I firmly decided it would be best to quit when I returned. 29 miles is a respectable distance. My energy level was high though and I felt like I was making good time. I had hoped to finish this split (7 mi) in one and a half hours and thought if I could do that, what’s 90 more minutes? 

When I saw the parking lot I looked at my watch and took off to see If I could make my goal. The cars looked really far away, but dimensions are obscured in this wide open desert. To my surprise, I was back in time and decided to go for the last trip. I didn’t even stop by my car for more food because I was afraid I might change my mind. I still had chia left in my flask and a fig bar which was plenty to get me through.

Team RWB members getting' it done!
The last leg was challenging, but my energy was still high which I attribute to chia and eating real food steadily throughout the day. My pain level was low until I picked up my pace on the very flat sections and even then it was tolerable because I knew I would be finished before long. When I was approaching the turnaround I ran into Perky again who lauded me for coming back out for more punishment. I thought I may be able to catch up to her to run the last three miles together, but she was too fast finishing first female in the 29 mile race.

Eugene won the 29 mile race in 5 hours!
I managed to complete the entire 60K in under 8 hours which was 30 minutes faster than last year. I suspect the course was less hilly and actually a little shorter, but I ran most of it so I would like to think I was faster. 

Guess how I feel in the days after running for 6-8 hours?  I have all the lactic acid laden muscle soreness that you would expect, but my tendon pain is gone. I feel great until the end of the week and then the pain starts to come back. Why does the pain disappear after the long run? Is it because tendons become elongated or adrenaline masks pain? Perhaps inflammation is diminished because of hours of better blood circulation. I believe it to be the latter but I’m no doctor.

Regardless, I plan to take this week off to fully recover from running two ultras in a month’s time. Really I am. Not going to run. At all. For a week. Five business days constitutes a week, right? That means I can run on Saturday. 

See you on the trail.

P.S. Thanks to Mark Dorion, his family and all the volunteers for making S.U.V. a fun event. 

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