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."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sierra Vista Trail 50K

“I forgot to post on Facebook I was running…All that training for nothing!” I laughed (or should I say LMAO) when I saw that meme on a friends FB wall this week (thanks Vince). Well, that is how I feel this morning while fiddling with my phone, frantically trying to get my Charity Miles App to work. It seems they’ve upgraded the program and now I don’t know how to work it. If you aren’t familiar with Charity Miles, it donates 25 cents to your charity for every mile you run and then you get to post your run on FB. I always run for Team RWB, but my race starts before I have time to figure out the new “improved” app. 

The Sierra Vista Trail 50K (and 30K and 10K) is run in the newly declared Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces, NM. The entire monument encompasses a half million acres in four separate areas, but we are running the Organ Mts portion, the most scenic part in my opinion. The trail parallels the mountains and heads south all the way to Texas where it connects with trails in the Franklin Mountains of El Paso. (We won't be going that far though.)

Keep running 'til the bone's sticking out!

Watch aerial drone footage of the race start:

I feel good this morning as I enjoy the fresh cool air under an overcast sky. The trail crosses an arroyo and then climbs a bit. The first section is rolling single track so I alternate between running the downhills and walking the short steep hills. The trail affords fantastic views of the mountains to the East and the desert floor to the West. Pretty soon we come to a section that passes near some luxury homes interspersed amongst large rock outcrops. 

Plenty of runners are on the trail and I feel good enough to pass a few. It’s tough though, because the trail is narrow and lined with thorny vegetation. Prickly pear and cholla cactus are the main ones to look out for as you pass. There are also plenty of rocks to keep you on your toes —literally. It doesn’t take long before I stumble while trying to pass. 

Aid stations are interspersed along the trail every 3-4 miles, so you are never too far from snacks and water. I typically stay away from gels and other “performance enhancing” sugary sports products and prefer real food like fruit and salty carbs. I did pack a few slices of salami to supplement my diet with a little fat and protein, but just a little bit. 

As I run, I can hear occasional artillery fire from the other side of the mountain. Ft Bliss and the White Sands Missile Range are just on the other side and I believe soldiers fire tanks and other weapons in that area. Eventually another aid station appears in the distance; mountains towering high above. A small encampment is set up with several flags flapping in the breeze. From afar it looks as if it could be a regiment of dragoons camped here to protect settlers from hostile natives and bandits. No other signs of civilization can be seen in any direction.

A photographer is taking pictures of runners as I approach. I think we are photographing each other which frequently happens to me. I fill my water bottle and have some oranges and grab pretzels to eat on the go. As I leave, a sign reads, “Resting, or throwing up —it’s all the same.” I hope I won’t have to do either of those things until I finish this race. The trail is a gradual downhill for most of the way from here until the turnaround in Vado, NM. I effortlessly cruise along taking in the spectacular scenery. 

Hedgehog cactus
Before long, I begin to run into the leaders of the 30K race who are heading back towards the start/finish area. I’m also able to see a few of my friends who offer words of encouragement. I arrive at the Mossman Arroyo aid station, the turnaround for the 30K, but still have 6-7 miles to go before I get to turn around. The time passes quickly as I run past the Bishop Cap, a pointy peak that juts out from the desert floor. A small cave is visible about half way up which looks like a perfect den for a mountain lion. I see a huge hedgehog cactus of some sort and then come to a flat cow pasture. A few of the leaders are heading back, but it feels desolate nevertheless.

Bishop Cap, how about that lion's den?

The pace is fast here as there is no slope whatsoever, but the surroundings are somewhat boring. Nothing but grass, creosote bush and mostly hard packed sand, lots of sand. It doesn’t take long before the last aid station and turnaround point come into view. There’s no reason to dawdle when I arrive, so I just take care of necessities and take off.

The return trip is more taxing because of the gradual uphill slope with steep drops down and out of  arroyos. I begin to walk more of the uphills, but don’t necessarily feel too bad. I reach the 22 mile point where the trail turns towards the mountains, but I don’t remember being this close to the mountains on the trip down. Isn’t it strange how surroundings can look completely different on the return trip. The course is well marked with bright red flagging though, so I know I’m on the right track.

I make it back to the aid station that, from a distance, looks like an encampment of cavalry. Hearty volunteers have been manning this station since the wee hours of the morning. This time I’m reminded of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, many of whom were recruited from New Mexico. In Roosevelt’s words: “Recruits must be a good shot…able to ride anything in the line of horseflesh…a rough and ready fighter, and above all must have absolutely no understanding of the word fear.” Running an ultramarathon is nothing compared to the hardships these frontiersmen endured and the bravery they displayed during the Spanish-American War.

After a short pause I depart with only six miles to go. I run that distance every day so how hard could it be? Well, the trail becomes more and more steep and my legs feel more and more like wet noodles. I walk the steep sections, but am still able to pass a few runners. Overall, I’ve enjoyed the entire race and never really hit the wall. It won’t be my fastest finish out here, but taking an easy pace has allowed me to enjoy the entire day. Several miles before the end I hit a couple of twisty steep downhills which take their toll on my quads. 

I reach the finish area in 7:07 where a party is going on. The race directors, Dan and Eugene congratulate me with a handsome hand made finishers tile and, as a bonus, a pair of iRunFar logo Drymax socks. The only brand of running socks I will wear (no I’m not a sponsored athlete). Steak tacos and ginger ale complete my afternoon and then I head home for some much needed rest. This race is growing every year; and for good reason. The scenery is spectacular, the course is challenging but not ridiculous, the runners are first class, unique awards, well organized, and I could go on and on. My only regret is that, due to a technological glitch, I wasn’t able to post my run on Facebook…All that training for nothing! 

Finisher's Award
See you on the trail.

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