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'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Friday, November 17, 2017

Franklin Mountains Trail Runs 2017

This past weekend I volunteered at the Franklin Mountains Trail Runs, a weekend long trail fest in Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso, TX. The Franklins are a rugged gem in the far corner of West Texas where everything bites, stings or otherwise, kicks you in the ass. I was a bit disappointed this year because I haven’t been able to run due to some health issues I’m dealing with right now. In years past, I have manned the Mundy’s Gap aid station, the highest in Texas, but knew It wouldn’t be safe for me to hike up there at this time. I hope to recover quickly and get back to running, but only time will tell how I progress. In the mean time, I’m taking short walks and enjoying time outside with my dogs. 

Spectators waiting for their runners to finish the 50K.
Mike finishing the King/Queen of the Mountain
The race actually lifted my spirits because I was able to reconnect with running friends that I hadn’t seen in a while. Especially uplifting was watching all my Team Red, White and Blue family achieve their goals in one or more of the race distances offered — 50K, 27K, Half Mary, 10K, 5K or King/Queen of the Mountain which is a 7-9 mile race with over 3000’ of vert to the top of N. Franklin Peak (7192’); choose any route. Some of my friends finished races on two or three consecutive days; the hardest being King/Queen on Friday, the toughest 50K in Texas on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. If that isn’t badass, I don’t know what is!

A Team RWB member finishing the 50K
Look closely to see runners out there
I started the weekend by watching the King and Queen of the Mountain where my buddy Mike placed fourth in 1:07. The winners came in under an hour which is amazing considering the amount of climbing involved. The shortest route follows a steep ridge and is quite technical involving some scrambling in places. I watched the runners from the bottom where some finished with bloody knees and elbows which is par for the course in the Franklins.

Jacob running the half the day after tackling the 50K.
(Notice he isn't smiling.)
I showed up on Saturday evening to watch my friends finish the 50K after they spent a long day slogging through the mountains. This course is the most rugged, taking runners on the steep Schaeffer Shuffle and Aztec Cave trails, to the top of N. Franklin Peak, along the East side of the mountain range, over Northern Pass, back to the West side and finishing on Lower Sunset Trail. I arrived on a beautiful evening with my daughter Maddie, just in time to watch a gorgeous West Texas sunset. We rang the cowbell for the finishers, because you can never have enough cowbell when you are trying to finish a brutal ultramarathon. 

Maddie with the cowbell. There is no such thing as too much cowbell!

Several of the top winners were Tarahumara (RarĂ¡muri) Native Americans from the canyons of Mexico who are well known for their endurance running. They finished in around five or six hours while most of my friends finished between 10-14 hours. I listened to their stories of nasty falls, new shoes that were too small causing blisters, puking on the way to the peak, aching backs, leaden legs, you name it. Otherwise, there weren’t any serious casualties; just the usual few runners that went out too fast and bonked at the 25 mile point and one lady who got off course and had to be assisted by search and rescue.  


Part of the half marathon course. How 'bout all those rocks?
The next morning I came back to help at the start/finish area for the the half marathon, 10K and 5K. I mostly assisted the race director and made sure runners were going in the right direction depending on which distance they were running. Again, I enjoyed watching so many of my friends finish their races and receive their finisher’s medals and multi day awards. The Franklin Mountain trail runs are well organized by Trail Racing Over Texas which is owned by Rob and Rachel from Houston. They are very passionate about ultrarunning and care very much about their runners. While their events are premium races with high quality swag, shirts and bling, they are best known for treating participants like family. 

Rob, the race director, congratulating Mo on her second day finish.
See you on the trail.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Running the Forgotten Reach of the Rio Grande

The Forgotten Reach of the Rio Grande, from Ft Quitman, TX to Presidio, is usually dry as a bone year round. Even when water is released from reservoirs upstream, the water is mostly depleted due to irrigation before reaching the Forgotten Reach. The last several years have been different though. Part of this stretch of river near Ft Quitman has actually been flooding. I set out on a rainy morning to explore the Texas-Mexico border to see what I would find.


The ghost town of Banderas, Mexico
Downstream from Fort Quitman (20 miles south of Sierra Blanca), and before it reaches the village of Porvenir… the river enters into what has become known as the Forgotten Reach. At this point, choked with constantly advancing tamarisk trees [salt cedar], it loses force and direction as it multiplies into numerous small streams. It emerges, almost sucked dry, upstream from Candelaria, as a gentle, small stream, ankle-deep as it widens or jumpable at the narrow sections.   —Jim Glendinning, Big Bend Now


America in the foreground. Mexico in the background.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Taking a Step Back


I’ve taken a step back from my long distance training and am focusing on recovery and getting faster at shorter distances. All of my ultras were slower than in previous years and I was beginning to think I was overtraining or burning out (which may be the case). A few things came to light this summer though. Recent blood work showed that my vitamin D level was low while I was also experiencing low energy levels. I finally discovered, after several wheezing episodes, that I am also having food sensitivity or allergy issues which means I have to rework my race nutrition strategy. I will spare you all the boring details, but I’m confident that after some readjustments, I’ll be back in the saddle training for some future ultra trail races



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

North Franklin Peak via the S. Ridge

No Hike for Old Men. I first read this article in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine when I first moved to this region years ago. While I'm not exactly an old man (almost), I became alarmed after reading it, but equally intrigued.  The article chronicles a traverse of the Franklin Mountains ridgeline here in El Paso, TX. Some of my running buddies also want to hike the entire ridge sometime this Fall so I have been out exploring some routes in the Franklin Mountains State Park.

Mammoth Rock and S. Franklin Peak
Trans Mountain Hwy below the ridge.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Yellowstone National Park

Before my last race, the Bighorn 100, my family spent a week in Yellowstone National Park. I didn't run very much since I was tapering and resting before the race, but we walked the boardwalk trails and watched wildlife. The geologic features are absolutely amazing in this place, our nation's first national park. The weather was cold with some rain and even snow while we were there, but we didn't let that put a damper on our fun. As always, whether I'm running or not, I take a lot of pictures so I wanted to share some of my favorite photos of God's Country.

Wildlife: 
(Click photos to enlarge)
Bison
Brown-headed cowbirds follow bison because they stir up bug when they graze.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bighorn 100 Mile Trail Run

After a grand week in Yellowstone National Park with my family, I find myself sitting nervously on a wooden bridge overlooking the Tongue River in Dayton, WY. Last week, we experienced cold, rain and even snow in the park and today’s forecast is calling for rain showers.

Pre-race selfie
Cara and Maddie in the Bighorn Mts.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Jemez Mountain 50 Miler

All I want to do right now is QUIT! Sucking thin air while plodding straight up a black diamond ski slope on a Saturday morning is not even a little bit fun. While most normal people are sleeping in, I find myself at mile 15 of the Jemez Mountain Trail 50 Miler in Los Alamos, NM. The good news is that the climb will be over soon. The bad? That I’ll have to do it again later today in mile 36. The burning in my quads is so painful that I really contemplate quitting before I have to do this all over again. 



However, I remember a quote from Navy SEAL and retired Admiral, William H. McRaven. He says, “If you want to change the world, don’t ever, EVER ring the bell”, meaning the brass bell that sits in the SEAL training compound that trainees can ring at any time to quit their rigorous training program. I will be thinking about that bell all day as I try my best to finish this Jemez course that tops out at 10,400’ elevation.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Grand Canyon R2R2R

When you visit the Grand Canyon you expect to see vast sweeping views of colored stratified rock revealing eons of geologic history, interesting rock formations protruding upward from the canyon floor and maybe even a glimpse of the serpentine ribbon of water wearing an even deeper groove into the Earth. All I can see this morning though is the oval beam of my headlamp as I run down the South Kaibab Trail, the wind pushing against my body. I camped last night at the Mather Campground with some of my running buddies and three of us left bright and early at 4am while a faster group of five runners left after us.

(Click on photos for larger view)
First light on the S. Kaibab Trail

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bataan Memorial Death March 2017

If the Bataan Memorial Death March wasn’t painful, it wouldn’t be as meaningful. No matter how miserable the experience though, it can’t even come close to the misery the original marchers had to endure. To honor and thank the heroes of Bataan, we all want a glimpse, no matter how insignificant, of what they went through during WWII. This year’s event at White Sands Missile Range, NM did not disappoint. With temperatures pushing 90 degrees, 7000 marchers and runners showed up to remember the fallen and shake the hands of survivors on this 75th anniversary of the Bataan Death March.

I was there along with many of my fellow Team RWB Eagles to try to tackle the 26.2 mile mostly dirt and sand course. This was my sixth year running and I was on the field when the ceremony started before sunup. Several survivors were in attendance as well as many wounded warriors, active duty and veterans of all ages. The highlight was when several Army Black Daggers parachuted in with red smoke trailing from their feet as they spiraled down and landed on the field. The Black Daggers are trained to jump behind enemy lines with special parachutes with ram-air airfoils to help them control speed and direction. 



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Sierra Vista Trail 30K with Team Red, White and Blue

Earlier this month I ran the Sierra Vista Trail 30K in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument near Las Cruces, NM. I ran the inaugural edition of this race about five years ago when it was free and have watched it grow into a legitimate trail ultramarathon while still maintaining a real down-home feel. Runners from El Paso, Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and all places in between gathered for a day of beauty, camaraderie and, of course, some misery while tackling the Sierra Vista Trail beneath the towering needles of the Organ Mountains. The race is organized by the Southern New Mexico Trail Alliance and offers 5K through 50K distances as well as a kids fun run. I decided to do the 30K since the Bataan Memorial Death March was looming several weeks later. 

Organ Mountains

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lone Star 100

The only thing to do in a situation like this is laugh. You better laugh at your plight during the Lone Star Hundred otherwise you will just curl up in the fetal position on the side of the trail and ball your eyes out. Everything about this race is funny. Runners signed up for it, me included, so we have no excuses. The length, altitude, total elevation gain, abundance of sharp rocks, steepness of trails and prickly vegetation are all ridiculous! Throw in some West Texas weather and you are in for a wild ride. At least the rattlesnakes are mostly dormant this time of year. Mostly.

N. Franklin Peak (7192’)
The wonderful folks at Trail Racing Over Texas put on the Lone Star Hundred in the Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso, TX. They offer 100K and 100 mile distances as well as relays. I signed up for the 100 miler knowing damn well what I was getting myself into because I train out here every weekend. I knew I would be trying to tackle three 33.5 mile loops with about 6500 feet of vert on each lap.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bandera 100K

My down coat works really well as a pillow, but soon I’m shivering so much I have to use it as its intended purpose; to keep myself warm. Even though I’m using two sleeping bags, I can’t seem to stop shivering as the cold night wears on. I drift in and out of a fitful sleep dreaming of arriving late to the race starting line. To prevent this from actually happening, I had Cara and Maddie drop me off in the Hill Country State Natural Area in Bandera, TX the night before the Bandera 100K while they are staying in San Antonio. 


Typical Texas Hill Country terrain
Of course I’m awake before my alarm goes off, but can’t bring myself to emerge from my sleeping bags. The start line is only several hundred feet from my tent, so I decide to soak up the warmth until the last minute. I slept in my running clothes so all I would have to do is lace up my shoes and go. When the sun starts to rise I finally muster the strength to crawl out of my cozy abode. The cold is like a rude slap in the face as I relieve myself behind a cedar bush.