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."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

El Paso Marathon

Today my adventure takes me to downtown El Paso for the marathon. My timing chip is affixed to my shoe, my bib #168 is attached to my shorts and I’m ready to get this run on. My wife, Cara, wakes up early and drives me to the start of my 26.2 mile journey through this West Texas town which borders Mexico and New Mexico. The weather calls for blustery wind and a chance of showers and thunderstorms so I really have no idea what to expect. I’m not dressed for wind and rain so hope the forecasters are wrong.

When I arrive the sky is kind of black and it is raining just a bit, but this soon dissipates and the sun appears. I walk to the start and realize that it is actually quite warm this morning. Could this slow me down today? Having run back-to-back 15 milers last weekend I’m not exactly rested enough to run a fast race. I have no idea how I’ll do today, but will just run a comfortable pace.

Soon we are all lined up and ready to run. Runners of all types are present. I see the super fit fast ones in the front and the party animals wearing their costumes and sombreros towards the back. Many soldiers from Ft Bliss are also present and deployed troops from our local base are also running a simultaneous 26.2 miles in Iraq. I squeeze my way into the middle of this mob scene and wait.

Next we honor our nation by listening to the singing of our national anthem and then we are off. The usual bottleneck occurs so I just try to stay on the side of the pack. We run downtown for a while and then climb some hills towards the university. The first 6 miles are hilly so I pace myself, hoping for around 9 minute miles. After 3 miles I see that I’m a little slower than this pace so pick it up a bit.

I approach an aid station and hear, “water first table; beer behind the Michelob sign”. Are runners really drinking beer in mile 4 of a 26 mile race? We are on Cincinnati Street where all the university students go to party. I skip the beer and take a few sips on my HEED sports drink instead. I also take some Hammer Gel and a few electrolyte capsules. So far so good.

Once we are past all the hills I increase my pace and then see Mt Cristo Rey in the distance. This mountain topped with a large cross is near the border of the states of Chihuahua (MEX), Texas, and New Mexico. I can’t resist snapping a shot with the camera I carry in my hydration belt. This is a beautiful view and now we get to run downhill.

We turn at the bottom of the hill and run along a divided highway which parallels the Rio Grande. The faster half marathon runners are coming towards us on the other side of the road. They are really cruising fast and people begin to cheer for them. We leave the city and proceed through the Upper Valley of El Paso. We run through some residential areas with great aid stations. I hear the beat of drums and then see students from Franklin High School drumming their hearts out. Then mile marker 13 comes into view and I glance at my watch. 2 hours has past; I’m on pace for a 4 hour marathon.

All along the course I keep seeing motorcycle cops and Army volunteers keeping the runners on course. I’m surprised to see what looks like an old west sheriff, saloon girls, and Pancho Villa. I must be hallucinating. Am I drinking enough? Low on electrolytes? No, I actually feel very good. It really is Pancho Villa, so I get out the camera and take a few photos. He shouts at me, "Andale! Andale! Arriba! Arriba! Yii-hah!" Marathons are so fun.

Must keep up the pace. I reach mile 18 which is usually when I start to fade but I still feel strong. Can I keep this pace up without having to take walking breaks later? Time will tell. I pass many runners who are hitting the wall. Some are stretching on the side of the road and many are walking. Cramping is no fun so I give them a few words of encouragement. We leave the Upper Valley neighborhoods and start back towards the city.

We run on the border highway along the infamous border wall. I can see the river and Juarez neighborhoods through the fence. A Border Patrol truck is parked with an agent keeping watch. I keep running and think to myself, “I thought all the hills were in the first 6 miles, so why this incline.” It is not very steep, but slightly uphill nevertheless. The sun feels warm on my face. The weather forecast was wrong; it is a gorgeous day. I reach the 23 mile water station and these guys are really crazy. They are running alongside us cheering in our faces.

My shoulders and back are really tight and I have a sharp pain when I bend my head down. Well mother used to say, “don’t bend your head down then.” OK, I’ll try it. It works for a while, but then I decide a short walking break and some stretching will help. I get this pain a lot on long runs, so do the usual lift arms over head and bend head down and side to side. After several minutes I feel better and can run again. Mile marker 25 comes into view along with an overpass. One last little uphill and I’m home free. Once over the pass I “sprint” for the finish. My watch reads 4:07 when I cross the finish line.

I feel good about my time and that I was able to run strong to the finish line. When I cross the line a volunteer informs me that they are taking a poll to see which aid station was the best. I responded, “The one with Pancho Villa” and she asked, “Were they the ones wearing Mexican wrestler masks?” I guess she didn’t know who Pancho Villa was. "Andale! Andale! Arriba! Arriba! Yii-hah!"


A lot can happen in 26.2 miles

See you on the trail.

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