This last weekend I tackled something that scared me. Something that I have always wanted to do, but have avoided because I didn’t think I could do it. I’ve always kept my running on the road – preferable flat roads. Something in the back of my head kept nagging at me, though – I live a mile from a beautiful mountain range filled with trails and beauty and I hadn’t explored them. I kept thinking about this quote:
So I signed up for my first trail race – The Valles Caldera 10k – a short 90 minute drive from my house to the Jemez Mountains. My main goal for this race was to just enjoy the scenery and take in the differences between a trail race vs. a road race.
The first difference:
Wow. The altitude. I live at 5,600 feet in Albuquerque, so altitude is the norm on a run, but I certainly could feel the 3,000 feet difference when we arrived. I was winded walking around the parking lot, which is not a great confidence booster before the race even started. I was really nervous which raised my heart rate before the race start, coupled with the altitude difference – my heart was beating out of my chest. Luckily, once we got a half mile or so in to the run, I settled into a rhythm and the butterflies went away.
As you can tell from the altitude profile and the above picture the first three miles were pretty much straight up. Something new to me: walking during a race – or as I prefer to call it “power hiking”. The first couple inclines I tried to run it slow and easy up the hills, but as the hills kept coming I noticed others were power hiking the hills and thought I would try it out. I love a race where you get a little ‘break’. I was even able to get a couple pictures while hiking those hills.
I had to throw caution to the wind and pray to the running gods that I wouldn’t bite it running downhill – because there were rocks, stumps, branches, bushes, and more rocks. I figured this is where I would make up some of that ‘hiking’ time and pass as many people as I could, and it worked. After the 3 mile mark I never got passed and I picked off several runners before finishing.
The race fuel along the course and after the race was awesome! I have never had such a variety of things at a race. They had the standard bananas, bagels, and oranges, but then there was ‘the good stuff’. I didn’t get a picture, but at the 5m aid station they had bacon and coke (along with gatorade and water). What?! I have never known a runner to crave a piece of bacon during a run, but maybe these trail race people know something we road racers don’t. Once I finished the race I wasn’t disappointed either. Fruit and carrots on one table – cookies, chips and nuts on another. I could get used to this. There was almost a party like atmosphere afterwards. People pulled out their cooler and folding chairs to enjoy a beer and picnic in the wilderness. Note to self: pack beer next time.
No finishers medals, but if you placed in your age group you received a beautiful handmade piece of pottery from Jemez Pueblo. Tom was lucky enough to place 2nd in his age group and receive one. I placed 4th, narrowly missing my own piece by 2 minutes. Next year, no stopping to take pictures along the route – I’m going to be all business because I want one!
We had a fantastic time at this race. It was well organized, communication was clear, aid stations were well stocked, and the trail was well marked. We will certainly be back next year.