Valles Caldera 10k Race Report

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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:

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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:

Altitude!!!

Altitude!!!

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.

Second difference:

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Up, up, up, up, up….

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.

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Beautiful blue sky. I wish I could have bottled the smell of the pines – so clean.

Third difference:

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Down, down, down…

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.

Fourth difference:

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The ‘usual’ race fuel.

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The good stuff!

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.

Fifth difference:

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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.

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