Thursday, October 30, 2008

To Heaven and Back - Running over the Sandia's

It has been three months in the making, and we (Kris, Dana and I) finally ran the most Epic Adventure run of our lives.  Since the creation of our little 3 man group; which we call the Trifecta, it has been very interesting.  We have planned out races, mingled with Kenyan runners, met beautiful women, discovered insanity, and embraced this sport of distance running even more than ever!  Every month or so, we embark on some kind of epic run.  The first of which was up the Sandia Mountains to the Tram (18 miles-3:17:54).  The second was up La Luz trail to the Tram and back (22 miles-3:52:23).  Now it was time to test our limits and run something truly epic.  We have planned to accomplish this run together after the San Jose half marathon, and roughly 3 weeks out from our San Antonio half marathon.  This past sunday, October 26 was a perfect weekend to do it.  

Many friends soon learned we were doing this and wanted in on the action.  Running on the most iconic image in Albuquerque, a span of 28 miles starting from 5500' just at the base up to 10500' and back, something so epic as this was bound to gain allure, and who wouldn't want to be in on this?  We started to tally up, and soon reached a total of 8 runners by the week of the run.  The Trifecta would soon be eclipsed and a whole bunch of us would be doing something amazing...

As D-Day approached, we started to lose soldiers.  One by one, each runner had something come up and could not partake in the experience.  Just looking at the Mountains can be enough to detour anyone away.  But as Sunday finally came, the numbers were at 3.  We would start the run late in the morning, parking one car (my lovely truck) at the north end on the trail head, and take Dana's car to the south end.  The name of the trail where we start is called Three Gun Springs.  Ironic, that only 3 of us will be gunning up this mountain.  We have run this trail before to South Peak, so we know the terrain.  Once we reach South Peak in record time, we take a short break to absorb to view.  It is truly amazing up there, and has changed so much since the last time we ran it in August.  No picture can express the beauty and serenity up there.  But of course I have a few pictures:

Looking West over the City:


Group Picture:


Looking north from south peak.  The end of the run is still beyond that north peak:


After some quick R&R, we head back on the crest trail to the Tram and towards Goldilocks.  We are now within 2 miles of the Tram and I start to feel sluggish, tired and fatigued.  Dana and Kris are at a fork in the road and wait for me.  We now have 1.2 miles to the Tram and more water.  We already finished our fluids, and I have some Clif Blocks and a Bar, but at this point its too late, water is pretty much what I need.  We are also at around 10000' approaching the last assent to the Tram.  Kris took off and Dana stayed behind to make sure I didn't die or anything.  Which I guess thats how I looked, stumbling up the trail, bobbing my head around with my eyes and mouth wide open gasping for air.  All I hear is Dana chanting, "Don't worry man, we're there, we're there.  You can refuel at the Tram, just make it to the Tram!"  Holy shit! He must have said that a hundred times, because we weren't even close to the Tram.  
After what seems like forever; we reach the Tram house 30 minutes faster than the last time we ran this, and its just a few flights of old wooden stairs to the water fountain and some serious rest.  I lean up against the sheet metal of the Tram house, as tourist, again look at me like I'm an idiot.  I can't help but laugh about it now, but at the moment I felt pretty messed up laying there while family members all trying to enjoy their sunday afternoon on the Sandia.  Hell, I was enjoying myself laying there on the ground.  

Dana and Kris venture inside to get me some water, but I soon recoup and get up to follow them inside.  I grab a seat and try to focus on the Football game on the TV...Lo and behold, its my beloved San Diego Chargers playing the Saints.  About a minute 40 left and they are getting pounded on a crucial play to tie up the game.  At that moment Kris eagerly and comically asks if I'm ready to go.  "No...... let me just watch the Chargers tie up the game and win."  
At least, thats what I was hoping for.  Their fate of winning the game was as likely as me feeling like a champ at that moment.  So, as the Saints intercept the ball and totally make a mockery out of the Chargers, I'm ready to get the hell out of there.  We fill up our water bottles, finish up our Clif Bars and head out.  Now, it must be some kind of conspiracy or amazement or something, but someone always comments on how crazy we are right when we leave.  This time a gentlemen bluntly says, "You guys are crazy."  I can agree.

The last part of the run is about 10 miles and mostly downhill, or rather down-mountain.  It is beautiful, shady, rocky and a long 10 miles back.  Oh, did I mention it was rocky?!  Miles after miles and hours later we are in uncharted territory.  I feel much better and the sun has gone from the east side of the mountain to nearly the western horizon.  We approach another sheer cliff that curves its way far enough out that we can see the trail head where my truck is parked.  We are a couple thousand feet directly above the trail head and Goldilocks, but we don't know how the hell we are going to make it down there.  A little jump off would be the easiest way to finally rest and get off our feet, but we follow the trail further away.  We are still going down, just in far, far opposite direction.  
We kind of already knew this might happen, but we are pissed at how the trail can tease us.  As my watch creeps up to 5 hours, I start to pick it up, hoping that maybe we are close.  We are definitely at a lower altitude, and I can feel that we are almost there.  Dana and I turn a corner and I see Goldilocks parked all by herself.  "There it is!" I shout to Dana, and we start sprinting home.  

We finally made it to the Truck....... DEAD!  With a time of 5:02:18, we gather some food and discuss the odd muscles that are in pain, sore, or whatever term you want to use that describes that sensation after a 5 hour mountain run. 
 Even our heads were hurting, but it was a good feeling.  The whole experience was amazing, and I really believe that it was a life changing experience.  I always see those mountains everyday.  No matter where you are in Albuquerque you can always see the Sandia Mountains. We now know what it feels like to run on the edge of the earth and take a glimpse of heaven.  We have run point to point, end to end, and have touched the sky.  It is a feeling like no other and I still can't believe we did it.  Thanks for everything you guys.                 

1 comment:

Kristopher said...

Finally! I've been waiting for this Epic Post for days now. That was the longest run in terms of time I've ever run. You forgot to mention how incredibly beautiful the fall changing trees were on the way up to south peak. There God was with us. Kris