The Mt. Taylor 50k! When the abbreviation of Mountain is included in any race, it would be wise to note that you'll be racing up a mountain, and in this case an 11,306' mountain. I was completely aware of this, as I visited the website more often than I checked my email in a day, but it was hard not to as the website [http://mttaylor50k.com/] was gorgeously and simplistically made. I must include that the race director, and lofty ultra runner himself - Ken Gordon, put together one of the greatest races I've run in New Mexico! Every detail was taken care of, and all the runners had a remarkable time. I couldn't have asked for a more well organized race. Thank you Ken!
So let's talk a little bit about the race, or in this segment, the pre-race. As usual, I had a wonderful amount of company going into this race. My two roommates, Loren Wohletz and Chris Peverada were entered in the race, along with Dana Patton. A new member to our club, was a youngster by the name of Alex Peterson. I say new member to our club because we've had this approach that, "If you're not against us, you're with us" mentality, which I'm sticking to it. It's kind of an absorption thing... Anyways, there were five of us and we were all ready to take on the mountain. The course profile is something like this:
Where the first 3 miles is straight up, but in reality it wasn't that bad. So, as the gun went off at 6:35, the race organizers planned it so that once we made it to La Mosca Lookout, we'd have a perfect view to the east of the Sun rising over the Sandia Mountains. This view was surreal! And before I even got there, one of the Navajo runners who was far ahead of me, yelped out an Indian War Cry, which got the race field excited to see the sun rise that laid ahead. Also at this point of the race, Chris broke away from the field and took charge of the pace. After about 5 miles, I never saw the top 2 runners until the finish. I decided to run a more comfortable race since I wasn't use to this type of terrain or elevation change. I was pretty comfortable in 8th place, but I could see the other runners gaping me as the downhill section to the second aid station was approaching. Alex and I ran together for a little bit, but I couldn't keep up with him along the downhill sections. Also, my Camelback was bugging me. I think I was the only idiot in the top 10 to wear a hydration pack, but I didn't want to risk blowing up out there. I was finally able to fix the comfortableness and plot along on the course.
As the fall season just hit New Mexico, the Aspen trees were already spouting off their bright yellow leaves. At some points of the course, it felt like it was raining large yellow droplets all around. This was very hard to ignore, but I couldn't quite embrace the poetic beauty just yet. I had to stay relaxed and keep hydrated so I could finish strong. I also had a piddling thought that I could get top 5 for an "award" of some kind. So, holding on to 6th place, and running with Alex, we ran on towards the 10 mile aid station at Spud Patch. I started to realize that in the ultra running community the aid stations all have names of their actual location, unlike the road where they are just given mile marker numbers to make it easy and boring for the runners. Anyways, I was excited to grab a quick energy GU to replace the Powerbar Gels I used for my pack. At some points of the race; I found it very arousing to add another element to the race experience, which was the method in which you carried your fuel across the course. I really got a kick out of literally unzipping something and eating on the go. Very weird, I know, but it's a requirement for the even longer races.
Well, after 10 miles passed, and the course was more suited for my stride, I was able to get moving and catch some guys. I eventually made it into the Rock Tank aid station; where the race starts, and got to see Arlene and Lauren hanging out waiting for us to come through. I slipped off my pack, filled it up and got rid of some trash. By that point, I was in 3rd place, but the other two guys that I just passed came into the station and one was able to take off before me. I guess I wasn't too concerned at the moment as I was drinking a coke and attempting to get ready to leave. This aid station was the halfway point of the race, with the hardest part yet to come.
Once you left Rock Tank, it was a nice gradual climb out on a single track trail until you hit a wide jeep trail. That portion of the race I was moving along fairly quickly towards Gooseberry (mile 21.2). I came up on that station quickly, but for some stupid reason, I didn't stop to get anything. And, as soon as you leave Gooseberry, it's all up-mountain from there. Luckily, the tree cover hid some parts of Mt. Taylor Peak, but if you were sick enough to stare through the trees, you could spot the top of the mountain. At that point, I had a doubt I could hold a top 5 finish. And as soon as you got out of the tree cover and made a slight left north towards the peak, my heart fell into my already empty stomach. This portion of the race I could only manage a slow hike/walk up the mountain. It was nearly 1000' of climb over the course of a mile. Not something I can do compared to these other veteran ultra runners. Alex came up on me pretty quickly, then 2 more guys passed me. But, once I summit the peak, I was running again and slowly catching the crew that passed me.
At the Caldera Rim aid station, I grabbed a quick coke and speed off after the 3 guys. As soon as I caught up with Alex, his knee that he had surgery on started to bother him and he slowed down. He eventually felt better and finished very strong. But I was just plotting along at a good pace when I passed the other 2 guys who seemed to be working together. I later found out they are both from Las Vegas, Nevada and train together. The rest of the race had it's ups and downs, both literally and physically. The last set of switchbacks were tough, but the last 2 miles were even tougher. So, with only 2 miles to go, it became a downhill ski adventure. Those miles were the steepest quad-killing miles I had ever run in my life. Partly because I had just run 29 miles prior to it. Nevertheless, the race was nearly over, and I was pretty happy to finish in 3rd with the award of a hand painted portrait of Mt. Taylor, which I will get it framed!
After running that race, and thinking about it compared to all the other races I've done, I would have to say that I am not only satisfied with how it went, but excited to do more of these events. The community, the course, and the challenge of navigating that course made it one of the most amazing races I've done. My roommates and friends always talk about Ultra's and how awesome they are, but until I did one, it was truly an experience worth suffering through. I had a good idea of what to expect after having the opportunity to crew for Loren at Hardrock, and it's a whole different ballgame when comparing a 50k to a 100 miler, but I think I will venture into more of these races in the future. Don't get me wrong, I still have New York City Marathon, which will only go well because of this race, but I think in the spring I want to attempt a 50 miler, just to see if I can do it...
|At the finish.|
|The DTC crew! (From Left) Me, Loren, Chris, Dana, Alex|