The Angel Fire 50k, a late June adventure, became a great opportunity for the entire fam to head to the mountains surrounded by beautiful views, sunny skies, green – lots of green, and the cooler air of northeast New Mexico.
With our condo window overlooking the start/finish area, we couldn’t have asked for a better family base camp. And with a 5:00AM start for all the ultra distances (50k, 50M, 100k, 100M), the 30 foot walk to the start was most groovy as my munchkins continued to enjoy some Zs.
After Jemez 50M (er 31M or so) run-n-ski event at the end of May, I was lookin’ forward to my second New Mexico trail adventure in about a month. Race morning showcased clear skies and mildly-cool temps as an intimate group of runners huddled near the start/finish area as we chatted briefly with friends and received final instructions.
The 50k scamper was segmented into a six mile relaxed loop of a bit of resort pavement then mostly open and wooded relaxed singletrack, followed by an 18 mile out-and-back that took you up and over the Angel Fire ski mountain along sweet singletrack, dirt forest roads, and doubletrack, and then repeating the six mile loop as a hopeful celebration loop.
Each race I participate in leaves its own unique imprint. Some stronger than others. This race shared some really strong moments that had this deep intensity and pin-point clarity. I couldn’t help but feel this sense of deep gratitude for the experience.
Here are some of these moments.
About midway through the six mile loop, we scamper through some rollin’ and nicely wooded singletrack. During one of the short little ups, we have a chance to look back towards the ski mountain as the sun glows with both intensity and compassion along the mountain outline. Peace, love, and hope filled every cell in my body.
Around mile four, I looked to my right while flowing along the well groomed singletrack and notice a small square shaped cabin whose backyard opened up into an open field area of wavy knee-high grasses. And there snuggled in the midst of the grass was an appropriately sized pond. Floating above the pond was this magical moisture, a small blanket of fog. The property image was like looking at a baby sleeping soundly. Peaceful. Content.
Finishing the six mile loop and back to the start/finish area, I toss on my Nathan pack for the 18 mile out and back mountain segment. The two-hour outbound grunt to the top of the ski area contained a large amount great singletrack amongst a lush canopy of trees that included aspens. Aspens are magical to me. Will I see any elves or trolls? I feel like I am a guest in their special home as I slowly move next to them as their white barked trunks reach comfortably and naturally up towards sunlight. The guardians of the forest.
After a final steep, gravely, swear worthy section of course where movement is a slow and rhythmic step…step…step…(deep breath out)…step…(slip)…”shit!”…step…(deep breath out), you gratefully reach the top of the ski area. And then look back at the landscape. I would notice section of deep green wooded sections and then open grassy areas. There would be this complementary is-ness of the land that had this yin-yang feel to it. The deep green densely wooded areas as the breathe-in and the open grassy areas the breathe-out. A beautifully dynamic environment where the whole definitely felt greater than its parts.
After leaving the top of the mountain, we ran along dirt mountain roads and technical double track before arriving at the turnaround aid station where the knowledgeable and compassionate Larry Flies chatted, consoled, and helped each runner. And there was his legendary van, an icon in the sport parked with picturesque imagery all around. It was 3 hours and 30 minutes of running (OK, more like moving) since I last encountered a supported and stocked aid station. A handshake. A gentle smile. Larry chatted about the large herd of elk that were in the area and inspiring them to move out. It felt great to sit and eat for a few minutes from the buffet table of ultra goodies.
A gentle “good luck” and I begin the journey back…to the top of the mountain.
Near 1 hour and 45 minutes into the climb back to the top after leaving Larry’s oasis, the sun was showcasing her most intense heat for the day as the climb was mostly a hike mixed in with a few run opportunities when the grade flattened. It was a mentally tough section of the course. Passing the 1/2 marathon turnaround cone and course volunteer located in the elbow of a mountain road switchback, a half marathon runner stopped and took pictures of the small group of us that were returning up the mountain from the ultra turnaround. It felt a bit like we were the 5-headed dog showcased in the special room at the county fair. Surprise, curiosity, and amazement in his actions and words, with the three of us in grunt mode looking forward to completing this two hour climb.
The angel high-5’d and hiked with us to the top, raising all our spirits with his bubbling energy and zest for this adventure. You couldn’t help but feel reinvigorated for the final 10 or so miles.
Back down the mountain along the highly runnable and shadded singletrack for the next 1 hour 30 minutes before reaching the start/finish and heading out for the final six mile celebration loop. Once down the resort road and on the trail I noticed my stomach was getting pregnant-y. My stomach was shutting down or already had. Energy levels continued to drop. I would try various run/walk combinations. Run for 20 steps, walk for 20 steps. Kept moving forward but a good 3+ miles of this loop turned into a sloshy uncomfortable hike. With about a mile and a half to the finish, the stomach started settling and I could extend my run segments and feel/look less like eight months pregnant. I came up on a runner who had passed me about a mile back and was going to finish her first 50k. I said, “Let’s finish this thing off!”
Together we picked landmarks. “Let’s run to that green sign.” “Ok”
Walking any moderate grade and trying to run/jog the rest.
We finally arrived at the sharp left turn that led to the finish line. A fist bump and congrats to one another.
We are stronger together than separate.
After 8 hour 18 minute and 39 seconds my adventure was complete!
Here’s to collecting your own life moments.
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com
Posted on 17 Jul 2014