What started as wonderful running conditions earlier in the morning was now rain and falling temperatures as I left Pajarito Canyon aid station at mile 31.4 of the 52.2 mile New Mexico adventure. I was thankful for the large black garbage bag that currently kept my core mostly warm and dry. The extremities on the other hand, were wet and cold. The next 7.2 miles would include over 2800 feet of climbing to the highest point of the course (10,400 feet) – the top of Pajarito mountain before bombing down a steep ski-run and twisting singletrack to the course oasis, the Ski Lodge aid station.
I left the Pajarito Canyon aid station with Oklahoma local and friend, Nancy. This mountain scamper was familiar to both of us, but the dynamic weather conditions were not.
I sensed some apprehension in Nancy’s eyes, but we left to begin our grunt up the mountain hopeful and focused.
“Let’s do this!”
And then the rain turned to ice crystals.
The ice crystals turned to snow flakes.
Snow flakes became flurries at 8,000 feet and the top of Pajarito mountain was now white.
Step by step we hiked our way towards the top of our final big climb of the race. We headed directly into the wind and snow. Head down. Step. Step. Step.
Nancy followed closely 10-20 meters behind. We both felt the comfort in being with another person as conditions worsened. We told each other we would stay together through this mountain climb.
And then a runner came towards us down the mountain, heading the wrong direction.
“It’s crazy up there.”
Nancy and I briefly chat with the runner to make sure they are OK as they continue back to the Pajarito Canyon aid station alone.
Nancy and I continued on as we both begin to feel a bit more anxious.
I mentioned, “We really need to focus. We can do this! But you need to be in charge of you.”
And then we see more weather impacted carnage coming down the mountain.
After the third runner retraced their steps and headed back down the mountain to warmer and safer conditions, Nancy and I stop any forward progress and simply look at one another.
This year’s Jemez Mountain Trail Run was my fourth consecutive year of play in the surrounding natural playground of Los Alamos, New Mexico. This race is a home away from home for me. Great organizers. Great volunteers. Familiar faces. Great trails and wonderful post-race community vibe.
Also, love they are a paper-cup free event!
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