Usually, I would disagree; however, when it comes to the Valles Caldera Trail Race, then I'm fine with the sentiment. Because everyone who finishes gets to go home with one of these beautiful finishers' medals, hand-made by a Jemez Pueblo potter.
That's S.B.'s on the left—a quail. Mine is a turkey. Coolest finishers' bling, ever.
This was also the most fun I've had on a trail run, even if the course was wicked difficult. We started at 8,000 feet, negotiating the gentle ups and downs of about three miles of forest trail before emerging in the Caldera valley for a full mile of flat running.
The views were so gorgeous and I was feeling so good, I almost forgot that in trail running, what comes down, must go up. In this case, nearly two miles of slog up a section of the mountain that I swear must have averaged a 15 to 20 percent grade. Parts of the run could easily have been a scramble. Suddenly, all those Speedy Gonzales road runners who passed me in the first part of the race started to drop behind me like flies. I knew a lifetime spent hiking and running the Sandia mountains would eventually come in handy. If not in speed, then in endurance. Even if those runners eventually caught right back up to me . . . Stupid speedy people.
Then the best part of the race: another 1.5 miles of straight down hill, dodging roots and saplings and picking out footholds among sheets of scree and talcum-powder sand. I dug in behind one young gal who danced her way down the slope, following her lead to the bottom in what my Garmin told me was a 9-something min. mile pace.
The last five miles took us back through the valley, then up more high-ass hills, then back down another gentle decline to the finish line, where my step dad and S.B. (who'd finished about 30 minutes prior) were waiting to snap photos. My final time was a few minutes under three hours, my goal for the race.
Had Mother Nature not kicked up gale force winds that coated every surface of our bodies—including our eyeballs and the insides of our mouths—with grit, we would have hung out for the post-race festivities. I feel bad for the race organizers, as just about everyone was doing the same thing, but it was nearly impossible to even stand upright in those gusts. Too bad, because with the exception of some decidedly lacking aid stations, it was a great race.
Even better? This is the first Sunday in eight weeks I haven't had to wake up and head out for a long run. Hellllllllloooo, Sunday. I almost forgot what it was like to be this lazy.