Tourist time: New Mexico day 2

Since I was spending an extra day in New Mexico, I rented a car so that I could wander around on Monday. I checked into my hotel and picked up a few tourist pamphlets from the lobby to try to figure out what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to check out Route 66, but that was the only specific thing on my agenda. 

Monday morning, I had decided to check out the singing road and take the scenic route towards Santa Fe. It was interesting and I could definitely hear it, though I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way just to drive that section of the highway.

My next stop was Sandia Mountain. Originally I was going to take the tram to the top, but I ended up just driving up to the top and then hiking a few of the trails. The summit is 10,378′ and the views are simply amazing. I spent some time just sitting there looking at the surrounding city. 

The mountains don’t extend very far, but you can see for miles. When I was sitting up there, I could understand why people do paragliding and base jumping. From the top you feel like you could fly forever. 

After hike around the summit trails, I headed to the Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks. It took me awhile to get there, and by the time I did there were some storm clouds brewing, but they were still in the distance and it was only a couple mile hike, so I grabbed a water bottle and headed onto the trails.

I passed quite a few people coming back who were surprised that I was starting out my hike, but I told them I would go as far as I could while the storm held out. At first, the trail is wide open and slowly gets more and more narrow as you climb into the rocks.

Some of the sections got really narrow and you had to climb over rocks to continue on the trail. It was about this time, when I could still hear thunder in the distance, that I thought this would not be a good area to get caught in if it really started to rain. 

I made it about half a mile from the end of the trail before it started to rain / hail and the lightning got a lot closer, so I decided it wasn’t worth it to keep going and I turned around. I passed quite a few people who were hiding out under some of the rock ledges, but given the rain storms that came through Angel Fire on Friday and Saturday, I wasn’t willing to risk sticking around. 

As I got back to the wider section of trail, the thunder backed off and as I came to a fork in the trail, I decided to take the opposite way from where I had come since they both lead back to the parking lot and the new way was only .2 miles longer. Within a few minutes, the rain and hail were done and the sun came back out again, but I didn’t want to retrace my steps, so I just kept going and enjoyed the new views.

One of the reasons I wanted to check out this section of the trail was because there was supposed to be a “hole in the cliff” interest point. This was certainly an aptly named attraction.

I also came across one of only a handful of cacti that I had seen my entire time in New Mexico. I had (erroneously) assumed that the New Mexico landscape would be similar to Arizona and there would be cacti everywhere, but they were few and far between.

Eventually, I made it to the tent rocks and just before I did, the rain and hail came back with a vengeance, so I snapped a few quick pictures and then turned my hike into a trail run back to the car.


yes, all that white stuff in the picture is hail

After the tent rocks, I made my way back to Albuquerque and spent the rest of my night grabbing some food and re-packing all my stuff for my next adventure in Oregon.

Tourist time: New Mexico day 1

Sunday morning (August 28), a couple of us decided to try out the zip lining available at the resort, so we bundled up and headed out into the early morning fog.

The base of the resort was around 8,500′, but the top of the mountain was over 10,000′ so we took the chair lift up to the top. It was a fun ride and we could see a lot of the Red loop that we had all run in the days before. There were mountain bikers on the trails for their own race and we got to see them flying down the hills. At first the chair lift was a gradual climb, but as we got closer to the top, it got steeper and steeper.

There were 4 guys in our zip lining group and we got to tell them about our running adventures after they told us they had seen lights running up and down the mountain all night and wondered what that was all about. They were definitely impressed that we had been part of that. A little less so when all 3 of us had to stop to catch our breath as we were walking from one area to the next. They asked, “didn’t you just run up these hills?” Well, yes we did – that was part of the problem! There were 2 small lines around 200′ each, a few in the 600-700′ range and a really long one at 1600′ where we were told we would hit speeds of 50-60 mph. I definitely believe that as my eyes were watering on that one! Overall, it was a great choice for a random event on a Sunday morning.

After we checked out of our condo and said goodbye to the resort, we headed down to Taos for lunch and to wander around the city for a bit before heading to the spa for some much needed relaxation after our race. Looking back at mountains as we were leaving was even more impressive and you can see why this is a popular ski area in the winter.

On our way to the spa, we stopped at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

Seeing the Rio Grande reminded me of my trip to the Grand Canyon a few years ago. It’s hard to fathom how these areas were created, how long it must have taken and how much of our world is always changing.

It was a beautiful day and even though it was late afternoon by the time we got to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort it was still pretty warm and we all took advantage of the mud baths and various hot springs available. It was a really pretty area. The spa was built into the side of the mountain, so all you could see is beautiful scenery all around and the entire spa was a “quiet zone” where you had to whisper, so it was very peaceful. 

a slightly out of place telephone box… if only it was blue!

The spa did wonders for our aching legs, but the early start to the day and warm water made me very tired. We still had a couple of hours to go before we got back to Albuquerque, so we got a great sunset view over the mountains as we traveled.

We finished off the night at Marble Brewery before we all headed our separate ways. Some of the team was heading back to Charlotte on a red-eye and the rest of us were heading in opposite directions for our last day or so in New Mexico.

One more day in New Mexico for me before I head off to Oregon!

Ragnar Trail Angel Fire – leg #3 – Angel Fire, NM (2015)

Check out part I and part II.

After finishing my second leg a little after 1:30am, I stuck around the village to talk with our third runner for a little bit before I headed back to the condo to get showered, some food and a much needed nap. One of the things I typically struggle with on these relay races is staying awake long enough after my second run to get enough food and water into my system before I crash. Last year at the Ragnar Key West race, I learned that lesson the hard way when I immediately fell asleep after my second leg and slept for a couple of hours before waking up feeling awful! I grabbed some snacks at the condo and eventually made my way to bed. I knew it was going to be at least 5-6 hours before my next run, so I set my alarm for 4 hours, turned all of my alerts off, stuck in my ear plugs and slept hard until around 7:00 or 7:30am. 

When I woke up, there was some talk among my teammates about our team having to double-up our legs because we were now behind the overall race cutoff. We still had 3 of each leg left to run, so there was some confusion about what that would mean for us. Initially we thought we could still double-up and then one person would just run by themselves, but it turned out that we would either have to triple-up or wait until we only had 6 legs left to double-up. We decided to just go ahead and double-up for our last set of legs which meant my last run on the Yellow loop would be by myself.

I had heard that the Yellow loop was actually harder than the Red loop, and after comparing the two, I think I agree.

At least with the Red loop you knew that after the first 3 miles of uphill, you got 3 miles of downhill. This one seemed to be never-ending uphill! You still end up getting to the same elevation, 9,050′ (per my Garmin), but after that, you have another hill to climb! 

I did like the Yellow loop though – it was long enough to get into a groove (even if that was walk a lot, run a little) but short enough not to feel like too much. The course also had a great totem pole welcoming you to a section of woods.

There was only one time when I wasn’t sure where the course went – we had been on a large dirt road and it kind of dead-ended into what looked like someone’s driveway. At first, I thought I was supposed to continue down the road, but then I saw the little yellow sign pointing me off-road through some high grass and onto a trail. 

The Yellow loop had some great views of the surrounding valleys and at one point, I could see some neon “grass” up ahead and I was very confused why we were so close to a golf course, until I realized that what I was looking at was actually a green water tower. That’s about the point that I realized that I could probably use some more sleep!

  • Mile 1 – 10:45
  • Mile 2 – 17:33
  • Mile 3 – 17:30
  • Mile 4 – 15:08
  • Last .42 – 9:40

My IT band and ankle were still hurting me on the last downhill section, but I knew I didn’t have to run any more after this leg, so I picked up the speed and came across the line flying!

Since I was the first runner for our team, all of the rest of our runners had to go before our team would finish. Starting with runner #3, we were allowed to double-up our runners so that runner #3 and runner #6 ran together on the Green loop, followed by runners #4 and #7 on the Yellow loop. It was during the Yellow loop where we had another lightning delay. Our runners were still on the course and since this was our next-to-last leg, we had a couple of options. No one was going to be allowed back on the course after 4:00pm, but if the lightning delay lifted before then, our final two runners could run together on the Red leg, but their time would not count for our overall team time. Instead, they were technically “skipped” and our team was finished when our runners on the Yellow loop came in. Soon enough, runners #3 and #6 came in and we got our official team photo and our medals.

Our last runners still wanted to run their last leg, so while we waited for the lightning ban to be lifted, we tore down our campsite, which had started to blow away during the last bought of wind and rain.

Once the runners were off, we all headed back to the house to get warm, change and then we headed back to the village to cheer our final runners in. While we were waiting, we realized that we were one of the last teams on the course and the village was virtually deserted with the exception of one other team and all of the Ragnar employees. Someone must have liked country, because the music was all country while we were waiting and I got to serenade my teammates to “Friends in Low Places” while wearing my new Avex trucker hat with a long-sleeve shirt over my shoulders. For some reason this was apparently very funny. It’s too bad no one got a picture of that! We did, however, get some pictures of people crossing the finish line who we missed earlier due to the weather – here’s Kayla (runner #3) coming in…

We officially finished the race in 29:09:06 and came in 55th place in the regular open mixed division. Coming into this race, I was the only one who had done a relay race before and several members hadn’t run trail races before they started training for this race, so I think it was a great experience for everyone. As always when people are tired, hungry and kept in close quarters for long periods of time, we all had our moments when we needed our space, but overall, I think the team responded to all of the challenges thrown our way and I’m pretty sure I’ve convinced them to try out more relay races!

Ragnar Trail Angel Fire – leg #2 – Angel Fire, NM (2015)

Check out part 1 here.

After my first leg, I headed back to our condo to shower and grab some food while the rest of my team hung out down in the village. I was just getting ready to head back down to the village when it started to hail! Our third runner was on the course and she had specifically requested that spot so that she could run her legs from hard to easy. She was really nervous about the first leg and since this was her first Ragnar, she was nervous about the whole concept of what we were doing. I texted one of my other teammates and said that she would never want to run another race with me again! Luckily, she was a good sport and after the rain and hail she was able to see blue skies at the top of the mountain which I shared on Instagram

My next run would be that same loop in the dark. Originally, I was expecting to start that run around 8:30pm, but with our 2-hour delay and with one of our runners getting injured on his first leg, I actually started just before midnight.

After the transition tent and a short stint down the sidewalk with the other two loops, we took a right and headed up the road toward the chair lift. I did a lot of walking in the first 3 miles, mostly due to how steep the trail was, but I was also struggling a little bit in just not feeling right – I don’t think my hydration and fueling was where it needed to be throughout the day on Friday. I felt great for my first leg, but it was an easy leg, and I didn’t really eat that much before I ran. I grabbed a breakfast bar and a Clif bar, but that was about it from 8:00am – 3:00pm and then after my run, I ate some chicken and pasta, but probably not enough to get me back to where I needed to be. I’m glad I had my GU with me for this run because I could definitely feel the energy draining and even getting hungry as I ran.

We had a full moon for the night run and it was beautiful, if not a little creepy coming down through the trees. At some points I thought I was getting close to an aid station or something because it seemed like there was a light up ahead, but it was just the moon filtering through the trees.

  • Mile 1 – 15:44 
  • Mile 2 – 20:23
  • Mile 3 – 21:51
  • Mile 4 – 13:25
  • Mile 5 – 14:22
  • Mile 6 – 18:31

Overall pace: 17:22
Overall time: 1:44:15

Once I hit the aid station which marked the halfway point and signaled the end of the uphill, I was able to pick up some speed going downhill. This leg was part of a mountain bike trail, so there were some switchbacks going uphill and then for the downhill portion, there were banked turns. Unfortunately since I was doing this one in the dark, it was hard for me to judge just how fast I could go. I also started having an issue with my right ankle – I think my shoes were a little too loose when I started the run, so by the time I did about half of the downhill, I had actually bruised my ankle from my foot moving around in my shoe and hitting the front outside part of the shoe. Between my left IT band starting to act up and my right ankle hurting, I took the last section of the downhill where all of the legs come together a lot slower than I did the first time. 

I got back to the transition tent about when I expected to after just under an hour and 45 minutes, but my teammates weren’t there! I had to leave the bib in the transition tent and I ran back to our tent, but no one was there either. I texted as many people as I could think of who would probably be awake at the time and no one answered me. After about 5 minutes of waiting, the next runner showed up and had to get his gear on before he started out on the Green loop. We had one other miscommunication about timing later in the race, but luckily we only had that happen to us twice where runners were waiting for the next person to get there before starting. 

The overnight runs were cold! It got down to about 35 degrees and the one thing that most of us forgot to bring was gloves. Luckily, I had lots of hand warmers to share, but gloves definitely would have made waiting more pleasant. I think everyone took advantage of the awesome bonfire that Ragnar had going throughout the night – drying out shoes and clothes and keeping warm while waiting on teammates to come into the transition tent. There were also smores and hot chocolate, but I have yet to partake in those during one of these races – I never want to before I run and by the time I’m done, I forget again!

One more leg to go!

Ragnar Trail Angel Fire – leg #1 – Angel Fire, NM (2015)

The Charlotte crew of our team flew into New Mexico on Wednesday night to give us plenty of time to pick up the cars, get organized and settle in before the rest of our teammates flew in the next morning. We made our obligatory stop at REI the next morning to pick up a couple of camp chairs and other essentials before heading to a local Walmart to stock up on food for our condo. The Angel Fire race is apparently one of the two trail races where you can actually stay in a hotel / condo / house and still be within walking distance of the village, so we got a condo for the 8 of us so that we could eat real meals between our running. Plus, a warm place to sleep and a shower are never bad things to have during a race in the mountains. We stopped outside of Santa Fe for lunch and found some dinosaurs!

We actually saw the dinosaurs from the highway and as soon as we decided to stop for lunch, we knew we had to go find them. They’re outside of what looked like a mechanic’s shop, so we just parked beside some other vehicles and wandered around for awhile, until it started to rain on us (a preview of things to come!). 

It took us about 2.5 hours to get to Angel Fire, but the check-in process was super easy and we were on our way to the condo to unpack and get our last full night’s sleep before the race. The one thing we didn’t realize about the condo was that it was four floors! The shared shower was down on the second floor and there were four of us sharing the top floor, with the living room and kitchen on the third floor – just walking up the steps with our suitcases was a challenge now that we were at 8,500′ elevation. We all came from just a couple hundred feet elevation, so we knew this was going to be a challenge for us throughout the race weekend.

I was our lead runner and we were set to start at 1:00pm. I was down at the village early to volunteer for our team, so I was there in plenty of time to see the first teams start off at 11 and the second group start at 12 and before long, it was just about time for me to get started… and then there was lightning! We ended up with a 2-hour delay for our start, but we were allowed to just start late and didn’t have to skip any runners (the teams that had already started had to skip the next two runners). So, I used the extra time to eat some more food and we all put on our Ragnar tattoos. Then, at 3:00, I was in a large group of runners and away we went!

I started off on the Green loop, which was the shortest loop at only 3.6 miles. All of the loops had hills to them, but the Green loop started out with a significant downhill portion. That partnered with the fact that there were so many other people on the course meant that I was flying for the first mile.

  • Mile 1: 8:56
  • Mile 2: 11:00
  • Mile 3: 15:11
  • Last .6: 8:32
I knew after the first mile that I wouldn’t be able to keep up that pace, but I also knew I had some hills coming, so I figured I could bank some time for when I had to walk, which didn’t take too long. There were a lot of people walking the uphill to mile 3 and we commented that this wasn’t a good sign of things to come on the Red loop. 
I don’t think anyone on our team got any pictures of the Green loop, but we wandered down a dirt road, along a smaller bike trail, then off-trail onto a patch of mowed grass before heading to run on the road against traffic and then back off road and up, up, uphill. The Yellow loop merges with the Green loop somewhere on the uphill and stays together through the rest of the course, eventually joining with the Red loop on the steep downhill section. I passed 12 people on the Green loop, but I was almost caught at the very end. I had a really good pace going down the hill, but there was a section where we had to go up and down steps as we went through the Angel Fire Resort where I slowed down before we ended up back on the sidewalk that lead back to the transition tent. I was going as fast as I could down the sidewalk and I could hear one of the guys I had passed on the downhill coming up from behind me.
We gave each other high-fives after we finished, him just a few seconds behind me. I told him I could hear him catching up to me and I wasn’t going to let him pass me. It’s great to get pushed at the end of the race and still have the energy to make yourself go faster! After we got our second runner onto the course, my teammates met me and asked me how I thought it went – the picture sums it up best!
 Up next: leg 2, my overnight run on the Red loop.