It had been 10 years since my last visit to the community of Angel Fire and every time in the Winter. What a difference the summer makes. The area is gorgeous this time of year, and not just that, it had no fires or smoke like much of the West has had. This was the first running of the event and was designed as the RD put it "to turn Angel Fire into an endurance community." I think he is on the right track hosting New Mexico's first and currently sole 100 mile run. There is also a 50 mile and 50k that uses the same course. One nice 25 mile out-n-back. I'm glad I didn't look at the topo before I ran...sometimes it helps to not think too deep into things.
I was blessed enough to be able to bring my wife who willingly came with me and, even though it was her first time, did an amazing job crewing for me. I came to run with the intention of having fun, not racing. I knew many people were coming from higher altitude and figured that is something a boy from Oklahoma can't keep up with. It was in the 40s when we were lining up just before 5am. I saw a guy with a backpack on, longer black hair, geared up and talking to another guy running with him and what appeared to be one of their parents. Well it was his crew and he was running the 100 and would be the sole finisher of that distance...twice as far as the next person, and under 30 hours. Not bad for his first 100! Congrats Chris!
The start went something like this......we waited...everyone still talking...all of the sudden someone said, "ok, Go!"...and we were off! I love races with low-key, hype-free starts. It is relaxing and keeps the heart calm. The start was immediately down hill from the ski area and four guys went out to lead the pack, one which would eventually win the race. I ran with a guy from OK for the first couple miles and we were just barely keeping the lead runners in our sights. Just past the 1st aid station I lost them on the single track (~4-5 miles) and was all alone on the Lady Slipper trail. My goal was to run a smart race, no time, no place. I didn't know how far ahead the four runners up front were but I knew there was still a marathon left to run.
After quite a bit of climbing on some single track and forest roads, I came to big open meadow. The runners were nowhere to be seen and I figured they were well ahead of me. At the far end of the meadow, in the trees, was the third aid station...a few boxes of gallon jugs of water. None had been opened but I figured they didn't need water? Hmm, I topped off my bottles, slammed a GU, took some ginger, and kept going...still nobody in sight.
I came to another meadow. This one had a view of the valley to the West, and it was full of elk, at least 30. They saw me barreling toward them and took off up the hill. The pink ribbons led me that direction and I ended up chasing them for about a mile, they weren't too happy. I began to wonder if they took a wrong turn and come to think of it, I hadn't seen many footprints really at all. And the fact that I scared some elk really got me wondering.
I got to the top of the climb and then had 3 miles of steep, rocky down-hill requiring some TDR to the turn-around. On the way I ran into people climbing back up the hill and started to think maybe I was way behind...but how? Finally someone at the end of that pack said they had been lost and were back-tracking. Ok, so what about those four other guys that were in front, where were they? I found my wife after turning onto a nice road for the final mile or so and ran with her to the aid station turn-around. Suspicions held up, Larry at the aid station said I was the first 50k'r in...so they had gotten lost, both ahead and behind. I grabbed some GU, took a salt tab, and headed back up the hill. A few turns later there they were, and especially Alex, who would pass me just after the climb back up.
The uphill was just as tough as I thought it would be. Loose rocks and very steep. I timed my walks to be about a minute each and to try and run more than a minute after, especially on the steep parts. Chisholm, the RD, was running down and asked if I was getting my money's worth..."you bet!" After topping out and heading back down, I just settled into a zone. I knew there was still quite a bit left, and it wasn't all down (like Alex said when he passed me!). I came into the second aid station and saw my wife again, always lifts my spirits. She refilled my bottle and told me the lead runner was about 3 minutes ahead. I was starting to slown down and especially did after hitting the pavement. It was bright and sunny out now and the temps were climbing into the upper 70s. When I cam to the highway crossing, Alex was on his way back to the second aid station (for our 6 mile add-on). After a GU and a salt tab at the start, I headed back as well. I saw 2 guys gaining on me on my way to Aid 2. In the neighborhoods (pavement) I saw Alex on his way back to the finish, ~2 miles ahead, and I would not see him again until the finish, even though he looked pretty spent.
At the last visit to Aid 2, I waited around talking to Jack Christian about oil field stuff until I saw the next runner coming around the far corner. I said I had to split and took off. I walked some hills but ran most on the return. On the final uphill to the finish, I had to walk quite a bit. I was passed by one guy who was training for Leadville (which as I write this, I think is going on right now). I could see no one else back and walked a little more, running the last quarter mile to the finish. 5:19:43, six minutes over my PR, but at altitude. I think I accomplished that goal of mine. This run is already scheduled for next year, and though I'm not big on repeating runs (I do enough of that in training), I might try my luck at it next year...maybe. Great race though, thanks to Chisholm Deupree, Jack Christian, and all the other okies that helped make this event possible.