Mt. Taylor's high ground with La Mosca Lookout on the right.
Mt. Taylor 50K - Grants, New Mexico
Elevation Range:  9100' - 11,301'              Elevation Gain:  ~7000'
September 26, 2015 - I love to run in new places, especially with magnificent views
that reach beyond the imagination.  I love heading up a trail with challenges unknown,
with twists and turns that offer fresh surprises and renew the mystery of this life.
And I love to discover new friends who share a kindred spirit for adventure as we climb
toward the sky, dancing with the rocks, weaving between invigorating aspens of gold
and fir trees so fragrant you are tempted to sit down among them and just blend with
the magic of the natural world.  I found it all here in the Cibola National Forest above 
the friendly little town of Grants.

After a two-day push to drive from home in North Carolina to the race in New Mexico
I stopped to take a nine-mile run up to Sandia Crest, east of Albuquerque, to shag
out my legs after all the miles of sitting in the car.  All systems seemed good, but
the driving always takes its toll.  After picking up my race packet at the Red Lion in
Grants I drove about twenty miles up into the mountains to find a place to park and
stay the night near the start/finish.  One of the race volunteers invited me to park
at the start/finish, so I settled in there comfortably to doze off for a good night of 
sleep under a near full moon and a dark sky full of stars.

Temps were about 46 degrees at the start, but didn't feel too bad with the lack of 
humidity.  I started with a light fleece just in case the ridges were breezy like I
experienced the day before on Sandia Crest.  As it turned out the air was still all day
so I peeled off the extra layer by three miles to enjoy the quickly warming air in full
sunshine.  The initial three miles is a constant gradual 1200-foot climb up to La
Mosca Lookout on forest service jeep roads.  Starting easy, I felt sluggish, probably
because I just came up from sea level to run a race entirely above 9000 feet.  My
body is not as quickly adaptive as it was even a matter of a few years ago.  So I just
backed off the throttle and eased steadily up the hill, walking intermittently and
biding my time until my physiology would adjust and let me run with ease.

Up over the top and down the other side I still had not found my sweet spot.  Running
downhill was equally as cumbersome.  I stopped a couple times for photos, and then
stopped a couple times to what I refer to as "reset".  Just stopping, even on the level,
for ten or fifteen seconds interrupts a rhythm I haven't been satisfied with and enables
me to start over and rebuild into a better momentum.  Sounds ignorant, but it seems
to work.  After eating a couple Gu's at the four-mile aid station and continuing down
the hill I finally found a rhythm and took off.

It felt great to let it out and easily float past the runners I had been back and forth 
with to this point.  For five miles I moved smoothly and was finally racing.  I was in
good stride when I passed through the 10.5-mile aid station called Spud Patch.  All
was looking great until shortly thereafter when I caught a tip on a flat section of
dirt road and did a quick somersault over my right shoulder.  I hate to fall, and this 
was a hard one, punching my right kidney, wrenching my neck and rotator cuff, and
tearing the skin off my hand, not to mention trashing my clothes. Crap.  Physically
hurting, there was nothing to do but run through it, but at a more cautious tempo.
Fear of another stumble or fall held me back.

The course followed the Continental Divide Trail through beautiful mixed woods,
rolling back around to the start/finish at Rock Tank Shelter.  Resupplying from my drop
bag, I bandaged my hand and headed out for the second half of the day.  I lollygagged 
through the first half in three hours and change and was not in any hurry with the
major climbs of the race ahead.  Continuing on the CDT the course was absolutely
New Mexico beautiful. The photo at right shows how technical and pretty it was.
The Mt. Taylor region is volcanic.  Boulders were magmatic and the sand was more
like cinders.  Floating through the woods, I took my time, even stopping now and
again to reset and take it all in.  Running in dreamtime, there is just no urgency to
reach the finish on such a beautiful day.  I don't wear a watch, and time can wait.
I run for the shear joy of this physical encounter with life.

When the trail turned up for three miles after reaching the mile 21 aid station, running
turned into power walking.  Even though the altitude was holding me back I still 
managed to outclimb a half dozen folks ahead of me. In fact, from the time I reached
half way at mile 16 only one person passed me to finish ahead of me - a young
local woman named Lynette who almost outclimbed me to the top of Mt. Taylor.  I
was surpirsed to see someone gaining on me.  No one does that - power walking up
mountains at altitude.  She was doing it.  We ran together to the Caldera Rim aid
station before I watched her continue on as I stopped to take picture after picture
of the colored aspens going down into Water Canyon.  Gorgeous place.  Gorgeous day.

From the bottom of Water Canyon the trail climbed back up about 700 feet to Caldera
Rim; at this point you are glad just to walk, even if not at a power stride.  After a bit
of goofing off at the aid station the final couple of miles to the finish took a sharp
downturn on what is called Heartbreak Hill, straight down a precipitous dirt trail before
some significant footwork was required to negotiate the last half-mile's obstacle
course of rocks.  Running conservatively to this point I had saved my quads, moving
down the hill without difficulty or incident, passing several runners who had blown out
their quads I finished with ease in 7:21:22 for 65th place of 151 finishers.  Pretty
mediocre, but that's where I am right now and it no longer matters that I run slower.
I had a great day and the after party was very enjoyable.  The race organization and
volunteers were an equal match to the quality of the challenge and the beauty of the
course.  Yes, I would do this one again.
                                                           steep grasslands on the slopes as the trail switchbacks to the top with views that go on forever
                      Nearing the top of the first steep climb (near mile 2.5).                                        Looking down into Water Canyon and the old caldera of Mt. Taylor.


The Mt Taylor 50K benefits the Nideiltihi Native Elite 
Runners, a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization, whose
mission is to foster Native American Indian distance 
runners, in the Four Corners states, to represent 
the USA in national road and track competitions.