Cactus to Cloud 50K, Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Elevation Range:  4423' - 9540'     Elevation Gain:  9758'       RESULTS

May 13, 2017 - To close out another wonderful trip of adventures I headed to a part of New Mexico that I had never been before - the southeast corner above El Paso, specifically above Alamagordo in the Sacramento Mountains. For somebody who lives for surprises, this event was pure delight. Not only did I share the day with some friends, but met some new folks that I look forward to seeing again, and.......... I ran over some very challenging and beautiful terrain for an experience I never imagined would be so memorable.

After tailgating at the finish line with a bunch of friends and others, and a good night's sleep in chez Larry, we rode a school bus for an hour to arrive for the 0600 start from Oliver Lee State Park, south of Alamagordo. With the waxing light of the pre-dawn I captured a quick pic of Lynette Gurule and Ulises Ricoy, then a selfie with Eddie Hensley before we headed out for an immediate climb of over 5000 feet in the first ten plus miles. This was a climber's dream. Up, up, and up on rugged single-track through cacti, agave, and ocotillo.

Interactive Map

I began conservatively, following my own advice for once, easing into the race by patiently falling into queue with the conga line, waiting until my engine was warmed up before looking for opportunities to move up. Whenever the trail leveled or widened I moved on the field ahead. By the time I reached the first aid station at 5.5 miles in 1 hour and 45 minutes I had moved up over twenty places and carried momentum forward thereafter through three miles of fairly level forest service roads before a straight up push to reach the high point of the course at 9540 feet at ten miles in 2 hours and 55 minutes.

The course begins in the scrubland of the Chihuahua desert along the historic Dog Canyon trail before heading up through juniper-piñon red clay into the boreal forest and clouds above. Following in the footsteps of the Mescalero Apache, Spanish settlers, a French hermit, lawmen and outlaws of the wild west the course runs through the pines and aspen of the Lincoln National Forest, with views of the Tularosa Basin and White Sands National Monument from the Sunspot Observatory and Rim trail.

I felt strong rolling over the ridge and continued across the top of the Sacramentos through gorgeous mature forests. The course undulated under the shade of the forest most of the time with solid climbs and descents that were not too bad except they were rockier than I anticipated, making me wish I was wearing a pair of Hokas instead of my grippy Salomons. It took me until 4 hours and nearly 15 minutes to reach 15 miles before I decided to back off racing to save my feet and legs for the cross country drive I would begin following the race and to avoid and race exhaustion in anticipation of the following weekend's hundred-miler in Georgia.

The second half of the race involved a lot slower running, more walking, and more sitting at the remaining aid stations to take a break while eating, drinking, resting my feet, and goofing off with the volunteers. The more I took it easy, the better I felt - a very good and timely reminder before my upcoming hundred miler. The views of the White Sands desert range to the west were worth taking the time to look and enjoy. Temps wandered up a bit into the warm 60's but never got uncomfortable. It was just nice to be running trails in this wild place under sunny skies, so I could only offer words of encouragement to those who passed me with greater talent and ambition on this day.

Finishing a tad over 9 hours, I was still well into the first half of finishers. Taking a couple hours to eat, drink, and socialize at the finish, I finally embarked on my transcontinental journey back home. Being neither tired nor sore after the finish, I made the right choice to run easy over the technical parts of the course. It was a fine experience, an unexpected pleasure to enjoy the company of the fun runners of New Mexico and their stunning challenge at Cactus to Cloud.