For the second half of 2016, and the beginning of this year, I wasn’t sure when I’d register for another ultramarathon. I felt beat down after DNFing at the Jemez 50M race again for the second time in three years and was physically and mentally exhausted. From June 2016 until March 2017 I had more zero months than months with running, my first zero months in nearly a decade.
Luckily, I didn’t spend those months idle and when the fire came back my body was ready to accept and adapt to some training.
I wanted a race that was challenging but doable as my comeback race, so my wife and I both registered for a local race to the north of Albuquerque, the Ultra Santa Fe 50k. We both love to train on the mountainous, technical trails of the Sandias, and the course description and profile appeared to be geared toward that type of training.
We spent most of the spring and summer training specifically for this race, with many long weekend days in the mountains. Even more than signing up and being excited for the race, these days were what rekindled my love of the sport. Just simply spending quiet mornings and afternoons with my wife on the beautiful trails just minutes from our home.
Our training build-up erred on the side of caution, with maybe just a bit less volume than we should have done, but allowed us to come into the race fit and rested. We used an Albuquerque road half-marathon as a tune-up race three weeks before and both finished with times we were happy with. My time was roughly average for my half-marathon times, but considering the low volume of speedwork and road-specific training, I was happy enough with it.
Luckily we have friends in Santa Fe we were able to stay with the night before the race and after enjoying some delicious homemade pizza and a few beers, went to bed early for the 7 AM race start.
This was only the second year of the race, which is always a bit worrisome in terms of race organization/direction but clearly the organizers are not inexperienced and presented an enjoyable race.
The course itself showcased a wide variety of New Mexico landscape, from desert to forest to alpine views above the treeline of the Santa Fe Ski Basin. Despite the wide variety, every bit of the course felt very representative of the beauty of New Mexico’s landscape and sometimes harsh environs.
I didn’t quite have an A race, but it wasn’t a disaster either. In true ultrarunning style I stayed on the grind and got it done. By far the crux of the race was the monster climb coming out of the Borrego aid station. Luckily I had crew at this aid station and was able to switch bottles, dump some extra gear and mentally reset for the climb.
The climb out of the aid station was almost a third of the race on its own and was seriously steep in places, especially coming out of the Big Tesuque campground and at the summit about the Ski resort. It was brutal, beautiful and at times seemingly never-ending. In other words, a quintessential ultra-running experience.
If it works out in the coming years, I will definitely return to this race and I sincerely hope others do as well, as it does an amazing job of showcasing the beauty of New Mexico.
Also, I have to also add that my wife finished second in her age group in what was easily her hardest race to date. So a huge congrats to her!
A great mountain event in beautiful terrain, deserving of becoming a NM ultra fixture.