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A new record for slowest time to cover 14 miles!

July 26, 2011

Yesterday Sagan helped me harvest some of the veggies from the garden at the home where we are staying for most of the New Mexico part of our Randall Summer Travel Extravaganza, 2011 Edition.  HomeExchange continues to be a truly life changing (at least lifestyle changing) opportunity for us.  Thanks to the owners of our current digs, Tim and Kelli, we had the making for a homegrown, tasty, and beautiful salad to take to our other Taos HomeExchanger family for dinner:

Today was my first legitimate mountain run for the current Santa Fe-Taos-Boulder training camp/road trip/family vacation/lifestyle adjustment.  I’ve now been in the mountains for over a week and while I’ve run quite a bit and the elevation has been for real, the terrain was more hills than mountains.

I found just what I needed today: a real leg-and-heart-and-lung-busting outing with some peaks and trekking poles and just a bit of highly sought after uncertainty as to whether or not I’d find myself stranded off in the middle of nowhere.  I know I’m always at the risk of boring my dedicated but meager readership with too many stats and names and specificity of all kinds of running-centric details, so this time around I will try to just hit the main itinerary from the day.

At 11am, starting a bit later than intended (too often the case), I started at the Taos Ski Valley trailhead near The Bavarian restaurant, elevation 10,200 feet.  (Photo below from The Bavarian website – it is sadly not open on Tuesdays during the summer.)

Bavarian Deck

The first place on my route was William’s Lake, about 2 miles steadily uphill.  Here’s what it looks like in winter (this one from January 2008, my first time to the lake):

And here’s what it looked like today:

Stark difference.  It sure is faster – and less intimidating –  in trail running shoes than in snow shoes but the snowy route will always hold an extra special place in my heart.

From William’s Lake, elevation 11,040 feet, my next stage was the serious climb up the side of a “real” mountain, to hit Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico.  Over 2000 feet of climbing in about a mile and a half.  For those who aren’t mountaineers or ultra-trail runners, that’s serious business.  Before starting the day I thought that I might just be able to run, very slowly, the whole way to the peak.  No way, I quickly found out, as my hard effort turned out to be something along the lines of a 25+ minute/mile pace for most of the way up.

Just a few weeks ago the kind and hard working folks from the Forest Service or some similar group cut switchbacks up the mountain side, meaning that I wouldn’t have the try to navigate the more direct but sanity-questioning scrabble up the face over loose scree.  When I was near the top I had a 50-50 choice to make, as there are two similarly high peaks.  I made the “wrong” choice and found myself as the just slightly lower Mount Walter peak.

So, I turned around and went the other way to make sure I bagged that other peak that surely has been a thorn in the side of multiple generations of Walters.

Wheeler Peak, elevation 13,161:

And the obligatory shot of me, there:

Rather than retrace my steps and again passing by William’s Lake, I opted to descend along the Bull of the Woods trail, an 8-mile, significantly easier but significantly longer return to the village at Taos Ski Valley.  It was smooth going, with a few relatively small climbs but a mostly gentle downhill profile, with lots of nice, smooth switchbacks.

There were lots of critter sightings, including plenty of marmots, chipmunks, a snake, and a few dozen big horn sheep including these:

Making my way off the mountain trail, I arrived at the parking lot at the ski village – roughly 2 miles and a 1000 vertical feet downhill from where my car was parked.  This was expected and I knew I’d have to make the trek back up.  So, I traded the mostly rough trail for the slightly less rough road, making it back to my starting point 4 hours after I started.  With the few minor detours like going off trail to make a snowball in July and to see if I could get a beer at The Bavarian post-run (I couldn’t, they were closed), I was at right about 14 miles.  So, yeah, 4 hours for 14 miles.  In ideal, made-for-speed conditions (flat or slightly downhill road, without a pack, at 50 degrees, well rested, etc), I think I could probably cover 30+ miles in the same amount of time.  While it might be twice as far, it wouldn’t be half as fun.

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From → Arbitrary Goals

4 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    That’s why I need to win the lotto.

  2. And that’s why it is fun – because time is not all we care about. In fact, it is often the last thing we care about. Unless it’s in a race. And even then, we can still find things to care about. Like, meeting a future husband and discussing life matters with him.

    • randallmike permalink

      While I’m not on the trails with even a little bit of hope of finding a husband, your general point is well taken. The funny-ish thing is, I was actually trying to cover the miles relatively quickly. But the 5000 feet of climbing was something I’m not too accustomed to so I wanted to be smart about how I handled it.

  3. thelastbard permalink

    If that shot from atop Wheeler is looking out to the east (and I believe it is), I used to work on the property with the mountains you see in the distance.

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