Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Desert Run

Is it time to start running again?  I guess perhaps.  To jump start the process, I signed up for a trail half-marathon in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which took place last week.  What doesn't sound fun about  a red-eye flight and 13.1 miles of under prepared foot steps in the desert?  Clearly, this was a good idea.

My preparation consisted of a 5-mile and 7-mile run, so I was left hoping that ski fitness translated directly to running.  I hit the ground in El Paso and met my dad who drove south from Las Cruces to resume his role of chauffeur, last practiced with distinction back before I got my driver's license.  The sun washed across the desert in endless abundance.  We bought tacos and made it to my parent's house where my mom was fulfilling her maternal obligation to bake cookies.  The following morning, sufficiently fueled by those same cookies, I set out to mill around a line drawn in the sand and designated the official start of a series of runs out and back on the Sierra Vista Trail, single track paralleling the range front of the Organ Mountains.  At the appointed hour, some nice young man said "go," and those running the full marathon started weaving in and out of prickly pear cactus and ocotillo, disappearing from sight down the backside of a hill.  A little while later, the same young man said "go" again, and this time I started running.

The race results indicate 51 of us ran the half-marathon.  It took abut two miles to shake the field out.  The trail was reasonably technical--loose rock, and lots of ups and downs across arroyos--and the desert's habit of draping its flora in spines meant painful consequences for an ill-timed off-trail pass.  But in time we all settled into a pace, either solo or grouped with like minded individuals.

I was in sixth position at the turn around, but immediately lost some ground by choosing to refill water, watching several folks roll in and out without missing a beat.  The final profile of the run looked something like:

Suffice to say, I did not run a negative split on this race.  But I nevertheless managed to keep plodding.  The final couple of miles included lots of short punchy climbs and a steady ascent, and the lack of preparation miles took its toll.  And that hill that I got to watch the full marathon runners disappear down the backside?  I had to climb back up it too.  Despite the terrain challenges, I was the ninth runner to cross the finish line in the half.  I knocked back some peanut M&Ms and a few bites of banana, and called it a day.

And so begins summer.  Though a quick glance at the thermometer on our porch suggests it is still below freezing in Anchorage and summer may be stuck in southern New Mexico.  Here is hoping it manages to break free soon.