I completed my longest trail race yesterday, El Vaquero Loco 50k (31 Miles). It was a hoot! I didn't set a time goal for this race. I just wanted to try and finish around 7 1/2 hours, feeling good, taking time to enjoy the scenery, and taking lots of photos. ...mission accomplished.
From the start (or at least from the first light of day), the scenery was amazing. Above is our first glimpse at the sunrise. This came after a hard 4 mile climb. I started the race wondering why I would start a fun trail run so early, when I could do it on my own, and start when I wanted. This first look from the ridge made the early start so worth while.
I made it to the top of the first climb with my friend, Gustavo Flores. The view after the climb seemed to give everyone similar emotions, a sense of awe, and wonder.
...combined with a sense of overwhelming joy.
From there, the trail dropped fast, down past the lake below. I tried not to think about the fact that we were giving back so much elevation so quickly, and I really tried to not think about the climb we would have back out of there.
It was at the bottom of this descent that I thought I had really screwed up. I had slipped my camera in an open pouch on my pack for quicker access, not thinking about the fact that it was up against the ice water in my pack. My camera was dead (but only mostly dead). I spent the next few miles trying to warm it up, and I finally got it to turn back on.
It seemed like as soon as we finished dropping off a hill, it was time to start climbing again. There just wasn't much flat on this course (or any). As you can see from the August snow, we were at a pretty high elevation most of the time as well.
Shortly after the turn around at the half way point (out and back course), you are treated to this view, but only if you have gone the wrong way, or if you are the one right behind me following me. Evidently I should have been sight seeing a little less, and paying more attention to navigation. I'll blame it on the sugar rush. I had just chugged a Mountain Dew and ate a handful of Chips Ahoy cookies. I love trail racing!
Somewhere around mile 18 or so, Gustavo and I joined forces again for awhile. He had left the aid station at the turn just as I was getting there. I don't think I would have caught him, but he wasn't feeling the best. After taking these pictures, I reminded him of what Fernando use to say.
"...and you look marvelous."
It was hard not to think about the fact that the turn was at 7,000'. The start of the race was at 7,500', and with a couple spots touching the 10,000' mark, it meant we had some climbing to do coming back. Surprisingly, it seemed easier, even though we had more elevation to gain. The views looking back down towards the turn were incredible.
...so were all the wild flowers along the course.
Undoubtedly though, my favorite part was the lakes. They all seemed to be hidden by nasty climbs, but they made the climbs so well worth it.
When you are well over 20 miles into this difficult of a race, and you catch yourself laughing out loud because you are having so much fun, then I call that a good time. The smile in the next photo is genuine.
The trails were amazing too. It seemed like I was running through a post card for 31 miles.
There were many signs that I was having a great day. When you are just past mile 26 and thinking how much fun it would be to turn around and do it again, that's a sign. By mile 27 (after the last big climb), I knew I could do it again, but no longer wanted to. When you are running hard after mile 27, that is another sign. ...and when you are almost to mile 30 and think, "hmm, my legs are a little tired" for the first time that day, well that is another sign.
This race had great swag too. No t-shirts for us, we got hoodies. ...and who doesn't love a cool hoodie!
The finisher medal was a fridge magnet that helps you to subtly show off your accomplishment.
The aide stations along the way were fantastic. Hearing cow bells and cheering for you in the middle of the wilderness is pretty dang cool. Most of my run was fueled with M&M's and Coke that they had packed in (once again, I love trail races). Then to finish to a grilled burger and an ice cold Huckleberry Soda is pretty cool too. However, the real kicker, the thing that made it the most amazing, and what I will cherish most from this race, is just this way of getting high, the pure joy and peace that I find in high remote places, and the knowledge that I can do these things. I'm lucky that way.