Hola from New Mexico, AfterShokz family! This was my second year running the Mount Taylor 50K in Grants, New Mexico, and I am so excited to tell you about it.
First, for those of you who aren’t familiar with ultra running, anything over the standard 26.2 marathon distance is technically an ultra. Out here in New Mexico, we have a particularly wonderful group of trail ultras and a phenomenally supportive ultra-running community. The Mount Taylor 50K has been going on for eight years, and is a not-for-profit event put on by an extremely hard-working group of runners led by Ken and Margaret Gordon. The race course runs over the continental divide, up to the summit of Mount Taylor at 11,305 feet. The entire course takes place at over 9,000-feet elevation with over 7,000 feet of climbing over the 50 kilometres. To put it lightly, it is an INTENSE course. Last year was my first year running Mount Taylor and, honestly, I didn’t quite know what was in store. This year, I was more prepared, but that doesn’t mean everything was sunshine and rainbows!
The tradition among the running community and my friends is to camp at the starting line of the 50K. It is high up in the forest on Mount Taylor, but there is plenty of room in the tree clearings to park and camp. We rolled up to the start the night before, made camp, and went to bed as soon as it got dark. It was very chilly! At around 5 am, headlights from people arriving from town started to shine into our tents and cars. I woke up in my CRV and thought to myself, “Do I really need to do this today?” The answer was apparently “yes,” because soon enough, I was up, getting dressed in my leggings and layers, putting my cloth bib number on my tights, and making sure my hydration pack was prepared with everything I needed. I typically carry a lot of water on ultras, along with chews, waffles, my inhaler, sunscreen, Chapstick, and my AfterShokz! The course is supported by well-stocked aid stations with all kinds of food and drink, but there are some significant gaps and, for an ultra, nutrition along the course is key.
The starting line was a buzz of runners’ headlamps and commotion at the line for the porta-potties. Ken, our fearless director, ushered everyone behind the giant timing clock. In the dark and chilly morning, right at 6:30 am, we were off! The first few kilometres is a challenging climb, but once up there, you get to witness a beautiful sunrise over La Mosca Lookout. This was my second time getting to see this magnificent sunrise, and it was so worth it! The climb to the summit of Mount Taylor doesn’t come until more than halfway through the race. Runners have already navigated thousands of feet of technical climbing over 27 kilometres, and then must reclimb that elevation to the summit. This climb is brutal. One particular section is called Gooseberry Hill. This is my least favourite part of the course, but I am happy to say that this year I took the hill on with a pretty good speed and a good mind-set. At the top, I felt such relief at having conquered that climb! It felt great. My friend Laura and I summited together, and then we began the gradual descent of the last part of the race. There is one particularly brutal climb back up Water Canyon, which is about 1,000 feet of vertical over very few kilometres, and it is right at the end. Climbing is the last thing you want to do after 43 kilometres. Nevertheless, we did it and we ran over the finish line together! Laura is one of my best friends and this was her first time running Mount Taylor, so it was an honour to run it with her.
At the finish, we got our beautiful medals. We also received bracelets handcrafted by Margaret Gordon and other artists. Mount Taylor is a sacred Navajo mountain, so the completion of this race also feels very momentous and like a true turning of the season. I am so grateful to have been able to run this course again. It took us eight hours, but that was eight hours well spent in the sunshine, trees, and beauty of the mountain.
The aspen trees over the entirety of the course were rivalled in beauty only by the sublime New Mexican views. It is truly the most beautiful race. I also love the tradition that, every year, they place signs with inspiring and funny quotes throughout the course. This year, my favourite sign was a quote from The Princess Bride, which is one of my favourite films. “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” I agree. No wonder Mount Taylor is a nonprofit race. You cannot buy an experience, views, or company like this. What a beautiful race! I hope you will all join me for the climb next year.What is your favourite long-distance race? Tell us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!