Friday, January 25, 2013

Race Report: 2013 El Paso Puzzler Trail Marathon

I intended to write this post several days ago, but better late than never, right?

I can't remember exactly how long I had been looking forward to the Puzzler. Probably since last summer. It finally happened, and it was everything I hoped it would be!

In the hours leading up to the start, I was more nervous than I have been before a race in a very long time. I had been sick the week before, and I was starting to feel a little under-prepared.

Rebecca and me before the start
With my dad, who not only ran the half marathon, but also did the 35 mile bike race the next day!

My anxiety abated after the start. The 30 of us in the marathon left the start at the Bowen Ranch on a wide trail and managed to spread out before turning onto winding singletrack. I had run the first 6 miles of the course before, up to Mundy's Gap at 5,890 feet. I anticipated this would be the most difficult section, being the steepest and highest climb, and it was--I walked much of it. When I got to the top, I was met with cheers and encouragement from a group of hiking teenagers, which was awesome. Anything that can make me smile after a climb like that is much appreciated!

The descent was rough but fun. It was very rocky; near the base of the mountain was an especially treacherous stretch of loose, basketball-sized rocks. I walked most of it to avoid breaking an ankle, thinking the whole time about the next day's mountain bikers who would cover this same ground. I would never in a million years try to bike over those rocks!

At the first aid station, I got a burrito from my wonderful husband, who drove/ran all over the place to see me. The next stretch was fun: new scenery, a second wind, and best of all, fairly level terrain. I passed a few people over the next several miles, and finally reached the second aid station. At the start, I could swear I heard the race director say the aid stations were at miles 10 and 22. But right after the aid station, my husband joined me, having parked on the side of a road and run over a mile to find me. And he said the aid station was closer to mile 18 than 22. He's great with maps and directions and distances, so normally, I wouldn't question him. But I was not in a rational state of mind at this point in the race, and when I got upset, he told me he was sure I was right. I'm grateful for this lie; I wasn't yet ready to accept that I had not run 22 miles! An hour later, I realized he was right, or I would have been finished already.

The last 6 miles were beautiful, and I want to run them again to appreciate the scenery, because during the race I was preoccupied with how much farther I had to go, and whether I was lost. There were no runners in sight ahead or behind, and if it hadn't been for some shoe prints I recognized from earlier, I would have been sure I had missed a turn somewhere.

Finally, the finish came into view. I could hear the music, and, when I got a little, closer, my awesome friends yelling for me. I crossed the line in 6 hours, 2 minutes, and 54 seconds, happy to be finished.

Thanks to Rebecca for this picture, and for the loud cheering!
Crossing the finish--I promise I'm running, even though it doesn't look like it.

I'm pretty happy with my time, but I'm also sure I could improve upon it with some more hill training. I was the third woman overall, and I got a cool trophy along with my finisher's medal. The post-race meal was delicious--chicken tacos from a taco truck! This was such a fun race, and if we still live in El Paso next January, I'm sure I will be lined up at the start again!


The next day, my awesome dad completed the 35 mile bike race after running the half marathon. It was his first mountain bike race, and it was impressive to know he biked the same rough terrain I ran the day before. Several of the bike racers we saw had cameras for filming sections of trail. Click here to watch the descent of Mundy's Gap as seen from a mountain bike.

Biking down the boulder-field on the west side of Mundy's Gap

Crossing the finish after 35 miles of extremely rocky biking!

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