The most important aspect of race performance is not what happens on race day, but what happens before the race. For the most part, my preparation for the Big Tesuque was right on. Over the summer I trained for the Los Alamos Sprint Triathlon. After completing that, I spent four weeks specifically training for the Big Tesuque. I tried to balance my training with a lingering Achilles injury—trying to push myself hard enough to run well on race day without pushing too hard and getting reinjured. Overall, the combination of careful training and resting prepared me well for my second Big T. The out-and-back race takes place on the Aspen Vista Trail in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains over Santa Fe. According to my watch, the race began at an elevation of 9,962 feet and climbed for six miles to 12,019 feet–before returning downhill on the same trail.
I first ran the Big T in 2009, in honor of my Uncle Dick Metcalf. My goal for this year was to break my previous time of 2 hours, 37 minutes, with a goal finish of 2 hours, 30 minutes. As stated above, I believed my training and rest prepared me well for this goal. That was, until I got a mile and a half into the race.
While my legs climbed the trail without any unusual discomfort, my stomach churned. The previous night, we enjoyed a great meal at a Mexican restaurant in Santa Fe. The fish tacos were wrapped in the best tortillas I ever had, chips were dipped into a variety of sauces, and I even got an extra side of refried beans—just for fun. The food tasted great going down, but on the trails the next morning, I was hurting. There were several moments when I thought everything might come up—and I probably would have felt better if it had. The churning stomach was distracting enough to keep me from settling into any kind of rhythm for the first six miles. I was not feeling good and realized why it had been three years since I participated in this race—it is a grind.
Finally, I made it to the top of Big Tesuque Peak, awed by the view of the yellow aspens that colored the panorama. I stopped for about a minute, drank some water, regained my breath, and decided I would descend the mountain with more strength than I climbed. For the next five miles, I settled into a much smoother pace and actually enjoyed the race. My stomach settled, I lifted up a fellow runner who fell, shouted out to my friend Max, and found my happy place.
That was, until I hit a wall of people at mile 11. Apparently, a tour bus unloaded at the trailhead as runners were finishing the race. Because the trail is quite rocky, the actually runnable parts of the trail are often quite narrow. As I came in for the last mile, those narrow parts were often crowded by hikers. I did not plan on playing Frogger for the last mile of the race and was not happy about it.
According to my watch, I still had a quarter mile to go, but suddenly turned the corner to see I was only a few hundred yards from the finish. I got angry because I would have been running much faster if I knew where I was on the course. I broke into a full sprint. As I crossed the finish line, I looked over and saw the clock read 2:30:55. I was so mad that I grabbed the hat off my head and squeezed it into my fist.
I missed my goal by 55 seconds. I could have easily made up 55 seconds, I left too much on the trail.
Nonetheless, it was a beautiful morning in the mountains, I broke my previous mark by more than six minutes, I did not hurt myself, and Jennifer and I had a great time with Scott and Christa Carver (Scott tore up the course, blazing down the trail in six minute miles, finishing 25th overall). Major thanks to the Alba’s who kept our boys and the Carver’s dog, June.
I look forward to returning to the Big T. I’ll stay off the Mexican food if they’ll hold off on the tour buses.
Four months until my next return race, back to the Sedona Marathon in February 2013.