Sunday, October 4, 2015

Race Report: NM Chips and Salsa Half Marathon

Arriving in ABQ!
It was my first non-summer Friday, so I had to do a whole seven hours on Friday.  Poor me!  Just kidding... Anyway, I was able to secure a really affordable roundtrip from JFK to Albuquerque on JetBlue several months ago, with the perfect flight times that went along well with my schedule.  Two members of my New York City based running club, Stacey and Doreen, decided to make the trip as well, and they secured seats on the same flights out and back.  I met up with them for drinks in JFK's Terminal 5, waiting til almost the last minute to board the flight -- and we were the last ones on.  My flight out to Albuquerque on Friday night was at 8pm, arriving just after 10pm Mountain time.  It was an uneventful flight, and I got the chance to watch a couple movies on the 4+ hour flight.  Upon arrival, I dashed out to retrieve my rental car and then head out to my Airbnb in the northwest part of the city, so my host wouldn't have to stay up too late to wait for me.

Visiting Santa Fe
Thankfully the race wasn't until Sunday, so I slept in some and then went off to pick up my t-shirt and bib at the Fleet Feet about twenty minutes away.  There were a lot of people there when I arrived!  It just so happened, Doreen and Stacey were there at the same time, having taken an Uber from their hotel.  After waiting in line and doing some shopping (I got new socks!), I dropped Doreen and Stacey off at the Hotel Albuquerque for their afternoon trolley tour, while I drove off to Santa Fe to meet up with my friend Sean, and take in the annual Fiesta happening in the New Mexican capital's iconic plaza.

Navajo Taco
After eating some delicious Navajo tacos, imbibing on some strong margaritas, and gorging myself on some fry bread doused liberally with cinnamon and powdered sugar, I took some time (including buying some fun "jalapeno"-themed socks and a matching bandana for the following day's race) before I went back on the road down to Albuquerque to meet the ladies for dinner at the foot of Sandia Peak, where we would take the Sandia Peak Tramway- in fact, North America's longest aerial tram (and the world's third longest) - up the mountain to over 10,678 feet in elevation.  We had reservations at the restaurant, High Finance, at the top of the mountain, however, shortly after ordering, the restaurant experienced a bit of a kitchen fire.  We ended up coming back down the tram to the foot of the mountain and we headed off to a restaurant we found off of Yelp, Nexus Brewery, where we were able to get our carb load in before I dropped the ladies off back at the hotel and I headed back to my accommodations for a good night's sleep in preparation for the morning's race.
Just eating everything in sight.
Cute socks purchased in Santa Fe for the next morning's race...
Sandia Peak with the ladies
Photoshoot on top of Sandia Peak
Breaking rules.

The morning, as always, came way too soon, and I was out the door and headed over to the Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI), a mere five minutes away.  I was able to get a good parking spot underneath some shade, so my car wouldn't be boiling when I returned to it later.  I connected with several friends from my Fifty States Club, and as always, had a bit of a photo op.  Stacey and Doreen met up as well, and soon, we were behind the big inflatable startline, ready to get on the road for my highest continuous elevation race to date.

Fifty Staters

Front Runners NY in NM!
At 7:30, we were off, curving around the SIPI's parking lot, down the frontage road that gives cars access to the campus from Coors Blvd NW.  We rounded the street past a Self-Storage store alongside the Paseo del Norte Highway, then turned back toward campus onto Alamo Road NW.  We then took a little detour in a residential neighborhood bordering the campus until we exited and then made our way onto the path alongside Paseo del Norte at mile 2.  We continued along this paved path for a mile as we crossed the Rio Grande (which we were told was cresting in its volume - to us, it looked practically empty!) over into the village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.

Hot Air Balloons over ABQ
We turned left and headed northward along the side of Rio Grand Blvd NW for another mile, again passing through residential areas before turning right onto Alameda Blvd NW, where we got some beautiful views of Sandia Peak with early morning hot air balloon rides launching int he distance.  We continued on down Alameda Blvd for roughly another mile before making a sharp turn right onto Guadalupe Trail NW, which we would follow for another mile through more residential neighborhoods.  We turned left onto Ortega Road NW just before the 6 mile mark, as we headed east toward 4th Street NW.  Around here, a nearby fire (remember, we're in dry desert) made it a little hard to breathe as we ran down Ortega.  We turned onto 4th Street to run on an overpass over Paseo del Norte, and then turned again as we again turned into a residential neighborhood along El Pueblo Road NW.  Somewhere around this I had to stop and adjust my sock as my right foot started to go numb.  Likely due to the two socks I was wearing (oops).

Guinea Fowl!
It subsided as we continued along Guadalupe Trail NW southward.  I would leapfrog with a group of three who were dressed in pink, that turned out lived locally and were running their first half marathon.  It was nice to chat with them periodically as we talked about running goals and my struggle with the elevation.  At one point, I spotted some guinea fowl (at first I thought they were wild turkeys!) just strolling down the side of the road  - so I of course took a picture.  I later learned that these guys pack quite a voice on them and I luckily was spared the crazy noises that I would've been subjected to had I actually decided to chase them!

We ran for what seemed like forever down Guadalupe Trail (it was only two miles), when we finally turned right onto Chavez Road NW, passing some sizable properties with mansions on them, as well as a winery that looked like it was preparing for a wedding. Before the ten mile mark, we turned right onto Rio Grande Blvd NW, and continued on that street for about two miles, before turning left back onto the trail that we had run on earlier in the race alongside the Paseo del Norte over the Rio Grande.    We had transitioned over to the left side of the road to make the turn, when I saw something very strange on the side of the road.  It was a snake stretched out - and I had no clue if it was alive or dead.  It came as a surprise to me, so I stopped and, of course snapped a picture.  It wasn't moving, so clearly it was dead (or was it just sunbathing?)  I didn't want to check, so I continued on.

Breakfast Burrito!!!
I turned onto the path and headed back across the trickle of a rio to SIPI, and made my way past the "gate" to the path back to the main road.  We were led across a small gravel section that had been closed off earlier to essentially give us a shortcut back to campus where we could see the finish line in the distance.  I chugged right along, eager to finish this breathless race, and ran across the finish line in 2:25:31, not bad considering it being my first real struggle of a race at altitude.  I got my medal, and waited up for friends as they crossed the finish line, while I caught my breath and ate my chips and salsa and breakfast burrito, provided to all finishers.

Chips and Salsa for finishers! (Photo by Thomas Turner)

Victory Headstand at 5000 feet!
With the rest of the day to play, I went back to shower, and then picked up the ladies (who had gone back to their hotel) for much needed lunch at an authentic New Mexican restaurant suggested by my Airbnb host, El Bruno, where we had quite the fill of really good food, especially some traditional sopapillas, injected with honey.  We rolled ourselves out of the restaurant and drove up to Santa Fe for the remainder of the day, taking in the sereneness of the landscape in our drive up, and the post-fiesta euphoria of the town.  We met up with my friend Sean again, who was working at his job at La Cantina at La Casa Sena, where we enjoyed the entertainment at the piano bar (and got to hear Sean sing!) over some tasty margaritas.  We then headed back to Albuquerque to return to the airport and catch our redeye back to New York City!

More eating, as usual.
Three amigos!

1 comment:

  1. Nice meeting you at this race. I look pretty huge compared to everyone else in the group photo!