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Not that there is much can be done about it, my preference for going out slow is beginning to slap me in the face. It simply takes my body 30 to 60 minutes to work out all the tightness, to get loose enough to stretch my legs and actually run. Thing is, the lot of us are packed into a single-track sardine tin with no room to do anything more than the person immediately in front. And that person is in the same situation as is the person in front of her, and so on and so on. I might be a bit more comfortable with it if they'd run the downs, but hell no, they gingerly walk the downs, and partially spin the ups. I simply have to get out of my head or I'll be doing like some of the other poor impatient souls and sprinting through the scrub alongside, tearing my clothes and skin on the lethal juniper branches. So, I start talking... to anyone who will listen. The woman in front ignores me, even though she knows I'm talking to her, she acts like she doesn't know. But four people up, somebody responds, not that I can hear every other word, but I make out it's Shelly, who I had coached a few years ago for Leadville 100mi. What I want, is to get out of my mind, and struggling to construct a complete sentence out of every other word from Shelly, it works perfectly to suffocate the internalizing whiny bitch in my head.

The merry-go-round course twists and turns, up and down, and round and round, in a pleasant sort of way, entertaining in its unpredictability. Starting late in the day, but close enough to night, I have my headlamp wrapped around my wrist, and a water bottle loaded with Tailwind in hand. Almost everybody else already has their headlamp on their noggin, but I generate a lot of heat and sweat from my head, and don't need the extra add-on. I finally get past the woman immediately in front of me, and soon after see others stepping trail side to escape the pace that for them, may be too quick, or maybe they just want out of the pace-line. Don't know, don't care, but glad to see some room begin to open up. Now I need to be careful, with room to run, I don't do too much. I no longer have the speed I used to, but I so much enjoy a bit of technical trail, and I find myself dancing around Shelly and a few others when they slow on some short bit of rocky descent. Since I slid past the speed regulator, my cadence has been increasing bit by bit. I feel good so far, but I'm trying to process what is too much when I go to pass another, but back off instead. It would have been no different from just up-clicking cruise control for another 3mph , but instead I drop down and tuck in behind. He's moving well, constant, steady, and I think I'm pleased with myself for successfully reigning in. Now, if I can just stay here?

Well, of course I can't help but chat Nick up, but as you would suspect, he rises like a leprechaun on the next climb, while I walk, albeit one with some purpose to it. Still, he's quickly gone. This course has more than a few inside-out loops, in which we run right alongside the trail we just turned off, to run next to it in reverse for some distance, and then reverse again. The one we're on now is the double or triple inside-out loop, where I can see lights flickering all about, and have no idea if they're in front or behind. This section of trail is more bushwhack, slipping up and sliding down over rock ledges, around trees, and it's hard to make out the direction in the fading light. Thankfully, I can read trail by brail, and with my bat-vision sonar engaged, I ride this lovely playground with a wide grin and some amount of joy. I also catch Ashley, that is until we turn back and the trail opens up into an easy ride and she drops me quickly. At the end of it, the trail once again gets rocky as we climb out of the hole we've been playing in, only to arrive on the other side of a trail block from where we fell in. Minutes later, we arrive at the second aid station. I'd skipped the first one, with a full water bottle and no reason to do otherwise, but now I need a top-off and some ice.

With the 10k starting 30 minutes behind us and a four mile shortcut, they now merge with us at this aid. I'm in a particularly froggy mood now, wanting to run, and needing to dodge, but it's really not much of a big deal. Every person hears me coming, knowing I'm moving faster than they are, and steps off trail to let me by without so much as a hiccup. I might have even preferred more of the slow-me-down, but the timing of the 10k/30k merger seems to be a smooth one. Me and those around me, who have been changing places with one another for the entire first loop if nothing else, are slowing down the 10k runners, but it's hard to say.

The last little loop-ti-do is not much more than a landmark to let me know I'm almost done with the first loop. It also reminds me how much of the insidious little pencil cactus there is alongside the trail. I know what they are and make certain to dodge every overhang, but I wonder how many of the others are caught unaware. Soon after, I'm back at the start/finish/turnaround in solid time. I sit and take a moment for a beer while Jeannie helps me with a Tailwind and water refill. I also change my shirt and would like to change shorts too, but there is nowhere convenient to make this wardrobe change, so I don't.

Off again to begin loop two without the limiting pace-line of runners, I might be going a bit too fast. I pass a guy standing mid-trail, then another walking, and for some damn reason, it only makes me go faster, like a thief, stealing what precious little energy they have and using it myself. Another couple of guys slide behind and I realize one is Nick, and he asks me what's got me powered up. I tell him it's beer, an ice cold beer that has cooled and refreshed me, and I should have brought one along. And so I continue, and I think that Nick has tagged along, but it's the other guy instead. Rick from Houston chats me up and we get into a discussion about race directing and the philosophies used to run a small business or a family being much the same. And so we talk for another mile or more before he goes ahead on the same climb that Nick dropped me on the last loop.

This is where I hook up with Ashley at about the same place I hooked with her on the last loop. We do all the inside-outs and by the time we escape, we're best of friends. I was explaining to her how of late, I've been spending the night alone in the woods with strange women and never even getting their names. It's about now when I realize my clothes are soaked through and starting an irritating rash in a most vulnerable location. So much so, that I'm finding it difficult to run or walk without the burn, like dragging a wet rope across my groin. It's about here I catch and entertain Cyndie, January, and Richard for a few, but moving faster than they, I run just a little and then start fast walking again to go ahead.

I ask for Vaseline but get Trail Ties at the second aid for some rash relief. And with my fingers now polluted, I ask the volunteers if they'd mind handing me some watermelon instead of dipping my own disgusting fingers into the tray. I also top off my water bottle with ice and get a cold-water spray on my hands and face. What royal treatment for a peon, and I'm both thankful and relieved. But, the relief is short lived, the rash fix doesn't last and once again, I'm walking cowboy funny. We're just about to the final pencil cactus loop-ti-do when Shelly and friend catch us and Ashley says she needs to run it in, that I find myself alone once again. It's just as well, with the irritation making me less than good company at this point. With all three ladies moving ahead, their lights disappearing in strobe flashes between the trees, I continue to walk, and walk poorly. With less than a half-mile to go, more and more lights begin to appear all about, some 60k runners starting another loop, some 30k runners pushing to get done, crews waiting near the finish, and the general chaos that always surrounds any finish area. From almost total darkness, firefly lights are now flitting all over the place, welcoming me to the finish