Sugarloaves Ultra Vista Trail Race Report
When I found out I would be deploying to Asscrackistan out of Ft Bliss, TX the first thing I did was looked for some kind of race to do while I was out there. For the longest time, all I found was a collection of 5ks to do in El Paso. While it wasn’t my favorite thing to do, I was going to start registering just so I could get a race in before deploying. One day this all changed when I stumbled upon a small race that was located in Vado, NM which was only a 30min drive from El Paso! Even better, the race was only $35! Who can turn down a cheap ultra!!! For the next few weeks I tried finding out anything I could about the race. I uncovered 2-3 race reports, very few photos and Mark Dorion’s (the Race Director) blog. So what did I learn? I learned that there was not a lot to find out about this race in the middle of the desert. After reading Mark Dorion’s blog there were things that jumped out at me: “These trails are VERY challenging after dark, even for experienced runners.” I don’t think I had even run a trail race that warned of the hazards of running at night. Hell, I have run Joe’s races at night; I honestly believe he purposely places additional rocks and roots on this trails! 😉 Regardless of what the other race reports say or the Mark’s mention of the course being VERY challenging, I was going to go have fun at this race like I always do! This is also going to be my last race before I deploy to Asscrackistan… It was going to be a blast! 🙂 For the week leading up to the start I routinely checked the weather. With 350 days of sunshine per year, the odds were in my favor… Right? Needless to say the 2 days leading up tot he race and race day were 3 of the days this year that were not going to be sunny. In fact, it was cloudy, overcast, raining, and WINDY! Race day arrived and the only thing that changed was the wind. Luckily the 30mph winds broken and the race was going to have easy 5-10mph winds. MUCH better! Unfortunately the rain didn’t break… Many of my training partners know how much I hate getting out of my car and running when it is raining. If it starts raining after I have started, that is fine… it is just that first step in the rain… UGGH Driving down I-10 towards Vado, NM was in the rain. The road was wet, my wipers were on, and even the mountains in the distance were obscured by the yucky weather. I did everything I could to push the negativity out of my mind. The last thing I wanted to do was start the race with a negative attitude; that was just going to make the entire race bad.
Mark’s directions to the race were perfect! There were road closures at Vado, NM (actually the only exist to Vado, NM was closed) so you had to take a different exist about 3mi up the road. His directions were spot on and after driving down a winding road into the desert I finally arrived at my destination! Everything was wet, the clouds where covering half of the mountains off in the distance that I would be running towards. I was just hoping for a change in the weather.
As always, I arrived at the race early. I was planning to use my car at the Start/Finish line as an aid station. With such a short race loop, there was no need to stop at the Aid Stations on the course. Once I arrived I once again made sure that I had everything I needed and arranged the back of the car so everything was convenient for me when I came in. This race proved to be very different. Usually I attend races from my house and know that I have everything I need. This race was planned out of my dufflebag that I would be taking to Asscrackistan. One thing that always follows me to my races is my bag from Victory Sport Design. No matter the race, there is something in this bag that will help me. Well for Asscrackistan I downsized A LOT so that I could squeeze it in my dufflebag. My firstaid pouch was gone, hand warmers, eye drops. That’s ok. I had my Tailwind Nutrition, my UD handhelds, and my SKORAs. If I couldn’t make it through this race with those 3 things, I probably shouldn’t have been there to begin with! Due to the forecasted rain and the fact that it had been raining the last 2 days I also brought 3 pair of socks along to make sure I at least started each loop with dry piggies.
I already knew this race was going to have a small field. After I setup my aid station and picked up my race packet it was obvious how small of a field this really was. The small area that we parked in, even with precision parking, was not going to hold more than 60 vehicles. By the time the race started there were probably about 45-50 vehicles there and I would estimate about the same number of runners.
At 8:24 it was finally time to toe the line and hit the desert. The rain had taken a break but Accuweather was nice enough to let me know that it wasn’t going to stay that way. I had about an hour before the rain was coming back and I was going to get as many miles in as possible before the rain came back! The start of the race was a short 1mi out and back along the power line in and out of arroyos and soft sand. This wasn’t that bad and gave me a chance to warm up the legs a little before we hit the real race loop that I would spend the remainder of the day on. No matter how hard I try, I always end up starting faster than I know I should but I wanted to get some ground covered before the rain came. After the first 2 mi warm up I stopped at my “Aid Station” dropped my light jacket (I carried my rain jacket with me) stripped down to a t-shirt, and was off down the trails! The course was a 3.5mi out and back that had some interesting terrain. Their were really 3 sections. The first mile was in and out of sandy arroyos and through a group of rollers. No BIG climbs, but enough that when combined with the sand, was going to make the legs work towards the end. The second section was about 1.5mi and was a flat MUDDY grass field. Personally, this is the part that actually sucked the most. For people like T.T. and A.B. this is best compared to our mud run at Pairie Haines. Footing sucked; every time I put my foot down I was sliding somewhere and this was before the rain started. The last mile was a gradual climb out to the turn around point. This was actually my favorite part of the course. This was a hard packed trail with absolutely no mud. There were a few rollers in here as well but it was a smooth running trail! Leaving the muddy field you cross under an old A-Frame powerline. The first time running under it was a tad creepy. The humm from the powerline was VERY loud. As you approach it, it almost sounded like rain or a giant rattle snake somewhere! 🙂 Just as I was approaching the turn-around point, the rain finally came in. Luckily I was able to start the race without any rain so I could have cared less at this point (so I thought). I put on my brooks jacket, turned around, and headed back down the trail towards the MUD. By the time I got back to the mud field the trail had already filled with water. This is when the run began getting slower and slower. The good part is my SKORA Tempo shed mud PERFECTLY! While my socks were SOAKED, the mud never really stuck to my shoes. The wide tread pattern on the shoes and the flexibility of the sole made the mud fall off pretty quickly! I could not have been happier. Not once did I have to stop and kick off the mud… I just kept on moving. As I was leaving the muddy section on the way back I went around a turn and that is when things started going down hill. I planted my foot and my body went one way and the leg went the other. My groin muscle didn’t like that at all. I didn’t HURT, but it was enough that I knew it was there and it would get progressively more nagging as the day went on. Even ever the rain started, the arroyos didn’t get that bad. Each arroyo had 2-3″ of soft wet sand that you had to run through but there was never any standing water. Up and down the arroyes and through the rollers and before I knew it I made the turn onto the jeep trail headed back to the Start/Finish aid station. All throughout the course there were aid stations about every 2 miles. These aid stations reminded me more of a Fat Ass run rather than a race. There were painted cinder blocks with a case of water, a few Clif bars or Bonk Bars and s small bucket for trash. I think what I liked most about the aid stations were the animals. There were ducks, rabbits, walruses, snakes, all spread out across the course. Seeing all of these animals actually reminded me a lot of my trails at Dana Peak park and made me think of my friends that I wasn’t running with. I really missed running with T.T., T.R., N.D, A.B., and Rasta! These little animals gave me a bit of home! 🙂 I ran past the start/finish, yelled out my bib number to the volunteers, and headed straight to my car to change socks and rotate bottles. My plan was to take it easy out there and stick with a 12min/mi pace. The first loop actually ended up being about a 10:48min/mi pace. Someone was running way to fast, especially in the mud! I needed to slow down!
I wasn’t out there to RACE…My plan was just to get out on the trail and have some fun. Aside from swapping bottles and socks I also did a quick blast on social media on the race, chatted with my wifey, and then headed back out. The second loop was much slower than the first. The combination of mud and the pulled groin muscle greatly assisted it! My goal for this race was to keep my pace around a 12:00 min/mi. Clearly that hasn’t happened up to this point! After hitting the turn-around point for the second time the rain finally died down and the clouds were breaking! At this point it didn’t much matter as the ground was already soaked and the center of the course was a mud fest but clear skies always make for a better run. Now the mountain was actually coming into view and you could see everything around you! 🙂 As I came into the aid station I followed the same routine as before. Swapped out the soaked soaks, grabbed new bottles, and did my typical social media blast. I have to admit, the new SKORA Tempo did an amazing job once again at shedding the mud. Even after stomping through all of the mud, the shoes really didn’t look that bad and never did I have to stop to clean them off.
After my 15-20 min break at the start/finish aid station my average pace when I rolled back out was an 11:42 min/mi. That just means that despite my slower pace, and about 30min total of sitting around at the Aid Stations my pace was still faster than what I was expecting. That’s still ok though… I was having fun! The 3d & 4th loop were pretty much the same. By the 4th loop I was definitely feeling the effect of the mud and sandy arroyos but nothing that really “hurt”. I tried dialing back the pace on the 4th loop and talked with people out on the trail, stopped to play with the little stuffed animals that adorned the course, relocated the snake to keep people guessing (someone else moved him too though! lol), and just had fun and enjoyed the trail. After the 3d loop my pace (with the stops and taking in the scenery) remained much the same as the 2d loop. Once again, swapped socks (STILL soaked), grabbed another bottle of Tailwind, and I was off. This time I only spent about 10min at the Aid Station before I headed back out again. The SKORA Tempo are still running strong and have taken everything I threw at them!
My only goal this day was to get out on the trails and get one last race before I deployed and that is what I did. The way back in on the 4th loop all I could think about was finishing up the race and going to have dinner with the family! As I was approaching the finish I ran in to Mark Dorion who I ran the last 1/4mi with. I crossed the finish line and felt really good; other than the slightly pulled groin muscle I felt GREAT. Never felt winded, no nagging pains… I was just looking forward to dinner! lol Once I crossed the line I spent about 30 min talking with Mark and one of the other volunteers and told them how great of a race I thought this was and that I would definitely be back if given the opportunity! It was considerably smaller than the other races I have been a part of and to be honest, I was a little concerned that there was not big buffet lines setup at the aid stations (even though I usually don’t eat off of them anyway). None of that mattered at the race. It was literally PERFECT! While I was talking with Mark after the race he handed me an envelope for a “Race prize”. I didn’t look at it, I simply folded it up and put in inside my pocket. That night after dinner I finally opened it up. Mark had given me a free pair of shoes from Up & Running in El Paso! Mark is an awesome guy and honored to have participated in his race. If given the opportunity, you should definitely head out to Vado, NM and join him for one of his races. You can find more info on his races at https://markdorion.wordpress.com/. I finally headed back over to my “Aid Station”, packed everything away and got ready to head back to my sister-in-law’s house to take a shower before dinner. On the way out I had to stop by the “Sierra Vista Trail” sign for one last photo!
Race Results: 2d Overall, 1st Age Group!!
Once again SKORA and Tailwind Nutrition came through. The new TEMPO shoes rocked the trails like no other! This is going to be an awesome shoe on the trail for ANYONE! As always, Tailwind pulled through with no stomach issues, great taste, and had me finishing strong! I would not have been able to do this race without my amazing wifey. Even with just a short amount of time left, she supported me going out there to run and I had an amazing time! I love you honey! The next trail race I toe the line of will be Cactus Rose 100 in October when I return from Asscrackistan with some great friends!! On that note… time to head out for a recovery run! Thanks for reading everyone! 😉