I prefer to write about the races where everything goes wrong instead of right. I don’t know why. Through extensive psychoanalysis I could probably figure it out, but my self-prescribed and very effective mental health regime consists of two (or more) daily hours of running, plus regular trail races. This means I have no spare time, or spare money, to spend on therapy. It also means I never seem to run out of interesting writing material in the form of twisted ankles, shredded quads, a revolting stomach, added miles spent lost in the mountains, the detrimental effects of extreme heat, or of extreme cold. Hallucinations. Bleeding knees. Bruises. Gross GI issues. And so on. Ultras are unpredictable because of all the ways a well-planned day can unravel.
Yesterday was not one of those days. The Cedro Peaks 45-miler was a race where, remarkably, everything that can go wrong went smoothly for once. This is a very short, very unusual race report.
On Friday, my husband David, our friend SP and I were off to a good start: we got off work on time to actually pack our bags, rather than just throw random items into the car like bank robbers on their way out of town. We arrived in Albuquerque, where we met a couple of running buddies for a sensible pre-race plate of pasta at the sensible time of 6 p.m. We did not overdose on pre-race alcoholic beverages. We packed our drop bags, pinned our numbers, and charged our watches before 10 p.m instead of at 4 a.m. Then we actually went to sleep. On race morning, the alarm went off on time. We woke up without hangover symptoms. I did not forget to bring body glide, sunglasses, my lucky bra, or any other essential item.
We did not get lost on our way to the start. It was cold, but not freezing, and when RD Kim King sent us off into the dawning day, I did not forget to start my Garmin.
No one vandalized the gorgeous course, which was marked so well with ribbons, flags, arrows, and signs that even notorious airheads like me managed to stay on it as it wound its way through the Manzano mountains on rolling singletrack. The views from Cedro Peak and several other spots made my heart sing. Aid stations appeared at regular intervals, veritable gourmet buffets in the middle of the forest. They provided everything a hungry runner could require, i.e. all basic food groups, plus chocolate easter eggs, beer, and so much friendly encouragement that even the grueling climb up the powerline trail seemed worth the effort.
No dirt bikes or four-wheelers ran anyone off the trail. Mid-day temperatures never climbed above the low seventies. The gentle, pleasant breeze that developed in the afternoon did not turn into a gale-force head wind. My stomach happily digested clif bloks and a couple of Fig Newtons. My feet remained blister-free. My knees did not crash into any of the 100 000-plus pointy rocks on the trail. I ran strong for the entire 45 miles, walking only the steep and/or super technical uphills.
I crossed the finish line smiling, tired but not totally exhausted. I did not barf, nor did I bleed profusely. And I won.
It was a perfect day for me. It was an almost perfect day for David, who finished the 50k, and for SP, who ended up second overall. Perfect days make boring race reports. They don’t happen often. But for now, I am basking in the happy afterglow of a rare and beautiful experience. Or maybe I’m dreaming. Maybe I’ll wake up injured, or suffering from DNF syndrome (a condition common among ultra runners, similar to PTSD). But for now, I am enjoying unmitigated post-race bliss, even a little post-race run, since I’m not even sore.
Perfect days also don’t happen by accident. I may have finally learned a little from all the silly race day mistakes I’ve made in the past, but I have also learned that race management is the most important factor in race-day success, or race-day failure. Cedro Peaks is a meticulously organized event, with a rare combination of of old-school friendly vibes and 21st century efficiency. Kim King and her team really know what they are doing, and they do it with a smile. The course is spectacular. Aid stations are well placed, well manned, and well stocked. The finisher awards are handmade tinwork plaques, unique and beautiful. Even the t-shirt is functional as well as pretty. And it fits.
One suggestion: please remove at least some of the 1000 000 000 pointy rocks from the trail. Other than that, Cedro Peaks can’t get much better. I want to thank Kim, Erin, Nick, Ken, Margaret, Kathy, and everyone else who helped make this experience so beautiful. I also want to apologize for boring my readers. Chances are, my next race will be full of the usual mishaps once again.