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Echoguy does El Paso/Guadalupe Mountain

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Echoguy does El Paso/Guadalupe Mountain

Post by echoguy on Tue Feb 23, 2016 9:04 pm

Hey Team. Here's my report from the past weekend adventure. Didn't ever even think about my heart the whole weekend. Sweet!

Race/Hike Report – El Paso/Guadalupe Peak 2016

The closest city to Guadalupe Peak (the highest point in Texas) is El Paso so I was happy to see they had a marathon. They run the race in mid-February, which is generally good for weather in both places, but not so good for amount of daylight. All along I knew the challenge would be to run the race fast enough to allow time to get up and down the mountain before dark, but not so fast that I would not be able to do the hike.

On arrival day I picked up my packet and headed out to Hueco Tanks State Park to do a little bit of hiking. They only allow 70 people in the park at a time, so you either need to make reservations months in advance, which I did not, or wait your turn until someone decides to leave for the day, which I did. I ended up waiting at the ranger station 45 minutes or so, giving me about 2 hours to explore. It was well worth the wait to hike among the boulders and interesting rock formations and see the ancient Native American pictographs.

Race day temps were predicted to start in the low 50s and climb to about 70 by the end. The very low humidity meant sweat would evaporate fairly quickly. The wind was predicted to be at our back for most of the point to point race. On the bus to the start I met a guy from Calgary who did the Salmon, Idaho/Boseman, Montana double a few years ago. I asked if he met John during that weekend and he remembered him well.

One nice thing about smaller races is they generally have very little confusion at the start. We could stay warm on the bus until 10 minutes before race time. I was planning to run between 3:45 and 4 hours to try to give myself enough time to get to Guadalupe. On the starting line with the perfect temps and gentle breeze, I decided to run closer to the 8:30s that would be 3:45 finish and see how many miles I could get in until I started to wilt. The plan was to back down fast if I started to feel hard effort.

The course is run in residential sections and on the bike lanes of bigger streets all of the way from the eastern suburbs to the middle of downtown El Paso. The sun came out about mile 18 and I made sure by then to be getting plenty of Gatorade at each mile aid station. I didn’t notice myself sweating much until about mile 22 and I started pouring water on my hat and shirt at every aid station the rest of the way in.

By mile 22 I was pretty sure that I would be able to finish between 3:45 and 3:50 without approaching the red line of effort. When I am still running my goal pace in the last four miles of any marathon, I can generally see lots of other runners ahead who are slowing. It was certainly true in this race. I could smell blood in the water! But, I had an 8.4 mile, 3,000 feet of elevation gain hike ahead that afternoon so I forced myself to just maintain pace and not push significantly. I felt like the football player in an altercation with the other team who is looking for someone to “hold me back!!”.

I finished feeling good, grabbed some food in the chute and hiked back to my nearby hotel. Since I was a little ahead of time I stopped for some steel cut oatmeal at the restaurant before I took off. I had planned for a 2 hour trip to the mountain and 4 hours to cover the 8.4 miles of the hike. I was stopped by a lot more traffic lights on the highway than I had anticipated so it took about 15 minutes longer than planned. Luckily the two lane highway past the suburbs is 75 miles per hour, so I could make up some lost time.

I made it to the ranger station a little after two and asked where I could find the trailhead. She told me the location and asked if I had a headlamp (why didn’t I think of that?). She advised to plan for 3-4 hours to reach the peak and 3-4 hours to get back. I figured that I was in better shape than the average hiker, but most of them had not started the hike with legs fresh off a marathon. I told her my plan was to hike hard for two hours, then turn around. She said she didn’t care.

I started hiking at 2:22 with sunset at 6. I knew I would be able to see in twilight for 30 minutes or so, but I needed to hustle to make it. I started a little fast, but pretty soon settled into an effort that felt similar to my marathon breathing and effort. My Garmin told me that my pace was 27 minutes per mile. If I could keep it up, I could probably make it. I realized that this was not my usual hike, this was a race. I passed three hikers coming down as I was going up, otherwise I felt very alone on the mountain.

I made it to the summit in 1:54. I decided I had a little bit of time for a few photos, so stopped to take a short break and sign the summit register. In the register box they had a brand new full size Texas flag that would have been fun to include in a photo, but I didn’t have anyone else around to take it or enough time to set it up. After about 5 minutes I headed back down, hoping to make better time on the descent.

After about half a mile I noticed that my pace on the decent was 33 minutes per mile. That pace was not going to get me off in time so I began to feel the excitement of an interesting finish. About 1.5 miles down I crossed paths with a young couple still coming up. I told them they still had some steep climbing and asked if they had a headlamp, which they did. I told them I was relieved and if I didn’t get down before complete darkness, I would be waiting for them to pick me up along the way. It did not occur to me at the time that they were probably going up to watch the sunset from the top and planned to hike all of the way down in the dark.

Just like in the marathon, I took a short break every hour or so to make sure I got some nutrition and plenty of water. I the last two miles I did start to sense some significant fatigue setting in, but luckily my last Picky Bar and a bit slug of water had me back on track within a few minutes. The last rays of sunset on the mountain across the valley was spectacular and on any other hike I would have been stopping every few minutes to take photos. On this hike I had just time for one shot. I remember with about one mile to go that I had what John Bingham calls the “marathon moment” when I realized that I was going to make it back safely.

I made it back to the trailhead with about 5-10 minutes before it was totally dark. I felt a much greater sense of accomplishment at the end of the hike than I did at the end of the marathon. I had experienced just enough drama to make it seem all the better.

So it turns out that this highpoint and marathon combination is getting fairly close to my limits. A hillier marathon or a significantly harder hike may make the experience less pleasant. I learned that anytime I am planning to hike with even the remote chance of being out after dark to pack a headlamp. I also learned that I probably need a few hours after the race to let my legs rest before I take off on a serious hike. In this case the drive was good for me. Virginia next!!

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Re: Echoguy does El Paso/Guadalupe Mountain

Post by Dave Tuttle on Thu Feb 25, 2016 6:30 am

What a excellent adventure Brian!! That you can even consider such a serious hike after a strong marathon is just amazing to me and proof of what good shape you're in.

Thanks for posting, I enjoyed it...

"Didn't ever even think about my heart the whole weekend".
And this was the best part of all!

4X CABG Feb 17, 1999 at 46 years.
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Re: Echoguy does El Paso/Guadalupe Mountain

Post by RoadKillBill on Fri Feb 26, 2016 4:54 am

Well done, Brian! Great race report. I'm with Dave - your speed, stamina and ambition are pretty much off the charts. Q: Do they have wolves, mountain lions and rattlers in that park? Glad to hear you made it back with "plenty" of daylight to spare sunny .

It occurs to me that you might want to brand this type of event, charge entry fees and and collect obscene royalties as it becomes wildly popular throughout the world (there is precedent for guys getting rich off the unlikely evolution of improbable events).

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Re: Echoguy does El Paso/Guadalupe Mountain

Post by twal on Sun Feb 28, 2016 9:24 am

Great job. I did a 10K this weekend and was wiped out.

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