Sunday, September 30, 2007

Elephant Butte Race, er, I mean, VOLUNTEER Report.

So yesterday morning, I followed Sweet Baboo on his second trip around the 26-mile course down at Elephant Butte. He was doing this as a training ride and also to get familiar with the course since he would be officiating here at the inaugural "Elephant Man."

Elephant Butte (elev. 4500) gets its name because of the formation that looks like an elephant (click on the first photo, above, and see what you think.).

Pirate tried in vain to show me, "There, look at that flat spot, that's the ear, can you see it?" but to be truthful, I thought it looked more like a shar-pei.

But I guess Elephant Butte is more poetic than Sharpei Butte. I'll let you decide.

The place where we stayed, Elephant Butte Inn and spa, was very nice, and in fact I think the race should adopt their logo for the T-shirts. The one they have was drawn by a local guy, and I can understand the loyalty to him and his effort, but it's weird seeing what appears to be a picture of Ganesh riding a bike with a snorkel and fins.

So anyway.

When Baboo got to the hill they call, "Big Daddy" I know I stared, open-mouthed and watched Baboo attack it, up out of his saddle, his speed dropping steadily as he climed the approximatley 11% grade, hill headed straight into a strong, steady wind.

Mini-me piped up. "He won't make it"

"Yes, he will."

"He can't. He's moving too slowly. He'll fall over"

He did make it, and then the long climb that followed that one up back onto the mesa.

It was then that I made a couple of phone calls, to people who I knew were leaving Albuquerque at that moment, headed down here to do this race.

Now, the key to talking to athletes when wanting to discuss a daunting course with them without freaking them out is the use the special code. I never understood it before, but I did now. For instance, the long run from the lake up to T1 becomes, "a bit of a jog."

A long hill becomes, "a bit of a climb".

A really big steep hill will, "get your attention."

A strong steady gale becomes, "some wind, but we're hoping it will clear out by tomorrow"

In short, a torturous course becomes, "a challenge."

I swam the course, and it was about 72 degrees, which was good because I forgot my wetsuit. However, it was as choppy a swim as I'd ever had, though I think it was calmer the next day; on the way back in I was swimming straight into the chop and finally started swimming really aggressively, almost stabbing my hands into the water as I headed back to shore. Thank goodness for bilateral breathing.

Then we walked the first miles of the 10K out-and-back. As the first mile approached the road, there was a steep hill of deep sand. By this time I was nearly laughing hysterically. I was soooooo happy to not be doing this race. It seriously violates my laziness threshold. I will do short and challenging. I will do long and easy. Long and challenging, though, just pisses me off.

hilly, windy bike
hot hilly run, damn, I'm glad
to hand out water.

The next morning, we packed up after the swim start and headed out to the aid station. During the race, I was happy to move do a little dance in the road to the music and ring a cowbell. Pirate, Maria and I were wearing our little black dresses from SkirtSports that we'd screeed with our team logo on it, and I hoped to be some inspiration to the male triathletes as they chugged up a steep hill, the top of which was the run turn around and our aid station. Also volunteering with us was VeganRunAmok.

The women triathletes I wasn't as sure how to inspire; short of having Mike and Time stand around shirtless. Everybody, though, seemed happy to us, the water, the gatorade, the gu's, the ice-cold sponges.

As athletes ran up a formidable hill toward our station at the turnaround, they were first met with Pirate in her leetle black dress and cowboy hat, asking if they want a gel, what flavor? Caffeinated or un? Then Mini-me pumped up a super soaker and asked if they wanted to be squirted. Next, there was Maria and VeganRunAmok with water and gatorade. After running around the tent they were offered icy cold sponges. Then they had one last chance for a gel before heading back down the hill. All this while listening to what we hoped was inspirational rock and pop tunes from a loud boom box.

I mostly rang the cowbell and tried to look cute.

At the aid station of this small race (163 signed up) I saw SW TriGal and her sweetheart Hartley, Cindy, Lisa Tri-ing, and many others including Pirate's Beloved.

I was somewhat inspired to do this race next year, but again I'm not sure. It's at the end of the season, after my A races. The bike is unbelievably difficult. The run is completely exposed and hot, and a third of it is through soft sand.

But the venue is nice, and quiet. The pre-race pasta dinner was held out on a lawn on a warm, breezy summer night. The people who live here are nice, enthusiastic, and tend to drive 5-10 miles under the speed limit, making is a nice safe place to ride a bike.

In fact, the only rude person I saw wasn't even from here: she had come down from Albuquerque in her porche and was furious that the road to her slip at the marina was closed. She cursed, and swore, and eventually apologized when the park police agreed to let her go through so that her $2000 (she was happy to inform me how much she paid for her slip) wouldn't be wasted so she could go sit on her boat.

I'd recommend this race. The volunteers (ahem) are awesome, and the course well-marked. While it is challenging, it's up to you to overcome it; the roads are all in good shape so it's just you, the sun, and the hills, baby.

You might even get to see me there.

Yeah, I'll probably do it next year. Sand, hills, and all. (Sigh.)


Our aid station won first place. Woo-hoo! And why not? It was the only aid station manned by real, live triathletes, y'all.



  1. Sounds like a lot of fun! What a hill- great job to Baboo for making it up.

  2. I'm not doing any race called Elephant Butt. I'm just sayin'. I'd get to the finish line and they would say, "It's finally here!!!"

  3. I think you nailed it with that sharpei ... and your aid station *deserved* the win!

    (Also Sweet Baboo rocks.)

  4. Anonymous7:09 PM

    That was definitely the most memorable race I've ever done! It was such a challenge, there was great scenery, and all of the volunteers were very friendly. (and, I think like childbirth, I will forget about how much it hurt someday)

    Your aid station was the best!!! Getting sprayed with the super soaker felt so good. Everyone was encouraging, and I loved the music. Thanks for donating your time and energy to make the race more fun :)

  5. You guys ROCKED; that aid station was the best. And your photos are better than mine; that one of Brian coming up the hill says it all...steep, yet beautiful.

  6. LOL at Nancy's comment :)
    That hill hurts my behind just looking at it! And as for running in sand.... eek
    I'm working at a cheersquad on Sunday for the Melbourne Marathon & will pinch many of your great ideas :)

  7. The results are in from Motion Based, that was a 15.5% grade. People loved that iad station!

  8. So great that you looked after the peeps!

  9. That totally had mne laughing about how to describe the course without freaking people out! Exactly! :)
    Thank you for volunteering and damn you look cute in that dress and new hair cut!!


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