Tuesday, October 22, 2013

An unashamed commercial for my home town, and a race report.

Dear Diary,

I imagine at times that one of the reasons I'm not a better athlete is my lack of focus. I tend to get bogged down in little things, like trying to get one particular song to repeat on my player, taking pictures of how beautiful the sky is, and the beginning chafing on my left arm.

I ran the Duke City marathon, here in my town, for the first time ever. The first half of the marathon was pure punishment. My feet, legs, and lower back have now formed a union and have invited me for negotiations on what will happen next weekend. Shh. They don't know about the marine corps marathon yet. Anyway, my legs were tired. Might be related to the 55k I did in sand the week before. Or not.

I made the following statistical observations about cyclists on the bisque trail. Yes, I ran an ANOVA. Don't bother me with details.

  • Statistically, cyclists are duchier if they're male. Women tend to give wide passing space and even slow down a bit. Some even say "hi". Males tend to squeeze on by you, causing a breeze, determined to share your half of the trail. Why, how dare you suggest that they give you space as they pass! It's not like they demand space when they're being passed by...oh, wait.
  • the more spandex, the more of a duchebag you are. Of course, there are outliers.
  • Statistically, if you aren't wearing a helmet, you're friendlier. Still! put on a helmet, please!
Not my picture: Central Avenue, formerly Route 66.

I focused on my white whale, to keep my mind off how tired my legs where, and the odd feeling that someone had their hand wrapped around my rib cage, to keep my lungs from expanding.

White whale number 1: this was the runner with the teal shirt whose family showed up, swapped out her bottles, and gave her new supplies at mile 14. I decided I must catch her. She bolted down the trail and out of sight, sooooo....

White whale number 2: she had on a shiny skirt. She also made all manner of grunts and loud exclamations when she ran, giving her two reasons for me to try to chase her down. I worked on that for miles 18 to about 22, but she was rock steady. It wasn't easy. But then, lo and behold, at mile 23 as I finally struggled past her, there not too far ahead of me was teal shirt. At about mile 24ish. Sweet Baboo met me to accompany me. He doesn't pace, he follows. He'd been worried about me since seeing me on the trail, where I was "way back" in the pack. It wasn't easy, but I passed teal shirt around mile 25, passed a few more people, and blazed into a 6:23 finish that may possibly be the slowest road marathon I've ever run.

Not my picture. Cottonwoods against the fall Albuquerque sky.

It be hooves me to explain why I even bothered. This course was nice, though not the most imaginative one. It winds briefly through downtown and the Country Club neighborhood, before heading up onto the Bosque trail through the blaze of golden cottonwood trees with a Torquoise sky overhead.

Before I'd even reached the half marathon turnaround, the front runner came hammering down the path, a tall, skinny white kid. A quarter mile later the second runner came down. I wanted to say, oh, bless your heart--you're never gonna catch him, so must relax and have a good time on the trail.

I have run this trail in training, as it is the only flat run available here, about a hundred times, alone, I pairs, in groups. I suppose that might be the reason I have never done this marathon--I was so over this trail.

The Bosque trail is a nicely paved, two-narrow-lane trail that cuts through the city from north to south, avoiding all intersections by use of passunders. We are to be envied for it. It is well-maintained, has its own patrol, and on most of on each side there is city-owned "open space" where nobody can build. For much of it, on one side of the path is an equally sized gravel path. It's part of the riparian environment surrounding the Rio Grande River that cuts through the center of Albuquerque. It is heavy with cottonwood trees, and from my house up in the foothills, in the fall it looks like a steak of fire running through the valley.

The path itself is connects with a large number of other paths in the city, and one can literally run very long runs without dealing with traffic. From north to south it is something like 30 miles long, through the middle of the city. It connects with another bike path that runs through the city, slightly to the east, called the North Diversion channel. There are more paths traveling from east to west.

The Bosque bike path as it heads north, under Montano road.

Cyclists, runners, and people commuting by bike and foot use these paths to go all over the city, with minimal crossing of intersections and occasional travel through residential neighborhoods. It's one of the things that makes Albuquerque so great.

If I'm gushing, it's because I've never lived in a place so awesome. The mountains are to the east, so you always know what direction you're heading. In the winter, there is snow on the mountain, and skiing. I do not ski, but I like the idea of living in a desert with a river, where I can bike, run, and hike in the mountains with minimal travel.

The weather is great here, too, since the altitude in Albuqueque ranges from 5200 feet in the valley to around 6000 feet up in the foothills, near where I live. On the day of the marathon it was in the forties in the morning and never got higher than low to mid sixties--perfect for a slow run. Of course, that's an advantage for athletic training, too. We have groups of Kenyan runners that live here and practice running in our foothills. Traffic? Very manageable. Population? Around 600,000, I think. And don't forget that Breaking Bad was filmed here. New Mexican food? Sloppy-looking and extremely spicy and tasty. (Most New Mexicans roll their eyes at what other places call "spicy.")

Not my picture. Mountains, foothills, city, and river valley. FYI: I local saying is, "when the mountain's pink, it's time to drink."

The population of Albuquerque by and large, is a mixture of Latino Hispanics, White Hispanics, Pueblo and Navajo Native Americans, some African Americans, and oh, some White Euro-Americans too. There's some various Asian neighborhoods and associated restaurants. I don't think a lot of discrimination occurrs these days because nobody really knows what anyone "is." I've met blue-eyed Isleta Indians, and Latinos who speak with a Spanish accents but don't speak any Spanish. After a while, everyone just is. Living their life, doing their thing. I love that about Albuquerque. I take it for granted, and I'm startled when I travel outside of New Mexico and people assume from my white face that they can share very prejudiced thoughts with me. I'm not used to hearing it.

Yes, there is some crime here. There is also goodness. A city that just celebrated its 300 year anniversary has had time to settled into its identity.

So, it's with no small amount of embarrassment that I haven't run the Duke City marathon before. But when Sweet Baboo told me it was their thirtieth running, and I realized it was my fiftieth marathon, I just had to, you know?

So I did. It was my way of honoring my home. When Sweet Baboo brought me here in 2000 I wasn't impressed. Now, I wouldn't live anywhere but kitschy, quirky, Querque.

Giant "pots" representing various pueblo traditions line the inside median of east I40.




  1. It does sound like a wonderful place to live! We have a similar set of trails here, except that while there are over 100 miles of trails, they don't really go anywhere you want to go transportation-wise. Still great for running or riding, particularly if you're not interested in elevation change.

    As someone who considers herself as more of a cyclist than a runner, it never fails to irritate me how rude so many cyclists are. The stealth pass that scares the shit out of me is a particular peeve.

  2. Your pictures and descriptions make me want to visit! And eat! Wow.

    How's the climate? I envy your lack of mosquitos, but how hot/cold does it get? Here in Minnesota people are surprised by how hot (and humid) our summers are -- and sometimes equally surprised that so many people run and bike outdoors year round. This is the perfect time of year for running, though -- around freezing in the morning, getting into the 40s with sun during the day. Good times!


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