Monday, May 30, 2011

Besides food, I will also run for pottery.

Note: photography on the Acoma Reservation is forbidden, so the pictures of the landscape here are taken off the Internet.

Dear Diary,

Baboo and I left home on Memorial day at five am, headed for the annual Acoma Seed run. This 8 mile run is held at the Acoma pueblo each year, which is about 16 miles off I40 in some of the most breathtaking scenery you can imagine. As you come over a rise and into the valley near Sky City, you see this:

It's enthusiastically raced by both local tribal members as well runner peeps from Albuquerque. Now, as I'm fond of saying, you can rarely throw a stick in most of New Mexico without it landing on a breathtaking view, so why do they come out 75 miles where there's no cell phone to run 8 miles? Well, first because it's cool: you get to through lands where outsiders are rarely allowed, and second, the age group awards are hand-made Acoma pottery.

The race is informal, timed by yelling "go" and then collecting race bib tags and putting them in order on a board.

I spend much of the pre-race shivering and looking around furtively to try to guess who was in my age group and marveling at the rock formations. The area where the start and finish line looked like this:

See this big sand dune?  Hold this image in your head for a bit.

At the top, Sky City, which has been inhabited continuously since 600 A.D.

Readyyyyyy?  GO!

Mile one a started with a downhill-flattish run that rapidly turned ugly as we turned into about a half mile of deep, soft, fine, sand. Because you know, if you're running a steep uphill, there's nothing better than

Deep, Soft, Fine, Sand. 

After much experimenting, I figured out that hopping up the hill on the balls of my feet worked well for me.
You get to the top and run across an old wooden bridge through a narrow slot in the sandstone, imagining this as the last stronghold holding off the Spaniards, specifically Don Juan Onate, right before he started cutting off the feet of Native Americans as punishment for their rebellion but for some reason there is a town, schools, and statues in honor of this madman.  One of the statues' feet were cut off soon after its dedication, as well it should be, at least.


So then you head down a hill through (say it with me now)

Deep, Soft, Fine Sand. 

End of mile 1.

In mile two, headed down the hill o' sand, I fell in behind a woman as we headed down into a shallow arroyo, and--wait, what? Too late: I tried to leap over a large tangle of piñon and chollo, landing on the other side on a slightly smaller tangle of piñon and chollo branches, rolling over a few times until I wound up on my back, in the arroyo, my legs tangled in branches. I got up, brushed myself off, climbed out of the arroyo, and tried to catch up with the women I had passed on my way down. Most of them turned left at the jeep road and headed for the three mile finish, while I turned right and headed into four or so miles of jeep road covered mostly with large, unexpected patches of
Deep, Soft, Fine, Sand.

The road was described to me as boring, but I disagreed, I found myself headed towards this:
Mesa Enchantida (Enchanted Mesa)

By mile 3, I could feel a pillow of soft, fine sand had built up in the toe of each shoe. It wasn't painful but was an odd sensation having this soft bump under the ball of each foot, like I imagine the sketched shape-ups might feel. I did not feel like I was getting toned, but as I told one guy at one of the many water stations, "I'm going to have to empty my shoes so that I don't violate any tribal laws by taking parts of the rez away."

About mile three or four, I passed a guy who immediately sped up as I passed him, and I was like, really? He ran alongside me for a while, and then I hit a patch of solid jeep road, got some traction, and was able to take off.  For a while. These patches of firm road were greatly sought but well-hidden.

You know, there is nothing that makes me feel slow, fat, and old like

Deep, Soft, Fine, Sand.

I turned onto the road about mile 5.5, and headed into a stiff headwind. It was both cooling and hampering. The last of the 8.3 mile run is uphill. When I finished, there was a Sweet Baboo, (by the way, I'm happy to announce that my iPad now automatically suggests "Baboo"' and even capitalizes it), burritos, fruit and water.

Luckily, despite the bricks tied to my feet, and losing the fight with the branches in a dry river bed, there were only two women in my age group, so I won an award:

When you accept your award, you shake the hand of all the tribal elders.
Lots of the peeps won awards today.
Sweet Baboo, 3rd in his age group, won a pottery medallion.
1st place winners, like friend Ken Gordon, win large pots.  Ken suggested this run, and is going to let us know about more like them.  

Closeup of my award, as we are leaving - you can see Enchanted Mesa in the background.

 Will I come back next year and suffer through

Deep, Soft, Fine, Sand?

Oh, you bet I will.



  1. Why oh why are your race reports so enticing? Now I have another race to put on my to-do list.

  2. Beautiful country side and what a neat award idea. Great job!

  3. Great job on a beautiful race!

  4. Can deep, fine, soft sand be used to *make* pottery? It would be a two-fer!

  5. Deep, fine and soft all sound like such great things!

    Until you add the sand.


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