New Mexico: Harsh and Beautiful

We started our post-Seattle travels with six days in New Mexico. A running race provided the initial impetus (as usual) for this trip. Me, my brother, and our friend Alan all decided to run the Jemez 50 miler in Los Alamos. Everything else was built around that!

We booked the flight with miles on Alaska, and we booked it during their discount period. So we picked up three tickets for 7500 miles a piece for a direct flight between Seattle and Albuquerque. Score!

We stayed in the Sheraton by the airport in Albuquerque that first night because we got in after 9pm. We used SPG points (4000 points – Category 2 hotel) and stayed for free in the Club level – another free score! Plus, the shuttle picked us up promptly and we were in bed quickly after a busy travel time.

Jeff arrived the next morning and shuttled over. We jogged to the rental car place (half the price of the airport rental car pickup) to get our car for the week and then headed to Los Alamos.

We aimed to get to NM just before the start of the race given the high altitude and that we were coming from sea level. The race was on Saturday morning and we got in on Thursday night. The race started around 7000’ elevation and climbed to 10,000’! The basics of the idea is that the body hasn’t gotten fatigued yet from the higher altitude so get in and get running before the body gets worn down.

jemez 50 race

Alan heading out of one of the early aid stations, up a long climb

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express (racked up a bunch of IHG points) for three nights in Los Alamos for the race. It was right next to a natural foods grocery store with lots of vegan stuff and gluten free (for Jeff). The only things I remember about the hotel are: it had a pool and hot tub – big score for Paavo!, the elevator always smelled like hay (weird, right?), and the view out our back window was of a canyon with a trail. Had it not been for the race, I would have wanted to get out on that trail right away!

 

The Race. I went in somewhat banged up and underprepared. I tend to start my mountain running season with a race to kick my butt, and then work my way into shape. The short of it is that I dropped down mid-race and did 50k instead of 50 miles. I went out kind of hard and my quads were screaming early. And then on the first big downhill, the rocks and technical terrain had my right foot pissed off again; it’s been on and off hurting since March! I quickly decided to cut it short after limping along and thinking, “this just isn’t fun today”! They made it easy to drop down too. They told us the night before it was an option, and at the 30 mile mark, you could turn right to head to the 50k finish, or go straight and do a big climb again! I made the turn for home and enjoyed hanging out at the race finish line with Paavo and Julie, waiting for Jeff to finish up.

Brother Bear Jeff finishing the 50 miler

Thankfully, I wasn’t too beat up from the run and was able to get on the trails the next two days before we left town so I could actually explore those trails and the canyon behind our hotel.

We did a little exploring around Los Alamos following the race, but not a ton. There was a nice park in town that we hung out at quite a bit, and Julie and Paavo hit up a Manhattan Project themed museum. Otherwise, it was eating and chilling.

Hanging out post-race with Alan and Luke

On our drive back to Albuquerque, we stopped in Santa Fe for a couple hours. We hit up a book store and got Paavo some new books. We picked up postcards, looked around some other shops as we walked through the downtown area, and then had a good meal at the Bumble Bee Cafe. Fun town. We could definitely go back. St. John’s has a campus there; maybe I’ll go back for more school some day?!

It was then back to Albuquerque for a couple days before flying to Colorado. Albuquerque was a big surprise to the upside. We did two more nights at the Sheraton (using another 8000 points and getting two more free nights!). The highlight was that we were able to use our new Seattle Science Center membership at a couple Albuquerque museums for free entry. For $139 in Seattle, we’re getting access all over the country (we did this last year with our Glazer Museum membership in Tampa, FL!).

The Science Center was the big hit – Paavo and I went twice in two days and spent hours there. We also hit up the Museum of Natural History across the street from the Science Center. With dinosaur statues out front, how could we not go there?! The highlights I remember are the wildlife part of the museum. Paavo held a big corn snake, he watched a box turtle as it walked around the room, ran from dinosaur to dinosaur, and got a little freaked out by the lava cave exhibit and the bat cave. “Creepy” was his word of the day for those parts of the museum!

It was a relatively short and quick trip, but our NM time was good. I was reminded of our time on the CDT and the desolate, but beautiful landscape we spent a month hiking in back in 2013. I loved our NM time on the trail and part of me is drawn to come back and spend more time in the wild outdoors of this rarely visited state.

After our little New Mexico stint, we headed north to Colorado which we planned to call home for the next 6 weeks! NM started the trip off well: beautiful scenery, good running, friends and family, and good kid stuff! Lots of wins – thanks New Mexico!

Pretty much how we all felt after this trip

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