Garden City of Cactus Trail Run, El Paso, Texas, 2007

Garden City of Cactus Trail Run/
Mar. 11, 2007
Franklin Mountains, El Paso, TX
Rocky trails and some paved roads at 4,300′-7,200′
By Mark Dorion

1. Mark Dorion, 47, TX 6:38:17 (last year 6:56:34)

27 Mile:

–Bob Sweeney, 40, NY 5:37:51 (*added a bonus mile or 2!)
–Scott Eilerts, 37, NM 5:57:16

22 Mile:

–Louie Telles, 46, NM 4:40:55
–Ricky DeShaw, 34, TX 4:50:12

(5 starters)

Sunday March 11, 2007– in the mile high desert of Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso, Texas.
In the starting picnic area I shake hands in awe with legendary US ultrarunner Bob Sweeney, who is in the area visiting relatives. After cruising to the win in a local 10Km the day before, Bob plans on a long workout at our “Garden City of Cactus” 50Km run.

Deja Vu (NOTE** This makes reference to another story I wrote): I am wearing a t-shirt and wonder how hot the day will get. A friendly Park Ranger comes by and says Hi but does not ask me to move my car.

Three other fast, veteran ultrarunners– Ricky DeShaw, Louie Telles and Scott Eilerts– join us, an example of how often our small southwest mountain runs have small yet VERY fast and experienced fields (even in 2:30 marathon shape I have finished last in small local runs plenty of times). El Paso is also quite unique in that while we have a lovely 25,000 acre State Park with 50+ miles of trails, all within a 20 minute drive of any of the city’s 800,000 residents, local runners have not yet taken to the trails as so many runners across the USA have to trails in their regions.

After a shout of “Go!” we all take off and run as a group for the brutal first 5 miles (which include a steady climb of 2,500′ in 4 miles to the summit of North Franklin Peak at 7,200′). As this is an old-fashioned, low-key, $4 run, there is minimal course marking and “aid” consists of water jugs and soda pop along the course from time to time. All runners do get a detailed color topo map plus turn-by-turn written directions, though these generally stay in the bottom of runners’ packs or even back in the parking lot.

The course remains rocky and up and down as it circles Sunset Ridge, but gradually becomes more runnable as we move to smaller loops and some fast paved and dirt road stretches. In how many events can one be barely moving at 3MPH pace up a steep mountain one hour, and flying down a plunging paved road at 7:00 mile pace the next?

Another unique aspect of the many southwestern “MTN RNR” style events is that runners will come out and use them for 15-25 mile fast training runs, with no intention of doing the longest or main option. So as I run shirtless and sweating past 27 miles, I realize that I am the only fool still out here! My legs definitely feel better than at the end of the Montana De Oro 7 days earlier, and my final 6:38 is 18 minutes faster than a year earlier here in the Garden City of Cactus.

All the Garden participants go home with local El Paso Chile Company products (and a technical shirt to be mailed later!), and I am greeted by my fast-running daughter Amalia and family just as the sun goes behind black clouds and a cool wind whips up.
The next day I have heavy eyelids but otherwise feel fine while cruising through a 16.5 mile FLAT run. It is Spring Break, some local bushes have buds and flowers, I have no more runs to direct for a VERY long time, and my family and I are going to watch Spring Training baseball! Life is O.K. Maybe I WILL go ahead and enter that famous New York Self-Transcendence 6 Day race coming in 6 weeks after all . The home of multiday running news and events.

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