Most Excellent Introduction to Trail Running

By: Kris Givens

This was my very first time to run a trail race and the furtherest I have ever run in my life. I ran the 25K. My initial worry was that I had never been in that canyon, not even to train, and I am running in fairly flat terrain where I live in New Mexico. Maybe God protects fools but the climbs and descents were not bad at all. The first four miles or so was the pack ironing themselves out, as passing is sometimes a bit tight on the mid canyon wall trail. My biggest mistake was deliberately starting at the back of the pack, having no idea how well I would or even what pace I would be able to run in this new environment. It ended up being way too slow for me and I spent those first miles passing. My other issue was it was so gorgeous there, with the sun rising and illuminating the western canyon walls, as we started on the easter side, and I spent some time taking photos. And again running the western side trails. Words just cannot describe the beauty there. It is a surreal landscape. The weather could not have been any better if custom ordered. Coolish at the start and a pleasant warm during the run. I was having so much fun I never looked at Strava until mile 11 and was shocked I was so close to finishing. I rarely used my music as I was just enjoying the environment so much. I ended up a respectable 7th in my age division of 50 year olds and I think 177 or so out of 377 in the 25K. I was very very happy with this. At the end I felt so good, was sorry it was over, that I am now training for 50K next year. Road running has become boring after this.

The trail is soft red dirt and rocky on the mid canyon wall trails. Upper Comanche on the east has quite a few up and downs first couple of miles then for the next four miles this will be the most up and down climbing you will do, with somewhat narrow trails at points. After six miles or so you work your way to the western side of the canyon and enjoy nice soft dirt trails, very minimal sand, and the red sandstone Spanish Skirt formations here are breathtaking, the climbs and descents are further apart. You end up running along the creek, under a canopy of massive cottonwood trees and groves of gorgeous western soapberry trees. The creek was running very well at the time. It cool and nice in the river bottom area and you will run against beautiful cliffs the last portion of the run. We live 100 miles from there, had never gone, and now own a yearly state park pass and have been back three time. I plan on doing a midweek training run there.

Things to know:

There are showers in the campground which do the job. Your cell phone service on the canyon floor is poor at best. Do not count on it. I will be carrying a Garmin satellite SOS thing my husband has ordered for this reason for safety. Entrance to the park is $8 per person. On weekends this canyon is busy as people from Amarillo and Lubbock frequent it. Upper Comanche and Lower Comanche trails will be less populated. For someone doing their very first trail run, such as I, you could not get any better. Challenging enough for seasoned runners and very achievable for the newbies. It is not too far fetched to say that you can possibly see a rattler on these trails, but if a crowd is running I doubt they are an issue. Mountain lions are in the area, but crowds will keep them away. I am a bit leery on running along there midweek due to this but have not heard it being an issue like it is in places on New Mexico trails. But just know this, it is a wild environment

As for the race and the way it is run: very, very well. I have cycled in numerous events, major (Hotter N Hell 100) and minor (Steaming Wheels) and few 5Ks and a half marathon, and when I did endurance racing with my Arabians, so I have a fairly good idea of how events are run. In my opinion this is a very well run event. There are so many aid stations that carrying water is not a requirement, however I did carry my own. It actually felt luxurious to have so many aid stations after a summer of training in remote NM with no support. Well stocked and friendly. Only the first aid station, Hackberry, is not in a situation where a vehicle can park close. I am saying this as my husband drove to each one and was there for me, cheering me on. You can park and walk a short ways. Plenty of water, electrolyte drink, and fruit, etc. and porta-potty at each one. I am not sure the total number of runners for the entire event but the 25K group had 377. The start is at Mack Dick pavilion and there are plenty of porta-potties. There have a food truck at the end, some tables with shirts and other running gear, etc for sale. Go Fit out of Amarillo, TX, my favorite running store, is the sponsors and they have been doing this for something like 35 years, give or take.

Next year I will run at least the 50K. Oh, the medal you get is beautiful, as was the long sleeve cool shirt.

Kris Givens

I am 54 years old. I started running last year to combat PTSD and found it very healing. I am in the early stages of building miles and the foundation to run ultra marathons. I am the person you will see on the trails running with a huge smile, ear to ear, as this is the first time in my life I have found peace and sheer joy. Namaste!

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