Monday, May 7, 2012

En Las Huellas de Quetzalcoatl: 14K race in Tepoztlan

Tepoztlan, Morelos


  If your idea of a great race is sure footing, super swag bags and well stocked aid stations, skip this one.  However, if you love lots rocky climbing and descents, winding, incredibly narrow singletrack and panoramic views of Tepoztlan and the surrounding cliffs, this is your race.  It's 2,800 feet of climbing in 14k. 

The race started with a climb up here

   Tepoztlan, about an hour or so from Mexico City, is a popular tourist town that fills up every weekend.  Famous for the "Tepozteco," the ruins on top of one of the cliffs, Tepoztlan is popular with both well-to do weekenders and new age types who speak of the "energy" of Tepoz.  If by "energy" they mean the incredible natural beauty of the place, then they are right on. 

Rocky climbs like this were par for the course

   The race was supported by solo para salvajes, but was independently organized.  It was a simple race, but all the essentials were done well: the course was well marked, the race started on time...and did I mention the single track up on the ridge?
  The race started out at the small zocalo in the centro of Tepoztlan.  We ran straight to the entrance to the Tepozteco where later in the day throngs of tourists would be hiking up to the top.  We quickly veered off this trail, and basically went rock hopping for a long climb until we emerged on top of the cliff.  Note for next year: fly like the wind during that first kilometer before the climb begins.  Once we hit the rocks it was basically a conga line to the top and very few opportunities for passing.
  We then began the first of the single track sections.  This was a relief after the long climb, some of which required the use of four limbs.  There is a lot of scrambling in this race.  You will climb on all fours, climb over fallen trees, traverse ditches, go under other trees, and often be one misstep from a scary slide down the hill off the trail.   Also, because of the steepness of the climbs and the boulder hopping, there is quite a bit of fast hiking as well.  I estimate that I hiked about 30% of the course.
  The first section of single track led gently down and finally, sadly to a fire road.  The aid station consisted of a few guys handing out plastic baggies filled with water.  I had my hydration pack so I used these on my head.  The race starts at 9:30, so it gets hot.  I saw lots of people carrying nothing, which I think is a huge mistake.  At a minimum, carry a bottle.  I recall three aid stations, although there may have been a fourth.

A small stretch of some of the more runnable trail

  After running some roads for a time, we cut over the main trail leading up and hit more single track, but this time with significant climbing up to the top of another cliff.  This section was not quite as runnable as the first section of single track section as there are lots of boulders and sudden steep inclines to deal with.  Finally, we came out on the roads that would lead us back into town.  The ambulance guys were here and one of them commented: "almost there, the worst part is over." Actually, he couldn't have been more wrong.  We only had 3.5 kilometers to go, but for me this was the worst part: wide open running on the road in the sun.  And then to make it worse I made the classic mistake of following the people in front of me and not the trail.  At some point I knew we were wrong as the runner ahead of me kept asking directions and I hadn't seen a trail marker.  Running out on the main hot road into town was miserable: no shade.  We finally met back up with the trail --after running through some sort of procession-- and ran the last kilometer in.  In theory, I didn't officially finish the race as I should have backtracked to the point we went off the trail.  However, that seemed beside the point: I had an incredible experience running up in the cliffs of Tepoztlan, and I really didn't care if my finish ends up being unofficial.  
  I felt strong this race, despite the typical drag at the end when I really needed to pick up the running.  I climbed well, passed (when it was possible) lots of folks on the single track and felt strong throughout the race.  I need to hit the track once a week and focus on speed. 2:28.  I thought this would be a faster course, but it turned out to be much tougher than the 16k I ran back in March in Real De Catorce.  This is not a fast course.  If you love to run but hate to power hike, look elsewhere!
Tepoztlan from high up on the trail

   Next Race: School 10 K (ASF run for education) on May 20 and then the Picacho 21K, a half marathon that goes up one side of the hill and down the other, on June 24. 
  Goal Races: 58th Rover Marathon, August 12.  This is a trail marathon that starts in the south of Mexico City, climbs 33k to Tres Marias, and then heads down into Cuernavaca for the last 9k or so.
    Mexico City Marathon, September 2.  This is a classic city marathon, which means it will be flat (ish) and fast.  I need to start working on speed or it's going to be a long, painful slog.

No comments:

Post a Comment