The only race I could find was a new one – the Las Cruces Half-Marathon – but information was scarce. It was being sponsored by a group out of Florida that appeared to have its priorities elsewhere. The website was inaccurate and incomplete, maps weren’t available, and there did not appear to be local contacts.
This situation continued into the fall – when most people interested in running a race from out of the area want much more definitive information. My inquiries were generally answered very unsatisfactorily, although I ultimately was convinced that there would, at least, be a race on that weekend, in that city. Intuition prompted me to pass on it – since planning was obviously subpar – but schedule realities won out and off to New Mexico we went.
Our fears weren’t allayed when we arrived at the pre-race “expo” to pick up our packets and get final instructions. There was a table or two, a couple of people giving out packets and shirts and a big sign that read “Volunteers Needed”! The next morning the weather actually looked promising for the run – and there were even busses taking people to the starting line; unfortunately, they were also taking people running the shorter race, who should have started elsewhere. Organization at the start line was what we had expected (little or none) and until they lined us up at some tape they had put up, we didn’t even know which way we would be running. The starting gun was replaced by someone saying “Go” and off we went!
Surprisingly, support ON the course was reasonably good – there was plenty of water and fluid, but as we reached the halfway point, the course turned into a gravel road on a levee beside the Rio Grande River – something which had not been advertised or expected. Later, we ran some tracks across plowed fields as we approached the final stretch towards the stadium – and pavement again! (Don’t forget – runners are a bit anal when it comes to expectations. Tell us about something so we expect it, and we are okay, but when we expect something different it’s one of those “mental” things.)
Post-race food was actually decent and while partaking of some pizza and other offerings, I even learned I had placed first in my age group for the race. (Okay – the field wasn’t huge – only 264 finishers in the half-marathon and five in my age category – but first place is first place!) That prompted us to stay for the awards ceremony. One age group before they got to mine – they ran out of awards – so we left with our finishers’ medals and the validation of my intuition that the race wasn’t going to be put on very well.
Should I have listened to my intuition? When everything is said and done, we completed the race and we checked off New Mexico and State #44. And the trip, itself, turned out to be a good one. Las Cruces lies about 45 minutes north of El Paso so we flew in there and after a disappointing Mexican dinner that night had a great visit the next day to a small, relatively unknown National Park – Guadalupe Mountains – on the Texas, NM border. It is an impressive range with some beautiful desert and mountain landscapes. We did a 4-5 mile hike into Devil’s Hall and the Hikers’ staircase, a natural stone stairway in the bottom of the canyon and thoroughly enjoyed it.
We spent the next morning exploring Carlsbad Caverns (also a National Park) and were equally impressed. The size of the underground rooms is truly unbelievable until seen – and the cave formations were great. There was a loop trail over a mile in length just going around ONE of the huge caverns.
After the race on Saturday we visited White Sands National Monument – with beautiful white silica sand and dunes – and enjoyed sledding down the dunes and a beautiful sunset. We had borrowed sleds from the local bishop, whose wife watched Rachel for us during the race. Getting acquainted with their family was also very enjoyable. A highlight in Las Cruces was an old Spanish Plaza in Mesilla, with street vendors, small shops, and restaurants.
New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment. Although I wouldn’t rate the race that way, our small slice of south central New Mexico lived up to its billing. It is not likely a place we would want to live, but has much to offer visitors, including lots of outdoor activity options and an enticing climate to enjoy them in with lots of sun, pleasant winters and summers that are not as hot as you might expect. So where does that leave us when it comes to intuition? I guess I’ll continue to let women run with it!