Thursday, August 8, 2013

La Luz Trail Run Recap - 2013

Marvelous day on the trails of La Luz this Sunday. The big news was Houghton's win over Gutierrez, Simon's first ever loss on the course going back to the late 90's. Houghton had won the gap races over the last few years when Gutierrez didn't compete, then was beaten soundly in their first head-to-head battle last year. But he arrived fit and focused this year and brought the pain to the legendary climber.

The men's leaders (look closely) pass through the rock slide on their climb to the Crest
- photo courtesy of Jim Thompson and the Abq Journal
Hearing this, I envisioned a series of attacks between the two as they ascended the switchbacks, but talking with both runners at the top it sounded more as though constant pressure and pace eventually created a gap that Gutierrez couldn't quite close. Evidently Houghton got to the trailhead in front. Gutierrez then shadowed closely all the way up to the rock slides. By Gutierrez' admission, he felt he had a few missteps in the rock slides, a couple choppy foot placements, which allowed Houghton some separation. At one point Gutierrez felt he needed to cover the gap and position himself back on Kris' heels, but the move was too much, his system red-lined. The gap now closed, Gutierrez couldn't maintain contact and ultimately fell back to recover leaving an even greater separation that could not be regained.

Simon was gracious in defeat but clearly would've preferred the win. It shouldn't escape notice that he spots Houghton 15 years in age, 47 to 32. That's nearly as unbelievable as his streak of victories now come to an end. Houghton was ecstatic in victory. This his fourth La Luz win, he claims that he considers it his first since it is the only one with Simon in the field. Houghton, a 2:20 marathoner, trains with the Dukes Track Club who showed up en masse to sweep many of the top positions in the race including both men's and women's titles (Alexandra Darling topped the women's overall at 1hr58min). Their cheering section could be heard a mile below the Crest as each of their runners went through the finish.

Tony Sandoval at left, and Tom Kirchgessner at right
As for my own run, I started well and felt pretty solid on the road. My split at the trailhead was about 17min30sec. I can't remember if that's good but it slotted me in about 30th for the switchbacks. Miles 3 and 4 are steep, and I struggled to find a rhythm. The first ridgeline was passed in 40min, and the La Cueva Overlook at 60min. Up through the rock slide and in the higher elevations guys started to struggle and move backwards much faster than the pace of my own fade, and I made up several places. I got past four runners in the last stretch below the finish including one who I went by on the Stairs of Infinite Sadness. It made them less sad for me, but maybe more so for him. I was actually able to run the complete flight of stairs which may have been my race highpoint (other than chatting with Tony Sandoval). Counted each step as I went up, there are 37. Finish for me was 1hr45m37s, good for 24th place.

an interview with the two dueling champions - courtesy of R. Cuellar

Full race results can be found here
A terrific photo album by Jim Thompson of the Journal can be found here.

Related Posts:
  - La Luz Recap - 2014
  - La Luz Live Blog
  - La Luz Registration Window Opens

View La Luz Trail Run - Albuquerque, NM in a larger map

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