A record 342 runners registered to climb the 2,612 feet from the base of ski hills at Taos Ski Valley to the top of Chair 2 at 11,819 feet Saturday (Aug. 3) - 67 …
A record 342 runners registered to climb the 2,612 feet from the base of ski hills at Taos Ski Valley to the top of Chair 2 at 11,819 feet Saturday (Aug. 3) - 67 more racers than last year.
After climbing over half a vertical mile to start the race, the runners continued back down the other side, following Honeysuckle ski trail and then winding back to the start.
Race director Courtney Tucker suspected the increase in participation might be due to a change in registration platform. By switching to UltraSignup as their race registration page, the Up and Over was able to attract more of the region's serious runners.
Some of those runners, like Javier Torres-Hughes of Taos, followed Saturday's Up and Over with the famously grueling 9-mile trail race, La Luz, on Sunday (Aug. 4). On Sunday afternoon, Torres-Hughes would said he would never do that again. But, typical of those who love to run as he does, he said, "Give me two days. I'll be over the pain and hardship."
Torres-Hughes has run the Up and Over for the past five years, almost always finishing in the top five. This year's race times were fast, and Torres-Hughes dropped time to a 59:50.03, enough for a fourth-place finish.
Tucker set out to create a memorable race, giving attention to countless details. From the fabric of the race T-shirts to the signs along the course that say things like, "Shut up, legs!" to the finishers' medals hand-made in Arroyo Seco by Rotten Stone Pottery, she thought about it.
Though the course changes slightly from year to year, "The experience of being on the mountain in summer where all of us ski is exquisite," Tucker said.
The racers agreed.
"This is the best 10K race I've ever raced," Torres-Hughes said. "It's beautiful and challenging," offering "mental, physical and emotional rewards."
It isn't his strong placement that motivates Torres-Hughes, or collecting each year's new color medal. It's the run itself.
"My goal is always to finish," said Torres-Hughes. "My running is more about the love of it."
While training, Torres-Hughes runs for time, leaving the intrusion of the GPS watch at home. "We're born to do it and do it well," said Torres-Hughes. Acknowledging "the mental game that is running," he said the task is "just convincing ourselves to keep going."
Many novice racers start out too fast, especially up hills. "It's a good way to make a tough race for yourself," commented Torres-Hughes. The leaders of the Up and Over all knew to power walk the steepest sections, saving energy for the downhill.
Downhill trail running is not trivial. It demands complete attention and physical responsiveness. Excessive fatigue creates uncertainty and uncertainty invites a fall.
"Any hesitation, and that's where the danger comes in," said Torres-Hughes.
Runners interested in testing themselves with the Up and Over in 2020 can set aside the first Saturday in August and keep an eye out for race registration information.
"Pick your path and your feet will follow," said Torres-Hughes.
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