Day 52.

Day 52 - Albuquerque, NM, to Flagstaff, AZ

Run - Embudito Trail, Albuquerque, NM

From the eyes of Nico.

Today was a good day. A very good day. In fact, I think today may have been my favorite run so far, finally dethroning my North Dakota adventure for the number one position. Now, because I haven’t yet had time to fully reflect on the run (and because I do not yet know how sore I will be in the morning), I can not yet say definitively that this was the best run of the trip. However, on first impression, it seems that it will take that spot. Anyway, I suppose I should actually tell you about the run…

There are two things that make a run amazing for me. The first is that I have to feel good, and damn did I feel good today. Although I was extremely tight yesterday after 11 hours in the car, I woke up feeling fresh and strong, and that feeling lasted throughout the majority of my run. I found my pace right at the foot of the climb, and from there was able to just grind my way up the mountain. This was vastly different than the previous times we did runs like this, first in Crested Butte and then in Idaho. On both those occasions, going up the mountain killed me. Nowhere close to being in distance shape after sprint season, the endless climbs combined with the immense changes in altitude completely destroyed my body, leaving me to struggle and crawl up the slope. After having averaged 50 miles a week over the past month and a half, I didn’t experience any of that pain today. That is not to say that I didn’t hurt at parts; the final mile or so was rough, but more because I was trying to push the pace than because of any lack of strength.

The second is the landscape and trail itself. Today’s trail started in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, the loose dirt and gravel path winding its way across the desert landscape and up through the savanna. Easily the hardest part of the trail, this section wasn’t particularly steep, but the loose dirt made the running slippery, and the cacti encroaching on the trail made it all the more dangerous. After cresting the foothills, the trail sloped down and into a juniper, evergreen, and conifer forest, a life zone drastically different than where the trail began. I continued up through this for a couple of miles until reaching a ridge that opened on a stunning view of the southern portion of the mountain range. At this point the clock forced me to turn around, although not before a hummingbird flitted inches from my ear, nearly spooking me off of the rock I was perched on.

And then, somehow, the evening was just as wonderful. We are staying at an Airbnb about 25 minutes outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. Our flat sits atop a garage, and the deck looks out across a gorgeous valley surrounded by mountains. The afternoon was filled with honks from the geese and clucks from the chickens, but now that everything has gone to bed, it is incredibly peaceful. There is something magical about being able to sit outside, sip a beer, stare at the stars, and not be at all threatened by bugs in the air (one of the many benefits of staying at altitude. Also, the slight breeze helps).

And with that, I am out. We are less than a week away from completing our journey, and I need to make sure to enjoy every moment of it, especially the serenity of tonight. Sleep well…

Facts/stats of the day:

Miles driven: 346

Miles run: 26.5

Elevation gained (feet): 5545

Close calls with cactus on trail: 17

Arizona Alzheimer's death rank: 7th