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New Mexico's First Long Course Tri
Big Success and Big Challenge in a Small Town!
On Sunday, September 25, 2011 HEROS, Inc. (Healthy Endeavors Require Our Support – a 501c4) hosted New Mexico’s first ever (yes I know it’s hard to believe in 2011 but first ever) long course tri. Race organizers are proud of this accomplishment and are quick to point out that 5 years ago only one local had even seen a triathlon (Race Director, Kori Mannon)… now the community hosts one of the largest intermediate tris in the state, has its own youth tri team – Grupo Loco (whose motto is “We Tri Like Crazy” and has grown to over 14 members in 2 years) hosts 2 youth races a year, hosts Dam It Man Triathlon (perhaps the toughest Sprint Distance race in the region), and now has the first NM long Course Tri to its credit as well. This little community definitely has small town values but has big dreams and big results when it comes to triathlon.
The Elephant Man Long Course race was held in conjunction with the 5th annual running of the Elephant Man Intermediate distance tri and shared portions of the racecourse. 71 athletes registered for the event but only 64 completed it in its first year…however, they were without a doubt some of the best and most seasoned athletes around and included the likes of Clay Moseley, Matt Napier, Jaime Dispenza and Anne O’Neil to name just a few.
The course consisted of a 1.2 mile open water swim in the beautiful and protected waters of Dirt Dam cove in Elephant Butte Lake where water temps were 74.5F. Water levels were lower than normal this year which resulted in an even longer run from water’s edge to T1 – up a graded sandy trail that surely added to everyone’s T1 time. The bike is a challenging 56 mile route that includes over 2600 ft of climbing and this year handed athletes over 7 miles of head wind while headed to a turnaround point on a false flat section...many were down to less than 10mph and thankful once they hit the turnaround where their speeds increased to over 40 mph as they made the return to T2. The initial 6 miles of the run are primarily shared with the Intermediate course and includes .5 miles of sandy hilly terrain before athletes top out onto the roads that lead them across the secluded roads to Elephant Butte Dam (which are normally closed but are opened for these special events and allows gorgeous views of the area). Long course participants were surprised that the second portion of the run was even harder than the first as it includes 7 more miles of extremely hilly terrain, with no flat sections but gorgeous stretches through the Turtleback Mountain Resort and Sierra del Rio Golf Course development.Overall winner Clay Moseley, with a time of 4:45:25 isn’t sure there are that many who can really race this course and says it’s one of the hardest courses of this distance in the country. Some of the challenge was eased by the fact that over 250 local volunteers (out of a community of 2500 full time residents) come out to support the event! Another area local, Mario Maez trained for over 5 months to complete his first-ever long course in his own back yard. He is not shy to admit that even though he trained on the course, it didn’t make it any easier but he learned so much and has never felt “so exhilarated” as when he crossed the finish line. Mario overcame many obstacles and traded other life addictions for the sport of triathlon. He relinquished his taper time so that he could personally help volunteers sweep portions of the bike course in rural areas of the county, he spent hours the day before the race making sure port a potties were plentiful around the course (which he supplies free of charge). He finished with a time of 8:38:03 with dozens of locals at the finish cheering him on and completely inspired by his efforts! Volunteers agreed they would put in all the time and work again next year for moments like this one with Mario! … No doubt if this year is any indicator, there are even bigger things to come from this small town.