By Olivia Dwyer | Photographs by Dave Cox
How’s this for a pre-race warmup: Wake up at 5 a.m. Help organizers set up the staging area so every competitor gets free chai while they pin on number bibs. Pedal uphill to the mile-six aid station. Fill water cups and slice bananas with the wife and kids. Jump back on the bike and chase singletrack downhill to make the 9 a.m. start of the eight-mile long trail running race.
The good karma worked for Doug Kast, who won the Bull of the Woods Run in Taos, New Mexico on September 17. The nurse practitioner finished the Sangre de Cristo mountain run in 1:10:09. Hannah Kligman, a wildland firefighter with an ultra habit, crossed the line 43 seconds later.
Taos is full of outdoor athletes like Kast and Kligman, but this Northern New Mexico town of 6,000 lacked much in the way of local events. Enter Taoseños Brad Higdon and Tze Yong, who organized Bull of the Woods on trails within the privately owned Northside at Taos Ski Valley. The course is both beauty and brawn. “We designed the course to maximize singletrack and views,” says Yong. “The hardest part is right at the beginning. You start at 10,000 feet and climb three miles through lush forest and high altitude meadows. Then you pop out on a ridge and there are peaks everywhere—you can see for 50 miles.”
The inaugural field of 71 runners earned views of 12,481-foot Kachina Peak and a post-race fiesta that offered turkey and quinoa wraps, homemade hummus and veggies, and raffle prizes donated by local sponsors. Race proceeds go to the Taos Sports Alliance, Taos Search and Rescue, and the local high school cross-country team.
Yong says Bull of the Woods will be back next year with longer distance options. But if you come for Kast’s podium spot, be ready. For a cool down, he went back uphill and worked that aid station. The next day, he helped train the high school mountain bike team. Watch for his karma to peak at Bull of the Woods 2017. bullofthewoodsrun.com
If you go: There’s more to Taos than art galleries and green and red chiles. “The real draw is what I describe as slow living,” says Yong. “There’s a mix of people and cultures, but compared to bigger towns with outdoor scenes, it’s not as busy.” Gear up at Taos Mountain Outfitters or the Mudd-N-Flood Mountain Shop.
Michael’s Kitchen Classic diner service—everyone’s “hon” here—with a New Mexico flavor. Think chile on everything from burritos to burgers, inside an adobe building with wide-plank floors and vigas overhead. michaelskitchen.com
Stagecoach Hot Springs A 10-minute drive north of town and a half-mile walk down into the Rio Grande Gorge, 97-degree natural pools wait riverside. Locals friendly. Clothing optional. taos.org
Taos Mesa Brewing Sip a Fall Down Brown amber ale with point-blank views of the Sangre de Cristos at this microbrewery and music venue powered by a solar greenhouse. By the airport. taosmesabrewing.com