FKT: Michelle Hummel - Watermelon Loop in the Sandias (NM) - 2020-06-27

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
3h 35m 54s
GPS track(s)

FKT for the Watermelon Loop in the Sandias.  Race Report 6/27/2020. 

The forecast was for warm weather with a high of 92 degrees, so I started early at 5:48 am.  The parking area is closed at that time of day, so I parked a mile away and hiked/jogged to starting point at the Pino trail head.  It was a good distance for a warm up.

I had run a variation of the Watermelon Loop a number of times, but this is the first time I've run the "official" route.  The variation I usually do adds about a mile and takes me the Sandia Crest House at the highest point of the Sandias.  The official route goes directly to the tram, cutting off about a mile, and about 300 ft elevation gain.

I drink a lot of fluid when I run and I carried 3L since I tend to drastically slow down when I get dehydrated.  I also carried some Clif bars.  I had 1.5 L of water in a reservoir, 2x500 ml of sports drink and coke in front vest pockets, and 500 ml water in hand.  I had about 500 ml left after I finished, which I completed as I started walking back to the car.  My husband, Albert, was at the finish which was a treat!

The first mile is slightly downhill, followed by about 2 miles of rolling terrain on the foothills trails.  Between mile 3 and 4, the foothills trail ends at the base of the tram and I picked up Tramway Trail.  The Tramway Trail is deceptively difficult and is poorly marked in spots.  There are two points when the trail goes through a sandy arroyo and it's not obvious which direction to go.  I knew from previous runs here that this is a difficult section, so I ran the route on Wednesday to refresh my memory.  Turns out the first arroyo, you head down and then pick up the trail, the second arroyo you head up and pick up the trail.  Then there is a steep climb before connecting with the La Luz trail.

The La Luz trail was very busy with runners and hikers.  Hikers seemed more than happy to step over to the side to let runners pass.  It is a steep trail and I imagine they didn't mind having an excuse to catch their breaths!  There are a lot of switchbacks and about a two mile section that crisscrosses back and forth over a rock slide.  The rock slide makes running difficult.  Between picking through the rocks, the steepness, and the elevation I averaged 16 minutes per mile for mile 12.  But I knew to expect a pace like that on that area.

Near the top of La Luz, the trail branches over to the Crest House (where I usually go) or over to top of the tram.  The branch to the tram is much more mellow than the alternative so that was a treat. The tram is closed because of the coronavirus, so there wasn't the usual crowd of tourists.  I picked up the Sandia Crest trail and continued south.  At about mile 15, I rolled my ankle and had to walk it off for a few seconds. The trail is overgrown, with low lying bushes, and it is to see rocks and roots.  Fortunately, I picked up running again soon and felt fine. 

At about mile 17, the route cuts down Pino trail.  There are some steep and technical sections on the descent.  Near the bottom of Pino it mellows out and I was able to get a 6:40 mile.  There were a lot of crowds here as well.  A lot of people out with their kids and dogs. Running down Pino is tough technically and muscularly, but not too hard on the cardiovascularly compared to the climb up La Luz. 

Finished in 3:35:54, running solo and unsupported for the entirety.  Overall I felt pretty good during the run.      

I tracked with Garmin GPS watch and Spot tracker.  The Spot tracker was set to report every 5 minutes, but under-performed.  Recorded fewer data points than anticipated, but had data points over a number of different course locations.  Perhaps the orientation of the device in my pack was not optimal as battery is still good.