MCGAFFEY, N.M. - Forget about start times, timing chips, award ceremonies and official results. It’s all about bragging rights.
That’s what small grassroots events like the Zuni Mountain 100 have done in recent years, and the movement seems to be growing in popularity.
While the idea of unsupported races on unmarked courses in remote areas is certainly not new, much smaller versions of larger events like the Colorado Trail Race, the Arizona Trail Race and the granddaddy of them all, the Tour Divide race, are starting to attract more riders.
A quick glance at the New Mexico Endurance Series website confirms that grassroots endurance racing is alive and well in New Mexico. Names like the San Ysidro Dirty Century, Cochiti 100, Santa Fe Big Friggin’ Loop and the Double Boundary Trail speak to a style of racing that’s becoming more popular: long races of about 100 miles or more that can be done in the course of a day with no rider support.
This year’s event reflected that trend, with the full 74 slots filling up just before the start of last Saturday’s race, and while not everyone showed up, the event still saw about 65 riders hit the trail to make it the largest showing yet. Only four of those riders signed up to complete the full 100 mile course, with the remainder doing one loop for 50 miles.
“It’s harder than Crested Butte, it’s not big long climbs like in the high country, it’s just little rollers. You’re on the gas the whole time,” Jeff Hemperley said. Hemperley was one of the 100-mile finishers.
Indeed, the gentle rolling nature of the Zuni Mountains had a few people fooled into thinking the race would be easier than similar events.
“This course creeps up on you. It’s almost 100% singletrack,” Danny Powers said. “For a race that only had 7800 feet of vertical it just kicked my ass.” Powers also finished the 100 mile route.
Since bragging rights are the main reason for winning the race, the nature of the competition changes.
“Everyone’s just relaxed out there on the course,” Paul Cowden said.
50-mile finisher Eileen Berry agreed “I thought it was so much fun, it didn’t feel like a race at all,” she said.
The Zuni Mountain 100 also coincides with the annual Gallup Trails 2010 party, put on to celebrate another year of building and maintaining the trails that the Gallup area is known for. Racers and locals alike were treated to live music, a beer tasting competition, and pit roasted hog and goat barbeque after the day’s events began to wind down.
The experience left many racers looking forward to next year’s event.
“The trails are just freaking awesome; the party, the food and the people are great too. It’s not too big and not too small, it’s just right.” Tim Nelson said.
As of this writing, results have yet to be officially determined, but the clear winner of the day was Rico, Colo. resident Jeff Hemperley riding his singlespeed. He finished the 100 mile loop in 9:09 to shave off about 33 minutes from his time last year.
Behind him, Danny Powers of Durango, Colo. clocked a time of 10:25.
Billy Schaaphok of Farmington, N.M. did the hundy on his singlespeed for a time of 10:54.
Cameron Brenneman signed up for the 100-miler hoping to break the eight hour mark, but was only able to complete one 50-mile lap due to illness. His time was 4:17.
Mountain biking vagabond Krista Park nailed down an impressive time of 4:13 on the 50-miler.
Michael Clinton was hot on her heals with a time of 4:21. Not far behind him, Dylan Harp clocked a time of 4:36.
To view and purchase more race photos see the Brian Leddy Photography Archive