Triathlon Across the USA: State #22 – New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico; September 20, 2014—City of Santa Fe Triathlon

Reports of wildfires in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado during early July 2018 brought back memories of our trip to the area in 2014. Part of the trip for the New Mexico triathlon routed us through Colorada for visits with friends and family.

Planning the New Mexico Triathlon

In early July 2014, Joy and I were talking with our friends, Steve and Lori.  We had visited them at their Colorado Springs, Colorado home around the time of the Colorado triathlon.

They had made the 1-1/2 hour drive to Englewood, Colorado to attend the event along with my parents. However, we had never taken the opportunity to visit their cabin in southern Colorado, despite more than one invitation.

This time was different.  Our calendar was clear for the period around the New Mexico triathlon, an event yet to be checked off our ‘to-do’ list.

Joy and I were certainly interested in visiting Santa Fe. We had yet another invitation to visit our friends’ cabin, which was a little over 150 miles north of Santa Fe. After that, we could visit my parents in the Denver area.

It was a straightforward decision.

Getting To Santa Fe

We started the roughly 2,500 mile (4,020 km) round-trip journey on Wednesday, September 17th.  Our first overnight stop, a bonus for this road trip, was in Bennington, Nebraska, home of our son and daughter-in-law and their daughter, Mari Lyn.

For the remaining distance to Santa Fe, we followed the less traveled route of US highways, avoiding the Interstate highways and their often heavy truck traffic.

It turned out to be a tremendous choice. Not only was this route about 100 miles (160 km) shorter, but the traffic was much lighter. Besides, traveling through the smaller towns was also a much more entertaining.

We arrived in Santa Fe at about 9pm, ate dinner at a chain restaurant next to the hotel, and crawled into bed for welcomed sleep.

First, Some Sightseeing

After breakfast the next morning, we headed to the historic Santa Fe plaza, where we hopped on a bus for a guided tour of the city. The tour took us past the Loretto Chapel (which we visited after lunch at the Thunderbird Bar & Grill on the plaza), through the art district of Santa Fe, and into the surrounding areas of the city.

Examples of displays from the Santa Fe art district (top/bottom left) and the mysterious spiral staircase at Loretto Chapel (right).

Later in the afternoon, we popped over to the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, the headquarters for the triathlon. I picked up the race packet which, of course, included the race t-shirt for my collection and race course maps.

Steve and Lori arrived at the hotel about the time we returned to the hotel from packet pickup, in time for some authentic Mexican cuisine. While Mexican is not my usual pre-race meal choice because of the spice, I couldn’t pass it up.

7th Annual City of Santa Fe Triathlon

There was one surprise between the time I registered for this triathlon and we arrived in Santa Fe—the altitude.

In mentioning my plans for the New Mexico triathlon, a colleague asked if I knew the altitude of Santa Fe. I responded that I did not.

I then learned that Santa Fe is 7,250 feet (2210 meter) above sea level. I had been to Santa Fe several times previously for business. However, I had never considered that its elevation is 50% higher than that of Denver, the ‘mile-high city’.

The City of Santa Fe Triathlon was a reverse triathlon, the second of this type in which I had taken part.  In the reverse triathlon, the three legs occur in reverse order, or as run-bike-swim, compared to the conventional order of swim-bike-run.

Distances for the three legs of this USAT-sanctioned event were:

  • Run: 3.1 mile (5 km)
  • Bike: 12 mile (19 km)
  • Swim: 0.25 mile (400 m)

This race was also the first one at which I adorned the bracelet, color coordinated to my triathlon suit, that my granddaughter, Kate, had made for me.

My granddaughter, Kate, made me a bracelet, color coordinated with my triathlon suit, for the New Mexico triathlon.


Race day morning was a comfortable, with the temperature in the low 60s °F.

The run started fast, at more than 7.5 miles per hour. The fast start was in part because the course was downhill and in part because all racers began together. Even though I tried to start at a pace I thought I could maintain throughout the run, I started much too fast, even without considering the altitude. The result was a lot of walking later in this leg.


The bike portion took us away from the city center into streets with little automobile traffic. The course was also hilly and, once again, I felt the effects of the altitude.

At one point, while climbing a hill, I felt light-headed. I was sure that I was going to end up walking the bike up the hill. However, I slowed down, avoiding the need to walk. I even picked up few places in the bike leg.


The swim leg took place in the eight lane, 50 meter long indoor pool of the Community Center. At the end of each length of the pool, we ducked under the lane divider to cross into the next lane and swam to the other end in this lane.

About the only thing that I like about the reverse triathlon is the swim at the end. While probably not great for the pool water, the swim washes off the sweat and dust accumulated during the first two legs of the race.

As a result, I exited the pool refreshed.


There were only three participants in my age group.   This meant that despite a slow run and bike, I finished with a podium place and medal.

The medal for this race was actually a laser engraved wood plague. You can see the medal, #4 in the post titled ‘5 Unique Triathlon Medals; They are No Longer Just Metal’.

After the Triathlon

It was then on to Steve and Lori’s cabin. Our home for the next four days was in the Malcolm Forbes Wagon Wheel Creek Estates, a few miles northeast of Fort Garland, Colorado. In July 2018, the area was evacuated because of the threat of wildfires.

Getting to their cabin from the main highway involved an 8 mile, 20 minute trek up a rugged and windy gravel road. On the way to 10,000 feet elevations, we passed cattle and mule deer. Cattle graze on the property as a source of income for the homeowner’s association.

Our friends’ cabin in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Fort Garland, Colorado, our home for four days after the New Mexico Triathlon.

After a relaxing four days, which included a trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve during one day, we headed toward home. On the way, we stopped for overnight visits with my parents in Parker, Colorado, and , for the second time on this trip, with our son and his family in Nebraska.

Another memorable trip with a host of new experiences.

Race Firsts

  • First race at over 7,000 feet (2,100 meters) elevation (Santa Fe is 7,250 ft elevation).
  • First reverse triathlon above 1,500 ft elevation (Mesa, Arizona, venue of the previous reverse triathlon, is 1,243 ft. elevation).
  • First triathlon with an Age Group award produced from wood.

Have You Done a Triathlon in New Mexico?

What triathlon(s) have you done in New Mexico? Is there one you recommend for other triathletes age 50 and over?

Share your comments below.