Saturday, June 10th, 2023 at 7am

Due to fire restrictions, the Chimney Melon 50k has was cancelled in 2022. If there are no fire restrictions, it will be held on June 10th, 2023.

Please arrive at least fifteen minutes early. You may need to drive around the gate where later in the day they’ll be taking money for people parking in the base of the tram lot.

This page was last edited on Wednesday, December 28th, 2022. It will be updated as we get closer to June.

Last Year’s (i.e. 2021) Pre-race Briefing (added on Friday, June 11th, the day before the race)

On Saturday, June 5th, I did the second loop, carrying loppers and a saw. I did not make any wrong-turns, but unfortunately my GPS track had some random multi-mile diversion that rendered it useless. I did, however, spend hours doing trail maintenance, so the second loop is pretty clear. OTOH, I haven’t been up Chimney Canyon recently, so it may be a little overgrown, although I did do a bunch of trail work on it way back on the first of May.

If you haven’t read rmsquires’s comment from yesterday evening, please do so. He’s right, I went back and looked at my 2019 tracks and although the route is correct, it claimed the highest point was > 12,000 ASL, so it too was borked (my GPS watch is from 2014, so it was pretty old even two years ago).

This morning’s air was smokey, but significantly less than the previous two days’. Be good to your lungs, but unless the air quality takes a significant turn to the worse, I plan on doing the entire course. This is not a race I run quickly even in the best of circumstances, so I think I’ll be OK.

In the morning, you’ll probably have to drive around the gate where later in the day they’ll start charging people to park. I’ll be bringing my ugly red Dodge 1500 truck and will park at the south end of the Tram parking lot, in a position that gets a little shade during the hottest part of the day. Please find me as soon as you arrive and let me know what your plans are and, if you want, your cell number. In exchange, I’ll let you know what I have in my cooler that you can help yourself to and I’ll make sure your effort goes up on webscorer.

Last week I saw a snake (probably not a rattlesnake) on the course and the following day I saw two different snakes on my Sunday bike ride. Over the years I’ve seen rattlesnakes on these trails at this time of year. Pay attention to where you’re stepping and if you listen to music as you run/hike, you may want to turn it down fairly low when you’re in the foothills area where they’re most common (although I’ve seen a fairly high altitude timber rattler once on La Luz up in the rockslide area!).

Spectators are welcome at the start. If you live in Albuquerque and are a trail runner but find this event too daunting this year, feel free to come out and start your exercise tomorrow at the same place, perhaps heading south, where “normal” people run.


The Race Itself

Chimney Melon 50k is the newest addition to the Albuquerque Fat Ass Series. It was first test-run by Cliff Matthews and Jeff Edgar in 2018, then was very poorly put on as a race in 2019 and 2020 (although the 2020 course was slightly altered due to the Tram being shutdown). The 2021 edition is likely to have few participants, but please read on. If you can’t make it this year, it’ll be here next year (very probably two weeks prior to the San Juan Solstice race).

This is a very tough “50k”. It’s about 34 miles long and has about 15,000 10,000 feet of elevation gain. However, the toughest part is done first and there are plenty of places a runner can bail, which is not the case with the Mt. Baldy 50k. In fact, Chimney Melon 50k was added to the Albuquerque Fat Ass series to give local runners something hard they can test themselves on that is much less dangerous because (other than the ascent up Chimey Canyon), it’s run on popular trails with easy escape routes.

The Chimney Melon 50k starts at the base of the tram and uses the Tramway Trail and Old La Luz to get to Chimney Canyon, which you ascend. You then run over to and descend Pino. Then it’s back to the base of the tram, where you turn around. You head back over to Pino for an ascent to La Luz, then use Old La Luz and the Tramway Trail to get back to the finish.

So, you only hit Chimney Canyon once, on the way up.

It’s a semi-open course, in that you must start at the base of the Tram, get yourself over to Chimney Canyon and ascend it to the aspen glade, then get over to Pino and descend it, get back to the base of the tram, turn around and ascend Pino, get to the top of the tram and descend and get back to the base of the tram (on your feet; if you take the tram down or head over to the crest and hitch-hike down, you’ll have had a fun day, but not get ranked in the 50k standings).

There are some short-cuts that you probably need to employ if you want it to be under 35 miles. As such, I (Cliff Matthews) will run/hike the ascent with the slowest entrant to point out the two turns that may not be obvious. The first one is is a right turn off the Tramway Trail that gets the runner to the Old La Luz by going up over a hill. The second is above the aspen glade and turns off Chimney Canyon to the west of the radio towers, connecting to the La Luz spur trail.

I’ve uploaded my 2019 tracks to Strava. More recently I’ve also done the first loop and attempted to get a clean run of the second loop, but I got slightly off course. I’ll be making another attempt at the second loop on Saturday, June 5th (when I’ll do some additional trail maintenance).

Strava subscribers can download GPX tracks from those links. Unfortunately, WordPress, won’t allow me to upload GPX files, so if you’re not a Strava subscriber email me and I’ll send you the GPX tracks.

This is a fat-ass race. It is likely to be hot. You will need to provide your water (bring a lot) and calories (bring more than you think you’ll need). Take a headlamp with you on the second loop (or start with one if you’re sufficiently forgetful that you may forget to add it to your gear after the first loop).

There’s a chance you can use the vending machine at the top of the tram or get water there, but let’s not be pests. The more you carry the more exercise you get and the better your chance of helping someone else out. Assuming you park at the base of the tram, you’ll return to your vehicle in between the first and second loop.

Yeah, I know it’s awfully close to the race date, but even if you have no interest in this race, spread the word if you know any crazy-ultra runners or wannabees. Remember, I’m planning on escorting people on the first lap, so this is a good chance to see the beauty of Chimney Canyon, the trail that is the foundation of some truly great training adventures in the Sandias, like the Chimney Canyon Threepeat!

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