Both challenging and rewarding, the Taos Bull of the Woods Race is one you won’t forget

Last year, I ran the Taos Bull of the Woods Race for the first time. Several people warned me about how tough it was, and did I heed these warnings?

No.

taos bull of the woods race fraser mountain descent
Thinking only about the finish line, the author gives a quick smile as she descends down Fraser Mountain.John Foster

Despite suffering through the marathon distance, I somehow forced myself up and over 12,481-foot Kachina Peak and 12,163-foot Fraser Mountain to finish in a time that I won’t disclose for the sake of sparing my pride.  

So, as this year’s Taos Bull of the Woods Race approaches, I want to share my insight with those braving the tough course for the first time in hopes that you will have a more successful race than I did. For those running the half marathon, skip the Kachina Peak section and go straight to Fraser Mountain for tips on your race.

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Morning sun hits the summit of Kachina Peak.Tiona Eversole
Kachina Peak
  • A Cool Start

The 7 a.m. start is a chilly one, and you will want a warm layer for the first part of the race as you make your way up to the summit of Kachina Peak. 

Starting in a valley, I did not see the sun until near the summit, which in itself is cool due to its elevation. Much of the descent is shaded as well, so I didn’t take my layer off until Mile 7.5 at the Wild Basin Aid Station.

  • Take It Slow

I’ll come right out and say it — I did not pace myself properly. I started out faster than I should have simply because I felt good in the moment. Somewhere en route to the Kachina Peak summit, I forgot that I still had at least 20 more miles to go and another mountain to climb.

I recommend starting out a little slower than you would expect to for a run of this caliber, then use any additional energy at the top of Fraser Mountain at Mile 18 to pick up the pace and head downhill toward the finish line.

  • What Goes Up Must Come Down… FAST!

The descent of Kachina Peak starts out mellow enough before sending you hurtling down a steep, loamy trail. It’s easy to lose the trail here, so keep an eye out for trail markers hanging from branches of trees. 

  • Mentally Prep Yourself for More Uphill

Be prepared for one final, steep ascent around Mile 8. You’ll climb about 965 feet in less than two miles before the final descent to the “finish line,” which also serves as an aid station for marathon participants. Refuel and replenish liquids before starting the second half of the marathon.

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A runner heads down from the summit of Fraser Mountain.Tiona Eversole
Fraser Mountain
  • The Big Push

Whether you’ve been on the trail for a while or are just now starting your run, the marathon and half marathon are now following the same path to the summit of Fraser Mountain and back. The trail to the Fraser Mountain summit is long and steady. For 5.5 miles, you will run through aspen and pine which provide nice shade from the midday sun. As you approach the summit, you will hit treeline which opens up to stunning views of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness, including Wheeler Peak — New Mexico’s tallest point at 13,161 feet. 

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The volunteers help to make this race what it is. Tiona Eversole
  • Thank the Volunteers

Of all the races I have run, the Taos Bull of the Woods volunteers are some of the 

best. From taking summit photos to providing snacks and sustenance to cheering on complete strangers, I couldn’t have asked for a better support crew than these volunteers. When you stop at the aid stations, be sure to say thank you before heading back out. 

  • Finish Strong

You’ve made it to the summit of Fraser Mountain, taken a moment to check out the 360-degree views, and now it’s all downhill from here.

Just kidding; that’s too easy. On the descent from the Fraser summit, you will find a couple of slight climbs along the way, with one noticeable climb about a mile and a half from the finish line. Remember my advice to save a little energy for this section of the run? This is why.

Once you rejoin the trail you took at the beginning of the run, start picking up the pace as you head toward the finish line. The minute I hit the pavement was my signal to finish strong and make the final sprint toward the finish line. 

beer oktoberfest taos ski valley
Big race days call for big post-race beers.Matt Yeoman
Post-Race Recovery

The best part of completing the Taos Bull of the Woods Race? 

The finish line is steps away from Taos Ski Valley’s Oktoberfest Celebration.Take a few minutes to recover, then head over and grab yourself some food and a big beer. You earned it! And you probably need the calories anyway.

Space is still available, but extremely limited for this year’s race. To register, go to ultrasignup.com.