Go West, and Preferably at Race Pace

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Outside magazine, April 1999

Go West, and Preferably at Race Pace
The training secrets of the athletes on the Old Frontier? Play often, work seldom, and always remember that the good guys wear white.

Fashion by Vicky McGarry, Photographs by Rob Howard, Text by Cristina Opdahl

Things disappear in New Mexico. The Rockies whimper out at the Sangre de Cristo range's southern end. Snow melts just as it falls on the high desert plateaus. Horses wander off (and are listed in the local newspapers' Lost and Found). And people disappear, too, at least from lives of convention. Law school hopefuls check out, buy land, and move in. Teachers become steep creek kayakers and vanish, temporarily, over the horizon of a waterfall.

Blame the altitude, or the air, or maybe the sky. They demand a certain adaptability, because their pull can rip even the most hesitant athlete outdoors, sometimes in conditions not typically ideal. Consider the triathlete who works on his heat tolerance in 275 square miles of gypsum sand dunes. And climbers who battle the perfect wall in the middle of a cattle pasture. New Mexico is a place that's both inviting and daunting, and always has been, ever since the days of William Bonney and men in black and white. Some things, it seems, never fully disappear.

Bryant Hafler, Triathlete
White Sands National Monument, home to the bleached earless lizard and the oryx (that's a red African antelope), might be the only national monument bordering a national missile range. Which means it's a beautiful if not entirely hospitable place ù perfect if you're training, as is Hafler, for another crack at the Hawaii Ironman's brutal course. Last year the 35-year-old Air Force avionics technician managed a 10:55:21 finish in the race; his 60 weekly miles across the blistering sands are intended to help better that mark. "The heat in the dunes around midday," he says, quickly, "is just like Hawaii's lava fields." White hooded windbreaker, $370, and white trousers, $200, both by Prada; G-Shock watch, $99, by Casio; tan cap, $25, by Greg Norman Collection.

Doony Spencer, Raft Guide
The remote depths of the Taos Box, a 750-foot-deep, 17-mile-long Rio Grande gorge, attract wildlife ù red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, feral sheep, and so on, New Mexico-style. More to the point, they also attract wind. Great screaming gales of it, funneled into what's essentially a wind tunnel. To some who frequent the popular rafting spot, this would be a demerit. But only to some. "Late summer, when the water's very low, you get a really strong upstream breeze," says Spencer (left), 29 and an eight-year Box veteran. "It builds character." White long-sleeve T-shirt, $52, windbreaker, $58, and blue shorts, $48, all by CK Calvin Klein Jeans; navy-and-black light hikers, $70, by Nike.

Jamie Leeson, owner, Taos Cow Ice Cream Co.
Upon graduating from Boston University eight years ago, Leeson (right) chose to bide his time in Taos while awaiting word on his law-school applications. "I never even opened the replies," he says. Credit the scenery, the biking, the skiing, the...well, you get it. Jurisprudence shelved, Leeson pulled wages as a waiter, bike mechanic, and mountain-bike guide before starting his company in 1993. So in place of research-argue-bill, Leeson's day now proceeds thus: a.m., test new batch of ice cream; p.m., bike off ice cream consumed. Next case. Twill pants, $63, and polo shirt, $52, both by Nautica; polyester T-shirt, $58, by DKNY Jeans; taupe suede Boston clogs, $104, by Birkenstock; stainless steel watch, $795, by Tag Heuer; khaki cap, $24, by Armani A|X.

Gretchen Antinelli and Timmy Fairfield, Climbers
When Antinelli, 28, describes a rock as being beautiful, she usually means in composition (think geology), not within the composition (think landscape painting). Except, that is, when she's talking about the Enchanted Tower in Datil, a powerful wedge of overhanging volcanic tuff set amid a Remington vista. "It's this huge piece of rock sprouting out of a cattle ranch," she says. "The views are beautiful, and you boulder among the grazing herd." White long-sleeve T-shirt, $38, light-blue fleece vest, $70, gray cargo shorts, $45, and navy-and-black light hikers, $70, by Nike; blue sunglasses, $285, by Bulgari; Baby G-Shock watch, $79, by Casio.

Fairfield, 29 and ranked sixth on the world bouldering circuit, moved back to his native New Mexico from France last fall and immediately began working new routes in the Sandia range, mostly at a spot he calls the Temple. As the name might suggest, no ropes are necessary in the 60-by-20-foot limestone cave; it's perfectly formed for perfecting form. "Bouldering's all about short bursts," he says, "and this place requires them." The Threat sunglasses, $50, by Arnette; navy Lounge Lizard polo, $50, by Ropegun; white T-shirt, $6, by Jockey; khaki shorts, $52, by Helly Hansen; Stormbrella boots, $110, by Five Ten; G-Shock watch, $99, by Casio.

Shasheen Shah, Telemark Instructor
Late afternoons, mostly in high winter but sometimes deep into spring, you're likely to find Shah on a wide powder glade flanked by trembling aspen groves in the Sangre de Cristos. Afterward, he's probably aprˆs-ing in nearby Santa Fe. Nice life. "It's one of the best games backcountry's got going on," says the 28-year-old of his favorite haunt, which lies on the backside of Santa Fe Ski Basin and thus allows for handy tŠte-€-tŠtes with nature, courtesy of lifts or not. It's a theme. "Tele skiing's like dancing," Shah says. "I find myself singing 'Kumbaya' all the way down the hill." Off-white linen jacket, $128, ribbed knit T-shirt, $55, and stone khakis, $68, all by Armani A|X; boots, $155, by Havana Joe; black Chronograph 2000 watch, $1,595, by Tag Heuer.

Derik Pritchard, Caver and Climber
Perhaps it's the overabundance of light and lightheartedness in Pritchard's work as a country-music-video gaffer ù all that swooning and white leather ù that have him setting out for a deep cave in Diablo Canyon every chance he gets. "It's a wild, beautiful place," says the 28-year-old (left) of the black-and-red igneous-rock crevice in the Jemez Mountains. "You descend into an 80-foot teardrop chasm and, below you, straight shafts just keep going down from there." Tan suede shirt, $525, sand T-shirt, $75, and white pants, $125, all by BOSS Hugo Boss; Air Mada shoes, $85, by Nike.

David Cordova, Activist
At 8,000 feet, the town of Truchas is ideal, according to ninth-generation-resident Cordova (right), 30, for early morning trout-fishing trips in the burbling creeks that spill down from the nearby ridgeline. It's a serene place, or at least it was until a few years ago, when restrictions against gathering firewood in nearby Carson and Santa Fe National Forests roiled the local populace. What ensued was a flurry of petitions and letters from the Truchas Land Grant Coalition and coverage in the that prompted "calls from about 20 militia groups wanting to join us," laughs Cordova. "We weren't interested, of course." The restrictions were overturned shortly thereafter, leaving the Truchas countryside calm and, as always, trout-rich. Blue silk polo, $69, gray-blue T-shirt, $25, and sand suede pants, $82, by Kenneth Cole; stainless steel watch, $795, by Tag Heuer.

Dean Cummings, Freeskier and Heli-Skiing guide
"It's a natural progression," says Cummings, 1995 World Extreme Skiing Champion, about his passions for freeskiing and kayaking ù a duality that drives him, like water itself, from the mountains into the creeks as the temperature starts to rise. In fact, the 32-year-old Cummings returns to his native New Mexico each spring, taking a break from both his successful Alaska guiding business and the professional freeskiing circuit. "Mostly," he confides, "I go home to thaw out." Off-white linen shirt, $72, by Greg Norman Collection; stone cargo khakis, $68, by Polo Jeans by Ralph Lauren; tan bucket hat, $25, by Greg Norman Collection; Wingnut sunglasses, $95, by Smith Optics.

Santa Fe Ultimate Frisbee Club
It may initially come off as a slacker's game, but ultimate actually has more in common with a Navy SEAL workout. Try, if you dare, 30 minute-long sprints separated by those painful jump-squat-jump drills known as "burpies." Repeat. And repeat. And, well, repeat again. On Steve Barrett: gray T-shirt, $39, white ribbed cotton sweater, $68, and drawstring cotton pants, $58, all by Polo Jeans by Ralph Lauren; flip-flops, $20, by Fila. On Read Lockhart: long-sleeve T-shirt, $35, and khaki cargo pants, $55, both by Tommy Hilfiger. On Jaben Kilbourn: linen polo, $58, T-shirt, $24, and carpenter jeans, $64, all by CK Calvin Klein Jeans; Spoiler sandals, $60, by Teva. On Charles Doerwald: gray sweater, $58, off-white shirt, $35, and white jeans, $56, all by Tommy Hilfiger; tan flip-flops, $40, by G.H. Bass. Top center photo, from left: On Stacey Adams: white turtleneck sweater, $98, and off-white pants, $78, both by DKNY Jeans; Circuit sandals, $65, by Teva. On Liana Baldonado: bucket hat, $28, drawstring pants, $60, terry sweatshirt, $78, and navy Freedom slides, $25, all by Tommy Hilfiger; white T-shirt, $15, by Jockey. For more information, please turn to page 185.

Eddie Lyons, Scuba Instructor
OK, maybe the desert's an unlikely scuba hotbed. Still, says the 32-year-old Lyons, the view from 81 feet down in Santa Rosa's Blue Hole more than holds its own, at least in terms of otherworldliness. For one, it has a tombstone, marking the point-last-seen of two divers who disappeared through a vent connecting the hole to an aquifer. "And the night dives are surreal," Lyons says. "If you float very still and look up, you can see the stars refracted through the water." White mock zip T-shirt, $36, by Duofold; beige board shorts, $46, by Quiksilver; black dive watch, $795, by Tag Heuer.

Locations: Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico: 505-685-4333; Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Health Spa, Santa Fe: 505-992-5025; White Sands National Monument: 505-479-6124.

Where To Find It
Armani A|X: 800-717-2929; Arnette: 888-276-3883; Birkenstock: 800-487-9255; BOSS Hugo Boss: 800-484-6267 Bulgari: 800-285-4274 Calvin Klein: 212-292-9295 Casio: 800-962-2746 DKNY Activewear: 800-231-0884 Duofold: 800-448-8240 Fila: 800-776-3452 Five Ten: 909-798-4222 Freestyle: 800-776-6449 G.H. Bass: 800-777-1790 Greg Norman Collection: 212-735-8400 Havana Joe: 800-848-2774 Helly Hansen: 425-883-8823 Izod: 800-522-6783 Jockey: 414-658-8111 Kenneth Cole: 800-536-2653 Nautica: 212-206-7000 Nike: 800-352-6453 Polo Jeans by Ralph Lauren: 888-765-6532 Prada: 212-307-9300 Quiksilver: 800-576-4004 Ropegun: 888-767-3486 Smith Optics: 800-635-4401 Tag Heuer: 800-321-4832 Teva: 800-367-8382 The North Face: 888-251-9464 Tommy Hilfiger: 800-888-8802

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