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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Rucu Pichincha Climb, Ecuador

An active volcano peering out of the clouds above the city of Quito, the pichinchas are a group of three peaks with Rucu being the most accessible to climb. On my final day in Ecuador I had an overnight flight with an 11:00pm departure, which would give me ample time to attempt the trek up the mountain. This would serve a few "firsts" for me, the most exciting part was potentially reaching an altitude above 15,000ft, weather permitting.

The best approach would be getting a taxi to the Teleferico, a sky tram taking visitors to an overlook at 13,000ft. From there is would be a three mile walk up to the base of the "rock." Gaining ever so steadily along a line, the trail offered spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and distant volcanoes, as well as the big city below. I reserved my pace due to the high altitude and ventured up and up making conversation with other hikers as a way of restraining myself. By the time I approached the final ascent up the rocky crag I met a group of Americans with the same intentions of reaching the peak safely in numbers. As the very characteristic clouds blanketed the summit, our single file line served as a nice way to summit with risk of making an ill advised turn into the crater.

Two hours after stepping off the tram I found myself at the summit, sharing in the thrill of climbing my highest mountain to date - 15,413ft!  For reference, the highest peak in the continental United States is Mount Whitney in California at an elevation of 14,995. Rucu is nearly a thousand feet higher. I was surprised by how little of a factor the high altitude affected my climb, a promising test for future ascents. A group photo was mandatory after an achievement such as this, so we huddled around a large wooden sign for a quick shot before making our way down when the clouds broke. 

The return was rather easy and I simply soaked in the views and enjoyed my final few hours in such a remarkable place. I have a good feeling I'll be in the area sooner than later to take on some of the larger peaks like Cayambe and Cotopaxi.




Monday, June 6, 2016

Mount Hood Climb 2016

Mount Hood Mountaineering Ascent
Mount Hood National Forest
Government Camp, Oregon
Mileage - 7.8
Time - 9:30
AEG - 5,349ft

Mount Hood is the tallest peak in Oregon (11,249ft) and the fourth highest in the Cascade Range. It's considered a potentially active stratovolcano, though unlikely to erupt. Based on location, the mountain receives 430 inches of annual snowfall and offers year round skiing. This also creates dangerous climbing conditions as the weather changes quickly and can become hazardous. As of 2002, it has claimed the lives of over 130 people.

Matt and I began planning our trip months in advance and chose Memorial Day weekend as our best opportunity to reach the summit based on past weather patterns. Gear preparation, route planning, rope skills and physical conditioning were all part of training leading up to the climb. We followed the weather closely in the days and weeks prior and were still in question the afternoon of our arrival. Since we had given ourselves an extra day of leeway, Matt and I stuck to the plan and went after it the first night. From our base camp at the Mazamas Lodge, we made last minute preparations before dinner and tried to get to sleep by 7:00pm. Making a true "alpine start" the trek began around 12:30am.

A slow grind up the ski slopes is how our evening started, along with several other climbers already in route. The best sign, and a bit of relief was a starry night. Conditions were good so far. There wasn't much conversation between the two of us, mainly because of the winds and how covered up we were. Slow and steady up the slopes until day break when we reached 10,000ft. It was there we roped up for safety to complete the final climb up Hogsback and through the Pearly Gates.

The weather held up nicely and we made our way to the summit just after 6:00am, with the sun beaming down on us and the wind whipping over the peak. There was enough time to catch a photo before quickly and carefully down-climbing to take a break. The only issues we ran into were the winds and freezing hydration bladders, otherwise we were pretty fortunate.






Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Boston Marathon 2016

Boston Marathon
Boston, MA
Mileage - 26.2
Time - 2:58:48
Pace - 6:48
Place - 1265

There are so many facets to this race I don't even know where to begin. Boston is one the world majors and the most prestigious race in the United States for the qualifying standards, history and overall runner experience. It certainly lived up to the hype.

Besides the competitive nature of the race, there are several other (and I wouldn't call them small) intricacies to this race that make it so perplexing. The weather is always a factor this time of year on the East coast and plays a big part in race strategy. The hilly course with a net downhill challenges even the best runners in regards to planning the best time to exert the most energy. Finally, the crowd support is unlike anything I have ever experienced. The final two miles were almost deafening, and if you need a bit of motivation you will definitely find it there.

Like many on the course on Marathon Monday, I struggled. It was warm and we battled headwinds. Could be worse, right? Sure. Personally, I just had a bad day. It was my worst marathon performance to date. My finishing time and effort didn't reflect my previous four months of training. Stress, travel, dehydration, and a lingering injury was the right recipe for disaster that struck me around mile 10. It was all downhill from there...and I'm not talking about the course. I hadn't even come close to Heartbreak Hill yet.

Quitting wasn't in the playbook, but sometimes physiological problems become a concern in those late miles. On top of that, I was passed by about 800 people in the second half, which was a bit demoralizing. Each mile marker brought me closer to the finish and that's what I focused on the rest of the race. Once I hit the 25-mile sign I knew I could get under three hours if I just hung on to a 7:30 pace. And that is what I did. I threw my arms up to celebrate briefly and stepped over the historic finish line with a huge sense of relief. Then I grabbed my medal and drop bag and passed out in the grass on the Boston Commons for a couple hours. As my friend Becky said after, "you're stronger now than you were this morning" which was a true testament to finishing the race.

I really wanted to enjoy this more than I did, but that's the way the marathon goes sometimes. Not every day you go out to run is perfect, and today was one of those days for me. What I did enjoy was visiting with friends, sharing stories and living the excitement that is the Boston Marathon

Amanda excited after finishing her 10th consecutive!
Boone, Stacey and James pre-marathon on Boylston Street

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mountain to Fountain 15K

Mountain to Fountain 15K
Fountain Hills, Arizona
Mileage - 9.3
Time - 51:10
Pace - 5:29
Place - 15th

Fast and furious is how this one went down in Fountain Hills on Sunday morning. By fast I mean the first rolling 10K coming out of the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, which I believe I ran a 40 second PR. Man, it felt good to run fast! Furious were the hills after the 10K mark, which I believe is where I blew up. Leg turnover was fine, I just hadn't done enough anaerobic training to help buffer that kind of intensity. Miles 8 through 9 were a bit of a blur, though I do remember regrouping and actually gaining ground on the couple of guys that passed me early on. I think if the race had gone on another mile or so I could have moved up in position. Overall it was a great race and a fun event with friends. I want to thank Susan Loken, our elite coordinator and all the volunteers and race staff. Keep this one going!


Sara, Boone and Zach in Fountain Park




Saturday, February 27, 2016

Brown's Ranch

This "winter" we're having in the valley has been incredible. The running hasn't been bad either. That's thanks to my new, and possibly favorite place in all of Arizona to run (at least in the Phoenix metro area). The city of Scottsdale acquired several thousand acres of land to extend the McDowell Sonoran Preserve all the way to the border of the Tonto National Forest, and the recently developed trails are outstanding. The newest section offers gentle rolling single track around a few stand alone mountains with endless combinations of trail circuits, and it's all smooth sailing. I have spent the last six weekends up there for my long runs with distances typically ranging from 16 to 19 miles and have created different loops on each outing. If you don't believe me, check out this picture or go see it for yourself! 

 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

El Cajon Mountain

El Cajon Mountain Trail
Lakeside, California
Mileage 11.1
Time - 2:06
AEG - 4,000ft

Over new years weekend I was in San Diego visiting my sister and knew I could find something interesting to explore. The view of the mountains to the East of our hotel in Mission Beach was like the cereal aisle in the grocery store...so many options it makes it hard to choose. All I know is that those peaks were calling my name.

San Diego county has a lot to offer, and I love the amount of open spaces and preserves so close to the city. Naturally, I looked for the tallest, toughest, most accessible mountain to climb. El Cajon would be perfect. Starting as a hike, it quickly turned into a trail run once I got out there. Since the trail is really more of an old jeep road I could run a good portion of the miles. Now don't get me wrong, it's washed out and a bit more rugged than I imagine it used to be, just not terribly technical. The trail was surprisingly busy, everyone seemed to be in good spirits and oddly encouraging as I passed by during the ascent.

After an hour I reached the five mile junction with the peak visible and a mere half mile scramble to get there. This was without question the best part, and seeing the summit sign is always a welcome sight. The true peak is one large boulder you can climb up to clearly establish your accomplishment. I had enough time for a few pictures and a snack before anyone else arrived. Then I was off running again. The second hour seemed to go by much quicker and before long I was back at the trailhead ready to call this one good.  


Overlooking San Diego to the West

Cuyamaca Peak from El Cajon Mountain Summit

Monday, December 7, 2015

California International Marathon 2015

photo credit: Ron Little
CIM Marathon
Sacramento, CA
Mileage 26.2
Time 2:35:44
Pace 5:56
Place 59th

Five months in the making, this marathon would prove to be a true test of my fitness. Not often do I get nervous before an event like this, its more a matter of how well I can execute my race strategy. Something about the morning leading up to the start felt different. The threat of rain, high humidity and some of my pre-race routines were a bit off, leaving me with a peculiar feeling. It may have been that or the challenge I set forth over the next 26.2 miles.

My target pace was going to be in the mid 5:50s and I nailed it! Honestly, the first 20 miles went better than I thought, averaging 5:51 through the halfway point and 5:52 through 20. The only reason I slowed during the last couple miles was due to some cramping in the hamstrings and calves due to over-striding I believe.

photo credit: Pete Weldy
CIM is one of the largest, most competitive marathons that is way off the radar for most runners. The course bodes well for those trying to land a personal best, Boston qualifier or for some an Olympic Trials qualifier. Since the trials are in February, this was a last ditch effort to hit a target time. So the nature of this race built up more hype and a greater sense of urgency, which added to the excitement!

I had such a great weekend exploring Sacramento, hanging out with friends, and talking all things running. I want to thank everyone involved with CIM and say what a great event they hosted. Another big thank you goes out to my friends and family for their support and encouragement leading up to and after the race. You guys are awesome!



Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Mt Baldy - Run to the Top 2015

Mt Baldy - Run to the Top
Claremont, California
Mileage - 7 (one way, up)
AEG - 3,825 ft
Time - 1:17:26
Place - 6th Overall


The name says it all, run to the top. This is a no frills, bottom to top race to the summit of Mt Baldy (aka Mt San Antonio). The first four miles of the race are on fire roads and the final three traverse the narrow ridge line known as the "Devil's Backbone Trail." If that doesn't sound hardcore enough, the trail finishes above 10,000ft with nearly four thousand feet of vertical gain!

This is a big race that typically sells out every year at 650 runners. 2015 was the 50th anniversary of the event and once again drew large numbers and spectators. Following a summer of strength and hill work, Brian, Christian and I decided to see how we measured up on the mountain. Early on I found myself squaring off against some solid cross country runners out of SoCal. As we climbed higher the numbers dwindled, by the time we hit single track I was in a group of 4-5 guys fighting for position on a steep ridge. There was quite a bit of exposure and a few major drop offs into the scree fields below. I felt as though I was racing a 10K on a mountain top and as we drew closer to the peak the cheering became louder and the race more intense. The finish was so tight just a matter of seconds decided 5th from 6th to 7th. It was an all around great day and an experience I'll never forget. Thanks to those who made this race happen and the participants showing great sportsmanship and courtesy on the trail.

Baldy is the third tallest peak in Southern California next to San Jacinto and San Gorgonio, both of which I have successfully climbed. Reaching the top would mean completing the trifecta of prominent peaks in this part of the country. I'll soon be entering marathon season so the high altitude adventures may be sparse until next summer.

Go race to the top!

Boone, Brian, Harold and Christian post race.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Moccasin Run - Navajo Mountain

Moccasin Run - Navajo Mountain
Navajo Reservation, UT
Mileage - 8.2
Time - 1:41
AEG - 4,600ft

When I found out there was going to be an organized run up Navajo Mountain, I was in. Then it was just a matter of figuring out the logistics to get there. The mountain isn't exactly in our backyard. Brian and I arranged the driving and Miguel and Erica managed to get us a tent near the race start.

There were two run options, a 24 mile solo or a 3-man relay, Brian and I teamed up for the latter (even though we couldn't find a third). My leg would be the 8.2-mile ascent, from the chapter house to the summit. Yes, it was tough. Really tough. The elevation, distance and steep grades were all factors, though the loose rock footing may have been the biggest obstacle. Let's just say I would rather run a marathon than do those 8 miles again. After a traditional morning prayer the runners were off! Scrambling through a wash and then over sandy roads to make the initial ascent. Then it was up, and up and up! I tried to hang with my friend Shaun as long as I could and reached the top about two minutes behind. As quickly as it started, my leg was over. It was quite a feat reaching the 10,300ft peak in that fashion, but why do it any other way?

It was an incredible experience and always a pleasure running with the Navajos! Thank you so much for having us and to all the volunteers that helped out with the first annual Moccasin Run.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rock and Roll Marathon - San Diego 2015

SUJA Rock'n'Roll Marathon
San Diego, California
Mileage - 26.2
Time - 2:41:56
AEG - 888ft
Pace - 6:11
Place - 3rd Male
4th Overall

Having the opportunity to visit San Diego, hang out with friends and run a marathon sounded like a great weekend to me. I got that and more over the past few days in Southern California. As far as the race is concerned, I went into it with no pressure as my training has consisted mainly of easy aerobic miles since February. That made my visit feel more relaxed, like an actual vacation. All I really wanted was to run in the 2:40's and see what happens.


Crowds of marathoners gathered Sunday morning outside of Balboa Park and the corrals began to fill. I ran around the park in an attempt to get myself prepped for the next couple hours of running. I honestly didn't know how this one was going to go. Next thing I knew they were counting down the seconds, 3...2...1. Go! I found a nice steady rhythm early on making my way through the streets of downtown San Diego. As the miles ticked off, I gained momentum and moved into the top ten by mile 10. A conservative approach paid off over the next ten miles as they didn't seem that much tougher than the first ten. Then came the big hill at mile 20. I hadn't seen another runner in over an hour, then I caught a glimpse of a guy I knew I could catch, powering up the hill with a new found spark. Then another and another. Spectators were getting excited and someone told me I was in 5th. Fifth place? I was a bit surprised, and didn't want to lose it so I ran faster. The marathon course converged side by side with the half and more encouragement came from several runners. The closer I came to the finish the faster I wanted to run. Soon the finish line was in sight and I coasted in uncontested, though I never looked back.

Third place! Male that was, as I later found out. It certainly came as a surprise, and the race management quickly escorted the top three male and female finishers into the VIP suite at Petco Park for an interview and briefing prior to the awards ceremony. I looked around the room and noticed numerous professional runners and olympians in our company so I just played along. Next thing I knew I was being announced on stage, handed a plaque and bouquet of flowers. I just laughed and enjoyed the moment.

Again, it was a better race weekend than I could've asked for, and I always appreciate all the hard work and volunteer efforts that go into making something like this happen. Best of all was hanging out with Jeff (pictured above) who completed his 112th marathon I believe. Also, a big thanks to Harriet and Ellen for taking me on a tour of Coronado Island.

Toes in the sand, enjoying the sunset at Mission Beach



 




    



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Four Corners Road Trip

This trip was a long time coming, though it felt like it happened overnight. On Wednesday I found out that a four day weekend might become a reality, so the planning began. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks were highest on the priority list, so I did an exhaustive search for any type of accommodation in the Moab area.  I may have chose the busiest travel weekend of the year as my search turned up nothing. No hotels, cabins, lodges, or campsites were available. I called the BLM field office and the gentleman told me my odds weren't very good as most established campsites had already begun to fill that week. This almost kept me from going, as an eight hour drive is a long way to go without a place to stay. I went for it anyways.

Friday morning I trained a few of my clients and left Phoenix around 8:00am. From there I made great timing heading up North past Flagstaff and across the Navajo Reservation. Traffic was pretty light and five hours later I crossed the border into Utah, making my first stop at the famous Monument Valley. These iconic formations are the backdrop to just about every Western print or movie and considered to be one of the most photographed places in the West. The crowds kept me from staying longer. That, and the eagerness to find a place to crash for the night near Moab made me keep rolling. I stopped at the visitor's center in Blanding looking for maps and some information about the area. The lady on staff was a tremendous help and guided me towards a nice campground in the La Sal mountains. She forgot to mention it was at 8,500ft and snow fell a couple times that evening. I didn't waste any time in the morning waking up to sub-freezing temps. I packed up quickly, blasted the heat in the car and drove to Arches National Park. 



Double O Arch
One hundred million years in the making, Arches has over 2,000 cataloged natural stone arches within a 75,000 acre park. There's no question why this place was designated as a national park. For the most part, the trails are pretty easy and offer so much to admire around every corner. I felt like a kid climbing around the boulders and checking out the view from either side, framing up different photo angles and sharing in the excitement with other visitors. It's amazing what the natural world can do to the human spirit.  I hiked three different trails, saw over 20 arches with my favorite being Double O (pictured below). Before leaving, I made the surprisingly steep 1.5-mile climb in a driving wind and rain to see Delicate Arch (above). Next to the buttes in Monument Valley, this has to be the most recognizable piece of landscape in the southwest, which the state of Utah proudly represents on their license plate. This may be one of the best parks for a day trip, especially for families. It's a short, scenic drive from Moab with plenty to see for everyone. 

Immediately following my visit to Arches, I drove out to Canyonlands National Park. I really didn't know what to expect. How could you possibly top the last one? How about converging two canyons, each having their own river, with about the same land mass as the Grand Canyon? Add that with unique geologic formations and an endless array of colors as far as the eye can see and you have Canyonlands. I'm really disappointed I didn't allow enough time to stay longer and explore the depths. The will certainly be a "next time."

Grand View Point Overlook - Canyonlands NP



Mesa Arch - Canyonlands NP

Spruce Tree House
 My lodging situation was a bit stressful, as most people know doing things last minute is really not my style. Primative camping during a storm was not my idea of a good time, so I searched for hotel rooms. The closest available site was two hours away in Cortez, CO. The drive wasn't appealing, but a comfortable bed sounded quite nice. Plus, that would put me just 10 miles outside of Mesa Verde National Park and closer to home whenever I decided to go back to Arizona. The rain continued through the night and into the next morning, so I knew my hiking and running with be at a minimum. I was fortunate enough to get out and snap a few photos of the "houses" throughout the park. Mesa Verde is home to numerous ancestral cliff dwellings dating back to AD 1200, most of which are still in tact. The architecture is amazing, the rooms seem to tell a story of how the Pueblo people lived hundreds of years ago. It's easy to see why they chose this area for protection against the elements, natural beauty and abundance of wildlife. I chose to do the self guided tours, simply based on the amount of time I had, and that they opened earlier. Some areas required a permit pass and are only accessible by guide. The national park service is making great efforts to protect this area and all of the ancient features in the park.


Four Corners Monument - Final stop on the trip.







Sunday, May 10, 2015

Santa Catalina Hiking

Edge of the Catalinas with Tucson below
Pusch Peak Hike
Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Tucson, Arizona
Mileage 4.47
Time - 2:44
AEG - 2,695ft

My favorite mountain range in Arizona is without a doubt the Santa Catalinas. Bordering Tucson to the north, it appears as a fortress rising up from the desert floor with castle-like features on each distinct peak. I first set eyes on them back in 2008 when visiting friends in the area and said to myself "I must see what's behind those walls." Here we are seven years later and I'm still in awe every time I set foot in the Catalinas.

Bob climbing up Pusch Peak
Bob asked if I wanted to get another hike in this weekend and of course I was game. Considering the unseasonably cool May weather we are having in Arizona I said we should take advantage of it and go south. I looked at a few options and came across Pusch Peak. It has a distinct summit on the edge of the mountain range closest to town and only two miles to the top. Sounds simple enough, right? Only catch is that it was going to require 2,700 vertical feet of climbing in those two miles to get there. It was every bit as steep as we expected and I loved every minute of the climb.  A big payout waited for us at the peak. The far reaching view into the canyon depths and surrounding pinnacles to the northeast and city to the southwest was quite impressive. So glad we made the effort.

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Blacketts Ridge with Thimble Peak in the distance
Blacketts Ridge Hike
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
Tucson, Arizona
Mileage - 6.2
Time - 2:19
AEG - 1,965ft

We didn't drive a hundred miles to only hike four, so we decided on a second and drove over to Sabino Canyon for another more moderate trek. I have wanted to do Blacketts Ridge for years now and coupling these two together made perfect sense with a short break in between. This route has all the making of an ideal day hike. Moderate distance and elevation, a well defined route with mostly subtle switchbacks, and finally a great ending point with awesome views of Mt Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Range.

Boone hiking up the Phoneline Trail to Blacketts

One of the brightest Collared Lizards I've ever seen



Pat's Run 2015

Pat's Run
Tempe, AZ
Mileage - 4.2
Time - 21:46
Pace - 5:11
Place - 7th 

The 11th annual "Pat's Run" kicked off Saturday morning just outside of ASU's Sun Devil Stadium. This is a great local event with nearly 30,000 runners and walkers, which just might be the largest road race in the Southwest. This day is dedicated to Pat Tillman, a former ASU football player who died in combat in Afghanistan. The 4.2 mile course ends on the 42 yard line in Frank Kush field, representing his number in the stadium where he played during college.

 So how did the race go? Well, as of Friday I wasn't even sure if I would be participating. Ever since the Phoenix marathon in February my training has been inconsistent without any real structure. A couple minor injuries sprung up as well as seasonal allergies, keeping me from running well these past two months. After a couple treatments and massages these past two weeks, I decided to go for it. All I wanted was to finish under 22 minutes. That meant 5:20 pace or better. In the same fashion as two years prior, a huge pack took off from the start with people dropping off within that initial quarter mile. I felt strong the first two miles and surged to put myself in fourth place at the halfway point. Too early for this strategy, as those high school kids I thought I could drop used me to draft and passed me at the three mile mark. Well played boys. I regrouped with a half mile to go and picked up the pace. I could hear someone closing in and I laid down another surge going into the stadium and the crowd erupted as a footrace ensued as I finished side by side with another guy. His chip time proved to be faster than mine, and I could care less about the actual place, just happy I held my own through the finish chute. After all that, my time was only six seconds behind my 2013 finish.

Thank you Tillman Foundation for another great run and all the volunteers who helped out today!

From their website - Founded in 2004, the Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through educational scholarships – building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Hermit to Boucher Trail - GCNP

Hermit to Boucher (Boo-Shay) Hike
Grand Canyon National Park
Mileage - 20.4
Time - 9:30
AEG - 4200 ft

Bob and I resumed our annual tradition of hiking a new trail in the Grand Canyon every April since 2011. We typically spend the weekend hiking to the river and back, then camping at Mather Campground. This year it would be a trip down the Western side of the national park's South Rim in hopes to reach the Boucher Rapids.

We fell just a few miles shy of reaching the river this time, partly due to misinterpreted distances each way and warmer than anticipated temperatures. A twenty mile hike would have turned into a 24-25 mile hike and left us exposed longer and later into the heat of the day. We learned our lesson on the Tanner trail two years ago. By Grand Canyon standards, twenty miles isn't all that long, except Boucher is a rough one with steep, uneven terrain. A few areas required hands on for scrambling up and down the "trail." Somehow we managed a pretty good pace throughout the day, even with numerous stops. There were three significant climbs over those ten miles, the nice thing was that they were spaced out, offering time to recover before ascending again. Fatigue didn't set in until we were finished, and it hit Bob and I hard. I felt like I had just run a marathon. We were so wiped out, on the bus back to the GC village all we could think about was a hot shower and getting some pizza at the Maswik Lodge!

I think each year our trip gets better and better. Knowing the best time of year and familiarizing yourself with the park is key to making the experience as good as you possibly can. Over the years we have noticed improvements, including new bathrooms and parking areas. The market is top notch and staff is always helpful. I'm excited to get back up there!

A view of Whites Butte and the narrow canyon where we are headed.

My favorite view from the hike, near Boucher Creek
Enjoying some shade and the view into Boucher Creek




Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spring in the Sonoran Desert

I stayed in town this weekend and set out to run the trails both Saturday and Sunday.  I chose two different areas north of the valley. Saturday I ran a 10-mile out-and-back on the Gooseneck trail, starting from Tom's Thumb trailhead. Talk about smooth! This trail is like running on a nice, crushed gravel walkway with very little elevation gain or descent. I think I averaged close to a 7:00/minute mile pace for most of the run.

I took the advice from my buddy Ryan and started a 14-mile loop on Sunday from the Apache Wash trailhead in north Phoenix. He said to run the Ocotillo/Sidewinder loop, so I did exactly that. This trail system was developed just a few years ago and has quickly become a weekend hotspot for mountain bikers. Not my preferred trail companions, but they have just as much right to be there as anyone else. Unseasonably warm temperatures made for an early start, even at 6:30am there were numerous people out and ready to go. Another reason I wanted to get off the pavement and into the desert was the early rattlesnake activity happening this year. I was hoping to see some up close in the more remote areas of the preserve. After I finished my run this morning I had pretty much given up...until I began driving away from the AW trailhead. I spotted a diamondback in the road with oncoming traffic approaching quickly. I made a u-turn and threw on my hazards, then I jumped out of my Jeep and stood in the road to deter the cars from running him over. I was excited to see my first rattlesnake this year and even happier to get him to safety.