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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Woolsey Peak

Woolsey Peak Hike/Climb
Woolsey Peak Wilderness
Gila Bend Mountains
Gila Bend, Arizona
Mileage - 6.3
Time - 4:02
AEG - 2,207ft


An extinct volcano topping out at 3,171 feet, Woolsey Peak rises abruptly from the desert floor in the Gila Bend Mountains, approximately 30 air miles from the Phoenix area.  The volcanic activity is evident from the shape of the mountain and polished black rock undergoing eons of weathering.  From a distance, Woolsey appears to blend in amongst the surrounding landscape until you draw near the base and see why it has a clean 2,000 feet of prominence.  At number 63 on the Arizona prominent peak list, Woolsey is a notable climb for anyone looking for a little off-trail adventure. 

The trend continued as I found myself faced with another trail-less mountain to climb, beginning this one with a basic topographic map and my own intuition leading the way.  It was quite difficult finding anyone to break away from the holiday chaos/commitments to get out for a hike.  Luckily my good friend Wally was available on Saturday with his 4WD Jeep to venture across BLM lands into the Woolsey Peak Wilderness.  We started our trek by hiking across the barren desert floor and up a drainage towards the Northern slope.  I read a few trip reports describing the steep scree fields and loose boulders going up the hillside and they were in no way exaggerated.  The final mile up the mountain gained roughly 1,500 feet and took us close to an hour.  As tough as it sounds, the hike was really quite fun.  If last weekend's trip to Black Mountain was a zero, I would give this one a seven or eight out of ten.


 
Woolsey Peak - 3,171ft



   

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Black Mountain - Oak Wells

Black Mountain Hike
Pinal County, Arizona
Mileage 5.43
Time - 3:38
AEG - 2,100ft

Last weekend I took the "back roads" to Tucson from Chandler for the marathon.  I did this for two reasons: It was faster, and I wanted to get a closer look at Black Mountain (and the roads accessing the area).  The only reason this one is on the radar is because of the prominence list.  Otherwise, I may have never hiked it.


Searching online for information about this hike yielded no results.  The only information I found came from a vague recreation map and topo maps from hikearizona.com.  From my understanding, no trails or routes to the peak exist.  We made our own.  The mileage doesn't seem like much, nor does the elevation gain.  The greatest obstacle was vegetation.  Getting to the summit became an off-trail nightmare filled with small forests of jagged catclaw, Spanish dagger, cholla and sharp grasses.  When the steep hillsides became less choked out, the more exposed areas were covered in a mine field of prickly and loose rock.  Two hours later we reached the peak.  If the winds weren't wipping at 40 mph, we may have taken some time to check out the 360 degree view, which may arguably be the best in Southern Arizona.  We didn't seem to care.  Instead, I took shelter and picked cactus needles out of my hands, shins and feet.  A couple minutes later Matt and I examined the mountainside to the East in search of the easiest path for our return. 

When we finally escaped the brush and found the car I asked Matt, "On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate this hike?"  His response was "Is one the lowest, or can I give it a zero?"  We both laughed pretty hard at that!  When I said I may have never hiked Black Mountain other than being the 85th most prominent peak in Arizona, it was now for completely different reasons. 



Black Mountain Summit - 5,580ft

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tucson Half Marathon

Holualoa Tucson Marathon & Half
Oro Valley, Arizona
Mileage - 13.1
Time - 1:13:45
AEG - 100ft
Pace - 5:36/mile
Place - 2nd Overall

I couldn't have asked for a better race to close out 2013, the Tucson half marathon was hands down the most exciting event all year!  A tight race start to finish with a dramatic ending left me feeling on top of my game after coming back from behind to capture that second place spot!

Lets go back to the beginning.  Both races (marathon and half) are point to point requiring bus shuttle to the start, which meant waking up very early.  3:50am to be exact.  The forecast would definitely work in our favor once the race was underway, until that time an overcast sky with temps just above freezing and occasional flurries made things a bit uncomfortable in the morning hours.  My pre-race routine went well (2-mile warm up, water, gel, bathroom) and just before 7:00am I lined up amongst a solid field of runners.

Time to put my strategy into play; run the first mile conservative around a 5:45 pace. Check.  Tuck in behind a pack to block the 10-15mph winds. Check.  Next I would coast downhill at 5:30 pace until the hills showed up between miles 7 and 10.  Everything went according to plan.  The one thing I didn't count on was how long the six of us would stay together.  Driving the course on Saturday gave me an advantage knowing when the hills and turns arrived.  I continued to make moves to separate myself from the pack, still I could not shake anyone.  The miles ticked off way faster than I would have expected in a race this long, and suddenly myself and two other guys were neck and neck with only one mile to go.  Again, I couldn't create space.  Then, with less than a quarter mile, they pulled away from me.  I wasn't done.  My legs felt good enough to sprint and a final surge put me back in front coming into the finish gates.  What a rush!

A big thanks to race director Pam Reed for putting on another great race in Tucson. 



Awesome course view of the Catalina front range North of Tucson


Here area my race splits, the slower miles reflect hills.

1 -  5:42
2 -  5:35
3 -  5:32
4 -  5:31
5 -  5:28
6 -  5:29
7 -  5:43
8 -  5:35
9 -  5:36
10 -5:50
11 -5:45
12 -5:39
13 -5:34
13 -4:49




Sunday, December 1, 2013

Castle Dome Peak

Castle Dome Peak Hike
KOFA Wildlife Refuge
Yuma, Arizona
Mileage - 6.25
Time - 3:30
AEG - 2,206ft

Castle Dome Peak is a giant formation resting on top of the Castle Dome mountains in the KOFA Wildlife Refuge in Southwestern Arizona.  Rugged, remote and without question a seasonal hike (due to extreme heat), this part of the state sees little visitation outside of the winter months.  Matt and I had a change in plans this holiday weekend and Castle Dome was our second option in an attempt to summit a couple more prominent desert peaks.


The hike itself was really quite fun. Perhaps we were just relieved to finally be out of the car or it could have been the interesting scenery, or maybe it was that last hand over hand scramble to the top. I think it was simply being out in the mountains exploring a new area.  The first 1.5 miles flew by as we walked through a wash to find the first turn which would lead us up a scree field just below the 600-foot massive.  The next 1-mile section was the toughest part of the hike, both up and down (above right).  A steep grade and loose rock made us work hard and elevate my heart rate in a short amount of time. The final climb was great!  It offered a little bit of adventure without a great deal of exposure or technical sections.  Before we knew it, the summit was ours and we could check the 61st most prominent peak off the list.

    


Castle Dome Peak  summit (3,788ft) facing West toward California


Castle Dome Mining Museum with the peak dead center


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pass Mountain 12K

Pass Mountain Trail Runs
Usery Mountain Regional Park
Mesa, Arizona
Mileage 7.5
Time - 45:41
AEG - 320ft
Place - 1st Overall

The second event in the Desert Trail Runner Series was held today at Usery Park on a mild, cloudy morning in Northeast Mesa, Arizona.  Conditions were ideal for a fast race.  I chose the 12K for a couple reasons.  First, it coincides with my Saturday speed training. Second, the course had a healthy portion of smooth, flat surfaces to run with some pretty neat scenery too.  Last, yet most importantly, Aravaipa Running always puts on a great race without any hangups.  You can count on a well organized event with an accurately marked course and top notch aid stations.  The post-race food hits the spot and finisher prizes and awards are truly unique. 


At 8:30am it was go time.  After a few hundred yards of road we hit the trail blazing.  Seriously, the front pack was running 5:30-5:45 pace and I sat somewhere between 4th and 6th place during the first two miles.  I wasn't concerned about the pace though, being mostly downhill on such an easy surface made it tolerable.  Blevens and Moon Rock trails were gone before I knew it and I noticed the front-runner slowing down around mile 2.  I made my move to the front. I didn't want to take the lead so early, which would mean pushing the pace and tackling a headwind for the next two miles on the Levee trail.  That seemed to be the only way I was going to reach my goal pace of 6:00/miles, so I let it rip!

I could hear footsteps behind me until we collided with the 26K runners on the Cat Peaks Loop. Then it was unclear who sat on my heels.  Cat Peaks Pass really slowed us down, although, after the climb my heart rate dropped and I caught a second wind.  I felt good and continued to hammer the trail when it became less technical.  I began to realize I could take the win if I just ran hard to the finish.  After blowing past the final aid station I put down a sub 6-minute mile all the way to the end.  Turns out, I beat the previous course record by over two and a half minutes!   

Thanks again to Aravaipa Running for another great trail race, and to all the volunteers out there!



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Black Canyon Trail Run

Black Canyon Trail - Trail Run #1
Spring Valley to Crown King Rd
Mileage - 19.2
Time - 2:39
AEG - 753ft

Aravaipa Running Company is holding a point to point 100K endurance race on the Black Canyon Trail next February, and today they organized the first of three training runs to preview the course.  Jamil arranged a large group shuttle from the trailhead off of Crown King Road to the high school parking lot in Spring Valley where we would begin.  An eager pack of 30 ultra runners took off through the small town just after 8:00am to reach the start of the trail.  Many familiar faces in the crowd, including a few good friends of mine including Honey, Liz, Karen, Bret, and both Debs. 

The first section is relatively flat, smooth and easy to run.  At 4,000ft, the landscape resembles mostly high desert with incredible views of the Bradshaw Mountains to the West.  Daniel, Jamil, Stephen, Andrew and I hung together and chatted for the majority of those 19 miles. Being on the BCT reminded me once again why I love running in the mountains so much.  Then came the descent down Antelope Canyon, undoubtedly the most exciting part of the course to run!  The steady downhill had us moving fast while the hairpin turns and sheer drop offs kept us on our toes.  What a blast!  Before we knew it, the aid station at mile 12 was right in front of us.  It was the perfect time to rest the legs, especially those quads.  Bret caught up (as he always does) and joined in until the finish. 

The next, and final seven miles were all singletrack with only a few minor hills to climb.  It was pretty easy going on the aerobic system, but muscular fatigue is bound to tax the legs due to all the turns and undulation.  The race will be oddly challenging given that the easiest part of the course is in the beginning allowing for a faster pace that may become costly in the later miles when the real climbing begins.  My best advice to those racing in February, go out easy and save your strength for the later half. 

A big thanks to Jamil, Michelle, Becky and Sabrina for helping out with the shuttles and aid station!  Everyone had a great time out there on Sunday.




Stephen, Jamil, Daniel and Andrew around mile 5.

Daniel, Stephen and I tearing up a nice downhill section.


One of many twists and turns on the rollercoaster ride down Antelope Canyon

 
Photos by Jamil Coury

Monday, November 4, 2013

Phoenix 10K - 2013

38th Annual 3TV Phoenix 10K
Downtown Phoenix, Arizona
Mileage - 6.26
Time - 34:43
AEG - 10ft
Pace - 5:36
Place - 14th Overall

Exactly one year ago I ran this race coming off of injury and today I was looking to better my previous performance with a specific time in mind.  Following the Santa Rosa Marathon in August, I shifted gears and began an 8-week 10K training program hoping to land a personal best of thirty-three minutes.  As you can see, that didn't happen.  Here's how things played out.

The gun went off abruptly, and the stacked field launched forward in a sprint.  I was caught off guard a little and followed suit around the first turn.  A quick glance at my watch and we were running sub 5-minute pace.  I backed off and tried to settle in, though that first mile was fast and I felt it.  The next two went well as I inched my way forward to pass a couple guys and then a pack of four.  It seemed as though we were never going to reach the turnaround point and I became concerned about the second half.  After the break, those four guys got the better of me by mile 4 and I fell back.  My breathing was labored, chest felt tight, and began to experience a side stitch.  I fought to maintain pace and managed to finish strong without losing position. 

I can make up a bunch of excuses (late start, too hot, allergies, etc.), the real issue began in the first mile.  Too fast, too soon.  Once you get anaerobic and enter oxygen debt early in the race, the result is almost always the same: slower mile splits.  Besides, I dealt with most of those same issues last year, and I was out of shape!  It was somewhat of a relief to get this one over with and move onto marathon training.         

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Golden Gate Bridge to Coastal Trail

Golden Gate National Recreation Area
San Francisco, California
Mileage - 15
Time - 2:02
AEG - 1478ft

Would it be possible to top last week's unforgettable trail run through Canyon de Chelly?  Since we would be in the Bay area for Brittney's marathon, how about an American classic like the Golden Gate Bridge?  Starting from Crissy filed in San Francisco on Saturday, I ran through the crowds and dense fog to the base of the bridge.  At this point I could begin to see the tallest beams poking out of the clouds and the excitement continued to build as I drew closer.  Two miles quickly turned into three, and then four, and then I found myself sizing up a trail map indicating different distances to Rodeo Beach and various other trails. 

Why stop now I thought.  The air was cool, clean and I felt great so up the Coastal trail I went.  It was pretty subtle going uphill at first, and the surrounding scenery could have easily filled a calendar with photos.  I barely noticed how far or how high I had climbed, and figured I better turn around at some point in order to be back in time to pick the girls up at the expo.  I started my decent, eventually creating a giant loop back to the bridge through the Marin Headlands.  Sadly, this run would have to come to an end, so I really tried to enjoy the final few miles before returning to the car.  There was a drastic change in temperature and scenery within those two hours on my feet, making it feel as though I had completed two entirely different runs.  



A view of the bridge from Crissy Field at 9:00am (pre-run)

  
Almost the exact same view at 11:00am (post-run)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Canyon de Chelly 55K

Canyon de Chelly 55K Ultra Run
Navajo Reservation
Chinle, Arizona
Mileage -34
Time - 4:32
AEG - 1,700ft
Pace - 7:59/mile
Place - 3rd Overall

I caught word of an ultra run being held on the Navajo Nation in Canyon de Chelly sometime last year and I didn't hesitate to get on board.  Race director Shaun Martin spent more than a year and a half trying to bring this race to fruition, and despite all the obstacles that may have prevented it from happening, he pulled off one of the most memorable events I have ever experienced.  

My good friend Matt was notified a couple weeks ago that his name had been drawn from the wait list.  He accepted and we started planning our trip.  Neither one of us have done an ultra this year, and I have only a handful of trail runs under my belt in the past several months.  Regardless, this was literally a once in a lifetime opportunity to run in such a sacred place that is typically off-limits to non-Navajo people.  On Friday we drove five and a half hours to the town of Chinle, Arizona where we would get a quick glimpse of the canyon before attending the pre-race meeting. 

Twelve hours later, after a traditional Navajo morning prayer, the race was underway.  A recent storm hardened up the sand within the first few miles, yet created another obstacle in the canyon...countless creek crossings!  One lady counted as many as 68, which basically meant running the entire race with cold, wet feet.  Thirty-four miles led to many lead changes.  Brendan Trimboli and Trent Taylor battled for first while I ran with Sean Meissner for the better part of 26 miles before moving myself into third for the remainder of the race.  I honestly didn't go into this one looking to put down a fast time or be super-competitive, I wanted to see the canyon.  Good competition kept me on my toes and I felt good enough to run 7:00-7:30/miles for most of the flatter sections. 

The steep and rocky climb up Bat Canyon went a lot faster than anticipated, considering Sean and I walked the entire way.  It helps having good company.  Once I reached the turn-a-round point I felt completely refreshed and ready to tackle the final 17 miles with vigor.  More position changes ensued.  Several spectators filled the canyon near the aid station at White House Ruins and provided a little extra motivation for the last five miles. The excitement of finishing the very first ultra on Navajo soil was about to become a reality.  Not before running the last half mile through ankle deep sand though!  Soon enough the finish line was in sight and I was done.

Those four hours and thirty minutes went by so fast it felt like a dream, and I did my best to take in all the sights and sounds while having the chance to be in this special place.  Not only did they give every finisher a hand made turquoise necklace, the top ten male and females were awarded with unique Navajo gifts.  I came home with a really neat pair of moccasins.  A big thanks goes out to Shaun Martin for organizing the event, and all those involved in setting up, volunteering and making it happen.  This was without a doubt the most incredible running events in recent years and quite possibly the best trail run I have ever done in Arizona!
 

 
The race is on!

 
Sean and I crossing the stream around mile 20.



 
Closing in on the final miles.

 
Top male finishers at the awards ceremony.

    

Tsegi overlook at sunset - South Rim of Canyon de Chelly



Photos courtesy of Brian Okarski, Waukera Taylor, Luana Mitchell, Matt Kalina

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I-Did-A-Run 10K

Arizona Road Racers
I-Did-A-Run 10K, 5K
Reach 11 Sports Complex
Phoenix, Arizona
Mileage - 6.2
Time - 36:44
Pace - 6:01/mile
Place - 2nd Overall

Throughout the year I like to organize "extra-curricular" activities for our fitness center members, which mainly consists of group hikes and running events.  I thought a nice 5 or 10K would help get people re-motivated to start running again after a long summer, so I sent out the invite.  The Arizona Road Racers host their annual I-Did-A-Run that is free to members and rather inexpensive to the general public.  The timing was good for me now that I feel recovered from the Santa Rosa marathon and decided to treat this more like a workout than a race.  My goal was to peg a 6:00/mile pace and see what happened.  Mission accomplished! 

After a conservative start, I settled in behind two guys for the first mile.  By mile 2 it was down to one.  Every time I closed in on the front runner I noticed my pace dropping too low (5:30-5:45/miles), so I backed off.  I liked having someone to pace with though, and probably could have taken the win with a bit more effort.  To be honest, it was nice to run a race and not have to work so hard. 

It was a day of 2's as Danny finished second overall in the 5k and Jon took second in his age group in the 10K.  Nice running guys!  (Pictured right - Jon, Boone, Daniel)






Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mount Graham - Arizona

It would be tough to top last years Labor Day trip to New Mexico where we successfully summited Wheeler Peak and Mount Taylor, so Matt and I kept it somewhat local and headed South.  Mount Graham would be our first destination. Even though the summit was supposedly off-limits, I had to make the four hour drive to find out for myself.  Why the effort?  It's Arizona's most prominent peak, that's why.

Justin joined us for the long drive through the San Carlos Indian Reservation in route to Safford, AZ and further up the mountain to find information about hiking and to locate a campsite.  After talking with a couple volunteers at the visitor's center and seeing a sign firmly stating that trespassers on the Red Squirrel Refuge could face a 5,000 dollar fine and prison time, we decided against hiking to the summit.  As you might imagine, this was a huge disappointment!  I stood a mere 3 miles from the number one peak on the Arizona prominence list, yet we couldn't hike it.  So instead, the three of us threw on our packs and began climbing up Webb Peak from the visitor's center.  This would make for a nice 4-mile loop that would top out above 10,000ft and offer a pretty nice view of Mount Graham and the Galiuro and Rincon mountains to the West.  While the views are nice, the forest might be the most impressive.  A walk through this area would make you believe you were in the Northwest.  Aspens, pines, fir trees and ferns blanket the top of the Pinaleno mountains making it a truly unique and diverse sky island.

Holiday traffic on the mountain quickly filled up the established campgrounds leaving us in search of our own site.  Luckily we found a nice, quiet area to set up camp.  The day was far from over, so we found another peak to hike; Heliograph Peak.  Walking up a forest service road was not quite as visually stunning as Webb, the second half of this 4.75-mile loop on the Arcadia trail would offer a little more to look at.  The mileage for both Webb and Heliograph pale in comparison to most of our outings, that doesn't mean it didn't require some effort getting up hill.  Both routes start right around 9,000ft and top out over 10,000.  Breathing was definitely labored!  Overall, this was a nice weekend outing to a new area of the state we've been wanting to visit for a very long time.  The mountain is pristine, campgrounds are nice, and the weather was perfect for a late summer get-a-way.  Now that I am familiar with the area, it's time to figure out a way to the top!



 
Matt stopped to take in the view on the Ash Creek Trail

 
Mount Graham - 10,720ft




    

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Santa Rosa Marathon

Santa Rosa Marathon
Santa Rosa, CA
Mileage - 26.2
Time - 2:47:36
AEG - 255ft
Pace - 6:19/mile
Place - 4th Overall

A solid seventeen weeks of training specifically for this race would certainly land me a personal best, right?  Not the case at the Santa Rosa Marathon.  Described as flat and fast, "the highest elevation is 174 ft above sea level and 64 ft above at its lowest spot. It’s an imperceptible (subtle or very slight) 100 feet of change during 26.2 miles, which is almost as flat as it gets."  By mile 20, I wondered if their website was referring to the same race!  I've run a handful of ultras with climbs of 1,000ft up mountainsides that seemed more subtle than these 20-30ft inclines on the road.  Picture running up an on-ramp on the freeway.  Now imagine doing that about a dozen times.  

I think I made my point about the hills, let's discuss the actual course.  The big issue was course marking.  Over a bridge just past mile 7, the ground markers indicated a right turn (that was incorrect) costing me more than 30 seconds before realizing the mistake.  That 30-60 seconds was the difference between a 3rd and 4th place finish and winning my age group.  Frustrating.  I had a chance to make up that time and catch the third place finisher until I encountered the cluster of half marathon runners/walkers crowding the path in the final 3-4 miles.  It was poor planning to have two races converge in such a narrow space.  Needless to say, the last two miles of the race were my slowest, and not because of fatigue. 

The marathon wasn't all to blame.  Something didn't feel quite right during the race, my pace through mile 10 felt labored.  Then the internal dialogue began as I ran the first half of the race all alone.  Did I over train, am I under trained?  Should I have tapered more, were my long runs not fast enough? 

I just didn't feel 100 percent, which is a bummer because I thought those last seventeen weeks of training were great and I was very confident going into this event.  Had I reached my goal time I could have easily taken the win.  I tend to be critical (mostly of myself) when things don't go according to plan, but that's the beauty of the marathon, you never no what to expect.  Mentally, I am fine with the turnout and look forward to getting back on my feet...once these calves loosen up! 

A big thanks to all the volunteers and to those that put this race together.  I really had a great time over the weekend and look forward to my next trip to wine country.  Also, congrats to all those runners landing a Boston Qualifying time, that's a pretty awesome accomplishment!























Not the prettiest finish to a race - followed by a post-marathon check up from Dr. Ebel



Here's an article from the marathon mix up.

  http://www.marathonguide.com/news/newsviewer.cfm?src=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Epressdemocrat%2Ecom%2Farticle%2F20130828%2Fsports%2F308281053           

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Woods Canyon Lake

Woods Canyon Lake Trail Hike
Apache Sitegraves National Forest
Forest Lakes, Arizona
Mileage - 3.4
Time - 1:05
AEG - 278ft

The wait is over!  I finally made the trip up to Woods Canyon Lake.  Well, actually Brittney and I left the valley on Saturday morning at 9:00am and by 11:30am we were at our campsite in the very popular Aspen Campground.  Once again, we drove North because Phoenix temperatures were near record high and by this time of year 110+degrees really starts to get old.  So we chose the Mogollon Rim for a couple reasons.  First, we wanted to camp.  Second, I've  wanted to check out the lake area for quite some time and see the view from the rim vista trail (below left - trail #622).  Lastly, I needed to finish my final long run before next weekend's race and this would would provide the perfect opportunity for that.  Even though it rained most of the time we were there, I will not complain for even a second when the daytime temps were literally 40 degrees cooler than at home!

The lake is crowded with people, but rightfully so given the proximity to the campgrounds and access to the highway.  It's still neat none-the-less.  Wildlife is abound as we spotted two Ospreys hovering the lake, and I saw over 20 elk on my morning run, including one massive bull!  We made a stop at the visitors center near the Highway 260 and Rim Road intersection and learned some interesting history about the area while enjoying the view from their observation deck.  A brief shower shortened our dinner at camp so we drove to the rim vista at twilight to take in in one last view of the mountains (pictured below). Now that I think about it, we really did a lot of fun stuff in the past 24 hours and have already discussed another trip in September.  I believe we may check out Canyon Point campground on our next visit.







Woods Canyon Lake Trail (left) and a beautiful morning run at 7,600ft on the General Crook Trail



Brittney and I catching the last bit of sunset over the rim

Monday, August 5, 2013

Peak Mileage

This weekend concluded my peak mileage build up for the Santa Rosa Marathon with a pair of runs totaling 30 miles.  First up, an early morning 10-miler through the Reach 11 Barrier Free Trail system of North Phoenix (pictured right).  This was a delightfully flat, smooth and surprisingly scenic run through town.  I was able to make three independent loops and only cross my own tracks when going through the overpass tunnels.  Besides feeling great, the best part of this run was seeing my first diamondback rattlesnake of the year!  


Around noon on Saturday, I took the LONG way up to Flagstaff for a little sightseeing around Mormon Lake and Lake Mary (pictured below).  My plan was to find an established campground near one of these lakes and run 20 miles on forest service roads above 7,000ft.  After four stops and no available campsites, I went to Flagstaff and stayed near the Mount Elden trailhead, which is where I would begin my run on the Arizona Trail.  At 5:45am Sunday morning I was off and headed South towards Walnut Canyon by way of trail.  At three miles into the run I came across roughly 20 elk grazing in a meadow that would've made an impressive photo.  I stopped for a moment to watch until they disappeared into the forest.  I continued onto the visitor's center at WC where I refilled my hand-held bottle and made the switch to a harder surface. I opted for a faster return on gravel roads in order to pick up speed towards the end of my run and average better than a 7:30 pace.  Check!  Even with close to 1,000 feet of elevation change, this was my fastest long run of the summer.  Conditioning is paying off!  Unfortunately, its now time to start tapering, so don't expect much until after the race on the 25th.   





Monday, July 29, 2013

Flagstaff Extreme

Time once again for our annual team builder, and after last year's trip to Watson Lake I was given the go-ahead to plan our next outing.  The newly constructed Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course seemed like a no-brainer for us fitness professionals and the trash talk began weeks ago.  Who would finish?  Who was going to have a problem with heights?  And for some reason, we threw a pull up contest into the mix as well. 


So what does the course entail?  Here's the description listed on their site:

 "At Flagstaff Extreme we have four large circuits within our Adult courses, each containing a mixture of approximately 10-17 different obstacles. The obstacles range from rope swings, scrambling walls, hanging nets, wobbly bridges and suspended “surprises”.  The skill level and height of each circuit is marked using a color coded system indicating the challenge based on elevation and difficulty. Check-in, safety briefing, demonstration course and all four Adult Course can be completed in approximately three hours." 


GREEN = Minimum Elevation/Minimum Skill
BLUE = Medium Elevation/Medium Skill
RED = Advanced Elevation/Advanced Skill
BLACK = Advanced Elevation/Advanced Skill



Our group rocked the course, and finished in under three hours.  It was physically taxing so everyone was ready for a late lunch at Pita Jungle in Flagstaff.  Luckily I didn't have to drive, allowing me to relax and enjoy the afternoon monsoon activity in the high country.