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.