June 26, 2013

Arizona on My Mind

This has been brewing since January but there are several reasons why Arizona is on my mind:
 4 reasons why Arizona is on my mind:
  1. I got a massive email from NATRA listing all the races and events coming up in Flagstaff.  It sparks memories of people, canyons, ponderosa pines, and generally running fast.  Without a doubt some of the best times in my life.   
  2. We had a few guys quit work since I have been here.  They quit to travel the world while they were young and free, before the grip of life anchored them into one place.  It made me realize that I must make the most of my current surroundings and explore everything around me, locally, before  I move on to a new place.  This caused me to reflect back on my time in Arizona and all the things I didn’t do while I was there.  Of course to do that, I had to remember all the things I did do.  Fortunately, I wrote out some notes highlighting the most memorable things about the my time in Arizona right before I left.
  3. I saw the results of the Moab Red Hot 55km run and accompanying posts/pictures from Ian, Emily, irunfar, and the guy who first introduced me to Flagstaff running and inviting me to stay at his place post Gaspin in the Aspin Race after learning that I spent the previous night in a tent, Rob Krar.  I was happy to see Flagstaff represented so well at the event.  But what got me most were the pictures:  the red rock peaking out above the white snow, the twisty moonscape like terrain around Moab, and trail runners blitzing through it all.  I could feel the crisp, earlier morning air that I awoke to so many times as I emerged from my tent for a long trail run before the sun’s rays had a chance to heat things up.  The Southwest is America at its finest.  
  4. Rob Krar’s record breaking crossing the GrandCanyon (which has got the ultrarunning world buzzing).  He did the classic Rim to Rim to Rim run on the South Kaibab-North Kaibab trails, covering the 42 mile distance and 10000+ feet of vertical uphill in a mind numbing 6 hours 21 minutes.  To put that in perspective, no one had done it faster than 6 hours 53 minutes including Dakota Jones and the guy with a huge ultrarunning cult following Anton Krupica#.  It was an amazing effort and Krar certainly has found his stride after overcoming some tough injuries while balancing as a full time pharmacist.  I’m so happy for him.  It makes me remember how awesome the Canyon is and crushingly little it can make one feel.  See his video at the halfway point where he came through in 3 hours and 2 minutes to see what I mean … haha
  5. So much coverage on Rob Krar and Emily for the upcoming Western States 100 on irunfar.com. 

Top 5 runs I Did in AZ

Forget Boulder (even though I have only run there once).  Running is AZ is incredible but not many people in the general running population give the state much credit outside of Flagstaff.  Furthermore, the abundance of places and trails to run that even Flagstaffers haven’t traipsed on is startling.  It can be remote, it can get hot, and it can get rugged (and there are snakes too) but it certainly is rewarding if you make the effort.  Looking back at some of these runs make me appreciate what kind of shape I was in and the opportunity it gave me to explore some areas where most people simply can’t get to easily.  It will be a long battle back before I can run 30 miles in the hills gain. For now, all I have is these memories…
  1. Mt. Baldy Loop- an 18 mile loop in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona.  It’s a high loop with elevations reaching 11000+ feet and nothing lower than 9000.  Awesome and mystical country here.  Isn’t what you expect in AZ.  I had to stand in the rain listening to some antigovernment wacko living out of his station wagon in the parking area before I could start the run.  But that’s part of the fun in running in some of these places. 
  2. Humphrey-Weatherford, Kachina Loop- a Flagstaff classic.  A must do for any “trail” runner.  I have done this run twice- Once solo which included the summit of Humphrey’s.  Once with local mountain goat, Jared Scott.  What was supposed to be a relatively quiet up and down climb to Humphreys saddle, turned into a 3+ hour slog run of the entire loop without water.  Flagstaff brewery for post-race nourishment jumpstarted the recovery. 
  3. Grand Canyon Kaibab-Bright Angel Loop- My first run in the Canyon, and my first long long (~3 hour run).  Also, first time touching the Colorado at the bottom of the Canyon.  Fell in love with all things Grand ever since. 
  4. Greyback Mountains up and over 3 hour run-  I was training for the Old Pueblo 50 Mile race so I decided to do a long slow run on a gnarly track to get my foot resiliency up.  I drove out of Bagdad town on dirt track about 7 or 8 miles to the start of this rugged mountain pass route that you can see winding through the hills to a distant Radio Tower.  I have dreamed of running it ever since I drove past it on my mountain bike.  It is too narrow for my truck, and too gnarly for my mountain bike, so I finally set aside a Saturday to conquer it by foot.  Out 90 minutes up and over the pass, down into the valley to the shores of Burro Creek, and back.  If I were ever to be attacked by a mountain lion, it would be in the Greybacks.  The labyrinth of granite slabs and dark crevices for a lion to hide in are too numerous to even worry about.  I could imagine a lion perched on top of one waiting to pounce on me.  I survived and had a new desire to explore these wild tracks.  Which I can say for certain no runner has ever attempted. 
  5. Doyle’s saddle- Nothing too magical about this run but with good company- Jared Scott and Jason Wolfe.  It’s great to have the opportunity to train with such great runners and people in Flagstaff.  I remember ditching work Friday afternoon at 2pm and making the 3 hour drive to flag just in time to meet the boys for a 5pm run.  It was raining and misty.  Jason led the steady charge up the mountain to 11,000+ feet with Jared then I close behind.  The way down was easy, too easy, because we let Jared lead. 
  6. Bagdad 30 miler- Also while training for the old pueblo.   An Introduction to Ultramarathoning so to speak.  My first run over 26.2 miles.  A simple out and back from my apartment to mile post 16 on the tried and true dusty County Road 68 (Campwood Rd.).   I think I realized how remarkable the scenery is around Bagdad during this run.  The canyons, granite outcroppings, remote ranches, and then suddenly trees start popping up when you get above 5000 feet.  The high Sonoran desert in winter is one of the most beautiful places on earth. 
  7. Prescott Walker Road loop- I have done this one a few times and many variations of it.  The first time I attempted it I couldn’t finish without walking.  I didn’t pack water so I was forced to detour to the Nature centre to recuperate.  After 10 minutes I was ready to endure 4 more miles on walker rd back to my car.  As was typical of my weekends in Prescott, I camped out Friday night off Bannie mine road a few hundred meters from Trail 305.  In the morning I jumped on 305 heading towards smith ravine trail 298,  up smith ravine, across…. Down watershed and 62 an back on 305 
  8. Yankee Doodle- Nothing particularly amazing about the run.  I just heard about the trail and immediately knew I had to run it.  From the place I parked, I could run up Yankee Doodle trail to the highest point in Yavapai country (Mt. Union).  I decided to go the other direction as I needed a flatter run that day.  One thing led to another, I couldn’t find a turn to do a full loop and ended up down the trail 70 minutes from my truck and pretty thirsty.  I had already run 10 miles.  I could have made it back but it would have been a suffer fest.  I decided to approach a sketchy looking truck/van thing out there in the middle of nowhere next to a wash- 50 miles from a paved road.  The middle aged couple had an elaborate gold panning setup with solar panels, pumps, sluice boxes, and fortunately for me a large container of fresh water.  They handed me an old big gulp 64 oz Styrofoam cup and I filled it with water.  Drank it.  Waited 5 minutes and talked some mining with them.  Filled it up again.  Drained it.  Said goodbye and headed back to the truck 9-10 miles away.  And yea, No gold for them.  I think the exact quote when asked if they had any success was “Well, I’m still driving this piece of $hit 1992 Ford and not a Cadillac.”
Top 5 Races I Did in AZ
  1. Old Pueblo 50 Mile Endurance Run- First/only Ultra, hardest single thing I have done, won, hurt a lot.  I had to lie down in the shack for a few hours to recuperate before I could go outside and watch other runners come in.  I think accomplishing that run and watching other people do it to make me believe that anything was possible.  Over 100 or so runners and I just ran 50 miles through the beautiful Santa Rita Mountains of Southern Arizona.  It was definitely a pinch me moment in my life.
  2. Lost Dutchman Marathon- Set PR, Ran Fast, Happy, surprised. 
  3. Jerome Hill Climb- Neat town, Neat race, Ran this one three times.  Won the first two times then a guy named Jeff Eggleston showed up and worked me.  He pushed me to a PR though so not bad at all.  When one of the locals asked why I didn’t win my 3rd Hill climb in a row, I threw up my hands and just said, “He’s a 2:15 marathoner.  What could I do?”   Later I realized how dumb statement was.  It’s like I was saying he came out of the womb a 2:15 marathoner.  I discredited all his hard work he did to get there.  The reality is we are all 3 or 4 ( or pick a number) hour marathoners at some point in our lives.  It is only through hard work and persistence that one becomes a “Good” marathoner.  And today, Jeff, he’s a 2:12 marathoner. 
  4. Soulstice Mountain Trail Run-  I think the best Race flagstaff has to offer.  Good combination of competition and small town local feel.  Good celebration afterwards.
  5. PF Chang’s Half Marathon-  Good friends and family came to watch, PR, got chicked by Deena Kastor.
  6. Snowbowl Hill Climb.  Somewhat new race but well put on TRF and Eric Bohn.  I lost to Jeff in the innaguaral race.  But still ran well and had a great time out there. 
  7. Flagstaff Half Marathon-   My brother made the trip from LA to cheer me on.  We camped out the night before off forest road 303.  It all came together for me at the Flagstaff Nordic Center and I got the Win and a CR.
  8. Gaspin in the Aspin- My first race in Flagstaff.  Got 2nd to a guy named Rob Krar who went on to win Transrockies that year with Mike Smith.  I was invited to stay at the Shay house that night after he learned I camped out in the rain the night before the race.  I met all kinds of fast runners from all over the globe.  I was the kid in the candy store that evening. 
Top 5 Things I Wish I Did While Living in AZ

I know, still a lot on the list. I guess I need to go back at some point. 
  1. Toroweap and Colorado City
  2. Paria-Buckskin Gultchthru hike
  3. Antelope Canyon
  4. Canyon de Chelly
  5. Aravapai Canyon
  6. Run up Mount Lemmon on trail
  7. Little Colorado River Thru hike
  8. Raft in the Grand Canyon
  9. Rim2Rim2Rim in the BIG, BAD Canyon
  10. Camp and kayak lake Powell
  11. Run down to Blue Springs in the Canyon
  12. Backpack the gila mountains
Top 5 hikes/trips I did in AZ

I didn’t do a lot of huge trips in Arizona.  Most of the memorable ones were over two day weekends which goes to show that you really only need a few days to get re-charged and not some kind of epic 1 month expedition to Nepal.
  1. Grand Canyon Eastern Loop- My big trip.  See my multi-part trip report.
  2. Wet beaver Creek Loop- I did the full loop twice.  Both times my camera died so I don’t have any pictures of it.  But the general idea is that you hike up on to a plateau from the carpark, then drop into a ravinve which becomes a slot canyon, You have to wade/swim your way through he canyon back to your car.  You need a map the first time to route find along the plateau and the figure out where to drop in because there are no signs.  All said in done probably 20-25 miles.  I have done it as an overnight and day hike.  The best day hike I went on in the state. 
  3. White Mountains- Blue RangePrimitive Area-  It doesn’t matter which hike you choose, because it is wild, remote, and no one has ever heard of it.  Pac a fly rod, backpack in for a few days…
  4. Verde Hot Springs.  There were a bunch of nudists here.  It started to get awkward so me and another dude named evan got out of there.  Evan was a mechanical engineer just bumming around out of his car on weekends.  Exactly the same style as me.  Shows no matter how weird we are there is someone who can relate to us. 
  5. Phoenix to Puerto Penasco-  Phoenix to Mexico, 205 miles, by bike to raise funds for Weekend Missions.  A lot of fun.  That sounds really hard but it’s not compared to running or hiking based trips.  I also had a 4cm crack in my femur during the ride that got confirmed via MRI a few weeks after the trip.
Top 5 people
  1. Flagstaff running community- Too many names to name here but I have stayed at a lot of homes while heading to Flag for a weekend running or racing. 
  2. Grand Canyon Rafters-  I waited for 30 hours on the banks of the Colorado river during my massive grand canyon eastern loop hike and they were the first ones to come by.  They gave me a lift across the river.  And then surprisingly I ran into them about 8 miles downriver at nightfall.  They had steak and pasta and salad and dessert and beer.  Oh the advantages of rafting and not carrying your gear.  The story doesn’t end there.  I ended up going to their reneunion party about 6 months later and then went on hikining in phoenixs superstition mountains. 
  3. Zenda/Mark.  A lovely random couple in Prescott I met up with several times.  The first time was on easter Sunday when they invited me back to their house for a big lunch.  They spent a few months travelling around Australia when they were quite young, like 18 or 19 years old.  Great people
  4. Thomas Family-  No relation but good family friends.  I joined them on countless times and rides to the airport on my various adventures.  So thanks for the many nights of lodging, many excellent meals, and for being my Arizona family. 
  5. Gunner the Hitchiker-  He had a 70 liter backpack with a skateboard attached walking on the cutoff road about 3 miles from bagdad.  I know the desert is strange but He was the last thing I expected to see out in the desert.  I just had to pick him up just to hear his story.  He was an into the wild type guy who had been roaming around the American west for the last few years living out of backpack.  I was a bit envious.  Then I told him what I did- stable job, income, relationships sorta, and he was jealous of my life.  Point is live your life, love your life.   
  6. Rock House people- Incredible.  This will be one of the first places I go when I make it back to AZ.  There are no signs, no fences; just a lonely dirt road for about 8 miles into the desert and boom there is a beautiful, off grid home made out of river rocks.  The old couple that lives there welcomes people to visit arguing that no trespassing signs just antagonize people.  They have flyers explaining how they built the home on the kitchen table which is visible when you walk in the unlocked front door.  I won’t tell you how to get there….
  7. Those gold panners living out of van working a dried up streambed in the desert 15 miles by rugged dirt road from bagdad.  They have been there for nearly a decade.  Enough said.  I love desert folk.  I should give the zanarapolis militia men an honourable mention here.   
More people listed in this post I did: http://bagdaddy.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/bullets-and-beans-tales-of-muckers.html

-Realizing that i missed so many links but i am about to eat and it takes alot of time to insert the links.  One day i will write a post entirely out of links. 

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