Sunday, July 27, 2008

Saguaro National Monument East 8 mile loop training run

Time to get serious. The annual Saguaro National Monument 8 mile race is coming up on Labor Day. I've run it 3 years in a row and have gotten faster each year (not sure if that will happen this year, though). I ran the loop today with Nancy and I'll also be doing it the next 3 Sundays to get ready. It was an overcast morning, and the clouds hung pretty low over the Rincon and Catalina Mountains, which was great! We still sweated like crazy from the high humidity that is typical this time of year. The desert is a beautiful green right now. We actually did 9 miles, because we added the 'picnic loop', which is an extra mile. This course is just a bunch of steep hills, the main one being a very slow grind to the top.
A big thank you to Nancy for listening to my tales of woe during our run. I am struggling with a complicated life right now; with my husband being gone for 4 months in Colorado (by the time I visit him in Silverton at the end of August, it will be over 2 and 1/2 months since he left Tucson and I saw him last), me working a lot of overtime, and too many other small things to take care of, I feel overtaxed, stressed, emotional and sad. When life gets out of balance for me, I feel it immediately. I'm hoping the work situation will slow down soon, and I'm confident that Kenny and I can work out the problems created by his career taking him to Colorado every year. Right now, though, I just have to tough it out and work on staying spiritually fit so I can handle life's complications. I must admit that I add to my problems because I have a difficult time asking for help. My dad taught me a lot about about self-sufficiency; sometimes, however, we just need other people.
Running is one thing I'm enjoying immensely right now. It clears my head and enables me to be present in my life. Even being so busy, I was able to fit in running 36 miles this week and I did 2 weight workouts (45 minutes to an hour each). I also took Cracker Dog for a 2 mile walk.

I stayed up too late last night and got up too early today to run, so I'm going to take a nap now. Sometimes a nap allows me to really put things in perspective. I often think that life is less about eliminating problems and more about a shift in attitude and perspective.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Trying more new trails in the Tucson Mountains...

Shari and I headed out to a new spot for us in the Tucson Mountains, which was supposed to be a little more flat than other trails in that area. Shari had just completed the Vineman (half Ironman) last Sunday (which was super hilly), so she was being smart and giving her body time to recover (no hills, she said!) Congratulations, Shari! On the right is her shirt showing off the insane mileage (1.2 swim, 56 bike, 13.1 run) she completed.

We started out at the Cam-Boh picnic area in the Tucson Mountains (take Ina Rd. west to Wade Rd. Go left on Wade Rd. which turns into Picture Rocks Rd. Go about 3 miles to the Cam-Boh picnic area and park there). The Roadrunner trail was first, which looped into the Panther Peak Wash trail. We did lose the Panther Peak Wash trail once, and wandered around for a bit before we realized our error. We kept going and hit the Cam-Boh trail. Rather than complete the loop on the Cam-Boh trail back to the Cam-Boh picnic area, we went the other way towards Ringtail trail. Unfortunately, it started to get a little hilly, but not too bad. We took the Ringtail trail to Picture Rocks Wash trail which connected to the Ironwood trail and then back to the Cam-Boh trail (another loop). It was super pretty through there, and we ended up seeing a horned toad (horny toad to some, although technically, it is a horned lizard, not a toad). They are pretty wild looking.
We headed back on the Cam-Boh trail and called it a day. Not the super easy trail I had planned for Shari (lots of super-deep sandy wash running and rocky trails, with some hills thrown in near the end) but we had fun. The cactus and spiny bushes were hanging over the trail a lot, so we ended up with quite a few scratches on our arms and legs. I actually have a bunch of small bruises from the cactus needles. The picture on the left is the wash trail we got lost on (yes, we actually plowed through all that mess before we realized, hey, we've lost the trail!)
I met a lot of people from the Tucson Trail Runners this evening - Joyce, Donna (although I had met her once before) Pam, Ross, Chase, Peter, Paul, Joe, Bruce and a few others. They had their annual potluck to discuss their trail running calendar for the next year. They plan various runs from September through end of May and different people volunteer to be race directors. There is no charge for the runs - the race director just 'oversees' the runs to make sure everyone gets accounted for and back safely (oh, and they have to bring drinks and snacks!) The calendar is pretty intense; although I won't be joining them on all of their runs (some of them are quite advanced), I'll be getting my feet wet on some more technical and steep trails in Tucson and the surrounding areas. I was invited to go, although it is open to anyone, by Bob Bachani, who cheered the runners on at the Zane Grey race. He said if I could do ZG, I could do the TTR runs. Okay, then! I was nervous because I didn't know anyone, but I know I have to start somewhere. They were all super friendly. Just in case, I made my super secret chocolate cookies that always win over a crowd. It worked. :) I'm in.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sweetwater Preserve Trails (not really, but I was close)

***Updated 11/23/08 ***** I thought I was on Sweetwater Preserve trails when I did this trail run and blog post, but I have since found out that I was not! See this post for the real Sweetwater Preserve write-up. But, don't miss this run I talked about below - it was beautiful and a lot of fun - it was actually still in the Tucson Mountains, but a little North of the Sweetwater Preserve. **** end update - Renee
I finally checked out the trails in Sweetwater Preserve, an area of land in Tucson recently set aside for us outdoor folks! It was absolutely beautiful! It is in the Tucson Mountain range and can be accessed from the same trailhead as the Sweetwater trail, which takes you to Wasson Peak. Camino del Cerro trailhead is just off I-10, down at the end of Camino del Cerro Rd. heading West. Instead of taking Sweetwater trail, you head North on the Thunderbird trail. Along the Thunderbird trail, I passed an abandoned mine (Thunderbird mine). No need to check it out; I didn't want to know what was living in there! At some point, I ended up on the Windmill trail. I wonder why they call it the Windmill trail?
The windmill was a neat find! It was near a small canyon. I really felt isolated out there today; I didn't see a single mountain biker, hiker or runner the whole time. It struck me as a good place for a mountain lion, but that thought just added to the adrenaline rush! A big thunderstorm swept into town last night, and I was worried it would continue this morning, but all I received was some cloud cover and a slightly cooler temperature, which was great! I took a great shot of the cloudy Catalina mountains from the preserve.

Some of these heavily cactused desert runs can initially start to look the same sometimes. This area was so green and pretty, though, I'm ranking it up there as one of my favorite desert runs so far (maybe even more than Tucson Mountain Park?) It had a nice blend of rolling up and down hills, with some occasional flat stretches, and had some pretty narrow singletrack as well as wider trail sections. It was also very rocky in some spots, so I could practice my agility a little, but also had some nice smooth trails, too. If you pay attention, you can find some fun stuff out there in the desert. I saw this saguaro cactus (in the picture to the right) and took it as a sign to head right (literally, it was at the head of a junction!) As is typical on Tucson desert trail runs (or is it typical on a lot of trails?) many trail junctions were unmarked, some being shortcuts back to other trails, while others dead-ended (one near a person's house on the edge of the preserve). I had a pretty sketchy map, so I went ahead and headed back on a suspected loop (the whole thing appears to be a series of loops). I ended up on the Cactus Canyon trail from the Windmill and Gila Monster trails, which I took to the Coyote Pass trail, which went to Picture Rocks Wash trail, and I was hoping to connect to the Brittlebush trail and take it back to Thunderbird (or Cactus Canyon). However, once I got on Brittlebush, I soon lost the trail. I was wondering all over the place looking for it, and I started to think it dropped into the small wash ahead of me. However, I wasn't even sure it would reconnect (remember, the sketchy map) so I went ahead and backtracked on the alleged big loop I was making, which added to my run time. I ran (and hiked) for 2:10, but was out there for almost 3 hours with the stopping, wandering, checking things out, and picture taking (and a couple of restroom breaks). I don't think I was ever lost (Tucson is right to the East, just start heading that way!), but I was worried that it wouldn't connect and I would really have too much backtracking to do and with it being so remote, I just didn't want to push it. I ended up running out of water 15 minutes before the end of my run, so I'm glad I made that decision.
The trail left a bunch of scratches on my legs; some spots on the trail are super narrow (watch the overhanging cactus trail runners!) and the prickly bushes got me time and time again. I always feel like a real trail runner when I look like I've been through battle. :)

I definitely recommend this trail run. I'm going to the map store to get more details and I might try it again next week. My Summer Trail series races will be the following 3 weekends after that, so I won't get another opportunity until September. The solitude and beauty of these trails seemed to fill my spirit up. I wore my 'Pinkcorker' visor and pretended I was doing an ultra. It was so much fun.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pemberton 50k, here I come!

I registered for the Pemberton 50k last week, which will be held in McDowell Park in Fountain Hills, AZ (near Phoenix) on February 14th. I'll have plenty of time to get ready for it and I'll be doing the Tucson Marathon in December, so I should be good and ready. I registered early to make sure I got a spot. I was feeling some post-race blues after doing my last 50k, so this made me feel better.
I've also had to work more lately, which isn't great, but I'll take some time off later to make up for it! I had to work over the weekend, so I took Cracker Dog into work with me. Here she is at my desk ready for her next accounting assignment:
I sure do love the Cracker Dog.I've been feeling the need to get out there and 'become one with nature'. Even though I've been doing my desert trail running, I really miss the fact that I haven't gone camping or backpacking in over 2 years! We usually go backpacking each Spring, but with my husband's knee surgery last year and remodeling our 1940's rental this year, it just didn't happen. We usually go to the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. So, I'm super looking forward to the Blue Pants Racing Summer Trail Series in August (less than 3 weeks away!) The two races in that series that are on Mt. Lemmon are a little far for me to drive in the morning, so I'll just camp out and sleep in my truck as I've mentioned before. Can't wait to be among the pines. My spirit needs it! I'll be going to Colorado at the end of August to visit my husband, which will be much needed, too.
My brother Ken and his wife Carol welcomed beautiful baby boy Graham in on Friday. It is their 4th child. I'm proud of him; he is such a good dad. He is my only full brother; I have 3 full sisters, 4 half sisters and 1 half brother. I'm the only one with no kids; my baby sister finally got pregnant 3 months ago after 4 years of trying. I figure with so many nieces and nephews, who needs kids? Plus, when you have such wonderful dogs like Cracker and Dixie (she is in Colorado, though) and Yentyl....
And so many races to run... :)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Monsoon season = sweaty runs

Monsoon season is upon us in the desert, with thunderstorms and rain galore. Had to spend $1,000 to patch up my roof because of leaks. The storms bring in lots of rain, which we need pretty badly here in the desert. They also bring in wind, so I had a lot of my 'wind sail' trees trimmed back several weeks ago.
The cloudy mornings create some nice sunrises (view from my house):
I've been lucky to not get rained on yet on any of my runs this month. I ran 10 miles yesterday morning on the Rillito river wash with Nancy and Sue and there was quite a bit of water running in the wash from all the rains this week. It was muggy and we were sweaty, but we had fun. Nancy regularly runs 60 miles a week! Amazing. She's been doing it a long time, though, but still incredible.
This morning I ran about 13 miles with Shari. We did an out and back on the Dove Mountain trail, which is a nice rolling hill incline dirt path near a golf course and lots of pricey homes in Marana, which is Northwest of Tucson. Before we headed back on the DM trail, we added on part of the Wild Burro trail. Storms were threatening in the distance, but we stayed dry!

Shari is always fun to run with.

We saw this very strange tree growing inward on itself. Must be some external force making it grow that way. Isn't life like that?
So, I ran 23 miles this weekend for a total of 40 miles for the week. My work schedule has been crazy, so I didn't run Thursday or Friday and decided to make up for it this weekend!
Here is a pretty view of the Tortolita mountains. 2 of the 3 Winter Trail Series races were out here in January and 1 of the 3 Summer Trail Series races will be here in August. Unfortunately, a Ritz-Carlton resort is currently being built in the Tortolitas. You can see it on one part of the Wild Burro trail. Once you loop around the mountain on other trails (which we didn't do today), you get away from all of it, but it is still a bummer to see all that excess hogging up the beautiful landscape. Thank God we have so many areas that are still preserved around Tucson.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

If it is good, try it again.

Had such a great time last weekend doing the Cactus Forest trail/Saguaro paved loop combo, that we decided to do it again! After a fitfull night's sleep, I awoke at 3:50am to meet the gals at the Broadway trailhead at 5am! This time, it was myself, Sheryl, Shari, and Laurie, which was such a surprise. I have not run with Laurie since last Spring, when she started experiencing knee pain and had to take time off. She was a welcome sight and she just looked great! Not only had she really shaped up, but she had on the cutest skirt/top combo (she is in the far right in the picture above).
I think all of us were pretty wiped out when we started. They all had done a 25 mile bike ride yesterday and I had ran my 9.5 mile hilly trail, so we took it slow and just had fun. We ended up doing 11 miles, which was perfect.

We did see one of those desert jack rabbits, which are always cute with the big ears. He just stopped and posed for us.

I ran into (not literally) my friend Steve, who was running the other way on the trail with Andy, I believe. Always great to see his smiling face; we gave each other a high five as we passed and we all kept running, of course.
Sheryl led the whole way at a good pace. We got a big monsoon rain last night in Tucson, so the run was a pretty muggy, sweaty one. We did have cloud cover for quite a bit of the morning, which was great! The last mile we didn't talk much; I think we were all ready to be done! But, we had fun, as always. Laurie always talks about recipes towards the end of the run, which is fabulous!
I got in about 39 miles running and 2 miles walking for the week. I also did 2 weight workouts.
Tomorrow, I'm not getting up early for anything.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July! I celebrated with a trail run, of course...

I was off work today, so I thought it would be a great day to get some trail running in (day off = trail running, right?) Boy, does it feel good to have 3 days off. I am really busy with work right now, so I anticipate having to work a few weekends in July. That being so, I'm taking all 3 days to rest, have fun, and catch up on some overdue tasks around the house. Bliss.
My friend Martinho and I did a trail run this morning at my favorite place, Tucson Mountain Park, which is on the west side of Tucson. Martinho was the one that helped me out when I had that bad fall on a run on Phoneline trail back in November.We went in at the Camino de Oeste trailhead on the Yetman trail and looped around on the Yetman trail to Tucson Mountain Estates and took the Starr Pass trail back to the Yetman trail. I was planning on doing about 8 miles, but we ended up doing 9.5. It was a hard run! Plus, it was already pretty hot, about 85 degrees, when we started and probably about 95 degrees when we finished.

I did my usual stop at the Stone House, so we hammed it up for some photos.

Martinho had a Garmin, so we were able to look at the data on his computer after our run. It was very interesting! Sometimes our pace was 12+ min/mile pace (sometimes 20 min/mile on the really rocky uphill walking parts) and other times it was 7-8 min/mile pace, depending on whether the hills were up or down. Some of the grades on the uphills and downhills were 20+%! We were screaming on the downhills! He even clocked a 6:50 pace a few times on his Garmin, but I'm sure it was only for a few seconds on a downhill portion. At any rate, my overall pace was higher than usual because of Martinho. He is fast!

So, my legs got a great workout, and hopefully not too much, because I'll be running about 11-12 miles tomorrow with the gals (a redo of last week's run with the trails/hilly road, which was fun).

I'm beginning to think I have rubber ankles; on the trails, I am constantly rolling them or crunching them on the downhills, but I never seem to have any problems afterwards. I think the trails are strengthening my ankles, feet and legs in a way that the road doesn't seem to. On that note, here are some comments on trail running from skirt, which is where I buy my a lot of my running skirts and tops:

The soft dirt of a trail run is far kinder on the hips and knees than either pavement or concrete sidewalks. Plus, over time, the constant balancing act navigating through uneven trails, avoiding rocks and tree roots can actually help improve balance and strengthen the muscles around the ankle decreasing the likelihood of future injuries. Of course, there are a litany of other benefits to trail running. Solitude. Solidarity with nature. The need for complete and utter focus. Biodiversity. Fun furry animals.

Here is what my friend Kathleen said to me about trail running:

You get to go out into the quiet and see wonderful scenery. Your legs are much more beautiful and shapely due to all the rock and root hopping, powering through sand, uphill and downhill running we get to do. Your lungs are happier. You don't have to breathe in exhaust fumes. Your joints are happier. Pavement/concrete is hard on the body regardless of how good of shoes we have. Yes, I know there are very scenic paved trail and road routes, but overall, trails are going to offer the superior outdoor sensory experience!

You said it ladies. See, this is why I so much love trail running. This trail run was very challenging, with the heat, rocks, sand and hills. It is so gorgeous and pristine out there and I feel alive and strong and in touch with a power that I can't even begin to define but that I know is there, watching over me, protecting me.

Have a great 4th of July, y'all. See you later alligators....

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

One of my favorite morning runs...

It's not a trail, but it is dirt (soft, too)! Lots of bunny rabbits and views of both the Catalina and Tucson mountains. The neighborhood is close by where I live, so I do a loop through it and head up to the Rillito path and back down to my house. I've been doing about 6 miles on 4 out of 5 weekday mornings.
I don't go running on Thursday (it is trash day in the nearby neighborhoods and it is a stinky run!), so I take Cracker Dog to the park near our house. We run a little and do laps; that Cracker is a natural born runner; we only do about 2 miles of running/walking, though. She likes to chase the birds.

I like running in the morning; gives me a chance to think about what is important to me. I wave and smile at as many people as I can. Some people don't respond, but that is okay; I just do it anyway. I strive for giving, rather than getting, to be my guiding principle.