Monthly Archives: May 2014

Smelly Armchair Musings: On Heat Training

I was sitting here in my stained and possibly smelly armchair trying to think of how to begin my blog about my recent adventuring in Show Low, Arizona. What kept popping into my mind, however, was the temperature difference between Show Low (cool temperatures) and the desert heat I’m used to. This made me think of another post I’ve had rolling around in my head for about a week, so I am going to write that post here first.

What do these words bring to your mind: Sonoran Desert, 115 degrees, full sun? What response do they elicit? Do they make you want to find a popsicle? An air-conditioned room? Antarctica? These words bring a peace in my heart. They are home.

I’m not sure how I became a desert girl. I grew up in MUCH cooler climes and remember when 50 degrees was a reason for shorts, much to the distress of my mom. Perhaps you also grew up hearing, “I’m cold, go put your coat on”? But now if it’s 50 degrees I don’t need to be told to put more clothes on; I will be bundled up looking like the proverbial Eskimo, and likely still shivering. What changed?

There was not a set moment when I became accustomed to the desert. When I first moved to the Sonoran Desert, I thought it was hot. I hated the barren landscape- it was so brown and blah! All I wanted to do was move somewhere else that had real trees. Ever so slowly, however, I changed. When my son was small I went hiking with him- first carried on my front, then on my back. When my daughter was born, I was unable to hike alone with two small children, so I didn’t get outdoors to explore at all. When I started running, at first it was on roads because I didn’t know of any trails near my home. I finally discovered the local regional parks system and have eschewed roads ever since.

Then last year, I met a runner as crazy (possibly crazier) as me. At least twice a week since that fateful meeting, we get in our beloved “heat training”; Sonoran Desert, 115 degrees, full sun, and middle of the afternoon, we can be found outside running. I’m not sure our motions can actually be called running, but we call them that anyway. It’s hot. As we pass through the wavering heat waves crawling their way up off the dusty desert trail, the thin line of gray shadow cast by a saguaro is inviting. If I turn sideways just right, I can fit all of me into its shade and become one with this desert sentinel. The highly filtered shade of an ironwood, which is more sun than shade, is an acceptable place to take a moment to cool down. Any breeze at all is a lover’s kiss upon my sweat-beaded skin. Upon arrival back at the parking lot, we down a cold beverage, generally a coke. We head into the visitor’s center, if it’s open, and deposit rivers of sweat on their floors, while keeping Sarah, the park manager, company. She says she doesn’t mind our sweaty offerings.

Now, I love this desert. I love its heat and I don’t want to leave. This change in my perspective only came about by venturing out into the desperate, rugged wilderness of this place. When I go out, I see each living thing scrabbling at life, and it is amazing. And all of that running in the heat? It has conditioned my body. While most people are indoors relying on air conditioning to cool down, my body cools itself. I am no longer miserable at 100+ temperatures. The wave of warmth that hits me when I walk out of any building here in the summertime is a welcome reprieve from the frigid indoors.

While I am now much better able to regulate my body temperature in these extremes, the heat training has also taught me how to pay attention to what my body is telling me. I would never head out into the desert without plenty of water- the desert, perhaps more than any other place I’ve run, demands absolute respect in that regard. Not respecting my body’s need for water will result in death, and that’s no fun. Knowing how much water constitutes “plenty” is also important. I have found that I personally drink an exceptional amount of water- more than most any other runner I’ve ever come across. I’m not sure why this is, or why it doesn’t make my stomach upset, but it works for me. Because of this, I also know that during my summer training, I will need to stay on trails where I will have access to water so I can refill my pack frequently.

I have also learned to quickly gauge when I’m beginning to get too warm, and so I slow down, or stop if necessary. Running in the heat is a delicate dance, one in which I must intimately know and understand even the smallest signal communicated. Dry mouth and throat? Take a small sip of water. Getting completely out of breath on little to no incline? May need to slow down. Sweating rivers but otherwise feeling good? Keep going. Slight twinge in the gut? Too hot, slow down or stop. Running in the heat is hard. It’s dangerous. It must, at all costs, be respected. And I love it. I love the challenge. And guess what? There’s a bonus to venturing out when no one else will: I have the trails to myself. The desert is deserted.

I still think my desert home is hot, but now I don’t mind the heat. Sure, I can’t run as fast at high temperatures, but I can still challenge myself. And when the temperatures come back down, I am a better runner for it.

In case it wasn’t clear, I am not an expert. Although I do it, I don’t recommend running in the heat. I don’t know you, your training level, or the way your body works like you do. That said here are a couple of links with good basic heat information and precautions:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048167?pg=1

http://phoenix.gov/parks/trails/visitor/safety/

Respect the heat. Stay safe. Have fun!

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Highline Trail

With my semester over and finals out of the way (all A’s and A+’s, thank you very much), I thought, “Hey! I should get out of the Valley and check out a new trail!” So, with my two very good friends Matt and Becky in tow, I did! The destination of the day was the Mogollon Rim from a section of the Highline Trail just outside of Payson, AZ. We began at the See Canyon Trail Head and headed off on Highline. About 2.5 miles in we hit spur 291- Drew Trail which was then about 1.5 miles to the top. I am getting ahead of my descriptions here though, so I’ll back up.

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Stepping out of the car into the pine forest, I immediately headed to the dump toilet at the parking lot because, well, I must always check out the facilities on any run. In this case, it was a toilet that was complete with toilet smell. Excellent. There was a chill in the air for this desert girl, so I grabbed my long sleeve shirt and jacket to bring along on the run in case I needed them. Then we stepped out onto the trail. We immediately came across a crisp mountain stream: real running water! There was a plank across it so I went on, but I knew on the way back I’d need to play there a bit. The trail we were on was tight and padded with soft dirt and pine cones. Grasses brushed our ankles and bushes caressed our shoulders. The breeze periodically tried to dig its cold fingers inside my skin and blew through the pines like a freight train. I was in heaven.

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Along the entire trail we saw elk sign- mostly poop, but we also saw some great tracks and a possible tree rubbing.

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The horny toads were out in force- I think I caught about four of them, but there were many more that we saw, along with some interesting long-bodied, stocky lizards. They were too fast for me to catch though.

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We startled a coyote about twenty feet off the trail. It was beautiful- very filled out and healthy looking. The trail itself was great. We took Highline Trail, climbing through the trees, towards Drew Trail. We stepped over rocks, roots, and pine cones. Since all of us are so used to running at low elevation, we frequently could feel the effects of the higher elevation here in the climbs, but it wasn’t too bad. We powered along, alternating running with hiking and “oohing and ahhing”. There was also the occasional, obligatory pee stop. What adventure is complete without peeing in the wilderness?

Cool Tree

Cool Tree

From the descriptions we’d read online, we thought the 291 Drew Trail spur would be partially hidden and/or difficult to find. As it turned out, it was very easy to find since Highline barreled right into it upon crossing a fence. At this point, we headed up the side of the mountain. And up. And up. We stopped on a rock to eat a snack. Some tomfoolery ensued here upon the eating of some expired Cliff Shot Bloks. I have video, but unfortunately I have to pay to upgrade my WordPress account to allow video, and I am incredibly cheap. So you will just have to believe me that the shenanigans were hilarious and go with that.

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We popped up on the Rim at a dirt service road and campground. The views out over the surrounding forest were amazing. While goofing around here, I just had to take a few token ultra-runner yoga poses.

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We continued on Drew Trail until it T’d with what I believe was the General Crook Trail. There was a small meadow here where we stopped to look for wildlife, but we didn’t see anything.

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The descent was a scream! All of the climbing up to the Rim (about 1700 feet of climbing) paid off coming down! We flew over all of those rocks, roots, and pine cones! Other than the speed, the trip back was uneventful until we got back to the creek (which I believe was Christopher Creek). I kicked off my shoes headed into the stream to play a bit and feel some dirt between my toes.

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Dirty Toes

Dirty Toes

No adventure is complete without being topped off by an additional adventure in eating. As we passed through Payson on the way in, I’d seen a Mexican restaurant called El Mexicano that looked interesting, so we stopped there for a late lunch. When we arrived, there was one car in the parking lot and one couple inside. That couple soon finished up and left. With no one else in attendance at that time, I expected that the service would be exemplary, or at least good. It was meh. The waitress didn’t know the special and we had to ask for refills on our water and chips. The food was good though, and the company was great.

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After lunch, we headed home with full bellies and another epic adventure under our belts. Yet another day for which I am truly thankful to call these wonderful people my friends.

“Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected.” -Charles Lamb IMG_7479664993354

Superstitions: Ridgeline

The day's adventurers: Matt, Matt, Dawn, Me, Laurie, Becky, Shawna. Not Pictured: Ashley, Jeff

The day’s adventurers: Matt, Matt, Dawn, Me, Laurie, Becky, Shawna. Not Pictured: Ashley, Jeff

When the weatherman says there’s a 40% chance of rain here in the Valley of the Sun, that usually means it will rain: perhaps just some drips, sometimes a little more. For our adventure on Ridgeline in the Superstition Mountains, we had a full storm.

We climbed up Siphon Draw. On this day we skipped heading over to the Flatiron, and instead went straight across to get onto Ridgeline trail. The sky was overcast and it was a little chilly, but not too bad. As we continued, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. When we were about half way through our run, it started to rain. Then hail. We were not prepared for this kind of weather- but the only way out was to keep moving.

This was a gorgeous trail, one that I cannot wait to return to. It was about 13 miles (give or take some) and it was point to point. There is no water or other support on this trail. We started at the Lost Dutchman State Park entrance up Siphon Draw as I mentioned, across Ridgeline, then down to the Carney Springs Trail Head.

As with my last post, I’m going to mostly let the pictures speak for themselves.
Unlike other posts, most of these pictures are actually mine! Some were also Becky’s, which I snagged from social media.

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The wind was roaring up through here

The wind was roaring up through here

Tiny tree- bush?

Tiny tree- bush?

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Matt Long feeling bad for me and trying to warm me up. I was pathetic. I don't do cold.

Matt feeling bad for me and trying to warm me up. I was pathetic. I don’t do cold.

SO. VERY. COLD.

SO. VERY. COLD.

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runsteep.com

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Matt/Earl/Elmo

Matt/Earl/Elmo

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The Spidey Climb, so named because you have to be a spider to scale it:

 

Ashley and Jeff eyeing the Spidey Climb

Ashley, Jeff, and Matt eyeing the Spidey Climb

Coming up the Spidey Climb

Coming up

Laurie and I trying to get out of the wind and rain after the Spidey Climb

Laurie and I trying to get out of the wind and rain after the Spidey Climb

Dawn conquered the Spidey Climb

Dawn conquered the Spidey Climb

On the way down Carney Springs:

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Oh, at the end of the run I took a wrong turn and added another couple of miles to my run, but I saw a herd of cows because of this, so that was fun!

The moral of this adventure is: A truly wise man never plays leap frog with a unicorn.

 

 

Arizona Trail: Picketpost

Well, life caught up to me and I got behind on posting adventures. It’s not that I haven’t had any adventures, I most certainly have! It’s that I’ve been bogged down in the following:

  • Studying for: Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry
  • Studying world crises and composing in depth discussions on them
  • Physics
  • Attending to children and their homework needs
  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • And of course… running.

So- blogging took a backseat. Now finals are right around the corner and I’m taking a study break to update my adventures, however, I am going to let the pictures just speak for themselves.

Picketpost Run (Part of the Arizona Trail)

 Good times with Kathi and Matt

Friends out for an adventure

Friends out for an adventure

My Captain Morgan

My Captain Morgan

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Javelina tracks

Javelina tracks

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Sunrise

Sunrise

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Cool Rock Formation

Cool Rock Formation

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As usual, many of these pictures are not mine but are Matt’s. Also, check out check my good friend Kathi’s blog, Lucy’s Runner.