So that I would know what to expect for my upcoming SkyRace 37K, I headed out of the heat of the Valley and into the trees of Flagstaff. While this race will not be particularly long, the altitude difference between here and there, and the amount of climbing over the course of the race had me, well, concerned. How would the altitude affect me? And how would that impact my ability to climb the hills? I thought it would be a good idea to know these things ahead of time, and to have at least a little bit of an idea of what the course was like.
My running partner and I parked near the top of Snowbowl Rd. (On a side note, we had driven up from the Valley where it was around 100 degrees. The gauge in my car said 52.) After a little bit of obscure side trail navigation, we landed on the local portion of the AZ Trail (which will not be a part of the race). After a brief stop at an old homestead monument that included the acquisition of someone’s forgotten aviator sunglasses, we were on our way. Well, sort of. I had to keep stopping to readjust my pack or fix some other technical issue.
Anyway, running down the hill was incredible! Jumping over roots and rocks, trees pressing in on all sides, breathing in the smell of clean dirt and fresh green-cleaned air, my body relaxed and found its rhythm.
Hitting the base of the mountain, we veered left. Most likely this portion of trail was simply a gentle incline, but here I started to struggle. Because I knew what I’d just run down, I knew I would have to get back up to the car, and that a large portion of that would be very uphill. Since this part of the trail wasn’t steep, I forced myself to run. Running might be over exaggerating- I was moving with a running motion, how’s that? Anyway, I was now able to really feel the difference in altitude. I couldn’t believe how difficult everything felt. My modest jog felt like it was everything I had. I tripped numerous times. I don’t know how I didn’t go down. My pinkies and fingertips were tingling. I say the difficulty here was due to altitude, it could also be that I wasn’t having the best run day. Who knows?
On this relatively flat section, the major excitement happened: we saw a heard of about 20 elk! Other than the relatively “tame” ones at the Grand Canyon (which I don’t count), I’d never seen an elk in the wild before. This was a herd of mamas and their babies and they ran up the hill away from us.
We met a hiker who was out with her dog and chatted with her for a bit. She was out looking for her dog’s leash that she’d left on the trail somewhere. We told her that if we saw it we’d hang it on a tree for her.
There was some kind of charity mountain bike event going on, so we kept running across bikers on the trail.
When we finally hit the Secret Trail, we were supposed to go right to hit Weatherford trail, and then we’d be on the actual race trail. I decided I needed to go left, though. Going towards Weatherford would add a few extra miles, and with the amount that I was already struggling, I didn’t feel that’d be a good idea. If this had been the race obviously that would have been a different story; I would have gone where the race took me. But it was just a training run and I didn’t feel any need to ruin myself. So we went left and caught up with the race trail on Moto Trail.
Moto Trail took a tiny bit of navigating skills. There were spots where other trails came in and crossed. Thankfully we had a map and both of us are pretty good at navigation. We made it to Rocky Moto Trail, then GT Trail up the mountain to get back to the car.
On the way, we came across an area that appeared to have burned a few years prior. It was an open meadow filled with beautiful wildflowers. And there were black raspberries! There weren’t very many, and they were very small, but they were so good. It has been years since I had black raspberries.
Somewhere along here, we came across a cool old flipped car. I think it had been there for a very long time.
We stopped at the homestead monument to put the aviator sunglasses back where we found them. Someone else may want to use them for tomfoolery.
And then we were back at the car. And hungry.
On our way through Flagstaff, we stopped to find somewhere to eat. It seemed to be the weekend of classes starting at NAU, and the streets were full of students and their parents. We found a little hole in the wall Thai place: Pato Thai Cuisine. It was incredibly busy, but the service was good. We both had the red curry and it was delicious! Who doesn’t love spicy food after a run?
After eating, we drove home. I was exhausted, but I felt good. I now have a great idea on what to expect during the race, especially on what to expect from my body (fatigue, tripping, and tingling fingers). I don’t have any speed expectations for this race- I’m simply going to enjoy the scenery, the people, and the atmosphere and use the difficulty of the course as training for my first 100K in November.
This link will take you to the video Matt made of our run: http://youtu.be/hPSxXP4sd_A