Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fisher Point run or bike - Flagstaff, AZ

One of my goals for the next year in Flagstaff is to explore some of the trails around Flagstaff for running. When I lived here before I always wanted to run certain loops but I never knew how long they  would actually be and if the terrain would be good for here we go, I explored my first point of interest.


Fisher point can be reached by many different trails. I decided to run from Lake Mary Road (Skunk Canyon Trail) towards Fisher Point, up the 1.2 miles to the top of Fisher point, a mile into Walnut Canyon (turn around at the secret cave) and back via Sandy's Canyon. The entire loop was 12 miles exactly and the terrain was great. The trail to and from Fisher point is soft dirt with the occasional rock. The 1.2 mile up to the top was pretty rocky, but nothing that requires trail shoes. Here is the Garmin map:

Park on Lake Mary Road just about .5 of a mile east of the Water treatment plant.
Run on the only designated trail there is.
After about .75 of a mile stay left and run into Skunk Canyon.
Once Skunk Canyon trail ends turn right (left would take you towards NAU).
Stay on that trail and it will bring you exactly to Fisher Point.
Go up if you want, go straight into Walnut Canyon if you want to go see the cave.
On the way back you have 4 choices, we went with Sandy's is how:
Go back on the trail you came from and do NOT turn left towards Marshall Lake (1st turn off/closest to Fisher Point)
Take the second possible trail that goes left into Sandy's Canyon (this is a trail with horse traffic, you can identify it by the horse shoe prints - DON'T MISS IT)
Follow it until it spits you out at Lake Mary road.
Run west on Lake Mary road until you get to the parking lot.

We ended up running back into Skunk Canyon to get our shirts that we had dropped off earlier.
Without going back it would have been an 11 mile run round trip.

1224 ft elevation gain (and the same amount of loss) including going up/down the 400 ft in 1.2 miles to the top of Fisher Point.

Turn off to the top of Fisher Point.

Now that I had done the route from Lake Mary Road, I wanted to explore the route from the NAU rec center on campus. As it turns out, this route is NOT as ideal for running as it has some really rocky spots...

Here is where we went:

NAU rec center to FUTS (Flagstaff Urban Trail System) - Sinclair Wash/Rio de Flag
Ride along Wash under the interstate to a pond - look ahead for the only trail that goes uphill STEEP
Connect to the Arizona Trail (STEEP ONE) which will lead you to a gate and directly onto the Fisher Point Trail
   ------just make sure you don't go off the main trail :-) ------
Again you end up at Fisher Point and you have the option of going up
Return on the same trail (Fisher Point Trail) until you encounter a trail called LOOP TRAIL (where you turn NORTH/down the hill) - it crosses Fisher Point Trail - don't miss it!!!
This will lead you to Hoffman Tank and through the Rio de Flag valley back to the FUTS by Sinclair Wash/Rio de Flag (there is only one main trail, so the chance of getting lost is pretty slim - but it could happen:-)

The loop from and back to the Rec center is about 13 miles and has lots of steep ups and downs.
Since we didn't go up to Fisher Point (not very good on a bike-better by foot), we ended up with 900 ft of elevation gain and 900 ft of loss.

The second route to Fisher Point is much more rocky and I would recommend running the route through the Rio de Flag valley/by Hoffman Tank BOTH ways to avoid the possible ankle twister trails that the Arizona Trail provides.
If you follow the FUTS/Rio de Flag valley to Loop Trail you will encounter this:

...nice sandy trails with minimal rocky parts.

I hope this post was helpful for all peeps visiting Flagstaff and please email me/connect with me if you have questions or need a running buddy for this trail. The scenery is soooo beautiful on these trails, I am up for the Fisher Point run at ANY time.

Next up: The 8 mile morning loop from downtown!!!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Summer fun in the sun

Last weekend I drove back down to Phoenix for one day - it felt good to sleep in my own bed again, to be in my house with JR and Jack. We enjoyed a nice evening gardening and harvesting. This year we have purple cocktail tomatoes, yellow mini pear tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, armenian cucumbers, squash, zucchini, basil, rosemary, oregano and mint. Everything is growing beautifully and enjoying the sun and the warm temperatures:

First harvest. YUM.

Armenian cucumber.

Heirloom tomatoes.

Yellow pear tomatoes.

Purple cocktail tomatoes.

Basil that was turned into pesto :-)

Friday we made the trip back up to Flagstaff for a weekend of fun. Our friends camped at Lake Mary so we drove out there for some dinner with a good view and fresh air. Eating outside and cooking with camping equipment is always fun. We went for a 5 mile run with the puppies and they were tired and dirty.

 Jack was sleepy.

 Maur still had energy.

The finished product was delicious.

The next morning we departed for a 12 mile adventure run. We started at Skunk Canyon Trail (we think) and ran to Fisher point, then a little bit into Walnut Canyon to explore one of the caves that is HUGEEEE (we didn't go in far because we didn't have headlamps), then we ran back through Sandy's canyon and back to the parking lot. The terrain is perfect for running: a mix of sandy dirt single track and pine needle covered forest trail. Off course I twisted my ankle once - always an adventure with me. Only swelled up a little bit, so I considered it "part of my stretching routine" Hahaha...

Sunday was spend in the forest as well. Slacklining...Jack and Maur had a staredown, while we tried our skills of balancing on a rope that swings if you start shaking (aka Elvis move).

 Brandon showed us how it was done.

After an hour of up and down and up and down I had done it: I wore out Erin, Brandon, JR, Jack and Maur and I was able to do a running jump on, single leg squats, tree pose, box jump jump ons, and walk the entire line!!! Fantastic. That was a good patience-lesson for me, but I wasn't going home without having success. Not today at least.

 JR's pistol entrance was awesome!!!

The view on the rope.

We also spend a good 2.5 hrs playing baseball, which left me super sore. Jack kept running after the balls and we were all beyond exhausted by last night. 

My morning run felt surprisingly good this morning. We explored Cambell Mesa on the east side of Flagstaff, a perfect 6 mile look for running. Not too rocky, slight up and downs, not windy, just awesome. From there you can connect to Fisher Point - all the trails connect - but that would have made a very long run. Next time :-) 

Next up: Last week of my first nursing class, start of the summer semester, and, off course, another running race at 7000 ft :-)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Racing at 7000 ft - yeah, REALLLL SMART

The competitive me just had to do it.
The smart me said don't do it.

The competitive me won, because us humans tend to favor the side that we really really like better and therefore I found more pros vs cons for racing.

I decided since I will be in Flagstaff for the next year that I should take full advantage of the beautiful trails, the 7000 ft, my access to awesome student athletic the NATRA series in Flagstaff.

*May 18th, 8 AM: Mountain Charter School Run for the Mountain 10K/5K/2K at Fort Tuthill. 
*June 1st, 7:30 AM: Native Americans for Community Action Sacred Mountain Prayer Run 10K/5K/2K at Thorpe Park Picnic Ramada. 
*June 15th, 8 AM: Flagstaff Nordic Center Gaspin' in the Aspen Summer Woods Trail 15K/5K/kids dash Limited to 300 runners. 
*June 29th, 7:30 AM: Northland Hospice Run for Life 10K/5K/2K at Wheeler Park (Kid’s Dash 7:00 AM) 
*August 3rd, 8 AM: Machine Solutions Run and Walk for Kids 10K/5K/2K at Fort Tuthill. (Children’s Health Center) 
*August 10th, 7:30 AM: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff Run for the Magic Half Marathon/5K/Walk at Wheeler Park. (Half Marathon Walkers start at 6AM ). 

The competitive side should have listened to the smart side. Being at 7000 ft for one week now left me pretty out-of-shape...The run was a trail run with lots of ups and downs. I felt great until the first hill, where I transformed into a whale-sounding run...I mean...jog....I mean speed walker. Have you ever had such moments where you are breathing so hard you want to make yourself invisible? Yep, that was one of them.

Anyways, I got passed on the uphill and there was nothing I could do except for keeping a great attitude and believing that I would gain fitness out of this tempo run. And I believe I did.

I ended up 2nd overall women. :-( and :-) at the same time.

In Phoenix I usually run 6:45-7:15 isch for all my runs.

My first run in Flagstaff felt fantastic. 8 miles, I thought I was moving. Then I thought my garmin was broken. Then I remembered that gamins don't break easily...I averaged an 8 min/mile pace.

Since then I have been able to hold a 7:30 avg for 8 miles and even a 7:10 avg for 5 miles.

I think the trip when moving to altitude is to just take it easy for about 4 weeks, until your body has acclimated to the thin air and your cells have developed into "altitude-endurance-cells".

I currently try to run 2* a day for 3 days, include one long run a week, but stay with slow and go-by-feel pace. I am mountain biking, swimming and doing yoga. Everything slow to allow my body to adjust. The next race is coming up next week and I know I will feel better then but still not acclimatized, so I will take it as another workout to enhance my fitness, but also to enjoy the forest and the great running community in Flagstaff.

I ran the course already and I will upload my garmin info post race, otherwise no one would believe me that there is a 1 mile steep uphill about 1/2 mile into the race...let's hope that this whale can transform into an antelope by then :-)

Happy Training!!!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Flagstaff vs Phoenix

Last Friday I made the move to Flagstaff. For one year JR and I will be traveling back and forth while I go to school up here and he works down south. We both love Flagstaff and just realized over the past 3 days how much we have missed it. Flagstaff is a magical place, clean air, the smell of pines, great people, friendly people and friendly dogs everywhere, great trails for everything from running to biking to hiking to just going for a walk. 

Even Jack thinks this place is fantastic-watching him in Phoenix vs Flagstaff is like watching a Grandpa turn into a 10 year old. Jack is 3.5 years old but due to the heat in Phoenix a doggie cannot do much more then walk in the morning when the pavement is still cool, sleep all day, and then hopefully, if it is cooling down play baseball or play with other doggies. Here is what Jack has been doing lately since we have hit the 90's:

Sleeping on his back.
Sleeping on his side.
Sleeping on the floor.
Sleeping on the couch.
Taking over the couch.
Sleeping in his food dish.
Sleeping in bed.

Well, you get the point. He is pooped all the time, just like me. As soon as we hit the 90's my body says: just sleep...ALL DAY. Phoenix is great for training in the winter, but some people, like me, just can't handle the heat and grumpiness and tiredness take over. 

Since we got here I have done two 8 mile runs: 
I was feeling great on the first one and at mile 3 or so I decided to look what pace I was going...well, for a second I was thinking my Garmin must be broken...but it wasn't. 7000 ft means Angi is running slower. I finished my run at an unusually slow avg, but I was super happy just to be able to be outside and have such clean air and fantastic trails.
The next day I ran the same loop again and I managed to run much faster, most likely because JR ran with me. I am excited to see the progress as my body adjusts to altitude (which by the second run it definitely HAD NOT, but thanks to JR's company I forgot how painful running up here is).

We went up to snowbowl and enjoyed the scenery. Everyone seemed to be in town for graduation so we decided to escape to the mountain. JR, Jack and I loved it and we had coffee and cake at 8000 ft and went for a fantastic little hike and played around in nature.

 When we lived in Flagstaff 3 years ago, we were so close to so many cool places, but like always: while you live there you forget to explore and when you move you say - I wish I would have...

This time around we promised each other we would take our mountain bikes all over the trails, go hiking where we have never hiked before and camp where we have never camped before.

This one year of school is also a great opportunity to focus on running and running specific strength. I can't wait to race in the fall after I (hopefully) get some great training in (if school allows me to have free time :-)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pat's run Phoenix - a MUST for anyone living in AZ

I found this picture on the azcentral homepage

 Pat's run has been going on for many years now. Why I have never done it before? I have no clue. Pat's run was on the weekend after the Boston bombing, and everyone was wondering what the heck to or not run a race that attracts close to 30.000 people. The Pat Tillman foundation and the Phoenix police department (and the many more departments that are probably super secret and I don't know what exactly they are called) and the volunteers did an amazing job to make this a safe and fun event where NO sign of fear was in the air - they definitely made the right decision. I had the feeling that at this race, so close after the attack, runners stuck together even more then usual. It was a pretty special feeling to be part of the: Don't mess with us feel in the runners faces.

I had heard before that with that many people parking was just out of control - we had absolutely NO problem parking.
I heard the potty line would be HUGE - they had so many potties, there was barely a wait.

This race is phenomenal, and it gives you goosebumps to hear the story of Pat Tillman, his accomplishments as an athlete and his sacrifices for this country. There were so many soldiers on the start line, team RWB, football players, ASU students and...a lot of fast runners.

The course is 4.2 miles with Curry Hill as a little leg-and-lung burner in between. I went out by feel, and just enjoyed the many spectators and runners. It was like running in Germany :-) I went through mile one in 5:45, which I thought I would probably regret later. Up curry hill, down curry hill, I just tried to stay relaxed and focus on breathing. At mile 3 I had the chance to see my competition at a U turn type corner...I took a split and 2nd and 3rd were about 15 sec behind me.

I have to be honest, I felt a little bit like throwing up, but when you have so many people cheering for you, you just have to suck it up and fight for that win. I tried to speed up, not look at my watch and just put my head down and go. Entering the last 100 m into the ASU stadium was crazy. I had never been in there (or in any football stadium). It gave me goosebumps again :-)

We finished at the 42 yard line (his number was 42, therefore the 4.2 mile run) and my time was 24:24 (mhhh, so what does that mean that I ran the same numbers as his jersey number, the race distance and the yard line where we finished, just in opposite order???) I think it is a good sign :-)

This race showed me, even though on a small scale compared to life, that if you want something bad enough - you can have it. At mile 3 I decided that loosing is not an option. I am going to take the W today. I will definitely be back next year. The race and the venue is so crazy it will keep me motivated all year long. And the entry fee is for  a good cause!!!

Time: 24:24
Distance: 4.2 miles
Avg pace: 5:49
Place: 1st overall female