Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
I was feelin’ so holy
What do you do when it’s just too freaking hot, and you need a change of pace (and to contribute to a worthy cause)? Hop in the car and drive 2-1/2 miles north for one out of the summer trail race series in Flagstaff!
Friday begins with an 8-mile fartlek at way too early in the morning. Do laundry, putter around, pack, bundle everything into the car. (This is a trial packing run for the Disneyland HM, when I want to fit all my stuff into a single carryon backpack.) I check into my small-but-cheap hotel room – it’s clean and has a fridge AND microwave, whaddayawant? – and walk down to Run Flagstaff to pick up my shirt & number. It’s a warm evening – almost as warm as I’ve been doing my pre-dawn runs at back home. Black bean stink burger at Flagstaff Brewing Co, then back to my hotel for an early evening.
After a somewhat restless night and a breakfast burrito, I’m waved into the Ft. Tuthill parking lot along with the other early arrivals, well before the 8:00 start time. It’s still pleasantly chilly, and I spot another person in a Lost Dutchman sweatshirt. For a small race they certainly have a lot of goodies set up under the ramada, and welcome tureens of Seattle’s Best coffee.
Mingling before the start I spot my snowbird friend with her other running club in their lime green shirts. Another group has T-shirts emblazoned “Pancakes or Ice Cream”, but I only overhear part of the story on that one. I’m wearing the “Marathon Coaching Consultants” shirt I got when I signed up with my coach, prompting the gal next to me to ask if I’m a coach (not the first time this has happened with this shirt). We chat for a minute, then there’s the countdown, and we’re off down the trail!
We start down a wide, straight dirt road. A woman with her very young sons keeps asking if we’re at the turnaround for the fun run yet. Yes, I’ll bet 2K seems a lot longer when you’re trying to keep up with an energetic youngster! The 10/5K quickly splits off onto a narrow track and winds through the pines, then starts to climb. The ground is fairly soft underfoot, fine dirt and forest litter, but there’s also a lot of rocks, loose and otherwise, and the occasional dry branch. The last of the traffic jams falls by the wayside as the 10K splits off from the 5, and the track beings to seriously undulate.
Remember how you used to run as a kid? Feet flying, arms flailing, over the sidewalks and lawns and hills, all the way home from school just for the fun of it? I won’t be felling any PR at this exalted altitude, so that’s how I’m running today – for the fun of it. The smell of the pines is wonderful and reminds me of growing up in the Pacific Northwest. I make a game out of running down the hills and seeing how far my momentum will take me up the next, bounding as far as I can until driven by inertia to a trudge.
And then, not long after the final water station, it happens – my foot catches on a rock on a downslope and sends me windmilling! Time freezes for an instant as I realize I’m going to hit the ground, nose first. Then I’m lying stunned, spitting dirt and counting my teeth. About five runners stop to get me back on my feet, and one gal even walks with me for a bit until I get over the wobblies. My first face-plant! I feel like a real trail runner now!
Within a few minutes I’m running again, but dial things back a bit. These last two miles are relatively flat, crossing small meadows filled with orange penstemon, blue desert lupin, and a vast variety of little yellow flowers. Then it’s back down the straightaway, volunteers ringing cowbells all the way, and into the finish chute! Official time: 1:17:10.
Antiseptics and ice at the first aid tent! Final tally: 2 banged up knees, on slightly trail-burned kisser, one scraped elbow, and one pranged hand – the last the most painful of the lot. Back at the hotel, there’s time enough for a shower before checkout. I grab breakfast at a great diner called “The Place” and head on home.