Sunday, March 11, 2012

Valley of the Sun: Trail "Running"

We awoke to another gorgeous 70 degree day in Arizona, and headed out to check out the more natural side of Phoenix - specifically, the McDowell preserve, a large piece of Sonoran Desert full of trails, saguaros, and lots of desert scenery. We first learned about this preserve in a recent Sunset magazine, and we're excited to check it out. 

This drive, in comparison to yesterday's depressing ride, was beautiful. Still deserty, but a little less stark in appearance. 

As we got closer to our destination, this beautiful range began towering over the horizon.

As we got out of the car, it was already a little warm, but we brought water, so we felt confident. Ed checked out the map and made sure we knew where we'd be going - a 4ish mile loop that was specifically named in Sunset. 

For some reason, seeing it in Sunset made me think that it would be easy. 

That, was a mistake. 

Still, we didn't know that as we set out, in awe of the saguaro cacti that towered over the scenery. 

I felt great at first. Things were mostly flat, and the mental high from my 18 miler a few days earlier was in the forefront. 

However, soon we started climbing. We went up, and up, and up. Add to this was the fact that the trail was pretty technical - rocky and uneven. And, of course, the temperature was climbing as well. In the beginning we had passed all these hikers, and I felt so embarrassed as some of them started making up ground on us as I had to stop and walk. I wanted to tell all these people that I was sure were thinking I was just some out of shape girl who under-estimated the trails that I had just run very far a few days ago (though the underestimating the trails part was very accurate). It did motivate me to put in spurts of running despite my low spirits and energy. 

Ed was great. He made sure I was drinking water and even taking salt. His attitude and seriousness to my complaints would have fit well at mile 20 of a marathon, but I appreciated it at mile 1 of my very much going south run. 

Still, the view was lovely.

(side note: On this trip I tried to begin what I'm hoping will be a successful reconditioning of my mind. Every time I saw something like this I told myself "this is beautiful. this is beautiful. this is beautiful." I haven't always been exactly fond on desert scenery, but I'm trying to learn.)

As much as I hated to admit it, this desert was seriously hurting me. All the illusions I had built up about myself as a trail runner were crashing around me. As we reached a fork in the trail, and were supposed to head up some more, I called uncle and told Ed we needed to turn around. 

So, with my pride a bit banged up, we headed back down. The downhill was much better than going up, and soon I started feeling like a runner again, not just an out of shape hiker pretending to run. 

It ended up being a good thing to cut it short, as it gave us more time with our realtor, but it gave me a bit more respect for the trails here. Trail running won't quite be the same, but it will certainly be a challenge worth pursuing. 

1 comment:

  1. Almost 20 years ago, I worked for a winter in AZ and I drove by the McDowell Preserve every day. I really want to go back and visit!