Sunrise Run, an Old Man and a Phantom

Have you ever been running down a trail and you don’t lift your foot high enough and end up kicking a rock way out in front of you? Yeah, that happened to me only it wasn’t just a few feet down the trail.

There I was out for an early morning six mile trail run, contemplating such things as the economy and how to stop the pigeons from eating my winter grass seed, and my legs were getting a little tired. My right foot rolled a rock underneath which rolled right onto my left foot in mid-stride and I ended up kicking that sucker a good 10 yards. A placekicker couldn’t have done better. It flew along the trail and rolled off the downhill side where it smacked into a creosote bush. A bird flew out, “Bastard!” it said in birdspeak.

But I’m ahead of myself. My original plan for the weekend was to run a six mile trail run Saturday morning with some jackrabbits (that’s what I call anyone who’s faster than me, including Mrs. Crabbles down at the senior center with her fancy four-wheeled walker), run four more that night and another three Sunday morning. This was all in preparation for the Ragnar trail relay in two weeks. I told Gwen if I didn’t survive to spread my ashes across some local trails and my favorite recliner in the family room so I could be forever close to them.

Saturday morning, I got up at 4:30 and was all ready to go. I chickened out. All I could think about was this group of people impatiently waiting for me at the end of the trail, wondering whether to send out a search party or move on to power pilates before a nice brunch of kale and açai berries.

I texted an excuse and instead headed to a closer park. With an hour before sunrise, I donned the hydration pack, switched on my headlamp and took off down the trail. There was a nice cool breeze blowing and I thought about how cool it would be to have a cape. I made a mental note.

Two-thirds of the course was a gentle incline with some dips and washes. Lots of horse droppings as this trail is next to a horse arena and includes some water troughs. I wouldn’t mind the droppings so much since they quickly disintegrate to nothing, it’s just that they’re so big, and right in the middle of the trail. I’ve often thought that next to the dog poop baggy dispenser at the trailhead, they should have a Glad bag dispenser for horse poop. One distracted step and you would go down faster than a slick-shoed bowling pro in a hockey rink.

As the sun rose, I stopped to snap some pics. Alas, the iPhone camera just doesn’t do it justice. This, however, is why I like running trails and just being in the outdoors. I never get tired of God’s awesome creation. One day they’ll find my body hanging by my shorts snagged at the top of a Saguaro cactus, camera in hand as I tried to get that perfect shot of a Cactus Wren feeding her young.

estrella-sunrise-saguaroestrella-sunrise-horizonsun-peeking-outIt was a three mile loop of trails that I did twice and, though my pace was slower than I would have liked, I felt pretty good afterwards.

Saturday night I didn’t get in the four miler as planned. We (me, my wife and boys) went to a Halloween party and Haunted Hike at Estrella Mountain Park instead. The ranger there is terrific and they had games like Eat-Brains-On-A-String and Stick-Your-Hand-In-A-Bucket-Of-Goo-And-Find-The-Bugs, plus crafts, live snakes and other critters.

Parker was an Old Man and Carson called himself a Phantom, but he looked like the Grim Reaper to me so I’ll call him the Phantom Reaper.

old-manphantom-reaperCarson’s skeleton hand is actually a bag holder. You put the candy in his hand and it disappears. The same thing happens when you put it in his mouth, you just gotta watch your fingers.

Parker’s costume is just hilarious. Even the expression on his face reminds me of dad. Whoops, I mean a different grumpy old man.

After the fun and games, we went on a hike. I thought it would be a short quarter mile loop like they did two years ago, but it was a mile and a half up the mountain. So we didn’t have water, we used our phones as flashlights and the boys were wearing black dress shoes. I don’t think they enjoyed it as much as I did.


There were probably two hundred people on that hike. Occasionally, somebody would pop out of the bushes and scare the kids. One guy was hidden up the hill making noises like a cat. He had us going for a minute as there are bobcats in the area. “Is that a mountain lion?” “That sounds like a sick coyote, look out.” But then he started laughing.

Near the top was a full size skeleton in hiking gear laying on the side of the trail. The ranger said, “Look at the hat” and moved on. I looked at the hat and it had the name of a nearby competitor mountain park. The message was clear: don’t cross Ranger Tippy. Great view of the city lights from up there.

The next morning, I woke up early and got out for a three miler around the neighborhood. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining brightly and there was a smell of manure in the air from the adjacent farms. Ahh, this wonderful weather is what brings the snowbirds (that’s local slang for seasonal visitors fleeing south to avoid the snow). Traffic gets thick with them so we build golf courses to try and spread them out.

My legs were a bit heavy and I think I may have pushed the trail run too hard. Two weeks until Ragnar. I have mixed emotions about it, sort a of nervous anxiety about my performance (no honeymoon cracks, please). Not as excited as I should be.

Next weekend is a Halloween 5k, then there’s the Rock ‘n’ Roll half, followed by the Sun Health half and a Kiss Me I’m Irish race with my boys. Been doing at least three half marathons a year for a while and I’m considering reducing that to one next season. Maybe do some more 5k’s with my boys instead. We’ll see. 5k’s are almost as expensive as HMs anymore. I’m running out of stuff around the house to sell on Craigslist, and it’s only a matter of time before Gwen finds out her favorite sweater is missing.

Cool runnings to you, my friends!



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