Tag Archives: Arizona

Never Been Kissed

It’s been a while since my last update because I’ve been pretty busy, but I do miss writing it. Plus, some poor soul has been checking in on my blog regularly. Mom? So, I will sit here with a cold bottle of home brew and recount my latest adventure – dedicated to you, loyal reader.

The last race of the season (fall through spring) is the Kiss Me I’m Irish 4k. It is also my favorite because I run it with my boys, Parker and Carson. This was the fifth year and we were all looking forward to it. Well, I was looking forward to the run. The boys were looking forward to the treats at the finish line. The running was just a means to the end.

IMG_1233There we were on the crisp cool morning in a sea of green shirts wearing our green Irish buttons, necklaces or necktie and flashing gizmos, looking at all the funny people and dogs wearing kilts. One particular bulldog with a tiny leprechaun hat looked at us pathetically. “Don’t you poop on the course,” I told it.

A loud squelch followed by garbled music blared over the loud speakers. Nobody could make out a word of it and there was no flag in sight. But assuming it was the national anthem, we exchanged glances, put our hands over our hearts and sang along – everybody staring off in a different direction with a reverent look.

No gun, but the guy said, “Go!” Parker turned to face Carson and me. His face was a bit red but he was smiling.

“Are you ok?” I asked.

He said nothing. Just kept staring with that creepy smile. As the crowd in front of us began to move, I said, “Alright! Let’s go, guys!” Parker blew a fart in our general direction (because farts are still funny to a 12 year old) and took off.

Carson, bless his heart, tried to keep up. I was left back with the bulldogs and crying toddlers. Slowly, I trotted along and soon came upon Carson who was clutching his side.

“Got a side stitch?”

“No.”

We walked for a bit then ran every time the camera drone flew by. When we reached the first water station, I said, “Carson, do you think Parker is done yet?”

“Yeah.”

We ran-walked the rest of the way. The course looped around the Cardinals football stadium and as I ran, I imagined myself as receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Carson was quarterback Carson Palmer. “Carson, I’m open! Throw me the ball.” I said running forward.

“What?”

“I can score a touchdown! Pass it!” I hollered back.

“Dad…”

In my head, I made a spectacular one-handed fingertip catch, scraping my toes along the grass to win the Superbowl and was contemplating my celebratory dance moves when somebody shouted, “Drone!” We all faced forward, smiled and sucked in our guts.

I coaxed Carson to push it a little bit and sensed he was low on gas. As we approached the last turn, I said, “Ok, we’ll walk up to the corner then run in to finish strong.”

He didn’t wait for the corner. He took off at a full sprint. I thought, well he’s got a last spurt of reserve energy afterall, he, he. He’ll poop out in a minute though. When he kept going I decided I had better run and stepped on the gas. I ran full tilt and passed people left and right, “Freight train coming through!” Sideline supporters stared and gaped. Probably wondering why I didn’t go potty before the race. As fast as I ran, I still couldn’t catch the little squirt and he finished a few seconds ahead of me.

We high-fived and hugged and congratulated ourselves and got our medals. Then we went to look for Parker. He was standing at the finish line still looking down the road for us. We collected him and declared, “Time for treats!”

IMG_1242There was a long line for mini bundt cakes, KIND bars, Muscle Milk, Gatorade and various fruits. We sat stuffing our faces in front of the Irish band (I’m sure they appreciated that), then had to be going to get to the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. As we were walking to the parking lot, a lady passed by and, indicating the boys, said, “Did you check the times? They might have won their age group.” Hmm…

IMG_1243Sure enough, Parker took third place in his age group. But it wasn’t until days afterward when I saw the races photos that I learned the exciting truth. He was in a battle to the finish line with another kid! The crack photographers caught all the action and snapped a shot every second so clicking through the sequence looks like a stop-motion movie. They were looking at each other, hoofing it out on their skinny legs until Parker finally edged him out, leaping across the timing line like a gazelle! That’s my little wide receiver, I thought. I’d show you the pictures but I’m too cheap to buy them. Above is a pic of him getting his medal with a giant leprechaun. I asked him who stole his Lucky Charms but he just stared at me. Kind of like the time I tried to start a conversation with Mickey at Disneyland.

So, another year passed at the Kiss Me I’m Irish race and I still have not been kissed. Nothing lost though, because nobody kisses like my sweetie.

Tic-Toc Goes the Clock

Running has been sporadic over the past week which is a little scary since the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona half marathon is fast approaching; just three weeks away! Every waking moment the little voice in the back of my head says, “Dude, it’s cold out and you’re getting thin up here. Put a hat on!” It also says, “You better get in those distance runs. Tic-toc goes the clock, big guy.”

all-capsThe first problem has been taken care of. My boys got me this ultra-cool Darth Vader beanie for Christmas. Now the wheezing and heavy breathing when I run sounds intentional. Carson, the ultimate Harry Potter fan, got all the essentials to become a Gryffindor barber pole. And Parker is modeling his beanie from the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Park, which also makes an ideal target in our Nerf gun wars.

The second problem is a motivation issue. Lately, it’s been, “It’s cold out.” Or, “I’ll run later.” Or the ever popular, “I just ate that dish of lasagna and wouldn’t want to puke in the neighbor’s lantana again.”

However, a hero has arisen! Now that Parker has joined the cross country team at school, it gives us a reason to get out and run together. Well, ok, it’s more like, “Come on, Parker, let’s go.”

“Oh, alright,”and the negotiations begin. “Can I ride my bike?”

“No.”

“How far are we going?”

“You can run the first two miles with me then go in and I’ll continue the rest of my run.”

“Deal!”

That’s how it starts, but the truth is that we both thoroughly enjoy it. I love it because it’s a private time with my boy when we talk about whatever he wants. He likes it because he can run circles around me.

pj-meetpj-running

If you haven’t seen The Incredibles, you should. It’s my favorite animated film. There’s a scene at the end where Dash, the superhero kid who is super fast, is in a track meet with other kids and is trying to dial in his speed so that he’s competitive but doesn’t blow everyone away. He speeds up, then slows down looking at his dad in the stands for guidance. That’s Parker.

His skinny legs slip through the air with no resistance as his canoe paddle feet slap the pavement like flippers. All the while, he has a look on his face like, Come on, man. I’ve got places to go and people to see.

“I know you’re used to running a lot faster than this,” I say, and then his face softens as he takes pity on me and a conversation begins. He may have me on speed, but I can still outlast him. The max they run is two miles.

This week, my goal is 24 miles including some intervals (which for me is more like the sputtering death throes of a Yugo near empty) and 9 miles next Saturday. Depending on whether or not it rains, I would like to do that on a trail to get in some inclines.

Since training has been lacking, I plan on doing the run-walk method. I’ve done it before and it was quite entertaining. The app Run-Walk – which you can set for whatever time intervals you want and gives one loud beep when it’s time to walk and one loud beep when it’s time to run – is apparently pretty popular. As my phone beeped, I began to walk. Then in a few seconds there was another beep, and another. I looked up to see various runners starting and stopping and looking around at each other. We sounded like a convoy of U-Haul trucks backing up. This year, I’ll carry earbuds for one ear.

On New Year’s Day, I’ll begin the I Love To Run challenge of 1,000 miles in a year which, by summertime, could become the I Hate Running What Was I Thinking passing fancy.

Run into the New Year with determination, my friends, and don’t look back. I wish you all a wonderful, positive and productive 2017!

50 Year Dash

baby-picHas it been 50 years already? It seems like just last week I had not a care in the world – kicking back with a drink in one hand, a rattle in the other, waiting for someone else to dress me. Those were the days. Now every time I move I sound like a rusted barn door.

However, as I ruminate on 50 years of life a smile emerges because those years hold many happy memories. No, I won’t bore you with my life story. I’ll save that for my days in the senior care center where I can spew endlessly to fellow residents without the strength to wheel themselves away.

Fifty years have gone by in a flash and as my birthday approaches (December 29th, size 13, 4E shoes, XXL shirt, favorite color: coppery-red) I find myself torn. On one hand, I feel I should mark the occasion. What do guys typically do for a mid-life crisis? I pondered. A new sports car? Well, unless Vespa has recently made it onto the cover of Hot Rod magazine, that was not in the budget. A tattoo? No, I already have that birthmark that resembles spilled kool-aid. On the other hand, I don’t really care. It is just a number and I don’t want to build it up into some geriatric rite of passage.

ragnar-finishSo since I’m a runner, I decided to do a race that was on my bucket list. (My wife hates that term, by the way. She thinks it tempts fate and has declared that she’ll kill me if I die before the kids move out.) The Ragnar Trail Relay was last month and I thoroughly enjoyed it. See previous post. Now, however, another running siren song seduces me from the realm of pop-ups. Damn you, Facebook!

pricy-blingThey caught my eye with some shiny bling and I was bewitched. Until I saw the price tag. Really? Forty-four dollars for a medal? And yet, 1,000 miles in a year intrigued me. Could I do that? I quickly did the math: less than 20 miles a week. I can do that. And as I type this my knees crack in protest. “That was my chair!” I say aloud to oblivious coworkers.

The only problem would be summer when the tempts reach “molten hot lava” levels and me with no treadmill. The gyms that claim $10 a month don’t mention the sign-up fee and the documentation fee and the rate guarantee fee and the treadmill heavy-fella fee etc. I’ll have to work something out.

The good news is that I don’t have to buy the medal to participate. So I signed up.

A few friends “Liked” the link, thinking it was pretty cool. When I asked if they wanted to join me: “Are you nuts?!” “Doug’s on the Crazy Train again.”  “I’ve got a root canal that year.”

irby-boy-stack-up

Mileage markers aside, I love running so I can do more with my kids. I can’t count the hikes, soccer games, football games, baseball, tag, Nerf wars and more that we’ve played. I especially love the races we’ve run together in recent years.

I’ll never forget the first organized 4k race that I ran with Parker. Two blocks out of the gate, “Come on dad, I wanna win!” he said with a look like I had betrayed him. We’ve run that race four years now and still haven’t won. Although, he’s joined the cross country team at school now so my retirement dreams are pinned on his Olympic track and field success in 2024. Come on kid!

This last picture was taken on a tour of Shamrock Farms. I asked Carson to sit on the cow so I could take his picture. He struck a pose with a balloon sword that I just had to have fun with.

The next race in line is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona half in January. A fairly level course until mile nine where a two mile incline begins, affectionately known as “death row”. More on that in upcoming posts.

Cool runnings my friends!

The Campout

This post doesn’t involve as much running, although I did some intervals and a three miler during the week. Now, apparently when I say “intervals”, people get the impression that I am fast.

Back before college, I used to drive a diesel VW Rabbit (this was before most diesel cars had turbo). It was a feat to go more than 45 mph, but on the rare occasion when I wanted to pass somebody on the highway, I had to plan a half hour ahead. Ok, there’s a downhill coming up. I would roll up the windows to reduce drag and stomp on the gas as hard as possible. With a loud bang, the exhaust would belch a great black cloud and gradually the speedometer would notch up… one mph… two mph… As the car gained speed, I checked oncoming traffic and the cars behind me, calculating the time and speed necessary to make my move, praying that a big bug wouldn’t hit my windshield and slow my momentum. The time came and I made my move into the next lane. Inevitably, some fancy Yugo or Gremlin would come up behind me, honking for me to get out of their way. Too bad! I’m committed now! Slowly, I passed the target car giving the driver a smug nod while inside I was sweating bullets as the life-and-death game of chicken with the oncoming semi played out. “Come on, baby. You can do it!” I coaxed. The truck approached, not even slowing. Doesn’t he see me?! I looked at the car next to me, “Slow down!” I screamed, waving my hand. At his mercy, I narrowly passed before the semi roared by the other way. And then we would come to the bottom of the hill heading back up where I would begin to accumulate a long line of irate drivers behind me.

That’s me running intervals. Of course there was the time my gas pedal got stuck on Interstate 10 driving to U of A. That was a little stretch of terror I’ll never forget. But that’s never happened to me on a run (unless you count G.I. issues).

Now that we’re clear on that, I did do some fun outdoor hiking and camping over the weekend. My younger son, Carson, is a Cub Scout. So he, me and my older son, Parker, left Friday for a three day campout at nearby Lake Pleasant with his pack.

campsiteWe left after school and got there early to find a good spot – close to the water spigot and upwind of the restrooms. Carson and I slept in the larger tent. Parker slept in the little orange pup tent. He could barely stretch out in it, but he likes having his own place and I’m pretty sure he had snacks stashed in there as late at night I could hear the rustling of a chip bag and the whooshing of what I now believe was a battery operated Cappuccino machine.

Behind us, you can see part of a wall where the side of the hill was cut away. Digging and chipping away at that hill was the favorite pastime at the campout. The cubs were all over it like ants on a cookie and I soon found myself singing the dwarf song from Snow White.

“We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig in our mine the whole day through.
To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig is what we like to do.
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho…”

One boy said, “I’m digging for diamonds!” I suspect Minecraft was an influence.

At one point, they all got excited as someone said they saw a clown hiding in the bushes. This was a false alarm but stuck in the back of their heads for a while.

On Saturday, we went with the den on a hike up a nearby hill. It was steep and full of cacti and loose rocks. Some boys struggled. One slipped and scraped his leg. Others needed a boost. Finally, we crested the top feeling satisfied and accomplished. “We’re the kings of the world!” we shouted, then looked down to see a smashed beer can. Bummer. Great view from up there, though.

lake-pleasant
View from the top. Lake Pleasant in the distance.

The boys and I visited the Nature Center, then hiked a bit more and played by the lake skipping stones.

“Watch me skip this one!” Carson hollered, stumbling to the water’s edge with a boulder the size of his head. Parker and I were bent over looking at shells.

“Wait!” we yelled. Too late. Lake water in the mouth.

selfieWe had a blast, laughing and giggling as we pulled barbed stickers out of our shoes. At day’s end, we had walked or hiked over six miles and enjoyed sitting by the campfire that night.

The way they lit it was clever. A wire was threaded through a roll of toilet paper and ran from a tree branch to the fire pit. Then the toilet paper was suspended near the top. All lights were extinguished and near the tree you could hear the “flick, flick, flick” of someone trying to ignite a lighter. With a flash, the fluid saturated roll caught fire and all eyes went to the tree branches above. “Ohhh!” said the crowd of 75. The roll sat there dripping fireballs as a guy with kitchen tongs tried to nudge it along, dancing all the while to avoid catching his shoes on fire. Finally, it sailed down the wire as the “tongs guy” swatted at his now burning leg hair.

Whoosh! went the firewood which had obviously been heavily doused with something flammable and we all scooted back a few inches.

Bobcat ceremonies, skits and cheers ensued followed by flaming marshmallows on sticks. It was a grand old time with chocolate-mouthed kids running about and parents comparing camping gear. “It’s a water purifier and a coffee grinder. See here?”

One of the leaders decided to have some fun and had his wife bring up a clown costume. As the boys were all hopped up on S’mores and hot chocolate, he climbed the hill in the dark and had his wife tease the cubs about hearing something. Their eyes grew wide, intrigued but not willing to admit it. Then the clown stood up, turned a flashlight on himself and laughed maniacally. At first they were spooked, but then they picked up sticks and rocks and challenged the clown to show himself again. “Ok… who wants s’more S’mores?!”

I led a little service the next morning and then the place cleared out like a classroom at recess time. Packing up and then unloading at home is never fun but we’ve gotten pretty good at it and I looked forward to a shower and a big cup of coffee.

cup-a-joe
I’ve finally found a coffee mug that’s just the right size.

Tonight is non-turbo intervals and I’ll try to get in my regular run schedule this week. Another speedy friend has asked to run trails with me so we’ll see how that goes this weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving and cool runnings to you my friends!

A Tour of the Trail

Ok, except for my son losing his next-to-last baby tooth, it’s been a rather slow unexciting week since Ragnar last weekend. I took my legs for a two mile test drive around the neighborhood Tuesday just to be sure they still worked and they were ok, albeit a little tired. My muscles were wary of the exercise. “What’s going on here?” legs asked brain. “You better not be putting us through that hell again! I swear, we’ll give out right here in the Azaleas!”

“Relax,” brain replied. “It’s just a little two mile jaunt to keep you from getting lazy. If you’re good, I’ll reward you with a nice foam roll later.”

“Really? A foam roll?”

So that went well, but I took it easy for the rest of the week until Saturday morning. In lieu of some exciting adventure, I thought I would take you on a tour of the trail I ran.

Some new trails recently opened up at Skyline park including a couple of loops that, according to the map, were fairly level (an elevation gain of 280 feet over six miles). I woke up early to catch my legs unaware, hoping to get in a few miles before they knew what hit them.

granite-falls-trailFrom the parking lot, I took the Turnbuckle trail to the first loop, Granite Falls. The route would wind through the above pictured valley and intersect with another loop, Chuckwalla.

It started off nice and the elevation gain was minimal. However, soon there were deep washes to cross and small hills to climb. I had brief flashbacks to the Yellow Loop at Ragnar and broke out in cold sweats. My legs woke up, “What’s going on here? Hey! Where are we?” Brain was wise though and slowed the pace, walking the ups and running the downs and flats with about 200 breaks to take pictures. It was a gorgeous, cool November morning.

saguaro-cactus

two-barrel-cacti
Two Barrel Cacti

Take a look at the above two pics. One of the most fascinating things about the desert, to me, is how plants and animals adapt. Saguaro cacti, among others, often grow under a bush or tree such as the Palo Verde. The shade helps them survive the hot sun. Personally, I prefer a hat and some iced tea.

trail-at-sunrise
This is just a picture of me on stilts and a really tall cactus in the background.

chuckwalla-trailheadAfter almost two miles on Granite Falls, I crossed to the Chuckwalla trail. This is where things got interesting. As the trail took off into near unexplored territory, I found a dead body! The flesh had decayed and rotted away so all that was left was the skeleton. I could see the ribs and everything!

saguaro-cactus-skeletonYeah, it’s a Saguaro cactus skeleton. Did I have you going? When it rains, such cacti soak up the water into a fleshy center and the ribs expand allowing it to survive long periods without rain. The surface of the cactus, or skin, has a waxy coating to keep the moisture from evaporating. What a wise design!

saguaro-bootThe needles keep large prey away from the smaller critters who make the cactus their home. The hard white shell-looking thing with a hole is actually a scar that forms when birds such as woodpeckers dig in. It’s rare to find one like this, intact. Sometimes, it’s called a boot for the shape. Woodpeckers burrow the holes and typically stay for one season then move, leaving a vacancy for other birds. They used to have a timeshare type of agreement but that led to all sorts of lawsuits so now it’s more of a co-op. Here are some other pics.

Below is a petroglyph I found left by the Yavapai Indians of a studly warrior. Impressive. I bet he lost his other arm fighting off a bear or mountain lion to protect his tribe.

studly-warriorAs for the wildlife, I didn’t see much running around, but I did see signs that they had been there. The sand in the washes had lots of tracks: coyotes, quail and below is a pic of a javelina hoofprint. They travel the trails at night searching for trail mix and popcorn dropped by unwitting tourists.

javelina-hoofprintBy now you’re saying, “Ok Doug, how much running did you actually do with all this picture-taking?” As I said, I took it easy and didn’t check my pace. Legs and brain worked out an agreement and everyone was happy with it.

field-of-chollasHere is a field of Cholla cacti at sunrise, also known as Jumping Chollas. They strike fear into the hearts of all Arizona hikers and trail runners. You will be running by, minding your own business saying, “Oh, look at the pretty cactus holes” when all of a sudden Hah! one launches itself at you and digs into your leg. You will lose a pound of flesh getting that sucker out. Ok, well, they don’t really fly off the plant at you. It just seems that way. And the hooks on the needles will make you want to leave it in.

“That? Oh, that’s just a souvenir of my trip to Phoenix. I’ve named it Cholly.”

Here’s a picture of the Cholla balls (for lack of a better term). They are all over the place, patiently waiting for an unsuspecting passerby with tall white socks.

cholla-ballsOne brave critter that’s not afraid of these balls is the pack rat. They gather sticks and leaves to build a burrow then place these strategically around the outside to keep predators at bay. Tough little creatures. I once saw one with a patch over one eye and asked him how he got it. He said, “Don’t ask,” then flicked his cigarette butt at me. [shiver]

pack-rat-nest
Pack rat nest
sad-saguaro
This is just a sad Saguaro that needs a blue pill.

prayer-circleTowards the end of my run, I came across this structure (above). I got excited and thought, Cool! It must be an old prayer circle or maybe a famous tribal leader was buried there. I approached with reverence and wondered at the history of the site. Then I saw what was at the center.

markerIt was a survey marker from the Army Corps of Engineers. So I didn’t feel bad about stepping all over it to get the shots!

turnbuckle-markerAnd so Chuckwalla turned back to Granite Falls which connected once again with Turnbuckle and soon I was within a half mile of the parking lot. Rounding a corner, I swallowed the last gulp of water and let out a satisfying belch as two young girls came into view, jumping with surprise.

“It was a rat,” I said. “Watch out for the one with the patch.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and maybe learned something about the desert. If not, I hope you had a nice nap.

Cool runnings, my friends!