Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lost In The City

I didn't think it was possible to get "lost" in the middle of a city comprised of nearly 6 million people. Directionally challenged in a way where you don't know where you are or how to get where you are going , of course, but lost? But I learned last night that if you travel 15 miles deep into the urban mountain biking trail at dusk without real lights and then leave the path to take a shortcut towards the lights twinkling way off in the distance, you can actually get to a fork in the road and have to blindly chose which way to go. I find this to be a special treat on a Monday night following a huge rainstorm.

South Mountain is the largest urban trail system in the country with over 50 miles of trails in the center of Phoenix. It is also in my back yard. Within 10 minutes of hiking, you can spin 360 and see no houses, hear no highways, and feel for a moment that you are out of town. This isn't to say that you will see no people, as it is a heavily traveled trail with many hikers and bikers making it part of their daily ritual. But during monsoon season in Phoenix, most of the urbanites get scared of lightening and rain and the trails become abandoned. There is a very popular singletrack trail called Desert Classic which circles the southern base of the mountain for 18 miles. It consists hardpacked dirt with lots of deep dips, curves and rocks. It is the very first place I ever road a mtb, endo-ed and discovered how much fun this sport could be. Since I am still a newbie, I still somewhat sucked last time I road it about 6 weeks ago. But I have been doing a lot of biking since then on much harder trails so I was excited to test myself again. My friend Sarah and I started a little later than we wanted at 7:00 pm which only gives about an hour before darkness. We were flying along and I was feeling awesome. It is the best I have ever felt on a mtb comfort wise. I feel like I am definitely improving and hit every hill at speed. I did stall out on two hills due to wet loose sand, but that number was down from five last time.

So turnaround time came & went and we were still making forward progress away from the car into the impending darkness. At some point, we decided just to keep going, further along the trail than we have ever been, and at some point, try to find a trail out to the road once that dark hit. I have a cheapo Target light which I purchased for $12.00 because I couldn't figure out why real bike lights cost $200. Really, a light for $200? Does it pedal and yell encouraging things at me as I ride? No? Then, I will pass. So I have a cheap light and Sarah has none. But this did not discourage us from riding unfamiliar trail in the pitch dark, it was an adventure after all. But then the trail got crappy. By crappy, I mean much more technical, climbing up into the mountain with a lot of large rocks where picking a line is helpful. I tried to lead and Sarah tried to follow me, but really I was not doing so hot and we were off the bikes a lot.

Finally we came to a vee in the road and decided to take the trail heading closer to the direction we were going to have to take back to the car. Only problem is, this wasn't a real beginner biking trail. I think it was just a hiking trail made by locals who live in that area. I felt pretty out of control most of the time as obstacles would crop up too late to avoid them. Something about being out in the darkness and just having to let go of technique and fears was strangely exhilarating. I realized if you just stay relaxed and let your bike bounce the way it needs to while maintaining forward momentum, you will stay up. We finally took a wash into a neighborhood and after climbing over a fence we were back on road and just had to find our way back to the car. I think overall it was about a 25 mile journey which took about 2 hours. This puts my mtb mileage for the last three days at 55 miles which is pretty good for me. I didn't bring my bike computer because it was raining when we started and I didn't want to ruin it. Thanks again for another adventure Sarah, crazy rower #2.

Monday, July 30, 2007

What I didn't do.

It was sort of a calm weekend. Too much required activities involving wedding planning & fund raising aka 'staying in town' had to be completed. Due to this...

We did none of this...

Nor any of this ...

Nor did we make it here...
or here...

But we did do some biking on this...
This lovely patch of dirt single/double track is known as Pemberton Trail in the McDowell Mts just north of Scottsdale. According to my trails.com guide, it is a non technical way to complete a 15.4 mile loop without killing yourself. Hah, they were wrong. The guide said that 'most' people go counter clockwise as a more fun experience. Well we messed up and went clockwise, oh well, which turned out to have the first nine miles be uphill climbing on a giant bolder strewn trail. This would have been rough coming down, but was torture going up. Granny gear bouncing was how I would describe it. The other deciding factor in heart rate and caloric burn was that on every single measily little downhill, there was a giant wash at the bottom with about 5 feet of nice deep loose sand to totally kill your momentum. The above picture is the NOT the part of the trail I am talking about. Nine miles in, we seriously were contemplating taking a direct root through the desert back to the car, but physics told us that since we had been climbing for 9 miles on a loop, it had to go down right at some point right?! The minute we jumped back on the bikes, it was seriously fun fast double track dirt (seen above) for 6 miles back to the car. The occasional wash was the only hindrance to serious speed (although Tom found out that is easier to fly over your handlebars when you are going fast). I know now why people go counter clockwise, cause climbing hard packed dirt is way easier than fighting the uphill cantaloupe strewn hell path. I thought the trail was a fabulous workout and I would do it again, but mental expectations would be altered.

On a happy note, I have a new toy in the form of a wireless bike computer. It is a cheapie, but records time, distance, max/ave speed and heart rate. I didn't wear the heart rate monitor on this, but could tell that in our 15.8 miles, we averaged 10.2 mph which just goes to show how freaking slow we were in the first 9 miles. It also prompted the question "how much farther now" every 1.2 miles. I love gadgets. I guess that is why I am a computer engi-nerd.

[Update: I was asked where the pics are from... 1. Camping at Lake Bartlett, Carefree, AZ 2. Rock Climbing Pinnacle Peak, Scottsdale, AZ 3. Fossil Creek Falls Rope Swing, Strawberry, AZ 4. Cathedral Rock, Sedona AZ]

Friday, July 27, 2007

Taunting Peaks

Four Peaks (Photo taken 3/12/2006 by Steven Cross here)

Today at work it was suggested to me by a coworker that I should look into rescue insurance. "Rescue insurance," I asked, "what exactly is that?" It apparently is insurance you can buy that should you need to be helicoptered out of a sticky situation, you will not get stuck with the bill. They have this? Is there a big market for this? Should I get it? Do I seem like I need it?

I blame my need for rescue insurance on my friend. We recently were discussing the fact that even though they are prominently featured on all Arizona license plates, the 7657 ft jagged Four Peaks Mountains located just 60 miles northwest of Phoenix seemed to be largely ignored in the hiking world. In fact, I have never met a single person who has climbed them. Since this conversation, they taunt us, sitting there laughing at us from every vantage point in the valley. Research commenced and we found out that some people do climb them, in fact there is half trail up to the highest one called Browns Peak (the only named peak) which is considered a class 3 scramble: hard but very doable. This area has the highest number of black bears in the state as well as rattlesnakes, ring-tailed cats, mountain lions, coyotes, javelinas, and deer. Oh yeah, and it also gets quite a bit of snow which makes it only place to climb a snow mountain in Phoenix (or really even see snow). Upon further research, we learned about the really challenging option, that locals climbers have dubbed "the four peaks motherlode". This is when you bag all four peaks in one day traversing the top ridge. It's way easier to say it than to do it as there is class 4 and class 5 climbing involved, lots of rock scrambling and 50 places to fall to your death. I have read accounts of about 4 successful trips and they all said it was insane and they may never do it again.

So I may have excitedly told my coffee break group of normal safety oriented individuals about this discovery, hence the need for rescue insurance. But seriously, this looks like the ultimate adventure, although the hair raising accounts of failed attempts here makes me think twice. I am for sure going to be bagging Browns Peak hopefully in early August and doing a little scouting for the motherlode as well. And looking into that insurance...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fat Man: Enter at your own risk.

Fat Man's Pass on Hidden Valley Trail in South Mt (taken by my Razor)

I went trail running last night... IN THE RAIN! Well there was at least some drops coming down anyway and it was glorious. We ran at South Mountain and made it all the way to Fat Man's Pass which is a interesting natural rock tunnel. I estimate about 6 miles with 2k elevation change total. I love the fact that this is less than 5 miles from my house, which is one of Phoenix's biggest charms: suburban hiking.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This weekend was just one big blog.

I have always felt that the ability to laugh while overcoming all obstacles is key in the fight for happiness. This weekend was one of those life & knowledge enriching experiences that ended up being an awesome and memorable time. Tom was out of town so it was ladies adventure weekend...woohoo!

Reasons it was awesome...

Reason 1. Beauty. It is almost impossible to feel anything but reverence in the face of true natural beauty. It doesn't matter if a large giant lightening storm is heading towards you when you miles from your camp or if said storm proceeds to dump on you the whole night in your pseduo-waterproof tent. Just smile and dive into the water.

Exhibit 1: We chose to set up our camp near the lovely unnamed waterfall #1. Known for its great diving cliffs and hidden caves located behind the falls which you can climb into. See here for more evidence.

Exhibit 2: Fossil Creek Flume Falls. Famous (with locals) for its gushing beauty, its amazing rope swing, its hidden underwater passages to caves and its raw beauty. Located 4 bushwacking miles north of the chosen campground along the river full of tons of amazing wildlife, black berries, and no no no people along the way. Look at that beautiful dive by An-hell!
Exhibit 3: Water here is alive. I find that very beautiful.

Reason 2. Fun. Overall this weekend was just fun. We laughed a ton, and even though we got lost multiple times, this just added to our memories. We took alternative path back to camp from the large falls upstream and ended up dirt surfing down a mountainside in order to make it to our tents before a large thunderstorm rolled in. Now that is fun.

Exhibit 1: Spending quality tent time with friends during a raging thunderstorm. Four people in a 2 person backpacking tent with 12 beers and a bag of wine...hmm recipe for fun if I have ever heard one. We forgot our propane and utensils (no warm food), but Sarah was able to whittle us some nice wooden spoons (most amazing spoons ever) and we were able to eat our freeze dried food cold by just adding water. Who knew? Its handy to have friends with survival skills.

Exhibit 2: Biking on Strawberry Mt. On Sunday we packed back out to the truck very early and had a great breakfast at the Strawberry Lodge. Lard never tasted so good after the lack of substantial food on Saturday. We followed this up by a dirt road over Strawberry Mt full of mud, puddles and very awesome cool breezy views of the valley. Very little in the way of technical path, but fun and fast downhill and lot of climbing. We were a wee bit tired and we didn't ride as much as we wanted to, but we liked the trees and lack of cactus.

3. Overcoming The Unexpected. We didn't really plan much for this weekend so I wasn't surprised when two of my friends showed up with small camelback backpacks and a cooler (with bottles of beer). Uh aren't we camping, don't you need some sort of sleeping bag or something. And really, you plan on carrying a cooler in? But even though we did not bring useful things like a topo map or propane for our gas stove, we made do in extraordinary ways.

Exhibit 1: It maybe should be called "the weekend that air did not particularly want to stay in any of various tires." Friday night, before we left for the big trip into the Fossil Creek Wilderness, some friends and I decided to go for a short, sweet, 'relax and get ready for our big day tomorrow' ride on the Scottsdale green belt. Although I am not a fan on inner city bike belts normally, it was deserted on Friday and with a great sunset, it ended up being a gorgeous night and the short ride somehow turned into a little longer than expected. Then it became a little longer due to the flat that appeared more than 15 miles from the car with no spare tubes or patch kits along (I know, dumb, but I seriously tried to buy one earlier in the day and they had run out at Target). It required an additional ride to a store to purchase a patch kit and then repair by headlight turning into a 3 hour bike ride. The next morning we were up bright an early to drive up to the Fossil Creek area (2 hrs away). I was driving the truck down a steep one lane rocky dirt road with a 2000 ft drop on one side and a rock wall on another when I heard a 'psssst'. I am not sure how those monster tires picked up a flat, but we got around to changing our second flat tire in less than 12 hrs, this being considerably more effort (we are girls so changing tires is not genetically built into our DNA). Good learning experiences both.

Exhibit 2. I really didn't expect that skunk that was staring at me from 3 feet away with its tail up. Don't scream and slowly back away....now run run run. Boy its fun to run. We did see a lot of other cool animals and some weird human ones as well. This was a giant red dragonfly/bird of some sort.

Exhibit 3: Things we forgot: extra clothes, propane, spoons, directions to a road which we could not find, spare bike tube & patch kit, tennis shoes (AB), enough food or drink in non glass bottles, rain clothing, topographical map, bottle opener, sunscreen.

Who's in next time?!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Kick it up.

The average humidity in Phoenix during June and July is 14%. This is crazy low I realize , since most of the US is probably more like 75%. But we have that thing called 'ridiculously high temps' which evens out the misery factor for us. So when the humidity hits numbers like 40% at 105 degrees with winds gusting to 38 mph and swirling dust clouding all visibility, it is of course the perfect weather to hit the gym. So I went for a bike ride. To the gym. Strong headwinds made me feel very lethargic and tired from the weekend's activities and very sloooowww. So I decided to do an impromptu kick boxing class to spice up the evening and force me to do high cardio for 60 minutes. For supposedly being a mean fighting machine, I am not very good at kicking or dancing or coordination or grace or any number of the things required. Midwestern white girl has no rhythm.

I will post about this past weekend's adventures very shortly.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Real Mt Bikers (RMB)

"This is the greenest you will ever see Phoenix, promise."
Camelback Mt, Phoenix - Very Wet Springtime 2005

As part of my delusional plan to become a 'real mountain biker', I have been trying to do the things that I feel RMBs do. Namely I attended a free bike maintenance clinic at the local REI and bought a book on mastering the technical skills needed for mountain biking. I usually laugh at those who try to learn physical activity from a book, but in this case, in an effort to fly over my handlebars with less frequency at a more expeditious rate, I felt it was a good idea. So I have read about the wheelie, the bunny hop, the lunge, the best position to put your body in for climbing hills or descending hills, and many other useful tips. It's sort of hard to read and imagine and learn without trying the things they are talking about. But this weekend I am going to be taking my bike to a place where they actually have logs to jump over and rocks to ride down and trees to run into. We are going camping in the Fossil Creek area near unnamed waterfall #1. We plan on backpacking our gear in along with our bikes (is this possible?). I may need to turn my bike into a pack mule to accomplish both simultaneously but since the waterfalls isn't that far or hard to get to, I am not really that worried.

In order to prepare my amazing $300 Sports Authority special K2 bike codenamed Gigi for the occasion, I decided to give my bike a little TLC that I learned at the REI clinic. I removed the tires off my bike, cleaned all the gears, tires and frame and then reassembled and lubed. It was quite the accomplishment for me since tools and mechanicals scare the SHIT out of me. Gigi was purring like a lil baby kitty after I got done with her. Now who wants to get dirty again? Eww me me, pick me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Scenes of Life

My LIFE in Scenes
Begin Scene

Girl and boy cuddling, girl playing with boy's hair, rubbing his face. Boy has eyes shut but is not sleeping. Girl touches (just touches very gently) boy's nose and boy jumps very violently.

Girl: "You are so ridiculously jumpy. I was touching your face and you could feel it so why would touching your nose make you jump."
Boy: "Well I am only jumpy with you, cause I am so scared of you."
Girl: "Well you get startled all the time. I can make you jump at any moment if I want too."
Boy: "It is not that EASY..."
Girl: "It's so easy a caveman can do it."

Sometimes I feel like I may be marrying a 12-year-old girl. Tom is very handsome and manly with muscles and many useful skills like laying tile and wiring electricity. However, he is one jumpy 'son of a gun' and is usually as easy to startle as a teeny bopper on a haunted pirate ride. I can freak him out simply by walking into a bedroom and talking to him. Seriously.

End Scene


Begin Scene II

Girl walks anywhere with tank top on since it's 3 degrees shy of hell where she lives. Random or nearly random stranger engages girl with conversation about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness or shopping or some other lame topic. Three minutes into the conversation, random stranger thinks up a very interesting question to ask girl.

Stranger: "So um, do you work out?"
Girl: "Um no, I just have arm muscles that grow out of my arms naturally. Seriously, I am buff alone by the grace of the maker and they came with instructions that said 'do not work out, pass go or collect $200'. Yup, I am a freak of nature."

Since I have a general air of fitness that wafts around my body apparently, I actually get this question more than you would think possible. Probably close to 4 or 5 times a week with an exponential growth curve. I am serious. Maybe I am more buff lately or something but I just don't get the question. Of course I work out. Have you ever met a person with serious muscle who doesn't work out at all? Its like asking a girl walking out of the mall carrying 15 packages if she shops ever. DUH, nope never. Just saying people...

End Scene II

Monday, July 16, 2007

Desert Heat Adventure Race #1 Report

Wakeup at 4:30 AM confused and think "am I flying somewhere" since that is usually the only thing that will get me out of bed that freaking early. Realize that today is the day of my first adventure race and I get to wear my new $8.00 dryfit shirt that matches my teammate's. Sweet, suddenly I have no problem getting up.

Since I don't really enjoy eating this early in the morning, I force down a granola bar and a Diet Rockstar. Yes it was the breakfast of champions and I realize that nutrition is not my strong suit.

Leave the house around 5:30 am to go pick up some friends who are also competing as partners in the race. We arrive at the Coon Bluffs (race start/finish/transition-area) at around 6:15 AM ready to roll.

Team Buck-I checks in at 6:30 AM (thats us, Go BUCKS) and receives instructions on how to compete in upcoming adventure race (AR). We read voraciously in order to figure everything out since this is our first race. Looking around, uh oh, there were around 30 other teams, many looking either very fit or very old and experiencely grizzled (you know what I am talking about).

There were basically 14 checkpoints on our passport that had to be stamped off with the whole race covering around 7 miles. The first 6 were located close by the TA and consisted of 3 small checkpoint flags that needed to be found along with 3 partner activities that had to be completed. These first 6 checkpoints could be done in any order. Checkpoints 7 - 14 had to be done in sequential order and we were given a topo-map to figure out how to get to them. These checkpoints were basically a little flag with a stamper (puncher) hanging from them that you punched in the little box on your passport. The course was along a river so we had that as our best navigational beacon. We also could leave our river tubing gear (PFDs and pumps) back at the TA for when we needed them. We examined the directions (we didn't have the maps yet) and figured out what order to do our first 6 checkpoints in.

At 7am, maps where handed out and the AR was on. We completed the first 6 points very quickly and efficiently and were doing fairly well at this point. Following that, we started out trail running for the farther checkpoints of 7 - 10 which were spread out over a couple mile radius over some cactus hills/small mountains. This was where wrong decision #1 occurred. We decided to try to stay along the river before cutting over to the dot on the map. We were running along a trail for while when lo and behold, the trail petered out along a cliff by the river. Our choice was to backtrack, or swim the river to the next beachy area and then try to climb out. Into the water we went which was deep with swift back currents at this point. We knew we were on the wrong track since we didn't have our life preservers at this point and the race organizers would not have liked it, but several other groups had made the same mistake so we weren't alone. The river actually felt amazing since we were already hot and sweaty and I didn't really mind cooling off.

Back on track we followed a wash up to the first checkpoint and saw a large group of teams who were not dripping wet (meaning not lost) so we realized that we had lost some time swimming the river, but oh how enviously they looked at our cool bodies. We tried to run as many of these cactus hills as possible to get past the horde and ended up doing the next three checkpoints very expeditiously while passing most of the teams. We made smart navigational choices here as well as used our loose rock cactus maneuvering skills and ended up hooking up with our two other teams of friends who were competing to hightail it back to the TA. Little did we know that our three teams were coming into the TA as groups 2 - 5 at this point. We seriously thought we were in the middle of the pack.

Tom and I finished the next stupid little game (using your partner to move some clips from one string to another) very quickly and pumped our tubes for the adventure tubing portion of the day. I must say I was hot and ready for water at this point. I think we were about 1.25 hrs in at this point. Team Buck-I was the first out of the TA this time and set out down the black paved road wearing nice hot life preservers, carrying black tubes and camelbacks. Let me just tell ya that Phoenix is already hot at 8:30 am, believe me. We had about a mile run on the road when we finally saw checkpoint 12 marking the place to head to the river. At this point, we were in 2nd place behind some amazing Monster Energy Drink sponsored adventure racers who finished the whole thing in like an hour. Again, we didn't realize our position, but we were pumped to be ahead of our friends and said "lets not let anyone pass us" promptly jinxing ourselves.

At this point, our map was worse for the wear (wet/dirty and stuck to itself) and we honestly hadn't spent much time looking at it in awhile. I asked Tom if there was a checkpoint on the river or if we could just cut across to it anywhere (we were about a mile from the river at this point). He heard that as "lets cut across the shortest path to the river" so we veered left leaving this nice sandy path that was veering right. This brings us to wrong decision #2. Halfway to the river, we looked at the map again, only to realize that checkpoint 13 was significantly right of where we had gone left and that we were going the wrong way. We had also left the nice sandy path and were currently bushwacking through Joshua trees and cactus up and down ravines. We started veering right then, but it was pretty depressing realizing we had just killed ourselves in the wrong direction and surely let a lot of people pass us. When we finally hit the river, we were unsure whether we still needed to go right or left and the heat and fatigue starting creeping in. The mind is tricky little beast and will use any excuse make you think you should just give up since you are already screwed. I finally made the executive decision that we hadn't gone far enough and that if we were going in the wrong direction, we would eventually figure it out and just tube down the river once we realized it. Better to go further the wrong way than not far enough in the right.

Twenty minutes later, we finally heard some noises on the river and saw some people tubing past us. This meant that YEAH we were going in the right direction finally but SHIT people had passed us in the meantime. When we finally got to the checkpoint 13 directly beside the river (which marked the tubing portion start) I was so happy just to get in the water that I didn't care that we had been passed by 4 other teams.

Tubing down a cold fast moving river after running through the desert for 2 hrs in heaven and I had to fight the urge just to sit back and relax. I am competitive by nature so very quickly my mind started screaming 'paddle faster, kick harder, lets go catch some people'! Its actually pretty hard to do since the river will take you as fast as it wants to. We caught 1 group and came pretty close to 2 others but ended up crossing the finish line (checkpoint 14) in 6th place (unofficially) at around 9:15 AM. Our good friends Ryan and Sarah got a sweet dog chain medal for 3rd place (okay it wasn't really that sweet but that's not the point) and my friends Angel and Alicia got 4th.

Tom and I feel very much in our hearts that without our little navigational mishap, we may have placed so we were pretty happy about that. Overall it was VERY fun, I think I am totally hooked on adventure races and we made a pretty good team. We plan on doing the next one if only to get another opportunity to beat our friends this time.

Fitness-wise, at the end of the race, I honestly felt like I could have kept on going and definitely want to try one of the longer ones that are more like 15 - 20 miles. I was feeling so good in fact, that my two friends Sarah and Angel and I decided to drive down to Tucson Saturday afternoon to play in a glow-in-the-dark frisbee tourney which lasted until 11:30 PM. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and happy in a way I can barely explain with words. Having spend the entire day outside pushing my body as hard as I can, this is when I feel most alive.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

We Survived

Operation Desert Heat Adventure Race was a smashing success ... except for ...

Race report coming later.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Two Days Till GO Time

Mudding in Ohio, Christmas 2006

I am getting excited about the big Desert Heat Adventure Race this weekend. What it will bring is anyone's guess. The website is not very informative...what the hell is adventure tubing? What sort of map skills will it require, because I gotta be honest, I don't do topographical maps. Tom enjoys staring at atlases, something I have never really understood. I look at a map to find how to get from point A to point B or at least I did before google maps existed, but it is just not a book to me. So hopefully his 'map skillz' will be useful as I have named him head navigator. I will be chief motivator, which will not involve any yelling. Just sun-shiney phrases like, "don't let a girl beat you honey". I am very excited to do this event with him since I think it will be a good pre-marriage test for us. We aren't really doing any of the wedding counseling stuff so adventure race here we come. Plus we will look good....I mean look at us here. HOT...joking.

Neither of us have done any specific training for this, unless you consider drunk floating down a river training. But I figure we work out enough that we should make it the 8 miles or so it involves. Otherwise I will just go into the pain cave [see here] from my favorite, most inspirational blog that I read daily...go Jill. She is famous in the biking blogging world you know.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Biken in PHX

Oak Creek Canyon, July 4th 2007

Biken biken biken. I enjoy doing it, reading about it, thinking about it. It's a new obsession, but luckily I have some friends who also seem to be reaching this conclusion so we get to go together to practice. And practice it is. Because we are anything but good. Beginner mountain biking in the Phoenix vicinity is great since there are so many trails on so many mountains all in the metro area. One minute you are at Target the next you are at the start of a 25 mile mountain trail. Trails are all singletrack with a lot of obstacles in the form of rocks, cactus, loose gravel, loose dirt, very steep hills created by water run off, etc. And this is just in the form of the 'beginner/intermediate' trails since this is all I have seen. I am sure there are crazy things I can't even imagine on the 'hard/expert/rideatyourownrisk' trails. Maybe even mountain lions or cactus that actually move to reach out and grab you. Who knows? Someday I may.

But in the meantime I am just happy to ride. Last night I rode about 11ish miles through the Phoenix Mts this time blindly following a PM expert who rides there 3 nights a week. I wiped out 1.5 times, once due to stopping at the top of a hill and thinking about it too much and the other due to a 90 degree turn directly into a rock. I only got 3.5 bruises due to this so truly not that bad although I will say that it is good I am not a guy if you know what I mean.

Tonight's workout is going to be very intense and mentally difficult for me. It involves getting my wedding dress altered at the bridal shop. Yes you read that correctly. I am getting married and not in a rugby uniform (as my family jokes). Bridal shops frankly scare me as the women in there are all in at least one of my nightmares. Hopefully this means that my current size will remain the same until the Sept wedding. Hmm I guess this means I will need to continue working out at a high level. Yippee. More biking!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Water in the Desert

In the materialistic world of the Unified States of unAwareness, we operate under a supply and demand credo. Sometimes just the rarity of something will make you find its beauty even more amazing (think diamonds in theory). Most people assume Arizona is one large sandbox filled with a lot of cactus, rocks and weird people who flock to large sandboxes. And when they visit Phoenix, they feel that their beliefs are confirmed. But what they don't realize, is that in order for life to occur in the sandbox, water must exist. And if you find where the water exists, it will most likely be in the form of an oasis... think incredibly beautiful. I have spent three years looking for and exploring these places where the water bubbles out of the ground from some unknown spring that originates in a snow capped mountain hundreds of miles north in a place called Colorado. Saturday was one of those days.

About 1.5 hrs north of Phoenix is the Verde River. This river gushes 20,000 gallons a minute of crystal clear water through an area of vertical drops full of travertine. This amounts to beautiful turquoise waterfalls of a balmy 75 degrees. I have been to several waterfalls in the area and am always amazed at how deserted this area is in spite of its beauty and closeness to Phoenix. In comparison to Sedona, it is 10x more beautiful and of an equal distance to Phoenix, yet Sedona has become a huge tourist trap with entirely too many people. I enjoy hiking in Sedona, but a traffic jam in the middle of nowhere is never cool. I had read online that there used to be a old hot springs resort along the Verde River which was long ago abandoned but the hot springs and pools still exist. I talked some friends into attempting to find this for ourselves. It involved an 18 mile drive along a dirt/rock road in questionable condition, a short but hot hike with three river crossing and some rock scrambling, but we found the old hot springs and it didn't disappoint. They are closely taken care of by locals who maintain the pools and protect their ability to bathe nude and commune with nature. The old springs house is painted with murals and poems all over which was a fascinating experience to explore. One pool was exceptionally hot and the other was more warm. We met some interesting characters there and cooled off in the river afterward. Picture story below.

Hike to the Verde Hot Springs

Verde Hot Springs, June 2007

Hot pool Inside of Painted Room

My Favorite Words of Wisdom on the Wall

Warm Deep Pool Outside

The day didn't actually end there. We also explored the richer area known as Fossil Creek which is abundant with waterfalls and deep crystal pools of water. We found a rope swing to play on, took a mile trail run through the rain to a large unnamed waterfall, and then found a cave behind the waterfall to play in. On a sadder note, we also saw a forest fire start across the valley and in the five minute we watched it, it burned an amazing amount of land. I am sure it was a natural fire started by lightening, but I found how quickly it burned to be very scary. Hopefully the large rain storm that followed tempered its power. Overall an awesome adventure day.

*Last 2 pics courtesy of Sarah & her waterproof digital.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Happy Saturday

FUN FUN FUN... off on an adventure to explore an abandoned old hot springs resort which still has the hot pools of water. I hear that nudists flock there. I'll let you know what I find :)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Sedona Energy

Oak Creek Camping, Sedona Arizona

Happy Belated Independence Day!

When I saw the weather forecast for July 4th was going to be a balmy 116 degrees, I booked the first campsite north of town and ran for the border. Tom and two of our friends and I camped under the tall trees along the Oak Creek just north of Sedona, Arizona. Sedona is famous for its red rock and energy vortexes while also being 20 degrees cooler than Phoenix and having that crisp clear stuff called H2O. We got up there late afternoon on July 3rd, set up camp and made a nice meal on the propane grill (no fires allowed due to lack of rain). We drank, ate, played cards, and just relaxed listening to the trickling of the river. The next morning we got up early and explored Slide Rock which is a natural slide in the river bed for sliding. It was nice early, but gets very busy (aka similiar to a loud public pool) later so we only stayed for a little while. We decided to hike the Oak Creek West Fork trail which is 11 miles through a canyon along the river. The normal turnaround point which does not require swimming up the river was 3.3 miles in so that was our designated turnaround. The only problem was, that we were told this point was 2 miles, so by the time we finally go there, we were all out of water and more than a little tired. We cooled off for a minute in the deep water (pic above), and then hauled back to the car to get more water. I did take some unfiltered drinks from the clear river and felt fine so I wasn't really that worried about running out of water. Overall, it was a great day with about 8 miles of hiking and some cool river swimming and definitely beat any sort of Independence Day activities occurring in Phoenix. Fireworks while feeling on fire...not so great.

Slide Rock State Park, Sedona, Arizona

Tom and I on Oak Creek

So I decided to pimp my blog.. okay not really pimp it so much as add a new custom header. It's the best my amateur Photoshop abilities can come up with at the moment. I will admit that creating these types of graphics if FUN with a capital F for me. It is artistry for those without ability.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Mental Blocks

Taylor Swift - Cricket Pavilion, Phoenix, June 1st, 2007

I went for a run tonight and I totally sucked. I went trail running with my 'training for a marathoner' friend at 7:00 pm and the mixture of heat (110 degrees), loose sand on hills, and dry wind made me want t0 stop almost immediately. My friend Angel is a small energizer bunny who runs miles every day so my mind kept saying "you can't keep up with her, you might as well stop". I whined a lot, stopped a couple of times and finally she just said, "its in your mind, you are not even tired when you are stopping". It was so true, I wasn't breathing heavily, didn't really feel that tired, and was able to recover in around 30 seconds. So I have become a running wimp. I totally blame biking which is so much fun that it makes running seem incredibly painful. Hmm something to work on. I shall have to force myself to get over the hump.

I did get some biking in this weekend, despite the high temps of 115 degrees. I did a new trail on Saturday morning called Trail 100 in the Phoenix Mountains. It was a mixture of rocky singletrack lined with cactus and full of elevation and sand traps. Overall, a great ride. We randomly chose to go east to west and soon realized it was a great choice since we were going down more than up. By the end the 10 mile trail, we were all feeling to hot to go back the way we came so we rode back to the car along the canal and by road. It was probably around 18 miles in 2 hours. Overall, I felt like I got more confident going down hill on some very rocky track. There wasn't a ton of places that were terribly technical, but the violent bouncing was a fun twist to get used to. Sunday, I wimped out and just road 15 miles at the gym on the spinning torture device. When I ride that thing I just sit there dripping sweat and realizing just how quickly the sweat drys outside. Cause everyone knows 115 is hot, but ... "its a dry heat."

Both Saturday and Sunday night we spend the night listening to great live music. Saturday night was spent at Martini Ranch listening to an 80s rock band called 'Rock Lobster'. They played all fun 80s cover songs. Sunday I had free VIP third row tickets to the Brad Paisley concert. While I am not a huge country fan, I do listen to it every once in awhile and free is free. Brad has a really great voice and he sings very poignant songs that you can't help but feel moved by. Also performing was Jack Ingram, Kelly Pickler, and Taylor Swift. I thought all of the performers were great as part of the new modern non-twangy country scene and I was surprised at how many of their songs I had heard before. Being in the third row didn't hurt either (great for pictures), I could get used to this VIP stuff.


Phoenix Summit Challenge 2006 - Camelback Mt.

As an ambitious individual, I find it much easier to find training motivation if I have something that I am working towards. During my one year complete hiatus from working out (freshman year in college), I was struggling with self identity and the complete lack of structure in the college life style and therefore just stopped working out. I went from being a dedicated trackster to an college preppie who worried more about "where are we partying tonight" than to things like good mental and physical health. Towards the end of the year, I had a sudden and blazing realization about my self's worth due to a severe hangover and the internal hate that usually accompanies it. I was becoming one of the lost generation, the hoards and masses of people who treat life as if its their American born right without regard for money, education, suffering of others, and anything not associated with their happiness. From my soapbox vantage point, I realize that college is a great time in ones life, for the exact reasons above, however, in the formulative time known as your early 20s, let this time not be the path that defines the rest of your life. I had spend my entire pre-college years involved in organized sports, and suddenly when I was on my own for the first time in my life, I was failing miserably in this arena.

I was determined to join some sort of activity, and after searching the activities available at my school, I discovered rugby. I dragged my roommate to a match in the rain that was going on that weekend and fell in love. Here was a sport with running, endurance, ball to hand coordination, and physical contact that was etched with toughness and heart in every aspect of the game. I fell in love. That day I decided I was going to play rugby when the next season began and I found my new motivation. It drove my workouts all summer and suddenly, I was able to transform that softness into someone who was willing to throw myself in front of a moving human object who may be (and usually was) larger and stronger than me. Rugby gave me back my ambition and some of my best college memories. And none of them have anything to do with partying (okay some of them do) or other typical college vices.

So where is this going? Well in the past year, I am leaning more and more to hanging up the rugby cleats (a serious knee injury will do that to you). Which leaves me with some motivation holes to fill. This is exciting, I get to try new things. So here is the mental list of things that I have been secretly wasting time researching online.

1. Adventure racing has been fascinating to me for some time and I have spend a lot of time looking at different races and reading accounts of races, and generally just fantasizing about doing one. Well I finally just signed up for one, here it is: the Extreme Heat Race #1 on July 14th sponsored by Sierra Adventure Sports. The best part is that I talked my lovely fiance into being my partner "as long as I don't yell at him". So we get to spend time together while fulfilling one of my dreams. Its a short race with only 2 main events: trekking and adventure tubing. I can't wait.

2. Why sign up for only one AR when you can sign up for two? I plan on doing the next race in this series, the Extreme Heat Race #2 on August 8th which consists of trail running and mountain biking. This is great because it will be officially my first biking race of any kind. Which is good, since it leads me to...

3. Some sort of biking race. I am falling into the cycling trap that I read about on others blogs, where biking just seems so much more fun than most other events. Like running. I want to do some easy race (do these exist?) so that next year I can kill myself doing something way above my level, like a 100 mile race or a 24 hr race or some sort of crazy event like that.

4. The Phoenix 7 Summit Challenge on November 10th. Seven mountains, 22.5 miles, 6k feet elevation, 10 hrs all in 90 degree weather. I did this last year, it was awesome and I can't wait to do it again. And to drag along some new unsuspecting people to... Challenge your heart. Challenge your mind. Challenge your self. Challenge Phoenix.

5. Rock 'N' Roll Arizona Marathon on January 13, 2008. I have never run a marathon and it just seems like something I should do. I actually have no endurance (I was a sprinter in track) and usually want to run into oncoming traffic after 4 miles so this may be the biggest challenge of this list. I want to do the whole marathon, but even if I have gained 10 pounds eating cookies over Christmas and haven't ran for a month, I will sign up for the 1/2 just to punish myself.