Sunday, August 09, 2009

ARR 5K Summer Series #5

At 6:30AM this morning, the gun went off to start the 5th and last installment of the of the 2009 Arizona Road Racers 5K Summer Series. In 2008, I ran a dissapointing 24:44 on this course and a respectable 22:01 in 2006. This morning, I ran the same course in 27:28 and throughly enjoyed myself. Instead of seeing how fast I could run the race, I focused my attention on seeing how fast I could get someone else to run it.

The race course is the most difficult of the series. It's run in the Phoenix, AZ South Mountain park using an out and back format. The course is flat for the first 0.3 miles, a gentle up hill through mile 1 and relatively steep uphill to the turn around point. The one water station is at the top of the hill. Once the course turns it's all down hill until you hit that flat section near the START/FINISH line.

My friends previous PR was 28:07. Her objective was to get to her average pace under 9:00/mi; which meant we had to get around in something south of 27:57. My plan was simple: Slow on the early flats, steady and sure up the hill to mile 1, shorten up on the stride and run up the last hill strong, take on fluids at the top of the hill and run like like hell after the turn.

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

Nearly 700 people showed up for this race. There is no way around it, runners in Arizona are crazy. With a 6:30AM gun time, most of the city was still asleep when we started out. I took a spot near the back of this mob in the starting chute

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

I figured if I can take pictures while running, the pace was about right for the first part of this race along the flat section. Everyone was doing just fine in here.

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

What a beautiful morning to be running up hill. The temperature was "cool" by Arizona Summer standards, probably not much hotter than 90F, maybe a little cooler.

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

Mile 1 is in the books. This is the old "main" entrance to the park. The steeper hill is on the other side. My master plan was working perfectly with one third of the race behind us.

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

Soon after passing the 1 mile marker, the leaders flashed by heading for the finish.

Leading the mob up the final hill. Everyone still fresh at this point.

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

The turn at the top

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

Running and taking pictures at the same time doesn't always work well

From 2009-08-09; ARR 5K #5

Running down hill just feels good! The little boy in this picture is 9 years-old. He finished in 27:50. An amazing kid.

I stopped taking pictures after this point and just focused on slowly accelerating and keeping my runner on the edge. She was running as fast as she could on the down hill and was completely spent as we turned the final corner and ran along the flat section towards the finish line. I know from experience that this section feels terrible. You've got nothing left in the tank and all of a sudden you no longer have the benefit of gravity to pull you along. Of course, I wanted her to accelerate. She stuck to my left shoulder and listened to my non-stop babbling as I coaxed along. She got her 2nd wind on the last 0.2 mile section and started really driving with her arms, pulling slightly ahead of me as the finish line became visible.

We passed the finish line as the clock rolled over to 28:00. Starting as far back as we did, I was sure we had a sub 27:57. Failure wasn't an option. Great race, great day for running in Phoenix.

Hope you all are having a great season.



Sunday, July 19, 2009

Another Hot One

I ran in the 4th installment of the Arizona Road Racers' 5K Summer Series on Saturday. I'd missed the 2nd and 3rd races and was determined to make this race. Gun time was 6:30AM; however, it was rather humid following a thunderstorm the night before coupled with air temp north of 90F. Perfect racing weather for a mid-summer 5K on the desert. And despite the heat, I was impressed that 600+ Arizonans get up way to early on a Saturday morning and show up ready to run. Registration opened at 5:30AM, but it was closer to 6:10 before I checked in.

ARR laid out a new course around Kiwanis Park in Tempe, Arizona. The new course layout starts out with a 1/4 mile down hill, one loop around a small lake in the middle of the park; a climb back up the hill, followed by another large loop. The last 1/2 mile runs back down the hill and finishes up with an uphill back to the start line.

With my new laid-back racing attitude, I started out way back near the rear of the pack, so I sprinted around the side of the crowd after I passed the timing mats to brake free of the mob. This got me starting off way too fast. To make matters worse, I let myself get suckered into the delusion that I could actually run much faster than I should as I allowed gravity to pull me down hill. After I got to the bottom of the hill, I didn't slow down - however, reality set in as I got winded and was forced to back off the pace 5 or 6 minutes into the race. Some time after I passed the first mile marker, I settled into a grove and was feeling good until I had to run back up the hill.

I really slowed down while running up the first hill and a steady stream of younger and stronger runners passed me up as I climbed. I just let them go and wished them well. After I got to the top of the hill, I just listened to the tunes on my iPOD and enjoyed the scenery. The lungs started to ache a bit after the 2nd mile marker and all I could do was continue to put one foot in front of the other.

Of late, I've been running races and training runs without a stop-watch, Garmen or any other timing device that I can reference during the run. I've just been running by how I feel at the moment. In this race, I was sure I was running somewhere around 8:30 to 9:00 min/mi, so I was shocked when I crossed the finish line and saw 22:50 on the race clock. In the end, my official time was 22:17; not too bad. Middle of the pack for the 50 to 54 year old age group, but not too bad for me.

Actually, I was thrilled with the time. It was my 5th fasted 5K time and 2nd fastest of the year. 2009 has been a great year in fact. I've run 3 5Ks this year, all under 22:30. I haven't done that since 2006.

1) 07/22/2006 - 21:36 (6:58/mi)
2) 08/05/2006 - 21:38 (6:58/mi)
3) 05/23/2009 - 21:58 (7:05/mi)
4) 07/01/2006 - 22:01 (7:06/mi)
5) 07/18/2009 - 22:18 (7:11/mi)
6)03/07/2009 - 22:29 (7:15/mi)


Saturday, May 23, 2009

ARR Summer 5K Series

The first race of the Arizona Road Racers Summer 5K series was held this morning at Papago Park, home of the Phoenix Zoo. I really like this race. Every year, my club starts out the Summer 5K Series with an Age / Gender handicapped event. Runners are assigned a start time based on Age / Gender and get to leave the start line with everyone in their respective age group. Although this does make for a lot of passing during the first mile of the race, it has the advantage for middle-of-the-pack runners like me to see the really fast runners, as they blow my doors off going late in the race.

I didn't have a clue how I'd do this morning and didn't really care. I haven't trained hard in a long while and with the cloud cover bringing "cooler" temperatures, I really was looking for a good time. I ran into a couple of friends of mine before the race and chit-chatted a little and I sort of / kind of warmed up with a half-assed loop around the parking lot, but other wise, I was just there to put in a 5 kilometers on a beautiful Arizona morning. I didn't even bother with a Garmin or sports watch. Just me, shoes, socks, shorts, shirt and my iPod - needed my tunes

My timing handicap was 11:49, so I had plenty of time to mill around in the crowd after the starting signal went off. With 10:00 on the race clock, I pushed forward through the throng of runners crowded into the starting coral and got up to the start line with 5 seconds to spare. I took a deep breath and took off.

Immediately, started yelling at myself to slow down. I was running way to fast, my heart rate leaped into the stratosphere and my breathing immediately became labored; fortunately, I got the butterflies out of my system and settle in a comfortably-uncomfortable pace and started my non-stop banter with people as I passed them. Of course, I was getting passed also, which was ok; unless it was by a guy obviously older than me.

The one person I did expect to get passed by was Sara Slattery. Sara blew me running around a 5:10/mi pace somewhere early on mile 2. The woman is amazing and it's an honor to be running on the same course as a NCAA champion. I've been in other races with her, but she is always coming at me on an out and back course. In this race I got to see her from the back. She runs with no wasted movement. Her head is level, her shoulders square, everything is moving forward and moving fast. Just incredible.

At the turn, I dumped a cup of water on my head to cool off and started back to the finish line determined to keep up my pace as long as I could. Of course, I had no idea what pace I was running, but I could feel that I was on the edge. If I pushed any harder, I'd blow up for sure. I passed mile two still feeling OK and then got that extra lift when I passed the mile 1 marker on the outbound sector. Anyone can run a mile and there was no way I was going to back off now.

On mile 3 I passed a friend of mine I hadn't seen since I ran into her at the bottom of the Grand Canyon last year and slowed to chat for a few seconds before speeding back up. Somewhere in the back of my mind I became concerned that I might live to regret dropping my hyper-competitive friend. She is a lot stronger than me and is 4 years younger; so I just dug deeper and sped up.

Something must have worked. I finished up in 21:56 (7:05/mi avg pace). This was my 3rd fastest 5K ever and my first sub 22 minute 5K since 2006. Hot damn ... not too bad.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Skull Mesa

Yes, I know I said that the hike last week was probably the last good hike of the season. Well, I was wrong. I did a 19 miler up and over Skull Mesa in the Tonto National Forest today. It took nearly 9 hours and the trail was so faint in places that I was constantly back tracking and in the end, I walked (read: stumbled) down the middle of Cave Creek for nearly 6 miles when I couldn't find the trail back to my car.

It was really cool. It starts with 2.2 mile run with several creek crossing. Then a 2,200 foot climb to the top of Skull Mesa, followed by several hours of me walking around through thigh high grass looking for a trail in the rugged Arizona mountains north of Cave Creek, AZ. It concludes with a 5 mile plish-splash down Cave Creek when I just couldn't find the last section of trail I needed to get back to my car.

All and all a great day. Those of you with Facebook accounts can see the comments on each photo.

Those without Facebook can see the photos from the hike by clicking on the picture below.


2009-05-03, Skull Mesa Hike

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Camelback MTN

From time to time, I actually do what I say I'm going to do. I had a 3 day weekend this weekend and I was determined to hike Camelback MTN. Camelback raises 1,200' feet over the desert floor, not particularly high by many standards, but the "trail" to the top is only 1.2 miles long. It's up, up and up some more. In addition, there really isn't a trail as such much of the route. You more or less pick your way up through the rocks and boulders. Great fun.

I'm slowly getting back into shape, so hiking up Camelback after running 23 miles this week was a bit of a stretch, but I took my time and made it to the top in one piece. Along the way, I got some nice photos:

Camelback MTN as viewed from the north (along Tatum RD)

The Praying Munk rock formation

These are the first set of stairs on the climb out of Echo Canyon. The woman in brown was smoking a cigarette. I didn't see her at the top.

Bench at the top of the stairs. Piestewa Peak is in the background

This is the first tough part of the climb. The city installed a hand rail in the middle of this section to give hikers something to clutch on the way up and down.

Getting over all these boulders requires us of hands.

The White Tank Mountains 20 miles to the west.


Cool rock formation.

Nice shot of the mountains in north Phoenix

Hole in the rock

Up and Up and Up

Lots of people struggle with this section of the hill

I chased this girl all the way up the hill, but just couldn't catch up with her AND take pictures.

Couple in love at the top of Camelback.

You know you have money when you have your own soccer field in your backyard and an address in Paradise Valley.

Trail down the east side of Camelback. The main trail comes up the west side of the hill.

Your's truly sweating up a storm

Monday, March 23, 2009

Change of Venue

After 3 years, 400 or so posts and over 3,000 web hits, I've run out of things to say using this medium. I'm not stupid enough to say that I will never post again, nor am I ready to say that I'm shutting down my blog; however, at the moment, I don't have anything add to this great social discourse.

That said, like many of my dear friends in the blog-o-sphere, I've taken up residence in Facebook. The Facebook interface provides a crisp, clean form of expression and seems to suit me particularly well right now.

Drop me an eMail if you'd like help finding me.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Strange Days

Things just keep getting stranger and more stressful.

Running: 3.2 miles last week ... one run, on a treadmill. That's it, nothing more.

Yoga: 1 one hour session. Cool, but not enough. Just didn't have the time between.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Ostrich Festival 5K

Race Report: Yes, this is fundamentally a running blog and I am happy to report that I ran a race. A real race, with bib numbers and a clock and everything. Just like the big boys run.

There was another stunningly beautiful Arizona sunrise as I drove down to the Chandler, AZ this morning for the Ostrich Festival 5K. This is an extremely small race, probably less than 200 runners involved. The race ran straight up the main drag in the tiny town of Chandler, did a 180, ran south past the finish line, did another 180 and finished with a mad sprint to the line. Straight and Flat.  Flat, Flat .... really flat.

Gun time was scheduled for 8AM, but was delayed by 30 minutes. The folks with the barricades didn't show up until 7:45AM and the Chandler police wouldn't allow the race to start until all of Arizona Ave was blocked off in both directions. This was no easy feat. AZ Ave is the main thoroughfare through town and the police had to block off all the cross streets and businesses for 1.5 miles. The race director kept telling us that we'd start "soon" and then "relatively soon" for 30 minutes. All this time, I just jogged around near the starting line, trying not to tighten up in the cool Arizona morning air.

Finally, the starting horn blew and the really fast guys took off with me in pursuit (LOL). My breathing became labored quickly and I knew I was running way too fast, so I backed off a little. As I passed the 1 mile mark, I good looking (read - very fit) couple passed and me and I asked the guy if he took a split; "6:50", he reported.

6:50 first mile. No wonder I was winded. In the past three weeks, my weekly totals have been: 0, 8, 4; I wasn't up for an early morning 6:50 mile. My quads were squawking and my lungs were burning, but the turn around was less than a 1/2 mile up the road, so I kept looking forward, continuing to run as fast as I could.

The nice couple continued to put distance between us and I know I was slowing down because several more people passed me after the first 180, although I picked up an adrenal rush as I could now see the long line of people behind me on the opposite side of the road. I may be slow, but at least I wasn't near the end.

The leg back to the start line was about what you'd expect; left foot, right foot, repeat. Thoughts of, "what am I doing out here", swirled through my brain. Push, push,push, ever pushing forward. It's only 3 miles Phil, SUCK IT UP and get moving. I never did see the 2 mile marker, but turned it on over the last 1/2 mile in an attempt for a good showing at the finish.

The clock read 22:29 as I crossed the finish line. I think that works out to an average 7:15/mi pace. Since I ran the first mile in 6:50, I slowed to an average pace of 7:27/mi over the last 2.1 miles. Not exactly melting the rubber on my soles. But all-in-all, a good morning.

I even got a few pictures (you knew I would have pictures)

You can't have a race in Arizona with women with guns on horses

My best side

Pre Race Game Face
Warming up on a cool Arizona morning

Yoga: I'm keeping up with yoga as best I can. Work has been insanely crazy of late and I've missed several day time classes as a result. But I'm getting out and doing it. My only regret with yoga is that I didn't start it earlier.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Spur Cross Ranch - 2nd Trip

Running: Ran an 8 miler through Spur Cross Ranch Conservation area this weekend. Started out at 1:30PM under clear skies and took a billion photos until the high thin clouds rolled in and ruined my perfect Arizona conditions. The first 2 miles headed north along Cave Creek. Filled with flowing water, I had 5 creek crossing to contend with. This was definitely strange for an Arizona trail run. But the trail was in great shape. Slightly up hill, but relatively rock free. 

The next 3 miles were flat out - unrunnable. Steep and rocky with Cholla and Prickly Pear hugging each side of the narrow path. The views were spectacular and the trail features no fewer than 3 natural springs; again, a rare site in the Arizona desert. I lost the trail 4 times in this section, usually miss-reading a narrow wash for the faint, unmaintained and relatively unused trail. 

I also discovered that the boys and girls at Maricopa County Parks and Recreation didn't bother to include trails they didn't want folks to use on the map. This presented somewhat of a problem for a first time trail runner. At one point, I knew I wasn't heading in the right direction, I got out my compass (part of my survival pack) and dead reckoned my way back to the real trail. Fortunately, the park service had provided a topo-map. Lots of fun though

I ran / walked the last 3 miles. Ran when the trail was safe and walked the steep / rocky section. All-in-all, a great day in the park. It was the best $3 I'd spent in a while. As always, I posted a ton of pictures below.

Yoga: I'm hitting the yoga mats again. I got to my yoga class on Friday and will make Monday and Tuesday this week. 


As with a lot of roads in Arizona, the road to Spar Cross Trail is dirt

Running along the 1st mile on the Metate Trail

The 2nd Cave Creek crossing, loads of fun:

A candidate for the hair-club-for-men

Gnarly Cactus along the Trail

Dead Saguaro along the Trail

Trail in Tonto National Forrest

Cave Creek Crossing, where did all this water come from?

The last Cave Creek Crossing ... I had no idea what lay ahead

Still looking confident after 3 miles:

Trail 252 .... holly crab ... what have I gotten myself into?

The Trail climb up and up

From 2009-02-28; Spur Cross Run

Phoenix is out there somewhere

From 2009-02-28; Spur Cross Run

Really big Saguaro Cactus along trail 252 ... still struggling with the trail

From 2009-02-28; Spur Cross Run

Saguaros needles glisten in the late afternoon sun

From 2009-02-28; Spur Cross Run

This trail is un-runnable

From 2009-02-28; Spur Cross Run

A last picture of the park after my run ... a great day

From 2009-02-28; Spur Cross Run

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spur Cross Ranch

If any of you are floating around the far north end of the "Valley of the Sun", near Cave Creek, you have to check out Spur Cross. I've never been up there, but was glad that I finally took the time to grab a friend and head north.

Although the weather wasn't perfect by Arizona standards, we still had a great time. Parts of the park are rugged, steep and rocky; other areas are relatively flat with groomed trails. Everywhere you look, however, there are cactus, cactus and more cactus. In addition, there was water flowing in Cave Creek. It was a great day. I posted a few pictures below.

Running: Running is non existent at the moment. Total mileage last week was ZERO. This week so far is ZERO as well. No excuses, just haven't made the time. I know better. I'm not injured. I'm just letting all the drama and the sum of my other obligations and interests get in the way. I know this isn't healthy. I know I'd feel better .... Somebody kick me upside the head and get me moving before it's too late!

Yoga: I missed Yoga on Tuesday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday. That makes 4 sessions in a row. I missed it tonight, because I want to have dinner with one of my daughters. I missed yoga on  Monday because I was working 35 miles north of the yoga facility and couldn't get my schedule to work such that I'd make the session. I don't remember why I missed last week's sessions, I did. Again ... no good.

Friends: You all have been terrific. Thanks for sticking with me. Again, you've proven that the running community is made up of totally awesome people.

Spur Cross Ranch Pictures

First ... RUNNING WATER! This is Cave Creek with flowing water. Look quick, it won't be here in a month.

Yours truly at the end of Elephant Mtn Trail.

This park has massive Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus in love. I'd never seen a Saguaro split like this.

The landscape was increadibly green along all the trails. The short grass will be dead in 4o days, but for now, we are loving it.

One more shot of Cave Creek with water flowing  ... did I mention the water?

One final picture. It dawned on me that of all the pictures I post, I'm always wearing the same thing: White hat, dark sun glasses, sleeveless top and running shorts. Just to prove that I own clothes, I'll include a shot I took along side my Mustang yesterday.