Monday, May 9, 2016

Farewell Phoenix

A quick drive to Phoenix after a short night's sleep in a luxurious Scottsdale hotel. A flight at the crack of dawn. A drive from Buffalo upon landing. Sigh.  It really isn't as exciting to do this on the way home. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016


No, one glass of wine doesn't give me a hangover. "Hammered" refers to the feeling in my legs as I woke up this morning. Wow! Trails are normally gentle and refreshing for the legs, but so much of the trails around here are hard rock. Happily enough, we had no plans for a morning run today - we decided to try suspended yoga, instead.

Mindy went for a massage while I explored the rest of this fabulous spa and fitness facility!

Suitably refreshed (heavy-weight squats helped my legs feel normal again), we departed the spa and wandered the beautiful resort grounds before once again tackling a desert mountain run. This time, Mindy and I parted ways early, and I attempted another climb.

I don't know whether the pitch was much steeper than yesterday, or if my legs were just fried - I was reduced to walking depressingly quickly! With nothing but the occasional lizard to keep me company, I was thinking about the hotel warning us of bobcats in the desert. Apparently one was on the hotel golf course this morning. I couldn't help but wonder if one was on that rocky outcropping ahead....

My legs were fried and my heart was pounding. If the Canadian Death Race is like this, I will never finish in 24 hours!

Finally, I reached the summit and enjoyed the view (and caught my breath).

As I made my way back down the trail - hardly any faster than as I stumbled up - I had a comforting thought: "If the Canadian Death Race were this tough, they wouldn't have hundreds of finishers every year. I am pretty fit. It HAS to be easier."

This time, Mindy didn't make me run home, and so I felt less exhausted as we got back to the hotel. We decided to try the South American & Asian fusion restaurant at the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess for dinner. It was good, though it didn't really compare to the fine dining the night before. Another exhausting day, and a pleasantly sore body as I crawled into bed that night.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Training for the Canadian Death Race

Through the week, waking up at 5am for work is pretty tough.  Thanks to the time change, waking up at 5am here is natural! Admittedly, although I felt rested, I lazed around in bed another hour. Mindy was still sleeping, and while our room was plenty spacious, it didn't lend itself to one person being up and about without disturbing the other.  Besides, my primary objectives here are to train and recover...and enjoy the stunning scenery.

And on the topic of training, we went to the gym for a quick strength workout to start our day.

Much as I love the dry desert heat, I am reminded that there are perks to Toronto's climate - such as a relative scarcity of large bugs....on the floor of the gym...dead. Ugh!

Enough of working out indoors, anyway! The Sonoran desert is calling, and one of the most ecologically significant sections of the whole desert is right at our doorstep - the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Looking at the map, I found the highest point - Tom's Thumb. (Technically, the highest point that has access trails.  There are higher peaks.) Who doesn't like a challenge? That became the destination for today's run! At just shy of 4000 feet elevation, the route to Tom's Thumb peak was a 19km saw-tooth with over 5000 feet of elevation change. It was hot and dry and beautiful.

The lower levels of the desert are dotted with saguaro cacti that make you think twice about stumbling!

As the elevation got higher, the vegetation and terrain changed.  Fewer big cacti and more leafy bushes. 

More birds circling for carrion, too, which isn't the most comforting thought aas the legs are getting heavier and heavier.

The air is so dry up there that you don't even notice that you are sweating - it evaporates as quickly as it comes out! The regular stops to take in the views were good reminders to drink, as well as welcome respite for the legs.

At times we debated turning back. After all, just because we decided on a certain destination based on that map, that doesn't mean we have to get there, does it?  Actually, yes it does. And so we arrived at Tom's Thumb!

We were enjoying the breathtaking view, but it's possible we were also procrastinating. We knew we had a long run back ahead of us.  Thankfully, it would be largely downhill.

As we neared the parking lot where we had started, I recalled that the McDowell Reserve is reportedly one of the most ecologically significant swaths of the Sonoran desert, and yet we saw very little wildlife of interest. (Well, Mindy saw a snake, but she didn't see it long enough to know whether it was a rattler.) Then, just a few hundred metres from the car, we spotted a herd of a dozen deer peeking out from the desert scrub.

Back at the starting point, we surveyed our accomplishment for the day.  Tom's Thumb is the skinny peak slightly to the left of centre:

Despite appearances, the peak on the right side of the photo is lower than Tom's Thumb.

We were finished the water and finished the run. Well, Mindy was finished, anyway.  I was feeling pretty good, so I opted for a run back to the hotel - another 6km. No need to carry the hydration pack anymore (it was empty, anyway); I rehydrated at the car and headed on my way. Running back, I quickly realised two things: 1) that downhill had been more helpful than I had realised, and 2) I was nowhere near rehydrated. With dry, hot skin, I made my way back to the hotel and guzzled ice water, waiting for my body to cool off.

Dinner at the fancy triple-A four diamond restaurant at the resort was the perfect end of the day, and the wine with dinner finished my hydration needs.

Exhausted, we went back to our room and were quickly fast asleep.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Sojourn in the Sonoran

A couple hours' drive to Buffalo after a day at work. A short night's sleep in a shoddy Buffalo hotel. A flight at the crack of dawn. It was all worth it to step out into the Arizona sunshine for a week-end in Scottsdale and runs through the Sonoran desert.

Mindy and I planned this rather last-minute long-weekend for a few reasons, including palm trees, sunshine and desert running trails. On the first day at the Fairmont Princess Scottsdale resort, we checked off all three from our list!

The rocky, sandy trails of the sonoran desert just outside of Scottsdale are rugged and rocky - perfect training (I think) for the Canadian Death Race coming up this summer. Of course, the Rocky Mountains in Alberta won't have saguaro cacti.

Enjoying a refreshing drink back at the resort, we were amused by the "bird security" - falcon trainers who use their raptors to keep the blackbirds at bay.

Exhausted from the time-change, flight, drive, short night, etc., we had a quick dinner in our room and drifted off to sleep.