May Day Musings

So, it’s been an interesting winter/spring. I don’t know if the fact I still keep attempting to lay out plans, both long and short-term, despite the “plans never survive first contact with reality” adage that is an all-too-frequent reality, is persistence and stubbornness, or bordering on futility.

Running events actually went pretty close to plan, albeit with some major “not according to plan” weather interruptions. You know you’re in Arizona when, in the space of two months, the weather goes from hypothermia to heat stroke.


“but it hardly ever rains in the desert…”

I’m very pleased with how my running season went this time around. No major injuries, and conquering Crown King/getting that first 50k completion. My two major goals, and I managed both of them.

What I’m finding very interesting is the aftermath.

Trail running is definitely not my all-encompassing joy and passion the way riding is. I don’t actually like to train for running. I get a lot of satisfaction out of finishing a race, and I enjoy the social aspect, but I have a hard time mustering up a ton of enthusiasm for the idea of going out for a long training run by myself. For me, it tends to be more of a “put in the work or you’re not going to enjoy the outcome” type of mentality when it comes to training.

After giving it some thought, I don’t know if the idea of moving beyond the 50k distance really holds a ton of appeal. The idea of having to do way more training above and beyond what I did for CK has very little appeal. Maybe if I had easier access to trails, I would feel differently, but as it is now, it’s a lot of work for me to get to actual trails, and takes a lot of time. Because I do have to drive everywhere (to the barn, to trails), that alone eats into the time allotted for my “play time.” And there are other things in my life that mean more to me than running/moving up in ultra distances.

(However, as long as I have the dogs, I will always be doing some degree of running, because that’s the fastest way to happy terriers.)


Comparing that to riding, there’s been very few times where I haven’t felt like riding. Especially if I’m on a good horse that I really like, the training and conditioning doesn’t feel like a chore or something that “has” to be done. It’s something I truly enjoy. (I always keep in mind Julie Suhr’s advice that “If you don’t enjoy the conditioning process, this is not the sport for you.”)

And it’s a good thing, too, since that tends to be the area in which all attempts at planning completely fall apart. If I didn’t love it so much, this would probably be an exercise in frustration/futility.

To whit: I was supposed to ride Liberty at the Bumble Bee ride two weekends ago. (Normally scheduled for January, but massive amounts of rain pushed it into April.) However, vehicle problems (NOT mine this time) prevented her from making it to the ride. I swear this ride is jinxed for me. Not once have I actually ridden it and finished.

Bumble Bee, A History:

  • Year One: Didn’t have a horse to ride, so volunteered.
  • Year Two: Liberty and I went overtime on the 25.
  • Year Three: My suburban engine blew up a week before the ride and I wasn’t going anywhere.
  • Year Four: Lameness pull after the first loop of the 25 on Liberty.
  • Year Five: Vehicle problems that prevented Liberty from being brought down for me to ride.

So, since I was already there, with all my stuff, I begged a bed off of friends for the night, and volunteered on ride day.

Not what I had planned, but I still had a good time, and felt right at home again with my endurance tribe. I once again landed my “master timer” job, which, aside from vet scribing, is one of the things I really like doing. I’m very organized, so the “keeping track of things” element of it is right up my alley, and apparently I can be quite bossy/direct when it comes to making sure the process runs smoothly.

Meanwhile, with the weather warming up, the pony is quite happy. Winter coat is shed out and she’s working on baldifying herself for the summer. Warm weather also = explosive hoof growth, so never mind that I trimmed her three weeks ago…by the time I got down to the barn this past weekend, it looked like eight weeks had gone by.

So that was a happy couple of hours spent meticulously working on her feet that had really gotten away from me this winter/early spring. Still not 100% where I like to see them, but since the goal is not “lame the pony from a crappy trim,” I’ll keep working at it over the next few weeks. She’s gone from “let me grow stupid-high upright feet and heel” to “let me show you how long my toes can get.” Pony feet = never boring.

And then we rode. God bless my sainted pony for putting up with me while I’m caught in this “ugh, I feel like a hot mess who doesn’t know how to ride” cycle. Apparently 24 years of riding, over 10 of which involved lessons, showing, and instruction, means nothing to my psyche right now, since I’m overthinking and just trying way too hard. However, I had a revelation on Saturday that somewhere along the way I completely forgot I had lower legs, and have been doing way too much upper leg and letting the lower leg just gleefully swing along for the ride.

And I wonder why I tip forward, or most of my ride photos have my lower leg trailing along somewhere back at my horse’s flank. Apparently the idea of the lower leg as your stable base of support isn’t just some radical suggestion.

Arena time = way too much think time. I need more trail time.

In unfortunate other news, fire season already started here with the Sawmill Fire burning approximately 47,000 acres north of Sonoita, including part of the Empire Ranch, base camp to the Old Pueblo ride, and part of the Arizona Trail on the west side of the highway (which is a major section of trail for one of the ride days, and my favorite trail for the ride).

It’s too soon to tell how it will impact the ride. The 2017 ride happened already (March), but I don’t know what will happen for 2018. The fire is at 94% containment right now.

Much closer to home is the Cactus Fire, right along the Salt River…one of my go-to trail locations. 800 acres and 85% containment, but only about 4 miles away from some large residential areas of northeast Mesa. It’s also one of the spots where the Salt River wild horses like to hang out; fortunately it appears that none of the wild horses have been hurt or killed and they are staying clear of the area.

The weather has been hot, dry, and windy for the past week, so decidedly not helpful in fire control. Southern AZ in particular gets very windy; enough so that they had to ground air support several times due to high winds.

Hoping and praying for some spring rain, or early monsoons…all of the lush greenery from the winter rains has turned dry, brown, and crunchy, and we’re currently sitting at “tinderbox” status right now. :/

The Preparation Game

The countdown is at T-5 days until the Crown King Scramble 50k.

While I’ve had a few moments here and there of a more cavalier, “take it as it comes, stop overthinking” attitude, by and large I am operating closely within my comfort zone of “plan, overthink, and plan some more.” It’s what works for me. I like thinking ahead, planning contingencies, and organizing minute details. I love my lists, and orderly piles of things. A “fly by the seat of my pants” attitude stresses me out way more than my advanced planning. I’m a big fan of the “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” approach.

Planning also gives my brain something concrete to focus on other than nerves, more nerves, and imaginations gone wild. (I always know when I have a big event coming up…in the weeks leading up to it, I have some weird dreams. Very vivid, very detailed, and very bizarre. My subconscious has been working overtime this past week, and most mornings I’ve been waking up going “WTF was that?!?”.)

Yesterday was my last training run on the trails. At 6 days out, I wasn’t looking to add any fitness, but just keep my legs tuned up and remind my body that it has a job to do coming up shortly. I’ll do one more gym workout tomorrow morning (again, not pushing myself to capacity, but more to stay limbered up and keep the muscles awake but not tired), and then I’ll have several days where I will do nothing more strenuous than taking the dogs for a walk. (Which can be a full body workout in its own right on some days.)


my bestest running buddies were happy to drag me down the trail

I had to borrow some superstition from my days of taking theater/drama classes from junior high school up through college: “A bad dress rehearsal means a great opening night.” Yesterday’s “dress rehearsal” run was not fabulous. By the time I finished I was feeling pretty good, but the first few miles were a major strugglefest, and all I could think was “I feel crappy at mile 3…how am I supposed to go 31 next weekend?”. Never mind that it takes me 3-4 miles to really find my rhythm, and I conveniently forget this every.single.time.

So by all rights, I guess that means the run should go well?

It’s also something of an “away” race — far enough of a drive, combined with the early start, that it totally justified the decision to get a campsite at Lake Pleasant and camp out Friday night before the race, and Saturday night after. That makes it seem like a “bigger” deal than a more “local” race as well in that it does require a bit more prep and forethought than “grab running pack and drive 30 minutes to nearby trailhead.” I managed to get most of the camping gear unearthed this weekend, and it’s currently sitting in a large pile in my garage.


I found some gorgeous singletrack and amazing wildflowers

The wildflowers are unbelievable right now…next weekend should be quite the scenery spectacle, if what I saw this weekend is any indicator. I’m an AZ native and I couldn’t even identify half the flowers that were blooming out there…but a quick wikipedia consultation just told me lots of brittlebush (the yellow flowers), fairy duster (the fluffy pink stuff), desert lupine (purple), globe mallow (orange flowers on tall stalks), plus century plants, banana yucca, hedgehog cactus and probably plenty more that I either didn’t see or would be hard-pressed to identify.

The weather forecast has been absolutely wrecking havoc on my attempts to plan attire. In the past two weeks, I’ve seen everything from “it’s going to snow in Crown King the day before” to “sunny, high of 60” to “rain, rain, and more rain.”

After Black Canyon, I’ve got a bit of PTSD about being cold/wet. But Crown King 2015 was out-of-nowhere, near-record highs…which meant hot day with no heat training. So I don’t know which one is worse. I don’t suppose a high of 60, with just a light breeze and some scattered clouds would be too much to ask for?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Current forecast is for a high of 49* in Crown King, cloudy, with a “passing shower” in the afternoon. Friday night low at Lake Pleasant is in the mid 40s. Start time is 5am, in the dark, and the course just keeps gaining in elevation, so you end up in 6000′ elevation by the time you’re done.

I still have no idea what to wear. Typically once the sun is out, I’m plenty warm (mid-high 50s yesterday morning when I was out, and I was in shorts and a tank top)…but that clouds/cold/going into the mountains aspect of this run has me pulling my hair out. Want to be prepared, and not get cold, but don’t want to overheat, or make myself be a pack mule carrying all kinds of crap.

We get one drop bag to access at mile 15, so I can’t even stash a ton of clothes along the way.

Currently debating right now between shorts and capris, and tank top with arm sleeves, or tank top with lightweight half-zip pullover. Featherweight rain jacket will be carried in the pack no matter what.

I suspect I will end up packing all my options and deciding Friday night at camp. And spend a lot of time checking the weather forecast in-between. Right now I’m leaning towards capris/tank/arm sleeves, but I’m sure that will change over the next few days.


decisions, decisions.

I’m nervous. I’m excited. But mostly I’m just ready for my feet to be on that course to give it another go. I was suitably humbled in 2015, and definitely do not feel overconfident this time. But I feel ready. I know I’ve trained better, and more strategically. I’m stronger, have done more hills, way more cross-training, and have figured out my own feeding and hydration way better. I’ve found shoes that are working well, and have an array of comfortable clothing choices. Pacing at Black Canyon put me through the mental wringer and taught me that as long as I’m physically okay, I can push through my mental barriers.

So let’s do this thing.