About NATRA Blog

This page is meant for folks to post their thoughts on the Saturday group run. I (Neil) will post a blurb about who showed up and where it was held. From there, I hope that other runners will share their thoughts since we often have different experiences on the same run. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Return of the Purple Tights

On New Years eve Neil showed off his new purple tights....we'll see how many decades these survive. Seven runners headed up a very icy urban trail and did the Railroad Springs loop, about 5 miles in the warmest New Year's Eve in many, many years.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011

Randi, Bruce, Sabrina and David made their way to Buffalo Park and headed off onto the streets of Flagstaff. Fighting a cold, Neil took this photo of the team riding the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stage Coach....

An Easy New Way on a Quiet Christmas Eve

Five runners - Sabrina, Susan, David, Suzanne and Bruce - tried a new route that David suggested near Boynton Canyon, and what a great suggestion it is! A little over 5 miles of gentle running that began downhill into a chilly and dark ravine, soon rising out into the light and warmth. The second half is spectacular, on a ledge against a cliff for a good half-mile, before dropping back to the start. A prayer wheel lies on a ridge near the end of the run. (Thanks to Bruce for the post)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Three Like Six: Fort Valley Trails.

Running on hardly-broken trails added a lot to the run today. Runners Jen, Mark, Sabrina, Mackenzie, Annika, David, Susan and Bruce tried several options. With the exception of Annika, who doesn't plan or worry about anything, all options were hard work. Only Mark was ready to continue the uphill slog toward the pipeline after getting about 1.6 miles into the jog. Coffee was at the Train on 180. (Thanks to Bruce for the post)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

3rd Annual Beaver Creek Polar Bear Plunge

14 runners set out for the Beaver Creek pools on a brilliantly sunny December day. Surprisingly, snow from last weekend's cold storm clung to the south side of the canyon. There were no yeti or rampaging panda sightings in Beaver Creek, however, runners did catch a glimpse of a polar bear wading in the creek. We also noted that runners wore almost every variety of NATRA headgear and Neil and Diana wore the latest NATRA beanie and headband. Jen, Diana, and Elizabeth took a detour to Weir Crossing. See Jen's slideshow below.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Yetis and a Rogue Panda on Campbell Mesa

During this morning's blizzard, residents along Old Walnut Canyon Road reported sightings of at least 6 yetis and even a rogue panda on the rampage, this time in the vicinity of Campbell Mesa. Eyewitnesses say the panda appeared confused, following slightly behind the yetis as though he had been left behind. Game and Fish experts believe the panda may have rabies and they are currently warning residents of Mountainaire to be extremely careful as the panda may be hibernating there. Authorities are working quickly to capture the panda - they even sent a fake post on Facebook that NATRA was offering free beer at Uptown Billiards on Sunday afternoon, assuming that is all it will take to get the rogue panda out in the open.

Eyewitnesses also swear that the 6 unfashionable yetis had brightly colored clashing outfits (though none were wearing purple), and while they were smaller than normal (according to Sabrina, 3 standard of deviations below normal) they had heavy gaits similar to those reported elsewhere. Their speed was quite slow, lumbering along at perhaps 12 to 14 minutes per mile. Later, reporters found that their tracks went for approximately 6 miles, covering the outer loop of the Campbell Mesa trail system.

A second sighting reported that the Yetis and rogue panda walked into It's About Coffee at 11 AM. As rumors spread throughout Flagstaff, inquiring minds crowded outside the coffee shop, however, they were disappointed to only count 6 scrawny, exhausted local runners walking to their snow covered vehicles. When interviewed by NPR, Arizona Daily Sun reporters, and Phoenix news crews, NATRA runners David, Susan, Bret, Neil, Sabrina, Bruce and David refused to comment on the strange early morning occurrences on Campbell Mesa.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sycamore Rim Trail - Or oh my toes!

I have waited a long time to run the Sycamore Rim Trail. I posted the run about 5 years ago, but missed out. After a near record turnout on Thursday morning's turkey day run, I wondered who would be around for this jaunt. After quickly realizing it would just be me, Sabrina and Bruce, we took the 30 minute drive to the Dow Springs Trailhead.

Honestly, I think this was one of our most spectacular runs ever. We started uneventfully enough, checking out the cool historic remains of the 1920s logging camp and railroad grade along the edge of the canyon. This is one of my favorite historic sites on the Kaibab National Forest so I got some monitoring in as well. Beautifully unchanged since I first saw it over 20 years ago.

Once we left the historic site we dropped into the head of Sycamore Canyon where we dodged frozen pools of crystal clear spring water. It was here, 13 summers ago, when on a hot sultry day of survey, one of my crew members went skinny dipping on his lunch break. No such dreams of doing so today with the icy cold waters and brisk wind blowing up the canyon.

As we climbed out of the canyon and ran along the rim, I managed to avoid all the widow maker rocks thanks to Bruce. Luckily, Bonnie stills has a husband. His nimble and acrobatic side steps kept him from stumbling off the canyon edge. I kept my distance safely behind him and did just fine. The views all the way to the Sycamore Vista were stunning and we figured it was about 4 miles. It of course felt like 5 with the jagged basalt cobbles doing their best to beat our toes to a pulp.

The return was a non-stop flight until we went searching for Dow Springs. I had dreams of filling my water bottle with icy cold water, however, the spring's output only trickled out of a pipe choked with a very unappealing iron sludge - we passed on the water. Once we made it back to the car, our knees tightened and our feet hurt - the signs of what was truly one of my favorite NATRA runs of all time. We quickly recovered at the Coffee Bean and headed off for our well deserved post-run naps.

Check out this link to an interactive map!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Oldam Trail and 30th Annual Free Flagstaff Turkey Predictor Run

To start the day a record 30 runners, 3 dogs and 1 biker made the pre-Turkey Predictor Run by completing the Oldham Trail Monday night 4.5 mile loop! As we approached the end of the run we could see waves of people getting excited fort the start of today's main event....

A record turnout for the 30th Annual Free Flagstaff Turkey Predictor Run. This Flagstaff tradition saw a three way tie for first with three participants within 3 seconds of their predicted time! Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Somewhere in Kelly Canyon

10 runners set out on an overcast, damp morning into the depths of Kelly Canyon. As we headed down for quite sometime, runners knew the return would nothing but up. However the beauty of the canyon led us deeper and deeper, finally to the junction of Kelly Canyon and Pumphouse Wash, a spectacular water hole of heavily eroded sandstone. Had the sun been out, many might have taken a bath. However, we jumped onto a "trailwind" and returned to David's for Neil's Bloody Marys, Biff's bagels and some of the finest breakfast treats around.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Picture Canyon Time Line

Yesterday, November 16, David McKee and I met with Claudine, a reporter for KNAU who is doing a story on the restoration work at Picture Canyon. It gave us a chance to reminisce on the history of Picture Canyon clean up efforts and how David got NATRA involved in the project.

I first went to Picture Canyon in June 1986 when I was leading an afternoon hike with 4th and 5th graders from the Museum of Northern Arizona's Elden Pueblo archaeology camp. Working on an internship at the Museum I had heard about the petroglyphs and was intrigued with finding them. Once we did, I taught the students how to sketch the petroglyphs to scale on graph paper. The further up canyon we went, the more trash we encountered and the foul smelling sewage overwhelmed our nasal passages. I then decided I didn't want any kids having to go home needing tetanus shots, so we left the canyon.

I would not return until nearly 20 years later when my pal David McKee who worked at the City's Wildcat Waste Water Treatment plant hatched a plan to restore Picture Canyon. David told me he was seeking ways to remove the seven abandoned cars mired in the rocky twisted canyon bottom but the State Lands Department required the presence of an archaeologist to ensure that none of the archaeological features would be affected. I happily obliged to volunteer and on September 24, 2005 the challenging removal was a success thanks to Gary Lively's crane operations.

September 24, 2005: Cars Pulled from Canyon

That paved the way for NATRA to help sponsor the food for the first Picture Canyon Make A Difference Day on October 22, 2005. Since then numerous partners, volunteer clean up days, a successful National Register Nomination, and the massive meander restoration project have set forth the canyon's restoration. Very soon, runners, bikers and walkers will soon be able to follow the Flagstaff Urban Trail along the course of the Rio De Flag from Cheshire all the way through Picture Canyon.

November 28, 2009: First NATRA Run to Picture Canyon

It is a remarkable story of community partners coming together to preserve a unique ecosystem in just 6 years. Picture Canyon is still at risk, however, this effort has greatly raised awareness about this jewel of a canyon in our backyards.

June 12, 2011: Meander Restoration Celebration

For more information visit the Friends of the Rio De Flag website .

Below is a timeline of links to the extensive Arizona Daily Sun coverage about the efforts to restore Picture Canyon. I will continue to update this as the story evolves.

March 9,2002: The first clean up day.

August 10, 2004: Emerging restoration efforts.

June 22, 2005: Flag's canyon of shame.

September 25, 2005: Cars lifted from canyon.

November 30, 2005: Pithouse vandalism.

December 10, 2005: Canyon nearly picture perfect

January 18,2007: Paint ballers threaten canyon.

October 26, 2007: State historic site listing.

January 18, 2008: National Register designation.

April 16, 2008: Picture Canyon deserves support.

April 29, 2008: Picture Canyon in state trust hands.

August 25, 2009: Flagstaff Festival of Sciences.

August 19, 2010: Restoration begins .

November 2, 2011: Picture Canyon for 6 million?

November 5, 2011: State Appraisers may decide canyon's value.

February 7, 2012: Jack Welch's article about Picture Canyon hearing .

February 9, 2012 KNAU story on efforts to save Picture Canyon.

February 14, 2012 Picture Canyon hearing set for today.

February 15, 2012 Picture Canyon Supporters Crowd City Hall.

On February 14, 2012, NATRA's David McKee briefed the large City Hall audience on the partners' efforts to date (Photo Credit: Tom Bean).

March 20, 2012 Law Maker puts Picture Canyon at Risk.

March 22, 2012 SB 118 Mocks Initiative Process.

March 29, 2012 House Kills Raid on Preservation Fund

City Manager Kevin Burke makes the winning (and only) bid!

Celia, David, Alicyn, McKenzie, and Neil celebrate at Zane Gray Ballroom

October 30, 2012 City buys Picture Canyon at Auction!!!!!! (AZ DAILY SUN)

October 30, 2012 Flagstaff Buys Picture Canyon (KNAU)

October 31, 2012 A 30 Year Dream Come True!

Video of Auction by John Grahame

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Flagstaff Sports Foundation 10 and 5K Runs

A great day for the inaugural Flagstaff Sports Foundation 10 and 5K Footloose Run at Forest Highlands. 66 runners, snow flurries, and lots of fun! Highlighting the race
were Team USA Arizona Olympic hopefuls Emily Harrison , Nick Arciniaga and
Brett Gotcher
. They inspired runners into the finish line, signed autographs, and took photos with participants.

Watch more video of 26.2 miles to houston on flotrack.org

Brett Gotcher on training for the Olympic Trials

Watch more video of 26.2 miles to houston on flotrack.org

Nick Arciniaga on training for the Olympic Trials

This is an event you will want to make sure you race next year!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Oldham to Rocky Ridge. First snow of the year!

To celebrate the first measurable snow of the year 6 runners ran the Oldham Rocky Ridge loop. This route is difficult enough to run on any given day, but throw 6 inches of powder into the mix and this 7 mile run takes as long as the toughest 10 miler. Sure enough the temperature continued to drop throughout the run. In homage to Tim's infamous bare chested snowy run a half decade ago, Neil bared his shirt and romped down at the same spot.

His chest wasn't nearly as cold until he threw his sweat soaked fleece back on. Overall, it was not the difficult hills safely tucked away in the dense forest below Mount Elden that we feared...it was the last half mile returning through the open tundra of Buffalo Park. We all made it through however, and warmed up at the Kickstand. Thanks to Bruce, Craig, Mark, and Bret for keeping me company, and especially to Mary and Mary who broke snow for us (well at least for the start!). Winter has arrived!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Observatory Mesa Detour

NATRA turned 10 today. Exactly 520 weekends ago, 6 runners assembled at the Schultz Creek Trailhead to do a morning run. Every weekend since then (excepting race day weekends or trail days) we have hosted a group run whether rain, snow or shine.

Neil, Mackenzie, Bruce, Chris, Craig and Abe began running up the Urban Trail. Even Neil kept up, but only after Mackenzie attached Anika to his wrist. With a sudden jolt forward, Neil was running like he did 10 years ago - after all, Anika was not going to lose sight of mom. Abe kept Chris company for the entire loop as she is getting ready for next weekend's ultra marathon in Vegas. At the brown gate the rest of us decided to take the railroad loop back to Thorpe. It was a nice change of pace from the usual out and back. Afterwards we hit the Kickstand, celebrated 10 years of group runs and were impressed that Abe was still able to walk after he kept up with Chris for 10 miles!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Make A Difference Day: Rio De Flag

Thanks to David Mckee, NATRA again helped sponsor Make a Difference Day, helping restore the Rio De Flag to its natural condition. 64 volunteers collected tons of trash, NAU students recorded hundreds of petroglyphs and all enjoyed a beautiful day in Flagstaff. The Flagstaff Urban Trail will eventually pass through this reach of the Rio De Flag on its way through Picture Canyon. A great day for Flagstaff and dozens of partners who have made this restoration project possible!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Soulstice Group Shot!

Soulstice group shot by NAU Parks and Recreation Management student Emily Denison!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Aspen Corner Again!

Nine runners headed into the fall splendor between Aspen Corner and Bismarck "Lake". Aside from regulars Neil, Susan and David, the crew was joined by the TransRockies gang of Joe Bob, Mr. Taper Madness himself Aaron and Bob Steele. Abbey and newbies Mark and Lisa also joined in the romp through the fall foliage which was at full peak. While some stands had dropped their leaves, most were fully golden in one of the most beautiful fall runners ever. Afterwards we retreated to the Kickstand to enjoy coffee and NATRA David Blanchard's beautiful weather photography exhibit. Head down to the Kickstand and check it out today!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Soulstice 2011 Tour

Thanks to John Lowe for the great videos!

Soulstice 2011 - The grandest of them all..A great day for all my friends to celebrate Flagstaff Trail Running. If you have any comments, thoughts to share or suggestions for future Soulstice races, please leave them here!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

31st Annual War Dog!

It was a picture perfect start for the 31st Annual War Dog Run. Nearly 30 runners headed the 12.8 miles to Doyle Saddle and back. Many used this as a warm up to next Saturday's Soulstice run. Scott used it as a chance to register for the Moab Trail race on his I-Phone. Watch the video closely. Some great Flagstaff history with War Dogs Mark Thurston and Nat White discussing the history of the race. At the very end of the video, one of the founders, Rusty Knott, heads uphill. Enjoy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flagstaff Marathon

Saturday was a picture perfect day for the Flagstaff Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K. Read Jacob May's Arizona Daily Sun Coverage. Results at VirtualRoster.com.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ponderosa Hustle, Aspen Corner, Summer Series Picnic

Never a dull moment of trail running in Flagstaff. The inaugural Ponderosa Hustle was a smashing success. See photos above.

The NATRA group run had 9 folks including Maureen, Rob, Neil, Sabrina, Craig, David, Susan, Don and Bruce out for a jaunt on the Arizona Trail at Aspen Corner. With a thick overcast, runners were chilled to the bone. Before long David started chasing tornado trails (from what David says, 10 days in a row with at least one tornado in Northern Arizona). He found several trees uprooted from the latest event just off the Arizona Trail and reports that there was some tornado activity near the Humphrey's trail box. See David's official report. Most runners headed to Bismarck Lake and back.

Neil headed back to his car to clean off the residue of David M's latest prank. Sabrina reminded us of when the same Arizona Trail took a bit out of her leg last year. Ouch.

Finally to top off the day, Tim and the Flagstaff Nordic Center hosted the Flagstaff Summer Running Series picnic. With a small turnout of 30 folks, everyone took one or two Fratelli's pizza home and lots of NATRA swag.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


As I returned from my early morning run with Mark James, I am thinking back on a decade ago. Mark and I were in high gear training for a little known race - the Soulstice Mountain Trail Run to be held in early October, 2001. On 9/11/2001, I had a break in my training as I was helping lead a Passport in Time volunteer project for the Kaibab National Forest, with 16 volunteers camped at Hull Cabin. Hull Cabin is the oldest standing structure in the Grand Canyon area, built by Phillip and William Hull in 1884.

The plan was to survey around Hull Cabin to better understand the prehistoric settlement pattern along the Coconino Rim. As I crawled out of my tent on that fateful Tuesday, I could hear a colleague shouting that the World Trade Center was under attack. I had awoken earlier at 3 AM, to drain some beer out of my system, and I could hear Patrick listening to Art Bell in the Morning (An overnight talk show about conspiracy theories and UFOs). I told Patrick I was not amused as my Dad works a few blocks away. He then told me to listen to the NPR reports.

We continued making breakfast amid reports of the towers on fire and their potential imminent collapse. Thankfully one of our volunteers, Ed, a fire fighter from Los Angeles, had a sattelite phone. I reached my mom who lived in White Plains, about 20 minutes north of the city, and she knew dad was OK. It would be days before I heard his harrowing story from his office just 4 blocks away.

Eventually, PT Carter, a co-worker from Tusayan came out to check on us and make sure we knew about the current events. He told us the Forest Service would be shutting down and wondered if we would be sending volunteers home. We thought about it a bit, but since most had flown in from across the country, we had no choice but to go on with the show. We were then on our own. It was an unusual week near the south rim of the Grand Canyon, quite eerie with no overflights buzzing us all day long. Complete silence and not even hunters in the woods. For a brief period, the whole Forest seemed like wilderness.

As a kid, I never made it up to the twin towers, but on my first break from college in December 1982, my best friend Jimmy and I decided to play tourists in the town where I was born. We visited the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and finally the Trade Center. (It is a bit like those that live in Flagstaff that haven't been to the Grand Canyon) Both avid photographers we took our cameras along to see who could take the artsiest photos (Jimmy always won that competition). I recently scanned these 35 mm photos that I took. (The Trade Center was only a decade old at that time). In today's New York Times there is an interesting panoramic reconstruction of the Trade Center.

My Grandfather who was born in the city in 1905 collected matches from different restaurants across the city. As a kid I always enjoyed the colorful array of books in his collection box that was the centerpiece of a coffee table in their Greenwich Village apartment. When Gramps died in 1995, I inherited that matchbook collection. A week after 9/11 I decided to take an inventory of the fine cuisine gramps had visited over the years. The first one I flipped over was a bit eerie. Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the Trade Center.

After 9/11, my Dad who had lived on the upper east side of Manhattan for more than 25 years, decided to move down to the abandoned Battery Park area. Within months I visited and got to see the destruction up close. The small room where I stayed looked right down onto the Ground Zero, just three blocks to the north, with my room lit up by the workers still clearing debris. Walking around the neighborhood there were scars all over buildings and many were still condemned. I spent every day walking/running the perimeter of Ground Zero. Dad has moved around the now vibrant rejuvenated tip of Manhattan and one of his apartments was next to Trinity Church which was amazingly spared during 9/11. He is now on West Street, right near where the first responder police and firefighter stations were located. I have visited many times since 9/11 and am amazed at the recovery that has taken place in the Battery Park area. An article in today's Times recounts this as well . The New York City Half Marathon now finishes on the tip of Battery Park.

In the days leading up to today's 10th anniversary of 9/11, I found myself back at Hull Cabin - this time working with the incident management team on the Lower Fire. The area around Hull Cabin had not seen a fire in over 100 years and managing the fire gave Forest managers the opportunity to reduce the chance of a catastrophic fire reducing the Cabin to ashes. Over the past decade, the Kaibab has restored Hull Cabin to where it is now in the Cabin rental program for the public to enjoy.

However, back to our run today - a 6 mile jaunt through NAU's campus - I remembered how Mark and I were training for Soulstice 10 years ago. I had already pledged to help with the organization of this little known event the following year thinking we should simply start an email list together of interested runners. Maybe even a web page. While those were just ideas, after 9/11, they really blossomed. There seemed to be a need for folks to reconnect, and the timing of social group trail runs had arrived - and trail running did seem to bring us closer together. I am thankful for all the friends who have lent a hand or joined in on a group run. And I'm looking forward to the next 10, minus any more 9/11s.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Arizona Trail Walnut Canyon towards Fisher Point

I began the day assuming that I might have the Arizona Trail all to myself. After all, it is Imogene Pass Run weekend and most Flagstaff trail runners abandoned the town for Ouray and Telluride (Congrats to Flagstaff's Mike Smith and Jenny McCarthy who took both the men's and women's titles at Imogene - this is the first time I can remember that happening). While I have done this epic race twice, I make the attempt only once every 10 years. It takes me that long to recover!

So, after a decade of NATRA group runs, I thought, would this be the first NATRA group run with only me? It was looking that way until Abe arrived on scene. Then three young women from Phoenix arrived looking for a good 18 miler. Impressive I thought, and I told them Fisher Point would make the perfect long run - but not quite the 18 miles (it is only 13.4). I was pretty sure they would feel like they ran a long one (If you gals read this, please submit a comment about how the run went!)

As Abe and I took off we wondered how well the gals would do with only a liter bottle of water - I warned them about the altitude, but off they went. Every time we would make a turn, they were on our heels, chit chatting way like it was just a walk in the park. Perhaps the bottle of water would be fine.

For me, the run was the first since Hood to Coast. I felt strong and for the first time in recent memory ran in and out of that monstrous side canyon of Walnut without stopping. A monumental achievement for me. I decided to do only 5 miles while Abe did 8. On my way back I ran into Jeff who came out for his first NATRA run. So all in all, not a bad turnout. 6 runners on a day I was for sure going to be alone.

Abe and I returned to the Campus Coffee Bean. I must have been dying of thirst as I questioned Abe on everything he knew about Northern Arizona ground water and springs. Water is always on my mind these days as monsoons are winding down, meaning Soulstice is just around the corner. Four weeks to go!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weather (ed) ford Trail

(Thanks to Bruce H for the following post)There is no truth to the rumor that our fearless leader was off sleeping in his back yard shed instead of running today or for that matter that there had been a hostile take over of NATRA by Diana who, for the first time met with Jen, Sabrina, Ludo, Don, Mackenzie and Shea at the agreed-upon time. Various routes starting up the Weather(ed)ford Trail were taken, with two folks actually mostly following the advertised route on this beautiful, early fall day.

Scott and Bruce arrived earlier for separate longer runs, but all met up at the end, except Ludo who ran to Doyle Saddle.

Almost everyone had horned toad encounters today. Must be something in the air! Coffee was at the Train, with David and Susan joining us.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hood to Coast

The moment I eagerly awaited all year long had finally arrived. I had been wrought with a summer full of angst anticipating the Mother of All Relays - Hood to Coast. After injuring my calf in July, I decided no more running until race day. Power walking, mushroom hunting, surveying on wildfires, fine. I knew with the upcoming fire season I'd have plenty of opportunities to stay fit.

I was filled with excitement to visit Team Running Sucks Captain Rhiannon and Tim in Portland, Oregon, a city I have fallen in love with over the past 5 years. The flight to PDX was amusing as Kara, Heather and I carpooled to PHX at 3:30 AM. While this simplified travel, we all managed to take separate flights into PDX. Once we all regrouped a few hours later, Van 1,team Running Sucks picked up their rental. A gangsta black Chevy Tahoe. We knew we were going to be bad asses.

On Thursday night, we all packed into Rhi and Tim's apartment sleeping on every available inch of space - a good way to ease into the sleep deprivation we knew we would face over the next 30 hours. Most of us were used to the concept, heck we had all done epic relays before, but Hood to Coast is the original. NPR's Scott Simon covered this year's race!

As early Friday rolled around, it was time to carefully pack the Tahoe - one of the key elements of a successful relay. Just enough food, drink and sleeping bags to get you through the event. Organization is key, and Heather taught us a new trick to keeping track of your Bananas. Comfort just is not a part of this race and is the reason you feel more pain than after running a marathon. There is no room to stretch your legs in the cramped vehicle for 27 hours. But more on the Hood to Coast post race shuffle later.

Another tradition in the pre-race early morning hours is to decorate your transport vehicle. Within minutes we could barely contain our laughter with every statement having to do with "sucks". My contribution - "hot sucks.". The NATRA runner logo was even quoted saying "Humidity Sucks." But of course nothing funnier than our team name and our shirts "Running Sucks." As the race progressed into the night, runners clearly identified with our team name by smiling and saying "you got that right".

Running Sucks divided into 2 vans, Van 1 and Van 2. Relays are bizarre. You really don't get to know the other Van, you just hope they stay on track and meet at the major exchanges. On the other hand, within your van, you get to know your teammates very, very well. Our Van was a combination Rhi's Flagstaff NATRA friends mixed in with her colleagues from the Claremont Mudd Scripps College Cross Country team . And we had coach Carl who dutifully drove us throughout the night. A veteran of Hood to Coast, Carl was injured and could not run - he just wanted to be part of the Relay. By the end, I understood his passion and commitment for doing this for his friends.

Van 1's mix of runners complemented each other well. Greg and Neil's slower paces allowed the remaining speed demons plenty of time to recover. Greg and I well understood the significance of our roles!

The drive to Mount Hood was magnificent with the numerous snow chutes covering the mountain. When we arrived we saw the sea of madness and many of the colorful teams, including the Star Wars Storm Troopers in Speedos.

I was more infatuated with the Honey Badger team - one of my favorite YouTube Videos of the year! I also then ran into my pal David Bluestein who we married at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Half Marathon two years ago. We had just seen each other the week before!

I had other ideas on my mind at the starting area. I had been excited to see Timberline Lodge - the exterior which was used in the "Shining". I wondered if this race would end up as a horror story for me. Redrum! Of course as we stood in front taking photos, I heard a a familiar voice. I looked up and of course there was a Forest Service interpreter talking about the historic of Timberline Lodge. Ah, just can't get away from my job. Of course there was no time for a tour, Heather was about to start!

The race pretty much want according to plan. We all ran our expected paces and despite well above normal heat as we sped down Mount Hood. We would have broken 27 hours had it not been for that damn train in the middle of the night that held up Heather's run. Oh yeah, and then there were the few minutes that we lost when we had to rename Al, Al "Will dog it for Hottie".

For me, I thought I was broken after leg 2. While I felt fairly strong during my 2 AM run - my longest leg of 7 miles, I could feel an ancient injury flaring up. The old ITB issue I hadn't felt in 18 years. As we made our way to the Woodstock like van exchange area at 4 AM, my knee had cramped and when I stepped out onto the soft ground I felt a pain shoot up my back. Thankfully Kara, our team PT, forced me onto the foam roller and despite the even more excruciating pain that followed, it magically worked. I was back on track and managed to run my entire third leg of just under 6 miles.

Carl had brilliantly rented rooms in Astoria, a rustic historic town where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific. As we had time before the epic Seaside finish, Van 1 checked into our great rooms at the Comfort Inn, just about 50 yards from the Columbia River. Our room had panoramic views of bridges, Washington State and the river. Oh, and of course, the sea lions who despite their efforts, could not keep me awake with their barking. With just enough time to eat lunch, Carl yelped and we found the fantastic BowPickers Fish and Chips ship. Best post race meal ever.

The race ended at the massive beach resort of Seaside. Kara, Heather and I raced to the ocean's edge and soaked our weary legs. One problem - the Oregon ocean temperature is about 50 degrees and I damn nearly lost my breath. We arrived in Seaside in time to hook up with Van 2. However, with traffic, 15,000 runners and blazing heat, Astoria and cold beer in the river side rooms seemed far more divine. And of course sleep over the constant barking of the sea lions.

Our post-race day activities of walking around Portland, hitting MUU-MUUs for lunch, a beer at Mcmenamins and walking up and down the steps at Powell's Bookstore alleviated the pains of the Hood to Coast shuffle. We celebrated that night at the Bushwhacker's Cider House, Rhi and Tim's quaint neighborhood hangout. We sampled most of their delicious ciders, and Hood to Coast shuffled back to Rhi's thus finishing off the perfect weekend in Portland. Needless to say, I would do Hood to Coast again in a heartbeat.

Special thanks to Rhi who organized this amazing combination of teammates and to our driver Carl who stayed up all night safely getting us from point to point. And of course to all my Running Sucks teammates. You guys rock! But the biggest shout out has to go to Rhi's mom who along with friends served as our required 3 race volunteers. We could not have done this without you!

For many more photos, see below.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Kendrick Mountain

With many Flagstaff stalwarts off kicking a.. at Trans-Rockies and Hood-to-Coast, six of us took on the annual Kendrick Mountain trek. Sabrina, Ludo, Abe, and Bruce joined Sedona Running Company owners Alan and Lindsay on a beautiful morning climb 3000' up to the lookout. The raspberries at the top were ripe; 'nuff said!

On the way out and particularly on the return drive, we had lots of interaction with bike riders in the Barn Burner Mountain Bike Race around Kendrick. Fortunately, we were headed the same direction when our paths crossed!

Coffee was at Late for the Train.(Thanks to Bruce Higgins for the Post)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sunset Trail/Mushroom Run

With Big Brothers Big Sisters Half Marathon behind me, I can focus on some of my other interests. Today, those interests all merged today on the Sunset Trail. It felt a bit weird as 10 runners headed up Sunset as I knew this would likely be my last time up there until I mark the course for Soulstice on October 7th.

As this is the height of mushroom season, I pretty much knew my run would be cut short. David had promised that I would see the Oyster Mushrooms growing in abundance just off the trail. When I found the cache I loaded up my mushroom bags. After a few minutes of trying to run with a load of mushrooms, I pretty much crapped out and decided to walk to the top of Sunset. What magnificent views and I started getting excited for October 8th.

On the descent I returned to collect a few more Oysters but something just didn't seem right. It was a bit too easy - this was the most I've ever collected and I began second guessing myself. Back at the trail head David and Sabrina piled a load of orange delicious lobsters behind my car.

We then debated whether I had collected Oysters at all. Searching all my mushroom guides and the internet, I decided not to make any intestinal mistakes and dumped the load as fertilizer.

Upon returning to Mountain View, David and I decided to have a little yard sale fundraiser with the TransRockies runner's cars parked at the Williams. Anybody want a car? These kids will sell it cheap!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

34th Annual Run for the Magic Half Marathon and 5K

As this was my 10th year directing the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff Half Marathon and 5k, I was ecstatic that we had a record turnout for the 34th Annual Run for the Magic. There were so many highlights that separated this from years past. Randi Rolle, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff, who is blind, ran her first 5K! And we have come a long way.

Mike Smith winning the race and honoring his "Little Brother's" first day at college! Sara Wagner hanging on to win one of her favorite races. Arne sandblasted mugs for division winners. SweatVac shirts. Girls on the Run aid station. Free Fratellis Carbo-Load dinner. Automated timing by Jaguar Timing Systems - no more pulling bibs and missing numbers. The Junction Aid Station Keg. M and Ms. Halfway aid station cup voting - Medicinal Marijuana or not. Dry feet. No mud. Cloud cover. No baking sun. Oddest statistic: ever women finishers outnumber men 247 to 192. I found the results online of the 1999 race at Fort Tuthill. 117 finishers in both races. 75 men and 42 women. We have come a long ways!

Please order or visit Fratellis on Tuesday, August 16th. 10% of sales will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff!

If you participated please share your thoughts on the race! Cheers from the race director.