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!

Monday, December 31, 2012

NATRA's 2012 Top Ten

As we wind down the clock to the first group run of the New Year tomorrow, I have decided to make my own top 10 list for NATRA’s finest moments of 2012 (according to me that is!).

10. 9/30/2012 – Fall foliage run at Aspen Corner when more than 30 runners participated.

9. 10/6/2012 – War Dog Run attracts a record number of newbies and a history by race co-founder Rusty Knott.

8. 12/1/2012 – Beaver Creek Polar Plunge has record 3 runners take the icy leap, finally including me!

7. 3/31/2012 – Getting our butts kicked on Historic Route 66 Ash Fork Hill run.

6. 4/211/2012 – NATRA joins Albie Masland for a few miles of his epic Forrest Gump run across the country in support of the Travis Manion Foundation.

5. 3/17/2012 – NATRA takes an adventure run to the abandoned historic Johnson Canyon Tunnel west of Williams.

4. 2/5/2012 – NATRA’s Running Dead Aid Station full of Zombies and Flagstaff Katzen’s polka music win best aid station at Sedona Marathon.

3. 10/13/2012 – A most memorable Soulstice with a blizzard making course marking challenging, and then on race day the first Soulstice wedding between Sabrina Blackledge and Terrance Langham.

2. 12/21/2012 – NATRA’s virtual Mayan Apocalypse 5K Run to End All Runs and its commemorative Ramble Brothers shirts attract 350+ runners from across the globe.

After nearly 30 years of grass roots efforts (with NATRA’s David McKee a driving force), NATRA in part sponsored cleanup efforts, and what many said was impossible……

1. 10/30/2012 – the City of Flagstaff purchases Picture Canyon one of the most significant archaeological sites in the region. This gives Flag residents access to the Arizona Trail and an extension of the Flagstaff Urban Trail for future generations.


Sunday, December 30, 2012

I Brrrrrrrr Huckaby!

In 2012, NATRA hosted 50 free group runs with over 750 participants!  Figuring an average of about 6 miles per outing, we ran more than 4500 miles of trails!

(Thanks to Sabrina and David for the following report!)
It was a cold morning for the final NATRA run of 2012. With sunrise temperatures near 0°F in Flagstaff, we weren't surprised at the low turnout. Braving the cold temperatures were Sabrina, Susan, and David. It was warmer in Sedona with a temperature of 34°F but there was a brisk down-canyon wind.  Per David, cold air would be drifting off the rim and into Oak Creek Canyon, so we were to expect a windy, cold run down Huckaby. He was absolutely correct, and we began our run facing into the wind and well-layered up. As always, however, Huckaby proved to be a heart-pounding ride and we soon became warm. We made it to the creek and returned with the wind to our backs. 

Post-run was coffee and sandwiches at Indian Gardens, where we enjoyed a world-class view of the canyon and discussed the superiority of old-school photography and tube-screen TVs! Meanwhile, Sedona only got even colder as the day turned overcast, so it was no trouble heading back up the mountain. 

Also, we have all agreed that Neil needs to put Boynton Canyon back on the plan for the new year!




Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chicken Point Wine and Cheese Run

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We had a small turn out for the Chicken Point run in Sedona but it proved to be quite an eventful post-Mayan Apocalypse run. In search of mistletoe, Bruce hit the jackpot finding and abandoned bag of three Modelo beers and a bottle Casillero del Diablo from Chile.

Feeling lucky, we set off to Chicken Point from Broken Arrow. This 5 mile jaunt was shorter than normal, but we all enjoyed the slickrock climbs and descents much better since we were not nearly as tired as usual when we run from Schnebly Hill road.

As we joked about the wine, we thought we better get rid of the evidence so we had a wine and cheese party on the patio by New Frontiers. We sampled Collier's Powerful Welch Cheddar, Ewephoria from Cheeleland Inc, and White Stilton with blueberries. A perfect start to the new Mayan calendar!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Flagstaff's Free Mayan Apcocalypse 5K Fun Run

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On December 21, 2012, dozens of Flagstaff runners defied predictions of gloom and doom on the Mayan Apocalypse by gathering for the Run to End All Runs - A free (and virtual) 5K into the sunset in a snowy Buffalo Park! Flagstaff Brewing Company provided drink specials to all runners who donned their handsome Ramble Brothers Mayan Apocalypse 5K shirts.

We survived and collected well over 100 cans for food bank donations! Ran or exercised on the Mayan Apocalypse? Shirts are still avaiilable at Ramble Brothers. Also, great coverage of the event at the Arizona Daily Sun

Finally to see the event and pics from across the world, visit our group page on Facebook

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Snowy Pre-Mayan Apocalypse Run

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4 NATRA runners kept the 11+ year tradition of never canceling a run by celebrating Flagstaff's first raging snowstorm at Fort Tuthill. Bruce and Neil trudged through about a 3 miles of knee deep snow before their knees gave out, while David and Susan laid tracks with their cross country skis.

The run comes in anticipate of our "virtual" Mayan Apocalypse 5K. On December 21st we ask as many runners as possible to join us in this celebratory event. On Facebook, join in at http://www.facebook.com/neil.weintraub.92#!/events/225524970913930/ - You can also order the hilarios and spiffyshirts at http://www.ramblebrothers.spreadshirt.com - If you join we will share photos of runners wearing the shirt from across the globe!. Simply like our page on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Northern-Arizona-Trail-Runners-Association/218377476572?ref=hl Hope that many of you will join us in this fun way to celebrate the end of the Mayan Calendar!!!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Schultz Creek Shivers

(Thanks to Bruce H. for the following post)  Thirteen runners began heading up Schultz Creek very soon after 9:00 am this morning, because teeth chatter was starting to overwhelm chat. It only got colder, as we entered the canyon proper. Three others - used to the 5-minute grace - soon arrived and also began their 800' climb up to the ghost of Lincoln Logs. Along the way, we passed 6 apparently-more-savvy runners who ran the Shultz-Rocky Ridge loop backwards, thus saving the bone-chilling part for a faster, downhill leg. At our turn-around, we split into three groups, with some heading back the way we came, three climbing another 400', taking the Little Gnarly-Lower Brookbank-Elden Road path, and two following a rugged Jedi-Lost Burrito route.

Most folks met back at the Kick Stand for coffee & idle talk. While we didn't have access to Neil's FB password, we thought it would be a good idea for him to organize a Jingle Bell run some evening soon.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Annual Beaver Creek Polar Bear Run Plunge

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12 NATRA runners, Dylan, and Skylar celebrated the first Sedona run of the winter by heading up to the pools at Beaver Creek. Jared and Bruce both took the annual polar bear plunge. Neil, prodded by peer pressure (mostly Sara Wagner) and the knowledge that he could finally one up David McKee,took the bone chilling leap as well. Even with above normal temperatures and no snow on the ground, the icy water still knocked the wind out of everyone's lungs. Bottom line, NatraNeil 1, NatraDavid 0. To learn more about trail running in Northern Arizona visit the Northern Arizona Trail Runners web site.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sycamore Canyon Rim Trail, aka, Heaven on Earth!

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5 NATRA runners and Dylan ran the rugged Sycamore Rim Trail on the Kaibab National Forest. The trail cross the historic Overland Trail, a military route built in 1863 between Flagstaff and Prescott. It also passes by Dow Springs, an important water source and way station along the military road. Evidence of the stations old buildings are still present as are the remains of a sawmill and railroad grade associated with logging operations in the 1920s. Along the rim trail there are spectacular views of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness. Closer to the head of the canyon there are pools of crystal clear water laden with beautiful lily pads. After the 8 mile out and back trip, we filled up on the delicious, icy cold water rushing out of the Dow Springs pipe.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey Predictor Run 2012

Nat White explains the one rule....no watches allowed!
13 NATRA runners made room for Thanksgiving dinner by running 4.5 miles on the Lower Oldham trail and then joined in on the 31st Annual Free Flagstaff Road and Track Club Turkey Predictor 2 Mile Fun Run. The two mile fun run has been a great local tradtion for family and friends.

Nat White discusses the history of the event in the above video made in 2011.
The run consists of one loop around the outside perimeter of Flagstaff's premier running venue, Buffalo Park. Runners/walkers predict how long it will take to make one lap, and winners are determined by those that are closest to their predicted time. Tie breakers go to the fastest overall time. Winners then choose in order from the baked goods and other assorted prizes, including a turkey!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Picture Canyon Celebration Run

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22 NATRA runners, and dogs Daisy, and Dylan celebrated the City of Flagstaff's purchase of Picture Canyon. We were also joined by Flagstaff Fit Moms Race. It was a GORGEous (no pun intended) day with the essence of Purina Dog Chow filling the air. A little over two weeks ago, on October 30, 2012, the City of Flagstaff purchased Picture Canyon at an auction on the steps of the Coconino County Courthouse. To learn more about that historic day, visit the 10/30/2012 blog .  The Arizona Trail provides the perfect way to run back through time and enjoy a piece of Flagstaff History that is on the National Register of Historic Places. NATRA runners visited several of the canyon's petroglyphs and viewed Flagstaff's only waterfall. Afterwards we hit the Kickstand where we replenished ourselves with the $2 special chocolate gelato shakes. We also bid adieu to Josh who is heading back to his job in Hot Springs, Arkansas!  Take care Josh! We are glad you found us!  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Snowy Flagstaff Loop Trail

NATRA runners set down shoe prints on the Flagstaff Loop Trail.

Bruce, Neil, Sabrina, Ron, Josh, Suzanne, Janie, Don, Dylan, and Skylar celebrated the season's first snowfall by running the Flagstaff Loop Trail counterclockwise. This meant starting out by running straight up the steep urban trail rather than a warm up on the Karen Cooper FUTS. The cold weather added insult to injury as it was even harder to breath going up the dreaded hill.

Hard to see turn from FUTS onto Loop Trail.

 With a nice dusting of snow on the trail, the lead group flew past the turn off to the Loop Trail. This allowed the back of the pack to catch up and regroup at the well hidden turn. From there it was a cruise on Flagstaff's wonderful new trail. At the split rail fence, Bruce, Janie, Ron, Josh and Dylan took off towards Cheshire, while Neil, Don, Suzanne, Dylan, and Sabrina took the low road back to the south. We admired the brilliant Peaks adorned with snow. We were greeted to a slippery surprise on our descent off Observatory Mesa; the Urban Trail had recently been paved. With a dusting of snow, we all carefully walked down the slippery slope!  We reconvened and warmed up at the Kickstand where David Blanchard joined in the celebration of the first snowfall.

Skylar and Janie find the sun.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Campbell Mesa Autumnal Jaunt

Nine NATRA runners including Sousltice's Bride and Bigfoot ran the Campbell Mesa Loop Trail, about 6 miles. This time however, lacking snow, they did not run into any rogue pandas on the rampage, nor any sightings of the Campbell Mesa Yeti. Oddly I found myself out front with everyone content to follow.  So has my lazy running routine finally worked?  Or did Thursday's early morning workout up Observatory Hill celebrating Alexis' birthday kick my body into high gear? Whatever the reason, my legs and lungs gave out at about mile 5 to allow Scott, Don, and Betsy take us back to the trailhead. It was a marvelous fall day! Thanks to everyone who came out!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

City of Flagstaff Buys Picture Canyon!!!!

An historic auction on the steps of the County Courthouse today - The City of Flagstaff bought Picture Canyon after many years and many battles over efforts to clean up, protect, and manage what was once an eyesore on the edge of the City.

Over the past few years partners have turned Picture Canyon into a jewel, one that Flagstaff can now continually polish for years to come. Many said this would not happen, but relentless partners were unphased and today, one of the most important archaeological sites in the region is under the City of Flagstaff ownership. Thanks to numerous volunteer efforts the area has been cleaned up. There are a lot of stories that hit the news today and pictures are floating all over the internet. See below:

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

Celia, David, Alicyn, McKenzie, Neil celebrate on Zane Gray balcony.

Video by John Grahame

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Soulstice Effect

Yesterday we got back on track with 10 runners heading out for the classic Buffalo Park, Oldham, Rocky Ridge loop. The run after Soulstice is a birthday for NATRA; it was the Saturday after the 2001 Soulstice Race that we had our first run up Schultz Creek and started gathering an email list. NATRA.org went online a few months later and here we are at 11 years old and running strong! As the chatter on the run brought out many Soulstice memories of just a week ago, and several blogs have recently appeared, I thought, what made this race so memorable for me?

I awoke Friday morning to heavy rain and started uncontrollably laughing. I had accurately predicted that for the second year in a row, I would be marking the short course in a raging blizzard. Thanks to Joel Axler, I had  a buddy to keep track of my whereabouts during the storm.  That morning Joel, who volunteers for Search and Rescue, agreed to mark a small section of the Long Course where runners turn off the Seven Sister's (pipeline) onto the Old Weatherford Road. (Today's paper has a good discussion with Joel and Scott Kuhr about running safely on the trails). As I topped out at Sunset at 8800 feet, I was standing in 3 inches of snow and realized I had a very strong signal on my cell. So I snapped a photo and sent it to my wife (who was in Florida), my Soulstice right hand man David McKee who was putting the finishing touches on the Soulstice poster, and next door neighbor Jeniffer Williams, who was in Mammoth, CA. I asked whoever was on a computer to post on Facebook. Almost instantly, Jen won the prize and the above photo appeared on the web within seconds!  I only got cold as I descended and melting snow got my cotton gloves all wet (dumb move). It helped once I just took the gloves off. With the short course marked, I arrived home where my mom was entering runners into her I-Pad Racesplitter App, and I checked back with Joel. 4 hours until Pay 'n Take packet pick up!

(thanks to Cory Sheeley for photo)

For whatever reasons, we had a remarkable turnout at packet pick up, mostly I'm guessing runners did not want to come up to the race any earlier than they needed to in sub-freezing temps.  The rains let up 5 minutes before and David, Nick, myself, Randy and many others froze our buns off for 5 hours. The multitude of trips back and forth to the bar packed with carbo-loading Soulstice runners and Ryan Dee's green chile soup, kept us warm. After getting home, David retired to the Soulstice shack, Nick and mom crashed, and I drove up to post the Soulstice directional signs on Elden Lookout Road (since I would be driving Elden Springs road on race morning). The old Honda Civic loaded with race supplies and 200,000 miles can't take too many more poundings on west Schultz Creek road. I then got my solid three hours of race night sleep and got up at 3 AM to start loading the car.

(Aaron Devine's Parks and Recreation Management Class 275)
(The timing team)
David, Nick, and I arrived on race day at 6:15 AM and like clockwork volunteers arrived for their appointed duties. The Weatherford Aid Station (Matt Morales and Steve Pulos), Top O' Sunset Aid Station (Coconino County Supervisor Matt Ryan, Jay Donosky, and NAU Parks and Recreation students), traffic control (Jim Driscoll), Carpool poster handouters (John and Joanne, Ryan Dee and Parks and Rec students) and our Pay and Take Aid Station (Scott Frost, Rob Weber, Micah Grondin and more students!). Our timing team set up (Fanny Stein, Kim Fuller, Josh Steinlage, Jackie Weintraub, Theresa Dowell, Erin Woodard, Micah Grondin and Scott Bajer's dad). Behind the cameras and videos, Scott Perelstein, Aaron Devine, and John Lowe captured the race from nearly every angle, and of course Jerry Mclaughlin, Dave Barnett, and James Willis for the amazing Aspen Sports Raffle! Finally, for as many years as I can remember, the Coconino Amateur Radio Club, keeps track of all the runners. Their voluntary assistance is priceless! 

(Big Foot unhappy with "Keep all animals leashed" remark)

The Guardian mountain bike medics and the "Waaahhhmublance" arrived and all that was left to do was get runners off at 8 AM sharp!  To finally ensure a clean start, at 6:45 AM, I fired off a practice blank and nearly lost the hearing in my one good ear (left). Rest assured now, that gun was going to start the race with no confusion as with my gaffs in every previous Soulstice that I have started. After getting groped by Bigfoot, who was upset with my comment about keeping all animals leashed, I counted down...5, 4, 3, 2, 1, click...oh crap..."Go, go, go, go!!!!" and the runners were off. It was so expected that I'd blow the start, that runners knew to take off rather than wait for the gun shot! 

(The winner's warm up march!; Aaron Devine photo)
(Caleb Schiff always, always darts to the lead - photo by Josh Steinlage)

(Thanks to Scott Perelstein for taking video:Watch more videos on Flotrail)
The only real questions in the race were if Jason Wolfe would overthrow reigning champ Chris Gomez and whether Sara Wagner could keep her Soulstice crown for the 5th straight year having nearly broken a 3 hour marathon at Chicago 6 days earlier. Too boot, Sara was now in the master's division. It would take a heculean effort on her part. The short course went as expected with Ryan Stevens and Janet Bain again defending their titles. There was some controversy as Bigfoot came out of nowhere to cross the short course line first, but earlier footage showed Bigfoot in the long course start, thus leading to the first ever Soulstice disqualification. Two hungry zombies chased a runner or two and even Elvis ran for the long course! Jason Wolfe won the long race easily in under 70 minutes and Sara easily maintained her control of all things Soulstice. And the biggest record of all was 215 finishers and a record 4 runners in the 18 and under division, 2 who were 13 and Giovanna Thull, our youngest female short course finisher ever! Trail running fever is catching on with our youth!

(John Lowe video from 8800 ft. absl

(Photo by Cory Sheeley)
(Aspen Sports Super Raffle!)
The Aspen Sports raffles brought in an addional $1281 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff mentoring programs!  Eight runners raised $2300 to avoid the lottery and secure their Soulstice spots. Additional donations from runners and sponsors led to Soulstice generating $5800 for BBBSF. In addition, 4 of Sousltice spots went to runners who donated $250 a piece to help with final edittings for Racing the Rez which won best Action/Sports Documentary at the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival to close out Sousltice weekend! 

Of course our first ever trail racing wedding highlighted the entire event; Soulstice provided Sabrina and Terrance the perfect setting for their nuptuals with well over 300 runners and friends at their side. It was reMARKable (can't believe I missed that pun until now!) that Judge Moran even made it to the wedding. For those that didn't know, Mark had previously performed the nuptuals for NATRA co-founders, Shelli Welch (to Jeff of Jelly and Sheff fame) and of course for me and Diana. Mark was so ill his wife had to drive him up the Mountain (Mark was fine and back at work Monday).

(Aaron Devine photo)

I was most touched and nearly driven to tears when Steve Rhode presented me with the "Godfather of Flagstaff Running" plaque. The Boyer Metal NATRA runner cutout even donned purple running tights!  As many, many came before me, Godson is a bit more appropriate. But hey, I'll take it since I haven't been able to compete for a Soulstice award since I finished 14th out of 16 in my age division in 2001!

(Photo by Josh Biggs)
My favorite part of the race is always when "Knights of the Soulstice Round Table" convene. Most runners have left and the Soulstice Board shares ideas for next year's race while finishing off the kegs. I have a short breather to mull over the proposed additions and changes, as registration for the Soulstice lottery will open January 1st!  Special thanks to all my friends who volunteered, sponosored, and/or ran the race. You are what makes this special!    
Thanks to the following blogs for giving me a different perspective of Soulstice - champ JasonWolfe; Bryan Adams; Dana Ernst; and Sarah Borst Jarvis. If you have a Soulstice blog, please share!  For more photos, race results, and much more, visit the Northern Arizona Trail Runners Web Site.
Sousltice is permitted every year by the Coconino National Forest, and without their incredible maintenance of the Dry Lake Hills System, there would be no Soulstice!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

32nd Annual War Dog Run

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It was a glorious 32nd annual War Dog run. The fall leaves were at their peak golden foliage with even a few red aspens for good measure. While the number of participants were down over recent years, there were a record number of "newbies" who took on the annual 3000 foot, 13.1 mile round trip ascent to Doyle Saddle and back. Runners who participated were treated to War Dog tales by race co-founder Rusty Knott. According to Knott, the weather was the best ever and perhaps explains why, for the first time ever, there was no winner of the race's top prize, The Band Aid award, as not one runner fell and spilled blood on the rocky course. To learn more about War Dog, visit Northern Arizona Trail Runners web page and click on War Dog at the bottom left of the index.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Flagstaff Fall Foliage Run at Aspen Corner

30+ runners for the third best NATRA turnout ever!  Spectacular fall foliage run with video taken by Coconino County Supervisor Matt Ryan. The fall foliage speaks for itself!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Schultz Creek with the last 13 trail runners left in Flagstaff

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While most Flagstaff runners were making their way from Ouray up over Imogene Pass to Telluride, the 13 trail runners left in town ran the classic Schultz Creek Trail. When we tried to predict the winners of Imogene, Mackenzie chimed in that her money was always on Sara Wagner. An hour later, we found out that indeed, Sara has now added Imogene Pass to her trophy case! Way to go Sara! The debate then turned to how does one pronounce Imogene???? Neil, Charlie, Heather, and Mackenzie all agreed on eye mogene vs. ih mogene. Luckily the canines were restless and the conversation quickly ended as Bob and Anika pulled us up to the once might Lincoln Logs turn around spot. With the long downhill a cruise, we were well rested for our much need coffee break at the Kickstand! Next week, Flagstaff Arboretum's Ponderosa Hustle races! Get registered at http://www.virtualroster.com/index.cfm?action=dspClientHome&clientid=102&showBanner=1 !

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Historic Bill Williams Mountain Trail Run

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12 NATRA runners did their first ever run up the historic Bill Williams Mountain Lookout Trail. This 2000 foot+ ascent is located on the north face of Bill Williams Mountain, the trail is as close to a lush jungle as southwestern runners can find! Aided by yesterday's deluge, the trails were well packed. Once Neil found his bouquet of Oyster Mushrooms, his run ended. He then ran into Adam and Lindsey of the Sedona Running Company! - After the spectacular run, many hit the coffee shop in Williams and awaited the next deluge! For more information about trail running in Northern Arizona visit NATRA.org

Sunday, July 29, 2012

COMMUNITY, by Sara Wagner

It’s summertime and one cannot help but encounter friends everywhere one goes on trails, streets, tracks, sidewalks and such.  One evening as I was finishing up a run, I ventured onto a downtown alley and there was Gene Roberdeau at his apartment window, washing dishes…next thing I knew, he was coming out to say hello, dish towel in hand.  Other times it’s someone with a stroller on FUTS (Flagstaff Urban Trail System), a wave from a car when you cannot even see the driver, or bicyclists offering smiles along Lake Mary Road.  These are the kinds of things that make our Flagstaff community so wonderful.

How fun to go to races or Tuesday night track sessions and have people know you, maybe even greet you by name…then there’s the plethora of other group runs that take place throughout the week – with Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association (NATRA), Flagstaff Trail Divas, or from places like Run Flagstaff and Biff’s Bagels.  One is sure to see a familiar face or two at these as well.  When we have so many opportunities to run with and be supported by others, it’s easy to forget that not every place is like this.

A month ago I took a road trip across the high desert, alone on endless roads.  1,000+ miles is a lot of time to reflect upon what makes a place special, or why it is that I always feel a little sad leaving Flagstaff, even when I’m going somewhere great.  Fortunately these long roads that take us away from a place we love also bring us back.

Running is what drew me here.  I had been working on the Navajo Reservation for a long time when I first heard about NATRA.  More years passed before a friend, Elizabeth Harding, told me of a free lecture being given by Dr. Jack Daniels on the NAU campus.  It was December 2005 and I took LEAVE from work so I could drive two hours in for his talk “Ingredients of Running Success.”  Trina Painter also spoke that night.  I knew no one but took lots of notes and left inspired.

January 2006 rolled around and I made it my New Year’s Resolution to finally do a NATRA  run.  The first time I tried, I missed the group.  I was at the wrong trailhead.  It was confusing, as I didn’t know enough about the area to understand trail nuances.  Fortunately I tried again and met some really great people.  The following week, Megan Gavin said, “We’re glad you came.”  I felt encouraged.  Betsy Mennell was also one of the few females who turned up for runs in those days, and it’s where I first met folks like Bruce Higgins, Bob Steele, John Bogen and Neil Weintraub.  They welcomed me warmly, asked about my life, remembered my name.

I soon found myself renting a room in a friend’s townhouse in East Flag.  I would drive in on Friday nights so I could continue joining these Saturday morning NATRA runs.  I discovered a whole new side to Flagstaff.  Prior to that I had only come in for day trips, to stock up on groceries and run errands – it sure made a difference to actually know people.  Six months later, I was moving to town.

There is a vibrant running community in the heart of the Navajo Reservation too – many challenging races and awesome family events like Just Move Its, with incredible people.  However, out there I was doing 99% of my runs solo – through sagebrush, across sandy mesas, along canyon rims.  I reached a point where the camaraderie of the people I was meeting for trail runs in Flagstaff had a stronger pull than the phenomenal beauty that can be found in the skies and landscape of the Navajo Nation, or the benefits and opportunities associated with a federal job.  That was six years ago.

Somewhere along the way, NATRA has blended with Team Run Flagstaff and swirled into other groups.  I no longer remember exactly when or where we all met.  I just know we are fellow runners.  Friends.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Historic Route 66 Devil Dog Trail

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11 NATRA runners headed west to Williams, Arizona to run the Historic Route 66 Devil Dog Mountain Bike trail. In 1992 (thanks to Kaibab National Forest historian Teri Cleeland's love of all things Route 66), Forest staff turned these two abandoned sections of Route 66 into a wonderful Mountain Biking (and Trail Running) loop.
While we knew the history of Route 66, we debated the derivation of "Devil Dog". Steve said it originated when German soldiers in World War I described the Marines as fighting like "Teufel Hunden" or "Hounds from Hell". No one, however had the answer to why the I-40 exit is called "Devil Dog".

Today's run was filled with newcomers - we initiated Natron and Ali visiting from California, Liz from New Mexico, and Jessica, Wyatt, Martie, and Ben from Williams.

The lead group decided to take a detour from Historic Route 66 and challenge themselves up the old Bixler Saddle Road. The remainder took their time, followed the correct route, and enjoyed their kicks on Route 66, retracing the footsteps of the 1928 Bunion Derby runners who passed in the same direction on March 16, 1928. Near the junction of the 1922 and 1932 alignments, Neil and Martie discovered a pair of fresh Mountain Lion tracks alongside a turkey track. Luckily we had Ben to protect us from any felines eyeing us.

The 5 mile loop (or 5.8 for those who took their own path) made for a most pleasant morning. Baby Wyatt was already looking forward to the next run on August 18th, up the Bill Williams Mountain Trail! For more information about trail running in Northern Arizona, visit http://www.natra.org

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Flagstaff: In Quintessence

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14 NATRA runners began at Flagstaff's beloved Buffalo Park and ran the infamous Oldham steps over to Rocky Ridge and back. Along the way we tested out the Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 Hydration System Pack (see review in middle of video) and used its whistle to scare off some rogue pandas. We also ran across remnants of the 1857 Beale Wagon Road that brought many European settlers westward. To learn more about trail running and racing in Flagstaff visit http://www.natra.org.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Arizona Trail Delight/Monsoons Arrive!

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10 Northern Arizona Trail Runners headed north on the Arizona Trail as rain clouds loomed over head. Poised to see the end of the drought, the cool 65 degree overcast was welcomed by all, especially from our newbies from Tucson and Phoenix. Runners did an 8 mile out and back run starting at 6800 feet among the tall ponderosa pines, dropping 400 feet into the open pinyon juniper woodlands. The air from the previous night's rain enhanced the sweet aroma of the blooming cliffrose. Just as we returned, the clouds opened up, and the drought for now, appears over. Welcome home Monsoons! Stick around this time! To learn more about trail running in Flagstaff visit http://www.natra.org .

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Epic Brookbank Trail Run

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After a busy month of trail races in Flagstaff, 16 Northern Arizona Trail Runners took on the climbs of the Dry Lake Hills trail system including Brookbank, Upper Brookbank, Sunset and returning down Upper Oldham. Flagstaff Trail running icons Ian Torrence and Sara Wagner led the way with several newbies joining in the on the fun. The run was complete with fresh bear track sightings, 6 miles with1500 feet of vertical climbing and an amazing wipeout that left blood oozing from legs and arms of one tough nameless runner! We all returned to the kickstand to savor the beautiful run

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hearts 911 Mount Elden Ultimate Challenge

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The Inaugural Hearts 911 Mount Elden Ultimate Challenge and 10K was a smashing success. This benefit run for first responders heart screening tests was a challenging 10.3 mile run up and over Mount Elden, descending on the Heart Trail to Sandy Seep. The race also include a 10K out and back on Elden Lookout Road.

Gina Slaby of Tucson wins overall 10K in 44.01 with Harry Singer from Phoenix winning the men's race in 49.11. In the Ultimate Challenge, Art Keith's 1:16.28 and Leslie Grabel's 1:45.28 (both of Flagstaff) took top honors. Full results posted at http://www.virtualroster.com/index.cfm?action=dspClientHome&clientid=123&showBanner=1

With its great support team of first responders, hi-tech shirts, post-race party, and especially since it is a perfect tune-up for the Imogene Pass Run, it will sell out early next year, so don't miss out!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Northland Hospice Run for Life

Congrats to the 499 finishers at the the Northland Hospice Run for Life 10K/5K. The 10K brought out one of the most competitive men's fields ever. As Jared Scott (record holder of the Soulstice Mountain Trail run and Sportiva Cup defending champion) lined up for what was probably his last race before moving to Colorado, he was flanked by Flagstaff Summer Series defending champion Chris Gomez, Michael Smith (TransRockies, Soulstice and Imogene Pass Run winner), Rob Krar (TransRockies champ and Grand Canyon R@R record holder), and Vince Sherry (former Northland Hospice 10K record holder). As the race went off Jared bolted to try to put an exclamation point on his Flagstaff racing career. As Chris Gomez kept pace slightly behind he could sense Scott tiring and charged to the lead, not looking back, and smashing Vince Sherry's former record in running a 32.22. Scott came in second followed by Rob Krar.

Krar and fiance Christina Bauer obviously had their priorities straight. Run the race first, and then get married! Congrats to both! Read Erin Strout's column in today's Arizona Daily Sun. Bauer took second nine seconds behind a surprising win by Flag High runner Taryn Treadway's 39.40. Sara Wagner took 3rd. See Bill Harris' coverage in today's Arizona Daily Sun.

The Flagstaff Summer Series takes its July recess and fires up once again for the August 4th Machine Solutions Run and Walk for Kids and the series final, the August 11th 35th Annual  Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Flagstaff Dave McKay Memorial Half Marathon. Register for all at VirtualRoster.com

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gaspin in the Aspen 2012

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The sold out Gaspin in the Aspen 15K brought out Flagstaff's trail elite runners. Chris Gomez (Flagstaff Summer Series defending champion) and Jenny McCarthy (Imogene Pass Run winner) took the men's and women's 15K. Other faces in the crowd included five time Soulstice Mountain Trail champion Sara Wagner, former Ultra Grand Slam champion Ian Torrence, and Team Run Flagstaff Coach Michael Smith (Trans Rockies, Soulstice and Imogene Pass Run defending champ) provides analysis for the Kid's Dash! Race results posted at Virtualroster.com

The story of the race was lack of dirt on Chris Gomez. He sailed to victory trying to keep up with Wendell's ATV and then found a large fox to draft off. Between Elk, cattle and fox sightings, "wildlife" has played a crucial role in the past three Gaspin in the Aspens!

Also don't forget to check out Flagstaff newest line of running clothing at SeaLevelSucks.com.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fort Valley Trail System and Much More!

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Following up on Erin Strout's recent post on http://www.flagfootnotes.org/why-flagstaff-runs/ , I asked NATRA folks why they run. Twelve runners and Skyler then headed off to the trails of Fort Valley from Schultz Creek. We slowly split up with some heading up Moto, others taking Chimney, and we even found some newly named trails like Flue. Karen kept up our tradition of taking a spill and drawing blood! Everyone took their own routes before we returned for well deserved treats at the Kickstand!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

29th Annual Native American's for Community Action Sacred Mountain Prayer 10/5K races

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500 runners took to the hills and trails of Observatory Mesa at the 29th Annual Native Americans for Community Action Sacred Mountain Prayer Run 10/5K. Steve Darden started runners off with the ceremonial whistle. A free 2K run followed. The sweatvac shirts were the most beautiful ever and most runners who won division awards proudly walked away wearing their Navajo turquoise necklace awards. 

Results are posted at http://www.virtualroster.com/index.cfm?action=dspClientHome&clientid=95&showBanner=1

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Running Arizona Trail to Walnut Canyon View Points

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On May 26, 2012, 10 windswept NATRA runners ran to the view points off the Arizona Trail surrounding Walnut Canyon. As the cold front approached, grapple and rain showers pelted the intrepid gang. Unfortunately the showers were short-lived, just enough to bring out the sweet scent of the ground soaking up the scent moisture. Weary and sandblasted, runners returned for some piping hot coffee at "Its About Coffee".

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Record Breaking Run for the Mountain 10K/5K

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The first trail race of the 8th Annual Flagstaff Summer Running Series saw a record smashing 500+ runners and kids under picture perfect skies at the Run for the Mountain 10/5K. Harvard's (and Tuba City's) Billy Orman's smokin' 33.36 eked out a victory over reigning Summer Series champion Chris Gomez's 33.53. Defending women's Series champ Sara Wagner (42.43) had a close call but out-kicked Michelle Gray (43.14) for the win. In the 5K Zach Chupa's 18.26 took the men's side while Lisa Hutchinson's 24.38 took the women's title. Next race is the Sacred Mountain Prayer Run on June 2. Register today at Virtualroster.com

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Soulstice Short and Hall Steps Foundation

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16 NATRA runners headed up the scenic Sunset short course of Soulstice Mountain Trail Race (5 months away!). Erin Strout announced that Team Run Flagstaff is hosting "Going for Gold" a fundraiser for the Hall Steps Foundation to benefit Girls on the Run on 5/20/3012 from 5-7 PM at the Green Room in downtown Flagstaff. For more info visit Hall Steps Foundation. Buy your tickets today . They are much cheaper online ($15) today than buying at the door ($25)! Don't miss out on this silent auction emceed by the one and only Coach Michael Smith and the chance to welcome Ryan and Sara Hall to Flagstaff!

The trail was exceptionally dry and we started out by log hopping, with Bret's experience from Zane Gray, he made it look easy. After a grueling run, we returned to wind down at the Kickstand.

A fantastic weekend coming up! Flagstaff Summer Running Series Run for the Mountain race kicks the weekend off on Saturday May 19th and then the Hall Steps Foundation on May 20th! Never a dull moment!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

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18 NATRA runners took various routes onto the Arizona Trail above Hart Prairie. We filled the Kickstand and enjoyed outside seating and breakfast sandwiches and burritos! Next weekend the run is the 10 K course of the Soustice Mountain Trail Race.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

NATSA Urban Trail Loop

Steve Rhode leads NATRA north on the Flagstaff Urban Trail  System - FUTS (David Blanchard Photo).

A baker's dozen turned out for the urban trail/loop run with summer running plans on many minds. Overcast skies gave way to the sun but not before the NATRA runners were already in the forest on the loop trail recently documented by Randy Wilson in The AZ Daily Sun.

The gang introduces themselves.

 Steve Rhode explains the run to the gang (David Blanchard photo)
 NATRA soon turned to NATSA as many runners were veering off trail to go about their business. Not only do we run for ourselves but we fertilize when nature calls...

Almost back (David Blanchard photo)

Sundial along FUTS - the time is correct! (David Blanchard photo)

 Spring time in the high country (David Blanchard photo).

a vote was called and we decided to support one of our sponsors and head to the Pay n Take where Jacqui re-fueled the group with refreshments, smiles, and laughter for all. (Thanks to Steve Rhode for the post and David Blanchard for the photos!)

 Post run Pay n' Take Coffee (David Blanchard photo)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

NATRA meets Albie (Cross America Runner)

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Today 6 NATRA runners had the pleasure of running with Albie Masland who is running across the country on behalf of fallen heroes and injured veterans. To learn more about Albie's mission, visit Operation Amerithon. We ran from the Flagstaff Athletic Club West across town on the Route 66 FUTS to newly designed trailhead near Fanning Drive, about 6 miles. We also had fun re-creating the Forest Gump scene where Sh** Happens.


This is the fourth time that NATRA has joined a runner crossing the country. All four times, we were the first organized group that these remarkable athletes socialized with since starting on the west coast. All have told fascinating stories about their encounters on the road.

Folks from Flagstaff can have a chance to meet Albie from 12 to 2 on Sunday April 22 at the Kickstand. He will be discussing his fundraising efforts for the Travis Manion Foundation. Runners can also join him Sunday at 8 AM on the new Route 66 Trailhead just past Fanning Drive towards the mall. We will run the stretch from Fanning to the Walnut Canyon exit on I-40 (8 miles round trip).

Jonathan Williams, June 1, 2005 (Watch his interview!)

Kampei, April 5, 2009 
Takashige Katzhiko, June 18, 2011 

Albie Maslin, April 21-22, 2012 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012



Sabrina, Susan & Bruce climbed Aggasiz last year on April Fools Day. A reprise didn't work out so they kicked around alternatives. Some friends ran this route across the Grand Canyon & back. They thought that was too much, so on On April 18th, they walked it- the third installment of Northern Arizona Trail Walkers Association!  A little less than 24 hours in one's life - except for sore muscles! (Thanks to Bruce H for sharing!)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Another April Schultz Creek Blizzard Run

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Nothing like a cold mid-April snowstorm to bring out the gang. Ten NATRA runners and Dylan headed up Schultz Pass Road in a blinding blizzard. White-out conditions seem to be the norm whenever we call this run (well anytime we run it between October and May).  We dedicated the run to Sara Wagner who of course during one snowy 15 below day actually ran, while Neil and Bruce made their dash to the coffee shop. Check out the above video with special messages for Sara and her forthcoming Boston Marathon on Monday. Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow! (Thanks to Suzanne Motsinger for the photos below.)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Thudding Echoes of Sandy Canyon

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12 runners went to Fisher Point and back on a picture perfect spring morning. We were joined by Phoenix's very own ultra-marathoner extraordinaire, Mark Hellenthal. If you have not heard about Mark's inspirational story, here is the link to the Arizona Republic article. If you have heard the story, it is worth revisiting!

Running through Sandy Canyon is always an adventure. While much of the path is soft and "sandy", there are patches where it abruptly transforms into a slippery and rocky stream bed. The thuds of runners crashing to the forest floor could be heard echoing off the canyon's limestone walls.

Luckily, all returned intact to a very quiet Campus Coffee Bean that was soon filled with hungry, tired and thirsty runners. We learned from David Blanchard that this morning's headline news across the country regarding a 12 mile-high Dust Devil on Mars, was actually a massive typo that has yet to be discovered! Apparently it was a 1/2 mile high phenomena that is not that unusual. It will be entertaining to see how newspapers correct themselves today! We also learned that next weekend we may have to put our Kahtoola snow traction shoes to make our way across the Fort Valley Trail System! Never a dull moment with this gang! Thanks to Don Bayles for sharing photos below!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Getting our butts kicked on Route 66!

Nine runners inaugurated NATRA's first ever run on the Route 66 Mountain Biking Loop on Ash Fork Hill, about 10 minutes west of Williams, Arizona. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, my Kaibab National Forest co-worker Teri Cleeland had the foresight to create a mountain bike loop trail out of the 1921 Old Trails Highway section and 1931 Route 66 alignment. She also had successfully nominated them to the National Register of Historic Places.

For more than twenty years I thought this would make tough 10K, but it wasn't until today that NATRA gave it a spin. The run was every bit as challenging for runners (and David on his Mountain Bike) as it was from the truckers heating up their engines climbing I-40 just to the south of us. We ran the loop counter clockwise so that we could retrace the steps of the runners that competed in the 1928 Footrace Across America, 84 years ago this March! See video below.

Running westward on the broken pavement of the 1931 Route 66 alignment we had a blast and encountered a recently stenciled Route 66 marker in the old pavement. The vistas to the west were stunning and the run was pretty much downhill - we were feeling pretty fast....but what goes down....

See David Blanchard's Photography Blog about this run.

The return was another story. It was entirely uphill with a few twists and turns that left many walking the way that most "bunioneers" did in 1928 up the same exact path. Only when they did it, there had been a snowstorm in the high country so no doubt they had added weight. Despite the nearly 500 foot ascent(that felt like 1000), all felt well challenged and excited to have this run added to our repertoire! Thanks to Don Bayles for the photos below!

In addition to the above video, two amazing books give different accounts of the Bunion Derby. The Bunion Derby, by Charles B. Kastner, University of New Mexico Press 2007; and C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race, Rodale Press 2007.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Beaver Creek on the Rampage!

(Thanks to Bruce for the above photos and below commentary!)
Spring must be here; the women are back in the majority on NATRA runs! Eight women and four males (if you count Dylan, the dog) headed up toward the pools, with most folks going the distance. Peer-pressure didn't work on Sabrina this time, although she at least dipped her feet in the frigid springtide. We gathered at the Bean afterward.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

1882 Johnson Canyon Tunnel Run

12 runners and Matt the Mountain Biker toured back in time to 1882 to visit the Historic Johnson Canyon Tunnel , about 10 miles northwest of Williams, Arizona. (Thanks to Don Bayles for the following photos).

With Mark, Howard, and Scott joining the group it was just like the first days of NATRA.

The out and back run was almost exactly a 10K, with the downhill return harder as the approaching winter storm brought 30-40 mile per hour head winds.

The inside of the tunnel briefly provided a sanctuary from the winds of March.

And yes, as it was a truly tough journey, as NATRA runners did see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel!

If you missed out on this run, it is certain to become part of our repertoire! In addition, we will add the 10K abandoned Route 66 loop run in the same area and also add the Bill Williams Mountain climb to our list of great runs on the western edge of the Mogollon Rim! Bring on the snows so we can get rid of the wind!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Windless Sandy Seep?

An unusually small turnout today for the group run at Sandy Seep. Well for those that missed, you will be surprised to hear that the wind was noticeably absent. Yes, the usual wind blasted run was more pleasant than ever. David, Neil, and Don enjoyed soaking in the rich colors that contrasted with a snow covered Mount Elden. David bounding out front encountered several deer, but could not catch up with any of the elk running just ahead.

We also ran the trail to do a condition assessment on our section of the Arizona Trail and to take photos for the new Arizona Trail guidebook. The trail was certainly in good shape, except where Neil and Don took a wrong turn. So others don't make our same mistake, we built two small cairns where the trail is obviously missing a carsonite post north of Sandy Seep. On the downhill return, Neil stumbled twice taking two spills but managed to protect the camera on his way to the ground. All returned safe and went their separate ways, Neil to patch up his bruises....

Next week we will meet at the parking lot of the Flagstaff West Athletic Club at 8 AM and head for a special run west of Williams, Arizona. We will run to the abandoned 1882 Johnson Canyon Tunnel. Don't miss out on this run back through time!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dodging Leprechauns on Brins Mesa

(Thanks to Bruce for the post and Don for the photos!)Jen, Diana, Susan, David, Don, Chris, Sabrina and Bruce avoided the Sedona leprechauns and their odd calendar by moving today's run from Jordan Road to Soldier Pass for the 5+-mile loop that feels like a lot more. Several people decided just jogging this tough loop wasn't enough and added bits to it - a climb up a rock monument, a jog to Dry Creek and back up Brins, a jog in the neighborhood or a jog to the coffee shop 2 miles down the hill. All had a great time and the little people were back under the hill for the year as we departed town.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Yetiless Campbell Mesa

No Yetis or rogue pandas on a blustery Saturday morning at Campbell Mesa. The above video was taken last December - remember winter?

Today, 17 runners, Tony on his bike, and more newbies than ever ran in what felt more like spring than the end of February! Bret was right on about running the loop counter clockwise. The tail wind may be in part to explain for the early blistering pace. However when Team USA Arizona runners led by Brett Gotcher blew by us, they created a head wind that dropped many of us dead in our tracks. Back at the parking lot, I did not understand why I was the only one who could see a shiny white full moon at 10:15 AM.

We made our first visit to the Seasoned Kitchen in a while, and Tony warmed everyone up with his gourmet lates! While it was a great run, many of us still longed for winter to show up!

Later in the day, John, Diana, Jen, and Neil represented NATRA at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff Bowl For Kid's Sake fundraiser. It was probably the exhausting runs earlier in the day that prevented any of them from breaking the 100 barrier - but we sure had fun trying to do so!

Jen, John, Diana and Neil

Well, we all shared a lane and collectively broke 100 proving once again that the sum of us was greater than our parts!