Mission for the trip: run a lot of miles, explore a lot of trails, and have a lot of fun.
Why Flagstaff, Arizona? The city, which sits at almost 7,000 feet above elevation and boasts a well-maintained and massive trail network, is residence to a group of prominent trail and road runners. There is no shortage of climbing, descending, rocks, and opportunities to get lost. Additionally, Annalise went to school there, so she knew the city and trails well. She was able to nostalgize and catch up with college friends, while I was able to experience the quaint mountain town for the first time. We also decided to turn this into a big-mile weekend, in preparation for the Sean O’Brien 50 miler. We left Southern California around 1:00pm on Friday and spent the evening on the 40 freeway.
Annalise’s friends Josh and Mel were gracious enough to host us for the weekend. Not only did they have two spare bedrooms, but their house was in very close proximity to Buffalo Park, where we would begin Saturday’s 25-mile trail adventure. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality.
We spent time on Friday night planning our route for the next morning and finalized it whilst enjoying coffee before heading out into the cold on Saturday morning. It was somewhere around 35F when we began to run at ~7:50am, but I felt warm enough in two tech tees, tights, and gloves. A short chunk of trail took us to Buffalo Park, after which we hopped on the Oldham trail. This section was very rocky and undulating. Oldham > Easy Oldham > Rocky Ridge.
At some point in the run, we both became very warm and decided to shed an outer layer and gloves. After about a mile or two, it suddenly became VERY cold, uncomfortably so. I had to stop and re-dress, but the next few miles were rough as my hands were in pain from the cold. This was the lowest point of the run for me and I definitely considered quitting. Fortunately, we ascended out of the canyon and I began to thaw out. Rocky Ridge > Schultz Creek > Sunset.
The Sunset trail ascended steeply toward Mount Elder and I was once again a happy camper. The last section of this trail before we were to u-turn climbed significantly, was technical, and quite windy. Unfortunately, I had to navigate this section alone, as A and I became separated. After our reunion, we followed Sunset back to the Brookbank trail, on which I experienced my second fall of the run. It’s better to fall during training than during a race, right? I started going into “almost-done-with-this-long-run” mode and strode along giddily toward the 25th mile. After 4+ hours out on the trails of Flagstaff, we arrived back at the house. We were sore, dirty, tired, hungry, but happy.
Post-shower, we ventured toward downtown Flagstaff for food and exploration. I was hyped up to try well-reputed Macy’s coffee. Unfortunately, my experience there wasn’t positive. Perhaps a coffee house wasn’t the best bet for a hearty meal, but the “full size” salad and macchiato that I ordered were both disappointing. Even more sadly, I ended up purchasing another un-satisfying round of food + drink (large coffee and a cookie). After Macy’s, we visited Run Flagstaff and meandered around the town before meeting up with Josh, Mel, and A’s friend Rebecca for dinner at Diablo Burger.
Sunday’s 20-mile run (feat. Matt) took us on a few of the Fort Tuthill County Park trails, Flagstaff Urban Trail System trails, and around Northern Arizona University (A’s alma mater). Before I knew it, we were done and headed toward Whole Foods! After food and showers, I was able to relax, doze, and read before enjoying red wine with A, Rebecca, and Mel before heading out for the New Year’s Eve celebration. We started with dinner and drinks at Criollo (sharing fire roasted jalapeno bacon nachos, relleno vegetales, crispy plantains, all of which were delicious) and then enjoyed more libations at the Monte Vista Cocktail Lounge and Hops on Birch. Downtown Flagstaff was packed for the midnight Pine Cone Drop! We were tired, but managed to get some dancing in at The Green Room before walking 1.5 miles up hill to the house (passing on a $40 Uber drive). I fell into bed at 3:00am on New Year’s Day contentedly exhausted.
Despite sore feet and tired legs, I was excited to kick 2018 off with a run in Buffalo Park. I even earned karma points, finding and returning a dropped wallet during the 10-miler. I recovered from the run with a walk into town to meet up with the group for brunch at MartAnne’s. After a wonderful weekend running and meeting A’s friends, I felt sad packing for our departure and saying goodbye to everyone. Before I knew it, we were back on the 40 freeway, rolling down the hill toward Southern California.