Sunday, June 28, 2009


It's been fairly sticky this weekend - above 20% humidity which makes the weather rather unbearable. However, I decided to take my bike out exploring this morning, and I found some amazing things!

- The biggest jackrabbit I've ever seen
- Several cotton-tails, and lizards (no confirmed snakes, I'm going to assume the rustling in the bushes was lizards)
- A huge great blue heron that did not want to remove itself from my path - at least 4 1/2 feet tall
- The standard scattered horses and cows
- An arboreteum/set of greenhouses with flowers that lasted for a mile
- U Can Fly Trapeze School - seriously, there's really a trapeze school with full blown outdoor stage and nets and everything
- A new park (Zanjero Park) that runs all the way from Lindsey and the eastern canal to Mercy Hospital
- A 12 mile route where I only have to cross two streets (twice), and get to stop for Einstein's on the way back!

The park was great with this wide sidewalk that went around the edge in a giant U, and a valley inside the U that had picnic areas. All of the paths inside were dirt paths, and they will be great practice for my downhills/uphills when I can't make it to the mountains.

I had seen the park from the freeway, but had no idea how to get there, or what it was for. I completely stumbled upon it this morning, but when I saw the sign, I was like, um, Zanjero Park? What the heck does that mean? I spent the next twenty minutes or so thinking about what it could be - a rich patron of the town, one of the great rodeo riders (I wasn't far from the Gilbert Rodeo Park), a historical figure... whatever it was, it sounded like a command for my bike to move! Vamanos! Zanjero!!!!

Bet You Didn't Know: Zanjero is Spanish for “water master,” and today still is used as name of the occupation of controlling water supplies. (Yes I had to look it up) It is in fact owned by SRP, and was created as a park to support the water retention area for the freeway - which is why the picnic areas are built at the bottom of the valley, and the pathways go around the top of the retention area. Not quite as cool as my guesses, but it was at least suitable.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mother Nature's Gift

So alright, I'll admit it. I've been feeling stagnant for the last week or so. It's not the heat, not my performance, not the hour of the day, not the consistency. It's the route. I'm sick to death of the "Allen Loop".

When we first bought the house, I was so excited that there was a perfect 3.1 mile loop within my neighborhood that I decided to use it all the time, and not go to the gym at all for as long as it remained light out during my training time. It's basically an L shaped loop with the long part of the L being exactly 2.5 miles out and back, and the small part of the L being .6 miles out and back. It runs up and down my neighborhood passing 3 parks and a variety of "green" areas each way. It's idyllic. Really, it's perfect for a runner. The paths are even lines with flowering trees the entire way.

But say I run 4 miles on Tuesday, 3.1 on Thursday, and then bike 4 laps on Monday, and 5 laps on Wednesday. I've now seen each of these parks 24 times. In one week. I've been running this same path for nearly 3 months. I'm done. It also doesn't help that I've been having so much fun in the mountains that I really want to ride/run on trail in the morning, and the neighborhood just does not have the same appeal.

The benefits of it, and the reason I haven't switched up the route, though I have switched up HOW I run/ride the route, is that it's very safe, and there's limited exposure to cars and stupid drivers who don't pay attention at 5am. It's fairly flat so it's a good compliment to the trail running, and it starts and ends at my house. Still, with all that in mind I've just been dreading getting out there the last week. So I've tried to do some interesting brick work, where I ride around once, and then run around once, then ride, then run which did break it up a little bit. I rode around the neighborhood twice yesterday, so I was on the main surface streets. But this morning just wasn't interesting me at all.

I got up, almost said screw it, convinced myself to get up, got dressed, almost gave up when I couldn't find my good socks, found them, got the dogs out, and stepped outside where the sun was coming up as it usually is at that time of morning. As soon as I stepped out of the courtyard, 5 big raindrops hit me, even though it was sunny, and I very nearly turned around and went back in the house and called it a day.

Then I started telling myself that I've actually had fun in the rain in the past, and I'd give myself to the point where I can quickly turn around and run back to the house if it was lightening but if not I was committed to running 4 miles.

It looked weird - sun coming in from the east, yet cloudy above me and raining all around me. I was just running easily, and trying to mentally get ready for this run, and all of a sudden as I reached the first turn around, I looked to my left, and over the park across from me is this unbelievable double rainbow that is arching all the way down perfectly around the park.

I actually stopped dead.

It was magical - I couldn't have drawn it better myself, and both rainbows looked super clear and in fact the bottom one actually started over, so you saw red orange green blue purple red orange again before it faded out.


I could almost hear Mother Nature telling me to take that! and how did I like my route now b*? The flowering trees and parks weren't enough, so she made me an amazing double rainbow.

So after that I was kind of like - wow, ok that was worth getting up for, and the lighting continued to be really weird, because the sun was just coming up, but it looked like spot lights on the trees because it was cloudy overhead. Each time I started to get mentally tired, this gorgeous little breeze wafted in, and then just as I was getting really hot and humidly tired at about 3 miles, it started gently showering and felt awesome.

I guess somedays even the mundane can surprise you. You really never know what you're going to get when you get out there!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Series #2 Horse Lover's Park - 6/14/09

Pre-Race: Lately I've really been focusing on speed and interval work, getting outside, running trail, and basically being more acclimated for the Summer Series races. I haven't run at the gym since we moved into our new home at the end of March, which is not only a record, but is also way more fun.

Since I had a very decent race at Papago, I was convinced I could PR at Horse Lover's Park. It's a flat course, and there's a long tunnel of shade from sage brush that makes the run much more manageable. However, the course is also very sandy (dusty for those of us in the back) and I just couldn't quite remember the entire course in my mind (which is actually ridiculous, because this happened to be our home training course when I ran cross country at PV High, so I've been through the course probably fifty times).

I read my race report from last year to make sure that my memory was pretty accurate from the race, and it surely matched the race report, but I have to say, the race report didn't have a lot of detail on the course itself. It basically said I hate sand, love sagebrush, and hate the sun.

Lilac and I got up bright and early to drive up all the way to Horse Lover's Park, which is on the very north end of the Valley. We arrived at her parent's house at 5:55am, for a bathroom break, and then drove to the park, which is about a mile from her folk's. Again, it was more crowded than it has been in year's past, though we didn't see Lady Tiara (hope everything is ok girl!). We warmed up, and lined up in th back of the line.

Race: OK, so this race starts out going west through the park to the street where it curves around several times. We spent about .75 mile on the road, and then finally got on the dirt way after I remember getting on the dirt. This year the sand wasn't nearly as deep. It wasn't hard packed clay, but it was a comfortable soft surface that didn't eat away at us. Mile 1 happens on the dirt, and we spent that first mile really toodling along in the desert. We didn't actually get to the tunnel until 1.5 miles in (the water stop was almost immediately when we entered the tunnel.

This is where we noticed that Autam was having a skin reaction - her legs were swollen and blotchy red - generally indicative that she had been bitten by an ant, but in this case we believe it was just the dust - she has such sensitive skin! We threw a couple of cups of water at her legs, which seemed to relieve some of the itching, walked so that her socks could dry out a little (maybe I was a little over-enthusiastic with the water splashing) and then took off down the tunnel. The tunnel is so nice and cool and shaded that you just want to take your time with it, but that's where you can make the difference up. We ran through a good portion of it, passed the mile 2 marker, which is at the very end of the tunnel, and then went back out into the sun.

I'll admit here that it was quite a bit cooler than it has been at this race in past years. I would say that it was in the mid 80's to low 90's, which is a blessing for the summer series.

When we passed the mile 2 marker it said 28 minutes, and I knew that it was not going to be a PR day. I'm not sure what happened, because I felt rather good, but the clock was just moving faster than I was - even with the quick ant scare stop. I'll admit that this kind of took the wind out of my sail, and rather than push for the impossible, I just sat back and let the rest of the race happen. The last mile is on sand and we zig zagged from the front parking lot, zig zagged through the park, finally saw the chain linked fence, and knew that the end was almost in sight.

Post Race: We saw Cindy and Bob at the finish line - both of them still convinced that they aren't going to do the whole series, but both smiling and kicking our rear-ends with the extra 30 years or so that they have on us. We went to breakfast with the Lilac's parents (the buttermilk spice muffin at Mimi's is WONDERFUL) and then came home to finish painting the office.

I think the most challenging part of this course is the fact that it meanders so much and there are really no visuals that you can use to queue run/walk patterns. At Papago, I worked with the high tension wires - run three, walk one. With this it's like "well there's some sage...". The sections that we do have, street, dirt, tunnel, dirt, are too long to use as sections for running, and breaking them up is a challenge. I've learned that I can mentally push myself as long as I have a visual queue. When I'm not working with something consistent and in front of me, I struggle more.

Race Results: 42:47, 648 of 689 overall, 43 out of 46 females in the 25 - 29 category (44 being lilac), results not yet posted for the series - but I'm hoping to move up a little bit. I'll repost once it's listed.