Seeking asylum in the hills & transcendence on the trails

First week in Flagstaff AZ

After a fairly lengthy journey via Philadelphia and an overnight in Phoenix I arrived at Flagstaff ‘basecamp’ this time last week. Not really a holiday believe it or not but a chance to get away from everything and train for a few weeks in new surroundings and maybe with some other runners.

Flagstaff is in Northern Arizona so much cooler than the likes of Phoenix. It sits near the southwestern edge of the Colorado plateau and is home to the biggest Ponderosa Forest in the US (so they tell me). I can confirm there are a lot of trees! The town itself sits at over 2,100m above sea-level, something that the locals seem proud of and I imagine helps to attract a lot of athletes to the area for training.

I’m staying in a lovely suburb on the south side of Flagstaff in a house packed with runners. Some serious, fast runners mostly full-time, and whilst I’ve not had the chance to run with any of them, it’s good being around others training hard and eating well. There have been mentions of getting out together but I guess people are focused on their own plans and routines. Who is this bearded Scottish boy anyway? 😀

Training has been going well. I pretty much managed to hit my targets despite losing a couple of days in travel. There are so many trails you wouldn’t believe so I’ve been taking full advantage of that before I head back onto my favourites in the coming weeks.

Saturday was a pretty epic day. I ran north from the house picking up the Rocky Ridge trail then heading towards Humphreys Peak (the highest in Arizona at 3,850m) on Schultz Creek and Weatherford trails. The Flagstaff skyrace was on and I ended up on the trail with some of the racers for a couple of miles. A few were blowing hard on the long but steady climb and I did feel bad for cruising past them with apparent ease, not feeling any of the normal race pressures and pace requirements. I’ve always felt jealous when I’ve been racing hard and I see other people just enjoying their running! I did offer words of encouragement of course and was happy to take some undeserved applause from one of the aid stations I passed. There was a winners trophy in the house when I returned – talented housemates!

Saturday turned into a much longer day than I anticipated. The altitude had an effect above 3,000m, the heat played a part and running out of water and food with about 3 hours to get me home was a challenge I didn’t enjoy. When I arrived in downtown Flagstaff via a different set of trails I headed straight to the Pitta Pit for some quick ‘black bean’ fuel and water.

Monday was another highlight this week when I ran through Skunk Canyon and into Walnut Canyon. Some absolutely stunning scenery on some tight, twisty single-track. I’ll certainly be going back there for a blast.

Yesterday I bought a bike. Flagstaff is pretty spread out and I’ve been running to get food shopping then lugging it back for miles each day. Car rental prices are high so I opted for a $35 racing machine from a lady 7 miles on the other side of town. It’s truly the worst bike I’ve had the misfortune of owning but it should make the shopping commute easier and help me get to the further away trails. I hope.

That’s it for now. Time to hit the trails. My twitter and instagram are updated daily if you want to check out any more photos from trail heaven.


2 responses

  1. sounds like your having a ball,:) sending you a high five from a dive boat moored at a secret location just off the Lebanese coast 🙂

    October 9, 2014 at 5:38 am

  2. amanda taglioli

    Hey Paul,
    I tried to email you a few times but it never sent.
    So I found you by searching Google.
    Hope you get a chance to run the R2R2R
    Heather and I had a great time! So incredible!
    So now you have my email.
    You are welcome to stay with us anytime, Steamboat is lovely!
    I look foreward to reading about your adventures

    October 23, 2014 at 1:30 pm

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