The end of June was interesting for me. I was wrapping up my job at the Community Center and focusing on high altitude training for my next race in Scofield, Utah (base elevation 7600ft climbing to over 9200ft). Work was super busy with more meetings than I’ve ever wanted to attend in my entire life. I continually reminded myself that the light at the end of the tunnel was just around the corner. Training was going well and I had already been up in the high elevation of Cedar Mountain a few times (since the snow FINAL cleared off the road) but I was still worried about the Scofield race. I needed a vacation though…… something different……our entire family needed a break. My friend and fellow PowerTri teammate Sarah Jarvis had the answer.
Sarah proposed a kind of smashfest, training vacation in Flagstaff. We would have mornings to train hard and afternoons and evenings to spend with the kids and husbands. I was in! The family didn’t take much convincing either. We had never been to this part of Arizona, the hotels were reasonably priced and the timing was right. We were off and driving through the desert for a few fun days away from the norm and drudgery of home. I honestly don’t know if we have taken our kids on a vacation like this before. There were no grandparents. No set plans. We were going to a new town to visit with some new friends and just relax and enjoy a few days together.
We left St. George on Wednesday and drove through Glen Canyon. I love this drive and it has been a very long time since I have seen Lake Powell. It is still as stunning as I had remembered. As we travelled South of Page, it was evident we were in some of the prettiest country anywhere in the world. The kids were great during the drive and even with the threatening monsoonal thunderstorms we made it to Flagstaff by late afternoon.
Since Sarah and I are both coached by the amazing HT Training crew of Mahogani and Heath Thurston we were able to strike it rich with some great workouts. It would all begin Thursday morning……
Sarah picked me up early and we headed to the Northern Arizona University pool for a workout with the NAU Masters. It was so nice to have people to swim with! This is a HUGE group of swimmers. They were AWESOME! The pool was even better because it was 50 meters. I don’t remember the last time I had the privilege of swimming in a 50m pool. It really helps to pass the distance quickly and distance I needed to pass I knew we were in trouble when after about a 400m warm-up the coach said that we were going to do a 30-minute constant swim. Good practice. No biggie. Things got interesting after the 30 minutes when we started the intervals. After finishing the entire column of pulling, kicking, fast and slow intervals I thought, “WOW! Great workout!” Then she started to write the NEXT column of intervals. I was sure that this was for the next group that seemed to be congregating on the deck. No such luck, this was for us. Needless to say, 4200 Meters and an hour and a half later, the workout was over. I was feeling great! The altitude didn’t seem to bother me a bit. We showered and moved on to the double brick………
Coach M had planned a nice double brick for me during this week and decided that it would be a great idea for Sarah to join in also A double brick is when you bike, run, repeat. It is killer. So out of the pool and on to the road we went. I was so grateful that Sarah had tired legs from the day before. She’s hard enough to stay with when she is tired…….I don’t know what I would have done if she had been fresh. We headed out on Lake Mary road and the rolling hills. The night before we spent the entire dinner trying to decipher how exactly Coach M wanted this workout to go. We landed on one of us leading out hard for a mile and then switching lead to the other, with a half mile recovery in between (this may not at all be what Coach wanted, but it seemed to work). After the first bike leg of about 20 miles, I was toast! The 3 mile run was less than spectacular and then we did it all again.
After about three and half hours of workouts we were done! Well done The rest of the day was spent dodging monsoon thunderstorms and trying to decide why in the world a hotel even has a pool when they refuse to open it if there are clouds in the sky.
Friday was our run day. Coach M had commissioned us to complete 1-mile downhill intervals with roughly 1/2 mile uphill recovery in between. The run started perfectly with a trail warm-up. We were dodging in and out of the Ponderosa Pines at an easy 10 minute pace and I could have run these trails for hours. It was very tempting, but we had work to do. We started the intervals on the road and were suppose to run the intervals at roughly a 6:30 pace. The first thing I noticed is that our downhill course, wasn’t quite as downhill as I had hoped Luckily the second interval had a bit more descent but we were running too fast. It was at this point that I realized how different athletes can be in the way they mentally approach a workout. We finished the second interval in a blistering (at least for me) 6:09. I was very proud of myself and hoped to hold, or at least get close to that pace for the remainder of the intervals. Sarah, on the other hand, was stewing. She likes to see negative splits when doing intervals. I knew there was NO WAY on this green earth that I was going to negative split the next two intervals. My goal for intervals is to keep each interval as close to the same pace as possible or at least make sure that the effort is the same. I was bummed that I had completed messed up Sarah’s workout with that fast split, I hoped she would forgive me as we slowed down. Clearly when training with others you should discuss the approach to the workout prior to running your guts out She assured me that she would live and we continued on. The run was HARD and I was grateful to have a little bit left in the tank to push the last interval. We trotted back up the hill to the car logging just over 10 miles for the humid, sticky, morning.
The rest of Friday was spent with the kiddos at Slide Rock State Parkjust outside of Sedona. The thunderstorms hit early, but luckily as we drove South to the Park the weather cleared. Slide Rock is an amazing canyon with natural waterslides, pools and people galore. The kids had fun chasing dragonflies and tadpoles. Then it all went downhill……..at least for Sarah and Max. On our hike out of the park, Sarah was carrying not only her heavy bags full of “kid-stuff” but also her youngest son Max. The flip-flop on her foot gave way on the slippery sandstone and down she went trying to protect Max as she fell (without hands to save either of them). She landed on
Max and square on her IT Band and thigh. Max screamed out and I picked him up worried that something serious could be wrong. He took a breath between cries after what seemed like an eternity and seemed okay. He had come down on his outer hip and thigh but avoided hitting his head. Sarah on the other hand, was hurting. She had skinned her elbow and had really taken a blow to her upper leg. It was evident in her eyes that things were not okay. We gathered ourselves and headed to the top. Sarah stopped at some picnic tables to get the boys an icecream and Max seemed to be doing just fine (Oh! to be three again). Sarah assured us that she was okay and we would see her later (as we had come in two different cars). Our little family went on into Sedona for more sightseeing and lunch and Sarah headed home, unbeknownst to us, a very painful ride home.
When we met up later in the day, she was still hurting. She was going to play it smart and call it a week and not ride or run the brick workout planned for the next day. Very good call on her part. As competitive athletes it can be so hard when “silly” things like this happen, but we have to be smart. As with the rest of the world, we are only human. I would head out early the next morning on my own for a 40 mile bike and 4 mile run brick.
I wanted to make sure to really get up into some high elevation before heading back to Utah. The plan for this workout was to leave Flagstaff headed toward the Arizona Snowbowl in the direction of the Grand Canyon. The Snowbowl is sky resort located about 7 miles up the mountains from downtown. I was in unfamiliar territory, but felt pretty good about where I was headed. I left early and was on the road by about 6 a.m. (gotta love those early sunrises in AZ). The morning was beautiful. The climbing started right out of the gate and would continue for about 15 miles. The Snowbowl road is roughly 7 miles long or mountain climbing. The road was quiet. Almost too quiet. At one point I was looking through the Ponderosas and saw a medium-sized black shape out in the distance. It was at that moment that I realized, YES! There are bear around here and YES! they are probably awake and out here watching me! The black shape moved and I saw a tail and realized that I was spared from a bear attack I was so sure was imminent I continued to climb up to the higher elevations of the sky resort.
This climb was so different from what I was use to because I couldn’t see above or beyond the trees. It was just trees. Everywhere! Tall skinny Ponderosa Pines. I had no idea how high I was, so I just kept climbing. I finally broke through the trees to a view of a beautiful valley. I knew I must be overlooking the direction of the Grand Canyon, but just couldn’t see it. That darn Grand Canyon is always out there close by, but unless your toes are hanging over the edge, you just can’t see it…..even at over 9000ft in elevation. I stopped for a quick refill, snack and to snap a picture and I was off………Well I thought I was off……
My pedals didn’t move. My chain was locked down somewhere in my derailleur and cassette. I had to get off the bike and fiddle with it until I finally got it geared down and back onto the teeth of the cassette. On to the descent. I hate descents (as we all know), but I was alone and could just take this one in stride. Until the chain jammed AGAIN! Now I was nervous. What was I suppose to do way up here all by myself with a mechanical………we all know I have NO CLUE how to fix my own bike in these situations. I worked the chain lose and started down again.
The animals were awake and out in full force. I saw a herd of Elk and a bunch of deer. It was beautiful. I made it to an area of one lane traffic and construction when the signal man (and woman) told me that there was a car on the way up and I could go or just wait. I opted to wait. I chatted with the man and woman for a few minutes and then they gave me the go ahead to head down the mountain again……..My pedals didn’t move. The chain was stuck for a THIRD TIME! Now I was getting angry. I couldn’t get the darn thing unstuck this time. The signal man came over and held the front of the bike as I FINALLY got it to break free WITHOUT breaking my chain. Argh! I headed down again vowing never to get into my hardest gear before stopping and also vowing NEVER to go back to the bike shop who had just put on my new tires. Double Argh!
On top of my malfunctioning derailluer, I started FREEZING! The morning was only about 50 degrees and after sweating and climbing for over an hour I felt like I was in front of an air conditioner while soaking wet. I really could have used those arm warmers that I left behind at the car. I couldn’t wait to flatten out and be able to feel my legs and arms again. Did I mention that I really don’t like descents!
At the bottom of Snowbowl I turned and continued to head towards the Grand Canyon (which of course I couldn’t see). I climbed a bit more until I hit 8000 feet, made the turn and headed home. I can’t say that the ride was spectacular. I was lonely without Sarah and not feeling very perky in my legs. I just kind of road and enjoyed myself rather than focusing on effort.
I was back to the car after about two and a half hours and started my 4 mile transition run. My goal was to keep this run at about 8:00 miles. When I started out, I wasn’t sure if that was going to be possible. My legs were heavy in transition but finally seemed to come around. I ran along the train tracks (which are a main fixture in Flagstaff) and Historic Route 66. I looped back through NAU campus and counted my blessing as I didn’t get lost in this unfamiliar territory. It ended up being a nice run. I felt good and finished hitting my goal right on the nose. Unfortunately, with the end of the run came the end of our vacation. I headed back to the hotel to pack up the kids and the car. Back through the desert and the thunderstorms to St. George we went. This time heading through Marble Canyon and Jacob Lake. It was a LONG drive home…….
This was one of the first trips I’ve ever been on where I was able to really continue with my training schedule! I loved it! My
husband and kids loved it too. I would get all the training done early in the day and then we would spend the whole rest of the time together. The kids had more fun than I could have asked for with Sarah’s boys (who are the exact same ages as our
children). The Jarvis family was AWESOME! They welcomed us into their home and we couldn’t ask for better people to call our friends. Sydney loved our trip so much that she now demands that we are going to live in the Holiday Inn Express in Flagstaff. I wouldn’t mind having the hot breakfast ready every morning, but spending our evenings in s small bathroom waiting for the kids to fall asleep isn’t my idea of “home”. At the end of the day there really is, “No Place Like Home.”