Zen On Dirt

Forced Rest in Flagstaff

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Back in November, I agreed to a seemingly impossible running play date in the Big Ditch with my best Suffer-buddy, Megan. We’d set the date for April 21. I remember having a conversation about it with Scott sometime early March and declaring that as long as I didn’t get injured and stayed healthy, I thought I could pull it off.

Things did not go as planned. I pulled my Tucson Mountains Traverse off with only a slightly ouchy shin, but then decided that I was Superwoman and did a 13-mile run on Mt Wrightson two days later. Compensating for a sore right shin, I jacked up my left knee. Then my left foot started to hurt.

No worries, I had some bike riding and packing plans.

Only, I picked up a nasty-ass cold from one of the people on the bikepack. A nasty-ass cold that quickly turned into a sinus infection. I never get sinus infections. I was on my back for a few days and then blowing neon yellow snot for days afterwards.

And then I ordered the wrong running shoes off of REI and couldn’t find the right ones anywhere.

I had exactly one week to get my shit together.

So we went to Flagstaff. Because everything would be okay in Flagstaff. And at least it wouldn’t be hot.


We parked in among the pines, right next to the AZT coincidentally, where our neighbors were funny little squirrels.


And Red Crossbeaks.


In an attempt to let my foot (left)/shin (right)/knee (left) heal, we did some bike riding. Luckily, the AZT near our camp was some of the smoothest around.


Camping near the AZT had definitely become a motif for us with many campsites within half a mile of it.


This was great, because since the race was going on, it gave me the excuse to dot-stalk racers, something I’ve never really had the chance to do since we normally send them off at Parker Lake and then stay in Tucson until the race is over.

This time, I got to run down Holly, who I’d raced road bikes with back when we were both in college. Her, at the Air Force Academy, and me at CU. She’d ridden the Colorado Trail last summer, and we’d run into her randomly on a trail outside of Leadville last fall.


It was great fun to share a few trail miles with her and hear about what she’d seen so far on her south-bound run.


Feeling a bit adventurous, and still unable to really walk pain-free, we went on a loop around the trails north of Flag. There were a few moments where our straightforward afternoon ride could have turned into quite a deal, but we made it home slightly before dark. Always a plus. Especially since Neil, who was leading the AZTR had dropped his SPOT and was hoping to meet us to pick up a new one.


We ran him down at the Golden Arches (McDonalds) and got to listen to a few of his trail stories. He was surprisingly upbeat for being about to head out into the night on one of the colder sections of trail.


And then it was go-time for my little running adventure. I went into the running store in Flag and bought the closest match to my old shoes that I could find, ran two miles in them to make sure that there weren’t any obvious issues, and apologized in advance to my feet for making such poor life decisions. The foot (left) felt 70%, the shin (right) felt 90%, and the knee (left) felt 95%. My snot was only neon in the mornings and would turn clear by by the afternoon. G2G. Good to go. Something was going to happen.

We picked Megan up at the AmTrack and pointed the Scamp north to the Big Ditch, where we happened to run into a wide-eyed and semi-crazed looking Joe Grant, getting ready to drop into the Ditch on one of the final legs of his AZTR ride.


Looking at the late afternoon hour that Joe was set to head down, Megan and I joked that we might see him the next day in the Ditch on our first traversal of it. Joe said, ‘Hopefully not!’

Our own personal race within a race was on. We were scared out of our minds. Or at least I was.


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