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I've been tagged!

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Sarah tagged me to list six random things about myself and then tag others. I love these things!

1. I spent my late teens and early twenties bouncing around the country, moving every six to eight months - Tucson, VT, Tucson, CA, Tucson, WA, NY, Tucson, CA, Tucson, CA, AZ. The last seven years or so have been in AZ, but I still moved around a lot in the state - Tucson to Florence to Flagstaff and then back to Tucson - where I've been for the last five years.

2. I've spent the last five years not only in the same town, but at the same place of employment. (!)

3. I got my GED when I was 21 - and scored in the top 1%, garnering a one-class scholarship to a local community college.

4. I spent one summer living out of the back of my truck in Tahoe.

5. I spent one winter living in a tent in upstate NY. Until I got snowed under. Then I found a tiny one-room (not one-bedroom, one room) cabin where the toilet was tucked behind the shower, which backed the stove which was hidden behind the fridge.

6. As a kid, I HATED running. And exercise of any kind. My mom has more pictures of me curled up in the lazy boy reading a book and eating an apple than she does of me outside. And yet I'm now an ultrarunner :)

I tag: Taryn
Sarah (a different Sarah than the one who tagged me)
Chad
Anne
Tanya
Neese

Elephant Head

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Due to weather threats and a general lack of funds, my friend Mo and I decide to forgo Flagstaff and Humphreys. Instead, we choose to stick closer to home:

Elephant Head in the afternoon
Elephant Head.

So I don't have a topo map for the area, nor have I ever been there. I don't have a hiking book for it, and all I can find are two brief descriptions online that tell me how to access it. Mo and I go for it anyway.

Nutrition at the start

We grab our morning fortification from Xoom Juice, then head out. The directions to the trailhead seem pretty detailed: travel south to Green Valley, get off the highway and go to Elephant Head road, then go 3.6 miles on this road, 1.7 on the next (slightly rougher) dirt road, 2.2 on the (slightly more rougher) dirt road, .4 down the next (even more rougher dirt road) and then 1.2 (almost impassible) dirt road to the trail head.

Elephant Head in the morning

We can't make the last 1.2, even in Mo's high-clearance four-wheel-drive truck, Betty. Betty does her best, but she just can't make it. Okay, so we add 2.4 miles to the (roughly) 8-mile round-trip, for a total of 10ish miles. Hmm, can I do that on my barely rehabbed knee?

Let's find out.

I realize as we start the hike in that we are two females all alone hiking back into a remote area of national forest that has been seeing increased levels of human smuggling from Mexico and no one knows exactly where we are or when we are due back. This worries me.

I also see large animal prints along the dirt road that I can't identify. This worries me.

I spot small humid clouds starting to form over the mountains already, and I know there are thunderstorm forecasts for the day. This worries me.

Farther along, I start to see spent shell casings littering the dirt road. This really worries me.

Within two miles, we come to a fork in the road that the brief trail description does not identify. We don't know which way to go. We see vehicle and bike tracks on the right fork disappear into a wash that seems to lead away from Elephant Head and then taper out. So we take the left fork. This dead-ends at a creek within a quarter-mile. I play with my Garmin, pressing random buttons to try and figure out where we are and where we need to go.

Elephant Head

Okay, back we go. We make marks in the dirt to tell us we already went way and it sucked, then point an arrow down the right fork and off we go into the wash and seemingly tapering off dirt road. But it doesn't taper off and we continue moving farther away from Elephant Head.

While the online description gave detailed instructions on finding the trailhead, it gives precious little insight for the trail itself. The first landmarks it gives are a mill site and a hill with radio towers, neither of which we can find and we continue moving farther away from our destination.

Part of the valley we hiked up

Three-ish miles in, we find the mill site. Whew. We are on the right track. Shortly thereafter, we find the radio towers. A trail branches to the right, up the hill with two big cairns, but I don't think this is where we are supposed to go. I mess with my Garmin again as Mo finds her compass. The printed directions tell us to go easterly, which is away from the trail. So we continue easterly.

We hiked up the slope in the foreground

This is finally bringing us around towards Elephant Head. But the dirt road is becoming smaller and smaller and the bushes are encroaching. First, it's flowery bushes leaving yellow residue on my legs. Then the acacia cat-claw starts reaching out and tearing at my lower legs. I knew I should have worn pants. I suspected this would be the case. Dang it!

Thar she blows!

Finally we top out and see Elephant Head....across a major drainage. By major, I mean major. Deep. I can hear the water but I can't see it. And the directions we have tell us to fling ourselves off the road and down the gravelly slope some who-knows-how-many vertical feet down to cross the drainage, and then back up the higher side. And that will only get us to the ridge to get us to the base of the summit!

Elephant Head from near our turnaround

We head down part way before I realize we've already gone over 5 miles. And if I keep up the hiking on this steep stuff, I could definitely re-injure my knee. And the clouds are getting darker, although we haven't heard any thunder yet. A tough decision needs to be made.

Shortly before we stopped

We choose to be prudent and turn around to head back, when we hear the shots. Someone down-canyon is shooting a shotgun. Crap. I sure hope they are gone by the time we reach them. I really don't feel like stumbling upon a) a group of illegal immigrants spending the day shooting shotguns until it's nighttime and they can go on the move again or b) JimBob and his friends shooting up a sign, cans or random women who have the stupidity to walk into their firing range.

Danger!! Mine!!

We head down the road again, through the thorns and flowers. This really hurts - it's re-scratching the scratches I already have! We play alphabet games and talk about things we've never done that we want to. We keep up a good pace and it gets hot. My Garmin starts beeping at me to tell me that a turn is approaching each time we approach a turn. I'm puzzled. How does it know? It's never done this to me before.

We traversed the slope in the foreground

I realize I must have pushed a "mark route" button or something when I fooled around with the buttons early on. This is fun - it is telling me we are on track, and tells me how many miles to go and how much time that will take.

I am hot and fried and glad that we haven't run into JimBob or anyone else. Finally, we make it to the car, 4.5 hours after we started. Whew!

Angie & Elephant Head at the end

I decide that even though it was tough, scary, scratchy and maybe planned out in too much of a haphazard way, I had a lot of fun and really enjoyed the hike. We manage to get ourselves lost on our drive out, but quickly get back on track and back to Tucson.

Our legs after the adventure

Bonus: I am reassured that I still have my cardiovascular base level from earlier this year. Even though my knee twinged a bit, I didn't have a problem with this hike. Yay!

Update: 10.2 miles and 3000 ft of climbing. My knee is sore but not hurting today. My glutes are the most sore, and my arm from a wipeout I had coming down (landed on my right hip/arm).

How I turned 30

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Angie, Barb & Daniel at the start of Angie's 30th Birthday Run!

It starts Thursday, when I learn I have 16 cavities and $5000 worth of work that needs to be done on my teeth. That’s what 12 years of no dental appointments will do to a girl. No cavities at all growing up, and then BAM! I learn I also need a root canal. I am depressed and panicked and in need of a dental plan, stat! And that root canal – can I get it done before Zane Grey? I am in so much pain! I research dental plans and come up with some possibilities to mull over the weekend. I am bummed to start my birthday this way, but I know I will find a way to pay less than the original quote and I will take care of myself from now on.

The celebration starts Friday afternoon, at work. An American Idol happy hour kicks off the festivities at 4 pm in the conference room: bread, fruit, cheese, beer, wine and a karaoke machine. The conference room door is adorned with the American Idol logo along with photos of me: Halloween as leftovers, Halloween as an ice dancer, Christmas portrait looking coyly over a shoulder, a random candid photo of my head thrown back and my mouth frozen, open with laughter. We laugh and giggle and dance and sing YMCA, Dancing Queen, Friends in Low Places.

I leave the laughter and song behind to join Chris and his nieces at his soccer game, where I spend joyful quality time with a friend's infant in a little bear outfit, holding him, snuggling him, walking him, quieting him, helping him fall asleep while both his parents run to their hearts content during the game. My friends Barb, Daniel and Mary stop by to check out the game and meet the team; Mary is contemplating joining. I return Little Bear to his parents, and head to Trader Joe's with Barb, Daniel and Mary to pick up wine, frozen pizza, cheese and crackers. At Mary and Daniel's house, we dissect the beauty queens on display at the Miss USA pageant and decide that Miss New Jersey should have won, but not just because Jersey is Barb’s “homeland,” although that is part of it. Chris joins us after the team’s post-soccer dinner and we play Cranium, try to find "Cops" on TV for Barb and try our hand at Wii before finally, at 1:30 am, heading home.

I sleep in Saturday morning, and enjoy the luxurious space of time to myself for the entire day: I read, I paint, I clean, I cook, I read some more, I shop. I can’t remember the last time I had such a long time period of me and only me to think about. I am relaxed.

At night, we join Chris's nieces, mom and dad at a posh restaurant to celebrate his dad's birthday. Us girls make sure to dress up. After dinner, we wander through the nearby outdoor upscale mall, Chris’s younger niece pretending to stalk us, his dad running the wrong way down the escalator and trying to convince me and Chris's older niece to do the same, salivating over Tiffany & Co. and BCBG Max Azria.
Sunday morning dawns windy. I am thirty, for real. All the lead up, all the anticipation, comes to bear. This is it. I am no longer in my twenties. I open my eyes to Chris singing me happy birthday softly. I am excited and ready for this new decade.

I’m also excited and ready for my birthday run. Barb and Daniel pick me and we head to Sabino Canyon. The road up Sabino - part of my favorite, Phoneline Loop - is closed till June, so we travel over to Bear Canyon and Seven Falls. The four miles out are warm and fun and full of laughter and joy.

Daniel poses at the Falls

Angie at 7Falls - it's cold!

I chase Daniel down to the base of Seven Falls, yelling that I’m going to get him! Unlike previous training runs to the Falls, I decide to take my time at the turnaround. I strip my shoes and socks off to wade in the water. Barb gingerly makes her way down to the base of the falls, choosing her way carefully, making sure to avoid tripping, falling, hurting herself on the trail. We'll make a trail runner of her yet!

Barb approaches

She joins in me in the water, then starts wandering down the slick rock. I open my mouth to warn her about just how slippery the rock gets when mixed with water when she walks into a pool and her legs slide out from under her. She splashes down, landing on her left wrist and her bum.

Barb ices her just-broken wrist

It takes us awhile to realize just how badly she is hurt. I tell her to keep the wrist in the snowmelt-fed water, to "ice" it and keep the swelling down. After a few moments, she pulls it out of the water, and a huge bump has formed. A fellow hiker at the falls introduces herself as a pediatrician; she pronounces the wrist broken. The doctor finds a stick, wraps it in medical tape and tapes the splint to Barb's broken wrist. The doctor also provides ibuprofen. After a few nervous moments of a gray-faced Barb whispering that she is going to throw up (she doesn’t), Daniel and I tie her shoes back on her feet, pack up our stuff and slowly start making our way out.

Barb's splint

Once on the move, Barb feels much better. We walk about a mile before she declares herself ready to run. We take it easy and slowly speed up as we make our way down-canyon. She keeps the broken wrist protected, held close to her heart.

One tough chick

Three hours after our start, we arrive back at the car. Barb insists on our coffee ritual after the run, and the woman behind the counter at Ike’s is shocked to hear that we are stopping there with an injured runner and have not taken her to the ER yet. She is also shocked to hear that I am thirty. You don’t look thirty, she says with a furrow in her forehead. Why, thank you!

Barb drops me off at Chris's before heading to get donuts at Mary and Daniel's. She takes her time showering before heading to the ER with Mary.

After making me blueberry pancakes, Chris takes me to see "Juno,” which I love. Ash comes back that afternoon from his weekend field trip, and the three of us head to Fuddrucker's for my birthday dinner, where Barb, Daniel and Mary join us after Barb gets out of the ER, bringing me donuts from the morning. After dinner, Ash and I take Chris home before heading to our place. Ash crashes, he is exhausted, and I finalize the dental plan I need. If I’m understanding the plan correctly, I will end up paying only $1500-$2000 for what is needed. I am relieved.

It was definitely an awesome weekend, even with the broken bone and dental woes, and I am happy to be where I am in my life.

I think this morning is the first time ever I've run on a Monday morning. Wow.

I've trained my body in the last few weeks to wake up early; I'm now naturally rising between 5:30 and 6 a.m. each day without using my alarm. 6 a.m. rolls around this morning and I cover my eyes with my pillow. My hips hurt from cross-training and I feel weak. I spent a miserable weekend lounging on my couch wondering why I was experiencing symptoms of a gallbladder attack when I no longer had a gallbladder. I realized I had eaten way too much fat over the last few days and my system was rebelling. Yuck. So I pondered what sorts of excuses I could use to not run this morning. I could get up early and get to work early. I could try to sleep more. I'm feeling too weak; my hips hurt too much; I'm doing yoga tonight; yeah - I couldn't pull up anything even remotely close to a justifiable excuse. Then, I realized that 15 miles into my 50k in July, I'm likely to feel like I don't want to keep going, and I'll need to keep going. And getting myself up out of bed would be working on that mental discipline to go when I don't feel like it.

So I did. And it felt good. I was happy to be out and about. And my 10:53 pace put a smile on my face - I could tell I was working at that pace, but I wasn't killing myself.

I need to work on my discipline. I need to be runnning more. I need to make sure I run every Monday morning after a weekend I have with Ash. I need to make sure I run a moderate distance each Friday (like 5 to 8 miles). I need to make sure I get out - because it's time to start training! Woo hoo!

I registered for the Flagstaff Marathon, yay!!! So now I'm committed to the PCT 50k in July and the marathon in Sept. Feels great. I'm glad I have these big races to look forward to, otherwise I know I wouldn't be getting my lazy ass out of bed each morning to run.

Looking for recommendations on iPod shuffle-compatible earphones to wear while running. The earbuds my shuffle came with want to pop out... help!

I'm SO excited!!!! I get to see Olga on Friday!!!! We'll be heading up to Payson so she can run Zane Grey 50m and I can crew for her. This is my third year heading up there, my second as crew for Olga. I'm psyched. I reviewed the entrant list this morning and I'm stoked about the folks who will be there, particularly Tony Krupicka. Very cool.

Twin Peaks 50/50 Photos

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Meeting Jessica
Race Prep
Pre-race Dinner
Course Marking
Race Day!
Final Day in SoCal

Angie and Jess

I had so much fun this weekend! It was exactly what I needed.

Descending to the beach

Angie greets the ocean

Unfortunately, a combination of a rich lunch with two beers, followed by two glasses of framboise ("fram-bwah"), topped with two flights to get home to Tucson caused for a sick night (I'm terrified of flying; I had no clue my palms could sweat!) :( I spent most of last night in the bathroom, and am waiting to feel slightly better before I head into work.

Coming up: a challenge has been thrown down, plus - my return to ultras

onepinkfuzzy

I can see Twin Peaks through a window framed with white plantation shutters as the sun casts a muted glow through the room. I am comfortably ensconsed in a soft rocking chair with my feet up on Jessica's bed. We want to go to the beach before I fly out today, but first, we are sorting through the hundreds of photos we've taken over the last three days while attempting to capture some of the exhaustion, excitement and joy of organizing (in Jess's case) and volunteering for (in my case) an ultra race. I am sipping a Coffee Bean mocha (made with whole milk instead of the requested skim milk - it is so damn rich!) and trying to figure out where to start this story...

Anne, Jess, Jeff, Matt and Angie

I was "roamer" or "gofer" for the day; driving Jeff's Xterra was fanTAStic. I was thinking that Wendy and Jess couldn't have given me a better job for the day. I love and am in love with Jeff's truck. Bouncing over the rocky dirt roads, laughing out loud even though I was the only one in the car. It was a roller coaster that I was in charge of.

Angie drives Jeff's Xterra

Angie and Jeff

In the dark, meeting Anne was a fun moment. This car pulls in, and a woman gets out. "Can I park here?" she asks, worried about being towed. "I think that's okay," I say. I wonder why her sillouhette looks familiar. "I have food," she says, digging into her trunk. "Anne?" I ask, remembering that she is bringing brownies. "Yes," she says. "Angie?" We run toward each other in the dark, arms outstretched, and embrace. "It's so nice to meet you!" I exclaim, and pick up the box of brownies to carry over. She launches into conversation; I love listening to her talk.

Angie and Anne

People prep for the races, I take lots of photos and joke around with everyone. The excitement is contagious and everyone is ready. I love ultra races; the runners are so inspirational and there are so many stories out on the course. The grit and determination, the look of relief on runners' faces as they come into an aid station.

Skip talks to Greg and Kiera at Santiago

Matt on the course

I meet Matt, who is so sweet and just a pleasure to be around. (At the end of the day, I reach the start/finish line and Darrell says, "Matt just got on the bus; he wanted to see you before he left." I run toward the shuttle bus as it leaves, waving my arms. The bus stops and I launch onboard. "Where's Matt!" I yell. Matt pops up, and I give him a giant hug. He tells me, yes, he finished, and at about 8 hours (30 minutes faster than he projected when I ran into him on the course). Another run says, "What, don't I get a hug?!" so I hug him too. Then I get off the bus and let Matt get home to his wife and son.)

Angie and Matt

I am excited to have met David Goggins (I did a double-take at the pre-race dinner the night before when he checked in. I think he noticed my double-take; it was pretty obvious. Hey, the guy's a semi-celebrity in the ultrarunning world, I'm so psyched to have met him!), and I meet Kirk, who introduces himself and says he reads my "interesting" blog.

Wendy and other volunteers at the start/finish

I have fun hanging with OC Trail Runners - Kiera (who is funny and cute and full of energy and who ran her first 50 mile and smiled the entire time) and Greg (who got Dean Karnazes to sign his forearm the day before the race) and Charlie (who with is two cute sons helped with the course marking; he is truly funny) and Wendy (who has two kids and a full-time job and still managed to coordinate all the volunteers and who - along with Jess - was attempting to get me to move out to CA) and Kyle (who is fast and an awesome runner and who we dropped off the day before with a ten-pound bag of flour to mark nine miles of trail and then he was a course sweep on race day).

Charlie's fashion statement

I get to see Nattie again too. Nattie is sweet and beautiful and has a slight accent that is gorgeous. She smiled the entire day, even at the end of the very long day she was smiling as I fell asleep and we talked with the RD of the Antelope Island Buffalo Run (which I've wanted to do for awhile).

Nattie!

After both races start, Jess comes with me for a coffee run (I need my Starbucks!) and we drop supplies off at Holy Jim - mile 27 of the 50m race. Then I head back out to get ice and drive to the top of the peaks.

Kim (aka OC Runner Girl) comes into Harding

First stop: Harding - the first and last aid station for both 50k and 50m, 9 miles from the start/finish line. I drop off ice and take pictures. Then I head to Santiago Peak, the high point of the course. The 50k runners turn around at this point and head back down, while the 50 milers head out for the lollipop part of the course from here. I hang out here, taking tons of photos of runners and volunteers. Skip does boot camp workouts in between runners while blasting Republica and Cat Stevens and Jethro Tull on his stereo and Jen files her nails and Eric mans the ham radio.

Woman's 50 mile Winner Teresa comes into Santiago for second stop

Ladybug

A few hours later, we get word that a runner is vomiting and is not feeling well. I debate driving down the course to him. On one hand, he could be going through a rough patch and seeing the car might tempt him to DNF when in actuality he'd be fine. But on the other hand, it could be medically serious. I decide I'll take him some water and S caps and see what he thinks. Better to tempt him and be safe. I drive down the course, passing four runners who all say the same thing: "He's looking bad, he's down a ways." I find him and he looks relieved. He says he was going to walk to Santiago and drop there, but since the car is here, he'll gladly take the ride. I am glad that I was able to help him.

His name is Sam and we pick up his mom at Harding, where she was waiting to pace him to the finish. I drive back down, stopping once to let him out to emptly the contents of his stomach. Back at the start/finish, I chase down Matt in the school bus, eat a bunch of pizza, talk with Darrell forEVER (as he says at least three times, "Really, I have to be going now..."), cheer on finishers, meet Eric (handing out medals) who says he'll check out my blog, talk with a gentleman named Bill who is doing the 6-day race to be held soon in Douglas, AZ, and in general have fun.

Darrell and Angie

By the end of the day, I am falling asleep on the table. I got to meet and hang out with so many genuine and awesome people, and I am surrounded by what I love most: nature, food, running and fantastic folks. I feel like I hit the wall, and there was nothing left inside me to keep me going. I love that feeling.

UPDATE: Some Photo Links
Meeting Jessica
Race Prep
Pre-race Dinner
Course Marking

The race day photos are still to come...

I'm exhausted

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And the race hasn't even begun! My arms are shaking right now, I got such a great workout with lifting and carrying all that water today! My abs and core also got a good workout while I attempted to stay upright in the truck as we drove all the mountains today.

Last night was an awesome Mexican dinner (out on a fantastic patio), followed by bag stuffing and food prep. Today's course marking was a big, long adventure. I got to see parts of the course (which is a good thing, since I'll be driving Jeff's Xterra tomorrow, and don't want to get lost!), and meet Jeff - the amazing hip! He is just as amazing in person as he is on his blog (he and Jess had a blast laughing at me on the way home). I also got to meet some cool local runners (Hi Charlie! Hi Kyle! Hi Pat!) as well as a documentary filmmaker who is filming the race (and pre-race preparations).

We are getting ready for the pre-race dinner, after which we'll come home and crash. Up early tomorrow for the race itself, where I get to meet Anne (Run-DMZ), Nattie (accounts of madness) and hopefully Matt (igotblistersonmyblisters), in addition to tons of awesome runners.

Monday we'll sleep in and then hit the beach; can't wait!

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