Fall in Flagstaff: The first layer of snow.
November 3rd : I park in a small dirt lot along Route 180 at the turn off for Forest Service Road 151. The locals better know the road as the Hart Prairie Road. I ascend into the forest for four miles and as I near the top of the climb the trees give way to an impressive expanse of open country. With the ponderosa pines now behind, the Peaks come into view. Ribbons of white snow plunge from the mountains and are split with ribbons of golden aspens all while backlit by the deep blue Arizona sky. Further on Fern Mountain casts a long shadow across a meadow of grasses and alders. Its 70 degrees, my shirt’s off and the ever so slightest breeze quickly reminds me of what the high mountain nights are truly like this time of year once the sun falls below the horizon. It is during the act doing something so simple, like running through the woods, that I often realize things. I’m truly lucky to have these forests and network of seldom trodden roads to escape within.
The Ladies of Team USA Arizona on Woody Mountain Road.
The View from Behind on Woody Mountain Road.
I’m not alone, however. There is a sizeable collection of runners in Flagstaff who take advantage of this area’s unique wealth of resources. One such group is Team USA Arizona: a group of eighteen dedicated elite athletes with talents that range from the mile to the marathon.
A1 Mountain Road
Fluids are ready!
Among other things, I’ve been assisting with Team USA Arizona’s long runs. Their outings last somewhere between 90 minutes to 22 miles. Routes with names like 222, A1, and Woody Mountain have all become synonymous with the Team’s Saturday long run. Each route, like my Hart Prairie run, has it’s own particular set of climbs, descents, meadows and mountain views. Zoroaster and I chase the team members along these often forgotten dirt roads with water, nutrition and encouragement. The group usually splits due to different distances and speeds leaving me the challenging task of chasing them all down at the appropriate intervals. I have found it an excellent way to spend Saturday mornings. I ride along entertaining myself with my breakfast, camera and tunes. Then it’s my turn. When they’re done I’ll retrace the Team’s route, usually not as far and definitely not as quickly, but I’ll still chase their footsteps in the dirt until I’ve had enough.
A1 Mountain Road
It is within these dimensions that things stay interesting and exciting. Some folks like music, movies or a special quote to get them focused and psyched for a run. I’ve got the real-life thing going on every Saturday morning. It is truly impossible to not go for a run after you’ve trailed a group like this in a place like this.
The Men of Team USA Arizona on FS Road 222.
Your Moment of Zen
A Room with a View.