Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ragnar Del Sol 2014: Pimp My $tride

February 21 came out of nowhere. I had been training for Ragnar Del Sol for a few months, but it still seemed so far away. Suddenly it was a week before Ragnar and I had a list of things to do and buy.

The night before Ragnar we decorated our vans with window paint and packed some our belongings. One of my teammates was sweet enough to bake carrot cupcakes for the birthday girls on our team.

 I wasn't home until 9 p.m. to finish packing.

I finally went to bed around 11 p.m., setting my alarm for 2:30 a.m. By 2 a.m. I was wide awake. I decided I might as well get up and moving.

My vanmates picked me up at 3 a.m., and we were on our way to Wickenburg for our 5:30 a.m. start.

I was Runner 5 again this year, which was nice because I knew what to expect from my legs.

Photo by Ashley of PerfectleyPeared.com.

With my Ragnar tattoo, I was ready to take on my first leg. I ended the 6.7-mile run with 10 kills under my belt and a pace faster than last year.

We met up with our Pimp My $tride team members at Exchange 6, where we were finally able to bust out our themed swag.

After our exchange we went to Willow Canyon High School to rest up before our second legs. My teammates were eager to try some yoga, so I led a short session for them on the football field.

We also used the time to try to nap (which didn't happen), eat and clean up. Before long it was our turn to run again.

My second leg started around 11:30 p.m. It began on the west side of Interstate 17, crossed over the freeway on the pedestrian bridge and continued on a dirt trail along the canal and through a neighborhood in north Phoenix. I was nervous about this leg because last year I couldn't tell where the trail was at first and had to wait for another runner to follow. Blinking red lights and signs made the trail more visible this year, so I didn't have any problems. There was also a volunteer to remind me when it was time to hop over a gate on the course and another volunteer was at the end of the dirt trail to radio that I had made it out safely. "Welcome back, 50," he said.

From there I was quite lonely for a bit. I didn't see many runners on this leg until I neared the next exchange. My phone started to die, so I turned off my music for the last 3 miles. It wasn't long before I heard coyotes howling to the east. I was more curious about where they were than afraid. The night run was my favorite leg despite only having one kill. It's the stars, the solitude and the cool air.

It was a precious miracle that I was able to get an hour or more of sleep in the van after our next exchange. I woke up to the sound of a door slamming (thanks, teammate) and the news that it was soon our turn to run again. I was slightly jealous of our first runners, because they could enjoy the sunrise views along their run.

I started running around 8:30 a.m., so I still had to wear the reflective vest, taillight and headlamp. I was less than thrilled about it, but I survived. The views of the McDowell Mountain area more than made up for it. I stopped to take some photos during my hilly, 4.7-mile run. I also chatted briefly with our team volunteer at the water station.

The sign I was looking for was on a hill, of course. But it was soon time to head to Tempe to wait for Van 2 and cross the finish line as a team.

As I recovered the next day from the relay I found myself thinking that I want to do more miles if I do another Ragnar next year. Can't wait!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Arizona Renaissance Festival: Sunday Funday

I haven't been to the Arizona Renaissance Festival in years, so I had forgotten that it's really all about the feast. I gobbled up spinach and artichoke dip bread bowls, frozen cheesecake, a peanut and chocolate-dipped marshmallow and other treats.

Oh, and the shows were fun, too.

Barely Balanced

Before the tournament.

Our section cheered on Don Vincenzo di Sicilia.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Upper Cliff Dwelling, Tonto National Monument

On a recent morning when the rest of the country was preparing to watch the big football game, I was heading east toward Globe in search of ruins. I had made reservations for the Upper Cliff Dwelling tour at Tonto National Monument. A two-hour drive leads to the park, about 25 miles outside of Globe (though GPS thought it was 17 miles). The ranger and other tourgoers were nice enough to wait for late arrivals. Ranger Jen Harper suggested using the restrooms first and meeting up with the rest of the group along the trail. That was excellent advice given that the tour lasted more than three hours and involved a 3-mile hike.

The ranger stopped often to tell us stories and show us plants we could use to make a salad if we had lived in the area at the time it was inhabited by these tribes. At one point we went off the trail so she could show us a vertical sedimentary rock that had fallen from a nearby mountainside.

She said the Salado people would scrape the orange part of the rock off and put it on their gums to treat infection. 

We hiked along a shallow creek, so lots of mud got on our shoes. Walking sticks are a good idea. 

Ranger Jen led the tour to the gate at the Cliff Dwelling, where she suggested a 15-minute snack break before touring the ruins. Eating is not allowed in the ruins because squirrels will often dig in search of the food. There's a historical marker from the park's early days nearby. (It says USDI for U.S. Department of the Interior.) 

As you walked through the terraced ruins, you wonder what life was like for the people who lived here. This room above was sealed, which was a clue that its contents were valuable, and that the people planned to return. You can see Roosevelt Lake in the background. Apparently the lake's water level has been lower since some of its water was used to refill Tempe Town Lake after its dame burst in 2010. 

 We learned that what look like windows are actually doorways.

Inside the cave is a cistern. There is also a small hole where food was likely stored.

Tools used to grind corn were left behind in this room. 

We also toured the outer rooms of the Cliff Dwelling. One of the rooms had the imprint of a corn cob on the wall.

We entered a room with a low roof that was made with different types of wood than the other rooms. The ranger said this could have been because wood was becoming scarce.

We soon said goodbye to the ruins and headed back down the trail at our own pace. 

At the creek we heard an intense buzzing and noticed hundreds of bees flying over the water. The only way out was to walk through them slowly. I am terrified of bees, so the encounter was nerve-racking. I couldn't get off the trail fast enough. I was thrilled to be back at the visitors center looking at pottery. 

The Lower Cliff Dwelling, which can be seen without going on a tour, is visible from the parking lot.

And finally we took one last glance at Roosevelt Lake.