Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year!

The past couple of weeks have been pretty awesome and it's been the perfect way to end what's been an amazing year.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the official invitation from Aravaipa Running to join their racing team for another year. It was a great feeling to be invited back - whilst I feel like I've had a good year of racing during 2016, I never take things for granted and with so many other good lady runners in the Phoenix area, I wasn't 100% sure that I would be on the team again. There are some new faces on the team for 2017 and it's a great group of athletes that I can't wait to get to know and share the trails with throughout the coming year.

Being invited back to the team has once again increased my motivation ten fold, and with a new coach to guide me, I'm hoping for some good races again over the next 12 months. I've already entered some events that will be used as training towards my main racing goals f0r 2017 and I'm being  a little different this year by setting training goals too, which I know will help build confidence for the A races I have planned.

Cooler weather in recent weeks has meant that I've finally managed to get a few trail running miles in with my little dog Wilson. I've really missed running with him and I know for sure that he's been eager to join me every day regardless of the weather. A few mixed terrain runs with him and a few hikes where Brandy has joined us has meant that their soft, tender paws have become more accustomed to the rocky terrain here in Phoenix and they've finally seemed more comfortable hitting the trails with me.

Hikes with Brandy and Wilson

Christmas Day was extra special as both Wilson and I headed out for a short and easy 6 mile run. We finally summited Union Peak together - something that I have wanted to do with him for a while now - and we shared a drink of water, and fruit scone and Christmas puppy kisses whilst at the top admiring the views.

Christmas Day with my little Munchkin Wilson :-)
Other than the run, Christmas was a pretty quiet affair this year with just me, Andy and the furies eating, drinking and making merry together on the big day. We had a winter storm pass through Arizona on Christmas Eve which meant the northern areas of the state had a white Christmas. There was no snow in Phoenix but we decided to drive to Prescott, just an hour or so north of Phoenix, to search for some snow so that the dogs could have a frolick and play in the white stuff. Thankfully in the forested areas of the town there was still a good covering and the dogs spent a good hour having a play - digging, rolling and running around together, whilst clearly having tons of fun!

Fun in the snow in Prescott :-)

I did a couple more small runs with Wilson and had an amazing run on Christmas Eve with a bunch of friends when we took a visit to the McDowell Mountains and did a 12 mile circular trail run up Bell Pass to Tom's Thumb, and then last Thursday, I was invited to do a run at the Grand Canyon with a group of friends.

I love the Grand Canyon and no matter how many times I have been, I am still wowed by its magnificence. Whilst admiring it from the both the north and south rim is pretty impressive, I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to once again head down in to the canyon itself for 27 miles of trail running bliss. A group of 9 headed north to partake in this mini adventure, and thanks to the knowledge and experience of Chris "the Chef" Wolfe, we had the most amazing time running Hermit, Tonto and Bright Angel Trails, with a detour to the Granite Rapids on the Colorado River at the base of the Canyon. What made the trip even more remarkable and extra special this time was that there was still some snow on the trails which gave a completely different perspective compared to previous visits which added a greater beauty to what is already a breathtaking location.

Granite Rapids on the Colorado River

My legs were pretty sore from the ups and downs of running at the Grand Canyon, but New Year's Eve saw me returning to the McDowell Mountain Preserve to do a 15 mile time trial on the Pemberton Trail. After racing Javelina, I'm pretty familiar with this trail now and I was intrigued to see how quick I could run the 15 mile loop when not under race conditions. I thought realistically I could get close to 2 hours, but heavy rain meant that the trail was extremely heavy going in places and after my exploits a couple of days earlier, my legs struggled to maintain the pace I knew I was capable of. It was only a time trial, but I did get a PR by 4 minutes although I know that I can knock even more off that and it's something that I will be working towards over the coming weeks.

After a quiet Christmas, one would think that we would want a quiet New Year, and to some degree it was. Whilst last year I had competed in a 24 hour race on New Year's Eve, this year it was the turn of my good friend Natalie from Edmonton, Alberta to compete in the event. Both Natalie and Dennene - another very good friend of ours - spent a few days at our house over the New Year whilst Natalie competed in her first 24 hour race at the Across the Years event that I had done last year. Her final result was absolutely outstanding  and we were extremely proud of her. I shared a few laps with Natalie - something like 12 miles in total as we ran around and around and around in the pouring rain, avoiding the puddles as best we could as Phoenix experienced 2 winter storms over the New Year period, and dumped copious amounts of rain on the 1 mile loop at Camelback Ranch in Glendale. The best part was the final lap when we were just 10 minutes away from the 24 hour time limit, and we were skipping and singing away to Robbie Williams' "Candy" as the sudden onset of torrential rain failed to dampen our spirits in the closing stages.

Across the Years - Dennene, Natalie and Del at 100 mile mark 

So in terms of 2016, it was a great way to end a successful year. I ran something like 3000 miles throughout the year and climbed over 240,000 feet. I made lots of new friends, had some amazing races, but more importantly, had so much fun out on the trails.

I'm excited about 2017 and have set myself some tougher challenges compared to last year. It's not going to be easy but then what's the point in doing things if you don't test your limits?

I know that midnight has long gone and we are already fast approaching January 2nd, 2017 but despite being a little late with this post, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everybody for all their support in the past year and here's to a happy, healthy and successful new year for each and every one of you.

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