As I’ve aged, I’ve discovered that one way to continue to feel young is to spend more time around older people. If you’re the youngest guy in the room, you have no choice but to feel boyish and spry. One place you should surely visit if you’d like to experiment with this strategy is Arizona. (Duh.)
Last week I spent time in Surprise, a suburb of Phoenix whose primary function appears to be housing snowbird seniors. My wife’s parents, who happen to be snowbird seniors, have a home there so the entire family headed south for a Spring Break vacation.
Of course, when your half marathon is a month away some of that vacation time must be spent training.
Fortunately for me, a planned senior community in the desert is a very good place to run. In addition to having plenty of flat, paved trails, whizzing by some of the aforementioned older folks on said trails makes you feel fit and fleet of foot.
Of course, the downside to the desert is that it can kick your ass pretty quickly when you’re not used to its treachery. As a Pacific Northwesterner I’m used to cool and damp, not hot and dry. High temps also mean lots of early morning running and very little sleeping in.
Day One went well as I embarked on a simple 3 mile jaunt along the finely manicured pathways, past lush green golf courses and a seemingly infinite amount of similar looking southwestern homes with cacti in the yards and Spanish-tiles on the roofs.
Day Two proved more difficult. Despite ideal conditions (i.e. clouds and lower temperatures) my 7-mile run was truncated a bit when my second loop through the Sun City Grand community proved to be more strenuous than I’d anticipated. I tired much earlier than usual and ended up only logging around 6.5 onerous miles. I pondered the cause of my disappointing outing as I walked home. Was it the heat? The dryness? The vacation wine and beer I consumed the night before? While this was a relatively minor setback, it’s never a good day when the Run Devil comes out on top.
I managed to rebound on Day Three with some serious cross training when my wife and I took on the Piestewa Summit Trail. For anyone visiting the Valley of the Sun, Piestewa Peak Park in the Phoenix Mountains offers great desert hiking without having to get too far outside the city. The Summit Trail is far more challenging (and crowded) than we were expecting. It’s only 1.2 miles to the peak, but it’s basically straight up hill. In fact, it’s actually even more formidable than that because most of the hike is spent navigating oddly shaped stone stairs rather than climbing at a steady incline. But it’s worth it. Once you reach the top, the peak offers stunning views of the valley that go on for miles. There’s a also a very large cactus.
After all the mileage and scenery from the previous couple of days, Day Four of my trip proved anti-climactic as I simply logged 3 miles along the now familiar paved paths of Sun City Grand.
Vacation running always provides me with new scenery as well as a chance to get out of my comfort zone. At home, I’m used to being soaked with sweat by the end of even the shortest run. In the desert, most of the perspiration evaporates, leaving a salty, sticky film in its place. New experiences are good.
While I don’t see myself spending my golden years in the arid landscapes of the America Southwest, I certainly hope there are an abundance of paths wherever I end up. My plan, with the help of some decent genetics and a little luck, is to keep running into my 70s. That way when middle-aged whippersnappers start hanging around in a desperate attempt to recapture their youth, it won’t be easy for them to pass me.