Another month has gone by. More things change and Flagstaff continues to slowly turn itself into my home.
It occurred to me that I'm living in a place that has an abundance of grandiose views and favorable weather. I can run to any of my favorite peaks or ridges for a reminder of how I've climbed and how small I am. I've come to use those points as my only destinations on runs, as if a flat loop in the woods lacks something that makes it worthwhile. As the seasons change, I'm reminded of hunting trips with my dad. The densest of woods were our usual destinations in the swamps of Northern Michigan. Instead of sitting on a rocky peak and looking out over miles and miles of land, I would sit in a swamp and peer through brush, bare limbs of deciduous trees, and pine needles. I had all day to look around, but obstructed vision. It forced me to look inward and at my immediate surroundings. I became intimate with what was nearby and what was within me as light snow and rain fell on me. I was proud of how much snow and ice could accumulate on my head and legs, for it meant that I held still long enough for it to pile up.
On the running front, my focus has slightly shifted. I'm not especially proud of my contrarian nature all the time, but living a stone's throw away from amazing trails has somehow sent me to the track. I've joined Team Run Flagstaff, a large local running club. Mostly for access to a group to share track workouts with, I've been pleased to get the chance to run fast on a rubber circle once a week. With all of the natural wonder so close to my apartment, why bother running at the track? I think the allure for me is the sense of balance. I love getting out into the mountains and interacting with the environment around me, especially when Kelsey and I go together. The longer we're out there, the better. I get lost in hours of quiet movement, listening to singing birds and whistling pine and creeking limbs and the sound of rocks moving beneath my feet, once I tune out the sound of my hydration pack sloshing.
The track offers something different. It offers a chance to tune out everything else and look inward to myself. No worrying about where to place my feet or whether I've pushed it too hard to get up the next climb. I'm not distracted by my surroundings because they disappear for however long the interval is. I gaze about 20 feet in front of me and go, feeling my heart beat in my ears and my lungs burn in my chest. Many of my fellow runners have no desire to be on the track or road because they love trails so much. They've said that they don't run to feel like a hamster on a wheel, and I certainly understand. Perhaps I just like different kinds of conflict to engage in. Trails help me feel like I fit into nature somehow, like I have a place in the world. The track helps me feel like I know myself. Whatever. It's just running.
With all this said, I'm looking to cultivate some sort of leg speed to prepare for the Zane Grey 50. The Phoenix Marathon is late February, and that's 8 weeks before Zane Grey. Run a fast marathon, rest a little, then peak again, hopefully finding another slower, stronger gear to double the distance and dance over some rocks. It's probably not the best plan, but it gives me a short-term goal to get me through winter.