About NATRA Blog

This page is meant for folks to post their thoughts on the Saturday group run. I (Neil) will post a blurb about who showed up and where it was held. From there, I hope that other runners will share their thoughts since we often have different experiences on the same run. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Urban Trail Fall Foliage

 David dressed for fall.

While it was a small turnout for our annual post-Soulstice Saturday group run, the Neil, Rob, Chris, David, and Bruce immersed themselves in the magical fall foliage along the Flagstaff Urban Trail System and the Flagstaff Loop Trail. Afterwards the gang hit the kickstand where they encountered Mackenzie and Clare who had done the exact same run 30 minutes earlier. Next week Campbell Mesa!

 Neil running through aspen just north of ditch pool.

 David's shirt matched the stunning red foliage by the ditch pool.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Soulstice Thanks

(I had taken a hiatus from the blog due to a hectic work schedule leading up to Soulstice. I just happened to notice that this post will be the 300th blog about Flagstaff Trail Running. )

My 13th year of directing the Soulstice Mountain Trail run proved to be the luckiest and most pleasant yet. (See Myles Schrag's Arizona Daily Sun coverage for a complete recap of the run.)

 (Martos Hoffman photo)

Behind the scenes, I organized Soulstice quite a bit differently this year. As most of you know, I followed Imogene Pass Run’s no refund/no exchange/transfer policy.   As every year exchanges and transfers increased, my already limited free time vanished. This coincided with a busy field season at work right up until race day. Since I don’t pay myself a dime, simplifying Soulstice reached critical levels. (See Myles Schrag's Arizona Daily Sun column for more) While I heard some grumblings second hand, those didn’t bother me. A simplified Soulstice meant less stress for me, a higher quality event, and Mother Nature obviously did her best to ensure that as well.

 (NATRA photo)
On Friday, thanks to Mark James, Kara Tate, and John Lowe for taking the time to help me flag and flour the course sans blizzard conditions for the first time in three years. Mark and Kara insisted they would volunteer on race day, but after seeing how beautiful the course was, Kara and Mark’s competitive juices kicked into high gear and it was great to see them crossing the finish line.

 (Photo by Josh Biggs)

Friday evening, the re-designed Pay n’ Take windows worked out quite well for packet pick-up. David, Diana, Oso, and I no longer have to freeze our butts off outside. Well, Oso wouldn’t care with his heavy coat.  Since I reduced packet pick up to 3 hours rather than 4, we had bigger rush than ever and thanks to Danielle Fazio for saving our hides by stepping up to the plate.

(NATRA photo)
(Cameron Clark photo)
 (Cameron Clark photo)
On race day, Coconino Amateur Radio Club has always been our stellar communication support system – they always seem to do whatever they do without a hitch so I never really paid attention to their process. This year I met beforehand with Robert Meadowcroft and gained much appreciated insights. Once again I'm grateful that the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department controlled traffic at the start of the race on the busiest leaf peeping Saturday in years. And of course thanks to the Coconino National Forest  who continues to permit Soulstice on the Dry Lake Hills trail systems.


(Martos Hoffman photos above)

Another key component to the event is the volunteers who year after year show up to do the aid stations atop Sunset and Old Weatherford Trail. Steve Pulos battered his Toyota pickup one more time to ensure the safety of long course runners. Atop Sunset, Batman (Coconino County Supervisor Matt Ryan) and Aaron Devine’s NAU Parks and Recreation Management class hiked the early morning hours with the 10 gallons of water and 4 gallons of Gatorade to Sunset aid station. In addition, this year, a handful of students swept the last 4 miles of the course so that I did not have to clean it up on the Monday holiday.
 (Bret Sarnquist photo)

And of course thanks to Jay Carnes and Scott Miller for the great Pay n’ Take party, hot dogs, fixings and salty treats, Biff’s Bagels for the post-race carbs, David McKee for his always amazing art work on the shirt, medals and poster, and of course you the runners, who always bring so much energy on race day.

(NATRA photo)

(NATRA photo) 

We had chip timing donated by Run Flagstaff, and while we couldn’t post live due to a weak signal, the results were posted correctly around 12 PM, by the time most runners got off the Mountain. As a result, I did not have to spend hours after the race sorting and printing results. Thanks to our back up timers, Alan and Theresa Dowell, and Todd and Stacey Cislo for doing such a stellar job that I was able to get through the awards with greater accuracy than any other year with only two errors in the manual standings. Mark Thurston took 1st place in Mens 50-59 and Susan Spinelli took 3rd in Women’s 50-59. Unofficial results are at http://results.chronotrack.com/event/results/event/event-6823?lc=en

(John Lowe photo)

At the last second, we ended up with an amazing cadre of photographers randomly on the course. I think they captured almost every angle of Soulstice. Thank you Cameron Clark of Cameron and Kelly Studios (http:cameronkellystudio.com) for grabbing my camera and capturing the start while I yelled at runners letting them know the race was starting at 8 AM with or without them. Photos by me, John Lowe, and Cameron Clark can be downloaded at https://picasaweb.google.com/112827349870389023562/Soulstice_2014?authkey=Gv1sRgCMSRtI6w5eCZdA; Martos Hoffman took fabulous photos near the top of Sunset at http://www.martoshoffmanimages.com/stock-images/soulsticerace2014; Bret Sarnquist ran all over the course with his photos posted at https://picasaweb.google.com/116731474404317696747/SoulsticeRun2014?authkey=Gv1sRgCIzNrIju_pOXpAE; and Ginny and Josh Biggs have their photo album at https://picasaweb.google.com/112827349870389023562/Biggs_soulstice?authkey=Gv1sRgCPWU8_6WuajbMw – As always, please credit these photographers if you repost or share.

 (Bret Sarnquist photo)
 (Bret Sarnquist photo)
Soulstice is all about our community and in my case helping raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff. As a board member, a Big in their Williams School Based mentoring program, and director of their epic Half Marathon for the past 13 years, it means the world to me to raise nearly $5000 on behalf of the agency. Thanks to Jerry Mclaughlin and Dave Barnett at Aspen Sports for their amazing raffle  that raised nearly $1600 and to Steve Rhode for emceeing.

We definitely missed having race co-founder and sponsor Paul Brinkmann at Soulstice. He had a good excuse, breaking 12 hours at World Ironman Championships in Kona. Paul was with us in spirit, donning his Soulstice cap across the finish line. Congrats Paul!
(Bret Sarnquist photo)
 (Bret Sarnquist photo)
In keeping with tradition, Knights of the Soulstice Round Table gathered and kicked around ideas for next year without judgement in front of the benevolent race dictator. The one motion that passed unanimously, was to drop the price of the long course next year to $60 with the short course holding steady at $75. And so it is written.

(NATRA photo)

Finally, thanks to all of the runners who brought so much energy and spirit to this race – that is really what made it so special for me. Registration for Soulstice opens January 1, 2015 with the lottery again on April 1st. Hope to see many of you next year for the 16th running.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On Top of the World: Well, Kendrick Mountain Anyway.

14 NATRA runners, many Kendrick Trail newbies were treated to the finest weather we've had for this annual end of August climb. At least half the group geared up for their last ascent before next weekend's annual Flagstaff exodus for the Imogene Pass Run.

Neil got side tracked per his mushroom hunt. While he was in search of boletes the rest of the gang made 3000 foot ascent to the top and back. At the top, it seemed that the gang could see forever. 9 miles round trip.

 Neil's crazy eyes when he finds a bolete. 

The thundering pain of burning calf and thigh muscles could be heard during the Late for the Train post run coffee hour. Ouch. Thanks to Ron Volbrecht for the photos from the top. The usual photographer didn't make it that far thanks to his fungal foray.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Arizona Trail "Gription"

Six runners arrived at the starting point on Old Walnut Canyon Road to run on the Arizona Trail. It has become a NATRA tradition to alternate between running north and running south from this point--and this time was north. Todays runners (Mark, Anne, Betsy, Daniel, Susan, David) were amused that the turnout was from the "middle-and-back-of-the-pack" NATRA runners.

The trail was damp from recent rains and resulted in excellent gription (you know, grip and friction!). On the flip side, there has been some erosion of the trail from the rain and it may need some trail work in the future. At the crossing of the Walnut Canyon paved road, four of us turned back while Mark and Anne continued on to the I-40 underpass. Keep up the good work on the Imogene training, Anne!

The after-run breakfast/coffee was held at Wildflower Bread Company with Betsy, Susan, and David. The restaurant was crowded with walkers who had finished the "Climb to Conquer Cancer" walk on Snowbowl Road. Congratulations and thank you! (Thanks to David Blanchard for the post and Betsy Mennell for leading the run and photos.)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Musings on Lucky 13th Year Directing BBBSF Half/Walk/5K Fun Run

Today I'm feeling more proud than usual about the race I directed yesterday with our Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff Board.  I do not think the event could have gone more smoothly. This was clearly the lucky 13th time.

I cannot remember so many people telling me how they smashed their course PR. There were definitely more smiles crossing the finish line, and I would know, having taken thousands of finish line photos over the past decade. Our Facebook insights of shares, comments, and likes is sky rocketing today and by tomorrow should exceed 20,000 served.

What made this race go so smoothly? More than 75 volunteers who put their heart and soul into the race. While the planning for this event goes on year round for me, the last 72 hours are when it all magically comes together; thought some of you would appreciate what goes on behind the scenes:

Thursday 3-6 PM :   80 runners picked up their bibs, far greater than I expected; mom, Adam, and I were thrilled.

6:30 PM: BBBSF Board barbecue near mile 7, just below the last big hill up to A1 Mountain. Bill Shaler smoked ribs and a roast and we had about 25 board and office worker attend, our best pre-race party to date.

Friday 9 AM-1 PM: course crew gathers with pickup trucks and quads at Chip Ogden's plumbing shop near downtown. I buy the Dog Haus breakfast burritos, we wolf them down, chase them with the first frosty beverage of the day, load up the course marking materials, and head up on Observatory Mesa to carefully put arrows in the right direction. This can be a challenge if you forget which way the runners are heading, when you are driving in the opposite direction. After about 3 hours we drive back across the course, critiquing/poking fun at each others arrows. At the same time, the office sends the Big Brothers Big Sisters truck around town to collecting all the food, water, and gatorade.

4-8:30 PM: Ensure Porta-Potties delivered in right place; Course crew become Italian chefs to cook the pasta ready for packet pick up at 6:30 PM, ready to serve 250 hungry participants. Of course dozens of runners still show up an hour early expecting their bibs to be ready, so I am there gladly reducing one runner at a time before dinner is ready. At 8:15 we load up the truck, with all the supplies, and of course there are always the stragglers who need to pick up their bibs. I oblige and cut it off at 8:30 PM.

9 PM to 11 PM. Charge up both timing machines. Load up civic with registration boxes. Get all awards in back of car.

11 AM to 3 AM: Sleep interrupted by "what am I forgetting?" This time it was the safety vests - go to garage, trip over cat who thinks its time to eat. Shut up Colby.

Saturday, Race Day, 3 AM: Sleep is over-rated. Double check all items loaded in car. Make sure SD card is in camera and not in computer.

4 AM-7 AM: Course crew goes back over the course ensuring nobody has messed with the markings as has happened in past and they set up aid station tables.Position volunteers at aid station.

5 AM-7AM: Run Flagstaff and I set up timing and finish line area; Barricades arrive; Walkers go off at 6 AM, race day registration; Ambulance and Sunny 100 takes their position; Jim Driscoll and I meet with volunteer road guards who will help with traffic control on the downtown streets.

7:30 AM-11 AM: And the race is on! This year my best man David McKee was not feeling well, leaving the door open for me to jump into the Kid's Dash. Finally, I get to participate in one of my events. Dang those kids were out for blood.  While I finished dead last, I still beat David's PR.

11 AM to 11:30 AM: Post photos to Facebook and Picasa for downloading and sharing.

11:30 to 12 PM: Pour over results and make sure no glaring errors, like the walker who did not get switched from half marathon to walker event. Easy catch since I knew the runner.

12 PM to 2 PM: Awards ceremony at Charly's Pub and Grill. Cider tastes soooo good. Thanks to Matt Bial for hosting the great party venue.

2 PM to 5 PM: Pass out.

5 PM; Diana and I order a Pizza. Yum.

8:30 PM: Pass out.Sleep throughout night.

Sunday: Well here I am writing this and compiling ideas/improvements for next year's race. Here we go again. Number 14. August 8th. Mark your calendars.

And of course it goes without saying, next on my plate is Soulstice which along with its usual snows will be here sooner than you think.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bismarck Lake Lupine Landscape


(Thanks to Jeff Garland for the following photos and blog)

11 runners gathered for a pleasant 7.5 mile run thru the Aspen groves
to Bismark Lake!  Blue and purple Lupine, along with many other flowers, adorned
the high meadows -- adding to the already scenic views.  The lake turned out to
be dry, but worth the journey anyway.  On the return the group dodged bikers and
hikers all out taking advantage of the beautiful morning.

Many returned to Late for the Train to relax and regenerate.  All and all a
fabulous way to start the day!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Observatory Mesa Puddle Jumping

18 Northern Arizona Trail Runners head up Observatory Mesa, running an extra mile more than advertised! Throw in the puddle avoidance and it was a little over 9 miles, one of the farthest NATRA runs in years. While Observatory Tank had a little water left, the second tank was bare. However, the ground was super saturated and this proved to be the perfect training run for the August 9th Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff Half Marathon and 5K. (see the short YouTube clip below!)


 Avoiding the Urban Trail Hill!

 Cutting over to the Urban Trail on the Flagstaff Loop Trail.

 Joyous puddles!

 Clouds building over the Peaks as we returned from the meadow. 

Once all returned we rehydrated at the KickStand, many skipping coffee in favor of the daily special; frozen lemonade! Once again Ellie kept us all entertained with her cheery laughter! The run next week is cancelled in favor of the Hearts 911 Mount Elden Trail Race

 Ellie entertains all at the Kickstand.