Remember my ridiculous mishaps with hiking “Mt. Humphreys” a year ago…?
Well life update: we found the real thing!
It’s been difficult to find enough time to put together blog posts this past week, with such a busy start to senior year. I swear my to-do list grows faster than I can cross things off!
One MAJOR life event I was able to “cross off” was hiking up Mt. Humphreys this weekend. My university is nestled in the forest in a mountain town, which gives us gorgeous views of the tallest peaks in the state. My cross country teammates and I have been talking about a group hike to the tallest peak in Arizona since freshman year.I absolutely could NOT let graduation come and go before making it to the top of that damn mountain. I look at the thing every single day!
Weather here is completely unpredictable with monsoons, blizzards, wind storms. Labor Day weekend and September weather = prime opportunity.
If we rewind 10 hours earlier….
My friends and I had a bit of a *rocky* start to senior year. Not that we aren’t LOVING our new schedules with classes, work, internships and athletics…but I think we were all ready for Country Night at our favorite local bar. We had a blast at the line dancing lessons, but a little liquid courage was helpful. ;) A night with a couple drinks + a 10-mile hike on the agenda the next morning = hydration!!!
The next morning began with coffee, water, and a trip to Sprout’s for hiking sustenance:
- Clif Mojo Mountain Mix Bar
- Raw Almonds
- Dried Apricots
- Honey Whole Wheat Pretzels
- Justin’s Almond Butter Packet
- Water Bottle x 3
The base of the mountain starts between 8,000-9,000 ft. elevation. The hike climbs to 12,633 ft. and the steep mountain trail is really challenging in the thin air, even for altitude-adjusted cross country runners.
Kerri’s boyfriend Jeff had me anxious from the beginning when he casually mentioned another hiker being bitten by a brown recluse earlier this year. ?!?! If I had known this information prior to driving to the base, I may have reconsidered.
I will say…
Making it to the top was worth it.
Not going to lie, the last hour of the hike up was a STRUGGLE. The trail practically disappeared and we were climbing massive rocks and navigating through slippery gravel. Our calves and butts were burning. The altitude made it noticeably more difficult to breathe. But like anything in life, the experience is more about the people you are with. We were all in such a great mood to be tackling such a big goal, and I’m so happy to have had these three crazies to climb with :)
We occupied ourselves on the 5 mile journey back down with impromptu performances of everything from Michael Jackson to Miley Cyrus, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Drake, and everything in between. Our fellow hikers were thoroughly annoyed entertained ;)
No animal sightings either, unless birds count. Fortunately, Brenna served as the”bird expert” for our little group ;) Not sure if her observations were as accurate as they were funny, but I love being among curious people.
If this past 24 hours is any indication of how the rest of senior year will play out…I think it’s gonna be a good one. <3
Mountain tops, pine trees, wild flowers, puffy clouds, dirt trails, thin air. Runners dig this stuff ;)
Altitude training is a staple for Olympic and professional-level endurance athletes. (Some even go so far as installing specific chambers for sleeping that simulate altitude conditions…)
I have over three years experience with living and training in high altitude. Actually, the 7,000 ft. elevation and forest trails were one of the main attractions of the collegiate cross country program I selected. For a runner, pine-lined dirt trails are the ultimate training landscape.
Altitude training is an incredible tool for cross country training. The effects of a decreased oxygen supply are immediately noticeable….you will find yourself breathing deeper and your heart beating faster after climbing a flight of stairs. (Now try moving into a top-floor dorm room with no elevator!) Every summer I spend at sea-level, and every August I have to re-adjust all over again.
When I moved back to school on Saturday, I was unsure of how my ‘Sunday Long Run’ would fair….I had 13 miles on the menu. I decided that I would not be concerned with pace. I just hoped I could breathe!
But I did have some snazzy new shoes to motivate me even more ;)
To be honest, it was one of the BEST long runs of the summer. I didn’t feel the effects of the air until after my run, most likely due to the fact that I was so happy to be running along such a beautiful route in the perfect weather. My happiness converted to adrenaline and I was done with 13 miles in no time! My 7:27 average pace which had me PUMPED! (I will admit that severe fatigue set in a couple hours later…)
Endurance sports are as much mental as they are physical. Something about being outside on a trail, surrounded by massive trees and rows and rows of yellow flowers has a calming power. Of course there are days when I struggle to get through a few miles. But there are also others where the miles fly by with such ease. I full-heartedly believe that having a positive mental state is the most influential aspect to long-distance running. :)
The Science Behind the Strategy:
As elevation increases, the atmosphere has a lower supply of oxygen. When we exercise (particularly cardio exercises) we begin to breathe heavier (duh.) because our body needs to convert oxygen to CO2 at a faster rate to keep up with our activity.
Exercising at altitude decreases the amount of oxygen available in each breath, and over time the body acclimates to these conditions. Your respiratory system becomes more efficient at the O –> CO2 conversion. Therefore, returning to sea-level (more oxygenated air) allows an athlete to perform with more ease or with more speed.
Some Factors to Consider:
- The air is also typically more dry at altitude. It is easier to become dehydrated. Fuel and water are muy importanto!
- The sun also seems to be a little harsher. If you’re not a sunscreen queen already, lather up and protect your skin! There are plenty of “Sport” sunscreens on the market that are reportedly sweat-proof.
- Mountains and trails mean nature, and nature usually includes creatures… snakes, bugs, foxes, skunks, bears, elk (oh my!). Running on trails is also secluded. If I can’t coordinate with a running buddy, I like to stick to a route that is around a residential area or main road. I carry pepper spray and stay alert!
The hype about altitude training is really all it’s cracked up to be. It definitely requires more effort and includes more fatigue in the initial weeks. But after your body begins to acclimate and your breathing is less dramatic, you can see significant improvement in endurance performance from training in elevation.
Plus, it’s just pretty!
*My new apartment isn’t quite ready yet but I can’t wait to share all of my decorative touches with you when it is :) I think this year is going to be the best one yet.*
It has been 105 days of Summer Vacation.
As much as I love my family, I am beyond ready to return to college life for SENIOR YEAR. My car is packed, my apartment is ready, and I’m cruising down the highway as we speak! The past 7 days have been the busiest and craziest days…here are some highlight:
The Green Goods:
Last week at work, our receptionist asked if anyone would like to “adopt” some of the office plants. I have a brand new unfurnished apartment…something green sounded nice! I got some funky flowered plants (don’t ask me what they are). Well….they needed pots. And planting soil. And metal stakes. My “free” plant babies cost $30. These damn things better not die. ;)
The Book List:
I stocked myself up with PLENTY of reading material for the school year too! One day after work, I had some time to kill while I waited for the temperatures to cool off enough for an evening run. The selection at the used bookstore in the mall this week? JACK POT. As I browsed the store, the stack of books in my arms grew taller and taller. The cashier actually came to me TWICE to hold my books at the counter.
“That looks very heavy.” You underestimate my muscles, mister.
But thank you ;)
My favorite find of the day = Someday, Someday, Maybe because of the author. Lauren Graham AKA Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls AKA my favorite show ever and ever. I’m three chapters in and already hoping she writes a sequel.
The Last Home Long-Run:
On Sunday morning, I tackled a 12-mile long run before the 7 o’ clock hour. The route was different than usual because 3 miles in I took a sharp left turn that led to some greener views. Sightings: 1 coyote, 2 scruffy mutts, and 5 hungry ducks.
A Jittery Habit:
I’ve picked up a habit of running to the deli next door for an afternoon Iced Americano with 3 pumps of sugar-free cinnamon dolce and a splash on non-fat. I have this “treat yourself” mentality going on right now. I’ve had 4 this week. Starbuck’s is capitalizing on my cold cravings and I’m okay with that.
Our office hosted a Bake Sale fundraiser for one of the employees. Instead of buying goodies, I will be participating by contributing something to sell. Pinterest is my go-to for crafty-crafts and I was immediately attracted to “Baseball Pops” AKA white chocolate-covered Oreos.
Popsicle sticks + Oreos + White Melting Chocolate + Red candy melts
All summer long, I have worked in the corporate office of a major national manufacturing company. This has been an eye-opening experience since so much of my projects are directly related to my business courses. I’ve really enjoyed working in an office-setting….mainly because I get to dress up in heels and blazers and pencil skirts. Playing dress up is never a bad thing.
Lot’s of “goodbye” meals.
First, the department at work planned a mid-week lunch. It was my choice of restaurant. Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar & Grill :) No shop-talk allowed! I got a salad with shrimp skewers, avocado, mango salsa and light balsamic vinegrette on the side. (It reminded me of the version I made two years ago…)
We also met up for a last summer dinner with my mom’s BFF and her daughter. We were too busy girl-chatting for pictures on that one ;) Yesterday some girlies from work all went out for lunch at my favorite: Panera. Garden Veggie Soup with a Thai Chicken Salad:
Friday morning I walked into the office for the LAST day of my summer internship. Outside of my office was a breakfast spread that was noticeably different from previous company potlucks: It was healthy! Our office enjoys celebrating birthdays and special occasions with potlucks, most of which include donuts and streudals. They themed this one “healthy” in honor of moi and covered the table in fruits, nuts, granolas, yogurt, hummus and crackers. So sweet!
Plus an awesome last dinner at a sushi bar, Ooka. This week was full of some hilarious, ridiculous moments. It included lots of packing and cleaning and errands. But it also became a little overwhelming at time, and by Friday night I wanted a drink! I wanted to sip, relax, laugh and have a great last night. It was a success :)
My summer was a long one. Two trips to New York and two medical procedures. Two trips to Flagstaff. One spectacular concert. Working full-time. Running morning and evening. Baking and cooking. Trips to San Diego and Newport. The only thing I didn’t get to was a baseball game. But the Dbacks are just a two-hour drive away, so maybe I’ll catch an AZ game pretty soon. ;)
BRING ON THE NEW SEMESTER.