Trail running in Tucson

A very quick weekend in Tucson.  Spent much of my time in the hotel on work stuff, but kept a pledge to myself today to get firing out on the mountains back behind us.  I squeezed in a short run on Friday just before dusk on the Pima Trail, but was saving my legs and knees for today's run. Glad I did.

Was told about the Santa Catalina Trails, just off of Oracle Road about 15 miles north of Tucson.  I planned to be out of the hotel at 9am, on the trail by 9:30am.  Except I didn't pack my running belt.  After trips to three stores, Sports Authority had what I needed.  Then my cell phone battery (read: camera) was dead, so then a stop at Best Buy.  Then I forgot sunblock, so a stop at Dick's. Now that I'd kept the US economy afloat with random consumer expenditures, I was finally ready to the trail.  And yes, all of these things were necessary for a planned 10 mile run that was going to include 1500+ of elevation change.

Park fee of $7 then a short drive to the trail head.  Up, up, and away.  The Romero Lagoons were 2.4 miles with about 900 feet of elevation.  The ranger said to give myself 2.5 hours.  I arrived in 38 minutes.  Mostly able to trail ran along the way with a few switchbacks and grades that required a fast walk.  Took a break for about 4-5 minutes, but wanted to get going without getting stiff.  I was thinking that I might be able to get up to Romero Point, which was another 4.5 miles from the lagoons, but also another 2000 feet of elevation (6000 feet at the top).   Saw lots of people on this stretch – it's a pretty popular trail. 

Once I started working my way past the lagoon to the steeper stuff, it was pretty clear that I wouldn't get that fair. I didn't see anyone as I continued. Only had 48 oz of liquid and running made the legs pretty dead. seeing the snake at mile 4.0 was also a reminder that I was in the middle of the desert.  Rattlesnakes are supposed to be hibernating by now, but the ranger did say they might come up with the nice sun. 

Got to a stopping point exactly 5.0 miles up, just past a campground in a dried out wash area.  Sat on a rock and listened to silence.  No wind, no birds, just quiet.  Wondering how loud it must be when the water is rushing through.

After 10 minutes, I started the descent.  I think I could have gone farther, but thought better of it.  10 miles was the plan.  On the way down, I came across a few hikers, mostly people I passed on the way up.  Seeing me run the trails was a little startling to them – questions like "Did you run the whole way?"  I enjoy such things. Makes me feel accomplished.

Legs were heavy on the way down.  Trails shoes = good, Reinforced toes kick many-a-rocks.  I only almost fell 5-6 times. :–)  Stopped shortly at the lagoons on the way down again, then one more rest with about 1.5 miles to go.  Then back to the car. Right hammy was a little peeved at me.  Knees felt good. Legs felt good.  Chocolate milk and chocolate super protein Odwalla on the way home, plus a call to the hotel to get the hot tub fired up.  Started at 2700 feet, Peaked at 4700 feet. Nice. Life good.  4  hours of bliss on the trail makes everything better. 

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