Of all the days on the camp schedule, this was the one I looked forward to most. Touted as a “2-3 hour trail run adventure” I knew we were in for a seriously tough but fun test on our feet. I ran with the mid-paced group, made up of Barry, Marc, Jordan, Nancy, Jillian, Denise (from Oklahoma) and coach Alyssa. “Eyes down, toes up,” was the mantra Alyssa suggested we follow, given the rock-strewn surface we ran upon. Up and down, up and down we went, picking our knees up in exaggerated fashion to avoid painful spills.
The trails near Star Pass are magical–lined with odd-looking Dr. Seuss-like cacti and sagebrush, and twisting and turning as they traverse peaks and dip down into gullies. We made our way from the resort through a variety of climbs and descents (and just a few wrong turns) before reaching a parking lot with a strategically parked car for a refueling pit stop. On the return trip, we took a slightly different route–a smoother running surface due to fewer rocks. The increased pace caused our group to split into two, with Barry, Marc, Jordan, Nancy and I soon realizing we didn’t know which way to turn at a fork in the trail. We waited for Alyssa, Jillian and Denise to catch up; instead we saw them through the brush, motioning that we had already taken a wrong turn and needed to backtrack toward them. We did so, but oddly lost sight of them within the space of just a few minutes.
Confusion kicked in–we were surrounded by trails that all looked strikingly similar, and small mountains on nearly every side that distorted any natural sense of direction. Through one gap in the hills we could see a house, plus we found a trail marker that told us we were merely one mile from a trailhead–but not the one we wanted. We knew we had to be close to the trailhead where we started our run, yet we were totally lost! We joked about our potential aptitude as Survivor contestants, and even went so far as to consider who we would eat first, should our situation become severe (sorry, Marc). But ultimately we were spared any acts of desperation–we found a friendly mountain biker who helped guide us home.
The final item on our camp agenda was an easy cool down swim and technique session, wherein we had a chance to try swim straps. The straps are tied to a fixed post and attach around your ankles, forcing you to swim hard and fast to stay afloat. This was my first time trying the straps, and I’m fairly certain Hillary was right when she said my arm turnover improved by about 50 per cent!
Farewells were said to the campers rushing to catch flights home, and after enjoying some poolside sunshine Hillary, Maik, Alyssa and I stuffed ourselves yet again on Pico de Gallo. Zombie-like, we spent a few hours at home before meeting up with the folks still in town–Jillian, Nancy, Jordan (from North Carolina) and Dawn (from Texas)–for happy hour margaritas on the patio at the JW Marriot Starr Pass Resort, an ideal spot to toast our camp accomplishments.
Quotes of the Day:
“Oh whoa! We’re here!” – Nancy, upon realizing that we’d run up and over Gates Pass, the same climb we rode on Saturday.
“Well, we’re 10 minutes from somewhere.” – Marc, acknowledging our proximity to civilization, despite being utterly lost on our trail run.
“So…you just stroke as hard as you can?” – me, inquiring as to proper swim strap technique.
By the Numbers:
3 hours, 18 minutes (the time it took our group to run 13 miles, including time spent “lost”)
62 seconds (the time I lasted on the swim straps on my best attempt)
4 rounds of chips, salsa and guacamole and 2 massive plates of nachos (the tally that 8 of us consumed–as a happy hour snack–on our final night in Tucson)