This morning I ran an 11-mile out and back alongside the Rillito River in Tucson, Arizona. The paved trail runs for 12 miles along both sides of the dry riverbed, which makes it perfect for long running. The trail is the main attraction of the Rillito River Park and includes a few handy bathrooms and water stops along the way. I was told that the route is popular for elite training, and that Meb Keflezighi and others have been spotted streaking by.
When I travel, I tend to look for new running adventures, and in preparing for this journey to visit my mother in Tucson, I learned that one of her colleagues at the UAZ, writer Ander Monson, is also a runner (check out Ander’s excellent website, which links to his publications and other projects). Ander and I had an email dialogue about where we are in our training schedules, and since today was his last long run before tapering for a half marathon next weekend, I thought I’d join and see if I could keep up. We had a great run, and, as often happens when sharing the trail with a new friend, we geeked out with running stories.
Ander ran with a stroller, and Athena, his 18 month old daughter, spent the morning scanning for dogs and horses, cooing her approval, and periodically tossing socks, a frisbee golf disc, and a pink sippy cup onto the tar. Ander and I both felt strong on the first half of the run. It was relatively cool, in the 70s, when we set out at 8:15 a.m. There was a light breeze at our backs, and we were chatting easily, running a pace in the high 8s. At the turnaround point, we took a quick break for nourishment—a clementine, honey almond butter, and a few crackers—and began the run back. After a quarter mile, the wind picked up dramatically. We were suddenly running straight into the hot sun, against a blasting headwind. I started to heat up, and though it felt like we were maintaining a steady pace, we’d slowed down quite a bit. The gusts were also kicking up desert sand from the riverbed, and I was wishing I’d brought my shades. Finally, with a single mile left–a long single mile–we stopped to refill our water bottles. Ander soaked his hat under the faucet and popped it back on his head. I followed suit–what a great way to cool down!
As we made our way back to the parking lot, I realized that my legs and feet still felt great and that I had no hip pain. My hips had been a bit sore over the last few weeks, and on my first day in Tucson, I’d decided to do some sneaker research (this practice inevitably leads to sneaker shopping!). Hokas had been highly recommended by a friend, but I’d always thought they looked bulky; they’re not! Back in Maine, thinking I needed more cushion, I’d tried on the new Adidas Ultra Boost, but the price tag of $180 was a turn off, not to mention the 10.6 oz. weight. The Saucony Triumph ISO (9.0 oz.) is one of my favorites–my current shoe–but I like mixing it up a bit. At Fleet Feet in Tucson, I tried out the Hoka Cliftons and knew they were perfect the second I put them on. They might look bulky but they weigh 6.6 oz with no sacrifice in cushion. At $130, the Hokas aren’t inexpensive, but out of the box they felt great for 11 miles. I’m a fan.
A new friend in my running posse, fresh sneakers, and 80° desert temps after a long Maine winter…what a great day!