Running Out West

I recently had the opportunity to travel out West to visit San Diego, CA and Phoenix, AZ. I have never run in such opposing climates within a week’s time. Immediately upon arriving in California I was greeted by no humidity (coming from Virginia) and temperatures climbing to a mere 73 degrees. Not only was it cool, it was also cloudy aka a runner’s paradise. Perfect timing for my long run! Starting from the place we were staying in downtown San Diego, my boyfriend, Andrew and I headed towards the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. Weaving in and out of people at Balboa Park we made our way towards some trails across the street. Just before descending in you have an amazing view of the windy dirt path ahead as well as the several other trails that connect. Running through this maze, we popped out into a neighborhood where we continued to explore the area. California surprisingly had a couple of gnarly hills to offer up. One so steep I could almost reach my hand out in front and touch the ground. I can’t escape it! Throughout the run I couldn’t stop thinking of how it could possibly be this nice ALL YEAR ROUND and how lucky every runner out here was. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed my 8.5 miles underneath the palm trees.

Trails in San Diego on a beautiful day

Just as quickly as I had gone from sticky, hot Virginia to the beautiful, welcoming West Coast, I arrived in Arizona. Andrew has lived in Arizona for almost a year now and has since acclimated (mostly) to the extreme heat. I am not sure that a person ever fully gets used to temperatures that high. Ignoring the extreme heat warnings, Andrew and I packed almost 4 liters of water and head out on the trail for a six-mile run in the cool 115 degree temperatures. Andrew told me it would be mainly flat so I was thinking it wouldn’t be too aggressive…just stop in the shade whenever I got too hot. I have on a tank top and running shorts and therefore only spray sunscreen on my arms exposed and face. A mistake I regret because as soon as we get to the trail head I ditch the tank. I wrap a rag soaked in cold water around my head and we begin. The first mile was great! I could do this…the heat wasn’t so bad and my mouth was just a little dry. If we stop every mile and drink water we could get through this no problem! It was halfway through the second mile where I realized the heat was a little more oppressive. It was also around this time that a heavier set man passes us on a bike wearing a sweatshirt. That’s right…a sweatshirt. Andrew said it was to protect his arms from the sun but I think I would rather risk sunburn than a full on heatstroke. I couldn’t help but look at him in amazement. Carrying on there is minimal to zero shade offered by this trail. Every tree I see has no leaves and only branches! At one point Andrew and I sit on the ground to rest only to get up soon because even the ground has gotten too hot for our liking. That flat trail Andrew had promised is now all uphill.

At this point we have run about three miles and the remainder of our run is now a walk. Even walking seems like a struggle at times. Luckily, Andrew had frozen a water bottle the night before and I continue to douse the rag around my head with cold water. We take the quickest way back and I feel like I am a rotisserie chicken in an oven getting slowly roasted. Every time the wind blows it is a blast of hot dry air over my body. Our escapade has now lasted 2 hours and the parts of my body I didn’t spray with sunscreen are fried. As we are walking the final stretch Andrew asks if I would rather die by freezing to death or by the extreme heat. I immediately reply by freezing to death (anything cold sounds like heaven right now). Even though this “run” has been downright brutal, I wouldn’t change a thing. Every run provides an opportunity to learn and now I know our next run in Arizona should be at night :)