Letter From a Board Member: Running Vacation
By: Geoff Dunbar
Hello UVRC, from your longest serving board member! The missive on “Letter from a board member” is: “Write about whatever you want.” So, today, let’s talk about vacation running!
Nancy and I are fairly new empty-nesters, for two years now. Finally freed from February swim meets, math competitions, etc., etc., we have resolved to flee the winter for vacation once a year. Preferably in February, but late January or early March will do in a pinch. Personally I think February is the worst, but Nancy leans early March.
Last year, we went to Tucson in February. It’s warm enough, Nancy grew up there, and we both love Mexican food. Investigating the trip, I noticed that the Saguaro half marathon was taking place the week we were planning to go! This is a tourist focused half in the Saguaro national park, just east of Tucson. We were in!
Now, I wouldn’t normally run a half marathon in February. Putting in the long runs in the middle of winter; well, it’s possible, but definitely not enjoyable! Plus, generally when I’ve trained hard through the cold winter here in New Hampshire, I’ve ended up injured, derailing the spring when it is actually pretty fun to run. So, this would be a half marathon run for completion and enjoyment, not for competition. Nancy went in with similar feelings. Our training was adequate, but no more.
We flew into Tucson the same weekend as the race. Being in the national park, the race start was quite early, but luckily the two hour time difference worked in our favor. There was some traffic getting into the park, but we weren’t worried about warming up or anything, so we were there in plenty of time. The sun was still hidden behind the mountains to the east, but there was plenty of dawn light to see the desert and mighty cacti all around. When the sun did start to peek over the mountains, it was quite magical.
The first two thirds of the race were rolling paved roads through the park. We were chatting through this section, admiring the views of the desert, not running too hard. I was starting to feel some fatigue as we hit single track dirt trails for the last third of the race. The trails were pretty gentle by New Hampshire standards, except for the occasional arroyo, but our pace definitely slowed through this portion. Spirits remained high, buoyed by the smattering of our fellow runners around us, and the beautiful views of the desert.
We finished in two hours and change, tired but not overly so. We made a pretty quick get-away, no need to stick around for awards or anything. That evening, delicious Mexican food at El Charro restaurant in downtown Tucson.
Overall, running this race for fun on vacation was a great time. Being in warm(ish) sunny weather in February was a perfect respite from the bitter winters of New England. I’m definitely keeping my eyes open for future warm weather races to do in our winter getaways. Maybe empty-nesting isn’t so bad!