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Goodbye desert

I am really looking forward to the environment we will find in Texas; green trees, grass, and lush plant life. But there is one aspect of nature I will completely miss from Arizona: desert views and rocky mountains. I’ve had a love affair with South Mountain over these last few years and saying goodbye has been difficult. This weekend I went out with a friend to run it one last time. My husband and I want to cram in one more hike if we have time once we’ve wrapped up the last of our packing. But this pristine playground will no longer be a few miles from our front door.

I took a few photos during yesterday’s run, it was a perfect cloudy morning.

Hidden Valley, South Mountain

Hidden Valley, South Mountain

Early morning at South Mountain

Early morning at South Mountain

cactus

The desert has been really good to me. It helped to inspire me to wake up at the crack of dawn for over a year now to get out there and run it. It will be missed, but I am excited to explore new terrain in Austin and elsewhere in Texas!

Just a few days left, and we are out of here. SURREAL.

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The stars at night, are big and bright

Deep in the HEART of TEXAS!

Pee-Wee Texas

 

It’s finally happening! Matt got a promotion/transfer with his company and we are moving to Austin, TX. This has been our goal for what seems like forever. It feels unreal that it’s actually happening. Before I moved to Arizona I used to live in Austin. I miss living there. Matt fell in love with it years ago when we first visited the city together. We knew it was the place for us. There’s a handful of cities we’ve talked about over the years that we thought would be a fun, interesting location to live. Unsurprisingly most of the places we like have a much higher cost of living than Arizona which would make it difficult to consider (thankfully, Texas is pretty similar). Being in Austin also means I get to be near my family, who live in Houston (I am SO HAPPY I will just be a car ride from them!!!). The company Matt works for has 2 locations that are in line for his career goals: Austin or Phoenix. We knew we didn’t want to stay here forever, so when this spot became available in Austin it was was a dream come true!

I will miss my desert. I will especially miss South Mountain, my favorite place to trail run. But there are miles and miles of greenbelt and trails where we are going, which just means a different environment in which to hike and run. I know I will always miss SoMo but I am not worried about being able to find new outdoor venues to fall in love with. I am not going to miss the AZ summers, they’re brutal. For several months it’s so damn hot the temperature barely drops even after the sun has set. Texas summers are hot too, don’t get me wrong, but there are cooler mornings and evenings that make it much easier to handle even the hottest days. This has become a bigger concern ever since I’ve been running. This last summer in Arizona was more torturous than previous ones because I knew the only chance I had at running for practically 5 months straight was waking up as the sun rose and being done before it was too high in the sky, to avoid possible heat stroke. There was such a short window to get a run in. But those desert views – I will definitely miss those views.

I am very excited to discover new spots! I already know I love Lady Bird Lake (just called Town Lake back when I lived there), I used to love taking my dog for walks around it. Hell, that was even one of the places I made a few failed attempts at running years ago. I also used to spend time wandering through parts of the greenbelt around Austin, but looking at maps I see there is still so much of it I have yet to see. Austin just has so much for outdoorsy types like myself and my husband, I am ready to explore. If you are familiar with Austin and have any suggestions for great places to run/hike/bike, feel free to add it to the comments!

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Progress – September to November 2014

I haven’t done an official “progress” post in months. Not much to report, other than I’m really dialed in with maintaining. Still hitting right in the 120-125 range I aim for.

Finally, cool weather! Hitting up my normal weekly runs, as well as mixing in some hiking and biking as well.

IMG_0333

South Mountain, gloomy day

Running South Mountain

Running South Mountain

Screen grab by Matt of me running South Mountain

Screen grab by Matt of me running South Mountain

I’ve been running at my work’s gym during the week a lot but now that the temperature dropped I think I will be able to just go running outdoors after work. Finally! I mean, it’s November already for Christ’s sake. It’s about damn time I can go running in the afternoon without roasting alive.

Hiked/ran a mountain new to me today. North Mountain.

North Mountain, view of Phoenix

North Mountain, view of Phoenix

It was cool, pretty steep but a little less intense than Camelback. Hiked up and ran down, nice little workout!

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was able to model for a local photographer, as she was looking for tattooed people to shoot. I got the photos back, and I really love them!

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Photo by Araya Photography

Thrilled. (If you are local to AZ and want a great portrait photographer, check out Araya Photography.) I don’t know how to say this without sounding a little lame: I feel pretty. It’s really fun to see photos of myself that look so nice! When I saw the first one, my mind was blown. I didn’t actually recognize myself at first. I recognized the tattoos before my own face. Weird, right?

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Hiking and climbing

I enjoy trying new things, I want to avoid total repetition (and a potential rut). I have been hiking, running, and biking for awhile now. I absolutely love all three,  but I was open to trying something a little different. A friend invited me to go check out Echo Canyon at Camelback Mountain with her. This still falls under the category of hiking but it has A LOT more climbing involved. The climb is nearly 1300 feet, whereas my normal steep incline at South Mountain is just over 800 feet. Camelback has a much more intense incline as well, it’s not switchbacks but instead steep boulders throughout most of it.

It was a beautiful journey throughout. Strenuous. And to be honest, parts of it were a little scary to me. One part of the trail definitely gave me a feeling of vertigo.

Here are a couple of pictures from that first trip. This is the view looking up at the mountain, near the parking lot:

Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon, Arizona

Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon – looking up

This photo was taken of me at the top of the climb:

IMG_9403

I was thrilled by it. The next day, my body was sore all over! I used so many muscles to pull and steady my balance, scrambling up and down giant rocks. I felt tender not only in my legs but my arms and sides. I knew that this provided a completely different type of cardio than I was used to. After one trip I really wanted to try it again. I told my husband about the hike and he was interested. My best friend hooked up to do some hiking so the three of us hit it again today.

I wanted to try to get a photo to try and provide a little perspective of how steep some of the climb is:

Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon trail

Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon – looking down

I don’t think pictures do this place justice.

Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon - Sunrise

Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon – sunrise

Gorgeous.

 

I’ve been continuing with long trail runs every Sunday at too. During the last two my running buddies and I have been doing a 7.3 mile at South Mountain by going to “the waterfall” and back. There is no actual water, instead there’s a steep section of boulders – more famous with mountain bikers.

I took a photo from a ledge on it this weekend:

View from "The Waterfall" National Trail, South Mountain

View from “The Waterfall” National Trail, South Mountain

Plus an artsy photo I took and played with, just for the fun of it:

National Trail, South Mountain

National Trail, South Mountain

Another exquisite Arizona sunrise, taken at South Mountain:

National Trail, South Mountain - sunrise

National Trail, South Mountain – sunrise

I am completely addicted to beautiful sunrises.

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Alright already, summer

Enough! I’m ready for fall! Living in the Arizona desert is rough. Every summer is torture. You wake up and look out at what appears to be a beautiful sunny day only to feel the burn akin to opening an oven when you step outside.

Now that we are about halfway through September the extreme heat is winding down some. That’s good news since my absolute favorite way to exercise is to get outside and explore with running, hiking, and biking. My rad husband Matt took some very flattering photos of me last weekend on a hike (Fat Man’s Pass, South Mountain, AZ):

Fat Man's Pass, South Mountain, AZFat Man's Pass, South Mountain, AZFat Man's Pass, South Mountain, AZ

I’m going to level with you: I’m sharing these purely for vanity reasons. I’m feeling really good about how fit my body is and I love these photos! I’m not ashamed to admit it, I work hard and I know this is the best shape my body has ever been in. I’m proud of myself.

I’ve decided after a lot of careful consideration that when my gym membership expires this month I won’t be renewing it. I get bored at the gym. If need be I can always join again, but I want to focus on outdoor activities now even if it means waking up at the crack of dawn to beat the heat. I’ve been lucky enough to befriend active folks and be invited with various  groups to go running; plus there is my eternal partner in crime Matt who is always down to hike and bike. Big decision for me and my routine, but it makes sense. My work also just put in a gym at their new building too, so I figure I can always use that if there is a crap weather day.

Plan in place. Less indoors… adventure it is.