W.T.F.

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Is this it? The dream’s in the ditch. (Music by Deer Tick, Negativity, 2013)

(Hope my dad isn’t pissed…)

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One day you are living the “California Dream.” The next, you wake up in a new state, dream limousine gone- ditched because it wouldn’t stop rolling backwards, replaced by a van full of baggage, ready for unloading and resettling, leaving you wondering, “W.T.F.?”

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The W.T.F. sentiments have reverberated from family, friends, and fans, mostly in the forms of worried questioning.

“Are you going to keep running?” “What’s next?” Is this it?”

My Midwestern roots taught me that when tornado-like storms from higher powers come along, it is best to take action, fend for yourself, drive to a safer location, leave behind vehicle, and hide in some sort of fetal position till its safe to crawl back out again.

The dream is in the ditch, kids. And I jumped in right with it, cradling it as best I could for protection.

However, the monsoon season of my new location seems to have come and gone, the dust from my Mammoth departure has settled, and the air is finally clear. I think it is safe to emerge again and answer some questions…

Hello? Hi? I am alive. Shit. I am alive!

Live! And reporting to you from… Flagstaff, Arizona?

W.T.F. (?!?!?!)

“Is this it?”

Maybe… Aside from the occasional conversations I have with the neighboring horses and elk herd of my huge new haunted home in East Flagstaff, things have been quiet around here, and the countryside landscape has done the real inspirational talking as I get my feet back on the ground.

“What’s next?”

It seems my surroundings have awoken inner aspirations to wear a cool hat and become a park ranger at one of Arizona’s many national parks (Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Sunset Crater, Walnut Canyon, Wupatki… to name a cool few), while studying and working part-time to become a veterinarian at Second Chance Center for Animals, in hopes to save all of the cats in the world! Meow. And after hours, the numerous breweries back in town have me training to become the next world record holder in the Women’s Beer Stein Holding Competition. Watch out Oktoberfest 2016!

Okay. I’m kidding. Kind of. Maybe. I will place those dreams carefully back in the ditch for safekeeping and later use. Because they are still awesome.

“Am I still running?”

Of course I am still running! Good luck to the runner who moves to Flagstaff with any intention to run away from running. I highly doubt that will happen.

Flagstaff is the perfect place for me, the runner in me, and most likely the athlete in you, as well.

Let’s go for a little run-about through town and take a glimpse at what I have learned about life in Flagstaff thus far…

  1. You aren’t the only athlete here. Hardly never.  Sorry wanna-be hipsters of the athletic world (I include myself here.) Your story isn’t new, unique or entirely special here. Earth to you, earth to the runners… Get back down to earth and tread with the rest of the athletes vying for similar goals and bad-assery in Flagstaff. You want special treatment because you had a 20 miler today? Your boss just hiked up that mountain, and back. Through hail. And lightening storms. He may have fought off a bear too. W.T.F. So yeah… tell me about your 20 miler again… Yawn! Go have another PBR, pretend to like it, and tell me about your problems never again.
  2. Your competitors are your cheerleaders.  Inside the cocoon of individual competitiveness residing within most Flagstaff-onians, emerges a common sense of understanding and support. There are at least two professional running teams that call Flagstaff permanent home (Team Run Flagstaff and Hoka One One NAZ Elite), not to mention the free-range but seriously talented self-agents of the sport… and then there are the mountain and ultra trail runners, and the old-timers of the sport too. Besides the more permanent faces around town, there is a constant slew of visitors and new faces that take on temporary training stints at altitude. In the center of town, Northern Arizona University attracts and develops young talent in the sport, adding to the already deep pool of lithe bodies in short shorts, running rampant and half naked around Flagstaff. No matter the brand of the shoes, the logo on the shorts, or the team name across the heart, there seems to be a deep-rooted pride for the place we all call home, one that has helped build and change our bodies to become top competitors on the national and international level. Never have I been involved in a community in which most egos are brushed aside, replaced by a solid hometown pride as familiar faces of Flagstaff compete and represent on the track, road, and trail battlegrounds. A quote from Hoka One One Northern Arizona Elite coach, Ben Rosario sums up the belief here well: “Somebody from Flagstaff will make the [Olympic] team.” And I have heard that same belief echoed throughout town from various squads and individuals. In the end we all understand what it takes to get here, what it takes to live and train here, what it takes to pay rent here.. (seriously W.T.F.!), and what it will take to swipe a coveted spot on that dream limo ride to Rio 2016.
  3. You can enjoy your Bagel Run, free.  Free of purchase. Free of gluten. Free of dairy. But not free of friendly company… The “Bagel Run” does not refer to some strange activity in which you must consume bagels and race, but rather refers to the meeting spot on Thursday mornings for local runners outside of Biff’s Bagels in historic, downtown Flagstaff. From here, the group hits the Urban Trail system to log some miles of his/her choice while sharing conversation with the various athletes that roam town. It’s an opportunity to mix up the normal week of workouts with a dose of new camaraderie and conversations. I myself was at first overwhelmed and surprised at the number of runners gathered on the corner, almost hesitant to join in on the parade.  However, it has turned into one of my favorite days of the week, especially being new to town and eager to make friends. I highly recommend showing up at least once on a Thursday morning to see what the Bagel Run is all about. In addition, it might be nice to stop into Biff’s afterwards for a coffee or treat, gluten full or free. It’s the least you can do in exchange for the blinding view of runners’ thighs outside of their storefront window so early in the morning.
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    Gathering outside of Biffs for the Bagel Run and making the general public uncomfortable (Photo by: Soh Rui Yong)

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    Bagel Run (Photo by Matt Llano)
  4. You won’t run out of road or trail.  Three months in, and I am continuously still getting lost (W.T.F.) as I continuously get led to new meeting places for runs all around Flagstaff. There are the iconic workout locations such as Lake Mary Road and Buffalo Park where one is sure to run into a few or more of our breed, and they are iconic for a reason. Then there are the popular dirt roads such as A1, Woody Mountain, Waterline, Old Walnut Canyon to name a few. On days where there is more freedom to explore on your own, pick up a trail map from the Run Flagstaff store, or just drive for three minutes around town. You are sure to find a new path to explore… and who knows what you will find.  The trails and roads behind my house have kept me busy exploring the San Fransisco Peaks, Lockett Meadow, and prime elk hunting grounds. If Flagstaff suddenly has you desiring more, forty minutes down the road, you can visit Sedona for an entirely new experience exploring the red rock country.  This place has me considering a dirt bike so I can cover more ground before I die. There is no way I can see it all by foot in a lifetime.
  5. You won’t run out of beers either.  The promise of good brews is surely good news.  Especially with all the miles Flagstaff has to offer in training and exploration, it is comforting to know I won’t go carb-deficient or thirsty when I am out and about. The promise of quality beer and a fine selection at that, also helps to lure me back to civilization when I am often too content wandering the back roads of my backyard for hours. It may be surprising to people that I have yet to visit all the breweries in town, not to mention I haven’t even touched the breweries in Sedona or Phoenix or Camp Verde or Oak Creek Canyon. W.T.F. Lauren.. What have you been doing this whole time?! But that proves to be evidence for my claim. Although Flagstaff has not been fully experienced and brew-tasted by yours truly, I will give an opposable thumbs up to the Historic Brewing Company for their Opposable IPA. First of all, it involves a dinosaur logo. Second of all, the brewery is nearest to my house all the way out east in the boonies. Third of all, it is damn T-rexing good. Mother Road, Dark Sky, Wanderlust, Beaver Street, Flagstaff, and Lumberyard (am I missing any) also offer promising pints of goodness. I have many cheers and beers left in me, so I guess I can stay here for awhile. 11899940_10204480817452817_8150575288145455820_n

 

I think I will end my W.T.F. observations here for now. I’ve got more running and beer tasting to attend to.

Hope I finally answered some questions about my disappearance and attempts to salvage the dream. The chase isn’t always sunshine and flowers and rainbows… sometimes it involves taking a few risks, getting dirty, and digging yourself out of a ditch. However, I am thankful that the community of Flagstaff has made this continuing journey less of a nightmare and more a dream.

By the way, W.T.F. means “Welcome to Flagstaff.”

W.T.F. did you think I was saying?