Tuesday, February 28, 2023

 RunSedona Half Marathon

A New Adventure with an Old Friend

    I had a feeling the vortex would somehow draw me back to this majestic town and no, not the one in the toilet at the bike shop. Only this time it didn't involve two wheels, but rather 13.1 miles of running on beautiful Dry Creek, Long Canyon, and Boynton Canyon roads. Feeling the need to get randy and challenge myself, I registered for the RunSedona Half Marathon on February 4th, 2023.

    Until this point, I had completed one official half marathon (previous article), and two unofficial ones, the hardest being a trail version I had pieced together at the Middlesex Fells.  Shortly after, disaster struck again as I caught that lovely virus for the third time while battling my nagging upper GI issues. After a number of weeks on the sidelines I finally turned the corner. I am happy to report at the time of writing this article, I am finally on track with my health and feel great. 
    Prior to race day, I had the opportunity to kick around Sedona and take in some of the sights I missed last time. Coffee is always on the menu so I hit up Layla's to start the day. Delicious food and coffee with a comfortable chill atmosphere sum it up. Highly recommended.

    I explored several neighborhoods in my rental, walked around downtown, and conversed with random people from around the country. Straight up, Sedona is just a cool city. Tons of art and Native American influence all wrapped up in a breathtaking package. The backdrop of Red Rocks just puts your soul at ease and you feel this unexplainable yet powerful connection to the elements. I also love that it's a Dark Sky Community.

    Random piece of useless knowledge... Sedona has the only McDonald's on the planet where the golden arches are not golden.

    After a bit of meandering, I took one of my favorite drives up Route 89A north to Flagstaff, a city I fell in love with on the last trip. Two to three thousand feet higher and twenty-plus degrees colder I had arrived.

    I managed to sneak in a quick hike at Buffalo Park to enjoy views of the San Francisco Peaks before heading back to Sedona. Upon arrival at Munds Park, I was greeted by a small yet enthusiastic crowd where everyone was picking up their bibs and race swag.  

    The morning of the race was pretty chill and pretty chilly. Race-time temps ended up landing in the mid-fifties. My Air BnB was literally around the corner from the event so it was a short walk to the start line. 
    According to the Air BnB owner, I had just missed, within minutes, the one thing I was dying to see on this trip. In my last Sedona adventure, I was in search of the Vortex and its magical powers, but this trip was to actually cross paths with a Javelina.  Not exactly a boar, not quite a pig, this thing is something in between, sitting in its own category of animal. I guess there is always next time, but I did get a t-shirt with one!

    Upon arrival at the venue, I was taking in the amazing view while feeling all of the great energy from the people. Pink Floyd played in the background as the cattle were herded toward the start gate. Off we went past the hospital and onto route 89A for around a mile before turning onto Dry Creek Road where the views were just simply stunning around every turn. The course had a fair amount of elevation gain, but at times my legs would've argued I was climbing K2. 

    The turnaround point took us deeper into Long Canyon where the racers were greeted by volunteers at an aid station. What made this station unique, and albeit a touch creepy, was that all the staff including the men were dressed like Wednesday from the Addams Family. Wave that freak flag and you do you baby! Thank you for the water and putrid-looking "electrolyte drink." If I wake up somewhere with drool on myself and my pants around my ankles, I will know why.

    With four or so miles left in the race, I had crossed over a creek bed and the sun had hit my face right at the time my legs were starting to protest. It is hard to describe, but something just told me to close my eyes and be in the moment. For a few moments, I felt weightless, free, and completely at peace. Was it endorphins? The magic of Sedona? Or that questionable beverage at the aid station? I wasn't entirely certain, but god damn did it feel amazing. I will never forget it. Crossing the finish line, I had just finished my hardest race to date, but one hundred percent the most rewarding. 

     I didn't stick around too long after to celebrate, but I enjoyed some food and small talk with some volunteers. Shortly after walking back to my Air BnB, I got an email from Jet Blue saying my red-eye home was canceled. Fantastic...so thirty minutes later I booked a $350 flight home on Delta. 

    During my final hours in Sedona, I reflected on the trip, but more interestingly the many people I met along the way. Greg and Dawn, Air BnB owners, were genuinely nice and down-to-earth people who offered some perspective on what life is like living in Sedona. I hammed it up with a couple from New York where we relived the many rivalries between the Yankees and Red Sox. The day before I found myself sitting on a balcony at a restaurant chatting with Josh and Miranda from New Mexico. Apparently, neither of them had seen the ocean which I thought was incredible, but they spoke so highly of New Mexico that I now have it much higher on my list of boxes to check.

    And then there were the two heavily intoxicated women I sat next to on the flight from Dulles to Phoenix.  This part of the story could've been the makings of an after-school special, but I will reserve the details for when we see each other in person. Either way, one of the best parts of travel is the people you meet and the stories they tell. You often take home a compilation CD of lessons learned and put your life into perspective while developing a renewed sense of your journey. 

    Before enjoying a delicious lunch at the Javelina Cantina, I made one last stop before driving south to Phoenix. After a short hike to the top of Airport Mesa, I took the opportunity to take in the views of the city one last time. I still could not believe how beautiful this place was. I will most definitely return, hopefully with my daughter to show her this gem of the Southwest. 

    As I was getting up to leave it hit me out of nowhere, this feeling like something was different, something in ME was different...What was it and what could this mean?! Time will tell, but at that moment I realized I was standing in the middle of a vortex. Found it!

To all of my Brothers and Sisters, enjoy the journey and the unique experiences that come with it. Revel in the beauty, embrace the hard work, and reflect with gratitude. Keep chasing your Javelina!

Until next time my fellow Racer-X'ers...

Keep it Classy and Keep it Real,

Jason (J-Bone) Fitzgerald