Arizona Distance Camp

A few weeks ago, I attended the Arizona Distance Camp in the Prescott Mountains. This camp featured a rock-star lineup of camp counselors, so I was really excited to learn from some of the best distance runners of our time.

We arrived at the Mingus Mountain ranch and were immediately greeted by camp founder, James Bonnett, and assigned to our cabins in the beautiful pine forest. Shortly after, we headed out for a night run with headlamps. Note to self – altitude delays my reflexes. After getting up close and personal with the trail, and a little bloodshed, camp was off to a great start. But what’s a trail running camp without some scars?

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Saturday runners had a choice among one of three distances for their morning run. Not knowing how my body and fibromyalgia would do with the lack of sleep and multiple runs each day, I went for the short distance. Too much paying attention to my feet to avoid falling again led to a slight course detour. After debating about the pink marker that we had found – and that it was too fuchsia to be one of James’s pink markers, we called our fearless leader to help get us back on course. Part of me wishes that we could have wandered around a bit longer. Who knew that getting lost could be so much fun?

After the morning run and breakfast, we prepared for our first speaker of the weekend, Ian Torrence. Anyone who has been in the trail and ultra running world for any period of time will surely recognize his name and history in this sport. His talk – “Fueling for the Long Run” – yielded pages and pages of notes, but one of the most important takeaways: Make a detailed race day nutrition plan. Write it Out! This “fly by the seat of my pants” racer definitely needs to work on this.

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After lunch, Jenn Shelton was up with a lively talk where we learned what “wilderness” really means, and how to best prepare to navigate it. I.E., what do I do if I am really lost again. Her recap of setting the JMT FKT was hilarious, and very informative. Note to self – check out #sufferbetter.

Later in the day, the skies had opened up and it was pouring rain. Huge, marble-sized raindrops of rain. So the night trail run was OUT. But, cabin campfires with s’mores were definitely IN. I think this is my kryptonite- that, and anything with peanut butter and chocolate. But I digress.

Sunday morning, we were up bright and early to head off to nearby Jerome for the Jerome Hill Climb. If you haven’t done this race, it is a must-do bucket list event. Especially if you are a glutton for punishment.  The race actually starts about a mile south of the town of Jerome, so you have a short walk before you begin the 4.5 mile race that is all uphill. Yup, you read that right. And the kicker- after the race, you have to run downhill for 3.5 miles to get to your car. But, this definitely made for a great excuse to stop in Jerome for brunch, lunch or a mountain of French fries. Really, don’t we just eat constantly?

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After exploring around the old mining town of Jerome, we headed back to camp to get cleaned up for our first afternoon speaker, Emily Harrison. Her win from the morning after placing second at the USATF Trail Nationals in the 50k the week before, speaks for itself. And just to make sure that we really got our running in for the day, the next event was an Adidas shoe demo and tag-team race. I think I did pretty well with the cornhusk toss, maybe not so much with the following half-mile sprint after downing 3 slices of pizza. (Notice how I talk a lot about food? It’s part of the reason why we all run so much, right?)

I left the Prescott Mountains, immediately thinking about next year’s camp and how what I learned over those few short days will impact my running in the coming year. Without question, I would highly recommend that anyone still reading this blog post seriously consider attending next year. It will be one of the best decisions you ever make.

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