For the first official training camp of the 2013-2014 season the team headed south, to the state of Arizona.  The Grand Canyon state; Arizona being the 48th state to join the United States.  It was my first trip to Arizona.  We were always very close to the Grand Canyon but never really made it to the edge.  I flew over it, but does that count?  What I did explore of Arizona was incredible! I was able to train around Sunset Crater Volcano.  Roller skiing around the volcano, just before sunset, while catching glimpses of some amazing rock formations at the base of the volcano.  Then on the back side of the volcano, a road connects Sunset Crater to the Wapatki National Monument Park.  On my second trip up to Flagstaff, I roller skied from the Wapatki park to the volcano.  I spent three and a half hours covering a nearly 28 mile ski, all of which was up hill.  The landscape though it may be barren, still holds a great power to astonish. To top that there wasn’t a cloud to be seen all day.  The sun here in Arizona is unforgiving.  Even in Flagstaff, where it was cooler, the temperatures were easily in the mid to high thirties.

As we headed down to Phoenix for a few days of training there, we stopped by Slide Rock State Park.  It was a great afternoon having some fun in the water and sun.  A river flows over these rocks and they become very slippery once they are wet.  A few channels through the gorge bottom have formed and you ride the water currants down these channels.  Essentially they are natural water slides.  To add to the experience, there are a few cliff faces that make for great cliff jumping.  It was also a great way to cool off before we finally made it to Phoenix where the temperatures were markedly higher.  Reaching the low to mid forties each day we were there.

Fortunately we only had a handful of workouts in Phoenix.  We trained early in the morning to avoid the hottest parts of the day.  Though I did slip out for a few runs in the mid- afternoon heat.  It is something else to train when it’s over forty degrees outside.  It had a soothing feeling; a feeling of being relaxed and supple.  The heat does make everything very dry and dusty while you run.  After every run you need to scrub your legs to clean off the dust and forget trying to keep socks clean.  Once we found the trails, they seemed to never stop and all connecting to each other.  One day on a run, I had ran up the Weatherford Trail part way.  A few days later while going up to the highest point in Arizona, Humphreys Peak, I reached a saddle between two peaks and to the left was the remainder of the Humpdreys Peak, but to the right was the Weatherford Trail.  I can see why some of the best runners in the World come here to train.  That day I didn’t make the summit, just ran out of time and had to head back down.  That wasn’t sitting well with me or any of the other guys, so a few days later we returned to the Humphreys Peak trail and made the summit.  It turned out to be a much nicer day to reach the summit than the previous attempt.  Achieving the summit set a new personal altitude record at 12’633 feet or 3’852m.

While the team was training in Arizona; Canmore and Calgary, along with the countless other communities were experiencing Mother Nature’s true power, with devastating rainfall that creating some of the highest water levels in both the Bow and Elbow rivers.  A once in a hundred year event that left hundreds without a home to return to and turning mountain towns into isolated islands. Our traveling plans had the team returning two days after a state of emergency was declared for Canmore and Calgary.  Upon learning that there was no way into Canmore, with both major highways closed in both directions as well as the gravel road back-way into Canmore completely washed out.  The athletes decided to extend the training camp.  Insuring we would have the best possible training opportunities.  It was with heavy hearts we decided to stay, with thousands of people being evacuated from their homes; we all felt the need to return home.  We were checking up on our family and friends the whole time.  Watching the events occur through Twitter and Facebook.  Some of the photos I saw were unbelievable; Hollywood would have a hard time replicating them.  I thought a few times that I was watching a recently released post-apocalyptic film.

Once we did return it was awe-inspiring to see both what remained of the devastation but as well as what was returning to normal.  The spirit of the community here in Canmore and in Calgary couldn’t be beat.  I’m proud to take inspiration from that.

It proves that with the right support; No natural disaster or obstacle can stand in your way!

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