By: Paul Raynes
Predictable sunny weather, beautiful mountains, and abundant training opportunities, all reasons why Tucson Arizona became my home for the first two months of 2022.
At 2400 ft. of elevation, the valley of Tucson is a caldera, and the surrounding mountains the remains of an ancient collapsed volcano. Because of the beauty, weather, and available outdoor activities, Tucson has been my winter destination for the past four years.
Tucson has an expansive and highly accessible recreational parks system. Just down the road from my Airbnb casita, a large 158 acre indoor and outdoor recreational facility, Morris K. Udall Park. Udall Park became my primary destination for biking, running, and relaxed evening walks. The desertscape of the back half of Udall Park was a great place to run, and practice transitions off the bike – just me, a few rabbits, birds, roadrunners, and that one coyote that would trot by, stop, and stare at me like it was assessing my running mechanics.
From there, I had a direct link to the Chuck Huckleberry Loop (The Loop), nearly 140 miles of well-maintained interlinked paved trails – approximately 55 miles to circumnavigate the metro Tucson area. You’ll find exit points for gravel or mountain biking on certain areas of The Loop. Or, if desired, travel to one of the many specific off-road cycling destinations. Most major roads have wide bike lanes, however, for non-stop riding and safety reasons, I chose to stay on The Loop.
Tucson has a robust cycling community, great bike shops and features the annual November event, “El Tour De Tucson.”
Like many of the larger parks, Udall had an outdoor lap pool. Regrettably, it was not open during the winter months. I did find at least four outdoor pools with winter hours. The pool at William M. Clements Center, was a short drive from my casita. A drive well worth the 82-degree water, no reservations, and there was always a lane open. A mere $2, for out of towners.
Mount Lemmon is a must-see destination. A 9000 ft. mountain regularly used by the cycling community, sight seers, and hikers. If you’re so inclined, you’ll find a ski resort near 8,500 ft. of elevation. If you do visit Tucson, make sure to take Catalina Highway up the mountain. There’s hiking along the way, and great overlooks, like Windy Point. If you make it to the top, you’ll experience a significant change in eco systems, and have an opportunity to grab a bite to eat in the quaint little town of Summerhaven, some 26 miles up the mountain.
Apparently, I prepared for an Octathlon: road bike, running shoes, hiking shoes, swim gear, 20lbs. dumbbells, elastic bands, self-massage tools, and golf clubs. I used it all, including the golf clubs – I completed a ton of base training, and feel healthy. The sun and hikes into the mountains helped with the sense of health and wellness. After all, it’s not just about the physical being.
My thoughts have been on the purpose of the 2022 season, and during my stay, I received notice of an age group national qualification. Some of the reasons and excuses for not pursuing past qualifications no longer exist. So, why not take advantage of being the youngster at the bottom of the 65-69 age group?
A question to myself, a question of motivation… Questions of ambition regarding competitive endurance sports surfaced during my soul searching. Can passion transcend a waning competitive spirit?
It’s been a long journey, and as I enter my tenth age group, I question where my heart is, the desire for intensity, the intensity and discipline it takes for me to be my best.
I’ve learned over the years, if you want something, hangout with people on the same mission, and mind set. Place yourself with the right people, in the correct environment, and the energy will come.
Here in Southwest Michigan, we are also fortunate to be integrated into a large active community.
These communities don’t manifest on their own, and we are especially privileged to have organizations, athletic families, our Athletic Mentors Team – creating the environments where people are motivated to express their passion through athletics and healthy community engagement.
I’m going to do something this season, I’m just not sure what that something is… I do know, staying healthy and enjoying the moment is important to me.
Staying connected to the athletic community and team, will help me with that vision. The truth, I can use a nudge in the right direction, a word of motivation, and perspective…
To a safe and purposeful athletic season…
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