the 3rd best U.S. city to live in, really?

or how I survived, then escaped Fayetteville, Arkansas.

In my last post I was trying to make the best of a waiting game. I pretty much failed miserably. So after a full week in a very remote and uninteresting RV park 30 minutes from anywhere (including downtown Fayetteville where the “action” is), I cut my losses. The house sitting gig was postponed at least a month and I was already bored out of my mind and going stir-crazy in the trailer, cooped up because of the nasty weather. I tried to see what was out there – spent an afternoon exploring the cute old downtown

tandem tacos

area with its quirky shops and plethora of food/drink establishments. I even popped in the art center and perused the free gallery. I drug Tom to the Crystal Bridges museum up in Bentonville, which is very well done (and free!) but the outdoor spaces were hard to enjoy in the constant gray drizzle. Aside from checking out a local bakery for lunch after a bike ride my last day, we ate at home, so that’s boring. I ran around the golf course where we were staying 3 times and the neighborhood across the shoulder-less street once. We used our free 3 (or if you’re lucky 4) day pass at the Fayetteville Athletic Club then ventured to the rather strange Jones Center in Springdale. The sun finally came out so I rode the famed Razorback Greenway which was fine but is probably better the opposite direction.

But by the time I even rode the greenway and found the great bakery, I was leaving. I’d paid for my last night at the RV park and Tom had moved all his stuff out of the Airstream. He wanted to stay, had a little part time job lined up even. Not I. I’d spent the week emailing people about house sits, looking for camp hosting gigs, and checking out campgrounds on the Texas Gulf coast for a temporary distraction. In the end I decided to head back to Tucson and interview for the CPA job and see what happened. Of course I wanted to take my time along the way, no 9 hour drive days, no creepy parks by the interstate. Naturally that means a slightly more circuitous route.

First stop: Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, a whopping 100 mile drive for day 1. An old marathon maniac friend of mine promised plenty of curb space and a spare bedroom. She even agreed to go for a bike ride with me and color my hair! Full on girls weekend complete with lazy wine filled movie nights and puppy snuggles on the sofa. I did go for a run around a park in Tulsa and managed to swing a free lap swim at a super nice new YMCA. The plan was to run at Turkey Mountain on my way out of town but a nasty cold windy rainstorm called for Plan B. My friend scouted a trail at Lake Texoma (obviously on the state border) while I headed south towards Dallas.

It was a SUPER windy waterfront locale but at least the woods offered some shelter. I was scared just to leave the truck/trailer in the parking lot (at the boat ramp) while I ran and envisioned returning to find it twisted on its side.

Thankfully it survived. My run did not go as well. Maybe it was being cooped up in the car or just not used to steep rocky trails, but I struggled and when I ran into a huge brush pile blocking the trail I wasn’t too disappointed to turn around early.

I finally made it to the house of another old running friend (and coworker) who relocated to a suburb of Dallas 5 years ago from Charlotte. She and her husband were enthusiastic to host an Airstream and I just baaaarely fit between their driveway and the neighbor’s, fully blocking the mailbox. We had a girls’ catch up dinner out and she set me up in the office/makeshift guest room – girl has 3 kids, so full house! I would have slept in the trailer but it probably would have required blocks so I just went with the air mattress and central heat.

The Base Performance guys were in town for a conference and suggested meeting up the next day which meant I definitely would not make the 300 mile drive west to Big Spring. My friend graciously offered to let me crash a second night and I promised to get out of their hair for family activities after school. She did my strength workout with me, then I ran in the glorious sunshine. Afterwards I set up my trainer in the driveway so her 19 month old got the bike ride bug and they all went for a family cruiser ride. So happy to inspire people to be active – she confessed she hadn’t found a group to train with and hadn’t run in years.

I reluctantly unhitched the trailer and drove into the city to meet the guys at the triathlon conference. I crashed the session Matt was speaking at then we all crashed the cocktail party and dinner. It was quite an entertaining evening – from the feisty table mates arguing the merits of retail stores, to the humorous awards, to my new friend who educated me about commercial bee farming. I tried not to be offended when the Active representative informed me my upcoming “ironman” is not an Ironman and I should not refer to it as such. Hashtag no M dot tattoo for me. Bozo.

It was a fun night, however late (mostly due to a zealous Canadian guy trying to teach me how to swim, at the bar in the Fairmont lobby), but I was up and on the road by 8:15 when the family left for work and school. LA Fitness Arlington didn’t know what was in store for them. In order to swim, I needed a pool, obviously, so I parked in like an entire row, which seemed like no big deal at 9am. Of course there was a blue hair water aerobics class til 10am though so I did an hour of HIIT first and didn’t end up leaving til noon by the time it was all said and done (ie. shower and smoothie). The parking lot had filled up a bit but I managed to get out okay, phew! Off to West Texas, finally.

Nothing very interesting about driving I-20 west for a couple hundred miles. I got creative at a very busy Love’s truck stop and even bought my first box of DEF. The West Texas Friendly RV Park I had picked, based on reviews, was pretty far south of Big Spring and nothing remarkable about it. No reservation, no problem. Sweet host couple got me situated and I headed into town for a grocery – praying for better than a Wal-mart, since I’d lost almost all my food due to the fridge not staying cool by using propane like I was told it was set to do… Google Maps directed me through some very dodgy neighborhoods to an amazing new store called Porter’s where I found all kinds of organic and vegan (and overpriced) goodies. A young man even walked my 2 bags of groceries to my car and called me ma’am. Oh my.

The evening passed watching cable and booking campgrounds in New Mexico (and airing out the trailer from the stinky food situation). So much to see, so little time. But why rush it? Maybe I won’t rush it. We’ll see. At $14/night the state campgrounds with hookups are pretty appealing.

Before leaving town I towed the trailer through Big Spring State Park to check out the view. The drive was a bit sketchy – rocky cliffs to one side, boulders and cacti to the other… wind was still pretty insane with no plans to let up. The day would entail long stretches on state highways with nothing to see but cotton fields and oil derricks. It was beautiful.

Then I arrived in the desert.

5000k later

Since I’m in Canada at present, Google Maps calculated my total travel distance in kilometers, so there ya go. That’s roughly how far I’ve traveled since leaving Charlotte a mere 18 days ago – not how much I’ve spent on the way – don’t worry Mom!! Blessedly I’ve actually been in Whistler for a couple nights and haven’t been behind the wheel much. Good thing because my right hip was starting to really hurt and my shoulder pain on the bike may have been from driving funny too. As though training on the road hasn’t been tricky enough, add in being cramped up in a car for 7-9 hours a day, access to my favorite sports chiros and massage therapists, and it’s really a miracle I’m still holding up as well as I am.

But just because my body seems to be hanging on, doesn’t mean my head isn’t fighting some serious battles. Today was a bit of a crisis mentally.

Whistler is gorgeous. Crystal blue lakes, rushing rivers, pine forests, mountains, chalets, 5 star resorts… and so active – mountain bikers literally everywhere, not just all the triathletes in town for Ironman Canada. The trail system is incredible, both paved and unpaved. Yesterday morning I explored the Riverside trail out past the suspension bridge and was just in absolute heaven running thru the forest on the rolling path next to the river rapids (after I accidentally spent the first 15 minutes scaling a mountain on what was clearly the wrong path meant only for cracked out mountain bikers willing to risk life and limb plummeting down >45 degree inclines on 2 wheels). Alas I could not join all the racers swimming in the lake (bc I only have core shorts and not a full wetsuit) but I thoroughly enjoyed relaxing on the dock while the pros got a feel for the water. This morning Kel and I scouted out the run course on our bikes and I cannot WAIT to run a loop tomorrow bc it is so scenic (and doesn’t scale a mountain). But then I headed out for another 2 hours on my own and was smacked upside the head with a stark dose of reality about my cycling abilities, or rather lack thereof. I wasn’t in a rush by any means but when the racers zipped by me like I was standing still – not even while climbing! – I started seriously questioning how in the world I’ll be ready for my own race in just 8 weeks. The weather was playing tricks on me and I hadn’t fueled at all during the first hour and basically when I followed the course as it turned onto the road heading out to the cross country skiing venue, I just hit a wall. But I kept climbing. And climbing. And climbing. And when those racers that had sped past me passed me going back from whence we came, I decided it was about time to turn around. There was a woman on some fancy cross country ski type roller blades with poles and a helmet and everything going faster up the incline than I was. I was humiliated. The descent was scary as crap. The 500ft of climbing in 2.2 miles was excruciating and the 500ft of descending in 2.2 miles was frightening. And of course it left me at the bottom of the “hill” again so getting back on the highway and climbing 400ft in the next 2.5 miles with trucks, motor homes, and cocky sports car drivers whizzing by me at 70mph had me considering somersaulting over the concrete barriers into rocky ravines as a more pleasant alternative. But the real low point was pulling off and texting SOS messages to Kelly while trying to hold back tears of frustration. Eventually I made it back to my airbnb and after I fixed my blood sugar problem and peeled off my muddy kit, my host drove me back to where I’d left my car since my legs were too shaky to ride there myself. Any confidence I gained from riding 112 miles at 18mph with the Iron Cowboy was shot to hell today when I averaged just over 13mph for a mere 32 miles.

It’s just one day. One really hard bad ugly make you want to throw in the towel day. There have been some great days though. And I can only imagine that on race day I’ll have plenty of time to draw on the joy of the amazing trail runs and the pain of suffering through mountain climbs. And I get to go to bed tonight knowing that I am not one of the crazies waking up and racing that ridiculous bike course tomorrow.