Sometimes, life calls you away from TOTS. For no good reason, you decide to leave the loping, sandy trails of Turkey Mountain and the band of thieves you've come to call your trail running crew, and pack your bags for a new adventure.
Damian Young and Clint Green are two TOTS members who recently relocated to the Phoenix, Arizona area in search of novel trails and new faces. Damian moved about three months ago, while Clint moved in May of 2018. They've faced all of the challenges of moving across county, from interviewing for new jobs to tackling housing, site unseen. Additionally, as TOTS members, they had the bonus test of finding a new trail running crew and home trail after having TOTS in their former lives.
When asked why they would ever leave TOTS for boring ol' Arizona, Damian and Clint cite the natural beauty and abundance of trails. Damian notes that there are, "seven plus national parks within a day's drive" and a "picturesque landscape". Clint specifies, "Most people just think of desert when they think of Arizona, but did you know the largest alpine forest is (here)?...There is so much beauty in this state, I'll never be able to see it all...but I'll try."
Running in a new location can be a fun addition to a race for the weekend, but adjusting to an entirely new topography and regional culture for everyday running is a different story. Clint also notes that, "The main difference, other than the terrain, is the heat in Phoenix." He does note that the heat index in Tulsa feels worse because it is "like you're breathing through a wet rag.", but also comments that the dry heat in his new home is dangerous because you don't even notice becoming dehydrated. "It's a learning process". Damian focuses on the variety of trails: "Now, I run more than just Turkey Mountain and Chandy Land."
In terms of finding a new running family to replace the jovial faces of TOTS, Damian reflects that it takes time; "I haven't settled in on a group yet...I've only been here two and a half months, so we'll see where the chips may fall in terms of finding a regular run group." Damian and Clint share a history of discovering running families together; Damian remembers, "Clint is who introduced me to TOTS and originally took me into the running community in Tulsa, three years and a thousand miles ago. So him ushering me into Phoenix area running is as natural as peanut butter and jelly." Clint also relied on a friend to point him towards a worthwhile group. "My buddy Pete (Chavez) is pretty involved in the trail community here so I met people really fast. Pete introduced me to a group...called San Tan Trail Tunners. I've run with a few groups and...I've put on a couple of group runs myself." Damian does confidently add, "TOTS will always be my group."
Clint has a lot of insight into the organization style of Phoenix runners. "...There are several trail running groups across the valley. They all come together in one big group with Aravaipa Running. They're a local race company who also puts on group runs.
Both Clint and Damian remark that dogs are not as prevelant of a trail running feature in Phoenix, when compared to Tulsa. Clint says, "No dogs much because it's so hot." Damian answers in a meme form:
In terms of the other trail running staple, the hallowed post-run beer, Damian reports that it's treated similarly in Tulsa and Phoenix: "Only if you're running. Anything else is uncivilized." Clint adds on, "When we're done with our run, we go have a breakfast burrito and a beer."
The other core of TOTS is the mothership, AKA our beloved and messy Turkey Mountain. Damian explains that he hasn't quite found a home base in Phoenix, and is "still trekking through the Valley of the Sun, my friend." The regions he explores has "the same camaraderie but different terrain" when compared to Turkey, but he does note that Maricopa County just won an award for trail maintenance.
The trails in Arizona are shared by multiple interest groups. Damian says, "All the local non-profits and just great people share the interest of all the trails here." Clint adds, "A lot more climbing here...mountain biking is huge here and you really have to be on the lookout for them."
When asked what they would advise runners who are relocating to a new region, Clint and Damian have very different answers. Damian argues for Phoenix alone, insisting, " Jim Walmsley and the Cococino Cowboys are 2 hours away and Jamil Coury is 30 minutes...why would you not wanna live here?" Clint has more general words of wisdom: " Just get out there. One thing I've learned from all my travels is trail runner are the same everywhere...cool, chill people that love nature, running and beer. Find a local group and go to their group run; you'll learn the trails quicker that way and have instant friends."
Finally, Clint and Damian had some ideas on how TOTS can welcome the new members that will eventually fill the void they've left in our hearts. Damian encourages supporting the genuine connections of the group, asserting, "the stuff happening up there on that there mountain is special." Clint suggests, "Just be open to newbies and know that they are probably nervous about fitting in." He closes with his personal origin story in TOTS: "I remember how nervous I was when I first showed up for a TOTS run. I didn't know anybody. I was slow. I brought my ice chest filled with beer. After the run, I went over to the group, sat my little red ice chest down, grabbed a beer for myself and said, 'Help yourself, everybody. I'm not gonna drink it all'. Lil' Red has been coming to Turkey Tuesday ever since. Now you know the real backstory to Lil Red- my ice chest was my icebreaker!"