This Saturday morning, instead of running my easy miles solo, I got to do a real trail run with the Saturday Morning running crew! The stars were in alignment this week; my marathon training schedule called for 8 miles of General Aerobic speed with 8×100 strides, a perfect recipe for a trail run with my friends.
I emailed Kathy (our cruise director) on Wednesday and begged for an 8-mile trail run that wasn’t a brutal climb. She agreed that Whiterock would be a good choice because of the hill climb and several miles of interspersed flats. She sent out the Thursday email and the responses came pouring in. All told, there were 15 of us on the trail, a veritable Gaggle of Women.
I snapped this picture just before we set out; check out the STRONG, FIT, BEAUTIFUL women! :-) No, I’m not in the picture, I didn’t think to set the timer so we could ALL be in it. I thought it was cool enough to get the crew in the photo and didn’t think about inserting myself until afterwards. Oops.
I took a few steps and then stopped at the edge of the parking lot to take this amazing picture of dawn kissing the mountains and turning everything pink. Hello, autumn in Colorado, I love you!
Because I stopped to take this picture, I was at the back of the pack as we jumped onto the trail. That was a good place for me because I’ve gotten so used to being alone on my runs. I needed a moment to adjust to being in a group again. Conversations were flowing around and over me, filling me up like a warm, comforting soup on a crisp fall day. I’ve missed out on the conversation of my women friends for a few months, and in a split second I realized just how much I’ve missed by not joining the weekly runs.
It was great running on trail with the Saturday morning gang again, and my legs were itching for some serious “push”. I held back tough, and saved the “push” for jumping and dodging pile after amazing pile of horse turd. We laughed at the sheer bounty, the front runners pointed out the hazards, and we wove our way up the hill.
After a few miles I fell in with Shari, a good friend who is visiting from California for the weekend. She asked me what I’ve been up to lately and I launched into a long-winded recount of my summer, vacations, and the circuitous path that led me to signing up for a marathon. When I finally finished and returned the question, she surprised me by saying, “Can’t… talk… now… hills…”
Oh! I hadn’t even noticed that we were on the hardest hill of the course. And THAT took me totally by surprise. This hill is a gradual, steep hill that just keeps going and going. Maybe a mile or so of incline that starts out easy and then gets worse the longer you’re on it. The surprise? I didn’t notice I was on the hill. And I talked the entire way up it. Easily. Could it be that my endurance is greater with all this training, that my lungs are stronger, that my legs are stronger even though I haven’t been doing specific mountain hill work?
We stopped at the water tower, the highest point on the trail, and admired the view. It’s truly stunning to stand there and see the mountains rise above the Boulder Valley, the colors weaving patterns along the ground and hills, and the golden sunlight spotlighting the entire thing.
We ran to the bottom of the trail and turned left at the gate, circumnavigated the hillside and completed a lollipop. At this point I ran with Juli and we discussed the finer points of hydration and nutrition during race day. I’m hopeful she’ll run with me next week on my 20-miler; it would be fabulous to have her company while we run two loops around the Boulder Backroads for three hours.
As we headed back towards the parking lot we came upon a man meandering his way up another little hill. Someone called out “Excuse us!” but he didn’t turn or move. We cracked up at this, realizing that his music was up so loud that he didn’t hear five chattering women coming up on his six. When we were right behind him we called out again and watched him jump out of his skin at the sound and sight of us.
I’m the only one of the group that runs with a Garmin, so I’m the official keeper of distance tracking. Siga wondered if the add-on loop added much distance to the run; I guessed that we would come in around 8.5 miles. Juli was surprised; she thought it was more of 7 or 7.5 miles.
A few minutes later we hit the last flat of the run and reeled it in. I glanced at the Garmin and noticed that we were suddenly running 7:50/mile, a good shake-out pace after the hills. Have I mentioned that I love running with these women? They are strong, both mentally and physically. We all have children, families, parents, and jobs. We’re all passionate about finding balance in our lives, and living that balance every day. And part of that balance is running fast because it just feels good!
Back at the trailhead I stopped the Garmin and announced the distance; 8.46 miles. Hey, I was right! How about that.
Unfortunately I couldn’t stop and chat in the parking lot, or stretch my legs on the bumper of the car, or go to coffee with the group. I had to get home to drive Sophie to her activity while Bill and Connor headed to the 9 AM soccer game. It was a “divide and conquer” sort of day. I unlocked the car and slid inside, catching a glimpse of my face in the mirror. A sheen of sweat covered my face and my eyes were bright and alert, active and engaged. I should have taken a picture, because my face at that moment is what I look like when I’m truly happy.