The sun was almost over the horizon when I headed out the door. My plan was to run an easy eight mile loop up to Davidson Mesa and back again. To hit eight miles I would run three miles on the bike path to the Mesa, three miles on the flat overlooking the Boulder Valley, and two miles along Via Appia back to my front door. My kids were excited about hanging Christmas lights and we had a full day planned… but first I needed to run.
I wore my speedy blue Saucany’s that have a grand total of 26 miles on them. I bought them back in the late summer before I had the brilliant plan to run an Ultra; they haven’t had much road time because I had to train for distance, not speed. Now however, the Ultra is over and I’m dying to run fast again. I want my fast legs, I crave speed, I want to fly.
The first three miles of running uphill were warm-up. I’m a slow-going girl; I have to get the blood moving before I can possibly do anything. My first miles are always a plod-fest. Today, my legs felt tight and I noticed a twinge in my knee due to a tight IT Band and quad. I focused on form and did a mental check to see where the extra Thanksgiving calories were sitting (my waist, as always).
This past week I got two trail runs in on consecutive days. My friend @pigtailsflying (TK) flew in Monday night to spend the holiday with her family, and we organized a trail run with @runnermatt (Matt) for the following morning. I took them up Doudy Draw and we looped through Eldorado Canyon. TK loved the trail so much that when I said “we should run again before you leave” she requested the same run again the next day! This time she took her camera and we stopped several times to take pics. You can see them on her blog, Pigtails Flying.
TK and I talked about a lot of stuff over the course of driving to and from the trailhead, and she made me do all the talking on the uphills (I did my part to help her with the lack of oxygen in Colorado). We found out our birthdays are 6 days apart, we’re the same age, and we both got divorced this year. We talked about our jobs and the real reasons we adore running. We compared notes on races, paces, getting older, buying and selling property, and learning to be single women. In short, we bonded.
This being Thanksgiving week, I thought a lot about friendships, family and especially my kids as I cruised through the hardest part of the run up to the Mesa. I’m thankful for a whole lot of things in this world, and the people in my life are at the top of the list. I’m also completely thrilled and grateful that my body is built to move across the ground. I love love love running, and being able to do this singular activity almost any day I choose brings me a fount of joy.
At the top of the hill I pounded across McCaslin to the trailhead and took a deep breath. The sun was cresting the horizon and my shadow was long in front of me. The snowcapped mountains spread up and down the western edge of the world, as far as my eye could see. My feet were tucked nicely into my blue Saucany’s, my knee had loosened up, and I was the only person on this end of the mesa.
Without any effort I dropped a minute off my pace, by virtue of not climbing any more hills (I need to work on that deficit, I know…). Some happy song was playing softly from my iPod and I cruised along for a few minutes through the rocky minefield on the north side of the loop. When I hit the main trail though, a thought tickled my mind and told me to pick up the pace. “You’re never going to get any faster if you don’t practice running fast.” I’ve heard that many times before. And I want to get fast. I’m tired of being the slow girl in a world of fast men that I hang out with. Whenever I log onto Dailymile.com I see my local buddies running races and winning age-group awards. I’ve never placed in my age group… maybe 6th or 7th, but nothing higher. This is a whole ton of competitive b.s., and yet, I’ve always wondered what I could do if I actually trained to run fast?
So I kicked it up a notch, dropped pace to 6:30/mile and held it there for 100 yards, then eased back to a comfortable pace. After my heart rate returned to normal I did it again. And again. And again. By the fifth time my quads were starting to complain and I figured I had one or two more sprints in me before I was toast.
At the end of the mesa loop I glanced at the Garmin and was pleased by the time; 6 miles in 51 minutes. Not an outstanding effort by any means, especially considering the first three 9-minute/miles, but now my lungs were open and the legs felt good and I had two beautiful miles of downhill left on this perfect November morning. I missed the usual Saturday Morning Run with the girls on a trail in the foothills due to time constraints, but I was running. Can’t beat that.
I pounded across McCaslin Avenue and jumped onto the sidewalk, concentrating on keeping my arms loose, shoulders down and legs lifted for each step. When my posture got sloppy the glutes were the first to feel the effects, and lifting each leg got harder. When I kept things loose and breezy, my pace naturally picked up and I easily glided over the concrete streets of suburbia.
As I ran down the hill my pace quickened to 6:58/mile before I opened the hip flexors and let it fly. My first 100 yards on this stretch clocked in at 6:05/mile, and the second at 6:07. When I got a half mile from my house I locked in the easy pace of 7:30/mile and cruised down the path, letting my heart rate drop. I peeled the hat and gloves off and let my hot sweaty skin feel the rush of cool morning air.
Today, I needed everything about that run. Every sense joined me on this hour’s ride as the world woke up. I walked into my house alive and pulsing with blood and sweat, ready to rehydrate, refuel, and face the world of holiday decorating with my kids.