I went to my first Meet-up group today!
The Boulder Trail Running Breakfast Club met at Dowdy Draw at 8am. I didn’t know anyone that was going to be there, and figured this would be a good way to meet some new people and see some new territory.
I pulled into the parking lot and saw a lot of people and several dogs. Everyone was super-friendly and it was easy to strike up a conversation. The first person I talked with was a guy named Matt that lives in the North Boulder area. He’s relatively new to the area and has attended a few of these meet-ups.
And then, my friend J pulled into the parking lot! We made eye contact through the windshield and hugged hard when she jumped out of the car. What a great surprise!
It was windy at the trailhead and about 30 degrees, though everyone was aware that the temp was supposed to hit a high of 60 by early afternoon. As we stood around the sun crested the hill behind us and flooded our little valley in golden light; immediately the air felt a good 10 degrees warmer. I thought about stashing my jacket in the car then decided to keep it on. I’ve run one too many times this winter under-dressed, and I’ll be damned if I do it again. Besides, I had the Nathan hydration pack on my back and could easily slip the jacket through the loops and carry it once I needed to strip off a layer.
We headed out and there was a collective beep as everyone hit the Start button on their Garmin. I was curious about the elevation gain/loss on this run, and wanted to be able to upload the info after the run.
This run starts with a steady uphill climb. A few hardy guys took off ahead of me, and the rest of the pack was behind me. I ran for a few minutes with Scott, the group organizer. We chatted briefly before someone else passed us and he dropped back to socialize with someone else.
Then we were on single-track and the ground got muddy and wet in sections. Ice layered other pieces of trail and there was no looking up at the pretty; I had to keep my eyes focused on the ground. If there was any conversation behind me I didn’t hear it. The metronome of my breath and the wind in my ears was all the music there was.
At the trail junction we paused and waited for everyone to catch up. J and I chatted about the status of our lives and then laughed really hard when a gust of wind came from the west and pushed us both backwards. She said, “We need rocks for our pockets!” and I thought that was a good way of saying that two skinny runner girls are no match for Boulder winds.
We wove through the fairy forest on our way to the fire road that eventually leads to Eldorado Canyon and pulled over for another runner group that was headed our way. Scott apparently knew these guys and told us they were running a 50k today; looping through the forest a few times to get in the miles. These guys all wore shorts, doo-rags and had hydration packs on their backs. As we made a hole and they turned left to hit the next junction they smiled at us. Just a walk in the park, Kazanski.
At this point the people with dogs took another route and those of us without 4-legged friends headed up the single-track of Goshawk Ridge. This is a beautiful loop in the summer, full of wild flowers and popping with color. Today though ice littered the trail and I found myself speed-hiking through some sections, picking foot placement and trying to stay upright by missing the slick ice that hadn’t seen sunlight in days. I could hear someone breathing behind me but since they didn’t ask to pass I didn’t turn my attention from my feet. We continued this way for what felt like about 10 minutes, until we popped off the single-track onto the main Mesa Trail.
The woman behind me finally spoke and said, “Thanks for leading the way. I wasn’t sure how to get through that so I just attached myself to you and followed your feet.” I laughed because there wasn’t any rhyme or reason to my meandering; I had zenned it the whole way down.
We paused again and waited for the group. Scott talked about some different runs that he’s led, most on sections that I haven’t tried before. In the summer time he heads up elevation and hits the Continental Divide; these runs in the Foothills in the winter are just training runs for the good stuff later in the year.
A few minutes later everyone was gathered and we ran a few minutes down to Fowler Trail. Imagine 20 trail runners all bunched together on a one-lane dirt road that sits in the shade on a steep hill. Now imagine that there are some big guys and small women. Now imagine that you’re one of the small women and two big guys are in front of you and you can’t see more than 5 feet ahead of you and suddenly Big Guy Number One slips and careens into Big Guy Number Two. He bounced off Number Two and we all kept going, never breaking stride. When we stopped again I told Number One that I was really happy he didn’t hip-check me; I would have gone flying.
We ran through Eldorado Canyon and down into the town, where we crossed to the north side of town and headed onto the Old Mesa Trail. This was new territory for me; I had never jumped onto this trail and connected the two sides of the mountain like this. Scott told us, “Hope you’re warmed up. The first six miles were fun and all, but the real running starts now.”
He was right. Immediately we headed up again. My pace fell to a whopping 17:51/mile, as I was mostly hiking now. We gained about 2000 feet over the next two miles and my right glute started complaining about the climbing. I didn’t care too much; as long as my heart held out, my butt was along for the ride.
Finally the trail leveled out, we dipped down for a minute, did one last ascent and then we were on Big Bluestem, heading down. Scott stood at the junction, made sure those of us heading back to the parking lot took the right trail and waved to the folks who were extending.
A minute later heavy breathing alerted me to someone coming up on my six and I moved over to let him pass. It was Scott; he didn’t want to pass so we ran together down the remainder of the trail. This part was soft on the shoes but not icy, a welcome relief from the protected sections of trail on the higher elevations. As we made our way down the pace picked up and we coasted along. My foot rolled suddenly and I made a noise; Scott checked in and chatted with me to keep my mind off it for a minute until the owie went away.
Big Bluestem dumped us onto the Mesa Trail, and we were home free. The air was warmer now, probably sitting pretty at 50 degrees. My pink jacket bounced along in my hydration pack and my legs were sticky with sweat in the black running pants. I pulled off my SmartWool hat and carried it the rest of the way in my hand, hoping the breeze would cool my head a little.
Back at the parking lot I stripped off my gear and hit Stop on the Garmin. 9.88 miles in 1 hr 59 minutes and 15 seconds. I considered doing a quick tenth of a mile around the parking lot to round out the mileage and then decided that I was okay with what I had run. Time to stretch and head to breakfast.
Later at home I checked the stats of the run. Ascent: 17,631 feet. Descent: 22,180 feet. Overall pace: 12:04/mile. 9.88 miles total in approximately 2 hours. This was a sweet trail run and a good start to my marathon training!