Today was a love note from the Universe.
I couldn’t braid my hair this morning; it took four tries to get all the hair in there. I was a little worried at first that my braiding fiasco was going to be a precursor to bad things happening later, but apparently not.
When I arrived at the trailhead it was NOT 25 degrees and sunny; it was 12 degrees and cloudy. Thankfully I was dressed moderately well and after the first mile my hands warmed up inside my SmartWool liner gloves. My running friend Jo joined us this morning and we chatted about the state of our worlds, up until we got to mile two and a big hill.
I was in the middle of some explanation about a book we had just read for book club called “The City of Thieves”. I was yakking away about the plot and the time frame when we came up behind a few other runner friends. Adriana heard me coming and said, “You have breath for talking and running up a hill, you go first!” so we passed her and Marcia. A minute later I was still talking and we came up behind two more friends. I passed them and turned around to talk to Jo some more… she had disappeared.
The trail wasn’t muddy at all today. The little snow we received yesterday didn’t do any damage to the single-track, and it was easy to find footing on the soft dirt. I didn’t have my sunglasses with me and was grateful that the blazing sunshine didn’t come out to ruin my eyeballs.
Another hill and I kept pushing pace. Fragments of a conversation I had with a friend a few days ago kept rolling through my head. I had been telling him about a time back in April when I was so numb from emotion that I ran hard just to feel the pounding of my heart that told me I was still alive. I said that I could never do that again but he heartily disagreed. He opined that maybe I wouldn’t TRY to do it again, but I had the ability. It’s always with me. I thought about that as I looked ahead and saw the leaders of our pack. I was gaining on them.
I cleared my mind, breathed deeply and concentrated on the slight chill of my legs, my rhythmic breath and the uneven terrain in front of me. I rolled my ankle last week and there was no pain. I was 100% again.
The hill kept going, I pushed pace and suddenly I had caught up to the leaders. I carefully put my hand on my friend’s back to let her know I was there; she jumped a mile high and I grabbed her arm to steady her. Guess I should have told them I was coming up behind them. We said Hi and I kept going up the hill, grinding out my own pace.
Two minutes later I was at the water tower, on the top of the hill overlooking all of Boulder Valley. Snowcapped mountains and swaths of brown, bare trees dotted the landscape. A dormant, cold January morning that pulsed with a thread of possibility.
I pushed pause on the Garmin and walked for a minute to keep my muscles warm as I waited for my two friends to crest the hill. Behind them, about a half-mile away, another group of women were making their way towards us. I couldn’t see the tail end of the gang; they were still somewhere farther behind, hidden from view by a rolling hill.
Alison and I decided to do the 8-mile loop. Immediately my small friend in the red jacket that had jumped out of her skin decided to turn back with the group. The cold was hurting her lungs and she described it as “breathing through charcoal”. Alison and I headed to the bottom of the hill where we took a sharp turn to the south and circled the base of the neighborhood that butted up against the open space. Frost clung to the hair that peeked out from under her cap. Our legs got a slight reprieve on the flat on the meadow, and then we headed uphill again and elevated our heart rates on the soft dirt trail.
We rounded out the lollipop loop and headed back. It was mostly down hill from here and since everything still felt good (but cold) we picked up the pace. Chatting all the way, the miles melted away and suddenly we came up behind the caboose of the group that had turned around early. They scooted over for us and let us pass. Alison was getting tired.
Another big descent and suddenly she wasn’t there anymore. I had a brief moment of déjà vu on a sharp turn that catapulted me back into reality and the present. My mind had drifted and it returned with a jolt. I tucked in my arms, navigated a tight hairpin turn, said Hello to a runner heading the opposite direction and added a bit of speed. A quick glance at the Garmin told me I had dropped into the 7-minute/mile range.
Two minutes later I passed another runner from our group and cranked up the speed just a little bit more. Could I catch the next group before the trailhead? Alison had cheered for me as I pulled away from her, calling out “Go catch them all!”. Could I do it?
Three runners were in sight now; I added a little more juice to the legs and dropped to a 7:30/mile pace. Reel them in. A quarter of a mile later I passed them, and plowed up the last 200 yards to the trailhead, hitting Stop on the Garmin.
The gang assembled at the trailhead and we laughed to see the frost covering everyone’s hair. Apparently only one side of my braids were white; maybe my exhale was caught in the breeze and froze only the right side? No matter. It was time to get out of the cold and head to the warm coffee shop where piping hot beverage awaited us, our reward for a job well done.
In my car I caught a glimpse of my face in the rear view mirror. My eyes were bright and my skin was red with cold. A smile floated over my features and the crinkles around my eyes were loud and happy. This day felt good. The run felt great. The friendship and laughter of the women was warmth that filled my belly with happiness. Each piece of the puzzle melded together to create a huge canvas that held the message “This day is a gift. You are loved. – the Universe”.
I tucked that love in my back pocket and headed to the Brewing Market where I placed my order for a Mint Mocha, a decadent little coffee treat to celebrate the gift of the day.