I wish I had a picture of it. Along the dark, snow-dusted path was nothing but me and the prints of whatever critter was running ahead. Only the faint amber light of the street lamps up the hill revealed them. I looked ahead and just where the horizon met the darkness, the critter was stopped, looking over its shoulder at my approach. Sam (yes, I named it) scurried ahead a few yards to disappearing into the darkness, but only momentarily. My strides carried me forward to where I could see Sam again, stopped and looking back at me for a second before taking off.
We played this game a few times, covering maybe a mile, before I had to turn around. It was nine degrees Fahrenheit and I was at about 9,100 feet above sea level. Dinner was about ready, prepared back at the condo by Bao and Emily, so that night’s run had to be short. I covered five and a half beautifully peaceful yet challenging miles.
It’s not often than I get to run in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I read about elevation training all the time- Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi and the rest of the Mammoth Track Club train at 7,800 feet. Dr. Jack Daniels, TNT National head coach, is a big fan. And though he believes it takes weeks of training at altitude to see the benefits, I still wanted to get me some.
|Happy to be running. Surprised?|
Sunday morning I woke relatively early, at 7:41AM, excited to get out the door. I borrowed Bao’s Camel-pak (I didn’t think to bring mine), grabbed the Gu that Emily bought me the day before, threw on a few layers, and headed out into the 14 degree Fahrenheit, partly cloudy day. This time, I brought my iPhone to take pictures.
My legs felt heavy- a symptom of the altitude I’m sure, but probably also a result of the day of snowboarding we had on Saturday. And ok, maybe the rum and Cokes we had the night before, too. I seemed to have forgotten my heart rate monitor, so I measured my effort the old fashion way- by my breathing- and set out at an E3 level. This was about an 11 minute per mile pace, much slower than I usually do, but not surprising.
|View from the condo|
I warmed up after a while and adjusted to a 10:30 pace, and at some stretches, sub 10. I stopped to take pictures along the route, and to Gu. I passed a few dog walkers. Eventually there were other runners, but not many.
I was hoping to find the critter prints from Friday night, but the path was clear… until it wasn’t. It seems the town on Dillon maintains the path quite nicely, but once I was beyond the town limit, I found myself trudging through some four inches of snow. No big deal- most of it was stomped down by those who took the trail before me.
|A sign to my right encouraged angling.|
About 4 miles in, the trail got more treacherous, almost disappearing. Deep boot prints, about 6 to 8 inches deep were all that marked the direction. And the path diverged. I stopped to consider my options. Robert Frost would have suggested I take the road less traveled. Also, I had told Emily that I wouldn’t be out more than an hour. I had felt pretty sluggish that morning, though I prepared for the trek as if I were going to run a half marathon. Turn back and call it an 8 mile run or go forward, choosing a path?
Yeah, I went on and followed Mr. Frost’s advice. I took one path that seemed to get smaller and smaller until it started feeling like I was running in people’s back yards. It may have not have been a trail at all. So I turned back. At the point where the paths diverged was a sign that read Keystone – 2.4 miles, so I figured, I guess I’ll run to Keystone.
|My Salomon XAComp 5s and I tackled the snowy trails.|
My 10 minute per mile pace turned into a 12 minute per mile pace through the somewhat deep snow. My effort level was more like a 4.5 than a 3 at that point, as I huffed and puffed my way through. After another mile of this, the path cleared a bit- something, maybe a snowmobile, had packed the snow down pretty good making it easier to progress. I got to the edge of the village, took a Gu, texted Emily that I decided to run to Keystone and would be back in an hour (she wasn't surprised), snapped a couple more pictures, and headed back.
With my engine warmed up, I was feeling good. On the way back, I was able to pull off negative splits. I dipped under 8 minute miles a few times. It’s times like this when I’m seriously thankful for finding running.
|Massive breakfast after.|