What an amazing, butt-kicking run! About twenty local runners (most of them ultra runners – several of which had completed a quad-destroying tough 50 mile mountain race last Saturday) joined me today for a really terrific run up to Lucky Peak. I thought I would die for the first 7 miles when the elevation and grade kept going up, up, up. I totally suck at going uphill over several miles – yet I always love the strength it pays me back a couple weeks later and the feeling of accomplishment once I’ve completed the run.

Nearing the top of the mountain, something wonderful happened. Most of my trail running happens in a very dry, treeless area called the Boise foothills. They are beautiful — but they paled in comparison to what I found towards the top of that mountain — trees!!!! Heavenly scented pine trees clustered for miles. Suddenly the trail was more forgiving (pine needles really are so very cushy) and the heat of the day was forgotten in the coolness of the pines.  I felt like I was alive again! I started running faster and smiling from ear-to-ear. I felt like I’d found my own personal heaven.

There were two special treats on the top of that mountain. One was the most magnificent view of the Boise area I have ever seen. The mountains seemed to be stacked in layers of color, with deepening shades of purple or blue with every row of mountain peaks. The city of Boise laid out before us far, far below — seeming so small from that far away. We saw a plane go by in the distance and realized we were nearly eye-level with it. That was weird in a cool way! The brown, rolling hills spread out for miles and miles around. You could spin around in every direction and see an entirely unique kind of scene laid out before you — a true feast for the eyes and soul. It was wonderful! And to share it with so many running friends was even more fun! There was a lot of smiles all around, photos being taken and pats on the back for making it up such a long, hard climb.

Now the second treat awaiting us was really something special. There were wild life specialists camping and working just below the grand view – capturing birds in the area, tagging them, making notes and then releasing them back into the wild. Several of us were allowed to help and I was one!!!!! It was so amazing to stop, right in the middle of our long, hard run and have these enthusiastic, intelligent men and women share with us about the local birds they were studying. Many of the birds were very small – fitting comfortably in our palms. They were so cute – some of them shades of brown, black and white and some of them bold yellow! Being allowed to hold one just for a bit, to stroke it’s soft feathers and then to open my hand and let it fly off was something I will not soon forget. It was a thrill!

We spent a good half hour at the bird center and I admit that my Garmin time reflects exactly how long we were out in the mountains from start to finish with no pauses given. I usually treat every run, in that regards, no different than a race – since a race clock doesn’t stop for bathroom breaks, stretching, waiting for pals, photo ops or anything else that might come along. I don’t mind. Long runs are for run and endurance and in today’s case — about tackling hill after hill after hill until you can hardly stand it.

Now, I’ve always said that there are runners who seem to embody mountain goat properties and I ran with quite of few of them today. They were bounding up the side of those hills seemingly effortlessly (some of them nearly 700 feet of gain in one mile) while I was huffing and puffing just walking up them. I am not a mountain goat. But, I am a boulder!  That’s how I describe my ability to relax and just let my legs turn over and over very rapidly while I hold my arms out for balance on the rocky, dirt trails heading back down the mountain. As you can imagine — as tough as those hills were to get UP, they were nearly as challenging to get down! The footing is very rugged – lots of ruts and rocks and loose dirt/gravel. It’s so steep, you feel yourself automatically braking and leaning back just trying to walk down those stretches. People fall. One of my buddies fell twice today and I felt really bad for her.  Most of us have had that experience at one time or another. These trails are rough and steep. Thankfully, today, I was rolling along like a boulder down most of those downhill stretches. They really feel like “home” to me – very natural and lots of fun! I like to imagine I’m a deer bounding down the side of a mountain, carefully choosing my footing and allowing the gravity to just pull me along. My Garmin showed I was running about a 6:30 pace several times during those downhill stretches. It was exciting!

I’m really grateful to my friend, Randy for setting up this run and especially for his wife for putting up with 20 runners parking their cars in front of her house before 6 in the morning today. She was so kind she even baked us banana bread.  I’d say all in all this was one of the best runs I’ve ever done!

Stats: 15.86 miles Total time (I never shut the Garmin off at all – not even for the half hour of bird lessons and not for photos, waiting for the back-of the-pack runners, etc.) Ave pace: 16:19. Elevation gain: 4725!!!!!!!!!  VERY TOUGH RUN!!!!!!

I got the nicest compliment, guys. On the downhill section I was actually in the front for a mile or two. Some of the ultra fellas (many who were in their 20’s and 30’s and a lot fitter and more experienced than I am) finally caught me and said I was really fast and had great speed. That made my day! They told me later they totally think I could qualify for Boston if I wanted to push based on how I ran today. That made me feel so, so good!!!!!!!!

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