Last week the fast boys went out for a 17 mile hard, trail loop before they joined up with me, which meant I got to be the strong one for a change. This week, I got to come along for the full meal deal, which meant – it hurt a lot, I was the slow-poke puppy and I did not taunt them further about last week since this was my turn to pay the piper and want to die!
Ryan, Tony, Dennis and Christine all joined me bright and early at 6 am, in the dark for our run. It was pretty cold! With the wind chill, it was about 19 degrees. As we ran under the dark sky, I was mesmerized by the brilliant light of the moon, high in the sky above, reflecting on the water as we ran. The pace was quick for me (for a 30ish mile run) early on. That’s why I come! These super stars are helping me to push myself harder than I normally would, and though it isn’t always comfortable at the time, I have seen huge improvements in my speed and endurance from tagging along with them when they go “easy!”
I stayed at the back, enjoying the conversation of the others floating around me, as I just held on, praying I could keep up enough throughout the run. There was one porta-potty break here and one of the runners tried to rock the potty while another was inside, causing a hilarious reaction from everyone (but the guy in the potty!) Apparently, my friends and I were just a little too crazy for the early morning hour, because a woman came out of the house right near the bathroom and glared at us in her pjs. Oops!
After a few miles of greenbelt running, we hit the Oregon Trail system. The jagged, basalt rocks pop up here and there and you have to watch your step -especially in the dark – or you’ll trip! It keeps you on your toes and I perked right up when we got there since it’s near my home and feels familiar.
In the next hour, we ran as the sky grew gradually lighter. Soon, we turned our headlamps off and watched the blazing morning sun rise, five happy friends, savoring yet another perk of being early morning long distance runners out in the hills alone with the wonders of nature. Moments like these, I vow to continue getting up early at least a couple times a week to be totally alive, truly appreciative and humbled by the beauty and glory of the world I am so blessed to be a part of.
One of the highlights of today was spotting several herds of deer as we ran! They were everywhere it seemed! They bounded across the grasses to the ridge-line and we could see the silhouette of a buck and many doe. It was spectacular. Tony and Ryan were like two little boys racing after the animals, making comments like, “Man, I wish we’d brought a GUN, but don’t worry, I do have a pocket knife!” Boys…..
Dennis, Christine and I stayed back enjoying the show and stopping here and there to take in the beauty of the rolling brown hills, the beautiful shadows cast from the sunlight shining down on them, Lucky Peak Lake far below and the glorious, snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance. In every direction we turned, it seemed another postcard scene was waiting to be appreciated and enjoyed – and so we did!
The trails were mostly frozen. We ran across frozen puddles and some areas where the snow made a satisfying “crunch” sound beneath our running shoes. We gathered rocks (ok, Ryan and Tony gathered rocks and shared them with us – thanks, guys) when we reached the summit and a huge rock pile and, there we added our contributions to this unique, collective, natural artwork in the mountains! It was a special moment amongst friends!
Our path ran out about there, so we followed game trails for awhile until those, too, ran out and then we went cross country down the hills, over rocks and through brush. I always feel like an explorer, discovering new worlds when we do this and today was no exception! For reasons, I no longer recall, I started speaking with a British accent to the others through here. Yes.. trail running with friends can bring out the best (and goofiest) sides of me, it seems!
When we reached the boat launch area, some of us sat for a little break, watching the smooth-as-glass water below, while the others used the nearby bathrooms. It was a nice time for a snack and some good conversation.
My legs started cramping up once we hit the flatter Greenbelt again. I’d hoped to pick up the pace there, but found myself fading quite a bit as the faster runners stayed steady and strong. My buddy, Dennis stayed back with me and I enjoyed his company and our conversation about racing, parenting and life in general. It also did my heart good to see Ryan and Tony and Christine running together far ahead. I knew it was good for them to each enjoy others of a similar pace and push each other a bit! We were all getting something good from our morning run.
When Dennis and I came into the park to finish up, all three of my faster buddies were there waiting for us. That was really nice! I’m sure they finished at least 15 minutes ahead of us! There was kidding around, stories exchanged and hugs given and goodbyes — until we meet again…….
A photo from last week of Ryan, myself and Dennis after they’d gone 34 tough miles and I’d done 17.
Ave HR: 153. Moving Time: 5:17:29 (lots of bathroom breaks today – hehe!) Moving pace: 11:11 (which is pretty doggone good for this distance for me on mostly trails!) Elevation Gain: 1,835 ft. Felt: Slow, but HAPPY to be in such a lovely setting with FUN people!