September 18, 2017

Hitting the Trails… Literally

Last year, my friends Lynne and Heidi started an email group of their runner friends. One or two days a week, someone would send an email to invite everyone for a pre-work group run at one trailhead or another. But I never went even once – a combo of my work keeping me out of town Monday through Thursday, and my being scared to run on trails… especially with such an experienced and trail-savvy group.

Trails have always felt a little bit intimidating to me. When I first moved to Colorado, I had no interest in even hiking until my good friend Mike dragged me out to summit Green Mountain one Saturday morning. (And that’s now my favorite hike in Boulder.) After that, I thought hiking trails was fine, but that running them was only for the really advanced super outdoorsy runner people… which I was definitively not.

This year, I started to challenge that assumption. On Easter Sunday, I discovered the Flatirons Vista trailhead near my house – a 3.6 mile loop that is fairly flat (300 feet of elevation gain throughout) and has gorgeous sweeping views. When the emails from Lynne and the other girls started up this spring, I decided I’d try to get some trail running experience of my own over at Flatirons Vista, so that I’d one day be able to join them.

How gorgeous is this view of the Flatirons at mile 2?? There are some pretty incredible views throughout this entire loop.

I didn’t get as much trail running practice on my own as I would have liked, but I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my running this year, both from my speeds at Orangetheory and in road races. So in June, I decided to test the waters and go out for a run with the group, even if I knew I’d probably be the slowest one there. I didn’t care about my pride; I just didn’t want the group to have to stop and wait for me and get annoyed.

To my surprise, I wasn’t the slowest one – we all kept pretty good pace with each other, and I was even able to chat and laugh with the girls as we ran! I ended up becoming a regular in this year’s group of “trail sisters”, even sometimes kicking off the emails to decide when and where to meet. I came to love White Ranch Open Space – the trail we run there is pretty hilly, but the early morning views are spectacular.

Here’s a summer shot of the wildflowers about a mile into the trail.
And here’s my favorite vista, which I snap a photo of nearly every single time because it’s right at the top of the big uphill. Rewarding, for sure!

Last week, my friend Sarah kicked off the emails – and the two of us were the only ones who could make it on Friday. Fine by me! Sarah is a ton of fun to run with, and we have a lot in common – right down to our love for Orangetheory.

Here’s Sarah absolutely crushing it on the rower at Fitness on the Rocks. She was able to do more than 350 meters in a one minute challenge!

I was really excited to run with Sarah, but then I woke up on Friday feeling pretty terrible. I had preemptively woken up five minutes before my alarm, so it didn’t seem like lack of sleep was the problem, but I still felt super sluggish. I don’t usually eat before morning workouts, but I felt so tired that I wondered if it was because I was hungry? I headed out the door without eating anyway, but the feeling didn’t improve when I started running. Sarah was incredibly accommodating of my exhaustion, but we ended up walking up hills that we usually run, and I found that frustrating.

Finally, we got to the top of our hilly route, and started the fun part – downhill! We continued our discussion of all kinds of personal topics (aren’t running buddies the best for this?!), and I was loving life…. until I was suddenly flying through the air and landing knees and palms first into the rocky trail. Ow ow ow ow ow!

Several people have asked me if I know what I tripped on. This particular section of trail is pretty technical, so it really could have been any number of rocks, and I didn’t think I was particularly distracted by anything when I went down. I guess that’s just how it goes on trails – sometimes you get caught by a nasty surprise 🙁

It took me several minutes before I could get myself together enough to stand up. My right hand was skinned pretty badly, and the left leg of my capris were ripped. I didn’t look under either pant leg to see the actual skin damage, but I was grateful that I hadn’t been wearing shorts, so that the cloth could provide some protection. We walked down the rest of the rocky hill, and then I was able to do a light jog for the 1.5 or so miles back to the parking lot. Sarah thankfully had a first aid kit in her car (I didn’t then; I do now), so I used an antiseptic wipe to try to clean out my hand wound as best I could.

When I got home… ugh, the carnage was not pretty. My left knee has several thick slashes, one good gash, and then a half inch spot where there’s basically an entire chunk of flesh missing. My right knee escaped with just a few abrasions, but that’s because my right hand took the brunt of that side, and I have a pretty big wound on the heel of my right hand that’s still keeping me from using my right hand for most everyday tasks. (No pictures of all this because I think that’s gross when people post bloody injury pics.)

I made a joke on Instagram about how people say there’s no such thing as a bad run, and yet I had this nasty fall. However, I actually don’t regret going out for the run! I had a really great time catching up with Sarah, and while the rest of my day got pretty thrown off by my fall (both because it messed with my schedule and because I was limping / in pain the rest of the day), I was still glad that I had gotten out there.

I usually take the same picture over and over at the top of Belcher Hill, but on Friday I snapped this shot lower on the trail. Still gorgeous!

Earlier this summer, I saw a rattlesnake on the trails behind my house, and it scared me off from running those trails for over a month. So after this tumble on the trails, I didn’t want to let fear get the best of me and scare me off like that snake did. Saturday morning, even though it was kind of a gray and rainy morning, I decided to go run the 3.6 mile Flatirons Vista loop as a way of conquering my fear. I took it easy, both with the pace and also the fairly non-technical trail I picked, and I was so glad I had gotten right back to trail running!

Beginning the gentle incline around the lake
Racing the rain… I beat it by about 10 minutes!

And then on Sunday morning, Sarah invited me out to run Marshall Mesa with the Denver Running Club. Marshall Mesa is part of a trail system that’s literally half a mile from my house, and yet I had never run it before – so I felt like I couldn’t refuse. Well, good thing I didn’t, because I had a blast running with Sarah, her sister Christine, and two other women from the group that we met while running. The day was perfect, the views were incredible, and I happily ran 7 miles total – my longest trail run ever!

I was behind the others in the last mile… but I didn’t mind the extra room to soak up the view.

Who would have thought that getting hurt on the trails would be the impetus for me to go out and run trails three days in a row?! I loved every single run this weekend, and found myself upset that the sun wouldn’t be up before I had to leave for the airport this morning, because it meant I couldn’t squeeze in one more trail run before I flew to work in Florida.

So maybe I’m going to become an outdoorsy trail runner after all?? I’m starting to like that possibility…


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