Taco Junky

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taco junky

Karen and I miss most of Brit’s performances, because they are typically in Denver and she plays past our bed time.  So it’s unusual that we went two Friday’s in a row.  This one was in Boulder though, on the Hill at Taco Junky.  I posted possibly the worst ever Facebook live video in the history of videos.  I started before they even warmed up and the place was loud. The good stuff didn’t start until after my battery died.

Rachel & Brit had the whole night to sing so they took some solos after first singing together.  Brit sang her cover of Lost Boy and the college crowd really got into it.  Brit followed with another cover that got the coeds singing and dancing.

That was enough for Brit to figure out what they liked so she got her phone out and began pulling up piano chords and lyrics to more songs.  It would take her a minute to study and then she would just play and sing based on reading music she barely knew.  She owned that crowd for the next hour singing dowloaded tunes.  The audience even started holding her phone for her while she played.  Pretty impressive adaptation to a crowd.

Before long, Karen was singing and dancing with the coeds.  A professional photographer showed up from nowhere with lights and began taking photos.  It turned into a rock n roll hoochie koo.  Still, we left in the middle because it was past our bed time.

Indian Summer Run

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Last weekend’s run in falling snow was nice.  The contrasting weather made today’s Indian summer run all that more special.  With these dream-like conditions, it’s almost as if God wants me to get outside for a run.

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Over the past five weeks or so, I’ve lost ten pounds.  At 189, I’m running with confidence again.  Certainly not fast, but with strength over the white rock hills of the East Boulder Trail.  Those three days of running in southern Utah were the catalyst I hoped they would be.  Running is joyful again.

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This is hands-down my favorite running season.  The air was crisp, the sun warm, and the Indian Peaks capped with fresh white snow.  The absence of those ten pounds were noticeable.  My legs felt strong running up the hills.

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Afterward, we picked out pumpkins at Munson Farms.  Karen’s parents are in town.  Brit joined us with her fiancé, Eric.  And Ellie Rose brought her boyfriend, Will.  Along with pumpkins, I purchased some Munson yellow onions to stew a french onion soup for dinner  tomorrow.  The days might be warm still, but the evenings cool off, suggesting a fall menu.

 

Snow Bridge

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Ellie at Tortugas

The girls layer when the cold sets in and I honestly can’t tell if this is Ellierose or Brit.  Must be Ellierose.  Brit doesn’t live with us anymore.  I live for this weather.  It’s why I live in Colorado.  Gently falling snow and 20° is meant for running.

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I woke up this morning to a foot of snow, excited to get out there.  As a gentleman runner, I might stay inside when the wind blows hard, but I dream of snow runs.  Below freezing temps don’t scare me.  It is a trick though to not overdress on the first cold day.  I did okay in light tights, two shirts and a wind jacket.  I was able to pocket my gloves before two miles.  This was ideal running weather.

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I got in six miles on the LoBo Trail, making it a little past this snowy bridge before turning back around.  I streamed James Bay on Pandora, gentle music for post card conditions.  Real winter is no doubt coming.  Running on days like this is how you acclimate.  Don’t miss out.

Little Burning Man

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GC Sunrise

I drove to Kanab, Utah to experience some of this country’s most spectacular trail runs.  And to maybe reignite my passion for running.  Sunrises like this one over the Grande Canyon were enough to make me become a morning runner.

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon Course

The first morning was less certain.  Crawling out of my tent at 4:30am into cold, monsoon rain was not an easy thing to do.  But I came here seeking my tribe, to see if I might once again belong with the men and women who are actually in shape to run these trails.  I gathered my gear and confidence and headed to the start of my first race in nearly a year.

Bryce Finish

Bryce Canyon began as a sodden run in mud, with rain clouds obscuring the sunrise until half way into the course.  Fortunately the ground was more firm in the second half, spared from most of the rain, because the trail here was more exposed on side hills of dirt and trying to run it would have been dangerous.

Runners from past events said it was also good they reversed the course, as the vertical was easier to handle in this direction.  As incredibly scenic as this course was, winding its way through hundreds of hoodoos, the final mile ran through a dry wash and required crawling under this mud-packed bridge ten meters before the finish line.  The finish was almost ironic in how ugly it was relative to the panoramic run.

Zion

Zion Course

Day two was Zion and the weather was gorgeous.  I don’t think any of the runs warmed up over 60° and this particular course was fast for those primed for racing.  We ran a thirteen mile loop on the Gooseberry Mesa that wound its way through waves of slick rock.  Not ideal in that running on rock isn’t too much different than running on cement, but it was such a visually unique surface, like running on the moon.  Imagine running a half marathon through a skateboard park.

While the elevation of this trail was fairly flat, the ups and downs over the rocks were exhausting.  I’ve developed a sore knee over the last couple of weeks training and its weakness stole some of my confidence in my footfalls, otherwise I believe I might have run faster on this day.  It was my fastest pace of the three runs.

Grande Canyon

Grande Canyon Course

Day three was thirteen miles on top of the Grande Canyon, just south of Lake Mead alongside the prominent Horseshoe Bend.  This run followed a sandy jeep road the first quarter mile directly to the ledge over the Colorado River.  The course then turned to run alongside the river for roughly three miles on rock very similar to the previous day’s slick rock, grippy but red and more crumbly.

There was never really a trail, we followed pink ribbons tied to shrubs that led us through the desert landscape.  As the crowd thinned out, it took all my focus to spot the next ribbon.  No day dreaming on this run.  Even when I had runners to follow, I couldn’t trust them.  Runners had a tendency to drift well right of the ribbons.  Too far right and they’d be on top of the cliffs again.

The middle six miles were through deep sand that sucked the life out of my legs, along with most of my momentum.  I rolled my ankle on the return as the course returned  to the rocks.  I took that as a hint that my legs were too fatigued to safely run the rocks so I walked much of the final three miles.  I also had a rock break on me when I was making a two foot jump.  Other runners around me applauded my graceful landing, asking me if I was an avid skier.  When I replied that I snowboarded rather than skied, I got a few boos.  Runners are fickle.

hoodoos

Not sure I can explain this but I had the sense this outing was like a little Burning Man experience.  Maybe it was all the mud and rain that gave it a Woodstock feel.  Or the many Native American talks and dances I sat through.  Or simply the desert of southern Utah.

I was alone for this three day event, sleeping in a one-man tent that began to feel like a coffin near the end.  I finished a Dan Brown thriller and mostly kept to myself.  Including the drive, I had time for reflection.  It’s funny how thoughts come to you differently when your mind is free from the everyday routine.  Even though I brought my laptop, I never booted it up.  I turned off all notifications on my iPhone.  I believe I may have successfully weaned myself off daily news.

I gained an understanding of where I am now as a runner.  I’m no longer competitive and that’s okay.  I enjoy running at any speed.  My doctor told me I have to lose fifteen pounds by January, five pounds per month, for my health.  That will be perfect.  I can run comfortably at 185 pounds.  I don’t feel like returning to the race scene any more than I care to return to 165 pounds.  I just want to be able to run the trails.

 

Gentleman Trail Runner

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canyon walls

Don’t bother calling my mobile next week.  Doubt I’ll have much of a signal running through the canyons of Southern Utah.  I’ve been reading my race guide and getting excited as I look at the photos.

trailfest trail

Initially, I was worried these trails were over my head, but I gained confidence two weekends ago hiking twenty-six miles in ten hours on the CDT.  I’ll have no trouble meeting the cut off times for the trailfest half marathons.  I’m looking forward to this now as an awesome three-day workout.

hoodoo view

At 12 and 13 miles, the courses will be triple the distance of what I generally run.  But with views like these two photos above and below in Bryce, looking out at hoodoos, I imagine wanting the miles to continue.

hoodoo trail

I almost don’t feel worthy of such spectacular trails, not being in better shape. So what.  This will be killer training ground.  Running 37 miles across the best trails the western high-altitude desert has to offer is the best antidote I can think of for my current running malaise.  And spending all this time to myself might be good to recharge my introverted mental capacitors.

tent city

Runners who rent tents will reside in the apparent orderliness of a monochromatic color scheme.  I’ll pitch my one-man tent in the more discordant array in the center of the photo, expecting to meet like-minded people.

Chute

I’ve studied the course elevation profiles and I’m not overly concerned.  Bryce Canyon will be the toughest with nearly 5000 feet of elevation variance, but Zion and the Grande Canyon are almost flat by comparison with less than 2000 feet of variance each.  Not to say each course won’t have challenging sections.  I am happy to see ladders, as I consider myself, certainly while in my current state of fitness, to be a gentleman trail runner.

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I’ve run some great trails in my day, but next week will be like dreams come true.  I’ll be living life, as runners were meant to live it.  When I come back, I’ll be a runner again.

trail top

 

Slow takes Practice

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slow loris

Running slow is not easy.  It takes work.  You have to practice running slow.  I’m just now finding this out to be true, and I’m immediately sharing this information with you because I figure you might want to know.

I’ve said this before, muscles have memory, and mine remember running fast.  So it makes perfect sense that I would have to train myself to run slow.  I’ve been struggling all these months not because I’m slow, but because my legs have been trying to run faster than is sensible.  I’m running too fast because that’s all I know.

Today, I practiced running slow.  Running is so much easier when you move your legs within their limits.  Not everyone can do this.  I recommend wearing a pair of Beats ear buds to override your memories of running fast with slow-playing content.  Think Diana Krall.  Just slow it down.

Less than two weeks before Trailfest.  Running thirty-seven miles over three days in national parks Trump doesn’t know about yet.  It’s time for me to start training.  Slowly.

Sky on Fire

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Never Summer

La Plata and I rejoined for a second hike this summer along the Continental Divide Trail.  We met at the Bowen Gulch trailhead off Hwy 34, inside the Rocky Mountain National Park.  We left my car there for our finish and drove through Granby for Hwy 125, which took us up to Willow Creek Pass.

The yellow and burnt orange aspen were much thicker here than in RMNP.  La Plata said the colors were incredible between Durango and this valley.  Their color was echoed by the sun setting under plumes of smoke from the Kremmling fire as we drove up the pass.  The smoke filtered blues on top of hot pinks, mirroring the inferno below, telling the story of our summer with the sky on fire.

Willow Creek Pass

We set off at 6:30am and tracked forty-five minutes of fast-paced progress before I discovered I’d left the keys to my car back in La-Plata’s car at Willow Creek Pass.  This added ninety minutes to our twenty-two mile trek, and a good four more miles.  Today would be a marathon.

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I discovered a new 200 calorie snack bar that I highly recommend – Bulletproof.  I ate their lemon cookie for breakfast.  Yum.  I doubt there is anything else on the health food market anywhere close to this tasty.  The Kremmling fire smoke is in the picture below – those aren’t clouds.

Bowen Pass 2

Hiking with La Plata is like trail running with anyone else.  Fortunately, the section of the Continental Divide Trail between the Willow Creek trailhead and Bowen Gulch near Grand Lake is mostly below tree line.  My breathing seemed good despite the altitude and La Plata’s torrid pace.  He schooled me with this unyielding pace for the earlier blunder with the keys, not slowing down until we crossed Bowen Pass, our high point a little above treeline.

Bowen Pass

Can’t thank him enough.  Always the coach, and actually a personal fitness instructor, this training will serve me well for the three days of trail half marathons in Utah and Arizona next month.  I did have to run at times to catch up with La Plata in the early going.  I took advantage of downhill sections of trail.  We maintained a strong two mile per hour pace.  That’s good for high altitude mountain trails.  Standard walking pace is about three miles per hour.  I don’t expect the Trailfest to be nearly this challenging, except that it’s three days in a row for a total of thirty seven miles.  Recovery will be paramount.

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I missed the photo-taking for Ellie’s homecoming dance.  The kids looked good.  The first photo is with Ellie and her boyfriend Will at Chautauqua.  The second is the group shot.

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Pussyfoot

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I recently rediscovered the gravity-defying benefits of treadmills.  Turns out, I can run pretty fast on those things.  I’d forgotten that when I returned to fitness years ago, I first started out by walking, and then evolved to running on treadmills before finally pounding the pavement again.  It’s a progression that works.  So most of my runs the last couple of weeks have been on the treadmill at the office.  Seriously, it feels like I’m actually running again on those things.

I still run the trails on the weekends but it’s time to start picking up my game.  I tried to defer my October Trailfest event again but they wouldn’t let me.  Turns out you can’t keep putting things off.  This event has rules.  I paid a hefty registration fee last year and I can’t just let it go.  I’m running it.  Or walking it.  Whatever gets me from start to finish.

Knowing I’m committed now is exciting.  Lose ten pounds or die is the way I feel right now.  Each of the 3-day half marathons have cut-off times to reach their respective aid stations.  It would be helpful if they shared the actual times, it’s a little scary not knowing.

I decided to move on from my weekend routine of the pedestrian East Boulder Trail to a real mountain trail.  I ran Heil Valley Ranch today.  Last time I tried it I don’t think I made it to the top of the Wapiti trail.  I did today, and ran the shorter loop up top – seven and a half miles in all.  That’s my longest run in half a year.

This is a real trail.  Rocky.  Technical.  The two and a half mile climb was hard enough on my lungs, but managing my footfalls was also surprisingly difficult.  I expect to be able to regain my trail skills if I get out there every weekend, but conditioning is part of the process.  Running slow helps but you have to be strong enough to pick up your feet.  I’ll continue to run on the treadmill at the office during the week, but I’m done pussyfooting around on the weekends.  I’m back on the mountain trails.

September’s Coming

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Today’s run on the East Boulder Trail began with 70° air and wet mist in my face.  The clouds were thick riding on wind from the mountains.  September’s coming.  I looked into her gray eyes as I climbed each hill, and felt the coolness of her breath on my skin.

With a mile and a half and the water tank hill remaining of my run, she increased her intensity, blowing wind at my chest and raining hard.  The dirt turned to muddy clod on my shoes.  I slipped a few times, but with my trail spirit Lobo running alongside me, I never fell.

A week ago, I was depressed, unable to run this trail without walking the hills.  I was ready to abandon running, but running won’t give me up.  With the cool, wet weather, I completed every hill today.  If you were out there too, then you know what I’m talking about.  September coming to Colorado is an almost mythical experience.  Like U2 at Red Rocks.  After reaching the top of the water tank hill, the sun lit up platinum-blue clouds over the Indian Peaks.  Mountains previously obscured by forest fire haze.  It was magical.

The rain stopped as I reached my car.  I brought along a dry shirt, so I used my drenched T as a blanket for my muddy shoes.  I don’t mind getting dirty with running though.  I pray for more of the same tomorrow.

Left Handed

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Left-Handers-Day

This is getting creepy.  Am I the only one Facebook notified that today is International Left-hander’s Day?  On the other hand, this exceptional profile accuracy renews my faith in the omnipotence of their algorithms.  If their AI knows I’m left-handed, then they should be able to resolve this Russia thing.

As much as I appreciate the recognition, I can’t pretend to understand the value having this day brings to me.  No doubt, extensive lobbying went into making this day available to us lefties worldwide.  Not sure I’d give my right hand to keep it, but I wouldn’t give it back.

I will say this.  In fact, I’ll let my future son-in-law say it for me – visually – captured here as I was spying down on the city of Telluride.  Whether you’re AI, or a bot, or some photo-opportunist, I know that you know that I know you’re watching me.

St Sophia

Run Fat, Eat Slow

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fat runner

I’m still running, if you can call it that.  I run the East Boulder Trail on Saturdays and Sundays.  Mountain trails are out of the question right now.  This trail is pedestrian enough for my current skills, while presenting me with hills that give my cardio a workout regardless of how slow I take them.  I have to tell you, it’s not fun.  As much as I love running, running fat is a painful exercise.  I’m doing it though to stay in the game.  I won’t always be fat.

I don’t expect to able to run my 3-day October event, the Grand Circle Trailfest.  A half marathon each day through Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon.  At any time over the last nine years, I could run a half marathon at the drop of a hat.  Now, my ability to run a 10K without some walking is questionable.  I’ll likely try to defer this to next year.  The splash of realism in my face came last week from my doctor.  He said he won’t let me run it without agreeing to take some tests first.  What a wet blanket.  How did I fall so far, so fast?  I know how.

Typical story.  Lose weight slowly.  I lost an average of five pounds per year over a series of years.  Then I maintained it steady for awhile at what I think is my sweet spot, 175 pounds.  Then, cancer dropped me down to 165 for a couple years, and like everyone else, I’ll admit that didn’t look so good.  It did help me to run fast though.

After the 2017 Colorado Marathon, I stopped running almost completely.  I went from running on average seventy miles a week, burning and replenishing 3000 calories per day, to running about ten miles per week.  Problem is, I kept consuming those 3000 daily calories.  A man my age should maybe eat 2000 calories per day.  I gained thirty-five pounds in six months.  Fuck.

I know enough about nutrition and exercise to understand I need to focus first on diet, then exercise.  I’m starting to focus on it.  Change for most things comes through routine.  I know how to do that.  Of course, knowing how and doing it are two different things.  At the same time, I’m beginning to work more on my second book, which is essentially a second hobby.  And writing is more fun than running fat, so I tend to put more effort into the writing.

But I don’t want to give up running.  It’s been a constant throughout my life, with memories all the way back to childhood.  Forgive the play on words from the popular running and nutrition book, but I’m going to run fat and eat slow until I return to form.  Until I can run six miles again without having to walk every little hill.  That 3 day run through gorgeous national parks is probably out of reach this year.  That’s fine.  I just want to drop a good ten pounds so I can enjoy running in the Colorado fall.

Ellierose

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Fräulein Ellierose navigated Fankfurt on her return flight, but not without texting her  review.  That she referenced the Munich airport over Frankfurt was just enough to make me get up and check the flight status.  She arrived to Graz via Munich but departed via Frankfurt.  Our weary little tourist clearly prefers Munich over Frankurt.  Simple typo from a worldly traveler.

DIA

I would have gone straight to bed after reaching home.  Ellierose went to a little home coming party at Wendy’s house.  Her friends were there, making it somewhat of a surprise party.  She returned home around midnight, with some leftover party-goers, making it a sleepover.  I’m not going to bother doing the math with Austria being eight hours ahead, but that had to be a 24 hour day minimum.

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I’m grateful to Tina and Wolfgang for hosting her.  They took her to Salzburg and Vienna.  They even took her to Venice.  And Tina packed Ellierose two sandwiches for the flight.  Quite the host mother.

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I was concerned Ellierose would return with some ink or piercings.  But as Brit suggested, she returned instead with lots of new clothes.  Oh, and she changed her name.  Something girls do at about her age.  She insists we all include her middle name now, so it’s Ellierose until we’re told otherwise.  After traveling to Europe for a month on her own, she can choose her own name.

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Mount Evans

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Ed on Guanella Pass

The best hikes begin with camping.  I’m pictured here at dusk beside my one-man, Big Agnes tent, perched about a hundred yards from the upper parking lot on Guanella Pass. Signs posted in the parking lot say “no camping”, but the guidelines aren’t clear.  A reasonable person would believe that to mean within fifty yards.  We weren’t alone.

It’s been about a year since I’ve been camping and I will tell you that I enjoy it as much as the next day’s hike.  It’s mostly the stars that I find so special.  Absent the ambient city lights of the Denver metro, the night sky is absolutely stunning.  The first stars to become visible are actually planets, first Venus, the evening star, followed closely by Jupiter and then Mars appears as a red twinkle.  I have thoughts watching their light emerge from the darkness of early man viewing the same night horizon thirty thousand years earlier and maybe learning to count to three.  Soon after the arrival of Mars, too many stars flood the night sky to count.

mountain goats

We woke at 4:30 and hit the trail an hour later, after packing up and enjoying trailhead coffee.  The upper parking lot was filling up and the lower parking lot was completely full, with fifty or more cars parked along the road.  If you’ve hiked Mount Beirstadt, then you know how crowded that trail is.  With the pass sitting above tree line at 11,669 feet, Mt. Bierstadt is one of the most attainable 14ers in Colorado.  But Rob and I didn’t take the trail up to Bierstadt.

Still in the willows, we turned left at the creek crossing.  There’s a faint, unmarked trail that follows the banks, until it disappears in the willows.  The trail existed on some map Rob studied before our hike.  A map he left at home.  Having a map would seem wise when entering the forest and mountains of Colorado, but we knew where we were and about where we wanted to go.  We shuffle parked our other car at Echo Lake, on the other side of the mountains that lie in front of us, roughly thirteen miles easterly from Guanella Pass.

Rob on Mt Evans

I can tell you the trail didn’t exist on the map I studied before hand.  It’s safe to say, there is no trail, so we bushwhacked our way through the cold, wet mud and willows in a pointed direction to the saddle that sits north of Mount Bierstadt.  Trails did emerge at times, animal trails no doubt.  Rob’s general tactic when having lost the trail is to proceed upwardly toward higher ground.  There was no debate, up was where we wanted to go.

We encountered climbers at the top of the saddle.  Rather than presenting a trail down the far side, turned out the other side of the saddle is what climbers call the black wall, a sheer cliff with a thousand foot drop.  Our trail was another quarter mile uphill and to the right.  It’s actually a loop and we continued up Mount Spalding, and eventually to Mount Evans itself.  It’s not an easy trail, at times more of merely a route marked by cairns.  The climb was exhausting.

Ed on Mt Evans

Of course, you don’t have to hike for miles to reach Mount Evans, there’s a paved road that allows visitors to park a hundred or so feet below the massive pile of rocks that form the peak.  As far as we know, we were the only hikers atop Mount Evans who arrived via the unmarked trail from the Guanella Pass direction.  This is a rare mountaintop that is reachable by paved road.  I very much recommend it.  Visitors were taking pictures of mountain goats as they stood in line for the restrooms by the observatory.  Where else would you find that experience?

Our descent was just as brutal as the climb up.  The first thousand foot drop from the peak contained switchbacks as tight as a staircase, and the steepness continued for several thousand more feet, hammering my thighs and quads to where I still can’t descend the stairs in my house today without holding onto the railing.  We reached the Echo Lake Trailhead after thirteen miles and nine hours.  Another epic hike in the books.  Can’t wait to get back out there.

Dirt Trails

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dirt trail 2

Two days in a row running the East Boulder Trail, up and down the white rock cliffs.  These trails are easy, soft dirt, compared to the rocky mountain trails out around Lyons and Left Hand Road.  These dirt trails are a better fit for my current state of fitness.  The true mountain trails are so technical and I’ve lost some of the requisite skills of negotiating my footfalls along the path.  And they are much, much steeper, causing me to walk more than run.  I can generate a little bit more momentum over these dirt trails.  I can take my eyes off my feet and enjoy the views of the Indian Peaks.  You can see them in this photo, just over the crest of the hill in front of me.

grasslands

The East Boulder Trail contains rolling hills through grasslands where, centuries earlier, the buffalo roamed.  Now I roam these hills, and have for the last twenty-eight years.  The grasses are nearing waist-high in some places.  We’ve been getting some good rain so far this season.

steep

I ran all the hills, on a six mile out-and-back, yesterday.  It might have been cooler yesterday, and I ran really well.  Today, not so well.  No doubt, my legs were tired from yesterday.  I swear to you, the same hills were steeper today.  The trick is being able to climb the first big hill on the return without stopping.  My experience is if I stop there, like I did today near the top, then I’ll walk the final hill that leads up to the water tower – which I did today too.

dirt trail

Regardless, this trail always gives me a workout.  And the downside of each hill on the East Boulder Trail is generally rewarded with a nice view like this.  Sometimes, running in the mountains, you can’t see the forest for the trees.  The East Boulder Trail though always gives you an awesome view.  I will never tire of my runs on this trail.

 

Fräulein Ellie

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Ellie has been texting back photos from her first week in Austria.  They prompt me to recall Audrey Hepburn in the 1954 movie, Sabrina.  I won’t be surprised if she returns with short hair.  Or maybe the modern-day equivalent, a tattoo or piercing.  Brittany tells me it’s more likely that Ellie will simply return with new clothes.

wine

More likely, Ellie will return with expectations of drinking wine at dinner.  She’s yet to obtain her driving license, but that’s not a requirement in Austria for imbibing adult beverages.  Three more weeks of Ellie exploring Europe.  Life won’t be the same when she returns.