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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Letting Go

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DIA 2

A big trip for me when I was 16 was driving three hours across Texas to the beach.  Ellie wanted to leave the country.  I know, we all do.  We dropped off Ellie at DIA yesterday to fly Lufthansa to Austria – on her own.  Just watching her navigate the security line by herself was hard for Karen and me.  Letting go, one vacation at a time.

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We embarrassed her with our photo-taking, tracking her progress through security like parents sending their 5 year old off to their first day in kindergarten.  Ellie navigated switching flights in Munich – Europe’s 7th busiest airport.  She arrived in Graz around 2pm CET and called us to let us know she was safe – 6am MDT.  She’ll be visiting her childhood friend Izzy for the next four weeks.  Karen and I will be adapting to life as empty-nesters.

The Irrigation Ditch

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I don’t talk up the irrigation ditch at N. 83rd St. on the Lobo Trail enough.  Back when I ran big distance, fifteen and twenty milers, its strategic location three and half miles from my house was a life saver on hot summer days.  Nowadays, I would argue running seven miles is easier than running six.  Sloshing around my hat in that cool snow melt and putting it back on brings my legs back to life.  More than anything else, that stream brings me back home.

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The air is still a bit hazy from the fires down in Durango.  Running a few miles Thursday gave me sniffles and a sore throat.  Risked it today because the weekend is my only chance to get in any real miles.  I think the air is better than Thursday.  My buddy La Plata said it rained good down in Durango yesterday.  Natural hydration.  Helps me on my runs and the best response to those forest fires.

They Grow up so Fast

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Lea Marlene

We watched Brit perform a couple of skits Friday night at the Lea Marlene Acting Studio on Pearl Street.  Come to think of it, we watched her last Friday too, singing at the Denver Bicycle Cafe.  She’s become our go-to event for Fridays, no doubt risking over-exposure.

Camilla Susser

Brit acted out scenes from Steel Magnolias and The Importance of Being Earnest.  Brit played Shelby, returning home pregnant for Christmas in Magnolias.  As you can see in the photo, Brit played pretty, young Cecily in Earnest.

Brit with ellie n rachel

We hung around a bit afterward for the cast party.  Brit was happy, as you can see in the photo above with her friend Rachel and sister Ellie.  Brit is in her mid-twenties now, and it’s special to still go watch her perform, like we did when she was a child.  She’s engaged now.  I expect events will change.  Brit will turn her focus to her family.  We’ll still have Ellie for a few more years.

The Cyphers

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steganogrphy

I belong to a covert writing club.  We publish on the deep web.  Like using steganography.  I probably shouldn’t say anything more.  It started from a private invite.  We publish privately to promote creativity.

If any of this sounds illicit to you, let me define terms.  The dark net is where people conduct nefarious transactions.  Dark net sites are generally also part of the deep web, but the deep web is not inherently bad.  It’s simply web sites that have not been indexed by search engines or otherwise have their access obscured.  The metaphor is of an iceberg.  We use the Internet that’s been indexed for queries.  That’s the tip of the iceberg.  The vast majority of the web is not visible to us, like the deeply submerged section of the iceberg.

This started out as a way for us to hone our craft.  It’s also a good method to draft snippets of dialogue for later regurgitation in other works – for me, my novel.  I’m considering submitting my current writing for review, sort of like the conventional writer’s discussion group.

I’m relating this under my novel category because I think it’s a novel approach (forgive the pun) for writers to practice their craft.  Your contributions can be easily copy/pasted years into the future into derivative works.  A post today by one of the other writers spoke to me so directly, it felt unnatural.  Like the narrator had a Gods-eye view into my life.  That’s impressive writing that does that.  Not only will I benefit from the writing exercise, but I expect to read some really good stories, exclusive to my private group.

 

The Art of Slow

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“I’m in no rush.”  That’s what I told myself today as I parked at the trailhead.  I should be back on the LoBo Trail where I belong, but I deferred a run last October to this October.  The course runs upwards of 60 miles through Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon.  Over three days.  We’re in summer today, I felt it, but fall is up next.  I need to train on a mountain trail.  But I could give up thoughts of constant running today, on this trail.

At Heil Valley, I always warm up on the Lichen Loop.  I was out early enough to avoid direct overhead sun.  My current state of fitness won’t let me enjoy running up to the top of the Wapiti Trail.  I ran over a mile of it but didn’t make it to the top.  I don’t think it matters.  I just need to run up and down a mountain trail.  Doesn’t matter how I do it.  Could be more of a power walk, with stops to drink water.  Sometimes it was.

Part of the technical aspect of running such a rocky mountain trail requires attention to control.  For me, control highly correlates with slow.  Part of my plan already.  I was good.  I carried a water bottle, that’s how slow I started out.  I don’t know if I ever actually increased my pace, but I felt like I did at times.  Steep trails kill.

So I walked when needed, knowing that I would before I ever stepped out of the car.  I would try to run when going past other hikers and bikers.  Think what you want about me, appearances matter.  I typically pass bikers on the way up.  Not today though.  Probably not for a couple of months, if I train.  I ran strong though at times.

Whenever my lactate level would allow, I’d unwind over the dirt and rocks, and when I exceeded my lactate threshold, I either slowed down, or, with increasing frequency, I walked. Even the walking was a training experience.  Both cardio and  technical.  I re-introduced myself to trail running today.  It’s going to be an uphill climb, but starting is the hardest part.  And I’ve started.

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I know that I developed a pattern of streaking through sunlit meadows faster than the darker woods.  It just seemed smart to expose myself to the unrelenting rays of the sun today, as little as possible.  At times, I swear I could see beams of light slicing through the grass in front of me.  I think this photo above proves I didn’t imagine it.

I think, never stopping to walk with full sun exposure, was what got me home today.  Could have been the difference.  Hard to say sometimes whether it’s the heat or the hill.  Today it was both so I optimized my slower running to cooler parts of the trails.  That’s environmental leverage.  And because I carried water with me, I practiced a little hydro management too.  Point is, pace doesn’t matter.  Everything on the spectrum from walking to running  today counted toward the training I’m going to need for October.

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Running and walking with control, which is harder than you think on the downhills when you do it fast, meant that no matter how slow and controlled my pace was, I was getting something from it.  Technical training from my foot placement decisions.  Cardio from my random pace and the hills.  As I passed an older couple, one called out something to me and I replied back with something witty that made them laugh.  Then I laughed.  Going slow allowed me to take photos.  It was a good run