With our birthdays two days apart, Ellie and I typically share our celebrations. Something kept getting in the way every weekend and our party was delayed by four weeks. This weekend was sketchy as well with eight inches of snow in the forecast, but it was just a cold rain and didn’t stick to the roads. So, Ellie got her electric guitar and I finally got my Doc Martins.
If Ellie turned twenty, that means I must now be sixty. And Brit would be thirty. With the obvious cognitive decline I must experiencing at this advanced age, I appreciate the easy math to recall my girls’ ages. I know what you’re thinking, with my girls being born a full ten years apart, but same wife. We’ll celebrate thirty-five years together this summer.
I could point out the adversities I’ve encountered over my sixty-year span, but they’re drowned in a sea of blessings and I can only think of how good my life has been. Good friends. A growing family. I’m ready for the next sixty.
It’s not unusual for long runs, marathons and half marathons, to begin at sunrise. A 100K (62 mile) ultra will take you from sunrise to sunset. My son-in-law Eric is taking his first steps in this photo above in the Black Canyon 100K Ultra yesterday.
I wasn’t there to crew this time around, so I began my morning viewing the photos stream into my mobile. It seemed a no brainer to then choose “ultra” for my starter word in my morning Wordle ritual and I was rewarded with a hole-in-one, guessing correctly on the first row. Still, I was jealous of Eric’s parents getting to crew him to glory. Eric’s running mate, Matthew is standing to the right in the photo above.
Margot was the youngest member of the crew, held here in the early morning hours by her grandmother, Julie.
Eric called Brit a third of the way into the run to tell her he was considering dropping out. He felt that he had heat exhaustion. Black Canyon is high-altitude desert north of Phoenix. My response to that is, if you have never DNF’d in an ultra, then you haven’t run enough ultras. Brit told him to tough it out to the next aid station to see how he felt. Ten hours later, he was crossing this finish line.
My first two-week vacation since starting up with a new tech firm four years ago has begun. And it begins with a clean desk. I suppose clean is a relative term, but trust me, for me, this sparkles. And loaded up on the left-hand monitor is my third novel. I intend to use this time to tap out some stories on that sparkling keyboard. I love having the time to plan out all I’m going to accomplish in the new year. Top of my list is more reading, more writing, AWS Security Certification, and more working out. I’ll use these final two weeks of the year as a springboard to all of that.
I enjoyed a super nice ten miler today on the LoBo Trail in 40° temps and full sunshine. The only thing that would have made it better was a bit of snow. My buddy from Durango texted me this photo of his run today. The snow will come. I’ll be in Austin though in a few days. Austin won’t have snow but it’s an ideal running town.
Karen and I plan to spend some time down around Town Lake. If possible, I’ll sneak in a run with my son-in-law on the Greenbelt – the best inner-city running trail in the country. Eric and Brit are already down in Austin, staying at his brother’s house. We’ve delayed our flight because Ellie Rose came home from college with the flu. The nurse at Boulder Medical said they tried to get the School of Mines to send kids home two weeks ago because of an outbreak. I wish they’d have followed that advice.
Karen and I are good though. We’ve had our flu shots and are triple vaxxed. Looking forward to spending time with family. I can’t even remember what we did last year, probably because we did nothing. I know for some, it feels like 2021 hasn’t improved much over 2020, but being able to see family and friends again sets the two years a millennium apart as far as I’m concerned. Just look at that photo above of Margot with her Aunt Priscilla meeting her older cousin Ollie for the first time. Their first Christmas together. This is going to be a special Christmas.
The perfect holiday for me is when I have time to reflect, to be introspective of the year, and eat pie for breakfast. 2021 has been my restoration year. A return to family, running, and the first Thanksgiving dinner I’ve cooked in several years. The pie was baked by my son-in-law.
I ran this weekend over the dying landscape of an impending winter, but I’m invigorated. I learned to run comfortably with my current weight and completed my first marathon in four years. I’m a runner again.
The year started with the loss of my mother, and that was indescribably sad. Caring for her on hospice for twelve months with my brother left me prepared though. If you’ve done something similar, then you know the final passing is a blessing.
Months later, I became a grandfather. A life is marked by meaningful milestones and Margot Faye’s birth was a life changing occasion for more than just me. Our house once again has a bassinet, formula and milk bottles.
It’s impossible to top the birth of my granddaughter, but everything else has been going well too, including my writing. I’ve made a little progress on my third novel, and I’ve had other fulfilling writing outlets. I’m grateful for everything this past year. I hope it’s been as good for you.
As much as I try to make this blog all about me, this story is about Margot Faye. The photo above, taken Friday night, captures my first time to see her. First time to hold her. First time to play grandfather.
Brit went into the hospital at 10:00 pm Monday and delivered Margot into the world at 10:11 pm Tuesday. Prevented from entering by Covid, I spent four hours outside in the parking lot. Allowed in under the spouse plus one rules, Karen would step outside from time to time to give me updates.
Now a grandfather, my life is full. There is nothing more I should ask for, and yet I do want more. I want more time with Margot Faye. I want to be healthy enough to keep up with her. I don’t need to be skinny, I understand that my double chin is here to stay, but I want to experience the Colorado outdoors with Margot. Hiking and snowshoeing. Backpacking adventures. I want to be with Margot on her first fourteener.
Margot Faye will have a wonderful life. She’ll be raised by Brit and Eric, two grateful parents who will take care of her needs and give her the support to grow with confidence. Brit will give Margot the gift of song. Margot will be singing before she can talk. Eric will have Margot running trails through alpine meadows before she can walk. Margot will be spoiled by her grandparents in both Colorado and Boston. Her aunt Ellie lives just a few miles away. And there are great grandparents who can’t wait to see her.
After nine months of growth in the womb, Margot now has a life in the world. Her life will be a story of joy, sometimes of sadness, she will know love and love lost. She will experience everything there is of life but never alone. She will be surrounded by a supportive and loving family. And she will bring joy to all who know her. She already has.
Yesterday was Brit’s due day. Not overly bummed that Margot Faye didn’t arrive on 911, but we’re on pins and needles. All I can do to pass the time is run. October 10th will be my first marathon as a grandfather, assuming I can get to where I need to be. I’ve worked my way up to running ten miles comfortably and I’m making progress learning how to best run over-weight, which is, wait for it, slow. Really, really, slow.
Speed is relative of course but my legs naturally fall into a nine and a half minute pace after they’ve warmed up. Problem is, I can’t sustain that pace for much more than ten kilometers. Running slower than your legs want to naturally go is harder than you might think. My cadence has been steady, regardless of distance, just over 170 strides per minute. Cadence is more of a cyclist term. Runners will instead refer to “pace” or “roll”, as in “I rolled past him.” But cadence is still a thing for runners, just as it is for cyclists.
If you’re running, as opposed to walking, then you’re very likely maintaining a cadence between 170 and 180 strides per minute, regardless of speed. If you’re running slower, say over a ten minute pace, then your cadence might be between 160 and 170, but for the most part, speed is determined by stride length while maintaining the same cadence. That might not be intuitive, but that’s how it works.
I’m finding it hard to run an eleven minute pace, I’ve been in the ten minute range. In the marathon itself though, I’ll simply line up behind the 5-hour pace sign. That will give me an 11:30 pace. If I feel good half way, I might run ahead of the pace sign at the Boulder Res. If I’m disciplined though, I’ll wait until about twenty miles, which is the start of a three mile down-slope segment. Slopes are noticeable at altitude.
I ran ten miles yesterday and was feeling strong enough to attempt twelve by running six miles before turning around. This part of my trail is actually a loop, or a lollipop as they say because it’s a five mile stick with a two mile loop. Problem was that the loop began an upslope. Gentle enough that you wouldn’t notice it at sea-level, but at a mile-high in elevation, it raced my heart up ten beats over my max rate for one and a half miles. I couldn’t recover by slowing down, which I did. It didn’t begin to drop again until the return where the slope began to drop.
The Boulder Marathon course will have a few tough slopes like that. Some that I would even call hills, although nothing terribly steep. It’s good to know that my heart rate will recover, I just have to hang in there and wait for the other side of the hill.
It occurs to me that I’m blogging more because of this marathon. Because I’m nervous. And that makes me think of what Brit is going through right now. She’s been pinging our family chat regularly with updates. She’s understandably nervous. My marathon is trivial compared to her life event. I recall how I felt decades ago. The anxiety was unlike anything I’ve ever gone through since. But then that baby is born and all is perfect.
That day is coming any minute now. The Rose Medical Center’s Covid rules are father +1, so Eric and Karen can be in the hospital. I’ll be a mile down the street in a Cherry Creek hotel. So excited to meet Margot Faye.
The family that hikes together, in my experience, brunches together. Which is what we did today. It’s never occurred to me to hike Red Rocks before, the trails aren’t exposed at night when I’ve gone there for concerts. But Red Rocks has an extensive, family-friendly trail system.
Ellie’s sorority house is only a ten minute drive away, so we picked her up and met Brit and Eric at the Trading Post trailhead. The Trading Post trail is a 1.5 mile loop around spectacular red rock formations. Very little shade so consider wearing a hat.
The Never Summer mountain range in northern Colorado contains seven named peaks. At 5:30am Saturday morning, my son-in-law Eric would run around and over many of them as part of a 100K (64 mile) trail ultra.
Brit and I served as Eric’s race crew, hiking a mile or so into four of the eight aid stations to change his socks and negotiate with him to consume calories. You might notice here that Brit is thirty-four weeks pregnant. She had some of the elite ultra runners calling her out for being such a badass.
Brit discovered at our first aid station, Diamond, that she would have to forcefully negotiate with Eric, to make him consume the needed calories. A runner burns about 100 calories per mile, meaning Eric would need to replace over 6000 calories in this race.
Eric eventually acquiesced and ate about 50 calories worth of watermelon. Not a win for Brit exactly, but watermelon contains a ton of potassium.
Above is a pic of Brit and me returning from the Ruby aid station, the near-halfway mark for Eric at thirty miles. He appeared to have recovered from his early calorie deficit, while Brit and I were gaining efficiencies at hauling gear and tending to his needs. We would hike eight to ten miles before the day was over. The western monsoonal weather was dramatic enough to reroute our drive up to the Never Summer range through Wyoming and trap us there for the weekend with all exits shut down once we’d arrived. The clouds in the photo above were a constant backdrop but Saturday was mostly dry for the ultra.
Brit made friends with Kiersten who crewed her husband Jack. Pictured here at the Canadian aid station where he was in third with fourteen miles to go, Jack ultimately finished second overall.
Finishing fourth overall was the first place woman, Addie Bracy, pictured above. Author of Mental Training for Ultrarunning, Addie is always a top contender in the Western States 100. She lives in Brit’s Denver neighborhood around Sloans Lake.
This was a typical aid station scene for me and Brit – sitting center in the orange puff jacket. The temperature dropped about thirty degrees during the time we waited for Eric at this Canadian aid station in the early afternoon.
After sitting for a good three hours, Brit launched from her chair to crew Eric. He told her that he nearly DNF’d at Clear Lake, but opted instead to replenish calories at an aid station. He felt better after a half hour of walking and arrived to the Canadian aid station full of confidence that he would finish. At this point, in 19th place, he had another fourteen miles to run.
Five miles later, Eric surprised us by arriving early to the Bockman aid station and in seventeenth place.
After Bockman, our job crewing at aid stations was over. We waited at the finish for Eric to complete his final eight and a half miles. If you’re curious why this Colorado mountain range is named “Never Summer”, consider how bundled up Brit is in her camping chair on July 31st.
We didn’t have long to wait as Eric finished strong after over 14 hours of running his first 100K ultra.
The winter just got a little colder with my mother’s passing early Thursday morning, after battling COPD and cancer for ten years. Surrounded by her children, she went peacefully, willing to join God and the loved ones who preceded her.
She was fortunate to meet her new grandson-in-law, Eric, before he and Brittany were married in 2019. And she lived long enough for four great grandchildren to be born in 2019 and 2020.
When you have seven children, you’re going to have a few great grandchildren. She had seven, with more on the way.
She married on September 21st, five days after her 18th birthday, because her German Protestant mother wouldn’t approve of her underage marriage to an Irish Catholic. Demonstrating a strong work ethic, Johnny eventually won his mother-in-law over. He died young in 1967, leaving mom to raise us on her own.
A friend said to me that our parents are our one constant and true love. My body once lived inside her body. Without a father since I was five, she was everything to me. She’ll live on through me, but my world is colder without her.
It feels to me as though everyone I’m close to, who passed in the last few decades, did so in the winter. I can see how it might be poetic, to follow nature’s seasons. Without winter, there’d be no spring. There are yet more grandchildren to marry and more great grandchildren to be born.
My mom loved her church, Round Rock Presbyterian Church. She formed their Women’s Guild and for anyone whom wants to give in her memory, she wishes for donations to go to the RRPC Women’s Guild. Below is a joke mom shared with her grandchildren, that she heard at church.
We never truly know our parents, just the stories. I thought of those stories a lot over the past year. Some stories where she’s the hero. Others where she’s not. Stories, where a single working mother, in the sixties and seventies, raised seven kids. Until the equal credit opportunity act was signed in 1974, it must have been hard for a woman to obtain a credit card. But we were never homeless, never hungry. We lived well. I was always happy.
There’s a story in my family, about my mom selling one of her children’s musical instruments. And something about how she went about it, some of my sisters were upset. Those memories make me feel shameful at how selfish I was. A single working mother with seven children and I can’t think of one thing I ever did to help her.
I should have been giving her all my discarded toys and used clothes or whatever. I should have contributed to the hot meals and the roof over my head provided by a mother who had to sell one of her seven kid’s musical instruments. But I was just a kid.
She loved her grandchildren. Below is Brook.
And this is her with my girls, Brit and Ellie Rose. We love you mom and grandma.
On my first full day home for the holidays, I got in five miles on the East Boulder Trail. I was able to run to the turn-around point, but had to walk back as I’ve gained the Covid-twenty since March. I was only home for a stealthy few days, all of them full, relaxing, restorative.
My family gathered at Brit and Eric’s new home in Edgewater for Thanksgiving. It’s near Sloans Lake for running and they have good neighbors. Eric has mastered replacing the doorbell and is preparing for larger DIY jobs.
Eric brought me into the kitchen to carve. Otherwise, he cooked it all; the stuffing was his family recipe; he baked Brussel sprouts with something else good; mashed potatoes with a gravy that was the talk of the table; he warmed up the green bean casserole; plus he baked two pies. Did I mention the turkey?
After my Keurig run, Karen told me to enjoy the Keurig one more time, then pack up. The Covid’s comin’. Gear up to hit the trail. We got as far as Estes Park where we thought we could get some grub. We were greeted with signs like this, reminding us of just the other week when it was that way at home too. We were happy with the takeout from Bird & Jim. And they had a better sign.
The girls took our flight in stride. One more road trip for old times, I heard one of them say. Ellie Rose will go off to the Colorado School of Mines this fall, leaving Karen and me to discover our new normal as empty nesters. Ellie Rose should be safe in the mines.
Estes Park did have good food, but we found ourselves surrounded by the Colorado Mountain elk herd that’s been ranging these slopes for eons, or at least since 1913 when the then extinct herd was reintroduced from Wyoming.
We waited for the elk to fall asleep and made our escape under the cover of darkness. With the next morning’s sunlight, we found ourselves on the Lily Mountain Trail.
Karen told us this trail would lead to a new world. A place free from the horrors of 2020. She told us we would be happy in this new place.
When we got there, we saw this. We knew this hike was the right choice for the Memorial Day weekend. Karen was right.
New generations will blaze new trails up here in Karen’s woods. Summer is coming, calling all of us outdoors, hopefully not like sirens to the rocks. Wear a buff on the trail.
I ran my all-time favorite trail this morning – the Greenbelt that follows Barton Creek for seven miles upstream from Zilker Park. Ryan, Brittany and I ran up three miles before turning around for a six miler, while Eric and Dan got in eight miles.
Deep in the heart of a city with a million people, we saw less than a half dozen other runners and bikers on the trail. The 45° might have been too cold for most Texans. One biker was dressed up for the North Pole. I could have used my gloves for the first mile, but it warmed up nicely.
I used to run the Greenbelt almost daily when I last lived in Austin. Eric found a stretch today where Lance holds the fastest time on Strava. His college running buddy Dan recently ran a sub three-hour marathon. The two of them have a shot at beating Lance, so I’m guessing we’ll return later in the week.
I must have a thousand wedding photos. Expect to keep seeing them. This blog post features the wedding performers. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Brit and Eric’s wedding showcased some great local talent.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Ellie Rose’s wedding toast. That speech qualified her as one of the key performers. She didn’t prepare any material. Or she did, but she lost it. It seemed to me she was making it up as she went. She was quite comfortable in the spotlight, and she made Brittany laugh.
Ben and Rachel sang the first song during the ceremonial aspen tree planting. They played and sang Make You Feel My Love, from Adele’s 19 album.
Brit used to sing in Ben Westlund’s band False Summit, back in college. He has a sweet voice that would fit in with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Rachel is Brit’s partner in their band Girlfriend Cult. Karen and I get out occasionally to Denver to listen to them play at local brew pubs and coffee houses. They have a nice sound. I’ve never heard Rachel sing as beautifully as she did at the wedding.
Brit’s good friend and mentor Monica Augustine wrote and played an original song – Captivated – for Brit and Eric’s first dance. How special is that? Listen to it below.
Estes Park was an ideal wedding venue for out-of-state guests who enjoy the outdoors, because the town is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Eric’s father Doug, and my niece Jessy’s husband Bryan, went fly fishing. No doubt, some of the most gorgeous fly fishing in the world is in RMNP. I took four Texans on a massive nine mile hike to the summit of Flattop Mountain.
You can see how well-groomed the trail is here at the start. The Bear Lake trailhead was packed with over 100 cars, but very few hikers took our trail up to Flattop Mountain. With 3000 feet of elevation gain in the 4.4 mile distance, it’s one of the park’s more challenging adventures.
I extended invites to the two dozen or so friends on our private wedding FB group, and I had four takers – all from Austin, Texas. I was confident these four could do it. My brother Steve, pictured above, was the oldest in his low 60s, but he’s a Mahoney so I knew he was up for it.
Karen’s brother Steve, pictured here above tree line, still rocks Austin with his band the Rite Flyers. He lives for epic stuff like this.
An avid athlete, Laura doesn’t shy away from adventure. She is so fit, I don’t think she noticed the altitude rise from 9400 feet at the trailhead to 12,200 at the summit. She did comment on the cold winds up top, but then she had just left 105° in Austin.
Laura’s seventeen-year-old son Zac is so fit, he appeared to climb this hill sitting down. I’ve been on trails with him before and he’s an experienced hiker.
With Longs Peak as a backdrop, Laura clearly won an August snowball fight with her son.
Laura and her son were naturally the first to summit Flattop Mountain. The two Steves and I maintained a more gentlemanly pace. Other wedding guests still enjoyed the outdoors by wandering around Estes Park and some of the nearby trails. The five of us will remember Brittany and Eric’s wedding for this epic hike.
A life is measured by milestones. Cairns marking babies’ births and daughters wed. It’s not the years darlin’, it’s the miles. Monday’s mile marker flashed the last twenty-seven years before me. I revisited them during the wedding toast I gave to Eric and Brittany. You can view them here.
I thought I might experience melancholy and cry. The emotions that came surprised me. Despite what some might tell you, I don’t think I cried. We were facing a strong sun during the vows. I know I wasn’t the only one with the sun in my eyes. The surprise came from thoughts of my expanded family and the sharing of future life events via Eric and Brittany. It just seems to me that raising a family, and the continuing familial growth via your children’s union is what life is all about. It was a feeling that took me back to Brittany’s birth – seven weeks premature. She was a little four pound peanut.
Born December 6th, she was still in her incubator on December 26th, having spent Christmas with the other little preemies. The doctors were close to transferring Brittany to Children’s Hospital in Denver, but she proved resilient. Twenty-seven years later, I enjoyed the pleasure of walking her down the aisle.
And I have an expanded family with the Wright clan whom I expect to spend many more happy events with like our weekend in Estes Park. Eric’s parents, Doug and Julie, live in Boston. Julie told me to begin training to run the Boston Marathon with her soon. Eric’s brother Brad, his wife Priscilla, and their newborn Oliver, are from Dallas. They all drove down to Austin last Christmas to join us for dinner.
Ellie Rose might mark my next milestone. She experienced a taste for weddings this past weekend. I hope my suit still fits when that day comes.
The photos have just begun to come in. Expect to see many more, courtesy of Hannah Kate at happylandic.com.
Given the choice, I’d choose to live in Telluride, but Aspen is very nice. I spent the weekend there with my running tribe in a house with unbelieveable views of Mount Sopris, Capitol Peak, and the Maroon Bells. Aspen has posh shops, gorgeous homes, and private jets piled up like discarded legos, but I was there to spend time with friends and run a 14 mile trail run. It was all good.
Jen 1, in the yellow jacket, and Jen 2 standing in front of me, and Rych in the white jacket, would finish 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the 50-59 year age group. During the nearly four hours it took all of us to cross the finish line, we experienced a steep, glute-burning, 3,000 foot climb, an equally steep, thigh-crushing descent, bloody falls, and old-growth, aspen-lined trails.
I mostly followed Rych and Dave up the hill, then ran with Jen and Jill, pictured here ahead of me, across the top of the ridge.
Jen 1, shown above, has been my neighbor for the last twenty years. She has a family blessed in athletic abilities. Her son and daughter run on the Niwot HS cross country team, one of the top prep programs in the country. Even her husband Kelly, a state champion wrestler in his prep days, continues to sport the athleticism of a man half his age. Jen passed me in the final four miles while I was performing my cool-down routine.
The real stars of our running tribe were our two marathoners, Bob pictured above crossing the finish line with his wife, Jen 2, and Keith pictured below with the bloody arm.
Keith and Bob crossed the finish line near the 6 hour mark. Mountain trail runs are notedly slower than street events run below 10,000 feet. Mountain trail runs are tough. Keith told stories of passing puking runners, and of a lady near the end who asked him if he would share some sunscreen. Knowing his lotion was stashed deep in his pack, he declined, telling her they were only two miles from the finish. She pleaded, “but I’m a ginger!” Keith forged ahead, telling us later, he’s no fucking aid station. Mountain trail runners are tough.
While I was out of town, running tough miles, Karen threw Brittany Noel her bridal shower.
Just as well I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have known what to wear. Karen said Brittany was over the moon with joy. It was a big weekend for all.
Don’t you think this is an easy enough route? On paper, it’s fairly straight-forward. Park at Bear Lake Trailhead, as big and well-groomed a thrailhead as you will ever find. This trailhead presents numerous options for more pedestrian hikes to various lakes. I took the less-pedestrian trail that runs above treeline to merge into the Continental Divide Trail in a photopunk moonscape of alpine flowers.
I drove through the ranger gate at 6:15am, and it was open for free. Rangers have told me before that parking fills up by 7am. There are other trailheads along the drive, but this trailhead is a great place to start so many hikes. The difficulty of the hike depends on which direction you go onto the Bear Lake Loop Trail.
You take the left trail—the epic hike ends, you see pretty new lakes every mile or so after cresting shallow hills. You take the right trail—you climb this hill, and I show you Colorado from the top. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth.
The trail hits treeline about half way up, time and distance-wise. Treeline is also about two-thirds up the 3000 feet of vertical. The rocks are covered in alpine flowers here that should still be around in late August.
This section of trail, just before cresting Flattop Mountain, is convered by snowpack still. I suspect some of this will remain in late August too, but it’s passable. I’ll have a few pairs of trekking poles for those who want them.
The top is surreal, like Mars with grass and flowers.
The views were great the entire hike. At the top here, you can see Longs Peak behind me. There is an awesome view of the Keyhole and the Ledges on the northwest side of Longs Peak.
I know Nancy, Steve, my brother Steve, and really, most of you could make this hike. It took me a little under four hours. Expect five. Like this post if you’re interested Sunday morning.