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.
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 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.
I remember when I discovered Ellie Rose was smarter than me.She was in middle school.She’s been reading adult-level books since grade school.
She had her pick of colleges and chose the one known to be the hardest scholastically, the Colorado School of Mines.She’s interested in epigenetics.
She’s a girl of many talents.At NHS, she formed clubs and participated in sports and the student council.She earned money at various jobs.She wrote songs on the piano and guitar.She traveled to Austria and back on her own.
Ellie Rose is ready for the next step in her life.She graduated yesterday to cap off a challenging time.We’re excited for her because we know she will become a woman who will move the world forward.
Karen and Ellie let me out at mom’s house Saturday morning.They delayed their departure for better weather.Those girls aren’t trying to beat the Post Office.Ellie got us from Austin to Round Rock via MoPac.Karen took the wheel heading out of town.
When I drive, I tend to steer well east of Lubbock.It’s too early for dinner and too late for lunch, and too tempting to stop early for dinner, making the next day a longer drive.
Coincidentally, when Karen drove it today, her map app took her through the middle of her college stompin’ grounds.Go Tech.
Karen called me after reaching Amarillo to say they had a nice ride.Ellie drove for ninety minutes.They were planning dinner.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
See the blood over my right breast in this photo? A little chafing in the 2012 Boulder Marathon. These things have a way of catching up with you. I learned this past week I have gynecomastia in my right breast. That’s essentially breast tissue growth. It’s been sore for a couple of months. At first I assumed it to be chaffing from long runs. I get that occasionally. Then I realized it wasn’t chaffed. And then I freaked out a little bit because I felt a noticeable lump. I probably over-reacted but having had cancer, it’s not an experience I care to rinse and repeat.
I had it checked out. Blood tests and imaging, including a mammogram. I’m fine. I don’t really know the cause other than apparently my hormones, while they are all within their respective ranges, have likely changed their ratios. My right nipple is about twice the size of my left. Just another reason to keep my shirt on.
I’ve been running strides with Ellie the last couple of days. She’s prepping for track to start in a week so we are learning form. We run two miles and then run eight strides in the grass in our racing flats. Yes, I have racing flats. Ellie wears her spikes. The point is not so much a physical workout as to teach Ellie what it’s like to run fast. Speed might be natural talent but your legs still have to learn this.
We run about 200 meters, progressively working ourselves into a sprint. We jog the first quarter, then double our pace for the next quarter, then stride near sprint pace and finish with an all-out sprint. The distance for the sprint is a bit shorter than for the stride, which is shorter than the two previous legs, so they are not evenly spread legs. Neither one of us is in shape to run big sprints, so that part is very short.
It’s all about form and muscle memory. This training isn’t ideal for me, considering I’m training for a marathon, but it won’t hurt me to run less distance for a week. I didn’t expect myself to be able to keep up with Ellie but I can. I think the two mile warm up helps. My upper thighs and glutes are sore though. Maybe this week of running with Ellie will help my speed. 2016 was a slow year for me. Muscles have memory and mine remember running fast. Ellie might just help me qualify for Boston in my marathon this May.
American women are taking it to the streets today in solidarity. Good for them. Ellie is going to be part of something today that no doubt will indelibly shape her character. If all she does is talk to Susan all day long, she’ll grow from the experience, but she will be among thousands of empowered and spirited ladies.
Ellie is a doer. Volunteer work. Student council. She will be traveling on a bus from the neighborhood to downtown Denver all on her own today to be part of a political event bigger than the inauguration. I don’t know exactly what she’ll take away from the experience but I expect it will be positive. Self-empowerment. Belonging to a tribe. Politics. She is just a high school freshman, but she is growing into something special.
Instagram is Ellie’s social network of choice, as I believe it is for many 14 year olds. And a picture says 1000 words. Ellie sent me these pics from her final days in Austin, saying 1000 words, and then some.
She knows how to capture the best of Austin, and the fun she is having wth her cousins.
I remember the first time I climbed the million steps up Mt. Bonnell, and saw this same view, in the late ’70s. Ellie’s photos are making me truly nostalgic. I have so many good memories of this hill, and Barton Springs below.
It’s so nice to see Lake Travis completely refilled from the rains.
Ellie is totally up on politics and has her own views. This is from South Congress.
Ellie is in the midst of her cousins for nine days. She is pictured here with her older cousin Rachel, visiting Austin from Eugene, playing Top Golf. Ellie says she sucks at golf. I told her that’s how you know you are golfing.
Liam is the baby of all the cousins, so he gets special treatment. He doesn’t appear to like Ellie picking him up much.
I’m told they made their escape with 10 minutes to spare. Ellie said they work well together as a problem solving team. Team work. Let’s check back in with them after a few more days.
Karen and I were empty nesters for a week. We know now how it feels. What to expect. Now that Ellie is back, I know what to expect on our joint training plan too. Three miles was too much for the first day. Ellie was able to run two miles, running the first mile non-stop. This will be a game of inches.
Ellie’s camp counselor Emily, pinged photos to me every day that she was away at Coeur d’Alene. That’s where this pic above comes from. This pic below is what Ellie posted to her Instagram. It says everything to me on what she found beautiful in the forests of Idaho.
Unfortunately I have to travel on the 4th and 5th for work, so we won’t run again until Wednesday. Ellie has dance practice though during that time so she’ll get in a bit of a workout. Summer training has officially started.
Ellie’s spring break was a big week of snowboarding. She starts the week out in Winter Park with Chase and Wendy. She finishes the week in Vail with her sister. The first day is a whiteout snowfall. Ellie said the powder was so deep, it didn’t hurt to fall.
Chase skis but Ellie is able to keep up with him on her board. Ellie took off day two to recover her legs and do some shopping. The three of them watch movies every night and eat huge breakfasts that Wendy cooks each morning. Ellie’s favorite is Custard French Toast with Pecan Crust.
I wonder if Wendy cooks like this when it’s just Chase at home? I’m considering buying a 2016-2017 season ski pass to Winter Park for Ellie, just so she can have a hot breakfast.
Thursday is full sunshine. I drive up to join them, my skin smothered in zinc, but get sunburned anyway. This is my first time to snowboard in Winter Park. Gorgeous mountain. Maybe age has diminished my sense of balance, but the lifts at Winter Park eject me like catapults. I fall getting off over half the time.
I’m serious about Winter Park ski passes. Boarding with Wendy and Chase was a blast and it’s a great mountain. Coming back for sure.
Ellie and I hook up later with Karen and Brit in Vail. Turns out, this is Brit’s first time snowboarding in four years. She’s still faster than me.
I show off my toe side here. And I master hopping off the lifts – not pictured.
Brittany boards with some style. Brit got me to try snowboarding about 10 years ago. I finally bought a $40 board off Craigslist last year to hit the slopes with Ellie. Glad I did.
Is Brit sticking her tongue out at me? Millennials! She’s riding Ellie’s board here and struggles a bit because she doesn’t like the parallel position of the bindings. She falls getting off the lifts more than I did at Winter Park.
The difference between boarding with Ellie and Brit is that Brit drinks beer with me in between runs. I believe we both improved our form after each can of liquid courage.
Snowboarding with Brit on Friday, after a four or five year gap, brought back great memories. So good to know we can still shred the slopes. I expect many more years of this.
Brit and Ellie gear up Saturday morning to snowboard before the forecast rain begins. Another day too warm to snow. They get in some runs though. Brit feels better on her own board with the bindings turned out.
Hail begins to fall on the mountain shortly after noon so the girls quit early to do some shopping. Ellie finds a new, black GLCR 686 ski jacket, an early birthday present to herself. Brit assumes this means she inherits Ellie’s green GLCR 686 jacket. That’s how sisters think.
They catch the bus home just as it begins to rain. Vacation is winding down as Ellie entertains us with her ukulele. Another good spring break.
“Keep your back straight!” Ellie coached me today on how to snowboard. That’s fair, I taught her how to ride a bike. I thought I knew how to snowboard but six years have somehow passed by since I last went. Could have something to do with breaking my ribs on that last outing in Idaho. Falling on a snowboard comes fast and hard. Ellie knows, check out that photo of her below.
What really helped me today was renting some snowboard boots. I started out in my snow boots, trying to save some money. That was a mistake. I felt totally uncoordinated on my first couple of runs. It only took a few minutes to rent some boots and I improved dramatically. My two key lessons for today were proper boots and keeping my back straight.
To go out with Ellie, I first had to acquire a snowboard. I bought a ten year old K2 off Craigslist on Monday for $30. The guy wanted $40 but then we both noticed a screw missing from the bindings. For my speed, the one screw isn’t critical. I might buy some newer bindings though off Craigslist this week. I don’t need new gear at my novice level of experience. I just need to keep up with Ellie. We started out on the magic carpet and worked our way onto the lift after a few initial runs.
Today’s weather was unbelievably warm and sunny. Neither of us wore gloves. We’re going to try to get up another weekend or two before spring break to work on our skills. Then, we plan to join the Sebesta’s at the start of spring break at the Stockert’s cabin in Breck. And we plan on boarding another couple of days at the end of break in Keystone. I’m confident Ellie and I will be real snowboarders by the end of the season. We lunched at the end of today at the Black Forest in Nederland. Awesome day!
Today marks our sixth consecutive drive up to Eldora Mountain Resort for Ellie’s snow board lessons in the Eldora Kid’s Trek Program. Certainly not our final drive up but Ellie’s last lesson for this course. She has a coupon for a discounted private lesson that I intend to schedule after my return from Austin in March. And the first full week of April is spring break. I told her I would snow board with her then. It’s been six years for me. Last time snow boarding, I broke my ribs. Maybe I need lessons.
I snowshoed with Marilee. We hiked the Lonestar Loop counterclockwise, until we lost the trail. We wound up returning on the Rising Sun Nordic Ski Trail. Fortunately we weren’t seen by any Nordic skiers. Despite the snow this past week, we trekked across a couple of bare spots. But then, it’s also been 70° the last few days. Mixed blessings.
Marilee and I lunched with her friend Nancy at the Sundance Cafe. Great menu with awesome views, located about a mile outside of Nederland toward Black Hawk. I ate a bison burger with Brie and jalapenos. They have a lodge too. This photo captures Emma leading Ellie down the hill.
I dropped the distance of my Saturday run down to ten miles. Saw Amy riding her bike on the LoBo Trail. I probably won’t exceed six miles on any single run this week. I’m in super taper mode. My focus is now on nutrition and not hurting myself before next Sunday’s Austin Marathon. I think my pace will be posted to Facebook at key intervals. Hoping to have a good run. Seven more days.
The parking lot at Eldora Mountain Resort was packed early today. No football on TV. And an acceptable wind. Karen and Marilee joined me this morning to snowshoe. We started counter-clockwise on the Lonestar Loop, like I have on previous outings, but turned onto the Twisted Snowshoe Trail for the shorter inside loop. The Snowshoe Hare Trail is the middle loop and Lonestar is the longest, outside loop.
Marilee took to snowshoeing like a pro. The snow isn’t difficult on these trails, no super deep powder. But the slope is fairly steep, much more so than any of the trails Karen and I did last year. We did well though despite the hills with a 1.5 mph pace for 1.5 miles – which made a one hour hike.
The girls enjoyed less wind for their snow boarding lessons. Shortly after lunch though, Ellie went down hard on her left shoulder. We collected her in the medical tent after the staff had recorded every ache Ellie experienced over the last several weeks. They likely learned from this to ask my daughter less open-ended questions. Who knew such extensive healthcare comes with the price of a lift ticket? Ellie is still a bit sore but nothing serious.
Saturday’s twenty mile run didn’t go as well as last weekend. I was hoping to show improvement, that would help my confidence going into the Austin Marathon. Doesn’t matter, the important thing was I was able to complete the distance. Speed isn’t critical. I figure my legs were heavy from my workout the day before.
There’s still a bit of ice on the LoBo Trail south of Hwy 52. There was enough clean dirt to safely navigate around the ice. In my seventh mile, just before the ice patches, I saw Jen running back toward Longmont. We gave each other a low five because we’re cool runners. On my return, I began to run over the ice simply to make the trail less pedestrian.
My pace was slower than last weekend during the first half but I really slowed down at 17 miles. Kind of like how a bad marathon goes. Actually, I slowed down considerably at 17 miles last week too. But everything was under a 9 minute pace then. I ran a half minute per mile slower this Saturday. Still, running the distance is all I need to feel prepared for Austin. Three more weeks, I’ll be ready.
Winter recreation is exhausting. Ellie and Emma began their six week snow boarding course today up at Eldora – in 20° and 30 mph winds. They loved it nonetheless. I snowshoed at the Eldora Nordic Center while they snow boarded. Ellie is dead tired. I take a perverse pleasure in being able to physically exhaust a kid. But I’m much more beat. The trails at the Eldora Nordic Center are hilly.
I paid $20 for the Nordic pass. Compare that to a lift ticket. Although I’ll be doing this again for the next five Sundays. Karen will likely go with me. She remained behind today to teach an aerobics class. Emma’s mom plans to snowshoe with us too on occasion. I expect this Nordic Center to really work out well for us three as it contains a series of concentric loops at various distances. Concentric might be a poor word choice. The loops don’t have a common center, rather they all start from the Nordic Center Lodge. We can start out together, but I can go for a longer distance. I trekked the Lone Star Loop today for about four miles. There’s a spur off to the Tennessee Mountain Cabin that would add some distance, but I missed the sign for it.
Today’s little winter fun marks the end of my Christmas Holiday. Actually, I worked Friday. Still, this weekend feels more official. It’s been a big two weeks. A trip to Texas. And the other day, Ellie rescued two puppies. After Jack’s passing, I told her she could get a puppy in May, so that she would have time to train it once school is out. Not only did May become January, but Ellie elected to adopt two dogs. I’m mixed on all this, but they are cute. Meeko is on the left, weighing in at two months. And Millie is on the right, she’s four months.
After the snow pack we encountered on last weekend’s trail, our objective today was to find a trail with southwestern exposure. The Twin Sisters trail in Rocky Mountain National Park fit the bill. Plus it starts out 1000 feet lower around 9000 feet. This trailhead sits east of Lilly Lake just off Hwy 7, a few miles north of Long’s Peak Trailhead. We spent the night nearby at the Estes Park Resort. A very nice lodge and spa on Lake Estes. We drove there Friday evening after picking up Ellie from the last day of her computer programming summer camp at CSU in Ft. Collins. The drive to Estes Park from Ft. Collins is similar to the drive from Longmont. You take Hwy 34 via Loveland instead of Hwy 36.
The Weather Channel had us set for 50° and rain. Instead it was gorgeous. Clear skies and 60°. Parking at the trailhead was nearly full. Mostly for a wedding across the road at Lilly Lake. This is clearly a very popular trail, but we got there early enough with our short drive from Estes Park. The trail begins for a few hundred yards on a dirt road that’s closed to traffic. It then veers off to the left with a large sign. The first mile is a bit of a workout up to these cliffs. The slope flattens out once it completes some switchbacks and turns south. I think these cliffs are part of the Grags formation, which are more popular for climbers than hiking.
Karen I turned around when we encountered this landslide that obliterated a hundred yard swath of trail. Brit and Ellie were undaunted. They maintained course for the saddle that sits between the Crags and the Twin Sisters Peaks. This avalanche was pretty impressive. Apparently caused from flooding, it knocked out trees clear down to Hwy 7 leaving quite an ugly scar on the mountain. We reached our turn-around point at just over an hour of hiking which gave us a two hour hike total. We waited for the girls on a bench over-looking Lilly Lake.
Brit and Ellie took another hour or so to climb up the steep switchbacks that lead to the saddle. They said they had to scramble a bit using their hands – the trail was so steep. Doubtful Karen would have liked that. I wouldn’t say this trail was crowded but we encountered quite a number of other hikers – including a couple of shirtless boys that Ellie said were eying Brit. Brit told Ellie she thought the boys must go to CU – because they were “buff”.
I highly recommend this trail for family hikes. The views of Long’s Peak to the west are awesome. It’s definitely a workout but very doable by all skill levels. And if you want to let the kids hike, you can choose to hang out at Lilly Lake. There’s a short mile trail around the lake that I wouldn’t mind visiting for a run. The trailhead has a restroom, and the scenery is stunning. We drove back home along Hwy 7 and stopped for lunch at Oscar Blues in Lyons. Looks like it might rain now but we had a beautiful Saturday morning.
Ellie attended the packet pickup at the Boulder Res Friday afternoon with her girl friends Kate and Lindsey. The three of them were registered in the 9 to 11 year old Intermediate division of the 2013 IronKids Triathlon. Afterward, Kate and Lindsey’s dad made us dinner at their house – chicken piccata, pasta and salad. I forgot to ask what the dressing was but the salad contained thin yet crispy apple slices. This morning, I woke Ellie up at 5:30am, then again for reals at 5:45am. She ate a light breakfast while I drank coffee. Then we drove back to the res to setup her bike and gear in the transition staging area before the 6:45am deadline.
The girls wave didn’t start until 8:30, after the Seniors. They played on the beach and primed their pumps with some light swimming while we waited. Dave showed up before the start with breakfast bagels for us big kids. They hit the spot. Not sure why food and drink vendors don’t attend this event. It’s huge. Anyone selling coffee could have made enough to winter in Florida.
Kate was one of the first girls out of the water. She’s a fantastic swimmer. Ellie’s game plan was to pace herself and simply try to finish. She swam a nice straight line to the first buoy. Ellie said the swim on the way in from the second buoy consisted mostly of swimming around people. It got crowded from some of the boys who were still in the water from the wave ahead of her. Ellie’s game plan on the bike was to take the first lap easy and to speed up on the second which she said she did. There were some momentum killers though like when the course does a u-turn at the firehouse at the bottom of a hill. The bike was clearly her slowest leg comparatively but she kept to her plan which was to keep a comfortable pace.
The bike was four miles whereas the run was one mile. That makes the run a bit long relative to the swim and bike. In my mind anyway but maybe a 4:1 ratio is normal. Ellie ran strong though turning in an 11:08 mile. I thought initially from the results that her mile run pace wasn’t much off from her bike pace. Same with many other kids. That made me suspect perhaps the bike course is longer than advertised. Then I figured out the bike pace references laps and not miles. The timing results have a number of issues I won’t get into. Not sure why it’s so difficult though to publish meaningful and accurate results.
Ellie finished feeling good. This is her first ever Triathlon. She wants to join a triathlon training team next summer with her girl friends. She trained well enough this summer to complete a triathlon. Next time she wants to be competitive. That’s my girl.
Ellie returns to the Boulder Res Saturday for her second IronKids triathlon. Her first triathlon didn’t go so well as she discovered she has exercise-induced asthma. That wasn’t a huge surprise as we knew she had some breathing issues. Such asthma-like conditions aren’t show-stoppers anymore though as evidenced by the Denver Nugget’s JaVale McGee. Plus Ellie won her 5th grade, all-district, 50 meter dash this spring. All the same, I’m not expecting any trophy level competition out of Ellie. I just hope to see her finish. I’m so proud of her getting back in the saddle and fearless to try again.
Ellie doesn’t exactly train for triathlons. Not formally, but Brit has been taking her swimming and she runs around the neighborhood with her friends. She also swam last weekend at the Boulder Res to prep for the open water. She first had to take a small swim test from the life guard before being allowed to swim beyond the rope. She smoked a couple of boys in the water whom were also testing. Ellie also has a nice Diamondback Clarity hybrid bike she bought used from her friend Kate. I swapped the dirt tires out for faster road tires and lubed the chain. More importantly, Ellie ordered a Pearl iZumi tri-suit because for an 11 year old girl, it’s all about style. Can’t wait for Saturday.
It’s all about Ellie this week. We fly down to Austin today so she can join her Papa on a trip to NYC. They have tickets to a couple of plays and her cousin Rachel from New Mexico is also going. It was quite the girl’s night last night as Karen and Brit helped Ellie pack. I’ll work the week in Texas and fly back home with her a week later. Austin is expecting a high of 104° this weekend, with humidity to match, so running will be a survival event. Regardless, I’ll find a day (maybe next weekend) to sneak down to the Greenbelt for a trail run. The Save our Springs Alliance is selling this pretty cool map of the Greenbelt online and at area stores for $6. Maybe I’ll take a dip in Barton Springs to cool off.
I ran 10 miles on the LoBo Trail Saturday and another 10 on the Mesa Trail today. Twenty miles in two days. It’s nearly as hot this weekend in Boulder as in Austin. I ran early this morning to escape the heat, because yesterday’s noon-time run wiped me out. Today’s run was further enhanced by a Bloody Mary at the Chautauqua Dining Hall, along with my après-run brunch of a Caprese Omelet.
Yesterday’s run was miserable. I even walked a bit on the return. Today though was nice. You can’t not have a great run on the Mesa Trail. Keith, Steve and I left Longmont for Boulder at 6:30am to beat the heat and allow for our day schedules. I still have to pack for my 5pm flight. We met up with some other teammates who plan to run the Epic Relay with Keith and Steve next weekend – Brian and Kevin. Both strong trail runners. Kevin has to be because his wife Beth publishes Boulder County’s most popular running blog, Shutupandrun.
Launching from Chautauqua Park at 5700 feet, the trail rises unrelentingly to 6292 feet in the first mile and a half. To figure out the grade, convert everything to the same unit of measure. Let’s go with feet. The rise was 592 feet. Done with the rise. There are 5280 feet in a mile so the run was 7920 feet. 592/7920 gives a grade of 7.5%. That’s a decent incline, but one that most runners are capable of running – assuming they are acclimated to running at an elevation one mile above sea level.
I’ll spare you the math from here on out. The next eight tenths of a mile is down a 5% grade and then back up a 10% grade over the next three quarters of a mile. This is the high point of the run – assuming you turn around after 5 miles like I did. The trail has a couple more 150 foot drops followed by intense 10% inclines (reversed on the return); otherwise it smooths out for some nice running. There are a number of trail intersections. The signs either say Mesa Trail with double arrows or have a single arrow pointing to South Mesa Trailhead, which is about 7 miles from Chautauqua. This is my first run on Mesa Trail since the mud, snow and ice of the spring. Great trail conditions now. Get out there.
I drove Ellie (#269) with the Sebesta girls to the Boulder Res last night to pick-up their race packets at the Expo for today’s Kid’s Triathlon. A wasp stung Ellie while standing in line. I suspected she wanted to cry but she didn’t. Not sure why not, most grown-ups would at least cry out a few warranted expletives in such a situation. Perhaps peer pressure is taking hold. Maybe she just didn’t think it an appropriate way to start a race. I have to believe a couple of years earlier she would have cried. She captured another wasp in her bedroom later that night which for some reason gave me visions of those evil Chick-fil-A cows. It seemed like nature was conspiring against Ellie.
As with most triathlons, she began with the swim. Her best friend Kate was in the same starting wave. I was filming and saw them both hit the water last but make good corrections to right themselves in the field. A couple of girls were pulled from the water, not sure why really but probably it was too much. The race had tons of volunteers in the water to ensure safety. They took both of these girls to the dock. I noted an earlier boys wave had one boy who opted for the rescue but then jumped back in after a short rest. Which is cool that the safety volunteers judge the ability of the participant and let them continue when appropriate. I initially thought one of the girls was Ellie because she had the same color swim suit and apparently I’m blind. It didn’t make sense to me because I last saw her in the middle of the pack, but I walked out on the dock to discover it wasn’t her.
I then hauled myself over to the transition area to catch the bike event. I saw Ellie walking back and forth by her station clearly not finding it. She was too far away for me to yell but she finally found it. A bit later Kate came riding out of the transition area. It was quite a bit longer for Ellie. I learned later that she had trouble putting on her shoes; unlike other aspects of a triathlon – something she had actually practiced. This was Ellie’s first triathlon.
Ellie finally came out and launched down the bike course. Kate came by for her second lap and I caught her on film. I waited and waited for Ellie until it seemed unusually long. I began to feel bad thinking I hadn’t properly prepped her bike and the chain came off. Karen and Jessy (Ellie’s cousin) walked down the bike course to look for her. Not much later my name was being called by the race announcer to report to the finish line. Several thoughts raced through my mind as I walked over, struggling to find my way through the maze of fencing.
The announcer had me walk with a couple of volunteers to the medical tent. Turned out Ellie was actually in the ambulance. I climbed in not knowing what to expect other than the volunteers had told me she was okay during our walk. Inside, Ellie looked sad but fine. The medical technicians told me they gave her a thorough exam and she was totally fine. They suspected she might have had an episode of exercise-induced asthma. Who knows but it’s not unreasonable as Ellie had asthma-like symptoms as a toddler. She’s mostly grown out of that though. And I can’t rule out allergies. I checked and the weed count is high this week. I’ll schedule a doctor appointment before school starts. The medical staff at this IronKids Triathlon was great. This event is totally prepared and supported by a wonderful community of volunteers.
Ellie shared her story with me. She related that she nearly puked after climbing out of the water. An indication of pushing herself super hard. Possibly too hard. Getting lost in the transition area and struggling with her shoes for so long further indicate exhaustion. If the doctor exam determines she did suffer exercise-induced asthma, that swim seems intensive enough to trigger such a thing. It was before reaching the one mile point riding up a hill when Ellie started wheezing and had to stop. She knows this type of wheezing is an asthma symptom and it would have been impossible for her to breathe sufficiently to continue.
She told me later that she cried a bit walking down the hill knowing her race was over. But there was no crying later when she faced the medical technicians or the family as we consoled her. She was visibly dejected but maintained her composure as sure as Missy Franklin collecting her medals while the Star Spangled Banner plays.
What I gained from this race, other than amazement at my daughter (inexperienced in triathlons) going balls out on the swim, was the knowledge that she’s learned to not cry over everything. This is why parents put kids in sports and go watch their events. Sports serve as a metaphor for life in exaggerated scenes that can be shared. Events like this capture time in a bottle and I saw my little girl mature emotionally today. “You can’t learn how to win if you don’t know how to lose.”
The Sebesta girls had great performances in an exceptionally deep field of talent. A Boulder County event like this is probably on par with State-wide events elsewhere. If that sounds arrogant, bring your ass up to Boulder and you’ll discover it’s not trash talk. This place is unreal. Ellie is still really sad but is talking about trying to sign up for more races before end of season and doing swim classes through the winter. That’s my girl.
I made it back from Texas last weekend just in time to catch Ellie’s first live performance. She sang Taylor Swift’s “The Best Day” as if it were her own. Her best friends came along for the recital along with her big sister and fellow performer Brittany. We all had tears in our eyes near the end.
It was unbelievable just how comfortable and confident Ellie appeared onstage as she sang. Normally she’s a fairly cautious if not shy little girl, but she seemed really at ease. I have no idea how a 9 year old kid can remember all those lyrics – this song has quite a number of verses. And it was such a sweet song for her to pick. We all felt like she was singing to each of us personally.
We signed Ellie up for singing lessons, not just because she walks around the house all day singing, but because her sister enjoyed it and we thought she would too. You do that with kids. You sign them up for stuff until they discover what they like. This was a home run from the start. We’re a bit more experienced at this after Brittany and knew an excellent voice instructor. Monica Augustine is simply fantastic. She hugs Ellie every session and they have a blast. But she also teaches her everything from getting good rest and nutrition to all the vocal basics which I can’t really describe. Monica runs the Wildflower School of Voice and wrote a song I love and still listen to regularly on my playlist – Telluride.
Here’s a pic of Ellie’s three biggest fans having a post performance dinner. And now the Mahoney family has two incredible singers. I should say three with Karen. Karen played guitar and sang for me on our very first date, and the rest is history. Check out the Youtube link above to see Ellie’s performance. I know many of my friends and family already have – she has nearly 150 views to date. And if you haven’t seen Brit’s Youtube site, click on this link. She’ll sing you a song if you request one.