I didn’t know any better when I trained for my first marathon while living in Florida. I had no problem with waking up at 4:00 or 5:00 AM in order to squeeze in a long run before the sun started beating down on me, causing a greater risk for heat stroke. I was pretty content running on the wide sidewalks through my suburban neighborhood most days, with the occasional jaunt to the riverfront or beach. Hills consisted of group workouts at the two bridges in downtown Jacksonville with the cars driving close by. Breathing in exhaust and ignoring honking horns just became standard. I didn’t complain much. I made many great friends while running in Florida and I had many firsts that I will never forget.
When I moved to Colorado I knew that the first thing I had to do was join a running club. It’s really the only way I know how to easily make friends. I googled Golden, CO running club and the first thing that popped up was “Foothills Running and Cycling Club.” Well, that sounded just fine to me. I contacted someone named Rachael who seemed pretty nice through e-mail. She was even sweeter in person. I didn’t feel too hesitant or nervous about showing up to my first track workout. I immediately felt welcome and jumped right in. Since I like to push myself I tend to be drawn to people who will challenge me. Back in Jacksonville, it was the girl who continued to run hill repeats while everyone else was bringing it home. Here, it was a married couple who flew down the track like nobody’s business. I tried to keep up and then made it clear that I had just moved from sea level. I think I mentioned that about 10 times during the first track workout.
It all blossomed from there. I was quick to make new friends and spend Saturday mornings going on long runs with a group followed by some chit chat at the local coffee shop. I was still content running along the roadside or on paved trails. It was a bit different from Florida because I had some nice views during most of my runs (but not all). Even though I became a wiz at running bridges in Jacksonville, I was a bit shocked by the lack of flat in my new town. My running terrain changed from completely flat to very hilly. I couldn’t even run out my door without encountering a very steep hill. I complained a little, but then I eventually just went with it and hills became easier. This time, I had to go out of my way to find a flat route. I just decided that I wouldn’t be able to run an “easy” run anymore.
I suppose I also had to adjust to the climate change. I remember running a half marathon when it was freezing outside. I had to buy new running clothes because I couldn’t just go out in shorts and a tank top. Yet, for some reason I decided that I would train for my first half ironman during the winter (since the race was in May). I am still not sure how I managed to ride my bike in between snowfalls. It was quite the accomplishment when I finished the race. And to make it even more amazing, all of my running friends surprised me at my house afterwards in order to celebrate.
Next, I decided to continue my focus on running for a while and took a break from the bike and pool. I continued to run on the road and paved trails through town. I set a personal record on one marathon and then managed to climb over 2,000 feet during another marathon (while still finishing faster than any marathon I ever did at sea level). Then something happened. I set foot on dirt. Or ice. Or snow. Whatever. I just mean that I went outside of my element for a minute and was taken by surprise. I started running away from town. Away from the hustle and bustle. I ran in the foothills and in the mountains. I fell in love with trail running. I won’t say that it was a little too late, but I only wish I had more time on the trails. I explored new trails and enjoyed every moment of every run. I can’t say that about all of my runs on pavement.
Then came the moment when I had to say goodbye. My last trail run in Colorado was one of my favorites, just 5 minutes from my house. I liked it because it was close and relatively easy, yet offered some stunning views. It also didn’t have rattlesnake warning signs posted (even though I am sure they lived there, but they must not be a huge problem if signs aren’t posted).
I will miss the peace I felt while running immersed in nature. I will miss the variety of terrain and challenges that come with trail running. I will miss exploring new places off the beaten path. I will miss it immensely. I left a piece of my running heart in Colorado. I never really new what was out there until I met a Colorado trail.
Kind of funny to read back during the time when I was saying hello to Colorado in my “Hello Golden, Colorado!” post.