Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween "Dog Days" Marathon

After this week's snowstorm, things were up in the air for Saturday. The initial plan was to carpool with some Ft. Collins folk and head to Boulder for a decent run in the foothills. I was looking forward to meeting some new folks and running on new trails...but none of us expected a couple of feet of snow. While I'm not opposed to running in the snow, if there's a decent amount, I figured I'd rather ski instead.

However, after scouting out the foothills, I was brought back to Colorado reality: local front range snow is a great novelty while it's still snowing. But, after that, a few things inevitably happen: the upslope low clears up, temperatures get back to average and the sun quickly starts melting the snow; and the vacating system often pulls in some drier air that pushes snow around and sucks it right up. So after a couple days, you're left with too-muddy/slushy for distance running, and not enough for skiing.

However, the roads, with associated urban heat, clear the snow right up. Since Saturday was shaping up to be a great weather day, it seemed that a road run was in order. By 11AM, it was warm enough to head out with a long-sleeve shirt and shorts, with only a vague notion of a route: head East over to the Environmental Learning Center; pick up the Poudre Trail heading northwest, and then keep an eye on the time before eventually heading back south.
If I wasn't going to be running the hills in Boulder, at least it seemed like a good day for a marathon.
And so it was. It felt great, and it was a pure reminder, again, of what I enjoy most about running: find a sustainable, enjoyable pace to run outside, checking out what's going on around town, the river, etc. without any particular concern for specific training for something. Runs like this have nothing in common with running inside or any sort of "obligatory" workout.
It's just fun to go for a run.

I decided to call this sort of run a "dog" run for a few reasons. The more pleasant reason is that I decided to randomly pick or modify the route based on whim. As I reached the Environmental Learning Center, I decided to checkout the loop around the natural area that I enjoy. I knew it would be snowy, and it turned out to be just the right amount of snow left for cushioning and traction. Even though it was mid-day, I didn't see any other people, but as I rounded the corner at the far edge, I kicked up a few deer. Nice to have some company!

So another reason for the "Dog Marathon" moniker is due to the melting snow. More specifically, when snow sticks around for a few days, lazy dog owners (of which there are, empirically, hundreds in town) either are too lazy to pick up dog poop through deep snow, or willfully ignore it because it's out of site. This means, during the got it. Not just unsightly, but sections of trail absolutely reek of it. These owners don't notice this (or don't care) if they don't spend the time on these trails, but I urge them to walk a mile (or a few dozen) in someone else's encrusted shoes to appreciate this.

So I hit the Poudre River trail and did a few other natural area spurs, but mostly stuck to the trail. After 15 miles or so and a couple hours, I knew I was committed, since I was on the north side of town. Alas, my trusty Rusty Meyer's bottle was empty, and I brought $2 but no food with me. $2 would be enough calories (when appropriately traded as legal tender for something edible, wiseguy), but I was also just a mile and a half or so from the in-law's house. I know it's annoying to be that brother-in-law that runs across town and then pops in unannounced -- sweaty, hungry, and delirious (doesn't everyone have one?), but thankfully, Christina was home, so I was able to refill the water, grab a banana and granola bars (thanks!). It's nice having them in town, and we enjoyed coming back there later for Halloween Turkey. I played with Bella a bit -- Dog Days Marathon -- before heading back.

I headed back to the Poudre River Trail West to Shields, before deciding to make my way South. By now, I had slowed down a bit, but still enjoying the day. I passed through some streets that I ran regularly when taking class at CSU, and was delighted to hear the church bells clanging at 2pm (I used to have a run that brought me past the church on the hour). I stumbled through campus, towards the Mason Trail. I was definitely getting a bit tired, and I didn't want the extra distance needed to hit the Spring Creek trail from Centre Dr., so I thought I could take a shortcut behind the Game and Wildlife Building. Well, that ended up being a mud and snow slogfest that wasn't a shortcut anyway, but I did scare up a few bright red foxes up close.

Finally, I hit the Mason Trail, and it was warm enough to finish the run shirtless. I cut straight down Harmony and called it a day, four-something hours later, which means it was some sort of ultramarathon distance.
Not bad for the Dog Days of October.

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