Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Local Patrol

If it's been quiet on the Blog, it's possible because I've been logging mega-mileage, 20k+ vertical weeks every week, slogging through the snow and dark, maybe even secretly bagging local peaks every day before breakfast.

Alternatively, I've been busy with school/work, and running boring road loops around the town.

More frequently the past, I've generally tried to find new places on weekends, often involving a drive, and I've mostly exhausted all the interesting options within 90 minutes or so.  Sticking closer to home reminds me of something Brandon said awhile back on his sparse Blog, about the familiar loop being a sort of "patrol" around the neighbourhood.  I like that observation, and I'm cool with that.

So while my routes may have an aspect of repetitiveness on the surface, the boring routine provides a deeper relationship and better contrasting backdrop for noticing change.  The seasonal changes are more obvious, so that each "new" phenomenon provides an extra incentive and motivation to run.  The first shirtless and sunburn runs are worth a small cheer and asterisk on the calendar, but after the weeks pile up into months and years and thousands of miles, the appreciation of subtle gradations expands.  That is, you appreciate not only the first snow run, but also the first "fat flake" snow, horizontal snow, drifted powder, slushy slop, and full moon reflecting on snow cover on a clear night run.  Rain has its own list as well, with the first seasonal appearance being notable for the smell of it; perhaps combined on warmer days with the electricity of an honest thunderstorm.
Of course, the birds and animals and insects (such as the plague of shin-bashing grasshoppers each summer) come and leave and change size and colour in different waves throughout the year as well, and throughout the day: sometimes when I'm chagrinned at "only" getting in a short run in the early evening, a coyote or owl reminds me of the benefit of procrastination.

Finally, there's the human element, of seeing familiar and new faces without names, but also plenty of friends along the trail, worth a quick, full stop and conversation.  This is truly a great community with world-class paths, trails, and people that enjoy them.  And whether we realize it or not, every time we're out jogging in town, we're part of the advertisement and image of what the town is about; likely, some tourist or visitor is seeing us out on the trails, and then deciding that this would be a pretty cool place to live.  (At least that's what happened with me, when I went for a jog on the Spring Creek trail in February, 7 years ago, and enjoyed the views of the foothills as well as the semi-rural feel of the open spaces).

And part of the "patrol," then, is seeing the other changes around town: new housing and business developments, but also new parks, trails, and infrastructure.  Running up along the Mason trail gives an inside view of the Max rapid transit being developed along the north-south spine of Fort Collins.

The linkage to the future can also be appreciated bi-directionally.  Over time, I've appreciated learning about the history of running in Fort Collins.  The Horsetooth Half Marathon is now in its 40th year, and although I've only run it once, I've run or biked hundreds of miles on the course, which has changed over time from rolling dirt roads to pavement and bike paths of today.  What will the history of Quad Rock be 10...20 years from now?
I recently read Kim Jones's autobiography:

Among an appreciation for the trials that she overcame throughout life, I very much enjoyed the "local" parts of the book, after she moved to Mountain Avenue (home of the annual "Mountain Avenue Mile" race in August) in Fort Collins.  There's mention of Centennial and Bingham Hill workouts, as well as City Park and Grandview Cemetery, the latter of which are still enjoyed as group workouts with Colorado Hall of Fame runner Jane Welzel.

So you have this town with roads and trails that were good enough for Jane and Kim, and Jon and Kent, and now Nick Clark and Ryan Burch on the trails.  But it's also "good enough" for any of us to jog or ride or push a stroller or rollerblade (which never goes out of style!)  Everybody that is out there is defining the landscape of the community itself.  Similar to a race, it doesn't matter if you're 5th or 50th or last place in terms of the importance of being out there, for everybody adds a bit to the greater good.

And then, you have random events where, say, Scott Jurek shows up at your local running store on a Wednesday:

But it's not the same thing as spotting a "celebrity" at the checkout line in an L.A. department store; when Jurek and a group of folks takes a leisurely group run on the "boring" trails and roads around your very neighbourhood, it gives you a bit of pride that some guy you read about years ago is now enjoying the same run that you've done countless times.

So I guess the "local patrol" isn't so bad.


As far as "local trails" are concerned, we've got Quad Rock coming up in less than a couple weeks. We've had a snowy and fiery and then snowy again winter, but last weekend many folks were out on the trail.  It looks like we're awaiting news on some final bridges getting repaired, in terms of following the planned course, but they'll figure out one of several options with only minor detour that will give us a great 50M course.
As for conditions, we're supposed to get a bit more snow tomorrow, but that will make things only greener by next week (as the temperatures return to normal).  Already, the low parts of the valley, which I usually associate with being a treeless, hot, and dry trudge in the summer, are absolutely stunning right now, with short, green grass growing right on top of the previously blackened soil.  Some of the remaining trees are blackened, in an area among the Timber Trail switchbacks I've dubbed the "Black Forest", yet stand out starkly against the mint-green valley floor and red rock walls.  It's going to be great, and it looks like lots of fast people are showing up to run fast -- let them!  I'm looking forward to sharing a nice day on the trails with friends on our town trails, although I'll still try to get the running part done as soon as possible so as to enjoy more Pateros Creek beer.


  1. May the pace of your running keep pace with with the quality of your writing -- no small feat :-)

    Thanks for a literary tour of your little hamlet ....

  2. 8-0-5-2-8, Neil -- you been there?
    It's a /whole different/ world! ;)

  3. Mathematically, it's gotta' be at least seven better than that other ZIP code.

    Substantively ... orders of magnitude better ... ;-)

  4. Jurker mistook me for Sage Canaday on the trail a few weeks ago. That happened.

  5. Sweet, I have run that local patrol trail loop for many years, so it is nice to see it make internet fame. I can attest also to your Rock Creek mileage as I have seen you running on that street at least 3X in the last month. Nice to represent the 80528!

  6. Honestly, I would say you have made much better use of your time than I have lately. Aaahhhh, the 8-0-5-2-8! I'll miss running there. Wait, I never ran there even when I lived there.

  7. Two guys that can pull off visors. Envious.