Operation Become a Trail Runner

I’ve wanted to be a trail runner for a long time, but I just keep… not running trails. I live on the plains, of course, which makes trail running a challenge, and finding excuses to not venture out to the trails is far too easy, but I decided that this summer, I’m going to become a trail runner. Instead of whining about how I can never get to the trails, I’ve chosen to make a concentrated effort to run trails as many times as possible between now and October. I haven’t signed up for any races (though I’m eyeing this trail half in August), and I’m certainly not committing to an ultra (this year…), but I am running trails.

Operation Become a Trail Runner started back in April, when I bought trail running shoes and did one little trail run in Fort Collins.

Maxwell Open Space in Fort Collins
Maxwell Open Space in Fort Collins

Then, my trail adventures took a little hiatus, between the Lincoln Marathon and the end of the school year. Now that summer is in full swing, so is Operation Become a Trail Runner.

This Friday and Saturday, J had meetings (and thus a hotel room Friday night) in Denver, so I tagged along for two days of trail running… and I’m learning fast. I’ve learned that being in good road running shape doesn’t necessarily translate to being in good trail running shape, and on Friday, I learned that two miles from the trailhead is a loooong way when lightning and thunder move in.

Let’s back up. After I dropped J at his meeting Friday morning, I headed out to White Ranch Open Space in Golden (suggested by my trail running hero, Heidi).

White Ranch Open Space: Pretty and green, with not-so-sinister clouds at the start.
White Ranch Open Space: Pretty and green, with not-so-sinister clouds at the start.

When I got there, the skies were cloudy, and about five minutes into the run, rain started sprinkling around me. It stopped just a few minutes later, so I kept going. Then, when I was about 3 miles from the trailhead (I’m guessing, because I stopped my watch when I paused to take a picture and forgot to restart it for several minutes) it started raining in earnest. There was no lightning yet, but I knew storms can get serious fast around here, so I turned around (I’d planned a loop but was less than halfway) and started hustling. Of course, I’m not in great trail shape yet, so I had to do some hiking, but I was trying to move as quickly as possible.

We are CLOUDS and we are getting ANGRY. (Obviously I took this picture before the storm moved in. There's no way I'd stop for pictures mid-storm).
We are CLOUDS and we are getting ANGRY. (Obviously I took this picture before the storm moved in. There’s no way I’d stop for pictures mid-storm).

I wasn’t quick enough. Less than a mile after I turned around, thunder started rumbling, and soon lightning started flashing. Guess where I don’t want to be in a lightning storm? That’s right: the side of a mountain. I booked it, desperately racing the storm and saying fragmented prayers as I tried to fly down the trail without breaking my face.

Thank goodness, I made it back to the car in one non-lightning-stricken piece. I used a blanket to towel off, then did a baby-wipe-bath and changed out of my drenched clothes in the backseat. (Don’t worry; no one else was around). I’m guessing I went about six miles — forgetting to restart my Garmin means I don’t have exact mileage — and learned an important lesson: At the very first sign of a storm, turn your butt around. 

Saturday’s forecast said zero percent chance of storms in the morning, so I kept my original plan and headed back out the the trails  (with surprisingly dry shoes, thanks to Logan’s suggestion of stuffing them with paper). This time, I went out to Green Mountain in Lakewood. I’d run trails there before (according to Timehop, exactly a year ago!), so I knew that they were beginner-friendly and well-marked (a must when you’re hopeless at directions, as I am). Saturday started a little cloudy, but soon the sun was out in all its Colorado glory.

Cloudy start at Green Mountain
Cloudy start at Green Mountain

Thanks to the insane amount of rain we’ve gotten lately, the trails were muddy, but that just added to the adventure. I did a 6.5-mile loop on the Green Mountain Trail, but I wasn’t ready to quit, so I went back out until Green Mountain Trail met Rooney Valley (I think) Trail, then took it for a bit before turning around and backtracking to the car, ending with a total of 10 miles. I was pretty happy with that on my trail newb legs, but I still struggle with accepting the necessary slower pace of trails. But with views like this, who really cares?

I cut my face off on purpose, because the background is more fun to look at. :)
I cut off my face on purpose, because the background is more fun to look at. 🙂

I thoroughly enjoyed this run. The wildflowers were blooming like crazy, the sun was shining, and splashing through the puddles was a blast and made me feel like a kid again. photo 4 (4) photo 5 (2)

I’m declaring Operation Become a Trail Runner a success so far. I’m still getting into trail shape, and I’m hoping that soon I can run more and hike less, but trail running is fun regardless, and I’m excited to do more of it. Next week, I’ll get in some more trails, as we’re going to a conference (work-related, so I can’t just run all the time) in Breckenridge, then meeting J’s family in Estes Park for a few days. After that, I’ll be back to running on the plains, but I will make time for more trails!

How do you make time for what you love, even if it’s inconvenient?

What fitness activity are you not in shape for, even though you’re fit in other areas?

4 thoughts on “Operation Become a Trail Runner”

  1. I love trails! We are going to CO soon and I can’t waaaait to run on the trails! Even though I live near several trails here in PA, I don’t run them during the week due to the fact that my morning runs are sometimes in the dark and always alone. Plus, even though the trail heads are close, they are not as close as just stepping off my front stoop and running around my neighborhood- so it would require getting up like 40 minutes earlier. NOT gonna happen! So instead, when I am training for a trail race, I just run trail on the weekends. That is enough for me to keep in trail shape. Now right now I am NOT in trail shape. I did a 9 miler on the AT with my dad a couple weeks ago. It was fun because I had his company, but if I had been by myself it prob would have sucked because I would have realized now hard it was!

  2. Oh my goodness I am totally envious that you are already on summer vacation! The trails look beautiful! I feel like I would be too clumsy to be a trail runner, lol.

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