My green Suburu wagon is, for the first time ever, the first and only vehicle in the parking lot at the Boulder Reservoir. It's 6:20 a.m., cold and dark. Even the most diehard Boulder runners are still in bed, or at least still at home downing their coffee or Gatorade, creeping around to avoid waking their kids.
Not me. I have to run 12 miles and be home in time to shower and make it to work at 10 a.m. I usually work Sundays, not Saturdays, but today I switched with someone in order to help host a knitting/sewing afternoon at the library (yeah, it's a tough job, I know!). I'm feeling good about how early I am here, even though the sun is just a rumor of a glow on the eastern horizon. I start the Garmin and begin to run.
That's when I hear him. And soon after that's when I see him. A dog that looks like a cross between a dingo and a miniature shepherd. He's standing outside a run-down shed that's practically straddling the dirt road toward which I am heading. If I am to launch myself on my intended course on the backroads, I will have to run right by him.
He's not leashed.
I give up immediately. I know dogs. I've read lots of stories about runners being bitten by dogs, and I've been chased by angry country dogs myself, while running in rural Missouri and on the unrepaired roads of Far East Russia. I know when I'm outmatched. I know there is no help for me at this hour alone in the dark. If I had a tail, I'd have put it between my legs. I re-enter the Suburu and drive it out of the lot. The dog has advanced, sniffing the fence next to the parking spaces as though that's what he's really interested in. I drive by him and up the road about three-quarters of a mile to a trailhead. I'm the only one there, too. I fire up the Garmin again, backtrack a bit down the road so as not to miss out on the first big hill (but not so far that I rouse the dog to chase me in the other direction), and then I'm off and running at last.
The whole thing cost me only about 8 minutes, but it felt like forever. The light is brighter, taking on a pink cast thanks to the low buttermilk clouds and the rusty faces of the distant Flatirons. Last week's snow is almost gone. There's not even any mud in the road. Soon I'm back in that blissful place I ran in last week out here, with the bracing cold air and the animals in the dun-colored fields I pass. Even the first half, that uphill half, seems a bit easier. I don't turn on the music until I'm a little over halfway through the run. The end, again, feels like flying.
In the parking lot at the trailhead, my car now has 14 other vehicles for company, including 7 other Suburu wagons. A group of runners is gathered, ready to go. But not me! I'm all finished. And I'm finished in time for a Starbucks hot chocolate, a good shower and an on-time arrival at work. Almost makes me want to get up early again next weekend...but only almost. :^)
Here's the summary: