Fifteen sea level miles: done!
It went well. The weather was perfect: cool, rain-washed and overcast on the backside of a bunch of thunderstorms that moved through Thursday. The route I chose included lots of hills until I hit the MKT trail for the last five miles.
Despite those hills, the first six miles felt like flight. I warmed up by climbing the hill from my mom's house at the end of a cul-de-sac. The house, where I lived from age 10 until I moved to Texas for college, is nearly surrounded by woods covered in enthusiastic lime-green baby leaves and all manner of flowers: lilies of the valley, sweet william and others whose names I don't know. Once I started running, I took in dogwoods, pink and white, and so many cardinals flew by that I lost track of them. You don't see cardinals in Colorado.
I also passed the street where my cousins used to live when we were kids; the street where my friend Angela grew up; the Tiger Hotel, where Dan and I had our wedding reception six years ago; and my favorite ice cream and pizza places.
I then ran back toward home the way I came, but continued past my starting point to begin the next leg (about four miles), down busy Stadium Blvd. and then up the run's most significant hill next to A.L. Gustin Golf Course. I wasn't quite flying any more, but I still felt good. A lingering soreness in my left quad from last weekend's Mesa Trail adventure actually got better as the run went on. And it was as if all of the extra oxygen (I'm about 4800 feet lower than I usually am) had endowed me with seven-league boots ("leap tall hills in a single bound").
Once I started the final five miles on the MKT (this is where you see things flattening out on the Garmin's altitude profile below), I started to feel tired. It reminded me of the last six miles of the New York Marathon, where my lungs still felt like rock stars while my legs were protesting. But I never had any doubt that I would finish the distance. Unlike the last time I ran 15 miles, I had no GI problems, stopped only to eat the jelly beans that I stole from the Easter candy my mom bought my kids and was able to smile and wave at other runners until the end.
My pace was well below what my program dictates for this kind of run, but not so much below that I don't worry a little about whether I'll be able to duplicate the effort back in Boulder. I certainly doubt I'll be able to do it on Green Mountain or Magnolia Road.
When I got back to my mom's, she and the kids had colored the Easter eggs already. I climbed into an ice bath for the first time since last summer, something I should have done after the Mesa Trail--time to get back in that habit!--and then took a hot shower. Later that afternoon, the kids down for a nap (or in Will's case, solitary chatter time in his room), I sacked out on my mom's bed with the window open. I felt relaxed as you can only in your childhood nest. A cool breeze wafted in through the open window. I dreamed of pasta, red sauce and garlic bread. In the evening, this dream came true.