Monday, April 11, 2011

Moving, and Movin'

I wrote last month about the fact that, unexpectedly, we have to move sooner than we wanted to out of our shabby but inexpensive and oh-so-convenient Boulder condo. After some back-and-forth and weighing various options (none of them in the city of Boulder, where you practically have to have a trust fund to live in a reasonably-sized place for a family of four), we settled on a cute house in Longmont, another Boulder County town about 14 miles up the road from here.

I'm about 95% excited and happy about this. It will be wonderful to have some breathing room, a yard for the kids, a place that has some character (a fireplace! hardwood floors!) and storage. But I won't love commuting to work, leaving my wonderful neighbors and their awesome kids....or departing my well-loved, tried-and-true running routes.

Yeah, yeah, I know that 14 miles isn't that bad a drive for those times I will want to run in Boulder. And finding new places to run in Longmont will be an adventure. I do believe in running where you live. Part of the beauty of running is that, with the right pair of shoes, you can pretty much just walk out your door and start, and most of the time that's what you should do.

But living in Boulder as a runner makes you feel like part of an elite group, even if you are as far from elite as I am. I'll miss being passed by Olympians, CU cross-country runners and other god-like types on a regular basis. Getting to the rec centers and Flatiron Athletic Club will be harder (though you can bet I'm still going to cash in those unused free passes to FAC at some point, and my free membership to the rec center isn't going anywhere either). And I won't be able to bike to the Bolder Boulder this year.

So in honor of Boulder and the inspiration it's given me, I have decided to spend three of my five next long run weekends--my last as a resident of the city--doing some classic Boulder runs. (The other two weekends I'll be traveling for Easter--more on that later.)

These runs, which will be done in increasing order of difficulty, are:

The Mesa Trail
Bonus mid-week run (if I can): Mount Sanitas
Green Mountain
Magnolia Road

Here is what I know about each of these runs:

1. The Mesa Trail--I ran part of this 6.7-mile one-way route regularly last summer and fall. In my pre-kids life, when I was training for the NYC Marathon, jobless after grad school and therefore free to drive all over the Front Range to run in cool places, I ran it no less than three times--and got lost every time. I still think I might get lost, but I plan to study it more carefully this time. And carry a cell phone.

The Mesa Trail begins in Chautauqua Park on a fire road going up, up, up. I took this picture two weeks ago after an early morning hike on adjoining trails with my friend Christine.
2. Mt. Sanitas (bonus mid-week run)--This loop trail is only 3.3 miles, and it's the one I'm most familiar with of this group. I've hiked it countless times, usually with my friend Christine, occasionally with my husband. But short and familiar do not make easy. It starts at 5,520 feet and tops out at 6,863 feet--that's 1,343 feet of elevation gain. Much of it is more like stair climbing than hiking--I'm not really sure how much of the steepest parts I'll really be able to run. But I've seen others doing it. It's a Boulder classic. It's my turn to try. If all goes well, I'll do two loops and call it my interval workout for that week. If all goes well, I won't sprain an ankle or fall on my face, either.

3. Green Mountain--There are many ultrarunners who live in or near Boulder, among them Anton Krupicka. I read somewhere (unfortunately I forget exactly where) that he ran Green Mountain 297 times last year. Asked if that made him compulsive, he apparently replied that if he were compulsive he would have made it an even 300. Like Sanitas, the Green Mountain loop is deceptively short (5.3 miles). But it gains nearly 2,200 feet in elevation. Unlike Krupicka, I don't plan to run this more than once, at least not this spring and summer. If I do make it (NOT a given), I plan to hang out at the top and enjoy the view before heading back down.

4. Magnolia Road--Perhaps the grandaddy of all runs in Boulder, this is the highest and, by all accounts, the toughest of these runs I'll be attempting. This article says it all. I'll pull one quote out. "Says Team KIMbia athlete manager Peter Tanui, a former elite Kenyan road runner who trained in Colorado for most of his career, 'Up there, it's never easy. But if you can run strong up there, you can do it anywhere.'"

Learning to run strong anywhere is what I'm after. I'm gonna do it, even if I make a complete ass of myself on some of Boulder's most famous routes. At least I'll be saying good-bye to Boulder in style.