The alarm goes off at 4:40 a.m. I don't press the snooze button for fear of aggravating my sleeping wife and groggily get out of bed to prepare for my run. It's Leadville 100 season. I step over our awakening dog, Sophie, and proceed into our master bathroom, where I slip into my running garb. By now, the coffee maker is brewing thanks to the auto-timer I set every night before bed. After getting dressed, I ever-so-quietly make my way toward the kitchen in need of java--but coffee is going to have to wait until after Sophie has peed.
I ask Sophie to pee quickly, which she does, so that I can get out the door by 5:10 for my my usual 10-mile morning run. Actually, my usual for the morning is about 9 miles, but I'm bumping it up to 10 for my Leadville 100 training. I know what it takes to be ready for a 100, but Leadville is no ordinary 100. It involves snow-capped mountains and elevations of 10,000 feet. So this is just my first run of the day. I'm planning 4 more miles tonight--some might call these junk miles but to me they're more time on the feet in preparation for Leadville. But before any of that can happen, I first need to feed the pets and then I'll enjoy my coffee and English muffin.
Through all the hustle of bustle, quietness is of vital importance as any disturbance may awaken Noah. Alas, as I'm enjoying my coffee and waiting for my English muffin to toast to perfection, Noah awakens...at 4:50 a.m.! Now he's crying! I let him go for a few minutes and then finally enter his room to re-cover him in his blankets and give him his pacifier. Even as I close his door he's still crying, but fortunately within a few minutes he's quiet and sleeping again. Thank God! Now for my English muffin!
It's 5:05 now and I've downed my English muffin and coffee and a glass of water--all while checking Facebook--and am ready to go. Since it's 38 degrees and windy, I put on my North Face vest jacket, mittens and hat and then my headlamp, red blinker and Road ID and make my way out the door. Damn! I forgot my Garmin! I head back up the stairs to get my GPS and then, finally, am out the door.
I start running through the apartment complex parking lots and exit the grounds through the main gate, now making my way down east Mainstreet. My legs are a little tired from yesterday's 14.25 miles (and Saturday's 50-kilometer race). It's only a little dark outside, but too dark to see Pikes Peak to the south. My legs start to loosen up as I cross the ever-busy, always-intense Parker Road, a.k.a., Route 83, and make my way down Mainstreet through the rather charming Parker village.
The plan this morning is 5 miles up east Mainstreet, which turns into east Parker Road, and then a return trip to the apartment, for a total of 10 miles. I'll go from about 5,900 feet to almost 6,500 feet for a total elevation change of about 2,000 feet when you factor in a few rolling hills. That may not sound like much but after the 3-mile mark up east Parker Road there are a few decent hills that will give you a nice workout. It's not Green Mountain but it'll have to do this morning. Mountains are for the weekend.
Even at this crazy-early hour there are a decent number of cars out--not enough to jeopardize my life but enough to warrant some attention. I feel bad for these folks--having to go to work when they should be at home in bed or out exercising.
I'm going up east Parker Road, alternating between the sidewalk and asphalt road as determined by the general nature of approaching cars. I prefer asphalt over concrete sidewalk any day of the week, but nothing beats a good single-track trail. Unfortunately in Parker, they don't know anything about dirt trails. All they know about are asphalt and concrete and they seem to love calling a concrete bike path a "trail."
After Riva Ridge Road, which is about 2 miles into my run, the elevation goes north of 6,000 feet as I begin a series of gradual climbs. I'm feeling good this morning and, with it now being about 5:25, the sun is starting to come out and I turn off my headlamp. I can't see the numbers on my Garmin because it's not quite light-enough, but no worries. I look to the south but it's too dark to see Pikes Peak and, besides, I wouldn't be able to see much with all those houses in the way.
As I pass Canterbury Parkway, the wind starts to really whip up and I'm now excited that I'm making the wonderful transition from suburban street to country road. Yes, at about the 2.8-mile mark in this route, east Parker Road turns into a fairly quiet, wonderful two-lane road with wide, dirt shoulders perfect for running. By this point, suburbia is behind me and now I can relish the sites--the rolling hills, the pastures, the cows and, of course, the views! I live for running on country roads.
At the 4-mile mark, now averaging about 7:35 pace, I come upon Tomahawk Road, a north-south road at 6,200 feet, and by now have seen Pikes Peak to the south. It's still kind of faint but it's there. Since moving to Colorado a month ago, no view has captivated me more than Pikes Peak. It is a spectacular site.
I decide to slightly modify my route and turn right--or south--onto Tomahawk. I go about a quarter-mile down Tomahawk and turn left onto East Pinewood Drive. This is probably my favorite neighborhood in the Parker area. It features big lots, beautiful and high-quality but not elaborate houses, and breath-taking views of the mountains to the west and Pikes Peak to the south. I'm certain that the same kind of people who lived in our neighborhood in Chagrin Falls live in this neighborhood--people who love the country, the outdoors, family time and wholesome living. This is where I'd love to live when we buy...if only a house comes on the market that we can afford.
Some of the hills in this neighborhood aren't easy but I hold my 7:35 pace as I look south at Pikes Peak. The peak is covered with snow and glows from the sunlight. It is a monstrosity and I can't wait to summit it in a few weeks when the weather is better. I turn left onto North Templin Road, which will reconnect with Parker Road. On Templin, I'm now up to about 6,400 feet but I'm feeling good and breathing normally. I realize that I've come a long way in acclimating to the elevation. Only 2 or 3 weeks ago I was suffering. But now I'm able to handle the elevation and wonder if I'm fully acclimated or if I'm just partway there.
I'm only on Templin for about a third of a mile before turning left onto West Parker Road. The time is about 5:52 and it's quiet here on West Parker Road. I have 38 minutes to run the remaining 5 or so miles and get home on time. That's plenty of time. From here, West Parker Road is mostly downhill and so I pick up my pace a little to about 6:50-7:10 per mile. The view of the mountains immediately in front of me is spectacular. I never get used to this view. The mountains farther back--the 14'ers--are snow-covered and, like Pikes Peak, glowing from the sun rising in the east.
The next two miles are very pleasant, despite strong winds after Clarke Boulevard. About three miles from home, I now have to again deal with the issues of suburbia and the early morning rush. But there will be no sidewalk running on my return trip. Instead, I opt for the road's edge and step up onto the grass if a car is coming and won't get over for me. Those drivers who seem hellbent on buzzing runners--I feel badly for them. Why the hate?
I'm just trucking along as I enter the Parker village now well past the 9-mile mark into my 10-plus miler. The coffee houses are opening and the world is starting a new day. Thanks to cooperation from the Parker Road/Mainstreet traffic light, I'm able to run across 83 with no worries. Ordinarily, I'd take the tunnel under 83 but can instead run across the road this morning since the light is agreeing.
After crossing Parker Road, I'm now basically home and am at 10 miles when I enter my apartment complex, having dialed the code to get into the gate. I run in circles for a bit, getting to 10.25 miles, and then unlock the door and step into our unit. The time is exactly 6:30. I feel good knowing I've just logged 10 miles, with 4 more to do tonight as I'm trying for 90+ this week, and even better when I hear Noah happily yell, "Hi!" Anne and Noah are always my favorite sites in the morning. Pikes Peak is a distant second.
I now have 25 minutes to make lunches for Anne and me (she makes Noah's lunch) and eat some cereal, before seeing them off and then rushing to shower, get dressed, let Sophie out again and then speed off to work--another working stiff.