Rob's Blog Archive

June 8, 2014

Under the Flatirons










The lightning reminds me that ground strikes happen.  I review in my mind the dangers these present.  With lots of high ground, trees, and the Flatirons themselves, a ground strike in the fields I planned to run through will be very unlikely.

Driving through thunderstorms on my way to Boulder means at least one good thing.  Even on a Sunday afternoon in June, there will be plenty of parking at Chautauqua Park.  Many years have passed since I last hiked or jogged there, but even when I lived in Colorado, the parking lot filled up quickly on any nice summer Sunday. 

I surprise myself by remembering exactly which streets to take to get to the Chautauqua parking lot.  Arriving just past noon, I find five open parking spaces in the lot right next to the trailhead.  I pull the car into one.  I quickly find and use the bathroom I had also remembered was near the trailhead. 

I check out the trail map.  The trails look a little different than I remember.  I’ll improvise. 

I start out heading to Baseline where the map shows a trail heading west.  I take the trail I remember that cuts west, the one that isn’t shown on the map.  I do remember that there were always lots of trails that none of the maps showed. 

As good as my memory is, my body isn’t.  I have no problem with the slight uphill grade of the Baseline Trail, but when I turn off of it and the route gets much steeper, the world changes.  I have to shorten my jogging gait so much that I find I move faster with a long walking stride than a short jogging stride, at least that’s how it seems and I switch for the very steep sections of trail.

True to memory good/body bad, I remember correctly where the flat spots are, right at the small crest where Ski-Jump Trail hits Bluebell-Baird Trail.  I’m happy for something of a break.  I catch my breath, and start what I had done there many times, my first nine Taekwon-Do patterns.  I have always found doing patterns to be a combination of meditation and exercise.  When I last did this workout, at the age of 31, they were meditative.  This being the first time in many years I have jogged hills this steep, this is more about exercise.  I finish the last pattern, Chung-Mu, with both of its jumps and my ankles intact, catch my breath once more, and head up the Bluebell-Baird Trail.

This leg is shallow enough that my low gear jogging stride is faster than my walking stride.  What I don’t remember is how steep it still is.   My recollection was that it was flat.  The 160’ of climbing that remain forces me to stop, then start in again.  I vaguely remember having to stop the first time I did this route during the eighties, though I’m not sure.  I am certain I had to stop and walk the first time I did the full run to the top of Flagstaff Mountain, though, and use that as my consolation.  Beyond that, at 31 I didn’t worry about pushing and having a heart attack.  At 58, even in good shape, it’s a possibility I can’t simply dismiss.  I do stop well below where my mind could take me. 

After a minute, I move consistently to the top, jogging and passing hikers along the way.  It’s cool but there’s no rain.  The sun is above and nearly behind the Flatirons and they glisten from the moisture that hasn’t yet dried.  I remember why Boulder is one of the two places I actually loved living at, the other being Seeley Lake.

The true crest, one I’m certain is the last, occurs a little more than 100 yards after I pass the Chautauqua Trail.  The first run-patterns workout I did was taking the Chautauqua Trail to that crest and doing patterns in nearly level areas that are northeast of it. The next steep section followed by the switchbacked road brings back memories.  Going downhill lets me actually look for bluebells along the side. 

Shortly before I get back to the parking lot, I pass a guy, probably in his early thirties.  He may well be planning on doing the entire Mesa Trail, I don’t know.   He has, however, just started his run.  As we pass I say, “It’s easier when you’re young.”  He cracks a smile as we go on in opposite directions. 

All told, I do 2.5 miles, 480’ of climbing, and my first nine TKD patterns in 50 minutes.  My recollection is that that’s not very different from the amount of time I used to take.  That’s actually possible:  My first nine patterns have gotten much faster and my running has gotten much slower and these may well compensate.  Before I head off to grab a quick bite to eat, I look up again at the Flatirons.   I get my wallet out of the trunk, get in the car, and drive off. 









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