“Your Poor Friend”

Only moments before the official start of the Mt. Falcon Trail Race last Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. on what had started as a cool, breezy morning, I felt like cracking a joke. “Joe, don’t fall! Dakin, don’t fall! And this race will be a success for all three of us!” I was only half joking and meant the advice more for myself, as I had been the most accident prone of the three of us this trail season.

I wish I had shared my typical, “Good luck. Have a good run!” instead.

I was looking forward to telling you about how good I felt, how much easier the first uphill portion of Castle Trail was, about my brief conversation with another racer on the second, longer uphill portion of Castle Trail:

“Oh, it’s you again. You’re starting to make me feel bad.” “Don’t worry, you’ll catch me again.” As he passed me a second time just a few seconds later, I said, “See?!” Then he laughed, said, “You’re just like my wife. You do things to help me out.” “Oh, I’m not trying to help you out, believe me!”

I wanted to tell you about the race staff stationed near the intersection of Two-Dog and Castle Trails once the course finally flattened out a bit after about three solid miles of climbing. When I passed her the first time, I had a little fun: “Tag! You’re it! I’ll wait for you here, then finish the rest of the race once you get back.” When I passed her on my way down, I only gasped a “Thank you” as she clapped and cheered, “Good job!”

I wanted to share how I passed one guy – he actually heard me, stopped, and stepped aside before I could announce myself by yelling, “Trail!”, then told me, “Good pace” as I passed - and how I outran the sound of footsteps close behind and escaped being caught by someone on Parmalee Trail.

I was excited to tell you how I caught up to ‘shirtless dude,’ got right on his heels for a few feet on my way back down Castle Trail to the finish line a few miles out and then lost him again.

How I felt like I was flying down Castle Trail the last mile and a half of the race; shouted an excited “Yahooo!” in my head as I threw my arms out to my sides to maintain my balance while bouncing down a switchback; felt more like my old, fearless downhill trail running self – the equivalent to a kid in a candy store - than I had in what felt like a long, long time.

And, I was really excited that my mom, dad, and 4 1/2-year-old niece – visiting along with my sister and her boyfriend for the weekend – were at the finish line cheering us on. Reminded me of when my family would come to cross country meets my first two years of college – Still had the same butterflies in my stomach beforehand knowing they’d be waiting afterward.

It was, indeed, great to see them - and especially to hear my niece’s mousy little voice cheering my name – the last few feet before the finish line. And, it was nice to see that I had run the course faster than the first time JD, Dakin, and I first ran it about a week and a half earlier.

All of my excitement was put on hold, though, with my mom’s four words shortly after I stopped my watch: “I think Dakin fell.” Aimee’s – my niece – little hand in mine, we walked over to the first aid station at a picnic shelter just a few feet from the excitement of the finish line. And, there he was, two bloody knees, straight faced, next up in line for medical attention after a girl with a beat up knee.

Running at a full sprint, he clipped his left toe on a rock; landed first on the heel of his right hand a split second before falling with full body weight on his right forearm; then was flung on his back, trail dust dirtying more than not of the back of his shirt, about a mile before the finish line. With another runner’s help, he sat off the trail for a few minutes until he felt like he could run the last bit of the course.

Even after all of this, he not only beat his previous time by more than two minutes, but he also placed third in his age group and 14th of 39 men overall. Damn!

And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, he still suggested we all pose for a picture with our newest additions to our technical racing tee collections – and even smiled through what had to be pretty awful pain for it:

See that? Still similin'

See that? Still similin’

Dakin fractured a bone in his right arm, needed stitches in his left knee, and was still hurting Saturday night from a nurse’s scraping rocks out of his hand and knee with a needle that afternoon. Aimee had only this to say: “Your poor friend!” several times after that for the rest of the day and a few more times on Sunday morning before my family left. “Auntie Lissa.” “Yes, dolly?” “Your poor friend!”

My poor trail running brother. I wish I had shared my typical, “Good luck. Have a good run!” before the race instead.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Tick, tock. . .

. . .goes the clock counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds – in bright red text, no less - until the race at the top of the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon homepage. In my head, it sounds like the countdown that lead ’24′ into a commercial break or an episode conclusion.

Any hope I'll be as intimidating as Jack Bauer on August 18th?

Any hope I’ll be as intimidating as Jack Bauer on August 18th?

It hit me this past week. Next week is my last week of “real” training, and then I. . .taper. . .GULP! Say it with me: HOLY CRAP!!!

Am I ready? I’m not ready. No, I can do this. I’ll be good. Right? RIGHT?!

In this very moment, I *think* I’ll be ready come August 18th. All summer long, I’ve been comparing my times and how I’ve felt on the same courses around the same points in my training; but that’s not the best measure.

So many things are different this year – my job, my additional twice weekly workouts with Ryan, my injuries (plural), and some details of my running regimen to name a few - that there’s no way to make an accurate direct comparison.

The conclusions I can draw boil down to two facts:

  1. I ran faster for speed workouts and for low-mileage runs to, around, and from Cheeseman Park last year.
  2. I feel much stronger on hard trail runs this year.

Given the challenge of 7,815 feet of elevation gain on trail, some of it quite technical, that lies ahead - dubbed ‘America’s Ultimate Challenge,’ as a matter of fact - I’d rather this be the case than the opposite. What that will translate into on the trail, though, remains yet to be seen.

Am I ready? I’m not ready. No, I can do this. I’ll be good. Right? RIGHT?!

Only 20 days, 7 hours, 32 minutes, and 23 seconds. . .22 seconds. . .21 seconds to go until I find out. Tick, tock. . .

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

All’s Well That Ends Well

Last weekend’s long run was expected to be hard. I had a point to make to myself. We were going to Herman Gulch, a beautiful and really tough run the begins around 9,000 feet above sea level. Saturday marked only the third time I’d run Herman Gulch.

The first time I ran it was following the Pikes Peak Ascent last year. Although I was in great shape, probably the best shape of my life up to that point, it whooped my behind, completely owned me. Back then, I didn’t care, wasn’t training for anything at the time; so it didn’t matter. I was just there for the ride.

The second time I ran it was the week following my first fall this season. I was technically not yet allowed to run but got Ryan to very grudgingly agree that I could run uphill if I hiked or walked back down. Well, that day, the trail itself was about enough to do me in. The mud, snow, and frigid wind about a mile up Jones Pass nearly had me in tears at one point.

This time, I was sure to get to bed a few nights beforehand because I wanted to be able to give it my all up the trail to Herman Lake. I’ve been feeling the strongest I’ve ever felt on trails the past few weeks, and our long run last weekend was to be a test of just how far my training has brought me.

Saturday morning, I was focused on one thing and one thing only: NOT allowing Herman Gulch to whoop my arse yet again. Apparently, my focus was misinterpreted when I picked Joe up. “You look like I feel.” “Huh? I fell OK.” And I did. I felt focused.

About half way up, I hit my first speed bump of the day when I realized that I had, ugh, forgotten my Garmin watch. Really? REALLY, Meliss?! I was instantly irritated. Whether I did or didn’t run well, having my stats was important to my training. Seriously?! UGH!

Strike two came shortly after we got to the trailhead, and it was worse than I could have imagined, worse than any of my trail running faux paus in the past. We started walking the trail to warm up a minute or two before our run when I thought to check the front pocket on my hydration vest one more time for peace of mind. Only, I didn’t find peace of mind. . .or my car key.

WHAAAAA THAAAAA?! SERIOUSLY?!!! Why did I put the key in the front pocket? I never do that! Why didn’t I put it in the back pocket? WHY?! 

Joe later said he knew my key wasn’t there from the look on my face in that moment. After retracing our steps carefully twice – to no avail - and a desperate phone call to the most awesome roommate ever in the history of the universe who agreed to get my spare car key from our old apartment and set aside a full agenda to drive up I-70 about an hour outside of the city to rescue us, we were finally off and running.

Maybe it was feeling angry at myself for losing my car key, maybe it was feeling upset that I didn’t have my watch. Who knows, maybe it was my training. Whatever it was, I started running up the first steep and technical section of the trail. . .and I didn’t stop. Not once. I had never done that before. Insert closed-mouth, ear-to-ear grin here.

As if that weren’t enough to raise a girl’s spirits after a bumpy morning, I reached a pair of hikers once the trail leveled off to a flat spot. One turned when he heard me coming up behind them and asked, “Did you happen to lose a car key?” I stopped in my tracks, and I’m pretty sure my eyes popped out of my head the most they ever had despite of my decades-long romance with horror and thriller films.

“YES! Yes I did! Did you find it?!” They did. Turns out they parked right next to us and found my key about five vehicles toward the trail head. They told me where I could find it; and after profuse ‘thank yous’ – about fifty on my behalf and a hundred more on behalf of my roommate who would no longer need to give up a Saturday to save a careless damsel in distress – and one giant hug, I headed back to the parking lot.

Much to my relief and more than momentary elation, I found it exactly where they told me I would!

I took a minute to put it in the pocket where it belongs – the pocket in the back, where I always put it except today for some reason – to call my roommate and share the good news and offer him profuse ‘thank yous’ for his willingness to help me out no questions asked, and to pay my good fortune forward by lending my phone to a woman in the parking lot who couldn’t get reception on hers.

And, of course to take my only picture of that trail run. Gorgeous, clear blue skies and snow caps in the distance – so much prettier a view than the broken asphalt between ol’ Sal (my car) and the EEW-inducing outhouse!

DSC06113

And then, I headed back up the same trail – up the long, steep section marking the beginning of the trail. . .again. Small price to pay for peace of mind!

Maybe it was feeling relieved and fortunate for the good people who returned my car key, maybe it was feeling excited that I made it up the first steep section of the trail earlier without stopping. Whatever it was, I ran up the first steep and technical section of the trail. . .and only stopped once. And, when I got to it, I ran up another steep section of trail without stopping once – I had never done that before.

Had I an ounce of extra energy left in my body at that point, you could have inserted a closed-mouth, ear-to-ear grin here. But, I didn’t; so don’t worry about that.

At the end of the day, it was a good day. Guess all’s well that ends well. . .with a car key.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

New Love for a Few Old Friends

‘Trail Run Tuesday’ this week included a new route at a very familiar venue, and my favorite venue, Mt. Falcon Park. As much as I love our usual route and am looking forward to running it again – feel I am finally strong enough to run the full course without any stopping or walking and want to see if I am right – this new route proved a nice change of pace.

We ran what will be the course of our next race, a 9 ½-mile out and back for the Mt. Falcon Trail Race next weekend; and it was like learning something new and unexpectedly admirable about a good friend you’ve known for years. Something that brings a smile to your face knowing that you love your friend that much more. I had never run the Parmalee Trail before, had not even bid it any attention truthfully. I think it may quickly become another favorite route.

Back in my Lady Trojan Cross Country days, we used to run the race course before meets. So our running the course brought back fond memories of my first years of serious running – the feelings of excitement, of butterflies nervously fluttering in my stomach, of imagining yourself racing the course as you run it during the race that come with running a new course for the first time.

It was like embracing a best friend you haven’t seen in years, only to realize that despite years passing void of communicative exchange, you will always say ‘hello’ and pick up right where you left off at your last ‘goodbye,’ never missing a beat.

And, at the end of the run, I was out of my blast from the past and right back in my running present among great friends sharing a mutual love of and respect for the trails, flip flops, lawn chairs, and a cold brewski or two:

A lil' hard earned R'n'R

A lil’ hard earned R’n’R

I love nights like this one, live for courses that remind me of why I run, long for the next opportunity to enjoy the sense of serenity that come with sharing a beautiful place with good friends. And, in the midst of the hardest part of my marathon training, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Running – and life – don’t get much better than this.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

And They Were All Mansions

Due to scheduling conflicts caused by my buzzing social schedule this past weekend, I was left to my own devices for last week’s long run - twenty miles. I chose the High Line Canal Trail as my running poison for my solo venture.

Twenty miles is a loooooong distance to run by oneself. It gives you lots of time to think. Or, rather, just keep yourself from feeling bored. I had plenty to keep my mind occupied between the move - coming up with a game plan to scrub the new apartment from head to toe and planning what I’d try to move during the evenings after work this week – my plans to see Denver’s very own The Epilogues at the iconic Bluebird Theater that night.

And then my mind started to wander. Girls, remember the game MASH from when we were kids? It’s making a comeback, by the way - I last played about a year and a half ago. Well, I started to play in my head. And it was the BEST game of MASH ever. Why? I’ll tell you why! In this particular game, there was no chance of ending up in a house, an apartment, or a shack.

Thanks to the impressive socioeconomic status of the people who live along the High Line Canal, they were all mansions in my game of MASH:

DSC06110

Off and on for a few of those twenty miles, beauties like these prompted fun questions inspired by delirium inspired by the 84-degree heat, like, “Hmm. Whom shall I invite to bed in the carriage house for the weekend first?”

DSC06112

And, “What shall I request of the chef for Sunday brunch out on veranda #3?” stated in a hoytie toytie voice just before slowly sipping champagne from a crystal floret, pinky up, in my head, of course.

Six miles out then back to the car to refuel went pretty quickly, actually. Refill my Gatorade flask, then out for four the opposite direction and back. Piece of cake.

I got back to my car, popped the trunk, replenished my Gatorade store and chugged the drink or two left in the bottle, then took a sip of water from my hydration pack before heading out for my final eight miles, wondering what would float through my mind next.

That was determined before I even reached for the ‘Start/Stop’ button to restart my watch.

Twelve miles, about 84 degrees, two liters gone. I was completely out of water and still had eight miles – over an hour of running – to go. Oh, noooooooo.

Those last miles were spent counting down quarter and half mile increments; guessing whether or not it was going to rain and, if so, if I would miss it; and talking myself into taking the next step at times.

Surprisingly, my pace was consistently faster than the first twelve miles, and I wasn’t feeling near death as I had expected to. Still, it was a long eight miles.

Luckily, I found a few trail goers who were willing to spare their extra water. I think I teared up a little as I watched one pour a good quantity of water into my hydration pack bladder, a few beautiful ice cubes amidst the waterfall of life-saving goodness.

I guestimate that they gave me almost another liter of water, and I’m pretty sure I finished almost all of it during those last two miles, which were about almost as fast as the best pace for the first twelve.

Three hours, two minutes, and seventeen seconds is a loooooong time to run by oneself. Luckily, this time, the long miles were full of mansions – and water refills – for me.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

This Single Gal’s Taken

Since I’ve been back home in Colorado, I’ve been asked the question four times by four different people. The question I’m guessing pretty much all single women my age absolutely despise. It often makes them feel isolated, sometimes socially inadequate, perhaps even a failure at this point in their lives. Quite frankly, any version of this question just pretty much irks me.

“So do you have anybody special in your life?” “Are you dating anybody?” And probably the ugliest, most heebie jeebie inducing question of them all: “Are you married?”

In their defense, I haven’t seen or spoken with two of these four people in a year and a half and about four years; and one is a new coworker. As for the fourth person, she has asked me the question twice this year already. No hard feelings, grandma. I know you mean well.

No matter how the question’s asked, the same answer flashes in my mind’s eye like a bright red neon sign, a blaring, abrasive ‘EEEHHH EEEHHH’ sound rattling my ear drums like an obnoxious car alarm going off every time the light comes on. It’s not only ‘No.’ It’s a monstrous, resounding, ‘OH HEEEEEEELLLLL NO!’

This is what goes on in my internal monologue, at least. I’ve gotten pretty good at smiling politely and saying something like, “No, not for me!” or “Nope, nope, not right now” and laughing it off for a moment before I change the subject.

I just don’t have any time to dedicate to the dating scene. All summer long, I’ve been settling into the new job. As if that itself wasn’t busy enough, I was quickly reminded of just how time consuming and exhausting marathon training truly is. And then there was that little bump on my knee, uh, twice. Now add hours upon hours of icing and heating nearly daily while firmly planted on the couch in front of the TV to the equation.

Not to mention first finding, and now moving, into a new apartment. Then, there’s carving time from a few evenings a week to grace your starving eyes with my most exemplary and exquisite talents of the feathered pen and scroll kind. And last, but far, far from least, simply wanting to spend some good quality time with family and friends to make up for lost time.

Dating? To quote Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Sweet Brown

MMM HHHMMMMMM!

At the same time, I must confess. . . I am quite taken with someone.  His reputation most definitely precedes him, a quality I find quite attractive. I think about him every day, several times a day. Can’t tear my eyes away whenever I see him. He’s literally made me weak in the knees. You might even call me obsessed.

Truth be told, we have a date. It’s on Sunday, August 18th. On that day, I will look up at him and dreamily gaze into his eyes, which may involve squinting because he’s quite tall – 14,115 feet tall, to be exact.

I look forward to dinner. . .carbing up the night - and even days – before the race. . .drinks. . .the orange Gatorade I’ll alternate with water each time I need to hydrate between aid stations. . .and let’s not forget dancing. I love to dance! Navigating the technical trail of the Ws, the Cirque, and the 16 Golden Stairs on my way to the top of Pikes Peak and back down to the finish line will require quite sophisticated footwork.

I can’t wait to see you on our date, m’love:

DSC04401Oh yeah. This single gal is most definitely taken. Insert dreamy sigh and cheesy grin here.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

Rematch!

After a few rounds of, “Where should we run on Saturday?” “I dunno,” our long run last weekend brought us back to Elk Meadow Park – and Too Long Trail – where my poor little knee met its 10-day demise. I had a feeling we might end up back there; so I was sure to get to bed earlier the night or two before and to mentally prepare to be ready for it in case we did.

And we did. I felt focused and just a touch apprehensive on the drive. Once we reached the parking lot, though, I was determined to feel better once I reached the parking lot at the end of the run than I did when I reached the parking lot three weeks before. Here goes. . .

I started out strong, felt good. So far, so good. Just watch your step! To my surprise, I continued to feel strong two miles up the road. I knew the steepest mile was the third, though. The hardest part was yet to come.

And then, out of nowhere, I stubbed a toe and lost my balance for a second. I caught it in time to land safely on both feet, but it caught me off guard. I took a minute to catch my breath, let the momentary shock subside, and refuel with water and a salt tablet. The trail gods were there. They wanted me to know that they were watching.

The rest of the way up went very well! It may have been the strongest I’ve felt of all of the times I’ve run up Bergen Peak Trail. I had much more energy than that last time I reached the peak three weeks earlier. Score: Melissa, 1; Elk Meadow Park, 0.

Once I reach the top of the steepest section of a trail run, I typically think, “Hard part’s over. Going down is the real fun!” On this day, though, burning legs, gasping for air, and talking yourself into climbing continuously without walking or stopping were only a warm up, only the beginning.

The real test of this day would be on the way down Too Long Trail: Reaching Meadow View Trail and finishing the entire run fall free.

On the way down, I kept thinking back to the day I fell and how I could avoid a repeat performance. And then, I started looking for the spot where I fell – in part because I wanted to know that I passed it without a fall to make up for it, in part because I was a little scared of falling again.

Was that it? I think so. No, maybe not. The switchback sent me the opposite direction, and I was able to relax until the next. Once I got there, though, I was constantly scanning the trail, trying to remember what the trail was like at the spot where I fell so that I could approach it cautiously. OK, I think that was definitely it. Or was it? Maybe not. Guessing and second guessing was getting me more and more anxious.

My speed workout two days before proved me pretty much right where I was at this point in the same marathon training plan last year, and I was happy with my Pikes Peak Ascent time. I made it through a knee injury and was still on track for a strong race. The thought of another fall, of not running for another week and a half, maybe longer, made me incredibly anxious.

Were that to happen, I may as well kiss my time goal for the marathon goodbye.

Careful, careful. Watch your step. You’re OK, you’ve got this. And, I did. Until I stubbed my left toe this time and headed downward. I caught myself, landed mostly on the heels of both hands. I tripped, yes, but didn’t fall like last time.

Woah, that was close. And, it was. Closer than I realized at first. I turned my hands up to inspect their heels – just a bit of stubble, mostly dirt. I looked down at my legs. Left knee was dusty with trail. Right knee. . .bore a new gash of torn skin, the beginning of a dark red pool of blood slowly surfacing mixed with dirty trail.

Same trail, same exact spot on the same knee, injured again exactly three weeks later.

AGAIN.

How could this possibly happen AGAIN?! Last time, the trail gods shoved a rock up through the ground like a game of ‘Whac-A-Mole.’ This time, I saw the rock that caught my toe.

I stood for a second and assessed the situation. It didn’t hurt nearly as bad as my first fall – This was nothing to make me stop so far. I took off my hydration pack, unzipped the pocket in the back, and pulled a baby wipe out of a sandwich bag to dab my knee. It looked pretty gross but didn’t feel all that bad; so I did the only thing I knew to do. I kept running.

If it starts to hurt, I’ll walk. I don’t want to run on it any more and make it worse if it’s hurt again. And, as I had hoped, it didn’t. OK, keep going. Only four more miles to go for today. With the exception of stopping about three or four times to dab my knee with the baby wipe – the first of these including the chunk of skin that used to be part of my knee, gross, I know - I didn’t need to stop for the remainder of the run.

Despite feeling better running after this fall than the last, my knee felt stiff again back at the car just as it did the first time. Dakin only shook his head. JD confirmed what I already knew: “Oh yeah, that’ll scar.”

Again. Sigh.

Why do you despise me so, Too Long Trail gods?

My agenda for the rest of the day? Rewritten: Got home ASAP; scrubbed my knee with soap and water; prayed that the hydrogen peroxide didn’t burn as badly as I anticipated it would – it didn’t - doused the wound in Neosporin and covered it with not one, but two Bandaids – one wasn’t enough to completely cover it – then prayed even harder that my training wouldn’t be interrupted for another ten days. . .or longer. . .

Tally for the training season: Elk Meadow Park, 3; Melissa, 1. I’ve got a score to settle, no doubt. Maybe I’ll wait to do that until after the race, though.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

A Slightly Different Agenda

The 4th of July. Barbecue. Lawn games. Fireworks. Food! And, let’s not forget. . . BEER! These are a few things that come to mind when you mention the July 4th holiday, and these were a few things that were most certainly on my mind. What might not typically come to mind when one things of July 4th is an eight-mile tempo run. But, that was precisely what was first on deck for my holiday agenda.

I had hoped to get my run out of the way first thing in the morning, but I felt mixed emotions when my alarm went off at 6:15 a.m. - I knew I’d be happy to have my speed work done and out of the way so that I could enjoy the rest of the day, but I did NOT want to get out of bed. And, so, I peeled myself from my sheets, got ready, and swore Dakin out in my head the entire drive to the South High School parking lot.

Had I only had to run that morning, I would have been fine. I had to do speed work, though, which pretty much always takes at least a little self-coaxing. And, I remembered how I did with this exact same speed workout this exact time in the exact same training plan last year. I knew what I could do then and wouldn’t be able to help but compare to what I can – or can’t – do now.

I had a good speed workout at Mt. Falcon Park on Tuesday, but I had also had a knee injury. This would be a true test of exactly where I stand in terms of my training. No pressure!

Lucky us, Wash Park delivered – There was a 5K scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. The excitement of race day – hearing the announcer and the music booming from oversized speakers and seeing a flurry of racers flock from the parking lot toward the starting line, some in matching tutus or t-shirts, some already donning race bibs, others asking the location of the on-site check in to get theirs – were motivation.

After a nice, easy mile warm up, there was only one thing left to do – haul arse for 8 more. Here goes!

The first two miles went by pretty quickly, and I was happy with my speed. This is good to start, but I can’t keep this up.

Three miles, then four. Still a good speed. OK, not too bad. Even if I can’t keep this up, I’ve come half way. Seeing the racers pass along the east side of the park trail between Smith and Grasmere Lakes only helped. They likely didn’t even notice me pass, but they were my own personal cheerleaders in my head.

Five felt so good, I ran it 13 seconds faster than four. Damn! Didn’t see that coming. About this time, some of the faster racers had finished the race. Ooh, he’s HOT! Didn’t see him coming either. Six. Only two more at this pace. Maybe I can do this!

Then, seven hit, and it brought a wall with it. Ooh, ouch. Just stick this one out, then you can slow down on the last one. Ran hard on Tuesday. Seven is good for today.

Much to my surprise, seven was right on target with the previous six.

Then came eight. One more. I got this! Twelve seconds faster than seven. DONE!

I finished at just a hair or two faster a pace per mile compared to this same workout last year. As if that weren’t an awesome enough start to what was sure to be an awesome 4th of July, the hot guy crossed my path as he left the race. I felt so good, I thought I’d seize the moment and be a bit bold.

“How’d you do?” I asked. “Good.” Tee hee! OK, OK. So maybe my definition of ‘bold’ differs from others. Truth be told, I think of conversation starters around hot guys all of the time. I just never actually start the conversation. So, on this particular day, even though I knew that we were running opposite directions and that this single exchange was as far as things would go, I was bold to say anything at all.

And as if a great speed workout and being bold enough to start the most brief of conversations with a chiseled, shirtless lad – Did I mention he was H-O-T hot?! - weren’t enough, Dakin, Tarino, and I had (1) beer and (2) a few games of beersbee waiting:

The perfect ending to a most excellent beginning of the day

The perfect ending to a most excellent beginning of the day

And the rest of the day was filled with barbecue. Fireworks. Food! And, let’s not forget. . . BEER! And a 45-minute nap. That was precisely what was first on deck for the rest of my holiday agenda.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts child development research and works to influence child development policy at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.