Just What This Doctor Ordered

Most of Saturday and Sunday were spent in the beautiful, peaceful splendor that only a small mountain town in Colorado can offer. My time in Steamboat Springs marked my 2013 mini solo vacation – a little tradition I started accidentally when none of my friends could join me for a long spring 2012 weekend trip to lovely Asheville, NC. See? I’ll give NC credit where it’s due - So give me some credit!

I arrived early Saturday afternoon, dropped off my stuff, changed, then headed straight to Fish Creek Falls for a trail run. Reviews of the trail made it sound like a walk in the park, so to speak; but when I asked her about the trail, my weekend hostess – a Steamboat Springs local – indicated otherwise.

“It gets pretty steep.” “Oh, I’m not afraid of ‘steep.’ My running buddies and I, we do a lot of trail running in the summers.” “But it’s not just steep. There are lots of rocks on the trail.” She meant well but clearly had absolutely no idea to whom she was talking. “Do you think it’s too late in the day to get up there now?” “No, I think this time of day would be perfect.” Done and DONE.

And so, I was off. But first, I needed water to bring with me. Stopped to get water. It’s already three o’clock. Wonder if that’s too late to start. Maybe I’ll stop off at the visitor center for a second opinion. Stopped to get trail running advice. The woman echoed my hostess’ confirmation that it was indeed not too late to start a trail run in the middle of the afternoon and added, “I’d wear whatever you don’t mind getting muddy.”

Maybe I’ll just hike it. I can go back and run it tomorrow.

And so, I was off – for real this time – and decided to give running a ‘go’ after all but found myself looking for another distraction. Is there anything else I need? Any more stops I should make? And then it hit me – I was stalling! But why?

The answer was simple – This was my second trail run since Pikes Peak. Even though I had no races on deck for the remainder of the year and my next Pikes Peak Marathon was nearly a year out, I was nervous. Nervous that the “steep” parts of the trail might kick my butt. Nervous that I’d feel tired and want to walk. Nervous that I wouldn’t feel as strong as I had hoped because I had cut back my mileage so drastically since the race.

Luckily, I – somewhere along the way the past thirty or so years - mastered the art of thought stopping. And, arguably more important, I decided to cut myself a little slack. You’re on vacation. Do what you want! I wanted to run. And I wanted to stop to take pictures along the way. So I did.

And I didn’t want to beat myself up if I ran a little on the slow side or feel guilty about stopping to take pictures along the way. So I didn’t.

Once I finally reached the trail head and started, I came across the first waterfall almost immediately:

Ooh. . .aaahhhh. . .

Ooh. . .aaahhhh. . .

And, I learned there was a second about two miles up the mountain. But first, I had to battle “steep” and “muddy” trails with “lots of rocks.” Ha! Two out of three – muddy and lots of rocks – turned out to be true. But steep? Not even.

My run turned out to be more like a walk in the park - saying ‘hello’ to hikers along the way and actually stopping to talk with one for a minute or two; stopping to enjoy the scenery and to take lots of pictures, something I NEVER do on my way up a mountain during training - with a front row seat to the change of seasons. My view literally went from this:

Teensy bit of snow. . .

Teensy bit of snow. . .

To this in less than a half mile:

Snow!

Snow!

And then, about a half mile beyond this point, I made it to the second waterfall and, just as quickly as I had gone from fall to winter, found myself enjoying fall again:

Hmmmmm pretty

Hmmmmm pretty

And, as if the scenery alone was not beautiful enough, the best part of the run was that I didn’t think twice about the trail being too steep, or too rocky, or too muddy, not even once. I just ran, and I loved every step.

It’s funny how your inner demons and insecurities can sneak up on you. Lucky me, I have my gorgeous home state – and the grace and serenity of its trails – to help me to shut them the eff up.

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.

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