I stayed the night in Woodland Park last night. I've been forcing myself to be okay with driving up there on weekend evenings since Brad'll be up there almost full-time for a few months at least, and if I can't go up there, then we don't see each other. This going a month or two with not actually existing in each other's space can't continue, you know? We don't live together, and for him to commute between here and WP every day would be a mess financially--the gas alone is almost half a tank each way. But, *I can* make time to drive up there (it's really only about 40 minutes) and spend some meaningful time together on weekends at least.
The first time I stayed up there, as I drove home, I realized that I always go the back way so I can pass Garden of the Gods. It's really the most amazing place on earth. I thought to myself, the next time I go up, I'll bring my running stuff and go run before I go home. I usually leave fairly early so that he can open the shop and I don't get stuck making breakfast for people I don't know.
Yesterday I remembered my running stuff and geared up this morning to run before I finished driving home. I left WP a little before six and go to GOTG about a quarter past. Morning in the Garden is my favorite time of day. Here's why:
In the morning, the sun is just barely clearing the rock formations. Everything is this beautiful orange color. It's so quiet. The tourists, for the most part, aren't up yet and so they haven't invaded with their cameras, wild children, and loud, obnoxious observations of something amazing. (I can't blame them...it's seriously one of the most beautiful places on earth and their amazement at its beauty is certainly reasonable). The wildlife is finding breakfast and the little rabbits are out, the bluejays are hopping around, and sometimes, like today, you can even see bighorn sheep and deer on the side of some of the hills near the trails...
The run itself is hard and there are places where walking is just...required. Few of us can run the whole thing. The Garden isn't flat. The neat thing about it though is that you can run on road, or trails, or the walkway in the middle of the park, but it's pretty hilly overall. Today I just decided to go wherever I pleased and didn't care how long or how far or how fast. I decided I'd run until I ended up back at the Jeep. I ran a little bit of everything. And it all felt good.
I had some moments of 9 and 10 minute pace, and some a little slower, but it was a beautiful time spent. I ended up just shy of two miles. I was sweaty (it was starting to get hot), but I won't lie...I felt amazing. I felt strong. My legs were strong, my core was strong, nothing hurt...and although my heart felt like it was going to beat itself right out of my chest, I felt fantastic.
When you go to leave the Garden, you're forced to drive through it--you can't just go out the way you came in. I like that they planned it that way. I think that a lot of reflection would be missed if they'd done the road going two ways instead of just one. When you're driving through, you see things you missed when you were running. You see the Spires of red rocks, the view of Pikes Peak at certain points because you can see over the trees. It's like the Garden's way of wishing you a wonderful day...like it's saying Namaste as you drive out, back onto the main road, on your way to wherever you're headed.
Sometimes running is a lot like yoga...the practice is a challenge, but it's worth every moment of peace.