Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Two Hundred Forty-One

February 25, 2015
7.79 Miles in 1:15:36
Mood: Nice days and premature shamrocks.
Soundtrack: 99% Invisible / Blues Traveler "Four"

I embarked on the rare Wednesday run today because the forecast calls for snow for the immediate future, and this morning was to be clear and beautiful, so I swapped my usual Thursday for a Friday. I was glad that I did so, as it was a great day to run. The roads had cleared quite a bit, so the slop I was running in on Tuesday morning was gone, and in it's place were fairly dry streets and a nice backdrop to get a few miles closer to my February goal. I have hit 100 miles or more for 13 straight months, and this is the first month in a long time that getting to that goal has been in question. Thanks to a short month of 28 days and many of these days being filled with more snow, I'm currently only at 96.6 miles for February. I feel confident that I'll get that final 3.4 miles in on Friday, as I plan on going even if I have to resort to running in the Southglenn parking garage to get those precious final few miles.

Today's run took me to many of the same places as yesterday's run, with only mild variances in the route. This was done intentionally, as I saw this snow monster celebrating St. Patricks Day in this same window yesterday, and immediately knew it'd need to make the blog sooner rather than later. I didn't get a good photo of it yesterday as there was a giant pickup truck blocking the way, and to get around it, I would have had to plod through a rather large pile of drifted snow in the yard. Thankfully today, the pickup was gone, and I had a straight shot of the monster. Interesting to perhaps only me, this monster is only three doors down from the recently featured house with a Lighthouse in it's front yard. It's a great stretch of weirdness in that area, I'm thankful for it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Two Hundred Forty

February 24, 2015
7.58 Miles in 1:17:24
Mood: Perpendicularly challenged, slow, and blessed with great light.
Soundtrack: James Germain "Jane Misanthrope" / James Germain and the Grey Gray Days "Criminal Heart"

After missing out on a Sunday run thanks to a large snowfall, I was more than ready to finally hit the road Tuesday morning. I didn't even care that the world was still an icy, snowy mess. I was going running.

Less than three minutes into my run, I found myself on the ground. I was crossing a street adjacent to a local shopping center and I stopped to walk across the intersection as there was a large mound of slush I didn't think I should run through. Turns out what I thought was bubbly slush was actually frozen solid. Rather than succumbing to my weight, as is usually the case with slush, I found myself balanced precariously on a block of ice.

My balance did not last long, and soon I found myself on the ground. I wouldn't exactly say I fell, as it was less like a crash and more like I had immediately found myself immersed in an impromptu round of competitive Twister. Faster than you could say left hand red, I twisted myself off the ground and was off running again. The entire incident took less than ten seconds, and the only thing that was hurt in any way was my pride. My first instinct was to look in all directions to make sure that no one had seen my uncoordinated flopping. Surely if anyone had seen it they were now laughing wildly at my lack of proficiency in staying upright.

Thankfully it was 6:07 AM, and there were no witnesses so I plodded on through the icy landscape. The world was slippery, and I intended not to fall again. The lack of a good grip on the pavement slowed my pace considerably. I resigned myself to a slow run, and determined not to worry about my lack of pace today, but simply enjoy that I was finally able to get out and enjoy a run...slow as it may be. I did manage to stay on my feet for remainder of the outing, a fact for which I was rather thankful.

Although the world was chilly, it was bright. There was nary a cloud in the sky, and by the time the sun rose, it shined brilliantly off of the white snow which was everywhere. The intense light was comforting and felt benevolent, as if God himself were reaching down and saying, "Look around, I'll make sure everything is well lit."

Bright morning sun does something special to flags waving in the breeze. I kept trying to take a picture at just the right moment to get the perfect photo of the two flags shown above. I'm not sure I ever got a PERFECT photo, but I did take about seven or eight pictures in the effort. I love the Colorado flag, especially when it is lit up by sunlight. It was by far the best picture that I took on this sloppy, slow, yet satisfying run.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Two Hundred Thirty-Nine

February 20, 2015
7.35 Miles in 1:11:30
Mood: Because why wouldn't you put a goalpost in your front yard?
Soundtrack: The Lumineers "The Lumineers" / The Avett Brothers "Mignonette"

The morning snuck up quickly on me for this run today today, as I was up late attending a concert on Thursday night. I gave brief consideration to staying in bed this morning, but I'm trying to hit 100 miles in February, and winter is going to pound Colorado hard this weekend, so I don't know how many more outings the weather will allow me in February.

I had won tickets to see Stelth Ulvang the night before. He is a member of the Lumineers who according to Wikipedia plays piano, mandolin, accordion, guitar, banjo, clarinet, glockenspiel, double bass, trombone, trumpet, flute, drums, and provides backing vocals for the band. I won the tickets through a radio station, and had a great time at the show, but the lack of sleep was evident as I ran this morning. I was tired and oh so slow. However, The show did inspire me to revisit the Lumineers album, which I hadn't listened to in some time, and I continue to find it to be a solid album.

A mile into the run I really had to pee, so I stopped in to King Soopers and quickly took care of business, and on my way out, I noticed a sign in the ethnic foods aisle promoting a product named "White Girl Salsa". At the time I read it, the moniker seemed a terrible marketing decision, but after perusing the internet to learn how it came to be named I have come around on the cognomen, and now I find it charming. It's interesting at the very least, and definitely an amusing story. Plus it grabbed my attention, a good thing for a brand name.

The name made me take strong enough notice that I took a picture of it's sign and then took a picture of Heinz Ketchup in order to make the inelegant and not all that funny "Ketchup is White Girl Salsa" joke on Instagram later that day. Sadly, I didn't see any of the actual White Girl Salsa product on the shelves, although I will probably have to procure a jar to test it out for myself and to support Colorado business.

Which brings us to the latest weird thing I found while running...A miniature football goalpost in the front yard. I've really been trying to think how this goalpost could possibly be appropriately used, and the scenario which came about that allows it to exist. Perhaps a small child with dreams of kicking at the professional level lives at the home, and the dad is trying be supportive. Perhaps the person who lives there just loves football and has a weird way of showing it. I really can't begin to understand its purpose, but as with all weird lawn ornaments, I am beyond thankful that such a ridiculous thing exists. Every time I think I've uncovered all that is odd in local lawn ornamentry...I am surprised by the ingenuity and oddness of my neighbors.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Two Hundred Thirty-Eight

February 19, 2015
8.07 Miles in 1:17:43
Mood: Determined to photograph a metal donkey and happy to be running again.
Soundtrack: Mediocre Show / Lupe Fiasco "Tetsuo and Youth"

I saw this colorful metal donkey several weeks ago while out on a run, but it was still early enough in the morning that the sun wasn't quite bright enough to get a good picture. I took several pictures anyway, because...colorful metal donkey. Sadly, they didn't come out all that well, so I have been meaning to get back to this house. Today was the day, I headed west with a singular focus...I was going to get a picture of the donkey. I was strangely obsessed, and did much less looking around for good photo ops for the blog today. My picture was going to be the donkey, and I knew it. When I arrived the sun had risen far enough that a good picture was possible. (Thanks to sunrise happening earlier and earlier...speaking to the approaching spring!) I snapped my picture, and then realized I was satisfied for today. I had another four miles to run, but it was all good.

It was good to hit the road for a run again, as I hadn't been able to get out since Sunday thanks to snow and freezing temperatures. Sadly, that may occur yet again, as we are expecting lousy weather this weekend too. Hopefully I can still find a time and place to run, but I may be limited. This run also helped me loosen up a bit as I strained my neck while telling a Bible story to children. That is as true as it is weird...lets just say I get a bit animated while teaching, and sometimes forget that I'm almost 40 and my muscles don't always react like they did when I was 20. I've had trouble turning my neck ever since Tuesday night, but thankfully this run did make that problem slightly less problematic. I'm slowly healing.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Two Hundred Thirty-Seven

February 15, 2015
7.78 Miles in 1:08:28
Mood: Enjoying Denver's sites before the inevitable February snow hits
Soundtrack: The Mountain Goats "All Eternals Deck" and "The Life of The World to Come"

I forget which month comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb, but this particular Sunday was the opposite of that. When I parked at Wash Park to start out, it was about as beautiful a day as it could be, and by the time I finished the gray nastiness had started to settle in and we were well on our way to a full blown snowmageddon. Okay, "Snowmageddon" is probably overstating it, but I hate snow. Hate it so much.

Fortunately, this run was mostly done during the excellent portion of Sunday. I hit up two of my favorite indulgently large and old houses...the Grant-Humphries mansion (which is still having some type of construction work being done on it) and the Weckbaugh mansion, and I discovered a few new favorites spots including the excellently named "Mother of God Church" and this house with these weird angel totems out front. Twas a great day for discovery, as I also found an institution with the acronymn "DERP", which is a word that my buddy uses to indicate people and situations that are not working to a preferably desired intellectual level. Yep, when he encounters the stupid, he'll often say, "DERP!" loudly...and now I have found a place that self-identifies as DERP. Substantial to perhaps only me, and yet it is a profound discovery to me.

My favorite moment from this run was when I spotted a kite that had lodged itself amazingly high in a tree in Wash Park. It looked so pathetic up there. It reminded me of Charlie Brown, and his relative lack of success with kites. I couldn't help but think of the sad person who must have looked up forlornly into this giant tree and realized the kite was gone for good.

I don't know why that made me feel good, but it did. It was confirmation that the circle of life that separates kite owners from their kites on windy days is still strongly in effect, and the confirmation of that universal truth is comforting somehow. I didn't feel joy in someone else's pain, but merely amusement that this rather superficial pain has been, is being, and will continue be so long as there are strong winds and big trees. I appreciate the timelessness of kites stuck in trees, I guess.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Two Hundred Thirty-Six

February 13, 2015
7.04 Miles in 1:03:56
Mood: Keeping an eye on those shifty Latter Day Saints.
Soundtrack: Mumford and Sons "Sigh No More" and "Babel"

I've always been a bit suspicious of Mormons. They have never been anything other than wonderfully kind in all my dealings with them, but there is something shady about them that I just don't buy. (I can't exactly put my finger on it, but I'm watching you, Mormons.) I'm not sure if it's the bizarre origin story, rumors that I've never fully investigated about holy underwear, seeing them going out two by two on bikes while wearing white button downs and skinny black ties like the weirdest Noah's Ark animals, or just my gut feeling that they're a little too squeaky clean to be fully trusted.

That odd intro paragraph brings me to my run this morning. This morning I found myself in a neighborhood that I don't run through all that much. After slogging up a pretty sizable hill in a park, I ended up right next to the Denver, Colorado LDS Temple. I knew that it was here, as I've seen it in passing a few times, but I guess that I never took the time to investigate just how significant a structure it is.

The building is much larger and imposing than I ever realized. It is surrounded by a black iron fence, but this morning, the gate was open. I'm not sure if I am welcome or even allowed on the premises, but I wasn't going to allow a little thing like maybe not actually being wanted on the property keep me from checking out the grounds...after all, the gate WAS open.

One of first things that I noticed were several work trucks planted in the parking lot. It appeared that there is currently some minor construction going on with the building, which could potentially explain the open gate. The humorous thing I noticed about the work trucks was that there were seven of them, and five out of the seven had Utah license plates. Way to live up to a stereotype, Mormons.

I wasn't even completely certain that this was the Latter Day Saints complex until I saw all the Utah stuff. At that point I became about 90% positive I was on Mormon land. I reached 100% when I walked off the grounds and saw the sign.

I recieved a few perplexed looks from the two or three workmen that I saw as they were arriving at the site. This happens to me on the regs, as I often put myself in enough unusual places on my outings that I have grown accustomed to people throwing weird looks at the tall sweaty runner guy in athletic pants. I've found that if I just act confident, as if I totally belong where I am, most people aren't inspired enough to try and check my credentials.  That worked this time too, as not a single Utah truck driver bothered to speak to me.

The building itself is impressively white. The pinkness of the early morning sun makes the building look more dingy in the photo than it actually is. The stark whiteness combined with the bright gold lettering above the door definitely gave off a we're holier than you vibe to me. Probably not what they were going for, but I felt judged anyway. The courtyard of the building felt like a tourist trap during the offseason. The building had construction going on, and there were plentiful gardens which surely are home to some beautiful flowers during the summer but right now are rather unimpressive patches of dirt. I did enjoy the fountain, and found it to be a very pleasant place to sit on a white marble bench and tighten my running shoes. I had to snap a few photos, as I may never get to be this close to the Temple ever again.

A little research after the fact revealed this place to be a little more special than I realized. Apparently there are fewer than 180 Mormon Temples worldwide, and this is the only one in Colorado. (Although they have announced plans to build another one in Fort Collins sometime in the future.) This was the 40th one ever built. My buddy Doug informed me that he was able to tour the Temple prior to it being consecrated, a practice that Wikipedia informs me is common for new Temples. However, once it has been dedicated, only Mormons in good standing may enter. I guess that means I'm out of luck. I'll stumble around the outside, but I'm not risking trying to get inside...who knows what weirdness/danger I might find myself in. Like I said, I don't fully trust those shifty Mormons.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Two Hundred Thirty-Five

February 12, 2015
7.04 Miles in 1:05:01
Mood: Flirting with danger.
Soundtrack: Jordan, Jesse, Go! / The After Disaster

How dangerous could this possibly be? Also what is it? Best I can tell, it's a rickety bridge atop some type of cement dam with some big metallic green things that stick up in the air. I kept away mostly, although I did get close enough to take this picture...hopefully it's not dangerous in a radioactive "I got too close and now I am mutated" kind of way. I'm guessing the danger is overstated.

The world seemed extra dark this morning as I ran. The moon is waning, but still fairly bright, so I'm not sure why it felt that way to me, but it seemed as if it took forever for the sun to rise. Maybe it's because I briefly ran through a cemetery. Not sure what the reason is, but it was a dark morning.

Nothing all that interesting was seen or heard or experienced on this trip, so this seems like a good time to point out that this map looks vaguely like a banana. I'll try to be more interesting next time...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Two Hundred Thirty-Four

February 10, 2015
7.35 Miles in 1:07:53
Mood: Thrilled by Rediscovery
Soundtrack: Trampled by Turtles "Wild Animals" and "Midnight on the Interstate"

I finally re-found the lighthouse! I encountered it sometime last year on a snowy day while on a run, and I even took photos. However, I didn't use any of those pictures for Run and Shoot that day, the lawn was covered in snow and I figured I'd get a better picture of it some other time. Unfortunately, I didn't do a good job remembering it's location, and so the lighthouse has been lost to me for about a some point I began doubting if it even still existed. The problem was that I remembered it being a mile east of where it is actually located. Every time I was in that neighborhood where I suspected the lighthouse was located, I was on heightened alert. I was dying to find it once again. In the past month, I have been systematically running the streets in the neighborhood I believed it to be located...still no luck.

Then I decided last week to take a different approach on my search. I went back to the pictures that I had taken and posted to Instagram to see if there was any information I could glean from them. Sure of the photos had the street number. I started searching "6577 Littleton" on Google Maps, and after looking at about five or six houses...I found it! As I mentioned, it was about a mile or so west and slightly north of where I had thought it would be. I hadn't been scouring this neighborhood at all, which explains why I hadn't found it.

I was excited this morning as I set out. Probably too excited. We've had excellent weather for the past week leaving the trails spotless and snow free, so I ran the Highline Canal trail west in the pre-dawn hours. I ran around Ketring Lake with the express intention of allowing the sun to rise just a bit higher in the sky so that I could get a better picture of the lighthouse.

As I headed down to the neighborhood where the lighthouse should be I was clearly more excited than I should be. I was really hoping that they hadn't torn down this oddly large lawn ornament. As I neared the home where I knew it should be, I felt a surprising amount of nervous energy for such a monumentally stupid reason. I'm not ashamed to admit that my heart leaped with excitement as I arrived to see the majestic and silly lighthouse still gracing the front lawn. I took a few pictures before noticing that the lighthouse man figurine was askew. I straightened him up and took a few more pictures before running home with a happy feeling of ridiculous accomplishment in my heart.

My wife rightfully mocked me when I told her last week that I had "found my white whale" shortly after my Googling had uncovered the previously unfindable lighthouse. However lame my excitement may be, I regret nothing. This morning was fun.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Two Hundred Thirty-Three

February 8, 2015
7.38 Miles in 1:03:27
Mood: Windswept and Speedy
Soundtrack: Rich Mullins "Brother's Keeper" and "Songs"

I'm not saying it was windy at Sloans Lake for this run, but at one point I did see a nice Kansas girl floating by in a log cabin...and her little dog too.

My only previous experience running at Sloans Lake was during the Denver Broncos 7K back in August, and that event only had a brief section of the lake on it's course. I have been meaning to get back just see how it is as a running destination, and I finally decided to make the trek up there on Sunday. I am not sure if I could have picked a windier Colorado day. Fortunately, the wind did die down a bit as I continued on, but when I first got there, I was entertaining thoughts of driving down to Wash Park to finish up my running for the day...the first mile I was running directly into the wind and I believe my speeds would have been improved greatly if I weren't fighting typhoon force winds.

As it was, this turned out to be a fairly quick tempo run by my standards, as all of my miles clocked in under nine minutes, which I feel fairly certain is the fastest I have run in 2015. While it is not nearly as packed with runners as Wash Park, there were still quite a few running around Sloans Lake, and I always seem to go just a little faster when there are other people around running too. I don't think it's competition that gets my pace up so much as not wanting to look like a wuss. This is funny, as I'm certain that no one who sees me takes two seconds to consider my personal running speeds, yet I would be lying if I said that this wasn't a factor in me trying to speed up a bit. When I go at 6AM on a Tuesday morning, this is clearly not a concern as no one else is even up...much less running.

My overall impressions of Sloans Lake as a runner: It has some lovely views of both the mountains and downtown, and the entire perimeter of the park runs about two and a half miles, which is lovely. There is more lake than park, which I really noticed when I looked back at all the pictures I took and realized that not a single photo didn't have water in it. It's kind of hard to find an interesting thing to take a picture of, as a large lake is pretty in person, but doesn't really make for super interesting iPhone camera shots. I did enjoy this art installation that I took for today's photo with the lake and mountains in the background, but there isn't a wide variety of things to shoot. The sheer size of the lake makes the park somewhat a secondary thought. It's a nice place to run, but probably not worth the extra miles to drive there. I might go back sometime in the summer, just to see what it looks like when the lake is open to recreational boats and the grass is green rather than brown.

Best moment of the run came as I was nearly finished. I saw a girl in her early twenties trying to take a selfie with her Black Lab. The dog couldn't be less interested in the camera or sitting still for a picture, and the girl was getting frustrated with trying to get her pooch to cooperate while simultaneously trying to keep a smile on her face for the selfie. It amused me greatly. I do wonder if she ever got a satisfactory picture to post on Instagram.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Two Hundred Thirty-Two

February 6, 2015
7.61 Miles in 1:13:26
Mood: Awkwardly startling joggers and getting confounded by the iPhone camera
Soundtrack: The Mediocre Show / Rich Mullins "A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band"

I was running through Ketring Park, and jogging just ahead of me was a young couple. (or at least a young man and woman...I'm not sure of their dating status.) They were moving quite slowly, so slowly in fact that I passed them quickly and easily. They were using the entire sidewalk, and I came up on them from behind, so they were not expecting me, and they both acted a little startled. They each jumped to one side, and I split them like a running back breaking to daylight splits a pair of safeties.

I felt a little obnoxious as soon as this happened, and I didn't mean to be so disruptive to their morning jog. I said, "Good morning" to them in the hopes that I'd seem less brash and more friendly, I'm still not sure it that worked.

I ran for about another minute when I saw a nice photo op, so I stopped to take a picture of it...having immediately forgotten this awkward scene that I had just caused. I forgot it until they came upon me again, and passed me up as I stood in the middle of the sidewalk taking a picture of the moon. At that point, I decided stop running for a while in order to give them a healthy amount of time to get clear of me so that I wouldn't catch up to them yet again. I ran in the park a bit longer, and I apparently they were running in circles around Ketring Park, because I saw them making a second loop on the other side of the park as I was finishing my single loop.

Sadly, the picture I took didn't even come out correctly. It was a little puzzling. The moon was showing up bright and clear against the morning sky, but in the photos it was as if it disappeared. I kept looking at my phone's screen trying to see why the moon wasn't showing up even though it was so vibrant in the sky in front of me. I was annoyed that no matter what stance or angle I took, it wouldn't show up in pictures. So weird.

Today's picture is something that I have used on Run and Shoot before...Although this windmill looks much different early on a January morning than it does on an October afternoon. I thought that it looked quite cool silhouetted against the morning sky just a few minutes prior to sunrise.

And in a completely unrelated to anything development...The map for this run looks like a pistol.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Two Hundred Thirty-One

February 5, 2015
7.30 Miles in 1:08:48
Mood: Impressed by natural beauty as I negotiate the average suburbs.
Soundtrack: Avett Brothers "Mignonette" / Rich Mullins "A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band

The sunrise this morning was rather bland, however it made the western sky look amazing. I was running through an unfamiliar neighborhood about halfway through my run today and turned a corner and was hit with this view. The moon seemed twice as bright as usual, the mountains had a hint of pink, and the clouds were resplendent. It caught me by surprise and kind of took my breath away. As good as this picture is, it doesn't actually capture just how jarring this view was. It was awesome.

It made me think of the line from Rich Mullin's "Here in America" song that says, "And there's so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see." In fact, that lyric hit me so intensely that I had to look up the album on Spotify and listen to it immediately. "Everywhere I go, I'm looking!"

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Two Hundred Thirty

February 3, 2015
7.57 Miles in 1:11:47
Mood: Sleepy, Floaty, and yet somehow centered.
Soundtrack: The BS Report / The Rural Alberta Advantage "Mended with Gold"

I woke up a little groggy, and that dreamlike state extended into my run. I floated through my run with an otherworldly was a tiny bit like how I imagine hallucinogens would make me feel...only with significantly fewer tracers and freakouts.

As I ran, I listened to Bill Simmons happily discussing his Patriots winning the Championship. Since I was cheering for his team, his joy made me happy. It's usually fun to hear someone bask in the glory of their team's recent glory for some reason...even if it leads to people offering congratulations to other people who had absolutely no hand in the success. In this instance, it was Cousin Sal congratulating Bill on the Patriots win. These types of congratulations always feel as sincere as they are misplaced, and I enjoyed the whole silly spectacle.

As I was floating along and enjoying Simmons reflecting in the New England glory, I was treated to a truly glorious Tuesday morning sunrise. I had a ton of work and meetings to get through that day, my time was precious, but this run relaxed and centered me in a great way. The longer I engage in these morning runs, the more I appreciate them. Especially on days with awesome sunrises.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Two Hundred Twenty-Nine

February 1, 2015
7.10 Miles in 1:08:06
Mood: Someone spray painted the snow, and I saw it!
Soundtrack: The Avett Brothers "A Carolina Jubilee" and "Four Thieves Gone"

Sometimes winter sneaks up on you. The weather forecast called for a chance of snow during the day on Saturday, but apart from a few insignificant tiny flakes, nothing happened. I thought I had dodged a bullet, but when I woke up on Sunday morning, the entire world was white. I had already gotten dressed in running clothes before looking out, and as I stepped into the kitchen my early morning running enthusiasm died an abrupt death.

I figured I was just going to miss out on running, but the kiddos wanted to go sledding, so I spent an hour Sunday morning sliding down the small hill near our house. The weather warmed up rather markedly, and as I was walking home from sledding, I noticed the streets were mostly clear and even partially dry. After a quick lunch, I escaped into the early afternoon and a run that I didn't anticipate I'd get in.

Although the streets were okay, the major streets were still pretty sloppy, so rather than going far in one particular direction, I ended up taking a very loopy and repetitive route...I don't think I was ever much more than a mile from home. This limited the number of photo ops that I encountered, but I still managed to see this odd snow creation. I'm assuming that the "artist" used a canvas of freshly fallen snow and a few cans of spray paint to create what is either a Christmas themed castle or a five tiered watermelon cake. The flag at the top is a nice touch.