Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Donut Triangle Birthday Urban Adventure

I first threatened this idea several years ago when I was still writing a running column in the local paper. It was around the time that Dunkin Donuts was making a resurgence in the local area after being gone for years.

I was thinking about themed runs for future birthdays and out of curiosity I checked on a map to see how far it was from the new Fort Collins Dunkin Donuts to the planned Windsor Dunkin Donuts. The most direct road route was 13.1 miles. How convenient. I proposed three different versions, a half marathon, marathon, and double donut marathon. That would have been perfect for my 52nd birthday. But as things turned out I wasn't focused on running at the time and the last thing I felt like doing was forcing myself to do 52 miles on a double out and back on the heavily trafficked roads between Fort Collins and Loveland.

I put the whole thing on hold for a while, and then when my friend Melody convinced me to join the Donut Running group for Donut Fridays last summer, I began thinking about it again. By then, there was also a Dunkin Donuts in Loveland. I decided it would be easier, and shorter, to do a loop hitting all the Dunkin Donuts locations. I measured it out and it came to about 35 miles, not 53, but just reverse the digits and it works.

I decided to plan it and invited a lot of running friends to come join me on a part of the loop. There are so many running events going on this time of year and spring break was coming up so I decided to choose the first weekend in March and avoid spring break. Two of my friends had just finished ultras last weekend and they wouldn't be doing it. But as it turned out I got 5 takers to join me on my urban birthday trek.

Why do I do these birthday runs? They are really just a way to do my favorite activity and be outdoors on my feet for a long time and share it with friends. It's always fun to dream up some kind of creative theme, to make things interesting. Celebrating another year of being able to do long distances on my feet, because I've learned that you can't take this stuff for granted.

I woke up around 4 am on Saturday and had coffee, the girls wanted to know what I was doing so they got up with me, but had to go in the crate when I left so Dennis could sleep. They didn't like that too much.

I ran the one mile from my house to Dunkin Donuts on south College and as soon as I arrived, Felix drove up. Felix has been on most of my birthday adventures. We had a donut, lit candles on it, and took off. The sunrise on the Mason Trail as we headed south was spectacular. One scene I never got a picture of, was the geese flying overhead in the sunrise, and the light was shining on them.

The whole way down we had a typical Felix and Alene running conversation, pointing out goofy signs along the way, joking about the medical and recreation marijuana shops all along the strip between Fort Collins and Loveland, laughing that we could stop in and work on our donut appetites. Felix and I have a long history of odd conversations at odd hours on foot, as he is the person who was with me during the infamous SpongeBob sighting in the middle of the night at Badwater.

Felix had to be at the airport later in the morning so he said he would run as far as he could with me but then had to turn around and go back to his car. He stayed with me all the way into Loveland, at the Walmart on Garfield. It was only two and a half more miles to the Loveland Dunkin Donuts.

There I took a little break, charged my phone and used the bathroom. It was breakfast time and there a huge line. I didn't think I'd be able to get a donut before having to get going toward Windsor, but the line died down and I got my donut fix.

I took off after about twenty minutes and started heading back north to the bike path across from Walmart. Once I got off the Rambo running stretch on 287, it was a relief. Quiet, peaceful, no traffic on the bike path. The day was shaping up to be beautiful. I went east on the bike bath past Boyd Lake and north to county road 30, taking it east past the stinky cow farm to the frontage road along I-25.

On the way across the bike path I was thinking about the Walmart run, when my friend Morgan was still with us, she joined us on that run. I could hear her voice and see her smile. I miss her so much. I'll be writing a post about her in the next few weeks.

I stuck my music in my ears and proceeded at a fast powerwalking pace with a few brief running bursts in between. It was a relief to be by myself on a long run again. I didn't have to think about anything, just moving forward, listening to music, from donut stop to donut stop.

I needed a break, to get away from the house and from thinking. So much mental work in my life right now. It was refreshing to have a puppy break, as much as I missed them and wanted puppy kisses along the way, it felt so good not to be constantly vigilant for chewing, barking, digging, and all the other forms of mischief I have to watch for while I work at home each day.

I crossed I-25 at highway 392 and took that east on the shoulder all the way to the Windsor Dunkin Donuts. That was the worst stretch other than 287. The cars were whizzing by fast, and lots of big macho loud trucks. I had my music and could ignore the noise.
At the Windsor Dunkin Donuts I had to text several people who were planning on meeting me later on. Jacob was going to meet me at Strauss Cabin and Kechter, and Crisann and Andy were meeting me at Harmony and Timberline, and Jen would find us and meet us somewhere between there and the finish. I took a half hour break, shed some extra layers of clothing, ate more than a donut, and got more drinks. I took off for the final leg of the triangle around 12:15.

As I ran north I wanted to connect with the county road that would allow me to avoid 392 again, but I wasn't sure which one it was. Fortunately I saw some people walking and I asked them, and got on the right road. I headed west toward Fort Collins past the dairy farms and ranches with a spectacular view of the Front Range, Longs Peak, Mummy Range, and Indian Peaks.

I was surprised at how much traffic was on the road going west. It used to be a lot quieter out there but there are so many people living in Windsor now, traffic is heavy. No one tried to run me off the road, fortunately. Then I had the narrow-to-no shoulder section of 1.5 miles going north to Kechter. That's the road that connects the Timnath Walmart and Costco to Highlands Ranch and the golf courses. Lots of traffic there, too.

After crossing I-25 again, Jacob was waiting at the top of the hill for me. My timing was perfect, I anticipated 1:45 pm and got there on the nose. We had a good conversation and he offered his house nearby in case I needed a bathroom, water, or anything, but I was doing fine and feeling good. I had some hot spots on my heels but other than that I felt fine. I wasn't getting enough salt because my fingers were all puffy, so I made a mental note to dump some S caps in a drink when I stopped on Timberline.

Going north on Timberline, Jacob ran with me until we met up with Andy and Crisann. We took off and stopped at a gas station so I could buy a cold drink and I got an ice sandwich. As if 4 donuts weren't enough sugar. Ice cream sandwiches are one of my favorite running foods, and this hit the spot.

We caught the Power Trail going north to Centennial, and Jen joined us about 2 miles from the finish. Jen has also been there for my past urban adventure birthday runs. We went west to Lemay and Swallow, then west on Swallow back to the Fort Collins Dunkin Donuts. It was 10 hours and 19 minutes including all the stops and breaks along the way, and 36 miles.

Crisann's husband Dave met us there and joined us for a celebratory donut, my fourth of the day, took our finish line picture, and then they gave me a ride home, which I was thankful for.

The girls were thrilled to see me. Dennis was working on a puppy fence in the back yard to protect our garden boxes from the wild diggers. I felt pretty good, but my neck, shoulders and low back are sore from carrying my pack all day. Legs feel fine today, just stiff, and a few tender spots on my feet that would have blistered had I been out any longer.

I am so glad I finally did this thing and got it behind me. Now I no longer have this hanging over my head. I can move on to other, non-donut-themed, urban adventures. Felix and I did notice that there is now a fifth Walmart, so perhaps my 55th birthday run will have another Walmart theme, but no guarantees. For now, I'm just glad to be able to stay upright and moving forward, and to have another birthday.

Happy donuts, everyone. Thanks to all my friends who joined me on foot and in spirit! Now I need to get busy losing this 20 pound weight I'm carrying around! No more donuts for me!

photo credits: Felix Wong