Saturday, July 21, 2012

Strange, Surreal, and Scary Adventures: Tales from a 20 Mile Run

There's always adventures to be had on a 20 mile run. It does not matter that you've run this route a thousand times. Every run is different.

Some adventures are good, some adventures are not so good. This is the tale of my adventures on one 20 mile run, on one day in July.


It's 5:05 a.m. It's still dark outside. I head out for a 20 miler. It's quiet all around as I search blindly for my footing. The miles tick off as the sun rises and the air begins to warm quickly. 10 miles in, I'm on a quiet dirt road up just above a valley north of Boulder. Houses here are few and far between. I look across green fields dotted with cows and hay bales. It's picture perfect.  I can practically see my house across the valley quietly sleeping 10 miles away (I can actually see the tall pine tree in my next door neighbor's yard). I hear a Wood Thrush, my absolute favorite bird song. It's about 6:30 a.m. now.

As I round a curve, a 1990s vintage dark blue Saturn wagon careens around a tight turn followed by a billowing cloud of dust, fishtailing slightly on the loose gravel road. The driver sees me but doesn't slow down. I make a "slow down" gesture with my hand, stepping off the road just in case he losses it and then continue on as he passes me. I'm grumbling a bit.

Then I hear the skid of wheels on gravel as he comes to an abrupt stop. He slams the shifter into reverse and winds it out backing towards me. All I have time to say to myself is "Oh, crap" and start sprinting away up a steep hill in the direction of the closest house. When I am about 30 feet from the driveway, he stops and gets out of his car screaming obscenities at me : "You f-ing bitch - the f-ing speed limit is 30 mph." and he continues screaming at me for several minutes (the speed limit through the turns is actually 20 mph). Realizing he's stopped the car, I stop and turn to him and reply "Sorry, but you scared me!" - which precipitates another barrage of obscenities.

As his verbal assault continues, I move on, through a now surreal feeling world behind a fuzzy scrim of adrenaline and anger and confusion and disgust. Where is my Wood Thrush to bring me back?

A couple miles on, I pass a man, weaving across the road wearing a wool cap with ear flaps, a down coat, long dark pants and heavy hiking boots. It's at least 80 degrees at this point. What could he be up to? It can't be Badwater training since that was this week. He yells, "Go pink" (I'm wearing pink shorts and shoes). Weirdness.

I turn onto a road popular with cyclists and they are everywhere and moving fast and furious. Surprisingly, they all graciously give me space, except for one, around mile 16, who is checking his cell phone and I swear he's texting (on a bike!). He looks up, surprised, just as he gets to me and swerves around me! Whew.

I hop onto the Niwot Loop Trail - From here to my house I'm pretty much entirely on trails, and I feel strangely relieved to get off the (crazy) roads. 

I spot up ahead on the path two people, a man and a woman, each holding a little dog on extend-o-leashes. One is yipping non stop at me as I approach, his little front feet popping off the ground with every energetic yip. The woman holding the little beast continues chatting with her companion, looking occasionally in my direction. As I get closer she does not reel the dog in and of course the dog goes for me. Now, I have a sizable and very visible 10 year old scar across my lower leg from a nylon extend-o-leash cutting through my flesh attached to an out of control dog trying to kill my dog. So, I stop. She weakly apologizes. I note that she saw me a quarter mile away. All I say is; "That really isn't very nice". I want to kick her, not her dog.

As I move on I now see waves of runners moving along the trail in my direction. Two women pass, and I know one from BoldRunning, a training group I'm familiar with. We high-five each other. Okay, I'm coming back. Thank you Kelly. Then I see others. Friendly waves and "Hi Caolan"s further pull away the surreal scrim thrown in front of me by the A-hole in the blue Saturn - and when I get home, I am back.

And it was a good run. And I am changed by the experience. Every run is an adventure, and every run changes you in some way.


Road rage: I've written on this many times. It infuriates me. It scares me. I have a 'thing' about road rage and it's more insidious twin - passive aggression - and today it happened again - but this time I didn't just get angry, this time I was scared - very, very scared.

Perhaps my anxious meter was running high after yesterday's shooting. But I didn't feel anxious. I've been fairly stubborn about not taking a phone with me on runs. I like to run without technology. I like to run away from the world, for just a bit. But my mind has been changed on this. I hate that I have to be concerned about people messing with me. It's just not fair.

I called the state police to report the incident. I didn't get the plate number, so there's not much that can be done, but I did want a report on record. I will continue to run in this area because I love it. But today he changed my feelings about that place. Over time that may fade a bit but it will always be there.

And that's just part of running and being out in the world and bravely doing what you need to do to be happy.


  1. SO many times I think drivers react badly, and rudely out of fear. Unfortunately...these drivers are mostly adults and one would hope they could be a little more adult about their reactions.

    1. This guy had no reason to be afraid. He was big (at least 190-200 lbs and tall), probably in his low 60s and I did nothing to scare him. He was angry because I gestured for him to slowdown and he felt he had every right to skid around turns because the speed limit allowed that (of course he's wrong about the speed limit on that section of road). But he was so threatening and abusive - and given where we were, pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, how could he not think that his actions were scary for me. I'm woman alone. Standing there with nothing but a water bottle, and he's speeding after me - chasing me in his car! He was angry, not afraid.

  2. It is sad that there are people out there who really have no idea what their actions can do to another. We take for granted the damage a car, a dog, or even a misplaced word can cause. I've lived in a rough neighborhood my whole life and grown up mistrusting everyone, but it is a shame that somewhere so seemingly peaceful can still harbor such hostile people. Thank goodness for the small things and that you weren't hurt.

  3. The guy is a thoughtless idiot! I am a teacher and this past year we had a student die (17 yrs old) when the driver of the car he was riding in started doing "fish tails" on a hill on a gravel road. He lost control of the car causing it to roll over twice. Our student was thrown from the car. The student who died undid his seat belt so he could protect the passenger (a girl) with him in the back seat. People do not realize that gravel roads can be dangerous.

  4. I'm glad you weren't physically harmed, but I'm thinking the scared (even terrified) feelings might hang on for a bit. Road "ragers" are bullies; they intimidate because it gives them some feeling of control over others. What I've found most difficult in dealing with bullies (professionally and personally) is that they're so very unpredictable. I don't choose to live my life as a slave to the fear of what could happen next, but it seems the ranks of the unpredictable are growing rapidly. It's too bad the bullies have entered the sanctuary we go to when we put our running shoes on. Stay safe and keep on running.

  5. Hi Caolan, sorry to hear about your experience, but glad that Bold Runners helped to make you feel better at the end. Sorry I wasn't there to high five you too. Diana and I were at a wedding this weekend in California, and we did our run on the hotel treadmill (ugh!). We were at least hoping to see the Tour de France on the TV while running, but all we had was golf. It doesn't exactly get the blood pounding.

  6. yowza! scary stuff. glad you are ok.

  7. I have taken to running with pepper spray for those 'weirdo' occasions. As a fellow solo female runner, I have learned to be super cautious. It would be nice to 'run' just to 'run' but unfortunately those kinds of situations arise. I just started reading your blog and I'm glad you are ok!!

    1. The think is, pepper spray wouldn't have helped me much in this situation - I wondered: Was he going to run me down with his car? id he have a gun (something you think about the day after a mass shooting in Aurora, just a 1/2 hour away)? Unless I want to run with a gun, and I don't, there lots of things mean people can do that I really can't protest myself from. It would be nice if these jerks would just live their pathetic little lives and leave the rest of us alone. Thanks for reading!

  8. How scary. I always run with my cell phone, sometimes to take photos and most often for the security in case I twist my ankle or get bit by a dog (who is usually not on a leash, though the owner is carrying one!). I run with a whistle my mom got me. It's angled plastic and sharp, it's also a flashlight. I've taken my phone out on the bike when road rage-ers go past me. (my favorite was after the '08 flood of someone in a truck/matching boat closely passing me and yelling for me to get on the trail . . .which was four feet under sand).

    Maybe you can run with a camera in your hand, then you could snap a photo of the idiot in his car. Thanks for reporting it though. Others may have been him too. He may live there, he may have been stoned, but with a report on file it may go against him if he ever causes an accident there.


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