My heart, the water-balloon

Well, I’ve been off work for less than a week and already it feels like the natural way of things. Sleep in until the cats wake me up. Eat when I want. Go where I want. Do what I want. Love it.

My last post was written as I was frenetically packing for Denver, so I’ll pick up from there. No troubles with the flight, not even when we flew into a massive storm. We’ve had rain every day this week, to my great joy – I love thunder and lightning and it keeps the temperatures reasonable (a cool 18 degrees Celsius at the moment). I eventually found my luggage, tumbled into ‘s trusty green car, and got my first taste of Denver by night, which included a mini-party where I was fed mouthwatering steak, quite a lot of red wine and enjoyed fabulous conversation on Caellum’s front lawn with the legendary Soo and Johnny. These kids will be our cheerleaders when we race in Boulder in 2 weeks, plus Soo is taking me out for a tour of the city and a batch of homemade pudding soon so I am surrounded by good company. Yay!

From the outset this place has reminded me a little of Vancouver. Part of it is the mountains, even though these ones are missing the pristine white snow caps that I’m used to seeing in BC, and of course the rain (although I’m told this much precipitation is unusual). The city has a stunning central area at 14th and Colfax where you’ll find one of the sexiest public libraries I’ve ever set eyes on snuggled up next to a big, shiny art museum. There is also a golden-domed state capitol building and a huge amphitheater encircling a lovingly tended civic center park that is bursting with blooms.

Today I explored the core tourist areas by walking the entirety of the busy pedestrian-only 16th Street Mall, biking north along the Platte River, pausing to check out budding young hoodlums at the Skate Park and the Denver Coliseum. I rounded out the afternoon by doing an art walk along the many small galleries on Santa Fe Drive, including a little jewel called Limited Addiction where there were some incredible pieces by an artist called Reuben Rude. It’s a shame (or maybe a blessing?) that everything he had on display was already sold, because I would have bought any one of those pieces in a snap.

Of course, I’m not just here to shop and sightsee: no, I am a woman on a mission, and that mission is to train for and dominate at the Muddy Buddy. In preparation for my 6 mile athletic extravaganza, I boldly went running after less than 24 hours at altitude, just to see how this new “low oxygen air” would treat my lungs at speed. Let me tell you, it sucked.

The first ten minutes of running are always a challenge. Usually I get sweaty and red and feel some tightness in the chest and leg muscles as I’m warming up. This time, my heart felt like a water balloon that has been filled slightly beyond what the plastic skin was made to hold, and then squeezed tightly in someone’s fist so that parts are bulging out and straining to accommodate the increased pressure. It felt like total shit. The craziest part was that I was running on a slight downhill slope. On the way back, the incline was just too much and I openly panted like an asthmatic dog that has been locked in a car with the windows wound up on a hot summer’s day with a chain smoker. Ridiculous. I had to walk most of it. 30 minutes got me a pathetic 1.6 miles. Argh.

The next day was better – I decided to shelve running for a bit and try biking, which was much more successful. There is a beautiful bike trail that runs straight through the heart of the downtown, just below street level along the embankments of the two rivers. Thanks to the recent wet weather, Cherry Creek is fat with rain, churning over the rocks and making dozens of picturesque white waterfalls. The creek is named for the chokecherry trees that grow alongside it, which are heavily laden with their ripe, dusky red fruit. Best ride ever (thanks for the loan of the mountain bike, Aaron!). After about 4 miles, I came to the junction where Cherry Creek meets the Platte River in a jumble of rapids, and biked across a wooden bridge to visit mecca, aka the gloriously well-stocked flagship REI (the original MEC, for us Torontonians). There I purchased my new toy, a Camelback, to keep me hydrated as I ride.

I biked for a solid 5 hours today, with a brief stop to eat some fish tacos, so I think I’m getting acclimatized. I should also mention that Aaron, in addition to loaning me his mountain bike, also let me try out his wicked hand-engineered motorbike yesterday and even after just riding in first gear for a while I now want to start using my motorcycle license again very badly. Vroom vroom!

Most of this outdoor adventuring and exploration has consisted of solo trips done while Caellum is in the lab, playing with rats and bacterial cultures and whatnot. He’s been doing his part to help with the athletic prep by feeding me steak and spinach to get my hemoglobin up to snuff (take that, anemia!). Once my bone marrow starts producing the goods and I have an extra pint of blood to shuttle that oxygen around, I’m going to come home to sea level feeling like an Olympian. Tomorrow we’re going to work on improving my hemoglobin with pastries at the Devil’s Food bakery. Mmm. Croissants = new, fatty, strong blood cells.

What is *not* helping me to get in shape are the eleventy billion local microbrews available, and the Xbox in the living room with the Live account and Halo2 on offer. Gah. So much beer! So many aliens to kill! I’ve been caught twice now, hypnotized, paralyzed by choice in front of the refrigerated beer section at various liquor stores around the city. So far I’ve sampled three, but we’re actually considering leaving the house to go to a local bar tonight so I sense more are on the horizon.

Really, the only downside to my trip so far is that I keep locking myself into Caellum’s bathroom because I can’t figure out which way to turn the damn doorknob. It wouldn’t be so bad, except the boys can hear me rattling the lock from the other side of the house, and their mockery is loud and embarrassing. Also, it looks remarkably like a monochrome level of Castlevania in there, so I start to freak out if I can’t escape when I want to.

Our road trip next week is shaping up nicely, and we should be stopping to camp in Utah at Moab and Zion and then in Arizona at the Canyon. I will take photos then, I promise, I just haven’t been in the mood yet. Content yourselves with my word-pictures, dammit!

Love and smooches to all from rainy Colorado,

4 thoughts on “My heart, the water-balloon

  1. “It must be the altitude getting to me…” is a very useful excuse to have up my sleeve when my dad, all 66 years of him, does things like skip merrily to the top of 14,000 foot mountains while I huff and puff and give up halfway.

    On a related note, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve completely stopped smoking. 2 months now and I think it could be for real for real this time.

    I know you’re trying to stay in shape, but you’re gonna want to try Fat Tire Amber Ale. It is very good.

  2. MO! i miss you at work! it’s no fun without you around. it sounds like you are having a blast in denver though, good for you. good luck in the muddy buddy. hope the altitude doesn’t get you down, ha ha.
    keep posting all your adventures…

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