Well, my birthday this year was not quite what I expected… but I guess that’s the theme of 2020, right?
Normally, I like to take a day off work (whether on my birthday or close to it) and spend it doing my favorite things. COVID didn’t interrupt that, but my work schedule did – I didn’t block the day soon enough, and my calendar filled up with a bunch of meetings that I didn’t want to cancel. So while I couldn’t get in an all-day mountain adventure, I settled for starting my work day with a favorite trail run.
To make my trail time a little bit more special, though, I combined two favorite runs – starting at the Fowler Trailhead, I headed up to Goshawk Ridge, then turned onto Rattlesnake Gulch trail and took it up to the Continental Divide Overlook. It was a lovely 8 mile loop, with 1500 feet of vert – definitely a solid start to the day!
I was really proud of myself for running almost the entire trail up to Goshawk Ridge (where I normally take a bunch of walk breaks), and afterwards, learned from Strava I had even gotten second place overall on a few segments. I also passed another runner who I had seen starting when I was parking the car – so she had about a half mile head start on me.
However, my triumph was short lived – a few minutes later, I got passed by a professional-looking trail runner who I’d guess was doing about a 7 minute pace and adroitly navigating the rocks and turns on the trail. He went up to the Continental Divide Overlook too, but also added some out and backs I didn’t do, which meant he kept passing me over and over. Welcome to Boulder – where it’s impossible to be confident in your athletic abilities, because there are always so many better people! 🙂 But I love that – it inspires me to push harder and get stronger. And I was happy as a clam to be out starting my morning this way.
This being 2020, though, the run couldn’t go by unscathed… and literally in the last ten feet of technical terrain before I hit the smooth dirt road that marked one mile to go, I tripped on a rock and fell flat on my face. My hands and knees broke my fall a bit, but my whole body was splayed out across the dirt and rocks. That morning, I had thought about wearing shorts, but defaulted to capris and a long sleeve tee… and when I fell, all I could think was how lucky it was that I made that decision! My knees definitely got really bruised (my right knee hurt for several days), but I had minimal cuts thanks to the capris, which is why I usually wear them on the trails. Meanwhile, by chance my long sleeve tee had thumbholes, and I fortunately had them pulled down so the heels of my hands were covered – which meant I ended up with just one gash on my right hand. It could have been so much worse!
But when I fell, I laid there for a minute, feeling like it had been a really bad fall. It took me a few minutes to collect myself (doing my best not to cry), and when I finally did stand up, I suddenly felt really sick to my stomach and was worried I might throw up. What the heck?! It was only the next day that I realized how much of a blow I had taken to my knee, so I was probably in a little bit of shock. Fortunately, the nausea subsided after a minute or two, allowing me to stand… and being a mile from the trailhead, I really didn’t want to walk. Instead, I forced myself to resume running, and while it was painful at first, within a few minutes, it didn’t feel too bad. I finished the run strong – a good reminder that the only way to get through whatever 2020 throws at us is just to pick ourselves up and keep going.
I got home, showered and enjoyed a yummy breakfast of protein pancakes and my favorite vanilla black tea, and then dove into work. Although I wished I had been able to take the day off, my work day wasn’t bad – I was lucky to only have meetings with people I love working with, and no work on my plate that I didn’t enjoy.
A few colleagues knew it was my birthday, and wished me happy birthday on calls… and then while on a video call for another colleague’s baby shower, an Edible Arrangement was delivered to my door. I brought it in and up to my desk to find the friends who had sent it grinning at me on video! What kind, wonderful people I work with… and what amazing luck that it happened to be delivered when I was on a video call with two out of three of them
After work, though, the real celebration began. I have been missing my family a lot, and our family tradition for my birthday is that we go to Macaroni Grill. Since it wasn’t possible to see my family, and it wasn’t possible to go to Macaroni Grill, I decided to do the next best thing: invite over some of my best friends who are like family, and cook my favorite copycat recipes from Macaroni Grill.
The night before, I prepped by making two nutella pies for dessert (okay, fine, that part isn’t a Macaroni Grill thing, but it was delicious) and the cream sauce for the penne rustica. People complained about how difficult the penne rustica was, but I found that when I split it up by reducing the cream sauce the day before, the rest came together in a flash! And this recipe was outstanding. It is pretty terrible for you, requiring 8 cups of heavy cream (I lightened it up a little bit by doing 4 cups of heavy cream and 4 cups of half and half), but it was so very delicious… this may need to always be my birthday treat recipe!
I also made a pasta milano copycat recipe (my friends loved it, but I thought it didn’t hold a candle to the penne rustica), a giant salad, and then on her way over to dinner, my friend Heather stopped at the actual Macaroni Grill and picked up their famous bread, which I served with big bowls of olive oil and spices. And my friend Kelly brought over butcher block paper and crayons for the table – so it was pretty close to the real experience!
My friends and I had a lovely night drinking red wine, eating far too many carbs, and kicking back to relax. After dinner, I opened presents – which I always feel a little weird about. I never expect presents, whether for a birthday or other occasion, and don’t want to make anyone who didn’t bring one feel bad. But for those who do bring gifts, it feels rude to just say thank you and not open it in front of them. This time, I called my mom on video chat (since she had given me the gift of some beautiful canvas prints for my house) while I opened them, and I had enough wine that I didn’t worry too much about it, but in hindsight, I wonder if it was tacky for me to make a big production about opening gifts.
One of the gifts, though, was an awesome experience (my favorite kind of gift) – my friend Brittney brought a bottle of champagne and taught me how to saber it open! I was pretty nervous I was going to mess it up, especially since I had been drinking, but it worked perfectly and was really awesome – what a fabulous gift idea.
Between champagne, more wine, and the nutella cake, the festivities went pretty late! We all finally said goodnight around 11pm, and I stayed up a little while longer talking with Brittney (who was staying over so she wouldn’t have to drive). I didn’t end up getting to bed until 1:30am, which I knew was going to be problematic since I am never able to sleep late.
Sure enough, I woke up at 6am, and I felt terrible. I don’t think it was a hangover so much as all the fatty rich food that I’m not used to eating (but totally don’t regret), combined with the lack of sleep. My friends were planning to reconvene for a donut breakfast in the morning, but donuts were the absolute last thing I wanted. I wanted to not eat again for several days! Haha. To try to settle my stomach, I headed out for a morning run, and ended up covering six miles – and feeling a lot more like myself by the time I got home.
I still didn’t feel like donuts… but when Brittney walked in the door with two boxes of them, I couldn’t resist. Especially when my friends and I all broke off pieces to sample multiple rather than picking one! I’m sure I ended up eating more than one donut with all the bites I ended up having But soon after, my stomach started revolting once again from all the sugar. I think I am finally starting to understand the cues my body is giving me – high quantities of sugar and fat are not my friend as far as how I feel after eating it!
I ended up spending most of the day wishing I had gone a little lighter on the birthday treats, and a little heavier on sleep – so I took it pretty easy all day. I did some chores and a lot of party cleanup, and lazed around in bed reading for an hour. (Loved that last part!) To try to combat the icky feeling, I also jumped on the rower in the afternoon for 30 minutes while watching Grey’s Anatomy. Am I the only one still watching this show?? I know it’s not that good anymore, but I find myself wanting to know how it will end after all these years!
Once again, I was starting to feel like myself around dinnertime, but I ruined it by having two other friends over for dinner on the deck and once again eating heavy pasta in cream sauce plus far too much birthday cake. But when friends bring you a special birthday cake, you can’t say no!
Although I didn’t drink at all on Saturday night, I woke up on Sunday feeling even worse than Friday – really sluggish and gross. Damn you, sugar! I knew that getting outdoors would help, but I wasn’t feeling like a run. Instead, I decided to head to Chautauqua for the first time this summer, with the intention of doing Green Mountain.
The Gregory Canyon trailhead was packed, though, so I headed down to park on the main road instead. I started heading up the social trails just to the left of Amphitheater Trail, thinking maybe rather than Green Mountain I’d do Ski Jump to the Flatirons Loop and back, maybe even incorporating in Royal Arch if I started feeling better. But instead, I found a social trail that looked interesting, and decided to follow it to see where it went. It wound up ending at a really beautiful overlook that wasn’t on any of the main trails – I’ll need to remember how to get back here for future! This would be a great secret spot to take a friend or date.
From the overlook, it seemed like the trail went in a few different directions, but after trying each of them and then quickly losing the trail, I realized it probably ended here. However, by the time I traipsed around trying them, I realized I was only a tenth of a mile from the trail to Green Mountain, so I attempted to use my own navigation skills to find my way over there and make my hike into a loop rather than an out-and-back. I was careful to head in a straight line (and checked my GPS to make sure), so I could go back the way I came if I truly got lost… but it ended up working out, and I rejoined the trail to Green Mountain about halfway to the EM Greenman intersection!
While I originally thought I’d maybe go up from here (my stomach was feeling a lot better after hiking for a while), I decided not to push my luck and instead, just head down. Although I’ve done the trail to / from Green Mountain dozens of times, it looked really different to me on Sunday, and it was interesting to me how just entering the trail from a different place could make me lose track of exactly where I was on it – normally I feel like I know every inch of this trail and what twists and turns to expect! But when I made it to Saddle Rock, I got my bearings. However, I decided to stick with the “new things and getting lost” theme of my hike, and take the more circuitous path down Saddle Rock Trail rather than my usual route down Amphitheater. It was a nice little change of pace!
After my hike, I headed home for a shower and lunch, then got back in the car to run a bunch of errands. One of them was really fun – I have been participating in Avery Brewing’s virtual run club, in which you log your miles via email and then they pick a few people from the group to win a six pack of beer. This week, I won! So I got to head to the brewery to pick up the six pack of my choice.
I made it home just in time for my afternoon reservation at the pool, so headed over there for my usual 1600 yard workout. Despite doing an Olympic-distance triathlon this winter, I still don’t really have any idea what I’m doing in the pool; I just swim 1600 meters straight, which I know any serious swimmer would laugh at me for doing. This week, though, I experimented a little bit with intervals – doing 10 rounds of 100 yards (with 30 seconds rest in between), then 10 rounds of 50 yards (with 15 seconds rest in between), and finally one more round of 100 yards all-out to finish up. I am not trying to train for anything seriously as far as swimming; my goal is just to use it as a fun / cool summer form of cross-training. But any tips on if this is a good workout or if I could do something better are appreciated!
I was supposed to end my weekend with a birthday dinner on Zoom with my parents, which I was really excited for! Unfortunately, my mom went up to the mountains in her area and wasn’t reachable by phone. And my dad suddenly got news that he’d be headed down to New York the next day for his heart surgery – so that threw both of us into quite a tizzy. On the one hand, I was really happy that my dad was finally getting the surgery he needed; on the other hand, I was very nervous about the risks it entailed.
I did my best on Sunday to not think about it, since the surgery wouldn’t take place until Tuesday morning – there was nothing to do but worry! And I mostly succeeded in distracting myself – really not worrying until I woke up on Tuesday, at which point I only had a few hours to worry before I got the all-clear. Although there were a lot of logistical snafus along the way, it ended up going fine, and my dad seems to be recovering well. We won’t know for a couple weeks whether this will suffice or if he’ll need another surgery, but for now, he says he’s feeling much better than before – so that’s a great thing.
All in all, if you had asked me about my 35th birthday before COVID, this was not how I expected things to go! But I was grateful that even though I couldn’t be around my family, I was able to do a small get together with my close friends, and still celebrate. And most importantly, I’m grateful that my dad is doing well – that is the best birthday present of all!