Vanilla’s Waterlogged, Flood-Ravaged, Feeling Grateful Training Log: 9-15-13

I'm smiling in disbelief that my beloved Boulder is under water. This is my usual running route, but it doesn't usually look like this!
I’m smiling in disbelief that my beloved Boulder is under water. This is my usual running route, but it doesn’t usually look like this!

This week started off with great intentions for training;  I am seven weeks from Ironman Florida, and this week had two key workouts scheduled, plus an increase in running mileage.  I was ready…I was prepared…I was actually excited, but Mother Nature had different plans for me, and for all of us in Northern Colorado.

I’ve lived here for just over a year, and I’ve heard people talk about a 100-year or epic flood.  It will come someday, they told me, but not for awhile.  Our realtor briefly mentioned it as we were looking for houses earlier this spring.  She cautioned (for what I thought was purely liability purposes at the time) about buying too close to a creek because of the flood potential. Flash floods aren’t uncommon in Colorado; in fact; there are warnings posted quite often.  Quick, pop-up thunderstorms, canyons and burn-scarred territories make it prime for quick flash floods during the summer months. Boulder was thought to be a prime target for such a flood given these conditions.  Many scientists and meteorologists have been predicting it for years, but not during this past week.  At the beginning of the week, the forecast called for temperatures in the 70s (with rain), which many welcomed after several days in the mid 90s.  It seemed like a brief change in the weather.  But…no one expected this.

I’ll summarize my weekly training as such:  I had a decent effort for someone less than two months from an Ironman and given the conditions.  I was able to get in 76 miles on the bike; 3+ miles of swimming; 30 miles of running; 6 hours on my trainer and 2 hours of weights.  You’re probably thinking…Vanilla, that’s what you call a light week?  I was asked by some friends if I was freaking about my training, and my answer was ‘No.’  If my house was damaged or family was injured, then I would be going nuts, but missing a 45 minute run due to floodwaters seemed pretty insignificant.  Jeff, Lucy and I were very fortunate to come out of this uninjured and with no damage to our house or other possessions.  Many of our friends and co-workers have spent the past several days pumping out water from their homes and trying to salvage their personal items.

Boulder Creek now covers the popular running path in the heart of the city.
Boulder Creek now covers the popular running path in the heart of the city.

To give you a point of reference, we live about 4 miles north from the Boulder Creek, which runs through downtown Boulder and throughout the city.  We live somewhat uphill, from the creek, but near the base of the foothills of the Rockies.  You can see the mountains from our back windows.  We live about 5 miles south from Jamestown, which you may have heard and seen on the news, one site of several helicopter rescues. Ironically, Jamestown is situated uphill, which is popular for cyclists to climb.  There is a general store in the heart of downtown Jamestown that loves cyclists, and many stop there to grab a quick drink or snack before continuing their climb.  Sightings of professional triathletes and Tour de France cyclists are common on that hill, as are sightings of pro runners doing their hill workouts.  The road is washed out because the water came down from the foothills washing away the town, taking the general store and everything in its path downstream before it settled along side of the road.

We’re about 10 miles from Lyons which was hit the hardest because a dam broke. Lyons–yet another popular route for cyclists since it includes climbs en route to Rocky Mountain National Park and the preferred route for many pros to train.  I was just there on Sunday during my ride.   The residents were forced to take cover to higher ground and couldn’t leave because the roads were simply washed out or even gave way.  It wasn’t until Friday afternoon until the helicopters could start to reach the stranded.

I hardly slept Wednesday night.  The rain was so loud for hours. I’ve never heard rain that loud for such a long period of time. I laid in bed waiting to hear our roof collapse, and finally I went downstairs to check on Lucy.  She was out of her bed, standing in the kitchen shaking a little.  She hadn’t eaten at day camp all day and neither did any of her doggie friends.  The dogs knew something was off.  We stayed on the couch for awhile.  She feel asleep, I drifted in/out of sleep.

I had no idea of the magnitude of this rain until my husband woke me on the couch at 3 a.m.  It was still raining, and he started checking Twitter and Facebook.  So many of our friends were experiencing issues, and roads were flooding–quickly.  My phone buzzed at 4:45, and it was from my boss to everyone in our department to check-in.  After reading Facebook, Twitter and watching the news for a few hours, I finally ventured into work.  The police advised everyone to stay off the roads, but I went anyway.  My 3.5 mile commute took nearly 30 minutes.  Our office is located in downtown Boulder about 3-4 blocks from the mouth of the Boulder Creek, and as I was driving there, all I could think about was ” I gotta see the Creek”.  Fortunately, so did my co-workers so we headed out, in the rain, and did exactly what the police warned us not to do.  We walked to the creek and along what was left of the Boulder Creek Path.  It was a mess.  Water flowing so high and so loud!  It was as brown as chocolate milk.  There were about 50 other people hanging out at the Creek, taking pictures, wading in it, posing, trying to make light of a bad situation.  Most were college kids who had off school for the day.  The path I ran on less than 24 hours prior and run on so many times was non-existent, covered.  Then, the sirens sounded to take cover; that’s when I knew things were about to get bad.  We ran back to the office and shortly after, many of the surrounding buildings were evacuated.  We went home and didn’t return until Monday.

3/4 of a mile from my house. Just devastating!
3/4 of a mile from my house. Just devastating!

Friday afternoon, we saw some relief when the sun came out around 11:00. Thursday night was rough, more heavy rain, more bad news about the conditions, sirens going off to take cover if you were near the creek.  I slept in sweats and a running t-shirt in case we had to head out, or I had to check on Lucy again.  Around lunch, my friend (and neighbor), Cathy and I decided to go out for a run trying to get as close to 5 miles as we could.  We had no idea the condition of our sidewalks and bike paths that we repeatedly ran on day after day.  As we left our neighborhood, we came across piles of mud and dirt and debris on the sidewalks and in the middle of the road–not even 1/4 mile into our run.  Our 5 mile run took nearly an hour, and the entire time, we were in complete shock of what we ran past:

  • Four-Mile Creek near our houses (and where Matt Lauer would broadcast from on Monday’s Today Show) was raging and overflowing to the nearby business, where the owners were trying to pile sand to block more water.
  • Water flowing down into people’s homes–homes that were already damaged.
  • People walking up and down Broadway, one of the main streets in Boulder, with shovels, backpacks, suitcases–walking in the middle of the street that was covered with debris and mud.  No cars to be seen except for emergency personnel.
  • A family had their possessions out on their front lawn as they cleaned out their garage.
  • Puddles and puddles and puddles.  We trudged through some of them, but they were shin deep, not my idea of a good steeple event.

I could go on and on about all of the images, but you’ve probably seen them multiple times on tv.  It was definitely something I wasn’t prepared for.  I’m glad we got out, but as we ran past all of this mayhem, we couldn’t help but feel guilty as we saw people cleaning.  I felt very fortunate and lucky.  Many people gave us good cheers as we went around.  I think people just wanted to see some type of normalcy in Boulder, even if they were suffering from damage. I felt so grateful, and I also felt guilty.

The National Guard set-up shop in an abandoned warehouse about 1/4 mile from our house.  I never thought I would see them so close to my house; I was both happy and sad to see them.  Blackhawks and Chinooks have been flying overhead since Friday to rescue those stranded in the mountains.  Their flight pattern is right over our house, and mixed emotions of happiness and sadness fill me every time I see one of those.  They are still at it as of Tuesday, rescuing as many people and pets they can.  I read that they even rescued two spider monkeys.  Thank you to all those who serve and to all of the first responders helping us get through this mess. Not even a pet spider monkey deserves to be abandoned.

I’ve suddenly realized that my training log has turned into somewhat of a novella, a journal, perhaps?   The images are stuck in my head and will be for a long time.  Remember Clove’s Boston experience and how she couldn’t shake off the image of the emergency crew?  The sound of the water is the image that sticks with me the most.  I can’t describe how loud it was.  Or how brown it was.  Or how it was rushing.

Nearly a week later,  Boulder has started to clean-up and get back to normal.  It will take time to get back to where things were.  I still feel very guilty that we came out fine, but I’m also very grateful.  I’ve run a few more times outside since Friday, and I have still seen some of those same images from days ago.  It will be a long process for many to clean and rebuild.

I conclude with this: be very grateful for everything you have and can do.  You never know when things may drastically change.  We talk so much about training and hitting goals and bum workouts. We get mad. We get stressed.  We shouldn’t.    I have seen too many people lose everything over these past few days.  Their response has always been–but at least we’re OK.  Remember, we’re all OK.

Native Ohioan now living in Boulder, Colorado. I love to run, tri, train, eat good chocolate, drink good rum, and laugh (a lot). I am a CPA by trade and work for Newton Running.

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  1. First off, I am glad you and your family are safe and that Boulder is getting back to normal. I have been watching the coverage all week and can’t believe the pictures.

    This reminds me so much of my Sandy experience. My dog was trembling the night the storm came through, and we all camped out on the couch downstairs because we were afraid of falling trees. We lost a car to a falling tree and spent 14 days without power, but I still felt guilty because we were so “ok” and so many people we knew weren’t. I was supposed to run the JFK 50 but just couldn’t bring myself to do it, despite all the training I’d done for it. It just didn’t feel right.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say I know a little bit how you’re feeling. It’s not a little thing. Take care of yourself and your family.

  2. I’m late commenting on this but wow…it sounds grim. I have this thing about Boulder in my head as some kind of perfect town for me – I was so sad to see it battered like that. Glad you were safe.