Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | September 20, 2013

Getting Higher in Colorado or Things I’ve Seen While Running Here (Part 1)

People (i.e., my mother) keep asking me if I’ve signed up for any races out here in Colorado, because my M.O. is to see an event announcement, say “oh, that sounds fun,” and sign up without stopping to think if it really will be fun or if it will be a miserable experience that leaves my vomiting and/or crying. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep my signupaholism in check since I arrived. And I have a very good reason: I can’t breathe here.

People warned me about the elevation, telling me it will take time to get used to it, that it will make me tired at first, that it takes three months for the body to acclimatize. “Whatever,” I said. (Well, I didn’t say that, because I’m much too polite, but I thought it and added an imaginary eye-roll.) After all, I have experience in the mountains. Granted, I moved here from pancake-flat Chicago, elevation 0, but in Montana we live at about 2900 feet. Here we’re at about 5600. What’s a measly 2700 feet going to do, kill me?

Yes, quite possibly.

Any kind of exertion now leaves me gasping for breath. This is what I sound like when I run here in Colorado

No wonder it has been hard for me to make friends. Every time I encounter people, they are probably alarmed by my panting and worried that I might die right in front of them. As it turns out, though, wheezing like an injured walrus has it’s benefits.

On my regular running route, there is what the locals might terms a slight incline. Since I come from Chicago, I call it the Sears Tower. The elevation gain is 60 feet total over about a quarter-mile. I know the trail runners out there will call that a mere mound, but to me, that’s double the Eden’s overpass, which is about as hilly as I can handle. Fortunately, I’m slowly getting used to running up said hill/mountain. I approach it with small steps, a loose upper body, and an inspiring manta: “KILL ME NOW.”

One day I was running (ok, walking) up, and I made it about halfway before I stopped to catch my breath. Apparently, my grunting and groaning attracted some attention. I must have sounded like this

because as I stood panting/gasping/wheezing/whining, I saw a little brown head pop up over the ridge next to the path.

A cow elk. And she was looking at me with love in her eyes. She came over the ridge to get closer and check me out.

I could see her assessing me, giving me the once over to see if I’d do, like it was inching toward closing time and the bartender had announced last call. We made eye contact across the grassy hillside. I swear I heard music swelling in the background. Was that Kenny G?

She took stock of my white baseball hat – not particularly antler-like. She sniffed the air, taking in the odor of sweat mixed with Secret Solid Lavender Scent (which at that point had clearly diminished in effectiveness; note to self, try the Secret Sports Formula). Then she finally lowered her gaze to my pink Kinvaras, at which point I think she realized she’d been duped, because what kind of bull elk has pink hooves? She took off down the trail.

“Wait!” I called after her. “Can’t you at least give me a ride to the top of the hill?”

Three months to reach acclimatization. One down, two to go.


Pretty sure this is the elk equivalent of twerking.


“Come back! We can make it work!”


  1. I appreciate that you said Sears Tower, and not Willis Tower 🙂

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