Friday Morning Sunrise Ride: Flagstaff Mountain

I was pretty sure my eyes were still closed as I swung my leg over the top tube of my bike and rolled out of the driveway following a beam of light attached to my handlebars.

5:33 a.m.

When I meet friends in Boulder for bike rides, I have to leave my house at least an hour earlier than we plan to start. This adds lots of time and at least 20 miles onto each ride, which is great when I’m training for things and exhausting when we make pre-dawn plans. I rounded a corner and yawned a yawn so big it felt like it came from my toes. Did I get any sleep at all last night, I thought. Slowly, slowy I made my way out of town passing under the street lamps glowing against the velvety black sky.

The first car of the morning cautiously passed me and my blinky lights as I pedaled along the main road.


Then two more cars pulled out of the gas station parking lot on the other side of the street.

Two. Three.

I wondered how many cars I’d see out at this hour, so I started collecting them. Passing the time.

Another whizzed by.


Then two more took rights on red down the road.

Five. Six.

I hit a light just before leaving town; the driver next to me was sipping a hot cup of coffee, steam billowing above the brim under his nose. Coffee. I couldn’t wait to brew my own pot when I got back home several hours later.


6:12 a.m.

Eventually I descended down into Boulder as an orange ribbon of light glowed on the horizon behind me. Ever so slowly the sky began to wake up, and so did I.

I closed my eyes, the wind whipped my wispy, wild hairs against my ears. The crack-of-dawn wakeups are always worth these moments of calm. A few minutes before 6:30 a.m., I finally pulled up in front of Rapha—our meeting spot—and waited for my friend to arrive. I stared at the mannequins in the window, the silver La Marzocco espresso machine on the counter. Man, I missed working there, I thought. I missed opening up the shop early in the morning, greeting our regulars, grinding the coffee beans, weighing out each perfect shot and letting the rich espresso pool at the bottom of each cup. I missed mopping the floors for goodness sake. Rapha is the biggest reason I’m so happy here; I’ll never forget that.

At 6:30 a.m. on the dot, my friend Jimena pulled up on her brand-new bike looking stylish and fit as always. I met Jimena, like most of my friends here, while I was working at Rapha. She was a regular customer, always picking up coffee before work and stopping in on the weekends during, or after a ride. Eventually, we started riding and then racing together, and now we fit in rides between hectic life and work schedules. She is the no-bullshit yin to my yang and always down to suffer. She’s the best.

Speaking of suffer. On Friday morning, in all of our off-season, out-of-shape glory, we decided to tackle Flagstaff Mountain, which is one of the—if not the—most popular climbs in Boulder. It’s only a couple miles to the top, offers amazing views of the city and is especially gorgeous at sunrise.

Almost immediately…we were out of breath. Talking and riding up a mountain is a different kind of pain, but we pushed on and were rewarded with an absolutely stunning sunrise that made the trees and the city and the Flatirons just across the way glow a warm orange. The higher we went, the more vibrant the world got.

Every switchback we rounded, cars were idling at the pull-offs, watching the sun rise higher into the sky. It was awesome. Living so far from Boulder (by bike) makes it tough to do this often, but now that the sun rises closer to 7 a.m., I think I’ll try to get there more often in the fall.

We cruised up to the Amphitheater—the turnaround point at the top—then descended back down into town.

The sweat underneath my long sleeve jersey felt ice cold against my chest, sending goosebumps down my arms. At the bottom of Flagstaff, we promised to do this epic ride again soon, then parted ways. I took the longer way home on some gravel, then stopped at Bittersweet in Louisville for an Americano with steamed soy milk, one of my favorites.

Before we know it, we’ll have snow and hail and freezing rain and temperatures in the teens, but for right now, I’m going to enjoy every sunrise, run, and bike ride I can.

Hope you had a great weekend!

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