Category Archives: Races

Rock ‘n Roll Denver Marathon Recap

On Sunday, I ran the Rock ‘n Roll Denver Marathon. It’s one of my favorite races, and it’s where I set my PR in 2011, so I had high hopes for this race. Like most races, I went in with “A, B, and C” goals.

My “A” goal for any race is the goal that’s possible if all the stars align — the weather is ideal, I don’t have to stop to pee, and my body works just right. The “B” goal is a step down from that, and my “C” goal has nothing to do with times at all — something to fall back on if all the stars fall completely out of alignment. For this race, my “A” goal was 3:10, my “B” goal was to PR (anything under 3:13:17), and my “C” goal was, simply, to run the best race I could on that day. I missed my “A” goal, but met both B and C. Here’s how it went down:

At the expo, with all my goals in place.

Saturday afternoon, we headed to Denver and hit up the expo, where we got a bunch of sweet freebies (my favorite part of any expo).

Swag smiley face, courtesy of my husband.

We didn’t spend too much time at the expo, as I didn’t want to spend much time on my feet. After we left, we hit up Barnes and Noble and H&M (which were right by our hotel). This weekend, Denver was also holding its annual “Zombie Crawl,” so we got zombied out pretty fast and took refuge in the hotel. (I’m not sure what the purpose of the Zombie Crawl is, aside from giving thousands of people a chance to dress up and act weird).

Later, we had dinner with my BFF Hallie and her husband, then came back to relax and hit the hay early. And not sleep, of course.

My alarm went off at 4:30 on Sunday morning. I rolled out of bed, ate my bagel and PB and drank a bunch of water, and went back to bed for another hour. When the alarm went off again, I got up, got dressed, and annoyed Jordan with my nervous energy while he showered and got ready. We left the hotel at 6:15 and walked the couple of blocks from the Sheraton over to Civic Center park, where the start is. We found a secret cove of porta-potties with NO LINE and soon enough got in my corral.

rnr2013_at the startThis was the first year (of the five I’ve run this race) that I wasn’t pushing and shoving in a panic to get in the corral right at the start. So of course, this year, the start was delayed by 10 minutes. Ha. But eventually, the National Anthem played, the gun fired, and we were off!

Not a bad view from the starting line.

I’m  always amazed by bloggers who can do a mile-by-mile recap of a race. My brain does not store miles like that. I do know that, as always, I hit the first few miles too fast before I settled into my groove. And I had to pee at the first set of porta-johns. I blame the delayed start. And also my tiny bladder.

The first half was uneventful; once I settled in, I was pretty close to right on pace. I hit the first half in 1:34 and change — perfect. Shortly after the half-marathon split is a beautiful downhill into Wash Park; I cruised it a little too quickly, but I was glad I did because at mile 16ish, my silly bladder decided that we needed to stop again. Not cool, bladder. And then at 18ish, I stopped to fix my shoe, which had been pinching for several miles and had gotten beyond bearable.

At that point, I was just a smidge behind my 3:10 goal, but I wasn’t too worried; I figured I could easily make it up over the next hour.

I saw Jordan’s cousin and her husband at mile 19. I was really happy to see them, as evidenced by my smile here. And I didn’t even know she took pictures, which shows how with it I am at mile 19.

Anyway, things were going fine until mile 21 or so, at which point the wind picked up. The last few miles are back in downtown Denver, and the buildings created a bit of a windtunnel. It was a headwind for a long time, and my already-beat legs just didn’t have the pep left in them to hold a 7:15 pace against the wind for the last 5 miles. I slowed significantly.

My least favorite part of this course is at mile 25.5-ish. There’s a short but steep hill there, and it. is. brutal. If it hadn’t been for one spectator in particular, I might not have made it up. (Dear lady in the pink sweater: If you read this, you are my hero. Thanks for the cheers.)

The reward for that brutal little uphill is a steep downhill to the finish. The highlight of my race was hearing the announcer say my name and that I was the #10 woman to cross the finish line. (Now the website says #9, so I’m not sure what happened there.)

I crossed in 3:13:01 — not the 3:10 I was hoping for, but definitely the best race I had in me that day — especially with that wind at the end. It wasn’t a perfect race (is there such a thing?) but it was a great one.

rnr2013_bib and medal

And I got my favorite post-race rewards: A burger, beer, and sweet potato fries at the Yard House (another perk of staying at the Sheraton downtown. Also, don’t you love J’s shirt?!)

rnr2013_afterpartyand a pumpkin spice latte for the ride home.


The next few days are all about recovery, and then…well, I don’t know yet.

Do you make multiple goals for a race?

What’s your favorite race story?




A Few of My Favorite Things: Colorado Races Edition

Among many other things, Colorado is famous for being a great place to run. It makes sense, then, that the state is chock-full of incredible races. I haven’t done nearly as many of them as I’d like to (I’ve never even run the famous BolderBoulder…pathetic, I know), but I have run some that stand out as fantastic. Here they are, with their dates for this year, in chronological order (from right now). All the names are linked to the race websites.

Rock ‘n Roll Denver Marathon and 1/2 Marathon: October 20, 2013

I first ran this race in 2009, the year before it became part of the Rock ‘n Roll series and was still the regular old Denver Marathon. Every year since, I’ve run either the full or the half, and I absolutely love both races. Both races start and finish in Denver’s Civic Center Park and take you on a nice little tour of Denver. Both courses take you past Coors Field (home of the Colorado Rockies), all around City Park (your spectators can catch you at least twice here), and through Cheesman Park. The full splits off at Cheesman and takes you through some more neighborhoods, over to Wash Park (another of Denver’s most popular parks), around some pretty ritzy neighborhoods, and finally back to Civic Center. The course is mostly pretty and very spectator-friendly — and the spectators are out in full force. From the bands to the cheer squads to the ordinary spectators, you’re never without someone to cheer you on.

DENL0381(This is me finishing the half in 2010…such a flattering photo.)

The course is pretty flat; the only significant hill is in Cheesman Park, around mile 9 or 10. A smaller hill at mile 24ish feels brutal just because your legs are dead, but it’s short and spectator-packed, so it’s really not so bad.

I’ve heard some pretty crummy stuff about RnR races, but this is one of my absolute favorites. It’s always been well-organized, and I’ve never had a bad experience here. (Knocking on wood for October…)

Yeti Chase 5k/10k: January 26, 2014

I have done this race only once, in 2012, but definitely hope to run it again. It’s held at Bear Creek Lake State Park, which is a beautiful park near the Denver foothills. I ran the 10k, which was challenging but incredibly fun. The course is hilly…I got tricked by the early downhills and burned myself out early — which is part of why I want to run it again. I know better now.

Anyway, the course takes you past two lakes, which are frigid but beautiful, and along part of the bike path through the park. It’s not a very spectator-friendly course, but I actually kind of liked that. The field is small, so I was running alone a lot of the time, left to take in the beauty and try not to think about how my cheeks were freezing.

One of the best parts about the race was the post-race homemade banana bread. The day before, Racing Underground (who hosts the event) posted on Facebook that they were baking banana bread. So obviously it was pretty fresh, and it tasted SO GOOD. Seriously, that’s a big part of why I want to do this race again. Also, you get to have your picture taken with a yeti.

yeti chaseThis race is now part of a three-part winter racing series: a 5k in December, the Yeti Chase in January, and a half in February. I’d love to do the whole series, but I’m not sure if it’s in the budget right now. Sigh.

Run to the Shrine 5k/10k: 2014 date not announced yet

The website still has the 2013 information up, but based on past years, I’m guessing it will be May 17. It benefits Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which is a pretty stellar cause.

This is the most challenging 10k I have ever run. Unless this is your first 10k, you will not PR. Not even close. The race runs up…waaaay up…to the Will Rogers Shrine at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. If you’ve never been there, here’s how the race website describes it: “The Run to the Shrine is a particularly demanding run due to the 8.5% gradient increase from the base of the Zoo (6,800 feet) to the Shrine (8,100 feet).” And that’s the first four miles. Yeah, it’s hard. I’ve never seen slower splits on my Garmin.

But then you get to run two miles DOWN that same hill to the finish line at the zoo. Yay, fast!

RTTS13_1(This was before the race, so my quads are still attached.)

The best thing about this race is the camaraderie. In just about every race, people are nice, but the runners here are honestly the nicest people ever. Everyone encourages each other the whole way. And with that sweet downhill bit, you’ve got lots of breath to shout encouragement to those still climbing.

The second best thing about this race is the medal. The first year I ran, the first three males and females in each race got a medal made of elephant poo (freeze-dried and in plastic). Last year, it was rhino. Maybe I’m just gross, but I think that’s the coolest thing ever. I desperately want one. In 2012, I was fourth. Last year, I was fifth. I fully intend to come back in May and be at least third. I want a poo medal, dangit!

Also worth mentioning — the post-race party is at the zoo, and there are keepers out with different animals that you can look at and sometimes touch. You also get a day pass into the zoo free with entry. And it’s a pretty sweet zoo.

Colorado Colfax Marathon: May 18, 2014

This was my first half (2009) and my second full (2011). The half course has been dramatically changed since I ran it (for the better — I hear it’s cool now), so I don’t think it’s fair for me to review it. I’ll talk about the full instead.

Like Rock ‘n Roll, Colfax gives you a pretty nifty tour of Denver — and you see things that you don’t during the fall marathon. It starts at City Park and runs along Colfax Avenue for a while, then drops onto the Cherry Creek bike path. The bike path goes through the heart of Denver, so you get to see some cool stuff — the Center for the Performing Arts with its statues, Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, and lots of downtown. Then, you run through Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos (this is new…when I ran it, we just ran around the stadium. Jealous.) You run around Sloan’s Lake (wave to my brother…he lives over there), through the campus of the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, through some nice, ritzy neighborhoods that make you scared to even spit, and then back onto Colfax, where you see some of what Colfax is famous for (sketchiness), but it’s amusing. Finally, you backtrack through the stadium and on the bike path back to City Park and the finish.

colfax(I don’t have any pictures from during the race, so here’s one from after with my brother and his girlfriend. It rained that year; hence my soggy noggin.)

I liked this race a lot. I’d love to do it again, but for the last couple of years, it’s been the same day as graduation. It is again in 2014. Lamesauce.

Estes Park Marathon: June 15, 2014

This is by far the most beautiful race I have ever run. Estes Park is one of Jordan and my favorite places, so that made this race even more fun for me. Estes is a mountain town, so although this is a road race, not a trail race, you’re still running in the mountains.

This is the view for pretty much the whole time. (Photo from the race website. I don’t know that guy.)

The course runs all around town, around Lake Estes, up by the Stanley Hotel…and never stops being stunning. It’s definitely a challenging race — I won the women’s division with a 3:37, my slowest-ever time (it was also super windy that year). It’s a small race (obviously), and spectators are spotty, but I loved every minute. If you’re a 50-stater and need a Colorado race, I’d say do this one, for sure.

estesPhoto from the Estes Park Trail Gazette.

That’s just a small sampling of the wonderful races Colorado has to offer. Try them out!

Colorado runners: Any races not on this list that I just have to try?

Non-Colorado runners: What races do I need to do if I come to your state?

Cash Prizes and Comfort Zones

Today’s Run: 8 slow miles

My legs were a little on the sore and tired side this morning after yesterday’s race, so I just took it nice and easy. Some adorable little dog tried to follow me; I had to use my teacher voice to make him go home. He tucked his little tail and scurried away, and then I felt like a jerk. Sorry, tiny dog.

How was everyone’s Fourth? I hope you all had a fun and safe holiday. And I hope you didn’t have to go back to work today!

My Fourth started with a 5k race. As I mentioned here, the last time I did speedwork was before Boston, so I really didn’t know what to expect from this race. I ended up with a 20:21 — not a PR, but satisfactory for no speed training, and good enough for the women’s win and the $75 cash prize.

wiggins 5kCash prizes are my favorite.

The 5k is my least-favorite race distance, so I only do one or two a year — usually local races that fund-raise for a cause that I support (yesterday’s was for my school’s track and cross-country programs). These little races are a lot of fun; almost everyone knows each other, so there’s a lot of camaraderie, and since the field is small, almost everyone wins an age group award. And let’s be honest: winning is fun.

wiggins 5k 002See? Don’t I look like I had fun?

Post-race, we came home to clean up. Then, I spent the afternoon way outside my comfort zone. A group (several groups, I guess) of Coloradoans are trying to get a school-funding initiative on the November ballot. I really want it to pass (I’m a teacher. You should not be surprised by this). But in order for the measure to even get on the ballot, a certain number of Colorado voters have to sign a petition. Which means that normal people have to get them to sign it. The town we teach in has a big Independence Day festivus every year, so J and I thought it would be a good place to collect signatures.

Here’s a list of a few things I don’t like:

1. Talking to strangers

2. Talking (to anyone) about politics

3. Bothering people

4. Spending all day in the hot sun on a dusty field

Yesterday afternoon was made up of all those things. Awesome.  But I got my petition filled, so I feel accomplished. Or something.

In reality, I know it was good for me to get out of my comfort zone a bit. And now maybe I’ll be a little nicer to those clipboard-toting people who approach me with, “Do you have a moment for (fill in cause that I never have a moment for)?”

Funny Apology Ecard: Sorry I never have time for whatever you're petitioning.

Lesson learned.

How was your Fourth?

What was the last thing you did outside your comfort zone?