Tag Archives: Colorado races

Spring Fever 10k Recap and Review

The trouble with spring races in Colorado is that the weather is so stinking unpredictable. It can be 70 degrees and sunny one day and 20 degrees and snowing the next. That was the case last weekend for All-Out Multisport’s Spring Fever 5k, 10k, and half-marathon. Friday was sunny and in the high 40s. Sunday was sunny and in the mid-60s. Saturday, though, was snowy, windy, and in the high 20s/low 30s. Saturday was, of course, race day.

Usually when I race, I make an A, B, and C goal. For this race, though, I had three equally satisfying A goals, a B goal, and no C goals. My A goals were to PR, set a course record, and/or win the race. After studying the elevation chart, I knew the PR was unlikely (my current PR is 40:30, and that was run on an all-downhill course), but the course record (42:57) was in reach. Looking at past winning times, I thought winning was also in reach, but that would clearly depend on who else entered this year.

Since all those goals were dependent on outside factors, my B goal was simply to give all I had to the race. If I crossed the finish line completely spent, knowing I couldn’t have pushed harder, I’d be satisfied.

Since we had a work event in Denver on Friday night, J and I decided to get a hotel room and skip the extra driving. The race started at 9:30 and we were only about 30 minutes away, so we had plenty of time to eat some oatmeal, change outfits several times (that one was just me), and plan out the rest of our day. We arrived at the race around 8:45. I checked in, grabbed my bib, and hustled back to sit in the toasty car for a while (and change …again… into a warmer top). At about 9:05, I reluctantly got out of the car, did a mile warm-up with some quick strides, hit the bathrooms (heated, not porta-johns!), and lined up at the start.

"If I smile, I'll be warmer....right?"
“If I smile, I’ll be warmer….right?”

 

After what seemed like 8,000 announcements (not really that many. I was just cold), we were off!
image (10)

 

The first two miles were on a pretty steep downhill, and the wind was at our backs. Here were my splits and my corresponding thoughts:

Mile 1: “Too fast too fast too fast. Can’t slow down. WHAT ARE MY PARENTS DOING HERE?!” (They decided to take a spontaneous trip to see my brother in Denver and cheer me on at the race!) “That girl is getting ahead of me. Don’t let her get too far.” Split: 6:13

Mile 2:  “Let her go. She’s out of your league, and you’ll blow up trying to catch her.” Split: 6:32

During these first two miles, I made  a friend named Matt. As we turned into the wind, we took turns drafting for each other and exchanging concerns about when the uphill would begin.

Yay! Downhill! (That's my new friend in the orange)
Yay! Downhill! (That’s my new friend in the orange, and the winning woman leaving me in her dust.) Photo courtesy of runningguru.com.


Mile 3:
 “Found the uphill. Holy steep. And wind in the face. Gross. Lead girl is long gone. Hang on to second.” Split: 7:42

Mile 4: “I remember the elevation chart. It’s back to downhill after this mile. But ouch, seriously.” Split: 7:47

This is where my new friend Matt pulled ahead. There was another runner ahead of us, and Matt said, “Let’s catch him!” I told him to go on; I needed to keep something in reserves for the final uphill near the finish.

Mile 5: “Wheeeeeeee! More downhill! Headwinds while running downhill aren’t nearly as bad as uphill!” Split: 6:14

Mile 5.7: “Whoa. 5k course. Walkers. Strollers. I don’t like this.”

Mile 6: “Pass that guy in tights. Pass him on this little hill.” (Same guy I’d been tailing that Matt passed at Mile 4). Got him! Split: 6:53

Check out that ridiculous face I'm making. (photo courtesy of runningguru.com)
Check out that ridiculous face I’m making. (photo courtesy of runningguru.com)

Mile 6.01: Ouch. More uphill. Almost there. Push! Push!

MIle 6.2: Oh no, tights man. You will not come from behind now! (I beat him. Just barely.) Split: I don’t know because I didn’t stop my watch until over a minute later. 

MIle 6.21: Gasp. Gag. Don’tbarfdon’tbarfdon’tbarf. Walk it out.

Official Time: 43:00.

I neither PRd nor won. I was three seconds away from the old course record, but that didn’t matter, since the top woman ran sub-40. But I definitely made my “B” goal — I gave it all I had and pushed through on a tough course and a tougher day. So I’m pretty darn satisfied with that.

Overall, I liked this race (aside from the weather, but when you sign up for a March race in Colorado, you know what you’re potentially getting into). But it had some negatives, too. Here’s a quick rundown.

Pros

  • Well-organized. The half started about 10 minutes before the 10k, which started about 10 minutes before the 5k, and all the starts went smoothly. Bib pick-up was also very speedy and easy.
  • Indoor restrooms. This was a MAJOR plus on such a frigid day.
  • Gorgeous course. It’s in Golden, which is a beautiful area, and it circles a lake. If the weather was clear, it would have been absolutely stunning.
  • Tons of prizes. In addition to overall and age-group awards (I got a restaurant gift card for the second-place prize), the race had a ton of raffle giveaways — restaurant, massage, and running store gift cards, water bottles, gym memberships. I think they said they had over $7,000 in prizes.
  • A podium. What? Not a big deal? Whatever. I thought it was fun. Not all of us get to stand on podiums regularly.

    The top three popsicles... I mean women runners.
    The top three popsicles… I mean women runners.
  • Lots of aid stations and great volunteers. Seriously, how cool do you have to be to stand out in the freezing cold for a couple of hours, handing out water and shouting encouragement?
  • Cute shirts and medals. Honestly, I think finisher medals for short races are a little silly, but who wouldn’t love this bee?
    image (1) image (2)
  • A great cause. The race raises money for the Parkinson’s Association. Can’t fault that.
  • Free photo downloads. Many races charge obscene prices for the pictures, so getting these for free was pretty cool. Especially since I don’t want to pay for pictures in which I look like I’m simultaneously pooping and dying.

Cons: 

  • Having the 10k and the 5k course share the final 1.5 miles was not fun. It meant that the fast 10k runners came up behind the slow 5kers — people who were just there to walk it with their pals or kids, pushing strollers, etc., or as we got closer to the finish line, run-walkers who would abruptly stop and walk.  Not that there’s a thing wrong with those types of racers (J and I just walked one last weekend); it’s just a pain to bob and weave, especially when your energy is running out. A ton of people also had in headphones, so they couldn’t hear runners coming up behind them, gasping out “scuse me” or “onerleft” (that’s about all the enunciating I could do just then).
  • No hot drinks at the finish. All I wanted was something warm. Of course, if they did have coffee or hot chocolate, it would’ve been an 80-degree day and no one would have wanted it, so I can’t really fault the organizers for that one.

Overall, I enjoyed this race and recommend it. I’d do it or another All-Out Multisport event again … hopefully on a little nicer day.

Once again, I want to give a shout-out to Heather for designing my training plan. The hard, fast workouts definitely gave me the confidence to push through some of the tough spots in the race.

Tell me about a recent race of yours!

What are your tips for racing on tough days/courses?

 

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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?