Friday, January 23, 2015

Arctic Prairie Dog Half Marathon

Race swag!

This past year was filled with so many long races and trail runs, that I hadn't "raced" a Half Marathon since the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half in the summer of 2013. So after I'd been consistently doing speed work and running high mileage as part of #OperationBQ (translation: "operation run a marathon fast enough to Boston Qualify" - will probably be using this term a lot over the next few months, so better get used to it!), I knew I wanted to race a half marathon prior to the Phoenix Marathon - to give myself a better idea of what I could achieve come February 28th.

Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of options for Half Marathons in the dead of winter in Colorado, and the few that are around, are of course, all on the Front Range. I had my eye on doing this Prairie Dog Half Marathon - but didn't want to commit until I knew what the weather forecast was going to be - both on the course, but more importantly - through the mountains, since I would have to drive over them to get to it. Thankfully, I checked the forecast the Monday before the race, and it looked awesome - so I went ahead and signed up (and glad I did because it sold out by the end of the week!).

I drove to Denver on Friday afternoon, then had a leisurely day on Saturday - went for a nice run at Davidson Mesa in Louisville (very close to where the race would be the next morning), then spent some time at the Flatirons Mall with my mom before heading to church that evening, and eating burgers for dinner (which worked very well as pre-race fuel I must say!). 

Saturday easy run at Davidson Mesa

The race started at 8:00, and since it was just 10 minutes away from my parents house, we didn't need to leave until 7:15. We headed there and quickly found parking before walking over to the start. I dropped off my donations (they had a raffle with some pretty cool prizes if you donated items to their charity partner), then got in line for the bathrooms. The weather was feeling pretty awesome. I had been worried - the night before the forecast had said 32 at the start, 42 at the end - which left me at a crossroads on whether to wear tights or a skirt with long socks. Luckily, I checked it again the next morning and it had completely changed - it was now already in the 40's before the start - making my decision much easier (and I was so grateful - I ended up being incredibly HOT on this race despite wearing a tank top and a skirt!).

Before I knew it, it was 15 minutes until race start. I had wanted to get a quick warm-up in, so off I ran to squeeze in a little 1/2 mile and get my legs moving. I was still pretty nervous on what kind of pace I would be able to do. My goal was to shoot for somewhere between a 1:45:00 (8:00 pace on average) and 1:50:00 (8:23 pace). Ideally, much closer to 1:45, and given my training, I was pretty sure it was doable, EXCEPT for the fact that this course was pretty hilly by the looks at the elevation profile. I decided I would just go out strong and see what I could do.

After my warm-up lap, I shed my long sleeve and made my way towards the front half of the crowd at the starting line with just a few minutes to spare. Before I knew it, we were off. I was thankful I had somewhat studied the elevation profile, as I knew the first 3 miles were a very slight downhill. So I kept my pace at a steady but hard effort running all 3 at around 7:50 minute miles.


After mile 3, you run through old town Louisville and a gentle uphill began. I tried my best to keep my pace up and ran mile 4 in 8:01. Then the worst hill EVER came. Miles 4.5-5.5 were on a dirt path that officially felt like the biggest hill in the world (okay maybe not the world, but considering the effort I was trying to put into this race, it was SO hard to keep it up). My pace slipped a lot despite still really pushing and I ran mile 5 in 8:27. But wait - the hill wasn't over - despite my best efforts, I had slipped to a mid-9:00 mile. Thankfully about half-way through mile 6 there was a nice downhill which I used to try and make up some time - this allowed me to run an 8:33 for mile 6 - my slowest of the day, but still pretty good considering.

Despite surviving the giant hill, I still had my work cut out for me. I felt like I wanted to die, but I also knew I just needed to catch my breath. I kept running strong and eventually got back to a steady pace running miles 7-9 in 8:12, 8:05, 7:56. And then, the greatest blessing of all - a HUGE downhill. I knew I had to just trust in gravity and fly if I had any chance of going sub-1:45. And so I did. I ran mile 10 in 7:19!!!

Unfortunately the downhill subsided and it was back to flat / gentle uphill - but at least I had caught my breath for the most part. I was definitely getting tired, but there was light at the end of the tunnel! I ran a 7:53 for mile 11. I slowed a little in mile 12 - running an 8:04, and then really pushed myself for the last 1.1. The course looped around, but ended with the same stretch we started with, so I knew how much further I had - this allowed me to really start pushing and I ran mile 13 in 7:46, then sprinted the last .1 at a 7:22 pace, for a, drum-roll please, 1:44:17 finish!!!

Finish line picture (and not a bad picture if I do say so myself)!


Race: Arctic Prairie Dog Half Marathon
Location: Louisville, Colorado
Distance: Half Marathon (13.1 Miles)
Date: 01/18/2015
Elevation: 476' Gain / 472' Loss
Bib Number: 1513
Weather: AMAZING (40's-50's and sunny)
Gun Time: 1:44:23
Chip Time: 1:44:17
Average Pace: 7:57 per mile
Overall Rank: 67 of 424
Gender Rank: 21 of 256
Division Rank (F20-29): 4 of 46
Garmin Splits: 7:49, 7:49, 7:48, 8:01, 8:27, 8:33, 8:12, 8:05, 7:56, 7:19, 7:53, 8:04, 7:46, 7:22 (last .1)

Course Map - lots of turns!
Elevation Profile - see the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad hill!

After the race I hung out for awhile waiting for the results to get posted. While waiting I tried some delicious protein chocolate milk, but refrained from all the food as I was meeting some friends for lunch in a little while. Unfortunately I didn't win anything from the raffle (they give away some cool stuff!).

About 15 minutes later I checked the results again to see my official finishing time (1:44:17), and to see that I had gotten 3rd place in my age group!!! I was so excited about this (I never win anything unless I'm the only one in my age group), so when the time came for them to announce the awards I was all ready, front and center. And then they didn't call my name. They called some other girls name.

I went back and checked the results, and no I hadn't been mistaken - there was my name with a "3" next to it under division place:

So after the results were all done I went and asked about it... and apparently some girl didn't put her age in when she registered - so they had to verbally ask her when she crossed the finish line - and OF COURSE she was in my age group - bumping me down to 4th.

Now don't get me wrong - I'm still very happy with my time - this was a HUGE accomplishment for me, especially on a tough course like this. But to see that I had gotten 3rd and to get really excited about it, to then have it taken away?! That was hard. It would've been one thing to have seen 4th and just been like "oh darn, maybe next time." But this was being told you place (and were going to get stand on a podium for the first time EVER), and then it got taken away! It was depressing. And I felt like the organizers who I had inquired with about it were kind of rude to me about it. So I guess the moral of the story here is to never ever trust race results until they are finalized I guess...despite seeing them on paper.

So OTHER than that depressing part, the race went extremely well. I was really happy with my time and proud of myself for pushing through this despite how tough it was. I'm learning to get better about pushing through the uncomfortableness of fast running, and as a result am truly getting faster! With every race I do, I am feeling better about my goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon! Most people probably thought I was a crazy when I said I wanted to try for a BQ, but seeing results after working my butt off is really helping. This really is the hardest training I have ever done, so it is very rewarding to see results!

I also felt it very appropriate to wear my "Run with Endurance" tank. I'm trying to work on being more open about my relationship with Jesus this year - and I know for a fact that I could not have ran this time without him. When I was feeling like slowing down and giving up, I recited some of my favorite verses including my favorite:

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar high on 
wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary."  - Isaiah 40:31

Likes / What Worked:
  • I PR'd! So obviously, my training is working (Hanson's Marathon Method in case anyone is curious)!!! So happy to be seeing results!
  • I liked the shirt, medal, and pint glass
  • Free race photos (they didn't really take any on the course, but had a few at the start and finish line)
  • The weather (SO nice for January!!!)
  • In general, 3W does put on a good event - aid stations at every mile (although I had my handheld bottle so I wouldn't waste time stopping - so didn't really use this, but it's a nice thing to have), very well marked course with lots of volunteers, lots of awesome post-race food, the indoor expo would've been extra nice had it been cold out
  • Pricing is decent - I signed up late, so it was $80, which is fairly high for my tastes, but at the same time for signing up one week prior isn't terrible (and I had a black Friday voucher of $40 for $25 - so I did technically save $15).

Dislikes / What Didn't Work:
  • This course went through a lot of neighborhoods, making it very curvy and windy with tons of turns. Not my favorite (oh and there was this really weird section of very sharp, steep, and short switchbacks, that was honestly almost dizzying trying to run up!).
  • See my garmin (red line) couldn't even register it, it was so nuts!
  • The horrible hill from miles 4.5-5.5 was rough.
  • I had horrible chafing under my arms for the last 3 or so miles....must remember to apply the body glide when wearing tank tops! Thankfully this was only a half marathon and not a full!
  • The 3rd place / 4th place debacle was depressing, so I must mention it here.

Fisher Towers Hike

At the beginning of January, I got invited to join a group of friends for a hike to Fisher Towers, outside of Moab Utah - and what an incredible hike it was! This might just be one of my new favorites! And the neat thing, is that since the trail was a bit snowy, if I hike it again in the spring or summer, it'll probably feel like a whole difference experience!

The hike is about 4.6 miles round trip, but with some snowy and icy sections it felt a lot longer than that. It was absolutely incredible though! We were hiking in honor of my friend Randee's birthday, so we all celebrated post-hike with food and a campfire. It was a great way to spend a chilly but gorgeous January day!

And as with most of my posts these days, I am once again, going to let my pictures speak for themselves rather than mumbling on for an hour:

We stopped at an overlook to view the red rocks against the icy Colorado River!

View from the trailhead.

All the puppies had a blast!

This just shows how massive the rocks are compared to us tiny people!

Everyone waving at the turn around point of the hike!

I love this picture!

Argie photo-bombed me!

Mesa Lakes - Snowshoeing

While I did absolutely nothing on New Years Eve (didn't even stay up until midnight), I did still manage to kick start 2015 off right with a gorgeous day snowshoeing at Mesa Lakes up on the Grand Mesa.

I joined the Western Slope Adventurers, a meet-up group based on the western slope, a little over a year ago and have since gone on a few "adventures" with them. It's a nice way to explore new places when Scott is working, so I don't have to do this stuff by myself (plus I hate driving in snow - so I can usually get a ride, which is always nice!).

We all met in Grand Junction around 9:30 and drove up to the Mesa. The weather was overcast and cold, but not snowing. We got up to the mesa in about an hour and after getting all situated with our snowshoes on, headed out onto the trail. We snowshoed for a few hours, covering about 3 1/2 miles total. Doesn't seem like much compared to running for a few hours, but it was tough work, and the views were unbeatable. It felt like being in a snow globe!

Overall, I enjoyed this area for snowshoeing, and would love to head up there again this winter if I get a chance. Randee and Rochelle, two friends from the local running club, were also there which was a nice surprise, and Rochelle and I did a little running towards the end (which, not going to lie, is a little tough - especially with a full backpack on!).

Other than that, I am going to let my pictures describe the rest of the trip:

Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak

I've been wanting to hike to the top of Hallett Peak ever since I found out it was the gorgeous mountain towering above Dream and Emera...