Monday, November 23, 2015

Race Recap: Route 66 Marathon

Yesterday I ran my 13th Marathon (16 if you count ultra's) at the Williams Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I signed up for this one at the end of last year after hearing it was a great race for Marathon Maniacs (a club for people who run a lot of marathons - you have to qualify by running multiples within specific time frames - I qualified by running 3 in 90 days last year, and then "leveled up" to the second level by running 8-11 marathons in 365 days). It also worked out nicely because it's the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving - and since I have family in Oklahoma, I decided to make a trip of it - run the race and then stay for Thanksgiving week. The only real issue I faced was finding plane tickets - I prefer to fly directly out of Grand Junction during the winter (since getting to Denver is much trickier in the winter months due to unpredictable weather), however flights were just outrageous, so I bought Tickets out of Denver from Southwest...and hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, my hoping didn't really pan out. The forecast for Friday in the mountains was for 7 inches of snow from Vail to Loveland. My biggest fear was I-70 getting closed, so I made a last minute decision to leave Thursday night instead. As stressful as it was to pack in 30 minutes so I could hit the road at a decent hour, at least the drive was good (mostly just a bit wet in places), and the bonus perk was having the entire day Friday to do whatever I wanted before our flight left on Friday night. So I ended up spending the day leisurely exploring the Boulder area before our flight left that night:

After two hours of delays, we finally made it into Oklahoma City late on Friday night. We headed to Tulsa on Saturday afternoon, hitting the expo and packet pick-up at about 4pm. After walking around the expo for a bit, we headed to our hotel out near the airport, then finally to dinner at Red Robin, followed by a trip to Walmart so I could get some cheap toss-able sweats (a lifesaver considering how chilly it was waiting for the start). Then it was time for bed.

With my bib, and my #FlatRunner all ready for the next day!

The next morning I got up just before 6 (SO late compared to most marathons - it was NICE!), quickly got ready, grabbed a bagel and coffee from the hotel, then my mom and I hit the road so she could drop me off at the start line at about 6:45. She was able to drop me right across the street from "Maniac Corner" - the special VIP area of the race start just for Maniacs or Half Fanatics (same club, but for Half Marathoners - I actually just joined this a month or so ago so that I could become a "Double Agent"). The VIP area had it's own separate bag check, port-a-potties, a tent area (to somewhat provide warmth - although it was still COLD), and then we all did a group picture at about 7:20.

All of the Marathon Maniacs & Half Fanatics - I'm somewhere in the top right!

I headed over to my starting corral at about 7:45 and got ready for the 8:00 start. I waited until the last possible minute to shed my sweatpants, and opted to keep my sweatshirt on for the time being. The wheelchair races were off at 7:58, and then it was our turn. They shot off a bunch of confetti with the start of the gun which was pretty awesome (and it kept going long after I had gone through) and fit with the "party" atmosphere that would continue through much of the race.

The starting line (photo from the Route 66 Marathon Facebook page)

The first few miles went okay - my feet were frozen from standing around for so long, and it took several miles until I could feel them again! I ended up shedding my sweatshirt at about 1 1/2 miles, but still had another light long sleeve that I kept on until about Mile 6 (I didn't want a repeat of Rim Rock where I dropped everything too early and regretted it). Honestly the first 8 or so miles went well, but mentally just felt LONG. I was a little worried about how I was going to go for 26.5 miles at this point (yes I said .5 - they have an optional Center of the Universe detour, adding .3 miles to the race, making it the "World's Shortest Ultra"). But luckily, starting at around mile 9 things got a little more interesting (don't get me wrong - the first 8 were through really pretty neighborhoods that still had a bunch of fall color - I enjoyed it - it was just mentally I wasn't in it yet or something).

Only about 1/2 mile into the race.
1 or 2 mile in - it still looks like Fall here!

So what happened to make it more exciting? Well for starters at Mile 9 was one of the best "un-official" aid stations (this one vs. the Mile 22 one are up in the air - they were both awesome) - a group of spectators had beer, shots (not sure of what), and then jello-shots! I was a little hesitant at first since I was only 9 miles in (that's 17 1/2 miles still to go!) but I just decided, why not? I'm clearly not going for a PR (I'm not in shape for that right now - and even if I was, it was an INSANELY hilly course), so I had some beer!

Beer at Mile 9...what could possibly go wrong? (Thankfully nothing)

I contemplated the jello-shot, but ultimately decided against it (the 17.5 miles to-go being the reason - had I been past the 20 mile mark, I totally would have). After that, things just seemed to go faster. At about Mile 11, I saw a guy wearing a Runners Roost Race Team Singlet (P.S. I got onto the Runner's Roost 2016 Road Race Team!!! Pretty excited about it - I've been applying for the past 3 years) so I struck up a conversation with him about it and then we got to chatting about various Colorado races for awhile. We stuck together until about Mile 13 or 14 which helped those miles pass by immensely!

The Half Marathoners and Full Marathoners start together and split off at about 12.5. This was similar to the Denver Rock-n-Roll Marathon in 2014 - which I hated at the time, and so was a little worried about this. That race I really struggled with the transition from huge crowds to extremely small crowds post-split. But I decided I didn't mind it that much during this race - I actually found it much easier to start up conversations with people once the crowds has dispersed - and chatting always makes the miles go by more quickly!

Once I lost the Runner's Roost guy (I believe his name was Joel - I'll probably find out when I officially start the team in 2016), I continued on for a bit by myself before striking up a conversation with another Marathon Maniac from Indiana for a mile or so. Then I was back to running by myself for bit until around 20 when I met Ron - another Maniac (I told you this was a big race for Maniacs!). We ran together until right around Mile 22 - when we hit the other awesome "unofficial" aid station. They had Guiness, Mimosa's, Gummy Bears, Pretzels, Oranges, and Pickles! It was pretty AMAZING. I toasted my mimosa with this awesome lady, then had a pickle (I know it sounds weird - but they actually taste really good in races - it's the sodium I think - it's such a nice change from all the sweet stuff), and finally grabbed some gummy bears as I continued on (although it was one of my slowest miles of the day at 12-something).


Only about 1/2 mile or so later there were some more people with Beer, so I had a quick sip, and kept at it. Meanwhile, the hills just kept coming (I was getting a little tired of them by this point). Just before Mile 24 we turned onto a section that was an out-and-back - although when I was on my way "out" I didn't see anyone coming "back" yet so I got super confused on whether we were on the part of the course that was the "out" or the "back". Ron ended up catching up with me again on this section and confirmed when I had eventually determined - that we were on the "back" section. I also saw a fellow Skirt Sports Ambassador Cheryl on this section - so I said Hi as we passed (although - I wish I had thought to snap a quick picture - but I didn't think about it until it was too late to go back)!

My pictures never seem to do the hills justice! I swear they were big.

Meanwhile Ron and I got back to chatting for a bit about different races etc. Then before we knew it, it was TIME! For the detour. I had been waiting for this all day (especailly after seeing how cool the coin was at the expo the day before). We turned right for the short out-and-back section. It required going up a big hill, past the actual Center of the Universe, then down a hill where Michelob Ultra was giving out Beer (this is a great race if you like beer BTW). Naturally, I had to have some and I got a picture with the Beer Keg and Ron, and then we headed back to the course, stopping for a picture "on" the Center of the Universe. From here, it was just about a mile left to the finish. We kept at it, kicking it into high gear once we could see the finisher's shoot. My mom and sister were watching from the finisher's shoot so I waved at them and then sprinted to the finish, finishing in 4:17:18 - not my fastest, but also not my slowest, and considering the amount of chatting, drinking, ultra-marathoning, and pictures being taken, it's not too shabby!

Seriously, how awesome is the Beer keg costume?

Standing on "The Center of the Universe"

The awesome coin we got for completing the detour! (Front and Back sides)

Finishing (and showing off my coin)!

The race had Spaghetti and various small treats for finishers. I had a little bit, and then went to find my mom and sister before going in Maniac Corner to get my drop bag, switch my finisher's medal from the regular medal to the special "Maniac" medal. They also had a separate beer area and pulled pork sandwiches just for Maniacs which was awesome (and way better than the spaghetti). I had part of a sandwich and beer before we took off and headed back home!

Race: Williams Route 66 Marathon
Date: November 22, 2015
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Distance: Marathon (26.2 Miles) + .3 miles for the Center of the Universe Detour, making it a total of 26.5 Miles
Bib Number: 3673
Weather: Chilly, but honestly perfect for running - 30's at the start, 40's at the end and sunny.
Net Time: 4:17:45
Gun Time: 4:17:18
Average Pace: 9:49 minutes/mile
Elevation Gain: 661 Feet
Overall Rank: 611 of 2585
Gender Rank: 177 of 1269
Division Rank (F25-29): 28 of Unknown (can't find where this is listed)
Garmin Splits: 8:51, 9:21, 9:06, 9:24, 9:22, 9:00, 8:58, 9:20, 9:27, 9:21, 9:01, 9:38, 9:29, 9:11, 9:58, 8:59, 9:55, 9:12, 9:52, 9:16, 9:30, 12:02 (enjoying a mimosa), 9:42, 9:51, 9:38, 12:07 (enjoying some beer and taking multiple pictures), 9:10

Elevation Profile - SO many hills!

Course Map

Race jacket and bling! (Love it all!!!)

Finisher! (with special Marathon Maniac metal)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Race Recaps: Black Canyon North Rim 20K & Global Hope Apple Cider 10K

And with this post - I am officially caught up on blogging! It feels so good (remind me never to run 6 races in 6 weeks again...)

I am combining 2 races that I've done before, since I figured I wouldn't have as much to write about given that I've already blogged about them in the past. So without further ado - I will begin with the Black Canyon North Rim 20K that I ran on October 3rd, followed by the Global Hope Apple Cider 10K which I ran on October 24th!

Race Recap: Black Canyon North Rim 20K

This race is the only race I have done EVERY single year since I started running (how cool is that? And because of that, I think I have to keep it up). The 8K course was only my second race ever back in 2012! I ran it again in 2013 - this time my running had progressed enough that I jumped up to the 20K. Unfortunately, it was also moved that year to a different location because of the Government Shutdown that closed down all of the National Parks (although, I actually really liked the course that year). Last year, 2014, it was back at the Black Canyon and I once again did the 20K (although only the first time on the "real" course).

I went into this race with the only real goal of beating my previous years time of 1:57:23. Now, that's not a super fast pace for me (9:26 per mile), however this is a VERY hilly course. That being said, I still really thought I could do it - I had just ran a 3:44:26 Marathon only 3 weeks prior (8:34 per mile). Surely I could run this race in under 1:57 without a problem, even if it was hilly. I could not have been more wrong....

The race started out okay. I ran my first few miles at a respectable pace (8:58, 8:43, 8:44), however from the very get-go I could tell something was off. Yes, I was at a higher elevation (about 8000'), but I felt like I was at a SIGNIFICANTLY higher elevation (I'm talking like 12,000 feet). I just felt like I had barely any oxygen. I was facing a headwind for those miles, so I thought maybe that had to do with it? But even after we changed directions I will still suffering immensely. 

Nevertheless, I was here to run a race, so I just kept at it. The more I ran though, the more worn out I felt. Finally at about Mile 7, I started taking walking breaks. Every time there was a significant hill, I just walked it (this isn't a trail run, but is on dirt roads - in the past, I've been able to run the whole thing - albeit slowly given the hills). 

I spent the remaining 5 miles of the race just trying to figure out what in the world was up with me today. The only thing I could think of was that I had recently started a DietBet to get my eating back under control (I had been eating terribly lately), and so I had eaten at a fairly large calorie deficit all week. Now, that might have been part of it, but then, all of a sudden while talking with someone post race, a light bulb went off: I had just donated blood 2 days prior. I hadn't thought much of it at the time because I used to donate regularly - however this was my first time in over a year since I got my tattoo. I felt pretty stupid though - especially because now that I knew what it was, I even remembered the Phlebotomist telling the guy next to me about how the amount of oxygen in your blood drops significantly (or doesn't replenish as fast as the actual blood I think - something along the lines). I'm no expert in that kind of stuff, but I do know that the more oxygen in your blood, the better you, with that in mind, I decided not to be too concerned with my negative performance!
Picture taken from the race Facebook page.
I stopped and took a selfie with my friend Randee along the way!
Randee took this of Rochelle - it shows the course well!

I ended up finishing in 2:08:51 - which was actually, much to my surprise, good enough for first place in my age group (gotta love small races!) - I'll take it! This was also the second year in a row that I ran all 3 of the Black Canyon races in one calendar year (this one along with the Winter Rim Romp in February and Black Canyon Ascent in May), so I got an awesome Pint Glass (I am getting quite a collection of these)!

Race: Black Canyon North Rim 20K
Location: Crawford, CO (closest town - really another 15-20 minutes south of here)
Distance: 20K / 12.4 Miles
Bib Number:
Weather: Not as warm as I was expecting because it was WINDY, but not cold - 60's and sunny I think.
Official Time: 2:08:51
Average Pace: 10:23 minutes per mile
Elevation Gain: 860'
Overall Rank: 23 of 31 
Gender Rank: 13 of 19
Age Division Rank: 1 of 2 or 2 of 3 depending on how you look at it! (the overall winner was in my age group, so that's why I got the award for "1st" in my age group)
Garmin Splits: 8:58, 8:43, 8:44, 9:47, 11:02, 10:38, 10:28, 10:28,  11:14, 10:16, 10:50, 13:50 (can you tell I was ready to be done?), 9:31

Map & Elevation Profile
With my age group award!
Rochelle, Randee, Ed, and Myself
Now onto Race #2 for this post....

Race Recap: Global Hope Apple Cider 10K

This race is a fundraiser for Global Hope - an organization I donate to and sponsor a child through, so  even though it's a bit of a long drive for a 10K, I wanted to go support it (and P.S. they need sponsors - so go sign up to be a God Parent and make a difference in a child's life!!). Last year was the first year they had a race - a 5K in Broomfield. For the second year, they changed it up a little and ran on the Big Dry Creek Trail in Westminster instead, while also adding the 10K option. I was trying to keep my mileage up for Rim Rock training, so not only did I do the 10K, but I also did a 9 mile warm-up prior to the race starting - so needless to say, I wasn't going in on fresh legs, and I could definitely feel that in the last mile!

However, I also knew it was a smaller race, so thought, MAYBE, I could still sneak in a top 3 finish (within Women)....yeah not so much. The women were actually faster than the men - with all 3 top women finishing before the second male. But ohwell - I still managed to get in some faster miles (for me) in while enjoying the scenery (Big Dry Creek is a great place to run if you live in the area!).

Picture from the race website - all of the runners shortly after the start!
Carrying cups for 1 1/2 miles...NBD.

(They weren't sure they would have enough cups at the first aid station, so I volunteered to carry them out on my way)

Views from the course - taken earlier that morning while on my warm-up.
Another view of the course.

I had also convinced some friends of mine to come out and do the 5K too and my friend Amy ended up finishing first female! And to top it off, I ended up winning 4 huge bottles of hard cider - so overall it was a win! 

I managed to recruit all of them! :)
One of the best raffle prizes I've won!

Race: Global Hope Apple Cider 10K
Location: Westminster, CO
Distance: 10K / 6.2 Miles
Bib Number: 112
Weather: 40's and sunny (perfect racing weather!)
Official Time: 53:47
Average Pace: 8:38 minutes per mile
Overall Rank: 12 of 31
Gender Rank: 6 of 18
Age Division Rank (F20-29): 1 of 3 of 2 of 4 depending (2nd overall was in my age group - so that's why I'm ranked as 1st in the results - they did not do individual Age Group awards though).
Garmin Splits: 8:19, 8:31, 8:22, 8:47, 8:41, 9:09, 8:35 (last .2)

Elevation Profile
Course Map

Race Recap: Durango Double Half Marathons

Once again - WAY late on getting yet another blog post up! The good news is that my racing has slowed down a bit, so I can hopefully catch up finally ;)!

I honestly can't really remember how/when I found out about the Durango Double - but I've wanted to do it for the past several years now. So when they announced a special "April Fool's" Discount of running the Double for the price of a Single - I decided it was be the perfect excuse to finally do it this year!

The Durango Double is a running event in - you guessed it - Durango (southwest corner of Colorado - about 3 1/2 hours from me, 6+ from Denver). It consists of a Trail Half Marathon on Saturday and a Road Half Marathon (or 5K option available too) on Sunday. I hadn't been to Durango since I was a kid (and really it was just passing through) so, ever since moving to the Western Slope, I've wanted to go check it out. This would be the perfect opportunity!

My next question was finding someone to go with me! My friend and co-worker Taryn and I went halvsies on a National Park Pass this year and had been talking about how we needed to use it some more. Well Durango is only about 30-40 minutes from Mesa Verde National Park - so I asked if she wanted to go for a weekend trip there with me and she said yes! Problem solved!

We left work about 3:30 on Friday and headed down. Thankfully the weather was great the entire drive (driving to Durango involves driving the Million Dollar Highway which is a lovely section of road where you're on the edge of a cliff with no guard rails - I can handle it in good weather...snow...yeah not so much) and we made it into town around 7. I went and picked up my race packet and then we checked into our hotel (which ended up being perfect - right in the middle of town with views of the Animas River and walking distance to all of the downtown shops and restaurants) before hitting the hot tub for a bit. Then it was time for bed, and of course getting my #FlatRunner's ready:

The races started at 9:00am each day, so I got up at about 7:00am and headed out at about 7:30 (note - I did not need to leave this early - Durango is not a huge town - 8:00 would have definitely sufficed). Despite it getting quite hot later in the day, it was still nice and chilly when I got there, especially in the shade, so having the extra time allowed me to walk around and check out the starting line and make a bathroom trip before shedding my many layers.

So without further ado, recap of The Trail Half:

The website for this race did not have an elevation profile, so I really had no idea what I was getting into - as without that you really have NO IDEA how hard a race is going to be. I went in naively thinking this was on the southern end of the San Juans - on the outskirts of the mountains - surely it wouldn't be TOO difficult and surely I could beat my time from Golden Leaf Half I had ran two weeks prior. Boy was I wrong...

It started out well - the first mile or so looped around the starting area before heading north where we got onto the first part of trail. Around mile 2 was when the initial climbing really started. As I believe I mentioned in the Golden Leaf Half recap, I really have not been doing much trail running. At all. So I just kept it easy - walking the steep uphills and taking pictures as I went. That first climb ended up being about 1000 feet over about 3 miles before we finally made it to the top. Unfortunately one of the volunteer's made the mistake of saying, "it's ALL downhill from here". OKAY let me stop you right there, volunteer... For starters, thank you for volunteering, BUT - do NOT tell people it's all downhill from here, when there is another 1000 foot climb two miles later.... but we'll get to that in a minute.

So we start heading back down around Mile 5. I had a feeling that volunteer was wrong because surely there can't be THAT much downhill when you still have 8 miles left in a Half Marathon - but I figured, it's probably just no more "significant" climbing. was. As I mentioned above, about another 1000 feet of up from Miles 6 to 8 - including, the absolute WORST uphill I have ever endured in a race - I mean this was Manitou Incline steep (although thankfully this section was only for about 1/4 mile):

The steepest EVER! That's me at the bottom! joke there. Thankfully once we were done with that, we ACTUALLY were done with the majority of the climbing and the rest of the race was very runnable back into town. Unfortunately my time had really suffered during both climbs, and once you combine that with the fact that the course was VERY rocky (making fast downhill miles almost impossible) and I was still in for a LONG Half Marathon. Not only did I not beat my Golden Leaf Half time, I didn't even come CLOSE! I ended up finishing in 2:58:45 - just under the 3 hour mark. Ohwell though - it was by far my toughest half this year, and I got to see some of the Durango trails (including a LEGIT Tarantula - see below), so it was overall a win!

Some of the many pictures I took on the trail course!

Race: Durango Double Trail Half Marathon
Location: Durango, Colorado
Distance: 13.1 Miles (Garmin clocked it at 13.52)
Bib Number: 307
Weather: 50 and sunny at the start, probably mid-60's at the end (and still sunny - so HOT)
Official Time: 2:58:45
Average Pace: 13:38 minutes per mile
Elevation Gain: 1979'
High Point: 7664'
Overall Rank: 145 of 222
Gender Rank: Unknown
Age Division Rank (F20-29):
Garmin Splits: 9:33, 11:19, 13:36, 15:37, 14:57, 11:49, 13:59, 15:55, 19:39, 11:52, 12:34, 11:13, 11:41, 9:33 (last .1)

All finished! And MORE pint glasses for my collection!
Elevation Profile - yeah, NOT easy...
Course Map

In the afternoon on Saturday, Taryn and I went to check out Mesa Verde:

Now onto the Road Half:

Once again, I went into this not knowing what to expect. I did figure it would at least be easier than the day before's race... which I was right about - although I still would not call this an easy road Half, in the slightest.... Thankfully, while waiting for the race to start, I found a friend from Instagram who had ran it from last year, and she warned me that the you had to run up to Fort Lewis College at the beginning of the race (which was supposedly up a big hill). Well at least that left me with the understanding that this wouldn't necessarily be an "easy" one either - so I just settled on having fun for this one as well.

The race started out heading north into town (both races started on the southern outskirts of town at the Animas Surgical Hospital) and just like I was warned, was uphill from the get-go for the first 3 or so miles until we reached the Ft. Lewis College campus (which is located about 700 feet above the town of Durango). We ran around the campus until about Mile 5, had one last uphill and then got about 1 mile of steep downhill. I used this downhill to try and make up some of my time, but also didn't push it too hard given the fact that I was on Day 2 of racing. I had kind of been hoping for under 2 hours, but once I experienced 700 feet of gain in the first 3, that kind of went out the window and I instead just enjoyed the views and took several pictures along the way.

Despite the elevation profile showing that it really is all downhill from the 5 mile mark until the finish - it really felt pretty flat after mile 6.5 - so I just did my best to maintain a moderate pace as best as I could. Around mile 8 or 9, we got onto the Animas River Trail for the remainder of the race. This is a paved bike path running along the river with several bridges along the route - so we crossed back and forth multiple times which was fun.

One of the professional pictures - not me, I just wanted to show the river trail!

I ended up finishing today's race in 2:02:52 - not quite the sub-2:00 I was going for, but close enough!

Pictures I took from along the course!

Race: Durango Double Road Half Marathon
Location: Durango, Colorado
Distance: 13.1 Miles (Garmin measured it at 13.04)
Bib Number: 307
Weather: 48 and sunny, probably high 50's, low 60's by the end
Official Time: 2:02:52
Average Pace: 9:22 minutes per mile
Elevation Gain: 689'
High Point: 6954'
Overall Rank: 77 of 202
Gender Rank: Unknown
Age Division Rank (F20-29):
Garmin Splits: 9:51, 10:28, 9:47, 9:44, 9:42, 8:22, 8:40, 9:27, 8:50, 9:12, 9:35, 9:27, 9:32, 7:46 (last .1)

Done with Race #2! The "Doublers" got these Trucker Hats!
Elevation Profile
Course Map

Combined Time: 5:01:39
Overall Rank: 53 of 101 (didn't quite make top half - but better than I expected, so I'll take it!)
Gender Rank: Unknown
Age Division Rank: Unknown
Average Pace: 11:30

After the race, we grabbed some Starbucks and then hit the road to head back home. I had originally wanted to drive over Lizard Head Pass on the way back - since it's part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway that I have yet to drive - but it was going to make for a much longer drive, so we went back the same way through Silverton. I didn't mind too much though because it had been dark for some of the drive on Friday, so I got to see some more fall color this time! I also took a quick detour up to Dallas Divide once we got to Ridgway so I could catch my favorite Colorado Mountain view while there was still some fall color out!

View from Molas Pass - just south of Silverton
Dallas Divide in the Fall! (My favorite view in all of Colorado)
The magnificent Mt. Sneffels!

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...