Thursday, June 22, 2017

Revel Rockies Marathon 2017 {Race Recap}

Ever since my terrible, not-so-good, very bad time running Revel Rockies back in 2015, I've wanted to come back and do it again for redemption. I couldn't do it last year due to a scheduling conflict, but thankfully, it actually worked out perfectly to do it this year! Not only was it a Team Beef race, but my friend Rochelle was also doing it as well so I had someone to train with!

We spent the last couple of months before the race getting in some great training runs, including some from the top of the Monument into town and out at Land's End Road. I did some really good uphill and downhill workouts, and some long runs with fast finishes. I felt really ready for this race, and hopefully a shot at a PR. I have not PR'd the marathon distance since February 2015 when I ran a 3:41:35 at the Phoenix Marathon (which was a HUGE, 21 minute PR at the time), and so I was ready to give it a go!

Rochelle was also going for a PR, as well as a BQ, so it was a pretty exciting and big weekend for the both of us! We kicked it off on Thursday night with a little bon voyage / pre-marathon celebration at the Thursday night run club complete with a 26.2 watermelon! Then, on Friday we made our way over to Denver, and Saturday we did a 5K shake-out race at Invesco Field in support of the American Heart Association. The race started at 9am and it was already scorching hot out which got us both pretty worried about how the heat might effect us the next day! After the 5K, we headed to the race expo for packet pick-up then relaxed for the rest of the day at the hotel before attempting to get some sleep before our 3:08am wake-up call.

Team Beef at the Heart Walk 5K

I got to sleep fairly quickly, but then woke up around midnight and off-and-on for the rest of the night leaving me almost glad when the alarm went off shortly after 3. We quickly got ready and headed down to catch the shuttle at 4am. One of the benefits of staying at the Sheraton Race Hotel was that we got our own personal shuttle that took us to the start... what I didn't realize until that morning was that it wasn't your typical was a party bus! Pretty sweet!

Party Bus!
Having too much fun for 3am!

After waiting around at the starting line for about an hour, it was time to start! We had to walk about 1/4 mile from the drop off area over to the start line. Right at 6am we were off! I had throw-away gloves on, but aside from that was just in a tank top and it was pretty warm already... this had me a little should not be this warm at 6am at 10,000' in elevation!

Sunrise from the starting line!

Despite my concerns about the weather, I just eased into a comfortable, sustainable pace. Since I had ran this back in 2015, I knew the course, and knew that mentally I would focus on breaking the race up into 4 segments: Miles 1-11 are the fastest of the course with a nice downhill grade. Miles 12-16 are the hardest of the course with some big rolling hills. 17-22 are very gentle downhill with some rollers, until finally the last 4 are a fairly significant downhill grade again.

Around Mile 10 or so

As expected Miles 1-11 were the fastest, averaging in the low to mid 8:00's. I had some Clif Shot Blocks around Mile 6 before accidentally dropping the remaining around Mile 8 (I was so bummed about this!). Nevertheless, I still had my mini tortilla PB&J bites and my mango's - some "real" food I had been experimenting with on my training runs. I had a PB&J bite around 8, and then started on my Mango's around Mile 10 thru 20.

Shortly after Mile 11, the course turns off of Squaw Pass Road and heads onto Evergreen Parkway. This is where it gets pretty hilly so I braced for the hills and told myself not to take them too hard. It was still early in the race and I knew these hills couldn't make my race, but they could brake I took them nice and easy just focusing on one hill at a time.

I felt pretty good when I crested what I knew was the last major hill of the of the hilly section (there were still some hills later on, but I knew they were *mostly* done), but I also still kept it comfortable because Miles 18-19 were where I got into trouble when I ran this the last time. It was right around that section where I started getting side stiches and major stomach pain resulting in a lot of walking. I got a little worried as I headed through this section hoping that it wouldn't happen again this time around. Thankfully it didn't, and while I did still slow a bit (due to just getting tired), I still felt okay and kept moving as quickly as I could.

While I had been worried about the heat early on, I ended up pleasantly surprised that it stayed pretty overcast and didn't get too hot for the first 20 miles. However, a little after 20, the sun peeked out of the clouds and it started getting much hotter. It was a little after this that I did have my slowest mile of the day and my only mile over 9 minutes - coming in at 9:19, as I walked through an aid station pouring water over my head. Seeing that mile time kind of prompted me to get moving, and I was able to pick up my pace as much as I could for the remaining miles.

These last 6 miles were very, very hard mentally and physically as my quads were REALLY starting to feel the downhill. Nevertheless I kept at it as best as I could. With less than 2 miles to go I tried to do the math on if I still had a shot at a PR. From what my 24-and-a-half-miles-into-a-marathon brain could figure out, I could *maybe* do it, but I knew it would be very close. So I tried my hardest to pick up the pace. Finally I could see the town of Morrison and hear the finish line! I was almost there! I tried to speed up, but I don't think I actually did, finishing in 3:42:22...and missing a PR by just 40 seconds.

Coming into the Finisher's Chute


So... I missed my PR by 40 seconds...How was I feeling? Of course in one sense I automatically think back and ask myself, "did I have 40 seconds in there somewhere?" Honestly, least 30 during the mile I walked and poured water of my head... but aside from that mile I felt really good about the rest of the race. I felt strong the entire time and pushed through some of the harder sections. So while, yes, of course I'm slightly bummed to have missed it by such a small margin...but at the same time, I'm very happy I ran as fast as I did. I have not ran a sub-3:50 marathon in close to 2 years. I had not ran anywhere NEAR a PR time in over 2 years. I had also beat my 2015 race on the same course by about 17 1/2 minutes. So in that sense, I am very happy with this race!

After I crossed the finish line, I took a few minutes to catch my breath then looked for my family. They had signed up to get tracking for both myself and Rochelle and I wanted an update on Rochelle. According to them she had passed the "1-mile-to-go" marker a few minutes prior, which meant she would be finishing any minute now! This also meant that she was going to blow her BQ out of the water. She need sub-4:00 (but really a 3:55 to actually have enough of a cushion to get into Boston)...and she finished in 3:51:17!!! A huge PR, a BQ, and 3rd in her age group! Amazing - and so much fun to get to celebrate with her!

Race: Revel Rockies Marathon
Distance: 26.2 Miles (my Garmin came in at 26.45 - but that's pretty common for most marathons)
Date: June 11th, 2017
Bib: 1036
Weather: 41 and sunny at the start. Mid-60's by the end.
Gun Time: 3:42:51
Chip Time: 3:42:22
Average Pace: 8:29 per mile
Overall Rank: 184 of 655
Gender Rank: 45 of 310
Age Rank (F25-29): 9 of 53
Splits: 8:27, 7:57, 8:14, 7:52, 8:11, 8:19, 8:15, 7:54, 8:10, 8:06, 8:08, 8:24, 8:24, 8:48, 8:47, 8:32, 8:16, 8:29, 8:27, 8:34, 8:41, 9:19, 8:40, 8:45, 8:34, 8:18, 8:14 (last .45).

After the race, we relaxed for a bit at the finish line with our friend Liz (who lives locally and came to watch us finish! So cool) and my family for a few before they left.

Thanks to my parents and aunt for coming to watch me finish!

They also made me a sign!

Rochelle and I at the finish! I'm so glad she got her BQ and will be going to Boston next April!

Free and easy Ice Bath!

"I need a run, a medal, and cold beer"!

Race Swag!

The other cool thing about this weekend was that an online friend of mine from Texas (one of the people I met up with to run the Houston Marathon back in January) was racing Ironman Boulder this very same day! If you don't know the details of an ironman, it's a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 (marathon) run. Easy peasy right?! Ha! Because of the crazy length of the event, my friend wouldn't be starting the marathon portion until around 2:00 or so that I had to go watch! I've also always thought it would be fun to watch an Ironman, so this was the perfect opportunity! It was very inspiring to watch, and I'm so glad I got to see her finish. She also PR'd - which was especially amazing given that she came from sea level to race in Boulder (5400'). Clearly this was a weekend for kicking all the a$$!

Meeting up with online friends at the Ironman!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Skirt Sports 13er & Ambassador Retreat 2017

After the amazing time I had at last year's Skirt Sports Ambassador Retreat, I knew I had to make it again this year! In fact, I am so thankful I live within driving distance of Boulder so that I can easily make this happen most years! It's such a fun event, and a whirlwind of a weekend catching up with friends I've met throughout the past three years during my time as an ambassador for this great company. Not only is it a blast, but it is always so inspiring to see how positive and uplifting the women's running community can be!

Skirt Sports once again did a great job organizing such a wonderful weekend of events, complete with some incredibly inspirational speakers! I'm not the best at words (I've said it before and I'll say it again - I started this blog mostly to share pictures - you just got stuck with listening to me blabber along the way!), so I encourage you to check out a fellow ambassador's blog for a more detailed account of some of the awesome speakers we heard at: Rural Running Redhead (I mean, her post's title alone does a much better job describing the awesomeness of this weekend)!

Essentially the weekend consists of three day's worth of activities: a cocktail reception on Friday night, a very full morning of hiking, breakout sessions, and speakers on Saturday, culminating in a 5K/10K/Half Marathon race on Sunday. It's busy, exhausting, but totally worth it!

FRIDAY: Cocktail Reception

Friday actually ended up being much more than just a cocktail reception this year, as I ended up meeting up with Mary, a fellow ambassador and friend that morning for some exploring around the mountains before we made our way to Boulder. It actually worked out perfectly, as she had come out early to stay in Vail for a few days and knew I would be heading right by there on my way to to Boulder! I ended up picking her up in the late morning, and we went and checked out Breckenridge for a bit. She had wanted to see "Vertical Runner" - America's Highest Running Store, and a sister store to her Vertical Runner in Ohio. We also got lunch and then stopped off at a few scenic area's along the way, including Vail Pass and Loveland Pass!

It's definitely still winter at 12,000'!

Of course we had to get a running selfie along the way!

After all of our fun detours, we eventually made it to Boulder around 4:30. This left the perfect amount of time to get a little (or a lot of) shopping in before spending the rest of the evening catching up with everyone, enjoying (and participating in) a fashion show of some of next season's products, and hearing some great speeches by the incredible Nicole (founder of Skirt Sports) and wonderful Noelle (Community Outreach Director...aka the person who helps with all things ambassador related!).

That's a lot of Skirt Love!
Practicing my modeling skills! ;)

SATURDAY: Ambassador Hike & Breakout Sessions

On Saturday I carpooled into downtown Boulder with some friends staying in the Louisville area. We set out first for a hike around Settler's Park / Red Rocks Trail before meeting back up for some breakout sessions which included 4 wonderful speakers, a yoga session, and lunch by Mad Greens. Our speakers for the day were Maria Uspenski from The Tea Spot, the famous Mirna Valerio (her blog FatGirlRunning is very well known - and she's coming out with a book this fall!), Mary Sutter (who I spent Friday with and had excellent Social Media tips), and Dr. James Rouse the founder of Skoop. They were all such great speakers, this day left me feeling so inspired and upbeat!

My hiking group (they had 4 groups of at least this size to tell you how many of us there were!)

Getting a selfie with the famous Mirna!

SUNDAY: Race Day!

Sunday was Race Day... I was one week out from my goal marathon of the year, so I had a set way I wanted to run this. Easy for the first 10 miles, and then pick it up for the last 3. It worked out very well, especially since there is a giant hill from Miles 6-8 (wouldn't want to be going for time up that!). It's also just a beautiful course so I enjoyed taking pictures, chatting with people and just having a good time with it.

I loved this sign that Rural Running Redhead had!

These views though... 

Attempting to get a jumping picture...didn't work out that great!

Surprise: I ended up 2nd in my Age Group!

Distance: Half Marathon (13.1 Miles)
Weather: 60's at the start, into the 70's and sunny
Elevation Gain: 562 Feet
Gun Time: 2:03:46
Chip Time: 2:03:39
Average Pace: 9:26
Overall Rank: 30 of 183
Gender Rank: 30 of 183 (women's only race)
Division Rank (F20-29): 2 of 14
Splits: 10:20, 9:42, 9:12, 9:47, 9:31, 9:03, 9:20, 10:15, 10:59, 9:16, 8:17, 8:36, 7:43

After the race I stuck around for about an hour cheering friends on before deciding to run back to my parents and shower before the post-race brunch! The brunch was new this year and what a perfect way to end the weekend!

Thank you SO much to the sponsor's who helped make our ambassador weekend amazing:

Good thing I had these Skirt pockets to hold all my goodies!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Southwest Colorado Road Trip {Great Sand Dunes}

This past memorial day Scott, myself, and the pups took an anniversary road trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park. We've been before, but it had been several years, and I had never been in the spring when the Medano Creek flows through the park. When I booked the trip though, I didn't realize this was apparently the most crowded weekend of the entire year for this park (my bad!). Nevertheless, we were looking forward to a beautiful weekend in the mountains.

What began as simply a trip to the Sand Dunes, ended up turning into more of a "road trip" / explore Southwest Colorado (and a little bit of New Mexico!) trip, as we definitely took some longer, but significantly more scenic routes along the way. We actually ended up traveling almost 1000 miles over the course of the weekend checking off some places I have never been.

Last summer I took my Colorado Map out of my car and started highlighting all of the major roads in the state that I have driven, with a goal of eventually driving all of them (or at least all of the ones through the Mountains - not sure about all the Eastern Plains yet!). I definitely got to highlight several more after this trip!

So without further ado, I think I will recap the trip based on the timeline and route:

Day 1: Grand Junction to Alamosa by way of Highway 65 over the Grand Mesa, Highway 92 along the northern side of the Gunnison Gorge, and then finishing up with the traditional route to Alamosa through Saguache and Monte Vista (Highways 114 and 285).

The Grand Mesa detour was "on-the-way" without being "on-the-way" at all... By that I mean, if you look at the map it looks like it's on the way, but it probably adds a solid hour and half more than if you were to take the standard route from Highway 50 south (after all you are making a detour that goes from 4500' elevation up to 10,800' and back down to 5000'). Honestly though, the reason for going this way was that I just wanted to do a downhill run from the top of the Grand Mesa into the town of Cedaredge. This had been on my list of training runs I wanted to do before my upcoming marathon...but logistics made it impossible until today. MANY thanks to my hubby for dropping me off at the top, and then waiting for me to run 17 miles down the Mesa (at least it was a fast one for me, averaging an 8:15 pace for the run). It was also gorgeous, and the spring weather made it just about perfect!

From my run down the Grand Mesa

Before I started, we did let the dogs out to run around at the Crag Crest Trailhead. It was just a little snowy up there still:

After Scott picked me up, we continued the drive south, while making our second detour of the day: taking Highway 92 instead of the traditional Highway 50 route. Highway 92 runs along the north side of the Black Canyon and the Gunnison Gorge and was seriously beautiful. I will warn you though that it is pretty remote. There wasn't much of any civilization once you pass through Crawford until you get to Gunnison. It was definitely worth the extra time driving this road though!

Day 2: Alamosa to the Sand Dunes, with an afternoon trip to Taos, New Mexico looping highways 159 and 285 through a lot of very small towns!

Saturday was our full day at the Dunes, and I had originally intended to spend the entire day at the Dunes. I brought towels and lawn chairs and lunch. Since my plan had been for the entire day, we did sleep in a little, arriving at the park around 10:00am, and as expected, it was CROWDED. We waited about 30 minutes to get into the park, but then, by some miracle, ended up with a parking spot right up front (it seriously was a miracle!). We decided to first hike up to High Dune. We hiked this last time we were here, and while it's short, it's kind of tough since you're, you know, hiking in SAND. Nevertheless, the view from the top is beautiful so I wanted to do it again. Unfortauntely we made it about 2/3 of the way there before realizing the sand was getting too hot for the dogs feet, so we headed back, as we figured it was only going to get worse.

After that we hung out by the water for a bit, until it, unfortunately got very windy and overcast. The Medano Creek, while really cool, was also FREEZING, and if it's not warm out, it felt extra freezing. The wind also made the sand kind of rough to be in, so we decided to pack it up. What we were going to do for the rest of our day, we hadn't yet decided...but being outside in the cold, windy sand wasn't working that well. After contemplating for a bit, we decided...why not drive to New Mexico? What else are we going to do? We didn't come all the way to Alamosa to sit in the hotel afterall! So it was settled. We realized there was a nice loop we could do that would take us down to Taos, New Mexico, and back up into Colorado. Along the way, we also drove over the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge which was pretty cool.

The Rio Grande Gorge

Day 3: Sunrise at the Sand Dunes, then Alamosa back to Grand Junction by way of Highway 160 through South Fork, Pagosa Springs and into Durango. Then North on 550 through Silverton, Ouray, and Montrose.

I wanted to get back to the Sand Dunes one more time before we headed back, so I decided to make a sunrise trip out of it. I figured this would be gorgeous and a nice way to enjoy the Dunes without the crazy crowds that are there during the day. Overall, I'm glad I did it (the dunes are so pretty in solitude!), but it was seriously COLD (especially crossing Medano Creek), and I probably wouldn't do it again.

After the sunrise trip, we headed back home, but this time taking an even longer route which went through South Fork, Pagosa Springs, Durango, Silverton and Ouray. I had never been over Wolf Creek Pass and into Pagosa Springs, and after just briefly driving through, I know I want to head back sometime to check it out even more!

Coming down from Wolf Creek Pass towards Pagosa Springs

View from Molas Pass

Heading up to Red Mountain Pass
Happy 6 Year Anniversary to us!

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...