Monday, May 25, 2015

BolderBOULDER: Take 2

The first time running a race is filled with countless uncertainties as no two races are the same. Over the past two years we've been figuring out some races out here in the Denver area, including BolderBOULDER, so when we woke up Monday morning it was a bit of relief to have a pretty good idea of what to expect. 

If you happened to read my last post you know that before the Colfax Marathon Relay I wasn't feeling too confident about how I'd do. Well, that's how I was feeling again before this race. My last two runs were not my best, but I pulled it together, spent some quality time with my legs up the wall over the weekend, and tried to put those runs behind me. 

And it's a good thing I did because I beat my pace from last week and last year's BolderBOULDER. I didn't blow it out of the water, but it was better so I'll celebrate that. 

Now that we're veterans of the race, I'll share a few tips for those who want to take this on for the first time:
  1. Get in a qualified wave. You can do this either by submitting verified race times when you register or running a mile on the treadmill at the race headquarters. Either way, you want to do this.
  2. Plan your parking/transportation in advance. Road closures and rolling waves can make this parking tricky but there are plenty of options to make it a hassle-free experience.
  3. Wear layers you can peel off right before your start time. All clothes dropped at the start are cleaned and donated to Goodwill. It's cold in the morning, especially for the early waves, and this will make your start happier.
  4. Plan on lots of time at bag drop and pay the $2 when you register. This is a great service but it's also the one aspect of the race that the organizers don't have down to a science. It's actually kind of a mess.
  5. Take in the craziness along the course. I really can't imagine another race with the interesting combination of course-side entertainment and distractions. Belly dancers? Check. Slip-'n-slide action? Only if you dare. Bacon pit-stop? Yep. Drum circle. Oh, yes.
  6. Celebrate with friends and family. It's a big party at the finish line and post-race expo. If you can, stick around for a bit to enjoy the good craft beer, cheer runners on to the finish as they come through the stadium and check out the expo and Memorial Day salute after the Elite finish. It's a good time.
Woody enjoying an Oskar Blues brew (no light beer for finishers at this race)
Celebrating with Oiselle teammates with the finish line in the background

Overall it was a great day and now it's time to recharge and focus on my next race, the Gothic to Crested Butte 1/3 Marathon in early July.

Congrats to everyone who raced this weekend and more importantly, thank you to all who have dedicated their life to serving and protecting our country. Our freedom - and ability to do so many things we take for granted, like running races - depends on this dedication.

How did you celebrate Memorial Day?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Race Recap: Colfax Marathon Relay

Sunday was the 10th annual Colfax Marathon. While that's the name of the race, it doesn't come close to covering the massive event which starts on Saturday with a 5k followed by the marathon, marathon relay, half marathon, and 10 miler on Sunday. Across the various races, the routes extend from Aurora east of downtown to Lakewood out west. 

I ran the marathon relay with a team of fellow Oiselle runners - Laura, Kasey, and Lindsay, plus honorary bird, Lisa. It was a pretty fantastic morning and went much better than I expected.

Waiting for Lisa - our first runner - at Mile High Stadium
I hardly slept a wink Saturday night. The nerves had hold of me. After not running for more than two weeks with a virus that just wouldn't let go, I spent last week desperately trying to get back into shape. I've been working hard this year to build up my mileage and speed, in smart and manageable ways, with this relay - my first race of the year - and Monday's BolderBOULDER in my sights. And it had all been going really well until I got sick and everything came to a halt. 

Once I started running again I kept running. I ran every day last week. Which I realized on Saturday, when I struggled through a four-miler, probably was not the smartest idea. 

But I had the heavy weight of self-imposed pressure on my shoulders to not let my team down. This was my first relay; four other people were counting on me to not sleep through my alarm (which thankfully I've never done before), be ready for Lindsay for the hand-off, and finish my leg of the race - the last leg of the race - without collapsing on the side of the course. 

Lisa flying into the chute, ready to hand off to Laura

Laura on the 2nd - and most scenic - leg around Sloan's Lake
Lindsay out on Colfax, heading my way
I warmed up three times while I waited at Mile High Stadium for Lindsay to pass me the baton. I stressed over when to eat the Picky Bar I had in my pocket, how much water to drink, if there was going to be toilet paper left in the port-a-potty on my last visit (there almost wasn't), and when to use my inhaler without knowing exactly when I'd start running. I decided to go out conservatively and take my time then kick it up a notch in the second half if I was feeling good. I also tried to focus on the fun atmosphere, the beautiful day, my awesome teammates, and the fact that we were in it to have fun, not to win the race. 

After nearly 3 hours they called our number and I popped out to the front of the line to see Lindsay coming down the hill - the only relay runner coming through. I cheered her in and took the baton. It was my turn.

Most of the next 6.2 miles were familiar territory for me with the exception being the start. The last leg, like the first, runs through Mile High Stadium, right along the edge of the field. Even though I'm pretty indifferent to the team, it was pretty cool to run through the stadium where the Denver Bronco's play.

I was feeling pretty good as I got going and waited till we crossed over the Platte River to glance at my watch. 8:30-ish pace?! Oh heck no! From that point on my pace varied wildly as I consciously tried to keep it real but kept catching myself speeding up and needing to pull back. It was a roller coaster but one that didn't come completely off the tracks. 

We ran along the Platte River, Cherry Creek, through downtown, and down a long stretch of 17th Street back to City Park where it all began. The police presence along the course managing traffic was pretty incredible. I tried to thank as many as I could along the way because I certainly would not want their job!

The finish line seemed a lot farther than I expected once we made it into the park, but as I got closer and it came into view I spotted my teammates along the side cheering, giving me that extra push I needed. Better yet, they joined me on the course and we kicked our way to the finish line. Together.

Yep. It was pretty awesome.

Finish Line Selfie 
Celebrating at the post-race festival
I finished my leg with an overall pace of 9:09 - which is far beyond what I was expecting. Our team finished in 3:57:26, an 8:54 pace and #235 of 1074 relay teams. We rocked it.

Big props go out to Laura, who organized the team and raced at 23 weeks pregnant, and Lisa, who ran Boston last month! Lindsay and Kacey are also running the streets of Boulder Memorial Day. Thank you for being such a fun and strong group of women to run with!

In the end, I didn't need to stress nearly as much as I did so this week I'm going to take it easy on the training, try to get a little extra sleep each night, eat well, and get to the start line Monday morning feeling great. I certainly look forward to my next relay with Oiselle!

If you've run a relay race, what was your favorite part of the experience and what advice would you give to newbies? * What races do you have on tap for this spring/summer?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

My Latest Denver Addiction: High Line Canal Trail

In early April fellow Denver Oiselle runner Lindsay introduced me to the High Line Canal Trail. I'm not sure how I've missed out on this gem for so long, but I'm glad I'm in on it now. The 71 mile urban trail winds its way from the Roxborough State Park south west of Denver to Aurora in the north east. 

Since that first run, I've been back twice more: once with Woody for a seven mile run, and also on my Birthday this past Thursday for a 5-mile walk/jog. In retrospect I shouldn't have gone out on Thursday being that I'm sick and all, but I was determined and stubborn, and so I went anyway. I had planned to start my birthday with an 8-mile run, so at least I adjusted when I got sick and pulled back a little (although I highly doubt I did myself any good by going out at all).

While I've only experienced one small section thus far, it is a beautiful one for sure and a nice reprieve from my regular scenery. Starting just south of E Hampden off Colorado Blvd (there are some parallel parking spots for trail users just outside a church parking lot) and just a little further south on Colorado Blvd where there are some spots along the side of the road at Three Pond Park. 

The wide trail - a mix of paved and natural surface - is open to runners, walkers, bikers, dogs (on-leash), and horses. Its owned by Denver Water, but maintained by the municipalities it runs through, so regulations can vary in local areas. Since the trail goes through some parks, there are some facilities along the way but it's best to bring along your own water.

Here's one map for reference, although it's not perfect as it doesn't trace the trail all the way to Roxborough State Park. Still, a good reference. I'm hoping we spend a lot of time on this trail and explore many other sections. Until then, here are some photos I captured to share the gorgeousness with you. How could someone not love this?

How good are you at cutting back on running or exercise when you get sick? * What was the best part of your weekend? * Who's up for joining me on the High Line Canal Trail?