It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

May 21, 2015

Colfax Half Marathon - The Hardest Race EVER!

For those of you who don't like to read a whole race report, I'll put it simply.  This was half marathon number 35 for me.  This was my worst race to date and my first race ever over 3 hours.  My official race time 3:12!  My normal average is about 2:35.  My worst race time before this was 2:57 and that was 13 miles in 90 degree temps, after running an 9 mile warmup as part of a marathon training run.  So yes, it was hard.  I had worried about the altitude but I had no idea it would impact me quite so badly.
Pre-race before it all fell apart

And now for the rest of the story.......

Mine and Jim's 10 Year Anniversary was May 14, so we decided to make the trip to Denver for this race and to have a long weekend to celebrate our Anniversary.  We left Thursday and spent our actual Anniversary in the very exciting Colby, KS.  We had dinner at a local micro-brewery and then hung out at the local Hampton Inn.  I know you are jealous.  We roll out in style, lol, We plan to have a proper celebration later this year in Maui...that's more like it.

We arrived in Denver midday on Friday.  After a long car ride, lots of rain, and even a few tornadoes I was glad to be out of the car.  We checked in to our favorite - the Hampton Inn and took a few minutes to relax.  Unfortunately the hotel was in the middle of a remodel, so there was so much noise it was impossible to take a nap.  We decided to go ahead and get our packets picked up and I'm glad we did.  The packet pickup was the coolest one I've ever been to.  It was actually located at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum.  There was lots to do and see and the packet pickup seemed very well organized.  My first impressions of the race event were very strong.
Packet Pickup

Later that night and after doing some research we settled on a place to have our official Anniversary dinner.  We went to a local place called Bastiens Steakhouse, which has been around since 1937. Pretty cool huh?  Actually it was a drive-inn in 1937 and in 1958 the drive-inn was torn down and the restaurant was built, but it was all the same family.  It is still in the same location, and I imagine it still looks very much like it did in 1958.  It's a very eclectic, fun place and the food was awesome!

The race wasn't until Sunday so we had a bit of time to kill on Saturday.  We drove around the local area and tried to catch a few glimpses of the mountains.  I wish we had a little more time and we could have driven into the mountains or gone for a hike, but not on this trip.  The weather was less than ideal for most of the stay with lots of rain and cooler temps.  We didn't do much Saturday.  We walked to Whole Foods for lunch and on the way back to the hotel on a very, very slight incline I found myself completely out of breath.  I looked at Jim and said "I'm struggling to walk up this little hill....I think that's not a good sign for tomorrow" and it certainly wasn't.  Later that evening we had dinner at another local pizza place in "Lodo" - Lower Downtown.  I had lasagna which was fantastic and Jim had the pizza.  It was a fun little place, though it seemed to draw a much younger crowd on a Saturday night.  We were glad we came and were leaving early.

We had a super early wake-up call on Sunday morning.  Jim's race started at 6 am, so we left the hotel at 4:45.  My race wasn't scheduled to start until 6:45 so I was already bummed about having the 45 minutes to wait....but my wait turned out to be much longer. I'll get to that in a minute.  Anyway, we got to the race and found a place to park, no thanks to the volunteers.  With a race this size, I fully expected people to direct you to where to park, but you just found a spot and moved on.  No biggie.

Of course Jim and I had to go to the bathroom as soon as we got there.  We walk over to the porta potties and see that there are plenty, but there are lines at several of them and most of them are empty.  We of course walk toward the open ones, wondering why everyone is in line, and then realize they are all locked.  They have zip ties through them so they can't be used and this is literally just an hour before the race.  A bit of a fail if you ask me.  Someone's husband just happened to have a pocket knife and opened a few.  I'm not sure when the rest of theme actually got opened.
Pre-race entertainment

It was rather chilly at just over 40 degrees so Jim and I waited in the car.  He finally left and I wished him luck.  I planned to wait in the car for much longer, but of course I had to go to the porta potty again and I didn't have a key to the car so I headed down to the race start at 5:55, even though my race wouldn't start for quite awhile.  Luckily they had a close bag drop so I was able to keep my coat on until just a few minutes before I got in line.

I wandered around the start area for a little while and took some pictures.  It was going to be a gorgeous race morning. Absolutely perfect temperatures to start.  Finally about 6;35, I decide to get in my corral.  I had searched and searched the website to see if they had start waves and couldn't find anything indicating they did, so I just assumed the corrals were there to have the runners grouped with similiar paced runners.  I was WRONG.  I hate, hate, hate, wave starts. I understand why some races do them, but I think they are awful.  Our wave didn't end up going until 7:17 - a full 30 minutes after the start time.  I'm sure they mentioned this somewhere, but I missed it.  If I had known I would have gotten in line much later and would have gone to the bathroom again.  By the time we started I had to go to the bathroom really badly.  I passed the time waiting for the race to start by talking to a couple of locals who both assured me the altitude would be no issue.  Um, easy to say when you are from there I guess.

We finally start and I try to start slow.  I had told myself going into the race that I didn't care about my time. I figured worse case scenario I'd be right at 3 hours.  I didn't want to go out too hard and be sick.  I was meeting up with a friend right after the race and the last thing I wanted to do was be sick. So I had set myself a run walk alert for run 4:30 and walk 1 min.  That should feel "easy".  Immediately within the first 10th of a mile I feel completely winded.  I try to slow down some and think I'm maybe going too fast.  Within just a few feet I decide to stop and catch my breath and take a picture.  I was also Instagramming for Sport Chalet during the race, which was fun, but added another layer of complexity.  I was able to somewhat maintain my run/walk plan for about the first 3 miles, but after that I just couldn't.  That feeling of never being able to catch my breath was just too much and it was constant.  I found myself walking for 2 or 3 minutes and then running for maybe a minute. I decided to reset my run/walk or I knew I'd walk way too much.  I set it for a run/walk ratio of 1:30/45.  I still couldn't do this.  I was rarely able for the remainder of the race to even finish that 1;30 interval. It was rough.  The altitude totally kicked my butt, and yet Jim said he didn't notice it at all.  I guess everyone is different.
Not sure what this was all about...mile 11ish

Back to the course.  The first part of the course if through a beautiful City park, and then mile 2-3 roughly are through the local zoo, which was pretty cool.  I stopped and took alot of pics through the zoo.  Right after the zoo you reach your first water stop at roughly mile 2.5 or 3. I can't remember for certain.  I see a line, as you often do, so I try to run past it for the next stop when I realize that was it.   They had one table for water and one table for gatorade and one single person working each table!!!  It was ridiculous.  So I had to back track and stand in line, while that poor single volunteer filled each individual cup and handed it to the next person.  I was very frustrated by this.  It was not the volunteers fault.  It was the fault of the race that they clearly did not have enough volunteers for the stop.  The next few miles were very boring and just through some old, kind of run down neighborhoods.  There really wasn't anything to see at all.  I make it to the 2nd water stop where once again you have to wait in line for water.  There is no gatorade.  They are already out.  There are a couple more people at this station, but literally only 3 or 4. I also stop here and finally go to the bathroom.  I'm also hoping if I catch my breath a bit I might feel better...but it doesn't work.

Pics from the zoo
I keep going, through more boring locations, short of breath and honestly just wanting to be finished. I was truly feeling pretty miserable.  I finally make it to the next water stop hoping for some Gatorade and not only do they not have that - they are completely out of cups.  They are pouring water into the runners hands.....seriously?  I take a handful, which literally tastes like sweat and who know what else and I start thinking about just how dirty and disgusting my hands are.  I didn't ask for more.  The great thing, you do a short out and back here so this serves as the water stop for mile 7 and for mile 8.5.  So yes, you guessed it no water on the way back either.  I was so frustrated by this point.  This is a HUGE race day failure.  There is just no excuse.  I skip the water on the way back because I do not feel like ingesting my own sweat, etc again.  As I am running back by the water stop however, someone decides to get out a hose and then immediately sprays it right at my feet.  Instantly my feet are completely soaked. So now I'm tired, thirsty and I have soaked feet.  Seriously, I am not having a good day.

The scenery finally changes and you run down some old streets in Denver with views of the mountains, through some beautiful old tree lined streets, and directly through the fire station which was really cool.  The fire station was definitely one of the highlights of the race for me.  The firemen were there cheering you on.  They were great!  The next few water stops at least have cups, but still no gatorade.  I basically did not have water from about mile 6 to about mile 10 and only gatorade at the very first stop, which I actually normally don't take.  I usually only drink gatorade 2 or 3 times during a race, but it is part of my calorie intake since I don't do gels, etc.
Through the Fire Station
I finally make it to the last mile and I seriously can't wait to be done.  I've been on my feet for far too long.  I know Jim is already done with his MARATHON and I'm still trying to finish the half.  I finally cross the finish line in my very disappointed 3:12 and find Jim who is there waiting for me. I grab my medal which is being handed out by the local fireman which is seriously cool and makes me feel a little better.  They did have some gatorade in cups at the finish...maybe they should have moved that to the course?

Anyway, I did accomplish one goal I felt okay after the race. I didn't have any sign of altitude sickness. I was just tired.  Jim and I headed back to the hotel and showered and packed and grabbed a quick bite to eat before we said goodbye.  I have a girlfriend who moved to Ft. Collins last year that I was staying with for a couple of days.  So after the race, I visited with her and her husband and new puppy!! So adorable.  It continued to rain the rest of the time I was there, so we didn't get to do much...just eat some more...I feel like I ate a lot this trip!
My friend's completely adorable puppy - Opie
Overall, Jim and I had a great weekend in Denver.  I thought the overall race was really good, but the on course support was the worse I have ever experienced.  This is the 10th annual event, so I'm not sure what happened.  But it was a huge fail.  I would probably still recommend it, but maybe just be sure to bring your own fluids.  And just be prepared to be slow if you aren't used to the altitude. At the end of the day I always have "fun" no matter what and while my experience wasn't great, I'm always still ready to put the shoes back on and race another day!
Firefighter handing out medals

May 14, 2015

10 Years

Wow, Jim and I are celebrating our 10 Year Anniversary today.  Time goes by in the blink of an eye.  In so many ways I can’t believe it’s been 10 years, but in other ways so much has happened.

10 years ago Jim’s kids were just 14 and 15, still in high school.  In 10 years I’ve seen them graduate, get married, and have children. 
10 years ago both of my parents were alive.  Now I have neither. 

10 years ago I couldn't run a mile, much less 26.2.  I probably couldn't have told you what a triathlon consisted of, and certainly could never have imagined doing 70.3 miles at one time. 

10 years ago I looked a lot younger…and well I was a lot younger. 
10 years ago Jim and I bought a house, and we are still living here.

10 years ago I married my best friend in the world, and I can still say that today.
10 years ago I was desperately in love with the man who sang to me at my wedding.  Today I love him even more.  I love the life he has given me.  I love the extended family I am part of.  I love our life together.

So many things have in my life have changed in the last 10 years, but mostly all for the better.  I wish my parents were here, but other than that I’m not sure I’d change a thing. 
Of course there have been challenges along the way…but I don’t know a couple who hasn't had at least a few. 

I look back and think about the day we got married.  It was a gorgeous hot summer like day.  I remember being slightly sunburned from our outdoor wedding.  We had a simple, small, family wedding and it was perfect. 
I didn't hire a photographer and it’s one thing I regret.  I have pictures, but not as many as I’d like. It was sunny so most of them are pretty washed out.  But I'm still glad to have the  memories.  

Jim and I rushed off to Maui after the wedding for our honeymoon and it was the most fantastic trips either of us had or have ever experienced.  This year we’ll return to Maui to celebrate 10 years together (a little late because of course now we have to do a race too

).  We’ll hit Maui in September and I can’t wait.
Happy Anniversary Jim! I love you more and more each day!  I can't wait to see what the next 10 years brings!

May 12, 2015

Running with the Cows Half Marathon 2015 - Review

This was 6th annual Running with the Cows (RWTC) Half Marathon and my third year in a row participating in the race.  If you are looking for a rural, hilly race than this is the race for you!  If you don't like cows, pasture and might want to skip it....however it does have some other things you might enjoy.

First this race is the 3rd and final race in the Heartland 39.3 race series, where you finish 3 half marathons in 5 weeks (Rock the Parkway, Garmin Half, and Running with the Cows).  This was my 2nd year completing the Heartland 39.3 series.  This year I got a larger outer medal "holder" for last year's medal.  If I complete 3 years in a row I'll get a jacket. So yes, I'll be doing it me a sucker.

Anyway, back to RWTC.  I won't lie, this is a challenging course, and was made even more challenging this year with a course change.  It's also not particularly exciting.  You pretty much run on back roads out in the country.  For many people this is awesome!  Country roads and fresh air...but I prefer people and more to see.  But this race still has so much going for it.  First, it is by far one of the most well organized and friendliest races I've ever done.  Everyone has to be bused to the race start, but they are so well organized and you basically have a bus waiting for you where you park.  They make the quick trip to the school where the race starts and when you get off the bus, there are people everywhere greeting you and telling you thank you for coming to their race. They are awesome. They have a bag drop inside the school and also pre-run breakfast if you are interested. You see nothing but friendly faces and amazing volunteers.  The medal and shirt are also great.  And the post race spread....well it's like no race I've ever done.  There is so much food.  There are homemade items as well as catered in sandwiches, BBQ, pizza...and so on.

Even though this is a smaller race, they also have pacers which is great.  After my last disaster race at Garmin I decided to start slow and to do that I started with the 2:35 pace group.  I was hoping I would finish around 2:35, but with my slower running times this year I doubted it, but thought if I at least started with the 2:35 maybe I'd stick with them and I wouldn't go out to fast.  Historically I've been about 5 minutes slower at this race than Rock the Parkway - which was the case again this year.  I did 2:35 at Rock the Parkway and a 2:40 here.
Me & Kelly pre-race

The race has true rolling hills.  The course is hilly, and the hills just never stop, but for the most part none are particularly steep.  That is until this year!  As I've mentioned this was my third year and this year they changed the course.  I couldn't get the map to pull up for some reason so I wasn't sure what the course change was. Well, for SOME reason they decided to add a HUGE hill at mile 9.  So here's my deal.  Miles 9-10 are typically the most difficult of the race for me.  They are truly my "make it or break it" miles  Honestly as I was finishing up mile 8 I was feeling pretty good.  I was hanging right with the 2:35 pace group and I started thinking wow, I might just finish here. I feel strong.  I feel great. I am woman hear me roar...blah, blah, blah.

But then comes mile 9.  Literally right at mile 9 you start the climb.  Is this the biggest hill I've ever climbed - no, but it was unexpected and for me came at my hardest part of the race.  It is a 70 foot climb over .6 miles...just up, up, up.  It was tough and here is where I faltered.  It just took too miuch out of me.  You get a nice little downhill for the balance of mile 9, and then you just go up, up, up again.  Mile 10 to 11 is basically an 80 foot climb uphill.  There are some little rollers in there, but overall you just keep going up.  It was just a killer.  I had managed to average around an 11:35 for the first 9 miles (even with that hill), but then that just took it out of me and I just couldn't keep my pace after that.  My last few miles were in the 12s, with mile 11 at a 13 something pace.

I finally reached 13 miles on my Garmin and though wahoo I'm almost done.  But, I couldn't see the finish line anywhere.  That's when I knew the race was going to be super long.  I knew by mile 11 I wouldn't make 2:35, but I thought I might still be able to do a 2:38 or 2;39.  I pushed at the end and when my watch was at 13.1 miles I was at 2:38.  I could see the finish line and thought maybe if I pushed I could still come in under 2:40....but I crashed.  I literally had to stop and walk with the finish line like 500 feet in front of me.  I ended up with 2:40:03....I just couldn't push those last few seconds.  I was kind of bummed and mad at myself that I wouldn't just push a bit more, but I was spent. Those last hills had just killed me.  Did I mention it's an uphill finish??

So yes, it's a hilly course.  It's constant hills, but I'd still recommend this race anyway.  The aid stations are awesome.  People are so friendly and they have one about every 1.5 miles.  Then when you get done you get a cowbell, your medal and of course that insane post race spread!

I found a bit of food and my friends and headed home with  my double race bling and excited to be done with 3 marathon in 5 weeks.

Now I will add another one.  I'll be doing the Colfax Half Marathon this weekend in Denver. It will be my first race at altitude and I'm pretty sure I might die.  I expect this race to be like 3+ hours.  We shall see.

If you are on Instagram please follow @sportchaletexperts - I will be Instagramming from their account on Sunday during the race.  So you can literally follow my adventure as I update throughout the race.  It should be fun!!!!
Additional race bling for the 3 race series

May 01, 2015

The Garmin Half Marathon - 2015

Well, I did a half marathon almost two weeks ago and I’m just now finding time to sit down and write up a recap.  Unfortunately, the day after the race I left for a two week business trip and there’s just been no extra time.  So anyway here goes. It will be short.
We're Not In Kansas anymore..wait we are

I only did the Garmin Half Marathon in Olathe, KS because it is part of what is called the Heartland 39.3 series which is 3 local half marathons over 5 weeks.  You can register for a discounted price and do all three races and there is some bonus bling at the end of all 3 events.  If I do it 3 years in a row I earn a jacket – this makes year #2 for me.   So I have to do it one more year for the jacket. 
Honestly, if it weren’t one of the required races, I’m not sure I would have done it again.   To me the course is hilly (tho called “Wickedly Fast”) and kind of boring.  There is little to no crowd support and at the end of the race you run like half a mile to the finish line which for some reason is just awful.  It’s like so close, but so far away.  They did give out a t-shirt which I really liked, and a nice large medal.  Everything is Wizard of Oz themed (It’s in Kansas) which is kind of fun too.  So there are always lots of people dressed in costume. 

Last year there was a major storm during the race and it even hailed.  This year it rained again, but it honestly felt pretty good.  My race this year was a complete disaster…totally.  Last year I did the Rock the Parkway half marathon, then there was a week break and then Garmin.  This year the races were back to back weekends.  I’ve done back to back half marathons a few other times and had no issues, so  I don’t think that played a huge role. 
My biggest issue is that I was in the porta potty line at the beginning of the race (again).  I’ve done this a few times now.  So before you tell me to get in line earlier, please note that I had already gone through the line once, and thought I had time to get through again…but I didn’t.  So, when I came out of the porta potty the race had already started.  Yes it’s chip timed, but it always panics me.  So I “sprinted” to the start and then jumped in line. I didn’t realize I had jumped in with the 2:10 pace group and I was keeping that pace for the first mile before I realized I was going just way too fast!  I slowed myself down after that but it was honestly just too late.  I had gone out too fast, and I had burned up my reserves too early.

By mile 4 I was feeling exhausted and I knew I was in trouble.  Honestly, most of the race was a blur.  I just remember being tired, feeling like I could never catch my breath and just being incredibly hot.  It was about 65, and pretty humid with rain in the air, but it certainly wasn’t the worst running conditions ever.  But it was a bit warm for me.  Luckily it was overcast which helped. If the sun had been out I think I would have struggled even more.  I was hoping to finish the race around 2:30.  At about mile 5 or 6 the 2:30 group passed me so I knew I was in real trouble. As the miles ticked on, the pace groups continued to pass me and I grew increasingly annoyed.  I wanted to catch up. I wanted to run faster, but I didn’t have anything…I mean nothing.  I think miles 9-13 where at a 15+ minute pace.  I was doing more walking than running and honestly I just wanted to get it over with. 
The rain came about mile 9 and felt pretty good, but it didn’t make me any faster.  I ended up finishing a very disappointing 2:51.  My third slowest half ever, only my 2 very first half marathons in 2009 were slower. 

It was a bad race.  It happens I suppose.  I do think I know what caused it for the most part.  It was a combination of being a little warm and going out to fast – but the going out to fast definitely had the biggest impact.
I have my third race next weekend – which has always typically
been my slowest of the 3 races, so I’m hopeful it will go much, much better.