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


  1. I wondered how the altitude would affect you. If you'd had the chance, maybe you could have arrived a few days earlier to acclimate. Sorry about your time, but, geez, 35 half marathons! You have NOTHING to apologize for.

    Also, sorry about the cup situation. That happened to me at the hottest half I ran. They held the water jug up and we got to suck out of the nozzle. Nice.

  2. Bummer about the terrible course support. There really is not excuse for it when the event is in the tenth year. Way to finish regardless though! Altitude is no joke!

  3. That's terrible about having to wait in line to get water on the course and not having enough support. BUT Congrats on 35 half marathons! That's a lot. This will onlyt make the next one feel so much better, right!

  4. I just did my 33rd half and had my Personal Worst but the race itself was a delight. No complaints with it at all. Come do VCM!

  5. That sounds like a really frustrating day, but congratulations on sticking it out and finishing! And pretty cool that you guys celebrated your anniversary (part 1) by doing something you both love. :)

  6. 35 half marathons??!! Way to go! Sounds like it wasn't the best one out there, but I like your attitude. You should link this race recap on their website and hopefully they will make some changes in the future!