Once more with feeling!

Suffice it to say, a lot has happened in the six months since my last post. The summer came and went (sadly, it’s my favorite season) complete with five weddings, a visit from our dear friends Samantha and Michael, my 15 year friendiversary trip with one of my besties, Tessa, to Steamboat Springs, and an amazing mini vacay to Lewes, Delaware with my sister and parents.  The fall allowed me the opportunity to present at a national conference, and also brought with it an amazing new job – my dream job!  And finally, this winter began with an intensifying training schedule for, yup, you guessed it, another marathon!  I have heard you get addicted, and I think I just might be.

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Colorado continues to be one of my favorite places to explore – there is so much to see!
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Lewes, Delaware is such a hidden gem along the east coast, and a Labor Day Weekend family tradition!

Over the summer, Samantha introduced me to some amazing workout classes I had been

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Cannot wait to see this lady in two weeks’ time!

too chicken to try before, barre and spin. During her visit and in the midst of our frenzy of fitness, she and I, along with our hubbies, decided to sign up for the Surf City Marathon and Half Marathon. Samantha and my hubby will be running the half, and her hubby and I will be running the full (because we be cray).  We spent a day scouring the interwebs for the right race-cation. After all, we had to find something to rival the Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon experience in November 2014. We narrowed it down to two races, the Napa Valley Marathon and the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, California. I guess palm trees, sea level and Pacific Ocean views won out over wine (also, the Napa Valley Marathon doesn’t allow for earbuds, which would be incredibly tough over 26.2 miles).  So here we are, a mere 16 days until the Marathon, and I am seriously excited.

My training plan had a few hiccoughs early on, including a few colds, and recently has been plagued with snow storms, but thankfully last weekend’s 20 miles felt amazing. I sprinkled the fall and early winter with local races to keep me motivated, including the Hot Chocolate 15k, the Denver Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon, the Esprit de She 10k, the Pumpkin Pie 10k, the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, the Colder Bolder 5k, the Resolve 5k.  In some ways, it’s all downhill from here, especially considering the race is at sea level.

Again I made sure to incorporate strength training with running, and also incorporated some spin classes in my schedule.  This time, I gave myself over five months to prepare, both mentally and physically.  I hadn’t reduced my running all that much during the summer, so it wasn’t too much of a transition into the next training schedule. Below are the miles for my first 20 weeks of training.  Just a few weeks left before the big day – I cannot wait!

Date (Monday) WEEK Total Miles
8/29/2016 1 23.24
9/5/2016 2 12.74
9/12/2016 3 6.24
9/19/2016 4 12.05
9/26/2016 5 24.88
10/3/2016 6 18.82
10/10/2016 7 21.62
10/17/2016 8 15.61
10/24/2016 9 22.83
10/31/2016 10 18.51
11/7/2016 11 27.6
11/14/2016 12 27.67
11/21/2016 13 15.96
11/28/2016 14 18.83
12/5/2016 15 28.9
12/12/2016 16 6.28
12/19/2016 17 31.98
12/26/2016 18 28.46
1/2/2017 19 32.75
1/9/2017 20 33.31

Chocolate Made Me Do It: Denver Hot Chocolate 15K

Given that it is the fall semester on a college campus, I should not be surprised that I am finally recovered from an epic early cold season amalgamation of viruses.  After returning from the UK I came down with a nasty cold, but the following week assumed I was on the mend… until Sunday rolled around.  Last week I finally went to the doctor and was prescribed some terribly effective medication, but it all definitely threw a wrench in my fall training plan.  However, months ago I had signed up for the Denver Hot Chocolate 15K, and knowing how great this race was last year, I couldn’t pass it up.

Saturday I decided to try a medium run, so I headed out on Saturday afternoon for a solid 5 miles.  Having not partook in any physical activity for a week, I knew it’d be tough.  Unlike how I usually feel (body is great, lungs would appreciate more air in this mile high city), my legs were a bit shaky, but I could thankfully breath.  I kept a 10:25 pace, and was satisfied at the end of my five miles.  I did a few extra lunges, squats and leg lifts for good measure, and prayed that the 9.3 miles the next day wouldn’t kick my butt too badly.  Thankfully I had already visited the pre-race expo at the National Western Complex Center earlier in the day, getting my bib, AWESOME goodie bag, and some other paraphernalia from the vendors on site, like Skirt Sports, Lara Bars, and Sweaty Bands.

The Hot Chocolate race series hosts races in cities throughout the country, and I was so excited that Denver was one of those cities.  I woke early Sunday morning so as to make it to Civic Center Park (the park by the capitol building in downtown Denver) by 6:40am.  I parked at 6:30 at the Colorado History Museum and walked the two blocks to the event area.  Tents lined the parks, housing merchandise, hot chocolate (courtesy of Ronald McDonald House), bag drop-off, and the post-race chocolate bar.  A number of people arrived early, as the 5K started at 7:00am.  The 5K and 15K had separate starting times, but I found it odd that the 15K did not go first.  My only assumption was that this was designed so as not to disperse the 15K medals to 5K finishers if the two groups converged at the finish line.

Although the 15K didn’t begin until 7:50am, I arrived early so as to meet up with my local sorority sisters participating in the race.  Our sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, works closely with the Ronald McDonald House charities given it is our national philanthropy.  Knowing this race supports Ronald McDonald House charities, our group decided to make this a local alumnae event, garnering more attention and attendance.  In order to get the obligatory photo-op (let’s be honest, it’s what sororities love to do), we had to meet before the 5K race started.

We sorority girls can't resist a photo-op! Throwing diamonds! <>
We sorority girls can’t resist a photo-op! Throwing diamonds! <>
Gotta love the marshmallow man!
Gotta love the marshmallow man!

After our photo, my fellow sisters, Christie and Carrie and I waited for our start time by huddling in the merchandise tent.  It was cool, but thankfully not cold that morning, and absolutely ideal running weather.  We finally made our way to the starting line.  Christie was in corral H, Carrie in I, and I was in J.  Carrie and Christie decided to start together, but I took my place back in J, waiting for the race to start.

The race was much bigger than I expected, about 8,000 people total registered for either of the races.  Thankfully, after we crossed the starting line, I didn’t have to weave through people as much like I would for most of the larger races.  Very few people stopped to walk, and nearly everyone was considerate about their spacing and not blocking people.

Beautiful morning to run a 15K!
Beautiful morning to run a 15K!
Game faces people!
Game faces people!

We snaked our way through a good portion of the city, first heading out on 15th Street, past the CU Denver Business School (which made me happy, go Lynx!), then made our way northeast for about two miles on Walnut Street.  At this point we’d already had a chocolate (not necessarily a good idea this early in the race), water and sports drink station with amazing, friendly and enthusiastic volunteers.  Around this time I caught up with Christie and Carrie and we ran together for a bit.  After we passed the 5K mark, we were heading in the opposite direction on Larimer Street.  Another water station was available shortly afterwards, and one of my colleagues was volunteering!  At this point I separated from Christie and Carrie and kept running.  The course eventually took us left onto 20th Street, which veered into 20th Avenue.  Then I realized where we were… the dreaded hilly section.

The course took us through some fun parts of the city, and was never boring.
The course took us through some fun parts of the city, and was never boring.

Christie and Carrie ran this race last year together, and warned me in advance that the second half of the race was significantly hillier.  Thankfully the first half of the race was practically flat and primarily snaked through both business and industry sectors of the city.  The second half on the race made its way through residential areas of the city, with lovely quiet tree-lined streets, that also happened to incorporate a lot of hills.  The run from just before mile 5 to mile 6 was probably the toughest part, given it was one of those hills that never seemed to end.  Once we made it to the 10K mark, however, the course leveled a bit and the hills afterwards we more manageable.  The course dipped downward first as we headed towards mile 8 and again towards mile 9, which provided great opportunities to gain time and regain oxygen.

Along the course volunteers not only passed out water, Gatorade and chocolate, but also marshmallows (both regular and strawberry flavored), tootsie rolls, and random other themed snacks.  I didn’t partake simply because chewing a sticky marshmallow or tootsie roll while running did not seem at all appealing, and I was desperately looking forward to my hot chocolate and chocolate fondue at the end.

As we finally made it to mile 9, the next .3 miles seemed to stretch on forever along the fairly flat and wide Broadway.  Thankfully kids with incredibly clever signs (“Is your butt hurting?  It’s because you’re kicking ass!” “Keep running so the zombies don’t get you!” “Are you really doing this just for chocolate?”), and a local high-five giving priest (who also added in a “God bless you” as you ran past) were there to motivate the runners to the end.  When we finally reached the finish line, I realized again why I love races so much.  That accomplishment as you pass through is such an incredible feat, regardless of time.  More volunteers were ready with water bottles and the adorable 15K finisher medals, congratulating us on a great race.  I finished in 1:37:31, not my best time, but better than I had expected post-plague.

Victorious ending to a great race!

The fantastic chocolate bar medal - LOVE!
The fantastic chocolate bar medal – LOVE!

While I was en route, I passed an adorable couple who were running the race together.  It sounded like it was the wife’s first race and she kept looking ahead at all the runners around her, worried they weren’t going fast enough.  The husband grabbed her hand and said simply, “Don’t look ahead at those other people, don’t even think about them.  This race is about you, about accomplishing it for yourself, about beating your own time and proving it to yourself.”  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I run: for me.

After the race, I met up with Karen (from the Esprit de She race) and waited for Christie and Carrie to finish.  We went to the

Christie and Carrie couldn't decide which was better: medals or chocolate mug?
Christie and Carrie couldn’t decide which was better: medals or chocolate mug?

post-race party area and collected our finisher mugs complete with chocolate fondue, marshmallow, pretzels, graham crackers, rice krispie treat, banana and hot chocolate.  AH-MAZING.  Best post-race treat ever.  I may have kept the mugs to replicate this idea later…

Chocolate makes me giddy!
Chocolate makes me giddy!
Totally worth the wait.
Totally worth the wait.

Given we had run 9.3 miles that morning we were well on our way to hungry, so we tried to meet up with some of the 5K ADPi runners at Snooze on Larimer, but they weren’t able to seat us, so instead we made our way to Sam’s Number 3 on 15th street.  We waited about 35-40 minutes, but it was worth it.  Where else can you get a burrito the size of your face, a side of bacon, coffee, and chocolate milk for $14?  And it was delicious to boot.

Burrito the size of my face. I could only eat half, but so worth it.
Burrito the size of my face. I could only eat half, but so worth it.

This is a race I would do every year, not just for the amazing swag (check out the incredible zip-up we got!  I may have also

The zip up is awesome, much better than most race gear!
The zip up is awesome, much better than most race gear!

purchased a neon yellow zip-up and purple ear warmer because all the merchandise was just too cute!) and post-race goodies, but for its contribution towards Ronald McDonald House charities.  The race takes place in 15 cities across the nation – I recommend it if you can find one close!

Would you run for chocolate?  Have you ever participated in a Hot Chocolate Run?  Know of any other sweet-incentive races out there?