Colfax Half Marathon Race Recap

A month ago I took part in my first ever Colfax Half Marathon.  The Colfax race series is an institution in the state of Colorado, and has apparently been featured in Runner’s World.  Other than the BolderBoulder, it’s the one “local” race that has really become nationally known.  I had been hearing about it since joining the running community three years ago, but hadn’t thought to sign up until this year.  The Colfax has five different options for distances and participation: a 5K, 10-miler, half marathon, full marathon, or team relay.  I still have not committed myself to the idea of a full marathon, so I happily signed up for the half.

The weekend of the race was a really exciting weekend – my boss graduated from CU Denver with her MPA (the same degree I have) and I could not have been more proud!  I rose early Saturday

What a gorgeous setting in which to graduate.
What a gorgeous setting in which to graduate.

morning to attend graduation and volunteer for commencement services.  Commencement is truly one of the most exciting days on any college campus – the air is thick with accomplishment, promise, and aspirations for the future.  It was the perfect day and I was thrilled to be a part of the day.

Coolest race expo venue ever!
Coolest race expo venue ever!

After graduation, I drove out to Denver’s air and space museum (who knew they had one??), Wings Over the Rockies in east Denver for packet pickup. This was BY FAR the coolest location for packet pickup.  You entered and immediately picked up your bib and race reminder information, then the expo led participants through the massive hanger lined with planes from all eras.  It was incredible.  My aeronautics-loving husband would have loved this place but I graciously offered to pick up both of our packets on my way home.

I stopped by a few booths, including the Run Colorado store (I got the hubs a shirt that read “Run Commando” which he and I both got a kick out of), Bani Bands for some adorable headbands, and a local yoga mat vendor which infuses their mats with essential oils – I got a gorgeous purple mat that smells like lavender!  At the end of the expo, I picked up our tech shirts and Colfax 13.1 stickers, and headed back home.

The next morning arrived terribly early. Our race start was 6:45am, but it was recommended we park by 6am… oof.  Because we couldn’t cross Colfax (I mean, it is called the Colfax for a reason), we parked on the south side of Colfax, about a 15 minute walk to City Park.  Denver has apparently had a monsoon season as of recently, so Saturday and Sunday were the first nice days in over two weeks.  It was definitely a blessing, because running 13.1 in the rain isn’t ideal… I have already done that once before.

Pre-race smiles all around!
Pre-race smiles all around!

We made our way over to the far edge of the park near the Natural History museum for the starting line. On our way, we passed a large group of marathoners making their way out of City Park and turning west onto Colfax – that was really exciting to see, but also mildly tiring knowing how much further they were going than I.  We were randomly placed into corral N, although we were never asked to provide qualifying times so I am not sure how these corrals were sorted.  The first group started at 6:45am on the dot, but by the time it got to our corral, we’d been waiting over 20 minutes, with no space to stretch, and standing on cold pavement.  Starting a run cold isn’t really fun, but you persist!

Once we finally got going, we looped around City Park, and headed north toward the entrance to the Denver Zoo.  I can’t lie, this is one of the reasons I was most

And so we run!
And so we run!

excited for this race – you get to run through the zoo!  The volunteers held amazing zoo-related signs throughout the zoo, as we snaked around the winding pathways.  It was a little tough this early on in the race, as people were still fairly clumped together, but we got to see camels, flamingos, an elephant, and a sleepy cheetah, along with a number of other animals lazily waking up before the day’s excitement.  Once we headed out the facility entrance, we ran east toward the Natural Science Museum, and looped in front of the front doors.  Finally the race made its’ way onto Montview Blvd., which is where we would spend the majority of the time running.  While the marathoners were heading west towards Sports Authority Field at Bronco’s Stadium, we were heading towards the Aurora Fire Station.  After about 3 miles on Montview, a fairly flat, not overly exciting road, we turned right before hitting Havana and loopped into the fire station.  Fire fighters and EMTs were waiting there to cheer us on – coming through the other side of the station was an awesome backdrop of the Colorado flag and photographers waiting to shoot.  You know I posed for this one.

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What a good spot to pose – almost like they planned it that way…
This was a good way to do an out and back, and at least I can say I ran on Colfax!
This was a good way to do an out and back, and at least I can say I ran on Colfax!
This is my intense face.
This is my intense face.

Shortly afterwards was a Clif gel shot station, water, and a line of policemen and women cheering and clapping.  Finally, we emerged onto Colfax – the entire race series’ namesake!  Colfax was wide open, and people stopped along the road to cheer and encourage runners.  It was nearly 9 miles in at this point, and the time of the race when you need a little more pep in your step, so the enthusiasm was truly welcome.  After a good stint heading west on Colfax, we turned right and made our way onto 17th Avenue.  Shade was seriously needed because the day was warming up and I hate disrobing in the middle of a race.  On 17th, you pass by gorgeous, stately homes, families in their yards with sweet signs, half dressed firemen from the Denver Fire Fighters Calendar, and a whole lot of shade.  It was the best last 3 miles a girl could have hoped for.  This stretch takes you all the way back to City Park.  Coming up on the park was so exciting. You turn right and follow the loop around the western edge of the lake, hurtling towards the finish line, with the marathoners finishing next to you.  I *barely* had a half marathon PR, literally by 6 seconds, and felt amazing running through that finish line.  Would I do this one again?  Heck yes I would!

Don't you love that feeling of victory?
Don’t you love that feeling of victory?
Another half in the books!
Another half in the books!

The hubs met me at the finish line, and we waited in the amazing post-race vendor area to find a friend who had participated in the relay of the marathon.  It was a gorgeous day, and a great way to start the summer.  I am so lucky to live in such an amazing city!

Wahoo!
Wahoo! Gotta love some bling! And it spins!

That Dam Race: My First Half Marathon of 2015

Well another half marathon bites the dust, and I have [truly] begun my 2015 running year with a bang!  Last time I posted I had to admit, I was feeling a little lack-luster in the running-love department.  Sunday, however, I had to commit since I had signed up for the Run Denver series and the final race, That Dam Race, to be exact, took place on Sunday, March 1st.  What a way to start the new month!  I have to admit, I was getting especially nervous for this race mostly because I just wasn’t feeling it, and also because of the almost constant snow from Friday, February 20th through Friday, February 27th.  Other than Tuesday last week, Denver was getting completely dumped on by the constant snow cloud cover.  I honestly had no idea what to expect for the road conditions, and thankfully the Saturday – Sunday snow didn’t appear or else I think I might have given up hope.

I wish this were me...
I wish this were me…
My reaction in reality...
My reaction in reality…

I suppose the weather gods were somewhat on our sides this year.  The snow stopped Friday and didn’t reappear all weekend.  Although the temperatures never really rose above mid-20’s all weekend, the sun did come out, and in Colorado that can mean a lot.  So Sunday morning I rose in all of my nervousness (I haven’t been this nervous for a race in quite some time), made my way the 10 minute drive to Cherry Creek High School, and prepared myself for the 13.1 miles ahead of me.

It's cold but I am still smiling!
It’s cold but I am still smiling!  See all the snow?
Chilly starting line in all its glory.
Chilly starting line in all its glory.

Apparently when folks set off on this race last year, it was a balmy 8 degrees, so I was pretty content with my moderate sunshine and 20 degrees.  The wind was minimal, and the starting line was stunning.  It’s almost unreal how serene the roadway is that skirts the edge of the Cherry Creek Reservoir.  It’s lifted above the top of the water by several stories, and on a clear day you can see the mountains stretch out in both directions to the west.  The Dam Road, befittingly named, is a perfect start and finish line for this race, and overlooking the frozen reservoir, it was quite a stunner.  Sadly I didn’t take many photos as my fingers were pretty frozen…

For an out and back course, this one was very lovely!
For an out and back course, this one was very lovely!

The course started along the Dam Road then took a sharp left turn onto the Cherry Creek trail.  This trail winds its way through the outskirts of Denver all the way into downtown.  Thankfully we

Yay two medals, no frozen fingers and happy to be finished!
Yay two medals, no frozen fingers and happy to be finished!

didn’t have to run quite so far, but after winding our way down from the top of the reservoir wall, we made our way under I-225 and took the trail heading northwest.  It was beautiful – everything covered in a blanket of snow, the trail meandering through wooded sections, open fields, and in between cozy neighborhood communities.  You’d almost never know we started so close to a busy highway.  The trail had just some minor little hills and bumps, but was otherwise flat.  The sun managed to stay out for nearly the entire run, until I climbed the steep hill to make my way back to the Dam Road for the final 2.5 miles.  At this point, thankfully I wasn’t running against the wind, but I did notice my lips were starting to freeze.  Just in time for my triumphant, well sort of, finish!  While running the last 2 miles, I noticed my friend Kristin running in the opposite direction, away from the finish.  I thought this odd, but as she put it, “I had to cool down, and I had to keep running to stay warm!”  She ended up winning second in our age division for the entire race series.  She is bad ass (obviously in a really good way).

She met me at the finish, I got my snazzy medal and water bottle, and we worked our way back to the vendor stands.  I was hoping for some hot Coda coffee or hot chocolate, but by the time we made it to the van they had already packed up.  This was disappointing, especially considering the many folks finishing after me.  I did get a Clif bar and walked with Kristin to her car.  She dropped me off at mine, and as my own personal reward, I went next door to Starbuck’s.  Grande nonfat with whip hot chocolate.  Yum.

On the plus side, I finished the Run Denver race series in its entirety – all four 5ks and the final half marathon.  I must say, the bling for the series was pretty worth it.  I do run for the bling afterall, and I am totally not ashamed of that.  I would have been one of those kids in soccer that wanted the participation trophy.  I still have all my awards from high school afterall… sitting right next to my husband’s.  We are part of the Millenial generation, after all.

Yeah, the medal was worth it.
Yeah, the medal was worth it.

As I mentioned last week, my new favorite thing is listening to “This American Life” while I run.  Best decision ever for a half marathon on your own.  Thankfully the first podcast I pulled up was this past summer’s “The Radio Drama Episode,” which included journalistic stories told in artistic ways, from opera to comedy, and a musical to a play.  It was AMAZING.  I also realized, it’s not wise to listen to an incredibly funny comedian while trying to run, especially while trying to run uphill.  Breathing and laughing aren’t good friends.  My Bose running earbuds performed sensationally and I was thoroughly entertained.

Do you listen to anything when you run – if so, podcasts or music?  What were the worst conditions you’ve ever had for a race?  Anyone else not a huge fan of running in 20 degree temps?

For the Love of Love, Food, Running… and my Puppy

This is a big month for the ones I love.  Not only is it the month of Valentine’s Day, of which I have always enjoyed (I am one of those major saps, and have been lucky enough to have the very best Valentine eight years running), but it’s also the birthday month of the hubs, my best friend, and my puppy!  Big news, my pup, Rocco, is officially a real dog as of yesterday – he is two years old.  I have already made a promise to myself that he will forever be called “Rocco the Puppy,” aka “Rocco T. Yaco,” aka “Mister Taco.”  Nothing will change the view I have of my one and only perfect pup.  But I digress…

Who wouldn't want kisses from this sweet pup?
Who wouldn’t want kisses from this sweet pup?

Along with all the love flowing through me this month, I am amping up my training for the continuation of half marathon season.  Thankfully Denver has been absurdly mild this winter so far, and

Beautiful but snowy, slushy and icy run through Wash Park.
Beautiful but snowy, slushy and icy run through Wash Park.

the past few weekends, well except last Sunday, have boasted temps in the 50s and 60s, with some days reaching near 70!  It’s been ideal weekend running weather, and I am so grateful.  With this in mind, I completed the last two 5ks for the Denver Race Series.  On Super Bowl Sunday, I strapped on my Yak Trax (which have been the unsung heroes of my winter running routine), bundled up, and hit the roads of Wash Park the morning after a decent snow storm.  Of course all the snow melted within the next few days, but it was a gorgeous winter wonderland run nonetheless.  This past weekend, the hubby decided to join me for the Valentine’s Day 5K: Love on the Run.  It seemed so appropriate that he was there!  It was a stunningly gorgeous day and I was so happy to have the chance to run around Wash Park with him.  After the race, we did another 2.1 miles to round off at 5.2 miles.  We’re trying to pile on the miles each weekend as we near the March 1st That Dam Half Marathon.  When the weather is nearly 70 degrees, there’s really no excuse not to take advantage of it!

The month of January was a bit of a blur, after the death of my grandmother, preparing for and performing at her memorial, and making some big shifts at work.  I have been more than happy to welcome this next month and hope the year improves from here.  I know the old adage that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, but you surely hope you don’t have cuts on your hands and you have some sugar to make the lemonade sweet.  In other words, 2015 got off to a rocky start, so I could do with a sweet, lovely transition…

On a high note, the hubs and I have not only been running quite a bit more, but we’ve been trying out great eateries around the Denver metro area.  Denver really is an up-and-coming foodie fantasy land, so it makes sense that I run so I can eat.  Let’s be honest, don’t we all, really?  Given that the hub’s birthday was last week, we went to TWO restaurants in honor of his last year in his 20s.  First we dined at our favorite steak house, Del Frisco’s.  Although a chain steak house, it’s a constant delight.  We have found a favorite waitress, know the menu like the back of our hands, and always order the Del’s Delight dessert at the end.  In every way, we always have the perfect meal.

The Ocean Prime Berries and bubbles cocktail, which actually bubbles!! You must try it.
The Ocean Prime Berries and bubbles cocktail, which actually bubbles!! You must try it.

The second restaurant we tried out with our foodie Friday friends, Scott and Danielle.  Naturally we dined on Friday at a restaurant I have often overlooked, but pass by nearly daily: Ocean Prime.  Now I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t Colorado a land-locked state?”  Well, yes… unless California, Nevada and Utah suddenly erode into the Pacific Ocean, we are still situated rather more in the middle of the country, albeit the west.  However, you’ve got to love the ease of moving fresh food quickly around the country, and there are some sensational seafood restaurants in Denver.  Ocean Prime did not disappoint.

Last week, as a pre-Valentine’s day dinner, the hubs and I trekked across town to the infamous Beast+Bottle restaurant, whose philosophy of utilizing the whole

Beast+Bottle has been one of my favorite Denver meals to date.
Beast+Bottle has been one of my favorite Denver meals to date.

animal (and vegetable/fruit for that matter) provides a most delicious experience.  We had previously gone for brunch with our dear friends, Peter and Ade, but decided this would give us the delectable dinner we’d been craving.  The past few years we had picked a new place to dine on Valentine’s Day and were constantly disappointed – by the service, the small portions, and the hurried atmosphere that stole the show of savoring a great dining experience.  This year we decided not to go out on Valentine’s Day but instead something before and after.  With that said, this was one of the BEST meals we’ve enjoyed in a LONG time.  I had the pork special, the hubs enjoyed the lamb special, we split a flatbread, and gorged on amazing desserts.  Need I say more, homemade strawberry Klondike bar.  Whoa.

What can I say, I like things in martini glasses.  "Your Own Pear-Sonal Jesus" cocktail from B+B infused with pear and creme de violet.
What can I say, I like things in martini glasses. “Your Own Pear-Sonal Jesus” cocktail from B+B infused with pear and creme de violet.
Perfect day to run with the one I love!
Perfect day to run with the one I love!

For Valentine’s Day itself, I think my hubby and I have a new tradition.  In November I registered for the Resolution Race series in City Park, and one of the races includes Le Cours de L’Amour (aka, the Course of Love).  Needless to say, my hubby was happy to join me on this one.  We ran really well together, finishing in just under 1:02 with a 9:58 pace.  This race is much like the Lucky Laces (which is part of the same series) 10K I completed last year.  It is 2 laps of a 5K through City Park, which is quite lovely, with some great views of the mountains in the distance, and a trail that hits exactly at a mile high.  The day was stunning, with a high of 65 degrees, a light breeze and wonderful morning sun.  After the race, the ladies were handed a pink rose rather than a medal.

Yup, Valentine's Day threw up all over me.
Yup, Valentine’s Day threw up all over me.
City Park really is a lovely spot to run, walk dogs, etc.  Worth wandering through on a nice Denver day.
City Park really is a lovely spot to run, walk dogs, etc. Worth wandering through on a nice Denver day.

Finally on Sunday, with winter storms looming, we went for a 4 mile run.  We wanted to go further, but the snow storm brought on some fearsome icy gusts of wind that made it quite a challenge.  2015-02-15 15.58.55With a few more miles logged for the weekend, we donned our Sunday best and headed for the Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver for a picturesque and perfect afternoon tea.  We were completely spoiled during our holiday in England and Scotland.  We enjoyed 3 afternoon teas whilst there, including the Pump Room in Bath, a Parliament tea along the Thames, and a Homecoming tea at the Edinburgh Castle.  This was our first afternoon tea since returning to the states in September, and it was just the perfect way to end a busy and eventful two weeks.  All I know is there is nothing better than exploring new places to eat, new races to run, and new adventures with my husband.  I am one lucky gal.

Gorgeous tea at the Brown Palace and my favorite date.
Gorgeous tea at the Brown Palace and my favorite date.
That is a good spread, complete with Kir Royal.
That is a good spread, complete with Kir Royal.
If you haven't been to the Brown Palace in Denver, go on a sunny day, stand in the middle and look up.  The stained glass ceiling is breathtaking.
If you haven’t been to the Brown Palace in Denver, go on a sunny day, stand in the middle and look up. The stained glass ceiling is breathtaking.

The Run Denver Race Series

Back in November, in the high of completing my fifth half marathon of the year, and third within a month, I thought it’d be a great idea to look ahead and plan for my 2015 race schedule!  Once you get bit by the run bug, there’s no turning back.  I started looking at small, local races, knowing the appeal of easy-to-manage race day events and the fun runner and volunteer atmosphere.  These smaller races and series truly showcase the running community with which you surround yourself.  I checked Active.com, and first looked up That Dam Half.  After running my first half marathon in February 2014, I was immediately addicted and wanted to find another one I could do right away.  That Dam Half was only a week out from the Disney Princess Half, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to sign up for it with enough confidence that I’d finish easily, or at least well.  So instead I decided I would save this race.

giphy
Don’t stop me, don’t stop me, don’t stop me. Hey, hey, HEY! Freddie Mercury, I don’t want to stop at all. Source

Now you may be thinking, “Why is this race called ‘That Dam Half’?”  It’s true, Colorado is not exactly known for its large bodies of water, but just 15 minutes down the road from me is the Cherry Creek Reservoir.  Cherry Creek cuts its way through Denver, much of which is followed by Speer Boulevard.  It’s derivation point, however, is out east towards the reservoir.  Conserving water is something we Coloradans must get used to, so reservoirs were established throughout the state.  Not all are in the same use at this point, and truth be told, the Cherry Creek Reservoir is now more for recreational use than anything else.  The reservoir is part of the Cherry Creek State Park, which boasts good biking and running trails all over and great views of the mountains out west.  Thus, That Dam Half quite literally winds its way around the reservoir and dam!  That is my long, drawn-out explanation for the obviousness of the name…

After checking out the half registration, I noticed there was a series built around this race, the Run Denver Race Series.  You provide me with a package of races, I cannot resist!  Especially when they have cute themes, are all close-by, and each is small and local.  So in December, I began my five race series, which includes 4 5ks, of which I am not normally a huge fan, and That Dam Half.  We kicked off the series with the Rudolph Ramble 5k, which took place the day following the ColderBolder 5k.  Obviously I ran both, because why not!  These races would guarantee me at least 14 races in 2014.

Great start to a fun race.
Great start to a fun race.

The Rudolph Ramble took place on December 7th, and it was so much fun – folks donned jingle bells, reindeer antlers, santa hats and other holiday-themed paraphernalia.  Given the size of these races, many folks brought their kids and dogs to participate.  This race took place in City Park, just north of the Cherry Creek area of Denver.  I have now run a number of races in City Park, some more treacherous than others, but this day was perfect.  Not too warm (it was unusually warm this weekend, unlike the year before when the high was 6 degrees), sunny, and no breeze.  We took a wide loop around the park and finished by the pavilion, where volunteers were lined up with goody bags (I mean nice drawstring goody bags!), water, Evol burritos, Aspire sports drinks, bagels and bananas, along with other goodies and freebies.  I am all about the freebies, so I just cannot resist.  What I liked most, however, were the awesome long-sleeve BornFit race shirts.  The shirts were a periwinkle blue with the Rudolph Ramble logo.  Part of the series perks included a BornFit grey half-zip, with which I am now obsessed.  Good swag for a small series.

The post race goodies were really impressive given the size of the race.
The post race goodies were really impressive given the size of the race.  Can you feel my excitement?

Two weekends ago I participated in the second race of the series, the Polar Bear 5k: Thrill of the Chill.  Thankfully, like the previous race, it was the opposite of

Krisitn (aka the running machine!) and I post-race on a perfect day!
Kristin (aka the running machine!) and I post-race on a perfect day!

chilly.  I am fairly certain it was about 60 degrees that day.  This time the race took place in Washington Park, or Wash Park as known by the locals.  My friend, Tessa, came to cheer me and her roomie on during the race.  They live in walking distance from the park, so it made for a great morning for all of us.  This race wound its way around the park, and took one additional loop through the middle to meet the 3.1 miles.  The volunteers for these races are notoriously fantastic, and there are folks interspersed throughout the course cheering on the runners.  The course is just the right ammout of small inclines and flat, so you can really work on speed for this race.  Like the race before, many participants had dogs and kids join in the fun.  Kristin, my friend’s roommate, took 1st in our age group, so we got to celebrate her during the award ceremony.  Personally, I felt great throughout the race and ran a 30:50 5k – I am determined to bring my 10k time solidly under 10 minutes per mile, so I think I am on track.

Cruising into the finish line and feeling good.
Cruising into the finish line and feeling good.
Yup, she's a rockstar!
Yup, she’s a rockstar!

This Sunday I will be participating in the third installment of the race series, the Super Bowl 5k also in Wash Park.  Finally something I would rather be doing on Super Bowl Sunday (especially since the Broncos didn’t make it this time… we won’t go into last year, but I definitely do NOT want the Seahawks to win…).  The following Sunday will be the Valentine’s Day 5k, and I will finish the series on March 1st with That Dam Race Half Marathon.  I couldn’t imagine kicking off 2015 any better way – time to pile on the miles!

Do you have a favorite race series? Do you prefer big races or small, local events?  Any fun themed races coming up?