Exploring the Red Rocks

This is one of the final installments of the Colorado diaries.  It’s been so fun to re-live and tell my adventure stories to you.  I’m getting sad all over again that it’s ending for a second time.

I think the Red Rocks were my favorite and most majestic thing that I saw.  It’s definitely hard to compete with the incredible Rocky Mountains, especially when I was able to get all up in them. But come on.  These rocks look like they jumped out of the earth.  Simultaneously at the same angle.  For several miles.

If you remember from the race post, the route took the runners right past the Red Rocks at the end of the run.   I decided after that burger, a shower and a nap that I was ready to hike through the park.  Unfortunately there was also a huge electronic music festival happening that weekend so I didn’t get to see the actual amphitheater.  And our hike amongst the ancient rocks was a little spoiled by all the concert-goers running around in not enough clothes and too much substance.  But, what do you do (crop them out of photos).

We took a short hike through the park and I stopped to play around with dancer pose.  I’m amazed my quads and knees bent that way for me!

Besides the spectacular red rocks contrasting with the greenery and the blue and white in the sky, this park had the biggest dandelions I’ve ever seen!  I just had to get a picture.  I’ll never be so excited about weeds again (especially since they require daily maintenance in my home garden).

We left the park discussing the incredible experience it must have been for those rocks to shoot up out of the earth with such force.  And so long ago!  It’s crazy to think about.  We tried researching the history of the formations but I got lost between the large spans of billions of years “The red rocks likely jumped out of the earth during a shift in plates in the Pennsylvania period sometime between 35 and 70 billion years ago.”  That certainly is a lot of room for error.  I’m thinking they don’t really have a clue what went on back then.  And no, those numbers are not exact.

 On our way out of town Monday, I couldn’t resist one more stop at the park.  And despite our sore knees and quads and calves, we couldn’t resist a hike to the amphitheater.

Let me just say, if I lived in Colorado, I would live at this amphitheater!

There was some hiking to be done before we actually got to the entrance (which was breathtaking in itself).  But then, we sort of crested the top of the theater and once I looked over the edge it was like a personal trainer’s/fitness enthusiast’s dream world.

Just rows and rows of stairs.  And people doing all sorts of activities on them.  Together in groups, or suffering alone.  Dogs too.  And all set to the backdrop of the mountains and Denver in the distance.  For free.

It was amazing.  What is even more amazing is my pathetic attempt to run up those stairs on post-downhill-half-marathon legs. Let me tell you it requires quite a leap to get from one level to the next and I had not a drop of power in my legs.  The video of it is hilarious but I think mine and the camera guy’s laughs at the end take the cake.

So, for the rest of the evening I’m going to brainstorm ways for me to actually be able to live there.  I’d run my bootcamps in the morning and attend music shows, movies and other concerts in the evening.  Maybe I can be the keeper of the weeds.  Or find some land and build one of those tiny homes on it.  Feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments, and then don’t miss this site if you’re traveling through Colorado!

The Mountain Castle

I stayed in my first AirBnB rental on a trip to Austin earlier this year.  Some friends have used it for trips before, and others to rent out their own places for big tourist weekends in their hometowns.  I’ve become a big fan of using this site to find places to stay on vacation.  It reminds me of searching for bed and breakfasts when I was abroad.

I was in charge of finding a place for us for our weekend nights.  This was a little challenging because of race and packet pickup logistics but I knew a few things about what I wanted

  1. A retreat-like feel.  We’d mostly be relaxing in prep for the race, or in recovery from the race.
  2. Close to the start line.  I didn’t want to spend too many hours before go time with a man who is not used to that time of day.
  3. Budget-friendly.  Money is always on the mind but I was willing to go a little more expensive for some comfort and amenities.  I LOVE that AirBnB has a feature where you can set your maximum amount and it will only show you homes available in that price range.

I hit the jackpot.  (Go ahead and click that link for some more amazing pictures!)

We called it our Mountain Castle.  It was situated right on the race route (which helped us know on the chaotic race day that the course was actually set up, traffic was flowing to the west and we could get ourselves to the start line.  Clutch.) on the side of one of the mountains.

Mountain Castle on the Hill

Mountain Castle on the Hill

I could tell on the drive up the side of the hill that it was going to be just like the listing and just the mountain retreat I wanted. We shared the property with the owners and their two adorable dogs.  Our space was the guest house and it was just the perfect size.  We were allowed access to the outside amenities like the fire pit, hot tub, porch furniture and horseshoe pit.  Every second was breathtaking and beautiful.

The cozy guest house

The cozy guest house

You can see just how cozy the guest house was but I didn’t mind at all because not much time was actually spent inside.  We were either running, grilling, sitting on the patio furniture playing games or around the fire pit with our complimentary wine.  To the east we had a view down the mountain and into the valley town below which lit up beautifully at night.  To the west we had amazing mountains, the moon and sunsets to look at.  Their 2 year old white lab Aston kept us company outside much of the time, as well as chirping hummingbirds that came to the feeders surrounding our balconies.

Once we arrived, another mega-nap time happened before we tore into leftovers for our pre-run dinner.  We’d both been taking turns driving those windy mountain roads and neither of us could stomach the idea of getting back in the car to drive the ten or fifteen minutes into the nearest town.  Not even for pizza.  So I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Then, the best pre-race routine in the history of my runs happened.  A relaxing hot tub session, watching the sun go down (totally unaware of the chaos about to unfold the next morning).

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I wish we’d had more time at this place!  I seriously considered proposing to the owners that I would live in the guest house and earn my keep through personal training, dog sitting, yard work and even house work.  Just for one more day on those grounds. The landscape around us was incredible, but the owners had done such a good job landscaping the property that it just completed the atmosphere.

Enjoy some photos below and then if you’re ever in the Morrison or Idledale area be sure to check out this place.  I know I certainly want to go back!

A Denver Date Night

Happy Monday y’all 🙂  Here is the next installment of the Colorado Diaries.  Be sure you catch the Revel Rockies Recap, The Rocky Mountain Adventure and the White Water Raft stories.

After our day of teeth-chattering rapid adventures, we (I) decided a night in the city (Denver) would be fun.  He said: “A city is a city,” and I said, “Well I want to spend a night in it.”  So it was decided.

Here’s a glimpse at how parts of our vacation rolled – we booked our dinner reservation and our hotel on our way into the city that afternoon.  The rafting ended around 3pm and we got to Denver close to 5.  We Pricelined a hotel downtown and Grouponed our dinner.

Denver, CO.

Denver, CO.

Luckily our reservations were later in the evening so my tired self had time to take a nap.  The combination of not sleeping much, hiking all day, exhausting my body through shivering and teeth chattering, plus less oxygen had me feeling extra tired.  I’m a great napper under normal conditions so imagine that on steroids.

Denver is a beautiful city with an even better backdrop of the mountains.  I’m sorry I don’t have more pictures of it to share with you.  The Groupon that we found for dinner was for a fancy place called The Broker.  Normally I would not have expected us to go to such a place, even for a vacation and celebratory date night rolled into one.  But since we got it for more than 50% off thanks to the Groupon, I agreed.

As a girl who is almost always in spandex and sweats, I do love getting the chance to dress up.  Especially for someone who appreciates it.  I took some time to straighten my hair, put on a little makeup and one of my favorite blue dresses that’s only been worn a time or two before.

Our Fancy Dinner Date

Our Fancy Dinner Date

The Broker is located in the basement of a bank.  We got to sit in the old vault downstairs in a booth where customers could look through their safety deposit boxes.  The character of the restaurant was incredible and the details were authentic.

The entrance to the vault

The entrance to the vault

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The hostess sat us in our own private booth and we started to look over the menu.  While we waited for service, I was thinking of the stories I would tell y’all on the blog when I returned and that I wanted to use this race as the big re-entry into the blogging and writing habit.  The stories for the hike and white water rafting started to form, as well as a date night tale.  We hadn’t been sitting for more than five minutes before I demanded we go back upstairs for a photo outside the restaurant.  My date happily obliged, so easily settling in to willing participant with this new character of mine (since we’ve been dating I’d only written maybe seven times.  That’s a once a month average).

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We found the fanciest doors to snap an “ussie” in front of.  Then hustled back downstairs to our table.  Part of the deal with the discount was that we had to order from a limited menu.  I wasn’t disappointed by our choices at all.  Wine, an appetizer, soup or salad, a main course and dessert were included.  Plus a surprise handful of Andes mints at the end.

The food was good but the atmosphere and company were better.  We played it smart and each ordered something different than the other so we could taste the most things.  Unfortunately by the time my best-tasting dish arrived (the main course), I was already full.  Still, I managed to have some tastes, and then to squeeze in some all of bread pudding.  The Groupon also allowed for adding items on to the package deal so we added some lobster mac and cheese in anticipation of the half marathon on Sunday.

Side dish rant:  I have heard girls complain about guys using Groupons on date nights.  “He’s so cheap, am I not worth the full price?”  WHAT?!  I just don’t get that.  In our time dating, Groupon has sponsored more than one fantastic date night!  I think it shows an economically sound side of your partner and there are a lot of fun activities on Groupon.  We’ve taken dancing lessons, eaten Korean food, and had entire nights built around deals.  There’s plenty of Groupon fun coming up too – floating in OK, a Zombie-escape experience and plenty of food!  Get over yourselves girls and enjoy the time spent with your beau.

White Water Adventure

So this adventure was proposed to me by my Colorado tour guide about a week before we departed, and it went like this via text message –

In case you don’t click the link, I’ll tell you what I read.  “Adventurous spirit, ability to swim and prior experience required”.

I texted back:

  • You sure about advanced because I have none of the recommended prior experience?
  • Yea.

I really wasn’t too concerned with anything except the temperature of the water, which was a good thing since a few days later this text came from Colorado Tour Guide Headquarters.

  • Rafting booked.  Non-refundable.

Well ok then.

The night before our rafting adventure I was starting to get nervous, still mostly about the temperature of the water.    I asked him how upset he would be if I backed out.

  • It’d probably be close to a deal breaker.

Really?  Even if I covered my expense of it?

  • Yes, I really like your adventurous spirit.

Well ok then.

I decided at that point the best thing to do was to not think about it at all until I was in the raft.  Kind of like with a really hard workout.  Just get it started and go from there.

Suited up.

Suited up.

The next morning we arrived at Clear Creek Rafting in Idaho Springs.  Mario, an Argentinian forever chasing summer and rafting between Colorado and his home country, was our guide.  We were given our wetsuits (included in the rafting price!), a helmet and our life jacket and our party of five rafters loaded on to a school bus.  We spent about 15 minutes driving upstream to the start and Mario took advantage of this time to go over the safety tips for the trip.  We also had Connor, a really young safety kayaker who promised to help guide us to safety as long as we didn’t try to pull him into the water with us.

The tips were fairly self-explanatory and simple:

  • If you fall in, don’t stand up.
  • Try to stay in the boat.
  • Hold on to your paddle.
  • Rescue your friends.
  • If you do turn into a swimmer, don’t panic but head for shore.

Then we loaded the boat into the water and ourselves into the boat.  Tour guide and I were placed in the front seats and only later would realize this was a blessing and a curse.

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Our morning trip was a couple hours before we had a break for lunch.  I didn’t realize how much paddling was involved from the rafters.  I assumed the river would just take us wherever it wanted but Mario was shouting at us quite a bit “Right forward 2”, “2 more”, “Backwards 2”.  Again, fairly self-explanatory commands that helped us avoid rocks and stay above rapids.

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The rapids were a lot of fun and ranged from fast moving but level water to fast moving with big drops.  Our biggest drop was 8 feet down!  When Mario said that I looked across and mouthed “8 feet?!”  It was an exhilarating part of the route.  The raft thankfully did a great job of keeping us well afloat on the water.  There were many times we went nose first into a rapid or backwards rolling wave but we never flipped.  The shock of that first cold splash was horrible though.

Totally submerged.  And frozen.

Totally submerged. And frozen.

Luckily, we never stayed under for too long.  Just buoyed right back to the top.  Except on one rapid where Mario had us reverse the boat around and use the current to “surf” into the waves.  Except that the surfing totally submerged my tour guide.  I tried to dive over to pull him out of the water when really I should’ve been reverse paddling to turn us out of the waterfall.  Once the strategy of the command clicked in my head, I hopped on the action and helped bring him back into the air.

After a while the sun went behind the clouds and I was frozen.  My fingers wouldn’t move, my lips were blue and my teeth were chattering.  I was pretty miserable but trying to enjoy the scenery and soak up the little sun that was around.  Finally we got to shore for our lunch break and I hopped in a hot shower and threw on some pants.

We had gourmet sandwiches and fruit waiting for us while we waited for the few boats that would be joining our afternoon trip.  I sat in the car to incubate back to normal temperatures.

Luckily for the afternoon trip, Mario had a waterproof-sealed-at-the-seams jacket for me to wear.  I was one happy camper for the rest of the trip.

Insulated!

Insulated!

We still got splashed but I couldn’t feel it!  The afternoon trip was shorter but more action-packed than the morning, and the scenery was better.  We went deeper into a canyon and away from the towns.

Into the canyon.

Into the canyon.

I overheard the guide of the boat in front of us ask

Y’all feeling any better?  A little less hungover?

Oh man.  Not the place I would want to be in that state!  We had so much fun and I loved seeing the tour guide so happy.  Before our trip he compared it to roller coastering and while I don’t quite agree with that, I did love our adventure!

Not having any fun.

Not having any fun.

I cannot recommend Clear Creek Rafting enough.  Our wetsuits were included as well as the photos that you see in this post.  There were plenty more to choose from too.  And, when we looked at our CD for the first time and realized that the photos weren’t from our trip, we called Clear Creek and they were pretty promptly emailed right to us.

Was it scary?  Not really.  Adventurous?  Absolutely.  We never encountered a part of the creek that I would’ve felt I couldn’t swim away from.  I certainly didn’t want to be a swimmer but I would definitely do it again on a creek.  Probably not a river since Connor tipped us off to their tendency to flip the rafts on purpose for fun……..I’m just happy I didn’t deal break my relationship 😉

Rocky Mountain High

This trip to Colorado has been in the works since January.  I had just started dating a guy (the same one I tortured with 13.4 downhill miles) who was escaping almost every other weekend to go skiing in Colorado.  I’d never been snow skiing.  Never been to Colorado outside the Denver airport.  Never really been to the mountains.  Well he wouldn’t shut up about them.  And it started our longest running dispute yet – mountains or beach?  If you know me at all, you know what I’m voting for!  (If you don’t know me, it’s the beach).

Heading West!

Heading West!

He convinced me to start saving for a ski trip and when I realized that a trip for a starting-from-scratch skier would be upwards of $1,000 plus hours of ski school, I thought maybe we should plan a summer escape-the-Tulsa-heat trip.  So we did.  And then naturally the race-planner in me thought I should see what races were going on in the area.  Read more about that adventure here.

Since he’d been so many more times than me, we decided he would plan most of the trip – the travel, and the adventure days.  I planned the days surrounding the run.  Because of this we ended up leaving Tulsa after 10pm on Wednesday to drive through the night.  When we pulled out of the driveway we had nowhere to stay Thursday or Friday night (his days, but my nights were booked).

Early in the trip, all smiles!

Early in the trip, all smiles!

I did the best I could to stay awake and provide entertaining company but inevitably fell asleep from about midnight until 2am.  The man doesn’t function after 2 am so we looked for a place to stay in Limon, CO.  Not a single vacancy in about 8 hotels.  I loaded up on some coffee and nibbled on dry cereal to get us to Denver.

We cruised right past the city headed for the mountain town of Estes Park.  One of his favorite places is Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) so that was our first big destination after breakfast in EP.  We stepped out of the car and it was like we’d transported back in time to March in Oklahoma.  Beautiful temperatures!  And the views of the mountains were incredible.  Estes Park is a darling little mountain town with plenty of restaurants, lodging, a lake and very close to RMNP.

Incredible views.

Incredible views.

We paid $20 to get into the park.  You could very easily drive most of it but my tour guide had some hikes he wanted to go on and that sounded awesome to me.  Was sick of the car.  Our first stop was a trail called the Alluvian Fan – it was a short semi-circular hike towards a waterfall.  We had to climb up a bit and this is the first place I really felt the elevation affect me.  I was winded way faster than I should have been hiking to the water.

It was a lot of fun working our way up the rocky path next to the waterfall.  I realized at this point that my fairly minimalist Kinvaras were not the best hiking shoe and if Colorado is to be a regular place for us, I need to invest in some.  The rocks were like a giant playground for adults – I even slid down one like a slide when I couldn’t figure out how to climb back down.  This part of the park had been subject to severe flooding from a dam break almost 33 years ago to the day we were there.  Water flooded the area we were standing in, as well as part of Estes Park.  We briefly entertained survival strategies if we heard the deafening roar of water coming down the mountain and ultimately agreed on the fact that we’d both not survive.

We returned to the car to drive higher up into the mountains – stopping on trailheads that had markings we thought indicated waterfalls.  On this particular hike we chatted about traveling and where we would each like to go next.  There’s a long list.  I had a kiddo moment and hung upside down from a tree – or maybe it was the lack of sleep and oxygen levels…..

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Monkeying Around

Monkeying Around

A few more back and forths in the car winding up the mountain and we decided it was time for a nap.  We pulled over into some shade, reclined the seats and snoozed for almost an hour.  I know for sure the lack of sleep was a contributing factor but I don’t know how the elevation played into it.

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More playtime

More playtime

Tour guide had a particular trail in mind – Chapin’s peak.  Once we found it, I noticed a sign that listed important items to take with you: whistle, high-energy food, sunscreen, weather-proof clothing, water and other survival essentials.  We had water and food.  But I’m here typing to you so everything worked out.

This particular trail took us through green pine trees, up some rocky staircases and finally to the side of the peak where some elk were grazing.  This is where we decided to veer off-trail and make it to the summit.  I honestly didn’t think we’d get there.  It was a long way up.  We’d already been hiking for probably close to an hour but I was enjoying my company and the scenery so thought we might as well give it a shot.  The terrain was lumpy grass mixed with some kind of variously sized rocks.  Tricky to say the least.  But something clicked on for me mentally and I decided we were gonna get to the top.  It was really hard to breathe and I was dizzy a few times but am so glad (like always!) that we made it to the top!

Climbing company

Climbing company

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Once we made it to the top, I naturally was drawn towards the edge of the mountain.  We’d been tipped off by another hiker that it was a pretty steep drop off and he wasn’t kidding!  I found a safe spot to sit on the edge and we relaxed for a bit, catching our breaths and taking in the views.  Across the valley we saw a thunderstorm roll in across the mountains.  I watched rocks drop down below us and sat next to a big patch of snow that hadn’t yet melted.  I wasn’t cold though!

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At the top, on the edge!

Learned an important thing about my tour guide – he’s afraid of heights.  But I coaxed him down to the edge with me and he was able to stand it for a few minutes.

On our way back down, we wanted to encounter the herd of elk we’d passed on our way up.  The terrain was tricky to handle on the way down and we both stumbled.  More than once.  Eventually we found our old trail and the family of elk.

By this point in the hike we’re both pretty exhausted again and very hungry.  We were also a little bit lost.  I entertained myself by asking survival strategy questions.  “What if a bear appears on the trail?”  He was going to jump into the nearest gathering of evergreens while I was going to freeze and distract the bear with the beef jerky by tossing it down the valley.  Pretty sure I’m the survivor in that scenario.

Once we’d found our way back to the actual trail – we stumbled across a whole bunch of the elk.  I watched them for a while, pretty fascinated.  They just ate and didn’t seem to mind the few pairs of tourists watching and taking pictures.

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We finally made it back to the car and continued the drive up the mountain to the Alpine Lodge.  Here we stopped for food – chicken soup for me and then forged on down the other side.  We had to pause for another nap and apparently I stopped taking pictures.  The last time he was in this part of the park he saw a moose on the side of the road so we each looked hard on our respective sides and I swear I imagined one into being.  We were about to exit the mountain area and head towards the lake when we passed a group of people taking pictures on the side of the road.  It was a baby moose and mama eating in the trees!

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What an exciting and exhausting first day we had!  We stopped for pizza in Frasier and then found a hotel for the night, crashing pretty quickly.  I needed rest for our next big adventure…..white water rafting.

State 15: Colorado/The Race that Almost Wasn’t

Revel Rockies Half Marathon

Revel Rockies Half Marathon

Oh boy do I have a story for y’all.  The past 5 days have been spent on vacation in Colorado, including my 15th state run.  Sometimes for runs I’ll just drive up for the night but Colorado was a special one – since so much travel was involved and it’s a place I’ve never explored, I made it an extended trip.  Drove through the night Wednesday, hiked Rocky Mountain National Park Thursday, white water rafted Friday, explored Denver Saturday and raced Sunday.  This post will cover the race – a series of follow-up posts will cover the vacation part.

Saturday

After a morning of exploring the city of Denver, my client/main squeeze (Chap) and I headed to the Colorado School of Mines in Golden to pick up our packets.  It’s his first half marathon experience (although I credit the Austin Half Marathon in February for giving him some inspiration).  I picked up my packet with no problem but he hadn’t registered yet so we set out to find that table.  Revel was very accommodating to us because although they had just sold out the half moments before we got there, they managed to wiggle him into the pool somehow.  We played around for a bit, Chap got a hat to keep sweat out of his eyes and I found a super discounted pair of running shoes! Then we set out to find our mountain retreat.

Ready to race!

Ready to race!

We planned the trip so the first two days were full of Colorado activities and adventure, and the weekend days would be full of restful mountain time.  I can’t wait to share pictures and details of the place I found to stay in the mountains!

We were so tired on Saturday driving into our town that we crashed for a few hours and took a nap.  We decided we didn’t have the energy to drive the winding roads back down the mountain into town for my normal pizza ritual and instead I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner.  We took in views of the sunset from our hot tub and enjoyed a relaxing evening around the fire pit before heading to bed.

View from our weekend stay!

View from our weekend stay!

Best pre race routine yet!

Best pre race routine yet!

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Sunday

The race route was a point to point, starting west on 74.  Our place was right off the route as it wound east from Evergreen into a small mountain town called Morrison.

West to east down the mountain

West to east down the mountain

The plan was for buses to leave the finish area from 4:15-5:15 am to drive us west to the start line for a 6:30am start time.  We were staying between J and K on the map so decided we’d leave the mountain castle around 4:50am to catch some of the last buses (ok, probably the very last bus).  I had my pre-race coffee and we made PBJ sandwiches for some muscle fuel before we left.  We made it to the parking lot before the last bus was supposed to leave but encountered a line of hundreds of people still waiting to catch the bus.

We figured people probably had the same idea as us – stay in bed and catch the last possible bus to the top.  Seemed to be an ok plan since we still had well over an hour until race start.  It was a little bit chilly out but I had on a sweatshirt that I planned to drop at the bag drop at the start so I wasn’t too miserable.

Waiting to catch the bus

Waiting to catch the bus

By 5:45 we started to wonder what was going on since no one had moved and we hadn’t seen a single bus.  There was a line of hundreds of us wrapping up around a hill and none of us really knew what was going on.   Runners were milling about, working their way down to the gas station for bathrooms and back and forth to their cars.  By 6 I figured we’d have a delayed start time and was starting to get antsy.  We still hadn’t heard anything.  Finally, we saw a bus come around the corner and down the hill with no one on it.  It was definitely going the wrong way – we figured it was turning around at the bottom of the hill to drive up to the front of the line but instead it turned left and drove away into the distance…..

I joked with Chap that we should start a rumor and spread it up and down the lines.  Only one bus was operating for both the half and full.  There was a bear attack.  The roads are closed.  We had fun for a little while and it passed some more time.  People around us were speculating as well.  I knew it wasn’t a good thing that we’d been out there almost an hour and not seen a single bus.

Just about that time a car of runners drove by and said, “The half is cancelled”.

It seemed unbelievable and I didn’t really have time to think about it.  Honestly my first thought was, “Well let’s get the hell out of this parking lot before we get bottlenecked for hours.”  I just believed them for some reason so we hurried back to the car and got out of there.

First cancelled race ever!  So sad.

First cancelled race ever! So sad.

We got back to the car and I was starting to feel the weight of the disappointment.  We’d come all this way.  Chap was ready for his first.  I wanted to count Colorado.  He was driving us back west to the mountain castle and we stopped at several aid stations to ask if they knew anything about the cancellation.  None of the volunteers had heard anything.  As we were driving I was thinking – the road’s still blocked off, we can head west, they’re still going to host the marathon, this is great blog material……

about that same time Chap said, “What do you want to do?”  “We’re going to the start line damn it!”

So we did.  On the way up I told him about hearing of the people in New York who ran the race anyway when it was cancelled due to Sandy.  I was thinking we’d get up there, see if they’d let us start and if not, we would just use the blocked off lane as traffic control for a routine long run.  We would figure out how to get back to the car later.

Once we finally did make it to the start, the volunteers there welcomed us and said we could start anytime.  A small bus of true halfers had made it before us and they started around 6:30.  We crossed the start mats around 7am.

Goin' for it!

Goin’ for it!

It was an incredible sunshiney day.  The temperatures were great, the air was crisp and I only noticed the elevation on the first few inclines.  The course was mostly empty, with a few runners who crossed our paths throughout the run.

Miles 1-3 took us through the mountain town of Evergreen and were mostly downhill.  There were a few little inclines where I definitely felt the elevation but that was about it.  I was so happy to be running.  In the mountains.  With Chap.

By mile 4 we’d been spit out close to a creek that provided some cooler air and calming background noise for us.  Still very much downhill but the sun was shining on us and I was getting pretty warm.

At halfway we munched on a Stinger Waffle and I grabbed a jolly rancher from one of the water stations.  As usual I took small sips at each stop. My knees were starting to feel a little tender from the decline but nothing like my left calf.  I had been stung by a bee on the Wednesday before our trip and it bothered me a little since then.  Race day though I’m not sure how it affected my muscles but it hurt!  Pushed on though 🙂

Miles 7 through 9 wound us down through a town called Kittredge and on towards our mountain castle.  We could see our beautiful place from the road.  The landscape turned a little more rocky and the stream was still with us.  Chap seemed to be doing great and was so excited when he saw the sweat drop off the side of his hat bill.  “It’s not in my eyes!”.  At this point we started seeing runners coming up the mountain!  I’m not sure if they were running the entire course in reverse (crazy!) or running half way up and coming back down (slightly less crazy!).  I cheered them on and they returned the favor.  It was great to see people making the best of this situation (like runners usually do 🙂 ).

At some point after 10 (Chap’s farthest ever!) we got a little separated.  My calf was really, really bothering me and he later told me that he just leaned into the downhill and went for it (his average time for that mile showed it too – 8:24!).  I stayed a good tenth of a mile behind for almost an entire mile.  I kept thinking “surely he’ll slow down and wait for me.”  Then I thought “well, it’s his race, he can go on without me.  But he didn’t really train that hard for it, and didn’t really have a specific goal he was going for.  Why isn’t he waiting for me?!”  So I turned on the jets and chased him down.  I finally caught him and sassed him with a “Thanks for waiting for me.”  He replied (smartly) with “I knew you’d catch me.”

We had a mile left and I got over it and helped coach him to the finish.  I was hot at this point.  Not like Oklahoma but the sun was just shining right on us.  At the last two water stops, I’d poured the rest of my cup on my head to try to help me cool off.  My knees were sore, my calf was throbbing but I knew we were gonna make it.  We had no idea of the time as his phone died and we started way after the official clock did.

Once we hit 13 miles, I couldn’t see the finish.  I knew we’d have more than .1 to go but we turned on the final sprint and made it the extra .3 miles to the finish line.  There was one final downhill that I leaned into and my knees have never felt so bad.  I actually made faces and winced out loud.  But the crowd roared us in and we finished with big smiles – or I did at least.  I couldn’t see Chap since I smoked him at the last minute ;).

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We hung out at the finish for a while enjoying table massages, free TCBY scoops and of course post-run beer.  We still weren’t sure of what caused the bus problems that morning but it was like living in our own reality TV drama for a while.  When we stopped at the table to get our official time print outs we were surprised to learn Chap placed third in his age group!

3rd place!

3rd place!

First half marathon and he places in his age group – not too shabby!  (We won’t tell anyone that it’s because more than half of the runners didn’t get to the start line…..it’s because he has such a great coach!).

Now came the tricky part of finding a way back to our car.  We asked people along the way if anyone was heading west and didn’t have any luck there.  We looked for someone to make an announcement on the stage but also struck out there.  Finally we searched for some cardboard and marker to write “Runners stranded, ride to Evergreen $20” but no one had even that.

Finally Chap said, “you should try hitch hiking”.

And so….

Hitch hiking to Evergreen

Hitch hiking to Evergreen

It took maybe 5 minutes before a jeep pulled over with a runner in the front.  I said, “We’re trying to get back to the start line”  “Well we live in Evergreen so we’ll take you!”  Oh it worked out so perfectly!  Turns out they were from Oklahoma but had moved to Evergreen a few years ago.  Chap and I squeezed in the back with their daughter and enjoyed the open-top air in our faces.  They gave us an excellent lunch recommendation and we went our separate ways.

One World Cafe

One World Cafe

We downed some burgers and bloody Marys at One World Cafe in downtown Evergreen while perusing the Facebook drama of the morning.  Revel had released a statement on their page saying “The Half Marathon has been cancelled due to the bus company not providing the number of buses contracted. Information regarding this and many more details will be forthcoming.”

Oh people were so mad and the comments were quite entertaining.  I can understand the frustration – especially for the out of towners, for the people trying to qualify for Boston and the first-time runners.  I applaud the people who made the best of the situation, enjoying the scenery of the Rocky Mountains and either running the course or mapping out their own miles.  There were lots of wins on Sunday despite the “rocky” start to the race.

We’re still waiting to hear what exactly happened – Revel has decided to refund the entry fee for those who were not able to run, or to offer a free entry into one of their future races.  Not very many race companies would do that, or have done that.  It was thoroughly entertaining to see it all unfold over social media and I’m so lucky to have had a partner willing to make it work.

Check out their Facebook page – Revel Rockies – if you want in on some of the commenting entertainment.  Several articles have also been written on the chaos if you want to search on Google you’d find some things there too.

Every time I do a race I think it’s going to be the most memorable.  From the Icepocolypse of Arkansas to the fantastically put together race in San Francisco.  Thank you Colorado for another great story to add to the books!

13.4 done!

13.4 done!