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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ;).
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!
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”.
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.
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!