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Ralston Creek Half Marathon

Sunday February 12, 2012 marked the first half marathon of the year, so I had to run it. I had heard about the race from my friend and co-worker Lysette in December or January (they all blur together). Checked it out online and said, “I’M IN!” As a half marathoner, one goes into withdrawals from not running them. My last half marathon was way back on November 12, 2011, I was starting to twitch…

Saturday morning, at 6:30am, I headed to Life Time Fitness for an easy run on the dreadmill with the Run Club (thanks Greg for being the only one tough it out and show up). After running I would man (or actually woman) a table for the Open House representing the Run Club. It was snowing… I thought GREAT! The race director had just emailed me on Thursday telling me the course was free of snow/ice…that was all about to change.  Luckily, by the time I left the gym at 11am, it had stopped snowing, and got sunny out. Even if it is 30 degrees out, the sun in Colorado can melt the snow and you WILL see people walking around in t-shirts – yes, I was one of those people.

Aidan's 10th Birthday

Aidan, my middle nephew, had his 10th birthday coming on Wednesday February 15th, so we celebrated Saturday night with family and friends. I went up to my sister’s house for Chinese and, by Aidan’s request, chocolate chip cookie pan instead of cake. Yummy pre-race dinner and dessert. I left at around 8pm so I could come home and make final preparations for my race in the morning.

I made my “Little Kristen”. This is done by laying out your entire outfit for the race from head to toe, including pinning on race bib and chip on your shoe if there was an early packet pickup. In this case, we did not get to pick up our race packet until the morning of the race. So I had to make sure I had my race belt that I clip my race bib on. This belt also has holders for my GU (Tri-Berry flavor), and a pocket to hold my Swedish Fish (small red ones only) and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cliff Bar. These are EXTREMELY important for me to have at EVERY half marathon.

Preparing breakfast for the morning is also done the night before. In a bag, that I will bring to the race, is a water, banana and plain bagel. On the kitchen counter is my bowl, packet of oatmeal (yes Bev, I eat oatmeal now… a lot has changed since I was 5 years old and ran away from home to your house), protein powder and coffee cup sitting on the Keurig. NOW I can relax in bed with a show and get my beauty rest…

Sunday morning arrives, and I’m woken up by my Golden Retriever Wrigley pushing her nose under my arm – time to get up mommy! Normal routine, get up, brush teeth, feed dogs, take dogs out to do their “thing” and then come back in to eat breakfast while watching the news. Note to self – it is FREAKING FREEZING OUTSIDE!!! Its not snowing, but it is only 7 degrees out! Oh boy, this is going to be a cold race. Well, it is only 6am, maybe it will warm up a bit by the 9 am start time…NOT!

The race was in Arvada, CO, so it was about a 40 minute drive from my place. I arrived an hour before the start and got a sweet parking spot on the street by the port-a-potties (a runners dream – easy access & no line) and right by the Start/Finish line. It is STILL only 7 degrees out… Picked up my race packet, grabbed a coffee from the Boyer Coffee tent and headed back to the car to keep warm. Sat with the car running for heat, listened to music, looked at the route map and did some stalking on facebook.

The car that was parked in front of me left, I thought either they forgot something, or they are volunteers heading out onto the course. It was the latter, I saw them at around mile 8 handing out water. Someone else pulled into that same spot a short while later. It ended up being Meghan from the American Cancer Society DetermiNation Denver team (that will be running the Rock n Roll Seattle Marathon and Half)  to have a tent at the finish of the race. I too will be running with this group, in Seattle, in June (that will be a later post – stay tuned…). With a half hour left to the start, I put the layers on to run. This consisted of 3 technical shirts – one short sleeved and two long sleeved, with the top one having a half zip top, goat sleeve, fleece hat, gloves and running pants. Plus I strategically placed my iPod under all of the layers to make it easier to peel them off as needed. I am a trained professional after all…

Stopped off at the no line local port-a-potty and headed to the start area. Ate my banana in the car, so now I was eating my bagel and got a little more coffee to keep warm. Looked around for Lysette, Kemp and Heather, but didn’t find them – 3 other friend that I knew were running the race. They were all in the second wave that started 45 minutes after mine.

Finally it was time to line up at the start. I dedicated this race to my friend Ryan Beehler, who we lost one year ago to the day, He was taken far too early from this earth. The race director went over the course and warned us about the snow/ice sections on the route. Lysette found me at the start and gave me a hug and wished me luck – I wished her luck as well and said see you at the finish! Five, four, three, two, one and we’re OFF on a 7 degree morning in Colorado.

I pulled my goat sleeve over my face to help with the cold – that helped a lot. Both of my big toes were frozen and numb. My cycling shoe toe covers would of been nice to have, but would of come right off probably. Mesh shoes are NOT warm in sub-freezing temperatures. After about mile 3 I started warming up. The goat sleeve came down, and was just around my neck, then the gloves came off and went into my pockets. I could also finally feel my toes again – whew!

Finisher Medal

There were several tricky snow/ice sections, one of which I almost went down on. The two girls behind me even screamed when I slipped – told them “careful there”. The scenery was fabulous. We were near the foothills, which were snow covered, and were surrounded by open space. At the first water stop we got Heed (like Gatorade but tastes HORRIBLE, I call it Heave) and water to drink. I drank some Heave and then tried to drink the water, but it was FROZEN!

Around mile 6.6, right before the big switch-back hill, we were passed by a mountain biker letting us know that the lead runners, from the second wave, were about to pass by. There they go in their short shorts and tank tops – are you freaking kidding me?! Maybe I could run that fast if I was half naked in 7 degree weather! One by one the second wave of runners started passing us like we were standing still. Ok, I was walking up that bitch of a hill, but they made it seem effortless.

What goes up, must come down. Finally made it to the top and got to make up some time running down the other side. It takes me 4-5 miles to warm up, so I had gotten my second wind at the top of that hill and felt like I was flying down.

Along the route, I had eaten a few GUs, (I have one every 4 miles) some Swedish Fish and a few bites of Cliff bar. Well, around mile 9 my blood sugar dropped and I had to walk and eat as much Cliff bar as I could to get back to normal so I wouldn’t pass out. At mile 9.6 my friend Kemp passed me and patted my on my shoulder – “Go Kristen”. Then at mile 9.9 Heather, a friend and teacher for two of my nephews, passed me – “Hey Kristen”. That helped more than they know. Was starting to feel better, so back to running I went. It felt like it cooled off again, so I decided to pull my goat sleeve back up over my face…it was frozen solid!

I knew this was not going to be my best race, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to run and start the season for 2012. Finally at mile 12, my friend Lysette passed me. She said “run in with me”, as she flew by. Remember, those 3 friends started 45 minutes AFTER I did. It doesn’t matter to me, because no matter how slow I go, I am lapping everybody on the couch!

Finally, I could see the finish line. My legs were like frozen lead and I couldn’t even pull out a sprint at the end. Nearing the finishing mat was myself and one other guy. I heard the announcer say, “Who will finish first?”, well it was the other guy and he won a prize – UGH! Oh well, I was done and did not get frost bite. In fact, it had warmed up to 14 degrees! Lysette, Kemp, Heather and her family cheered me across the finish line. I got coffee and water right away, along with a breakfast burrito – it was egg, cheese and potato, no chili – YUMMY!

Heather won second in OUR age group – I got 31st, and yes, there were more than 31 in our age group… Lysette’s friend won first in her age group (over 60 somewhere), as she always does.

After the awards I went to breakfast with Lysette, Kemp and a few of their friends. That was the best omelet and hasbrowns I had ever eaten…OK I may of been a little hungry and anything would of tasted good. We all ate with our coats still on, guess we were still defrosting.

This was the first running of this race and I would do it again!

Run Happy and Stay Warm!

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Chilly Cheeks Duathlon

Bike staged

Bike Staged and ready

Saturday January 21, 2012 I completed my FIRST Duathlon – The Chilly Cheeks Duathlon #2 at the Cherry Creek Reservoir. It was a cool sunny and overcast day and clear of snow. I arrived an hour before the start, picked up my race packet and got my bike racked and transition pack ready. Boyer’s coffee had a tent with free coffee, so I headed there for a warm up.

This Duathlon was a Run (1.5 miles), Bike (3.5 miles), Run (2.5 miles), Bike (7 miles) and then 50 yard run to the finish. There were 3 different waves, A, B, and C, all were mixed with all levels of athletes. I was in the B wave. I started off with my bike shorts, bike leg warmers (no not the kind from the 80’s), short sleeved tech shirt, long sleeved tech shirt and gloves. There were some pretty serious racers there with top notch triathlon bikes. They were the ones that had their bike shoes clipped into their pedals – that would just be a crashing disaster for me. They also wore their bike helmets for the runs – really does it take that much time to put on your helmet? Then there were the semi-serious like me, down to the super casual like those in cotton everything with coats and a borrowed bicycle. It was a HUGE mix of athletes and abilities. That is what I love about racing, it is for EVERYONE! Of course I made friends, and found some people that live near my Life Time Fitness so I recruited them to join and do our Cycle and Run Clubs – I can’t help it its my passion!

1st Run Leg

First Run Leg

The A Wave took off, so those of us in the B Wave lined up for the first run. The woman next to me was debating on whether she should wear her stocking cap or not. Five, Four, Three, Two, One… and we’re off! Wahooooooooo! Run number 1 started on the road, then made it’s way to the trail. I felt great, but was still warming up. We made a 1.5 mile loop back to the bikes.

I switched my visor for my helmet, running gloves for cycling gloves, and running shoes for cycling shoes. Ran my bike to the mounting area and took off. This is FUN! Well, until the hill came… but I took that hill and shoved it in my back pocket. It was a fun 3.5 mile loop with a sweet downhill to make up for the uphill. I clocked 29 mph down that hill – wahoo that was fun! Made it back to the transition area and dismounted – oh, ok, my legs are like rubber now… Racked my bike, took off my helmet, shoes and long sleeved shirt. Put on my running shoes & visor and took off running for the second leg.

1st Bike Leg

First Bike Leg

Man I could really feel my legs, and they felt like slugs! So, this run was a bit slower than the first and part of it was thru some sand, so that didn’t help my sluggishness… It was another loop, but different from the first leg. The more elite athletes in Wave C were now starting to pass us in Wave B, but I don’t worry about that, I compete against myself. Since this was my very first duathlon, I was happy where I was at. When I made it back to the transition area, it was a lot harder to change into my bike shoes that it was the first time.

Strapped on my helmet and ran my bike to the mounting area and took off. As I headed up the first hill, of the loop we would do twice this time, the wind started kicking in. The rest of the ride was either in a head wind or side wind. As if my legs were not already hating me, the wind had to help them hate me more. I just put my head down and pedaled through the best I could and had fun with it. As I was nearing the end of the second loop, I was trying to decide if I would run the 50 yards from the transition area to the finish in my socks, or actually put on my running shoes. I had seen a lot of people running in their socks to save time, but with my luck, I thought I may get hurt. So as I dismounted and ran my bike into the rack, I switched shoes.

As I ran through the aisles of bikes to the finish line, people stopped and cheered for me. It made me feel like I was about to win a gold medal! They announced my name as I crossed the finish line and a race official came up to me with a Rudy bicycle helmet and said, here you win this! WAHOOO!!! I was beat, hungry, thirsty and couldn’t stop coughing (I had forgot my inhaler), but I thought to myself, wow that was awesome, I am going to sign up for the next Chilly Cheeks Duathlon being held on February 25th!

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