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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