Rocky Mountain Half Marathon/Elk Double 2016

First thing’s first and we need to get this out of the way: the Rocky Mountain National Park Half Marathon DOES NOT actually go into the park. It takes place and around the town of Estes Park, CO. This should not in any way discourage you from doing the race because it is absolutely so much fun and the views are lovely. You also get to see the Stanley Hotel (where The Shining) was filmed. We did not stay at the Stanley. We stayed at the YMCA of the Rockies. It was much cheaper, but…I mean…it was the YMCA. It was about 15 minutes to get to the start line, it was clean, and there was no AC, just a box fan in the window. Would I stay there again? Ehhhh if I decide to bring the birds and rent a cabin sure? Otherwise try to snag something in town.

Stanley Hotel

On to the races. First came the 5k on Friday evening and that just went around the lake. It was pretty. There was water. A bald eagle perched above the starting line and nearly crapped on three people and then flew off during the national anthem. Was it an omen? No idea.

The half was a much bigger beast. Organization-wise, there was a little bit of mess when it came to the corrals since I was put into the 2:30 pace corral and we all know that is aspirational. I mean, I managed to take half an hour off my time, but 2:57:09 is not 2:30:00. OH WELL. Lots of people were flummoxed about their corral placements but nobody died.

Waves

HAHAHA no. Also horse trailers. There was a horse show next door.

There were portable toilets as far as the eye can see, so A+ there. There were also plenty of water stops (I’m not sold on Gnarly…Nuun is still my go to drink, but whatever) and they had gels at pretty much every stop. I love Honey Stinger chews, but the gels are pretty decent as well. No complaints.

As far as the other perks? The photo company had a very reasonable $20 deal at the Expo which I took advantage of. They didn’t really cover the 5k, so be aware of that.

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This was near the lake at the end.

Overall, this race was great. The 5k was fun, the half was pretty and challenging, and the medals…did I mention the medals?

Finish with Medals

Best. Medals. Ever. They’re huge.

I want to also mention that Vacation Races was fantastic in every possible way when we had to make changes to my dad’s 5k registration. They’re prompt and accomodating and they have an awesome refund/transfer policy. With Disney eliminating the option to defer…well…I’m probably gonna stick to VR for a while after the Dopey 2017 races. I really want RunDisney to get their shit together but I’m not optimistic.

Feel free to message me if you have any questions!

Dark Side Challenge 2016

It is raining/hailing/sleeting in Denver, and my birbs are cuddled up and watching bad TV with me. Seems as good a time as any to write my race recap for the RunDisney Star Wars Dark Side Challenge!

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I was Darth Jar Jar from the reddit theory for the 10k. Don’t you judge me. (Photo taken by Disney Photopass)

To start with, I don’t think I’m going to be doing any more inaugural races for a while. Too many kinks no matter how good the organizers are. RunDisney tried a new course that went from Epcot to ESPN, and a lot of people hated it, but I honestly didn’t mind. The people who drove and parked at Epcot were the ones who had the most trouble. It took a long time to get from the finish back to my hotel (Pop Century) for the 10k, but for the half they’d clearly called in every charter bus for a thousand miles so it was a MUCH faster process. Presumably it was also faster for the people who needed to get back to the parking lot, but I can’t speak for that aspect.

The course for the 10k went from Epcot, through Hollywood Studios, then over to ESPN. There were a lot of weird bottlenecks along the path between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, which I’m told is pretty normal for that route. It was horrifically hot and muggy so there was no chance of me getting a faster time than I had in New Orleans anyway, and I was happy to enjoy the chaos. The last mile…ish was on a packed dirt path and that got hairy in a couple of spots as well. Not awful, but you could easily twist an ankle.

As always, the medals and shirts are great. No complaints there.

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The course for the half was pretty similar except that it went out to Animal Kingdom and then came back to ESPN. There were tons of Storm Troopers and other characters all over both courses, and Kylo Ren on the stage at Hollywood Studios was a lot of fun. I’d like to say I got some great photos but I honestly didn’t because I was so hot and kinda loopy.

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Have some fireworks. I’m a terrible photographer. 

For anyone worried about the Disney Photopass changeover, don’t be. They did great and (once the server problems were resolved) everything popped up quickly.

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Darth Maul’s horns did not hold up as well as Jar Jar’s eyes…not gonna lie. (Photo taken by Disney Photopass)

I’ll almost certainly do both Star Wars races at some point so I can get the Kessel Run medal, but that’s the only reason I’d do this race again. It is fun, but it is just too damn hot in April in Florida. I love RunDisney but I think they need to reassess what time of year they hold this run.

As for the next round… I don’t know if I’ll be staying at Pop Century again for the Dopey…. my friend Sara and I are going to try to upgrade to Port Orleans. Or Yacht Club. We stayed at Yacht Club the last two nights of our trip and it was GLORIOUS. The pool alone is worth the cost, but given that the Dopey is in January…ehhh. Probably won’t be able to use it.

Signups for the Dopey are tomorrow and I’m conflicted. Am I going to be able to do this? I’ve lost more weight. I’m getting faster. Can I really go the full 26.2?

I hope so. I’ll sure find out.

Race Recap: Rock and Roll New Orleans 2016

Woo! I managed to set a PR for the 10k in New Orleans! 1:21:59 isn’t incredibly impressive but it is way faster than I usually manage, and it gives me some hope that I’m finally making progress.

All is well with the world. The medal is by far and away one of my favorites (after the Disney Coast to Coast medal and the Glass Slipper). I loved the course, and other than some minor messes with the post race busses back to the starting line, everything was great.

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It wasn’t stupid hot so I looked a hell of a lot better than I usually do post-race. 

I am surprised at how generous they were with the timing….there were people running the marathon who had only made it to mile 9 at the 5 hour mark, which seems just…odd.

We stayed at the International House Hotel, just a couple of blocks up from the starting line. Other than the entire hotel smelling faintly (and sometimes strongly) of cigarettes, I had no complaints. Everyone was polite and quick to help.

Of the various bars and restaurants we went to, Cochon and GW Fins were both the most expensive and the most amazing. Bourbon O Bar had great music and some strong drinks, and Red Gravy had an EXCELLENT breakfast. The food at Camilla’s Grill was good, but the pecan pie was excellent and the guys working there were so much fun.

We did a graveyard tour through Save Our Cemeteries, and it was a bit odd but very informative and fun. The Gray Line tour of Oak Alley Planation was probably overpriced but the bus was comfortable and the tour was good. The driver was very talkative and friendly.

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Terrible history, STUNNING house. 

All in all, New Orleans is wonderful and grimy and exciting and confusing and I highly recommend the race and the city. There’s nothing better than beignets for recovery, and a flat and fast course past a graveyard never hurt anyone.

Key West Half Marathon 2016

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I registered for the walk because I’m very very slow. But there were other very slow people registered as runners so it wouldn’t have mattered. The shirt is the loudest, most obnoxious race shirt I’ve ever seen and I love it because it could not be more Key West.

My first race of the new year! January 17th I ran the Key West Half, which loops around through downtown Key West, past the Southernmost Point, up along the coast, and then sends you all the way back. Out and back courses aren’t anyone’s favorite, but given the layout of the island, it makes sense why they do it the way they do. This year the race started an hour later than normal because we were caught up in a tornado warning. Because why not. There was wind. There was rain. The restaurant I was eating breakfast at lost power. The race course was full of Portuguese man ‘o war.

Despite all this I managed to set a PR of 3:30:54 (pathetic, I know. I’m very slow) so I can’t complain *too* much. The medals are fun because they’re conch-shaped wine bottle stoppers, and every person I interacted with was happy and enthusiastic no matter if they were volunteers or participants. It was a fun race, and I got to eat some oysters after I finished, so all in all it was worth doing once. I’d definitely do it again if my friends wanted to go. Being by myself kinda sucked. Marathonfoto was also supposed to be on the course but hell if I saw them anywhere but the Southernmost point and the finish line.

I would NOT do AirBnb again for a race. It was a little too weird being in someone else’s house, and for what I paid, I should’ve just stayed in a hotel. The lady was nice, I just prefer the anonymous nature of hotels, and I don’t like waking up anyone else when I get up at 4am.

The rest of my weekend was spent in Key Largo doing a bit of scuba diving and a lot of laying around in the hot tub. Shout out to Dove Creek Lodge for upgrading my room Sunday and Monday nights and being generally pretty awesome all around. They had a picture of Donald Trump in the lobby and weren’t being ironic, which is literally the only bad thing I can say about them. Even the lobby coffee was decent! Nice views, clean rooms, excellent pool and hot tub, and friendly lobby staff. What more do you want?

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Dove Creek Lodge in Key Largo has a very nice pool that hardly anyone else seemed to use? That hot tub was so nice after the half…..

I went diving with Rainbow Reef Dive Center out of Key Largo, and I have to say they were great. Brent, my dive guide, argued with me on how much weight I needed, but it was all friendly and I’d totally use them again if I went back. I was the only woman traveling alone on a boat of…20-30 people? It was odd. Several guys were by themselves, but I was the lone lone female. No matter. The boat was clean and in good repair. They had plenty of water bottles, and the rental gear was in good shape. Cheers to you, Rainbow Reef.

As for food in Key Largo…Harriette’s for breakfast is delicious and very reasonably priced (just bring cash) and Hobos Cafe is 100% amazing. Get the Mahi Quesadilla. Trust me. The food in Key West was…eh. Dante’s doesn’t get a link because their staff basically ignored me the entire time, though the food was actually pretty good. The Half Shell Raw Bar was OK. Seafood pasta needed way more seafood though, and again the staff kinda ignored me. I had breakfast at Harpoon Harry’s on race morning, and they were good, but the staff didn’t handle the insane crowd from the half marathon very well. I feel like they weren’t prepared for it, but this isn’t the first year the race has been run, and the starting line was just a block away, so I’d think they would have been used to the whole dog and pony show by this point. The power going out didn’t help, but they were floundering before that.

All in all, great weekend. I love the Florida Keys, and driving down from Miami (despite the terrible drivers) is worth doing just for the hell of it. The views are stunning, the people are usually pretty friendly, and there’s a charm to the Keys that you just don’t get in the rest of Florida. I agree with Runner’s World that the Key West Half is very much at the top of the list for destination races, and I would do it again if someone else were going with me.

Next up: Rock and Roll New Orleans 10k and the Inaugural DARK SIDE HALF MARATHON WHEEEEEEEEEE!

*I was not given any compensation by any of these companies. Dove Creek Lodge upgraded me to a suite from the standard room I paid for because “the manager was in a good mood” and they did not ask me to write a review for them. I would have said nice things about them without the upgrade, since even their “standard” room is really nice. Rainbow Reef asked politely for good reviews on Yelp, but I paid full price for my dives and rentals. The restaurants likewise did not comp me anything.*

Avengers Infinity Gauntlet Challenge 2015

Disneyland

So. This was the first year that Disney has done the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge. And really it was wonderful overall, but I think I still prefer Disney WORLD. I haven’t done any other Disneyland races, so I don’t know if the half marathon route is the same for the other races through Anaheim, but I have to say I wasn’t super impressed. There was a lot of running along a drainage ditch, and for all the wonderful cosplayers and encouraging spectators…it didn’t really change the fact is was a bleak and sad area with random homeless encampments that were mysteriously vacant? Did Disney off the homeless people before the race? Who knows. Angels stadium was cool, and the WWII re-enactors were amazing, but the miles of sand and empty trail…ehhhhh.

The merchandise…was just bad. We won’t discuss the awful colors or the bad designs or any of that crap. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed. I did buy an Infinity Gauntlet running hat because I needed a new hat, but if you want swag? Stick to the Princess.

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The whole thing happened right after the Paris attacks, so there were delays that I’m quite sure were related to the dozens of bomb dogs running around everywhere. No complaints there, I get that Disney was trying to keep everyone safe.

The Captain America 10k was fantastic, and I LOVED the route, so if you are looking for an excellent shorter race? DO THE 10K AND DON’T HESITATE. The medal for that one was also great.

Avengers Medals

The Infinity Gauntlet medal…well let’s just say there were some structural failures on the gems. They fell off pretty much instantly. That’s fine with me since it looks a little less gaudy without them. I got my Coast to Coast medal as well and THAT is stunning and wonderful and I’m so glad I had the chance to run both places.

On an aside…Disneyland was just packed to the gills and I can’t say I was impressed. Disney needs to either ban large strollers, or limit the numbers allowed in. I felt like I was being crushed multiple times, and nearly got run over a few other occasions.

NO MORE HUMVEE STROLLERS.

All in all? The races were both worth doing once, and if you want your Coast to Coast? TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Race Recap 2015: Bolder Boulder 10k

This is going to be a short one because literally everyone has run this race. And if you haven’t run it, you should. It is fun, slightly chaotic, well-managed, and just generally a good time. This was my first year running it, and while I had to miss part of Denver Comic Con, it was totally worth it. There was live music all along the course, the waves were well-marked, and there were plenty of portajohns. Packet pickup was the easiest ever since there were locations all over the city. The t-shirts are fantastic and I’m regretting not getting some kind of Sea Level is for Sissies merch (a hat or new sweatband would have been good).

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My mom and I got my dad to drop us off so we wouldn’t have to fight parking, and we walked about a half mile to the starting line to meet up with our wave (PF). They sent us off pretty much right on the dot of when they said they would. The course is mildly hilly and goes through a lot of suburban areas, but because it is Boulder the views are awesome and tons of people were out bbqing and cheering and hollering, since it was also Memorial day.

Two things were a bit disappointing: Buffs stadium is under construction right now so that was less than thrilling as we climbed to the finish line, and they ran out of beer for the later racers! But other than that not bad, and the sample bags had plenty of food. The photos were free, but they weren’t individual ones, just big group shots, which is fine. They are decent quality so they’re easy to crop down. I didn’t set a PR since we had to stop to pee and the course was crowded, but who cares we had a great time.

My time: 1:40

2014 Race Recap: Color Run Denver and Blacklight Run

This is what I looked at after the Color Run, including the mosh pit o’ color.

I’m adding quick blurbs about these two races just in case someone is wondering whether or not they are worth doing. My take is that they are both fun, both decently organized (neither stood out as great) and both worth doing once. The Color Run was in the morning, the Blacklight Run was at night. The Color Run was a bit more expensive so if you are on a budget, sign up early for the Blacklight Run and do that one instead. Parking at both was kind of a mess, though less so at Bandimere for the Blacklight Run. Apparently, the Blacklight run won’t be at the speedway this year, so it is anyone’s guess what the situation will be at the new location. Use the lightrail for the Color Run if you possibly can.

There were enough portapoties at both, and the water stops were fine. Color Run gives you way more STUFF, but since I didn’t need a trucker hat, wrist sweat band, or either pair of socks… meh. I will say the Color Run t-shirt is MUCH better quality than the Blacklight Run shirt. Apparently the Shine Tour Color Run is giving out finisher’s medals, but I don’t know much more than that. There’s also supposed to be a bunch of shiny powder at the end (hence the name).

All in all, they are different enough that I would suggest doing both of them once, and then maybe picking which one you like better if you want to repeat the experience. The music at both was fun, the people were fun, and my mother and I enjoyed ourselves at both races. (Yes, my 60+ year old mother likes to do themed 5ks).

I’m doing Color Me Rad on July 11th, so I’ll report on that one as well. I’m told the overall “color” experience is better, but we will see. I’m also doing the Foam Glow Run in September, which is run by the same people who do the Blacklight run and uses the same course, so I’ll get to see if they’ve upped their game at all.

This picture makes me look pregnant for whatever reason, but it gives you a good idea of what you’ll look like at the end of the Blacklight run. 

Race Recap: Colfax Half Marathon 2015

So this race was the second ever half marathon for me, and I have to say Disney is a tough act to follow. This was the 10th Anniversary of the race and while the medals were lovely, the race areas were well-marked and organized, and the portable toilets were plenty and fairly clean, I’m not sure I’d do this race again. For one thing, the parking was a nightmare, for another, while I loved going through the Denver Zoo, it wasn’t worth the hills you had to climb to get there. Not to mention they ran out of Gatorade at the last few stops by the time I made it out there (I’m slow, okay? REALLY slow). The packet pickup was at Wings over the Rockies, which was cool, but REALLY inconvenient, and I never would have made it there if I hadn’t gotten off work early on Friday.

I can’t compare it to any of the other Colfax races (5k, 10 miler, marathon, and relay) but as a stand alone for what it was worth, I’m not sorry I did it. Bonus that this year all the race photos were free!

Pros:
Trip through the zoo and the firehouse
Well organized
Nice part of Denver
Interesting Packet Pickup Location
Free race photos (PROBABLY ONLY 2015 BECAUSE OF THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY)

Cons:
Parking
No Gatorade
So. Many. Hills.
Lots of running through uninteresting parts of the neighborhoods
Not very many spectators

 Here’s a link to the Colfax Race Series.

The medal in question is pretty awesome and came with a tiny medal baby for my purse.

Time: 1:30:29