Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Platte River Half Marathon- A Review

Around this time last year, I was rehabbing through an injury. I had a tough time walking, let alone running. I kid you not; it felt like my world was coming to an end! Ben and I had been signed up to do the Platte River Half Marathon when this injury occurred and even though I knew I would likely not be able to finish, I wanted to start and see how far I could go. I made it to the aid station at mile eight. At the risk of sounding insanely dramatic, at the time, making the decision to not finish was one of the toughest, gut wrenching decisions to make. Go figure, I did get back to running shortly thereafter and thankfully, my world did not really come to an end and I did get back into running!
I do not get the chance to run much on the Platte River Trail and have only run on certain sections during this specific race. I knew where this mile 8 aid station was on the trail but sometimes these things don’t translate out of the race course. Recently, however, I was driving between PT home visits and realized that I was driving right past this spot. I had very bittersweet memories! I decided at this point that I needed to do the Platte River Half once again to run past that spot and reminisce. I convinced some friends to do it with me (Ben could not due to scheduling) and signed up right away.
The race was held on April 15th. Packet pick up was the Friday and Saturday prior to the race. In the past years, packet pick up was at a local Runners Roost. This year, packet pick up location was moved to Arapahoe Community College, just down the street from the start line. This new location felt like a trek relative to past years! That said, the new location did allow for sponsors to be present with booths at pick up. When I arrived (right as it opened), I felt like pick up was set up strangely. Racers ID’s were checked and they were given bibs and chips, and then sent to a table to get ties and pins. Then they were routed to a spot to get bags and shirts. I think it would have been handy to have the shirt in the beginning, but no bigs. It was nice to see who some of the sponsors were for the race, but I did not feel like spending money (and I really needed a haircut, which I was scheduled for that afternoon) so I left pretty quickly.
The bibs this year had racers first names on them, which is nice for anyone wanting to cheer on a specific runner. That said, they were made relatively cheaply and mine ripped three separate times. The shirts on the other hand were fantastic. Long-sleeve tech shirts made by Brooks were provided. The logo was an attractive logo and these shirts tend to be in my top favs of long sleeve race shirts!
The start time for the race was 9 am, but we planned to get to the race super early to get good parking. Lucky us, we were one of the first cars in and were able to park close to the start and the metro. Race day temp was pretty cool (it has been cool for 2 of the last 3 years I have done this race) and it made it difficult to decide for sure what to wear. For the first two miles, I swear it warmed up, but in the end, it ended up cooling and I was glad I wore what I did.

The start line was in downtown Littleton. Here, the organizers had plenty of porta-potties for the crowd. Bag drop was also conveniently located and it was a breeze to drop my bag in the truck. The race start had some awesome energy. Because it has become such a large race, the organizers decided to start it in waves this year, which made the start actually feel a little less chaotic. I did not have to worry nearly as much around weaving in and out of people. The first two miles were through down town Littleton and then racers were dumped onto the Platte River Trail. The one drawback of the entry location to the trail is that runners immediately go under a bridge and then have to cross a narrow wooden foot bridge over the water. I knew this was coming and was prepared, but running is always slowed to a walk here and can add some time to your overall run time.
The rest of the course is along the Platte River and enters and exits several cities. Because this race is held in early spring, the course is generally pretty course. That said, there is one section of the course that runs right near a dump and is not what I would call a picturesque location. The course eventually ends up on 8th Avenue and runners are greeted with an overpass in the last mile, which seems daunting. At any other time, this hill would seem like a cinch, but it’s placement seems just evil. After the overpass, racers drop down and finish on Mariposa St. This year, to celebrate the 10th year anniversary, finishers were awarded with a medal at the finish line. This was a nice surprise and a fun addition to my collection!

Aid stations along the course seemed well placed and well manned. The volunteers were very helpful and even cheered the runners on! Porta potties were also available along the course. I guess I should add to that the organizers did a great job having enough porta potties for the crowd on the course, and at start and finish.
After finishing, runners were directed to bag pick up, which was easy to find and then down around a corner, past several sponsors (with food) to the post race party. The food itself was fantastic and featured foods from Wahoos, Ted’s, Garbanzo, the Buckhorn Exchange, and several other local restaurants. I was a little disappointed to not see the Melting Pot at the race this year! The beer garden was sponsored by Michelob this year. It is always great to have beer after a race, but let’s face it, I am kind of a beer snob and preferred when this race was sponsored by a local brewery!

Because it was freezing and windy after the race, we did not sick around long. Upon exiting the post-race party area, racers were given passes to the Light Rail (metro) to get back to cars. The race organizers did such a fantastic job with location that runners did not have to walk much at all to get to and from the metro (the party is basically at the entrance and the parking lots are about 2 blocks from the exit).
Overall, I really did enjoy this race and would do it again. After doing it three times, one can assume I would say that, right? The one thing to note, as with any spring races, is the weather can be very unpredictable and colder than hoped for!

Would I do this race again? Clearly
Would I recommend it to a friend? Absolutely (I even had two friends run it with me this year!). I think it is a great first half marathon as well for new runners.

Would I change anything? I would bring The Melting Pot back as a sponsor. Let’s face it. Who does not love fruit with chocolate dipping sauce. I would also bring back a local brewery for the post-race part. Michelob is… well… Michelob.

Is it worth the value? The shirt, the food, the race support all make it worth the value
Overall race experience: Great

Monday, April 16, 2012


Less than a year ago, my friend Beth, had a baby. About eight months ago, she said she would never do a half marathon. She even went so far as to say it was a stupid idea. Several months ago, she decided to start increasing her mileage to work up base mileage with the *potential* of doing a marathon in September. Less than two months ago, I convinced her to do the Platte River Half Marathon. Yesterday, she completed her first half marathon!

I love milestones. A huge part of what I do for work is focused around milestone accomplishment. Running with Ben and with other friends has been filled with literal and figurative milestones. In these last several months, I have been able to be a part of Beth meeting several of these milestones, including her first 5k run distance, her first 7 mile run, and her first half marathon.

It has been awesome to see the transformation from “what a stupid idea” to “I just ran my first half.” For those of you who have worked to increase your distance, you know this is not an easy transition. Runs can often be “ugly” during, yet leave you with a sense of accomplishment afterward. That increase in distance becomes an increase in so many things- joy, health, energy, and time with friends.

For those of you out there struggling to make it through each mile, remember, it is one foot in front of the other. You really can accomplish more than you think. Tuck your head and keep moving, but also remember to look around and enjoy the journey! You will get there!

And to Beth, nice work yesterday! Keep on running!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Boulder Spring Half Marathon

Ben and I ran the Boulder Spring Half on April 1st. For those of you who don’t know, it was my first race of the season and Ben’s longest run since his birthday run in December! I love spring racing and was a little nervous that Ben might not be able to participate, but he did and we did better than I expected! When we started the race, we both agreed to have a conservative pace, and I agreed to let Ben set the pace (plus, my GPS had gotten left behind so I could only be of limited help with the clock). The start was a little breezy and chilly, but I was glad I had opted to wear my warm weather gear, as it heated up fast and the course was almost fully exposed! For the first half, we really focused on having fun and taking in the sights.

Once we hit the turn around, Ben indicated that he was feeling good and wanted to push it a little harder for the last half. As a PT and his running partner, I was a little hesitant but decided to roll with it. The back half of the course is a little tough, as there are a few relatively long slow hills that you can see for an eternity before you even get to them, so I was not sure how this was going to turn out. With one mile left, we realized we would potentially be able to beat 2 hours (not near our PR, but still a good goal), but only if everything played out just right. Ben and I love hills (most of the time) and remained consistent with our pace as we climbed the last few, dropped into the reservoir, and made the final, smallish ascent to the finish line. Somehow, even with a very conservative start, we were able to finish in less than two hours, both feeling great!

Overall, I was extremely excited about our race. That said…I know right before this post I talked about pre-race prep. Well, let it be known that things do not always turn out how you think they will. For example, my GPS was ready to go and was accidentally placed into the wrong bag. I also decided to wear a black visor, which proved to be a problem with how hot it ended up being.

Now onto the dirty details… Races are one of my favorite things to do. They feel like mini vacations from reality. Races bring runners in the community together for one common goal. Let’s face it, unless you are trying to place, races are a time to challenge yourself, meet other runners, and have a good time. If I could afford to, I would race every weekend!

Needless to say, I had been looking forward to this race for a long time. We registered almost as soon as the race was open. Because we had both been race marshals for the full marathon in September, our entry fee was comp’ed.  I was disappointed that I was not able to go to packet pick up, but in reality, it turns out I am glad I did not get to! Packet pick up for the Boulder Spring Half occurs at the Fleet Feet Store in Boulder. The store itself is relatively small, so it truly is just packet pick-up and not an expo. Ben’s report of packet pick up was less than satisfactory. It took over an hour for him to retrieve three packets (his, mine, and one for a colleague of mine), not including drive time. It took a while for the volunteers to find Ben’s bib and then some additional time to rematch it to the correct timing chip. While the shirts were rather large, and Ben was originally given the wrong size, the glasses provided are always an added bonus of this race.

Parking on race day can sometimes be a little intimidating. The Boulder Spring Half, however, does a fantastic job with parking. Parking is available to runners in the reservoir, so your car is close to the start and finish and entry to the lot is quick and painless. Apart from parking, I am always worried about porta pottie access at the start line. There were abundant toilets in the parking lot and close the start/finish line, so the line was kept to a minimum.

The race was off without a hitch and some amazing weather. The course leaves from the Boulder Reservoir and runs through the “back roads” of Boulder. Some are paved while others are dirt. The roads provide an awesome view of the foothills on the way out and the reservoir on the way back. In addition, there are some pretty decent long hills and with the way the roads are set, you can see other runners plodding along before you even get to the hill! Most of the hills are rolling, however, be forewarned that there are two climbs in the last mile just prior to entering the reservoir that are not bad, but feel brutal because of their location. The finish is also on a slight incline- not enough to really matter during any other run, but enough to notice when you are pushing it out at the end! The one disadvantage of the course being on roads is the exposure. There is absolutely no shade on the course.

Aid stations were well manned and appeared to be well stocked and the volunteers were very friendly! The finish line was packed with spectators, which made arriving back at the reservoir so much better. The race had a variety of sponsors but food was primarily provided by Udi’s. Post race food included vegetarian burgers, bagels (with cream cheese, who doesn’t love cream cheese?!), oranges, energy drinks, and water. Beer was provided in abundance, (who doesn’t love post race beer?!) by the Boulder Beer Co. and could be enjoyed while soaking in the sun on picnic tables.

Overall, the race experience was a positive one. The volunteers are very helpful (they even exchanged Ben’s shirt on race day!). The course is a great course and the post-race party leaves little to be desired (maybe some shade?).

Would I do this race again? Absolutely! I would love to do the full in the fall as I think they do a great job with volunteer coordination.

Would I recommend it to a friend? I would… with the caveat that one needs to be prepared for a few hills!

Would I change anything? Packet pick up could have been a little more organized. Although the shirts were tech shirts and had a cool design, I am not a huge fan of the way shirts made by Leslie Jordan fit. They tend to be oversized and baggy.

Is it worth the value? You bet

Things to consider: Time of year can make weather unpredictable, the course is fully exposed

Overall race experience: Fantastic