Thursday, November 3, 2011

Race #9 of the Season: Rock 'n' Roll Denver Half-Marathon

The lack of motivation in Casa Baby Dino has been evident this past month ... October hasn't been very good. But we'll get into that with the monthly round-up. But the lack of motivation has included blogging and, by default, this race recap. But I shall delay no longer - onward!

Very shortly after completing IM Boulder 70.3, we started regretting signing up for the Denver half. What with the hangover from that race and then focusing on our wedding. After the wedding and subsequent mini-moon ... it was about two weeks until the half. Yeeeah, not much time to train.

As a result, we decided well, we've paid our money, may as well go through with this ... but make it fun. I would take pictures and Brandon would be a nerd and tweet during the race.

So, that morning, we woke up, drove downtown to get a parking spot that we would be able to get out of easily enough despite all the blocked-off roads. We then walked the few blocks to the start area, took care of business and wandered around for more than we should have trying to find the damn bag check.

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon
City and County Building race morning ... with the top acting like a giant disco ball.

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon
Start line.

Starting the actual race was kind of a cluster as some 16,000 people all tried to funnel down a narrow downtown street into the starting corrals. Eventually, we just smushed our way to one of the barriers and when our wave came close to starting, we slid through the fencing and then walked on up to the line.

Then, the gun was fired and we were off!

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon
Running under the start banner.

We started the race off at an easy pace, knowing we really hadn't put in the training. It felt super good to be running, though.

Within the first mile, we came upon one of the more famous points of downtown Denver - the blue bear:

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon
The sculpture, I believe called "I See What You Mean," is outside the convention center.

We ran down 14th, hung a left on Auraria and ran past a building I spent a whole lot of time in.

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon
Pepsi Center, home of the Colorado Avalanche.

We looped past Pepsi and continued down Wynkoop, back into downtown. At this point, we were holding about an 11:20/mi pace. Super slow, yes, but we were running still. Going back into downtown is also where I ditched my jacket. I was hesitant on wearing it, knowing I'm a fairly hot runner, but I did anyway ... and had to tie it around my waist at like mile two. Oh well.

The first water station (iirc) brought a funny moment for us - the song playing from the truck there was "(Don't Fear) the Reaper" ... and some of the aid volunteers were playing a loud cowbell accompaniment.

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon
"I have a fever ... and the only prescription is ... MORE COWBELL."

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon
Union Station was essentially across the street from that water stop.

Right around here I believe we walked for the first time ... but again, this was a month ago, so I can't quite remember. From Wynkoop we turned on 20th which meant we ran past our second sporting venue of the race.

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon
Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies.

From Coors, the course wound around a bit more downtown. We hit the 5K point right before what we knew would be the worst hill of the course - from when you turned off Broadway on 17th.

5K split: 34:40

We killed the hill, running steadily up it ... but it killed us in return. We definitely weren't in the hill shape/endurance shape to do such a thing. Confidence booster, yes, but bad overall? Yep. We moseyed on down 17th, a road we've driven down a lot to get to one of our favorite restaurants.

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon
Mmmm ... D Bar.

From 17th, we turned on ... Park Avenue West, I believe, to work our way into City Park. We passed a guy who had a sign for a marriage proposal (which, we found out later, that she accepted, so yay). As we entered the park, we split up. Brandon had been needing to use a port-o-potty for a while so he ran off to use one and said it was fine for me to go ahead. I did, thinking he'd catch up soon.

When we first saw the course map, we figured City Park would be the hell miles - 6-9, the grind, the place where I first saw the wheels come off in Vegas. In Denver, this really didn't happen. I actually felt pretty good ... but I didn't want to pick up my pace too much because I was waiting for Brandon to catch back up. In no time at all though, I hit the 10K point.

10K split: 1:10:45

I kept looking back over my shoulder for Brandon, but no luck. I started walking a bit more, even though I didn't feel like I needed to, waiting for him. Since we didn't really train for this, we said we'd run it together and I still wanted to do so.

At right around the 8 mile marker, there was a little out-and-back, and that's where I saw him. He didn't look too good.

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon
He's in a bit of pain.

Since I didn't think he was too far behind me, I really slowed my pace and started walking more, just so he could catch up. In the meantime, I saw these guys:

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon
Love. It.

There was another out-and-back section on the City Park Esplanade (right near East High School) and I kept looking for him, but no dice. At the end of the out-and-back (straight, turn left for out-and-back, then turn left again and continue), I stopped running to wait for him. I think he was kind of upset, knowing I was having the better day, but dangit, we said we'd run the race together and I was determined to do so.

Our progress from this point on was slow. Brandon's feet were killing him and he was having leg soreness and he was thinking about bagging it. I told him no how, no way and to run when he could. I was experiencing some soreness myself in my hips, but I was ignoring the pain so I could help Brandon through his race. Besides, I hesitate to use the word pain because it wasn't stabby. It was definitely uncomfortable, but I could run through it.

10mi split: 2:00:08

Right around mile 11, we ran into Cheesman Park.

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon
Big inflatable dude that's at all RnR events.

Cheesman was surprisingly crappy with the rolling terrain. We passed the marathon split-off and kept on rolling. Brandon was running when he could and I was sticking with him.

After Cheesman, we got back on 13th and it was pretty much downhill to the finish. We ran past one of our new favorite breakfast spots, Jelly (I know Liz was happy to see them ...). I was hoping to run it all without stopping from the 12 mile marker to the finish, but that wasn't in the cards.

From when we made our turn to the capitol and down to the finish, though, we ran. I made Brandon do my customary sprint across the finish with me, with us raising our arms as we did so.

Final Numbers:
Chip Time: 2:39:52
Overall Place/Total: 7213/8957
Pace: 12:12/mi
Sex Place/Total: 4605/6013
Division Place (F25-29)/Total: 1021/1222

We hugged, grabbed water, food, our medals and blankets and then headed off to gear check ... to wait in long lines at one of the more inefficient operations I've ever seen. Argh.

Once we got our stupid bags, we remembered to take a picture:

Rock 'n Roll Denver Half-Marathon

Then we had a very enjoyable rest of the day ... home to shower, one of our favorite bars for nachos and so Brandon could watch the Vikings game and then to the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield for a pumpkin festival. Brandon had to commute out later that night and I ended up getting called into work, but still. Good day.

Final Thoughts:
- Vegas was put on much better. I don't know if it's because it's a bigger race, or because this was Denver's second year under the RnR banner, but this race didn't seem quite as well-organized.
- I carry my own gels with me, but I overheard quite a few other half runners who were upset that the first Gu table wasn't until mile 9 or 10.
- The start line funnel was not organized well. I know they're kind of constricted by the downtown layout, but it wasn't pretty.
- I came damn close to being able to BS my way through this race. I don't think I could have beaten my Vegas time, but I think had I actually stayed separate from Brandon, I may have been able to do a 2:20, 2:25. Still not "good," but not bad for no training.
- While next year's race schedule is being devoted to short course racing and speed, I want to run this again for redemption to see what I can actually do on this course. For Denver, it was actually pretty flat. With proper pacing in the hillier sections, I feel I could rock this course.

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