Hot Chocolate 15K and Denver Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon Race Report
This was the fall of running for me. Everything non-running went by the wayside (with the exception of the two triathlons I did) between late August and now to focus on running. In fact, after the Malibu Triathlon our bikes stayed in their bags in the middle of the living room until yesterday when I finally rebuilt the bikes, cleaned them off, and put away the bags. I am going to compress the two races into one report because most run reports go something like this “I got to the race venue, stood around for a while, raced, ended, I was happy/sad” the end. So…I will do a little of that but with a focus on the race venue, organization, and course so that if you are considering doing the race yourself you can take those things into consideration.
Denver Hot Chocolate 5K/15K
The hot chocolate run is in it’s second year in Denver and it is put on by the folks at RAM racing. It sports a 5 kilometer and a 15 kilometer course that runs through the heart of the downtown Denver. Probably the nicest thing about this run is the swag. I had a coupon from Active for a free hat, which I will never wear, but the nicest thing in the swag bag is the running hoodie.
These things are expensive when you buy them! They have a zip pocket in the back. They are called “luxurious”, I am not sure about that but they are awfully nice. I see this with new races, the swag can be quite nice.
The race venue starts at Civic Center Park in Denver and they were smart by having the 5K racers start first. On a side note, people might find the 15K distance strange but it only is strange to us imperial unit fanatics. 15K, as a race distance, makes perfect sense. It is a 5K squared. A 10K plus a 5K, however you want to think about it is OK. Ultimately it is 9.3 miles which sucks when you are calculating your per mile pace.
I was running with buddies and we were setting a 8:50 to 9:05 pace which eventually went to 8:30 in the second half of the race thanks to my friend who is a bad influence on me. Overall the course was nice. The roads were blocked off and the Denver Police Department did a good job on traffic control. This is not a huge race but there were a lot of participants. The course looked like this:
My only real complaint was that the finish line was long by .16 miles, which is more than a quarter of a kilometer! I am normally patient with finish lines which are long or short by up to 1/10th of a mile compared to my GPS. This is because the GPS is accurate to 3-5 meters and there may be slight variances of when I hit “Start” on my watch and when I actually pass the timing mat. This should be a trivial exercise to fix but I have noticed that it is not uncommon to be inaccurate above 1/10th of a mile.
Anyway, the race finished up and true to form there was hot chocolate available at the end of the race. Not only was their hot chocolate, but they also had some sort of chocolate fondue with marshmallows and graham crackers for dipping. This could easily be a cluster-f*ck but the volunteers at this tent and at the equipment check in/out were fantastic. My experiences at the 15K, other than the odd distance and long finish line, were excellent. This qualifies as one of the better organized events I have been too. The finishers medal is pretty nice:
Denver Rock and Roll Half Marathon
So this was the big kahuna of running events for me. Before this time I had run two half marathons. The first one was an arctic half marathon and I finished it in 2:07 which roughly equated to 9:45 a mile. Not terrible for my first time and my longest run. It was also the first finisher’s medal I have ever gotten, ever. The second was the end of the Boulder 70.3 – which didn’t go quite well. This was truly only the second race I did all year where I had any performance goals, that goal was to do the thing in under two hours. Sarah and I trained fairly diligently for this one but unfortunately Sarah had been having nagging issues with her foot – some sort of stress injury – as a result she was unable to participate in this run.
The venue was the same as the fortnight before (Hot Cocoa Run), Denver’s Civic Center Park. The R&R marathon is a big undertaking in Denver. There are a ton of participants across the 5K, 10K, 1/2 Marathon, and Marathon distances. The swag wasn’t as nice as the other run so I bought myself a Brooks (Brooks is the signature sponsor of this series) visor.
The race was well organized and all the Marathoners and 1/2 Marathoners were generally corralled at the front with the lead pacers up front. I was in corral 4 which was quite close to the front. One nice thing about these events is they have pace groups. Some guy runs the pace (say, 3:45 marathon) while holding a sign up. People in the group can sign up and get an extra bib which identifies you as part of the pace group. Or you can jump-in mid run. I ran with a pace group for a time and the person holding the pace marker was giving tips to the people in the group, that is a nice thing to have.
This year, instead of running around City Park and the museums, the course went around Sloan’s lake. Running west – from almost any point in the front range, is normally uphill. This was no exception. The full marathon folks do the same course as the 1/2 marathoners until the 1/2 people go to the finish line and the marathoners split off to go around Cheesman Park.
The weather was nice and cool and this helped offset the fact that the course had some challenging spots. Balloon arches were set up around the course which was nice. A lot of people who were unable to leave their homes due to the race (many roads were fully closed) stood outside and lent their support.
Overall my pace was pretty good until I hit the wall of all walls at mile 11. I had one gel right before takeoff, one halfway through, and in hindsight I should have had one prior to the last 5K. Not only could I have used another gel, but my longest run on the buildup to this was 10 miles. On the week and weekend of the longest runs in the plan I fell sick so my long intervals (2 times 2 mile intervals) was cut in half (2 times 1 mile intervals) and my 1:45 run became 1:30 and my 1:30 run turned to be closer to 1:20. My training was good, but not ideal. My plan was to gut-out the last 5K and I did but my last two miles were 30-45 seconds a mile off pace.
Fortunately I had banked enough average time (under the minimum pace for the 2:00 pace) that even though I ran a 9:30 and 9:45 respectively for my last two miles, I still finished in 1:56, 4 minutes ahead of goal time.
At the finish line with my buddy Jorge who finished his first half marathon and Jenn who ran the 5K.
Now it is time to back off running a little bit and invest some training time into swimming and back into biking. I am going to focus a little more on strength and on improving my low zone running speed. The sun is going down earlier and coming up later so my outdoor one hour runs will be done with less regularity. Sounds like a good time to run moderately on the treadmill.