Monday, September 22, 2014

Autumn Color Run (Race Recap)

Saturday, September 20
Buena Vista, CO
Half Marathon #117
Colorado Half #53
Weather - ALL OF THE SUN

I was really looking forward to a fast, pretty and "cooler" fall-ish race. 1 out of 3?

I left work at 2:45 so that we could make the drive to Buena Vista without driving in the dark. Most of the drive is on a two-lane road and we still ended up hitting substantial amounts of traffic. It took much longer to get there than we would have liked. There was no way we were going to have enough time to pick up our packets, as that was only open until 5:00 pm.We didn't arrive until close to 7. L had suggested that we eat at the Eddyline Brewery - and I certainly wasn't going to object. As is our luck, the line was OUT THE DOOR, but there was nowhere else to really go. They were serving drinks if you were waiting in the lobby, so I got the Pumpkin Patch beer that was on tap - pretty good, and it saved me from getting really hangry. The wait for the food was long, but not unreasonable considering how busy they were. We got side salads and split a small pizza. I had a second beer. All in all, food is good, but they are severely understaffed.

We still had about a 25 minute drive to our hotel in Salida (a LOT cheaper than staying in Buena Vista). We got to the hotel around 9:00, and went right to bed.

Race Day

Already irritated with a 9 am start. WHY SO LATE??? The shuttle buses to the start were to leave at 8:15, so we figured with only about 250 runners, allowing 30 minutes to park and pick up our stuff would be PLENTY of time. Turns out, no.

First issue. This race doesn't sell "registrations" - they sell "tickets" - like a concert ticket. They want you to print out said ticket, print out and fill out a waiver and have all that ready when you pick up your bib. It's 2014. Why on earth are we duplicating everything? Why isn't all the information I entered online still there? So they DID require you to have all this, yet most people didn't. So all the people waiting in line are filling this out when they get to the front. They have the half marathon pick up divided into two lines. A-J and everyone else. Everyone but L seemed to be in the second half. And the volunteer for the A-J people couldn't seem to assist. With only about a half dozen people in front of me, it took almost 20 minutes to get my bib.

Went through the bathroom line and then we had to run back to the car to get our stuff and get back to the buses. We had 7 minutes to do that. We were parked over a quarter mile away, so we had to book it...

Get to the bus with 2 minutes to spare. And then we sit. And sit. And sit. And sit. And sit. The buses didn't leave until after 8:30. We had to drive out of town, up into the hills on a dirt road. Did you know that school buses don't go especially fast? We arrive at 9:01. Remember that the race was supposed to start at 9?

So there are only 2 bathrooms at the start, but I really have to pee, and bouncing up and down for 30 minutes only made it worse. There is no signage where the start is. There is no one telling us when the race is going to start, because obviously it is going to start late.

Pretty view in line for the bathroom
There are a lot of people in front of us and behind us as well. The buses have started to turn around but most have not left yet. We know we are going to be running down the road we just came in on, but don't know how far down. We start walking to the start, about 9:10.

A woman yells - they are getting ready to start. Uh. That's nice. WHERE? WHEN? We see a guy with a camera. "IS THIS THE START??" Apparently. No start line. Great. The race is not chip timed, we have no idea how long people have been running. I am trying to take it easy, I am feeling rushed, and it is already so hot and sunny. The views were amazing though, so I took quite a few pictures.

I got through the first mile feeling mostly ok. But it was ALL DOWNHILL FROM THERE (literally?) I was thinking that I might have a decent race. Mostly downhill. However, I did NOT count on the extra late start and the fact that it was the sunniest ever ever ever. My legs started cramping very early on, so I had a very rough second mile. Happy I got this shot of Cottonwood Lake:

The road was not closed to traffic, and it was pretty wide so there wasn't really a safety issue with cars. However, a lot of dirt got kicked up, which wasn't fun. The road was also extremely grooved and rutted. It felt a lot like downhill skiing over moguls. Not fun.

The couple miles until the first aid station went mostly ok. I passed a few people on the downhill. Aid station around mile 4. TINIEST CUPS EVER. 2 oz cups? Maybe??? There were no gels, but I think there were cut up bananas and oranges. I took a miniature cup of water and kept going. Shortly after the aid station we had a few decent uphills. Walked a bit, but still managed a decent pace with the accompanying downhill. Around mile 6 is when we came out of the semi-shaded hills. AND IT WAS THE HOTTEST AND SUNNIEST EVER. We moved briefly onto the main road. NOT closed to traffic and a super tiny bike lane. I ran ok until the next aid station around mile 7 or 7.5. And then I pretty much died. We ran a loop on a country dirt road for about 3 miles. It was hot. It was exposed. It was supposedly downhill-ish, but my legs were TRASHED. Everyone near me was complaining about the heat and the altitude (apparently the city of Buena Vista is about 8,000' and we started closer to 9,500').

I just wanted to be done. I walked SO SO SO much. It helped for a bit, then I would try to run and I would only be able to manage a few minutes before my legs wanted to quit. The views were still nice, even once we were out of the hills.

Last aid station was about mile 10.5. The last 3 miles was ALL on the main road. Which I really hated. Again, a super narrow bike path and open to traffic. It was hard to pass (I somehow actually DID pass a few people).

The race counted down miles left, which I found annoying. I knew I was close to town and thought I could run it in strong. Nope. I was walking with less than a quarter mile to go. There were TONS of people hanging out in the park by the finish and it was crowded and all of a sudden I had a volunteer grab my arm and yell about needing the tag of the bottom of my bib. There was no actual finish line, and I hadn't even STOPPED MOVING. I snapped back that he needed to wait a second. It was for real the most angry I have ever been at a finish line. If you don't want an actual finish line, THAT IS FINE. But wait until someone has stopped MOVING before you assault them. A kid tossed my medal at me and I moved off to find L.

Found L and a friend we met at Runapalooza (David? I am so bad with names). Grabbed a quick treat from the finish area and agreed that we would eat at the brewery in town again before heading back home.

Bib Number - 262
Official Time - 2:17:11 (Not sure how this is faster than my Garmin time since we missed the start it should be at least a few minutes slower?)
Overall Place - 184/263
Gender Place - 124/190
Division Place - 46/66
Garmin Time - 2:18:01
Mile 1- 9:58
Mile 2 - 11:57
Mile 3 - 9:03
Mile 4 - 9:24
Mile 5 - 10:09
Mile 6 - 9:53
Mile 7 - 9:42
Mile 8 - 12:00
Mile 9 - 10:34
Mile 10 - 11:10
Mile 11 - 11:28
Mile 12 - 11:22
Mile 13 - 11:13
Mile 13xx - 9:20


  • WTF. So complicated and disorganized. How on earth this race has been put on for 30 years is beyond me. The tickets. The waivers. The shuttle bus fiasco. Bathroom shortages (NONE on course either).
  • Aid stations - Volunteers seemed friendly enough. Small cups = stupid, especially when there are only THREE aid stations. Bring your own nutrition, no  gels on course either.
  • So glad I had my Orange Mud vest. I would have perished without my liquids. Only 3 aid stations with it starting that late and being so not. NO!
  • Holy crap with the late start. So hot and sunny. Should have started NO LATER than 7:30 (I would prefer just after sunrise, but that's just me). Running on hot asphalt with NO shade after 11 in the morning is lunacy.
  • The finish line was so crowded and a complete cluster. I did NOT like being grabbed, I did NOT like being rushed. I don't understand why that was so disorganized as well.
  • The course itself was nice, but at least part of the road should have been blocked off, with at least safety cones or SOMETHING. Some of those vehicles got pretty darn close.
  • The shirt looks like it might be nice (soft cottony-y, not like a tech tee), although I have not worn it.
  • IMO - not worth it. While I LOVED the scenery, I was so irritated with the other aspects of the race that I just did not have a good time. I will not run this event again.
  • L, however, ran a faux PR!!


  1. I KNOW HOW! My brother organizes a tiny 100 participant 5K race and uses that old bib strip/clicker timing system. The volunteer clicks a stop watch-thingy as each runner crosses the finish, the bib strips are collected in the order they came in and then the bib # is matched to the click. Your bib number was assigned to someone else's click, which, considering the chaos at the finish, is not surprising. And not surprising why you were accosted for your bib strip. Bandits mess it all up too when they're clicked but have no bib. Hope the race wasn't too expensive considering!

    The scenery is incredible as always...makes me so envious I just want to up and move to CO!! But soon you'll be posting about icicles in your hair and then I'll be glad I live in SoCal, even though my running routes take me past awful industrial parks 85% of the time. :)

  2. Beautiful pictures.

    Sounds like the race organization was a mess. Sort of a shame when that happens because races can and will be a big deal to many people. Sadly when there is a lack of bathrooms in a situation like the one you experienced, I usually hit the woods (much easier for a guy to do though). Hopefully the race director reads your comments and makes the appropriate changes. On the plus side your time was pretty good.

  3. it's absolutely breathtaking in pictures so i can't imagine IRL how pretty it is, but God, that race sounds awful. Nice work on finishing!

  4. SO pretty! I need to get into the mountains soon!!!!

    Sounds way disorganized though, I would not have liked that either!

  5. Too bad you had such a bad experience, the pictures are BEAUTIFUL!!


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