Monday, February 10, 2014

Ralston Creek Half Marathon (Race Recap)

Sunday, February 9
Arvada, CO
Half Marathon #100 (!!!!)
Colorado Half #36
Ralston Creek Half #3
Weather - Foggy/Misty/COLD
The Ralston Creek half is a race I will likely run every year. I have run every year now since it's inception. It is very well organized, inexpensive, doesn't conflict with anything else (for now), and is on a weekend weeks away from any other race.

The weather is never truly fantastic for this race. Two years ago it was insanely cold (first time I ever raced in long sleeves and pants), last year it was also cold. We have lucked out and missed running through a snowpocalypse, so I was pretty anxious all week watching the weather. We were in the middle of the polar vortex this week, and there were at least three days where we never broke single digits (and one day, our official "high" was -1). Saturday, we had temperatures near 50 and there was a ton of melting.

Race Day

The race is less than 15 minutes from our house and has a late start for the "fast" wave. Our race didn't start until 9:45, so we dropped the kids off with my parents at 8:30 and headed to the start, having almost an hour to wait. I ate a cinnamon roll in the car and then we headed over to get our packets. Back to the car to sit in the heat, and about 20 minutes to the start we get out to cycle through the bathroom line.

Just before the start (UA jacket, Gypsy runner skirt, INKnBURN denim capris, Pro Compression socks)

Last year I really struggled in this race and I remember having to walk a TON and being really miserable. I was hoping to have a better day. L started out closer to the front and I worked my way towards the back. I know that the key to a good race for me is to take it easy in the first mile and not get swept up in how other people are running.

It is COLD and my toes are frozen. The rest of me is doing fine (I am wearing a long sleeve shirt and a jacket, gloves with hand warmers, compression socks and capris). Other than the first half mile, the first 8 miles is uphill. It has helped immensely for me to KNOW that I am really running uphill and not just struggling and having a hard time.

See? Not imagining the hills...

The aid stations are about every 2 miles apart and the main goal for me in this race is to beat last year's time (2:32:45), and to not walk up the GIANT hill between mile 7 and 8. I got into a pretty good groove for the first mile, and then everything changed once we moved off the street and onto the trail.

The melting we had on Saturday would have been great if it would not have gotten so cold over night. The trails re-iced over. Unlike Fa La La, where the trail was icy but sorta snow packed, I would say that 80% of the trail was a sheet of ice. That really hindered my ability to keep a good pace going, and I was looking at the ground THE ENTIRE TIME. I slipped a ton, but I didn't fall once, and I didn't see anyone else fall either.

Not really a good example of how icy it was

Made it to the first aid station at mile 2, feeling fine, same with the second one at mile 4 when I took my salted caramel GU (YUM). For a brief moment, I thought I might be getting a bit warm, so I took off my gloves. That lasted about 4 minutes. Once we headed to the southwestern part of the course, we are much more out in the open, the wind picked up and it got MUCH colder.

There ARE mountains over there somewhere...
There is a very long, gradual hill around mile 5, and I managed to run up the whole thing without walking (and passed about a dozen people on the way up). I caught Ruth at the aid station at the top of the hill (mile 6), but then she took off. My legs were BEAT from running up the hill and I took an unplanned walk break. There is very slight flat/downhill for about a half mile before we hit the big hill on the course. This year, it was so foggy/misty I couldn't even see the top so I didn't bother with a picture. But I did take this one at the base:

Aid station at the base of the hill (around mile 7.25) and I knew the entire hill was probably only a half mile long. I jogged up THE ENTIRE HILL, passing Ruth (and about 20 other people). Once I crested the top, I knew there were some glorious downhills. Of course, with all the ice I couldn't run as fast as I wanted to. The wind/air was really moist and cold. I really wanted to be done and I was thankful my legs were feeling so great. I couldn't imagine walking in this weather.

The rest of the course was sort of a blur. Mainly, I just wanted to stay ahead of Ruth, and get a decent time. The last 1/2 mile or so of the course is along the road and slightly uphill and lasts FOREVER.

Overall, I was REALLY pleased with my time and my strategy on this course. I probably could have skipped my one walk break after mile 6 if I wouldn't have pushed SO hard to get up that hill, but it felt really good to pass people.

Official Time - 2:16:29
Overall Place - 288/482
Gender Place - 139/280
Division Place - 27/54
Garmin Time - 2:16:30
Garmin Distance - 13.14 miles
Garmin Pace - 10:23
Mile 1 - 10:08
Mile 2 - 10:49
Mile 3 - 10:51
Mile 4 - 10:36
Mile 5 - 11:08
Mile 6 - 10:57
Mile 7 - 11:23
Mile 8 - 10:55 (giant hill!!)
Mile 9 - 8:59
Mile 10 - 9:33
Mile 11 - 9:37
Mile 12 - 9:59
Mile 13 - 10:19
Mile 13.14 - 9:13

I met up with L at the finish. Grabbed my burrito and two slices of homemade chocolate chip banana bread. It was almost as cold as Fa La La - L's hair froze again!

  • As much as running in the cold is pretty terrible, it is still better than running in the hot.
  • The aid stations are spaced well and there are always a surprising number of volunteers willing to stand out in this freezing weather to give us water.
  • Well stocked aid stations, although I only got an electrolyte drink at one (they called it Gatorade, but I don't think it was).
  • Hammer Gel at two stations.
  • They have great stuff at the finish line (burritos, pastries, banana bread, Red Bull, and the winner this year was hot chocolate).
  • I will run this one again next year. MAYBE, it will be - NOT windy and mid 30's. I can dream, right?
Oh, and PS, this was my 100th half marathon :D


  1. Congrats on a great finish! And huge congrats on #100! That is amazing. I'll finally get to #50 in April (if I remember correctly).

  2. Congratulations on your 100th - how cool is that!?!?!

    I remember that race 2 years ago an how bitterly cold it was. Enough that it scared me away forever. Ha. Glad you had a fun time!

  3. SO FAST!!! So many sub-10 miles, and a sub-9?!?!??!?!

  4. How are you getting your speed back in conditions like tha? Congrats and way to get to 100!

  5. What do you do to prepare for hills like that? I live where it is VERY flat, and struggle with even the slightest hill. Congrats on your 100th!

  6. Wahoo! Congrats on reaching 100 halfs. I hope to do that someday too. I've got a long way to go though. Your outfits are so cute! You always look so darling. Your half time was super awesome! Way to go!

  7. Congratulations on #100 - impressive! Especially in that kind of cold.

  8. Happy 100th Half!! Woop Woop!! :)

  9. woohoo!! 100!! That is AMAZING!! That weather sounds awful but the post race food sounds sooo good. congrats!


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