When it came to finding a half marathon for Colorado, I had a lot of options to pick from. My only issue is that a lot of the races had some crazy elevation to them, which scared the crap out of me. As a flat lander I was not sure how my body would actually react to altitude. Somehow as I was creating my 50 state schedule, the Run Revel Rockies, peeked my interest and ended up fitting right in. I figured since this was a net downhill race, if the altitude got to me, someone could just roll me down the hill to the finish line.
In gearing up for this race, a lot of people told me to try and go a few days before to acclimate to the altitude. I don’t think I had the right time to really do that, but I did head out the Friday before the race. I have a ton of friends that live in the Denver area so I was looking forward to an extended weekend getaway at the same time. It certainly didn’t give me a ton of time to acclimate, but it gave me an idea that it was going to be rough still.
The Run Revel races are notorious for their net down hill courses. The start of this half marathon was around 7,500 and ended at around 5,800. However, it was not all downhill as one would think. This course actually had some killer up hills in the first 3 miles. Luckily, on Friday I had some time to drive the course, so I knew exactly what I was getting myself into.
On Saturday afternoon, after enjoying a morning going up to Mt. Evans, I headed to the race expo. I was not only picking up my packet, but also my friend Jeff’s packet. Jeff is a fellow Rock Boater and somehow I had talked him into running this race with me. Aren’t friends good for something?
The expo was pretty low key. You immediately walked through and got your bib. From there you go through your assortment of vendors. The only table I spent time with was at KT Tape. I wanted them to tape my foot, since I had been having some issues. After getting the bibs, I headed to the hotel. It was around 5pm and I was not only exhausted but knowing I had a 3:25am wake up call coming up, I decided to order up room service for dinner and get to bed as soon as I could. I think I was crawling into bed around 7:30pm. Unfortunately my body was so confused and sleep didn’t come easily. Before I knew it, that 3:25am alarm was blasting and it was race morning.
With the 3:15am wake up call, I had about 45 minutes to get myself ready and together before Jeff was swinging by to pick me up. Since he was local and I had his bib, he offered to snag me on the way to the buses. With this race being a point to point, you had to bus to the start line and then again back to your car from the finish line. Right at 4am, I was outside of the hotel and ready to go.
Jeff and I easily made it over to the buses. The marathoners actually had an earlier arrival time but we had no issues with parking. Somehow we got on one of the first buses in line and ended up first at the start line area. The start line for the half marathon was right outside of a small office building. All of the runners sat outside in a parking lot for a good 60-90 minutes until the race started. In our race bags we were given gloves and a space blanket. I found it odd that we got the space blanket before the race, but as soon as we were sitting around, I understood why! You looked around and saw little silver balls sitting all around. Luckily, I had a stroke of genius and snagged an extra sheet from the hotel to keep me warm. Somehow I grabbed the fitted sheet though which I thought was silly but it ended up being the smartest thing I had done in awhile. With the sheet, gloves and arm warmers that I brought, I was able to survive the much colder temps at that higher elevation.
Finally, just before 6:30am, they started to usher the runners to the start line. I had to shed the coveted blanket and join the rest in the start corral. Since I knew this wasn’t going to be a great showing for me, I headed to the back of the pack. Jeff was kind enough to join me in the start and before we knew it, we were across the starting line and ready to roll.
The start of this race is pretty rough. You make two immediate left turns to get onto the main road and you’re faced with 3-4 big hills right off the bat. Now, when I first signed up for this race I thought it was all downhill and zero uphill. Thankfully from the drive I did on Friday, I was quickly made aware that this wasn’t the case. While I knew these hills were here, it does not mean I was fully prepared.
I immediate went right into my intervals. Jeff kept ahead a bit, but for the first 3 miles he lingered around with him. He totally did not need to do that, so I was really appreciating it. At about a half mile in, I knew it was going to be a rough day as I was beginning to develop the worst side stitch I had had in some time. Breathing was also more difficult than normal this early in the race. I basically felt that I was at mile 11 versus mile 1.
Slowly. Very slowly, I made my way through these first 3 miles and was really questioning how I would make it another 10 miles. Just after mile 2, you turned left off of the highway onto a little road. It was toward the bottom of this road that Jeff decided to split. In a way, I was sort of thankful for that as I did not want to hold him back and I wasn’t feel that I would be putting up any great performance over the next miles.
Just after mile 3, you had one more left turn, which took you onto route 74. This is what you stayed on for the next 10 miles or so until the finish line in Morrison. Route 74 was by far the most gorgeous part of this race. Everything was just beautiful, but the scenery along 74 was beyond imaginable.
As I cruised down route 74, and I am using the term “cruised” very lightly here, I was starting to feel a bit better. We were very slowly losing elevation but I was getting more into a rhythm. I was very conscious for this race to make sure that I was drinking plenty of water and fueling up at the right times.
Along this section, the sheer beauty of my surroundings distracted me, so any pain I was starting to have, especially in my foot, was only secondary. At some point a guy came up behind me and asked me where the downhill was. I busted out laughing because I wanted to know the same thing! I was expecting more quad burning downhill, but I didn’t get that except for a few parts. We had a good laugh together on this, but we did agree it was still better than those uphill at the beginning. Honestly though, these middle miles along 74 just seemed flat. I know there was a very slight downhill, but I think I was expected more. I guess I wanted more too.
Around mile 8 or so, my foot had just had enough. The pain was through the roof and no matter if I was walking, trotting or trying to pick it up on the more downhill sections. I was hoping it would have lasted a little longer, but I guess almost 2/3 of the race was better than nothing. This was also about the time where the lead marathoners passed me. They were flying down that mountain and the sound coming up behind me was unmistakable. I cheered for every single runner going by and most actually acknowledged or even said great job to me.
I was so happy to see mile 10. I was tired. I was done and I was in pain. Knowing I only had another 5k to go was a blessing. This is when the more screaming downhill came. I guess better later than never. These little downhill stretches helped get me going as well. It certainly helped light a little something in me. I wasn’t trying to go faster, but I was more determined to make sure I got to that finish line.
As we started getting closer to the finish line, I kept thinking in the back of my head what other runners had told me about a small hill at the very end. It wasn’t much they said, but it was there. They were not lying! As you came into Morrison, Red Rocks Amphitheater was on your left and you could sort of see the finish line area to the right. I thought we had a turn and it would be right there though. No. Not so much.
You actually have 2 turns to the finish line area and it’s that first turn that gets you right onto a small hill. Again, it truly is nothing great, but it’s uphill after going mostly downhill for 10 miles and I didn’t care of it. I absolutely walked it mostly into the finish, but picked it up for maybe the last 100 yards or so.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was actually greeted and given a huge high five by the marathon winner! He had been sticking around and congratulating every other runner. What class! I was quickly able to find Jeff and of course, as suspected, he crushed his race! We grabbed our bags which was a little bit of a cluster. We had to wait a good 10 minutes as it was in a dead end part of the park. After we got everything though, we immediately headed to the beer garden. As much as I wanted a beer, it actually just wasn’t appealing at the time. We hung out for a bit and chatted with some other runners. It was enjoyable and much better than me probably having split immediately after I finished.
We finally decided to head back. We had to walk a ways to the bus as we couldn’t just walk to the car. About halfway there, I heard from behind me, “Chelsea?”. I turned around and there was Amelia! I knew she was running the marathon and was hoping to catch up with her, but just hadn’t yet. And sure enough, there she was! Right behind me headed to the buses. I was so thrilled that I finally got to meet Amelia in person. We all got on the short bus ride back to the cars and then parted ways.
While this race was not the race I wanted in terms of my finish time, the race itself was very well run and the course was just stunning. Even the uphill sections of the course provided some great views of the mountains. The medal they put out is just amazing and their post race vibe is great. It did seem like a lot of people stuck around. I would definitely jump in to do another Run Revel race. There are several more out there with more downhill, so maybe I pick one of those, burn the quads and go for it. Maybe next year, but until then, it was great to cross state number 39 off the list. Only 11 more to go!
Official Finish Time:
118/148, Female 30-34