Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Estes Park Half Marathon Recap

Estes Park Half Marathon, Estes Park, Colorado
Field: ~1000 in all races (Full, Half, 10k, 5k, marathon relay)
Spectators: Minimal, but they were very enthusiastic. The course wasn't closed, so some people drove around the course to cheer on their runners. I pretended they were my fans.  The Jayhawk ran off to the National Park for a quick visit while I was running.
Start/Finish: Start and finish at the High School.
Course: Loop course through the town of Estes Park with beautiful views of the mountains, lake, and animals.
Schwag: Tech Shirt and finish line party.  I didn't stay for the party because I needed to get to work on time.
Other: The town of Estes Park is at 7500+ feet above sea-level. The scenery is stunning, but the air is thin.
All smiles at the start because look where I get to run!
As soon as I found out I was heading to Colorado for work, I began checking to see if there was a race I could fit into my schedule. As luck would have it, the Estes Park Marathon was scheduled for that weekend and was only about an hour from where I was staying. As an added bonus, the race started at 6:20AM and allowed race day bib pickup, so I easily could make it back in time for the rest of my work day.
We pulled into Estes Park just as the sun was rising.
If you are not familiar with Estes Park, it's a small town in the front range, situated at the eastern entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. It's mountainous, full of wild animals, and just all around picturesque. It is also home to the Stanley Hotel, where fellow Mainer Steven King wrote the Shining and where the movie was filmed. (Note: We didn't stay there.)
The Stanley up on the hill (cloudy because it was after the race).
It's fair to say I was pretty damn excited to get to run here. I was also a bit nervous. The town of Estes Park is at 7500+ feet above sea level and I only arrived in Colorado about 15 hours before the starting gun, so I really didn't have any time to adjust. Taking this into account, I set the goal of a long training run for the race. Just soak in the scenery and enjoy the cool weather.  I did make sure to take my hydration very seriously on Saturday and even had to miss out on some excellent craft beer until after the race was over. Oh, and my workday was over.
Ah, mountains.
I decided to run with my handheld just in case. The dry mountain air is known for causing dehydration and I didn't want to get myself into any sort of medical situation. Lucky for me the temps were very cool (low50s) compared to Atlanta, so there was really no threat of overheating.
It actually started snowing in the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park during the race.
The Jayhawk saw a bunch of Elk while he visited the National Park. 
The race is small but in that awesome small town way. Bib pickup occurs race morning in the High school cafeteria, meaning you have a warm place to wait and real toilets to use.  Yes, it was cool enough on race morning that warmth was a consideration. Pre-race it was maybe 50 and it felt so good.
The half marathon course takes you through part of downtown Estes followed by some nice residential neighborhoods before a slow steady climb for miles 3-7 up to the fields on the edge of town (the town is small, so you quickly get to the edge of it).  I wasn't big on the slow gradual uphill climb (my lungs did notice it!), but when we turned left just after mile 7, we saw this and all was forgiven.
Just your typical half marathon course.
Really wasn't in a rush to get off this part of the course.
This doesn't look like Atlanta.
For the remainder of the race we stared at the mountains as the course rolled back to town.  We did have a bit of a headwind on the backside as a storm was blowing in off the mountains, but it didn't stop my enjoyment. At mile 11 we ran right through drive way of the Stanley Hotel, and then dropped down to the circle the lake for the last two miles.
Still smiling post race. Might be from lack of oxygen.
Overall, I loved this race. The course is stunning, challenging, and worth every step. I smiled the entire race (though that make have been due to lack of oxygen) and loved the small town feel about it. The aid stations are well stocked with water, Gatorade, and a large variety of snacks.  If you are looking for a course with amazing scenery or an excuse to visit Colorado, this one is perfect.
2:06 even! How often that does happen?!
Finish: 2:06:00 (9:37/mile pace)

Have you ever run a race on vacation? Do you pick races for the scenic course?

16 comments:

  1. What a wonderful course! The views are just awesome, I would have been smiling too :) That's quite a happy coincidence you got run the race when you went for work. That's a great time!

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    1. Thanks Karen. It was a great coincidence! :)

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  2. Wow. This is beautiful.
    And I love when races offer morning of packet pick up. So convenient.

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    1. Race day pick up is the best for out of town racers!

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  3. Replies
    1. It was even better than I hoped! :)

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  4. I love the Shining! That's so crazy that you were at that hotel. That race looks absolutely beautiful. Glad you had a good time!

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    1. Thanks Cecilia! I didn't even realize until we ran up to it at mile 11 that it was the hotel!

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  5. Sounds like a great race. The scenery is amazing. We have not done a destination race but we have started talking about them. Colorado, San Diego, few places we want to visit and run.

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    1. This is the second time I've run in Colorado (1st was a relay) and both times it didn't disappoint!

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  6. One day I want to travel for work and squeeze in a race too! Looks like such a beautiful race!! You scored big time. Lol.

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    1. I got really lucky this time! We don't always get to travel over a weekend, but this made it worth it!

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  7. Replies
    1. Scenery like that makes running so much easier!

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  8. That is an amazing course. Sounds like the temp was perfect and there was enough cloud cover to keep the sun off of you. You did amazing!

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    1. Thanks Captain! We lucked out with the weather. We never got any of the precipitation that the park was getting!

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