It has been a few weeks since I have participated in any races or events, so I was happy about my decision to register for the Haulin Aspen half marathon. I immediately experienced a rush of adrenaline and excitement at packet pick-up on Saturday. Runner’s high and pre-race butterflies are two of my favorite feelings and remind me of how important this sport is to me.
A six o’clock alarm began my race day morning ritual, consisting of coffee (1st thing), a banana and peanut butter, G2, and braided hair. Coffee is key when trying to relieve the “digestive tract jitters” as I call them. Once the butterflies and nerves started to intensify, it was off to the race.
Last year I ran this race and found it to be quite challenging. This year the course was changed to a new route to accommodate a larger number of runners, Forest Service regulations, and transportation issues. I was curious to see how the change would affect the route elevation and number of tough hill climbs – boy, was I in for a surprise.
The race started at 8am on Sunday near Ruff Wear and Summit High School. Justin (AKA best cheerleader EVER) brought his mountain bike in order to ride around and cheer me on at various places along the course. Seriously, how lucky am I?
With the sun shining and a cool breeze in the air, the runners gathered and listened for the horn. Ready, set, go – we were off! The first three miles were quite uneventful as everyone settled into their pace and the road quickly turned into a double, then single-track trail. The terrain looked quite familiar as I have mountain biked these trails a number of times.
After three miles of gradual uphill, the trail flattened out and runners began weaving through trees and branches (not the best experience for the 6’4” man running behind me).
At mile five, the trail took a steep drop and we began to descend quickly into a canyon-like area. After a quick stop at the Pac-Man themed aid station (I am the Pac-Man champ!), it was on to the ugly, torturing hill that slowly takes runners up and out of the canyon. Once that dreadfully long climb is over, it’s quite all right to give yourself a pat or two on the back. You might even pat your neighbor’s back while you’re at it.
Trekking on, the next two miles were easy and FAST dropping gradually into Shevlin Park. This was my favorite part of the run because of the thick trees and shrubs surrounding both sides of the trail – it was beautiful and tranquil.
I had a different mentality coming up out of Shevlin Park. Roughly nine miles into the run, the ascent was truly a hike, up steep and rocky terrain. Once out of the park, I was back on gradual climbs, still surrounded by other runners who kept me going strong. After all that work, I did NOT want to be the person to fall behind.
Thank goodness for all of the volunteers who generously take time out of their weekend to hand a bunch of sweaty, panting runners water and Gatorade while offering encouraging words. These races could not happen without them. Water??? Yes, please. Thank you!!!
The last three miles were mentally and physically rough as my body was worn from the earlier hills and climbs. Justin met me along the way and cheered me on – “Beast Mode” – whatever you say hubby. Needless to say, it helped.
The home stretch to the finish line was an unexpected uphill that extended much longer than my legs would have liked. I felt as though I was in a desert chasing after a distant oasis. I pushed on and experienced one last burst of energy as I heard the crowds of people and saw my family near the finish. Five, four, three, two, one, finished!
I love the feeling of accomplishment and the atmosphere after a race. Everyone is smiling, music playing, plenty of food and drinks being served, massages, vendors, and families and friends roaming about.
Once results were posted I was ecstatic to see that I finished 2nd in my age group and 7th overall women. All that training sure does pay off.
Justin, my mom, and Billy hung around for the awards. Hooray for the red ribbon.
After chatting with friends and having a bite to eat, we headed home in search of a warm shower and comfy cozies. Another great race under my belt! If you like hills and a challenge, this is the race for you.