As a side note to a recent family vacation, I spontaneously decided to run the Beaver Creek Half Marathon. Not necessarily because I love races, but because I realized that in one week I’m expected to complete the Pikes Peak Ascent and my training runs have fallen grotesquely short on both distance and difficulty. This race boasted one of the most beautiful courses in the Endurance Race Series at an altitude of approximately 8,000 feet and a total of 1,400 feet of climbing. On a whim, I showed up on race day and prepared to run. Here are some random observations and experiences from the Beaver Creek Half Marathon and 10K:
- Races in ritzy locations have yummy and plentiful food. Since Beaver Creek is known for its luxury, they also ensured runners were well fed. They not only had a great continental breakfast before the race, but a nice beer garden afterwards and a great lunch for finishers! However, the sprinklers unfortunately came on following the awards ceremony, leaving runners scrambling with their plates of hot dogs, chips, grilled chicken and cookies. I assumed this was all in the plan to get people to leave and quit eating so much of the good grub. Smart tactic, I must say. (Since I am always too nauseous to eat following any run, I always give my plate to my kids who devour every bagel and banana in site.)
- Seemingly, the longer the distance, the nicer the runners. This race also had a 10K option since the half marathon course was actually two loops. A significantly larger portion ran the 10K versus the half, so naturally the first loop was more crowded than the first, particularly in some single track areas of the trail. While I’d typically say over the years, my experience with other runners is about 90/10 in favor of the happy, pleasant people, it was sadly not so in Beaver Creek. It was at best 50/50, beginning with a good majority who completely disregarded the national anthem in order to stretch, set their Garmin, chat with their friend or even make out with their partner (yes, that happened too) while the anthem played on. I strangely noted that most of the disrespectful runners were wearing 10K bibs. Also, during the first loop, there was an inordinate amount of bickering on the trail of runners who refused to let others pass on the narrow trail, or the runners who were willingly allowed to pass and still felt the need to elbow or rudely grunt at the slower folks working their way up the mountain. These people were wearing the 10K bibs too. On the second loop, the half marathon crowd couldn’t have been nicer and I had several conversations and pleasant exchanges that made up for the hectic, rude crowd in the 10K category. Coincidence? I think not.
- The scenery on mountain trail runs is amazing. I realize this isn’t much of a revelation for most runners who do these regularly, but for Beaver Creek in particular, it was nice to admire the perfectly manicured condos that lined portions of the course with beautiful foliage and flowers EVERYWHERE. Unfortunately, on most of the trail portion, I was more concerned with watching the trail than taking in the scenery. This was due to the numerous runners I watched who managed to eat some dirt while gazing wistfully at the fields of Aspen trees. Suckers. If it was a 10K competitor, I couldn’t help but giggle to myself. It’s called karma, my friend.
- Apparently, no race director alive knows how to plan for shirt sizing and distribution. Once again, after my herculean efforts on the course, I was rewarded with a large men’s shirt. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve dutifully checked the women’s SMALL box on my race entry, only to find they don’t exist at the end. As a result, many friends, as well as my current and ex-husband are walking around to this day with shirts from races they have never run. Is it really too much to ask to get the shirt you asked for? Are large males losing so much weight during the run that they feel the need to claim a women’s small?
- If a race says it is not USATF certified, don’t count on getting the distance you expected. When I crossed the finish line at what I thought was a shockingly record scorching pace for a half marathon of that caliber, I was quickly crushed to learn through Alice, my GPS iPhone app, that I had actually only run 10.5 miles. Ah, reality. Missed it by THAT much.
- After recovering from my disillusionment regarding my actual “half marathon” performance, I learned the most important lesson of all – no matter what the race, if you run from the heart, it feels like a win every time. While my training has been lacking for the Pikes Peak Ascent, I have continued to find reasons to love a good run, no matter if it sometimes happens only once a week. On that day, it was no exception. I felt wonderful and had no expectation on pacing or performance. I was in my own zone, void of stress and simply thankful that my body is healthy enough to allow me to get out and appreciate all that the world has to offer. I didn’t win any award and didn’t even come close to my PR for that distance (either 13.1 or 10.5 miles). I don’t beat myself up for not having a training routine or plan, and frankly, don’t think I will ever use one again. I simply listen to my body and mind and do what feels right.
The Beaver Creek Half Marathon felt fantastic. Due to yet more miscalculation on the race description, it actually ended up being about 2,800 feet of climbing, with a large portion being so steep that I more accurately did a speed hike on at least 4 miles of the course. However, I talked myself through both laps and enjoyed the challenge along the way. I’ve learned to encourage myself more and scold my body less. I have a great life and am proud of what I am able to accomplish each day. As far as I’m concerned, a good run will always be what my heart says it is. Not what any clock or coach can define. My heart is the only judge and today, it says I’m doing just fine. See you on the Peak!