Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Race Report: Colfax Half Marathon

Mile High Stadium, for packet pickup!
My flight to Denver was going to be on Saturday morning on Southwest from LaGuardia, but I completely forgot that there was a Friday evening JetBlue flight direct from JFK.  So Friday morning as I'm waiting for my subway train to work, I texted my cousin Kathy, a JetBlue flight attendant, and asked if she could get me on the standby list for the flight.  That morning there were 10 seats open, 6 listed and checked in, so I came in at number 7.  I decided so last minute that I still needed to head home after work to pack a bag, and then make my way back out to Jamaica to catch the AirTrain to JFK.   Standby makes me super anxious, and as time got closer, the open seats began to dwindle and I began to be pushed back on the list due to priority.  But the anxiety was all for naught, as I was easily able to get on the flight, since there were delays due to weather and being that its JFK – people do tend to miss their flights.  I even lucked out with one of the “Even More Room” seats, so I got to lounge out on the plane for the nearly 4 hour flight.

Pre-race dinner at Wynkoop!
Upon arrival, I was picked up by my friend Melissa, who I stayed with at her townhouse in Aurora for the weekend.  We scoped out yelp for open breweries (who knew places closed so early on Fridays... it was just after 10pm when I arrived!) and headed to Vine Street Pub & Brewery for my first beer of the weekend.  One strong beer later, and I was ready for bed.  The next morning, we slept in a little bit and then went for lunch at Native American restaurant Tocabe (Indian Tacos and Frybread, prepared Chipotle-style with step-by-step fixins) and then headed out to the expo at Mile High Stadium to grab our t-shirts and bibs.  Both Melissa and I ended up getting some Bluetooth-enabled headphones by RedFox, while at the expo.  After running a few errands, we made our way out to the Lower Downtown area of Denver (better known as "LoDo"), where we met up with Melissa's friend Johnny; my godbrother Andy, who had driven in from Edwards to run the race with me; as well as a cameo from fellow runner and online friend Lloyd, to have dinner and drinks at Wynkoop Brewing Company. Wynkoop is the brewpub founded by Colorado's current governor, John Hickenlooper, and was pivotal in beginning the renaissance of the neighborhood from its days as Denver's skid row to its current place as a hip, destination neighborhood with its crowning jewel, the Denver Union Station.

Outside Union Station in Denver's LoDo
The marathoners starting
The following morning, Melissa and I got up early to head into Denver City Park for the race. We parked on a side street near the park, and walked along a pathway by a lake where hundreds of geese were honking up a storm in a few trees on the other side of the lake, just as the sun was beginning to rise. We got there relatively early since Melissa was running the full, which had a 6am start line, and also to set up the tent that her firm had reserved in the corporate section of the race; several of her coworkers were running as marathon relay teams.  The half didn't start til 6:45, so I had a bit of time before dropping my bag off to baggage check, and to also meet up with Andy.

My backbibs commemorating
double sun!
One thing to note... so I'm a member of Half Fanatics, an online group of runners who are fanatical about half marathons.  By finishing a certain number of half marathons within a certain period of time, half fanatic members are able to attain certain "levels," named after each of the planets in the Solar System.  The highest level is the Sun, which is attainable by completing either 52 half marathons anywhere in 365 days or 30 half marathons in 30 separate US states/countries/Canadian provinces or territories.  The Colfax Half would mark my "double sun," having reached the sun for a second time, in two consecutive years! I had first completed it at Rock 'n' Roll Portland on in May 2015, and the clock restarted the following weekend at my next half, Boston's Run to Remember.  Another 30 states/countries/provinces later, and I was able to hit the sun again! For reaching this feat, I decided to custom make a couple back bibs commemorating my achievement, in addition to a rather colorful outfit, mostly borrowed from Melissa - her Half Fanatics "Diva" singlet, and a rainbow tutu! Andy decided to join in on the fun and wore a tutu himself!
Tutu shenanigans!

Let me see your peacock!
The race started at a rather balmy 39ยบ, quite chilly, but then again, we are in Colorado!  We made our way through a maze of pathways within the park, briefly running down East 17th Avenue and East 23rd Avenue, having to make our first pit stop about two miles in when both Andy and I needed to pee.  There were a bunch of portapotties along 23rd, just before we headed into the Denver Zoo, and the famed "Mile in the Zoo," where we seemed to be the only people really stopping for photos with the various animals - the cheetah pit, the mountain goats and bighorn sheep, the monkeys, the flamingos, and a peacock that just happened to display its feathers as we passed by.  We exited the park along East 22nd Avenue, and then down to Montview Boulevard where we would run for 3 miles straight.  Only a block or so onto Montview, I spotted my first corgi of the race!

A cheetah! Better not go into that pit...
First corgi spotting on Montview Blvd.
Running thru the firehouse...
For the next three miles, we ran down the very residential neighborhood of Park Hill and past Johnson & Wales University, as well as the south end of the neighborhood of Stapleton, the site and surroundings of the former Denver airport, now a thriving residential area.  The street names were also arranged in alphabetical order from the park, and as we got to the end of the alphabet, we finally turned right onto Yosemite Street for a short two blocks.  We passed the mile 7 mark as we briefly crossed into the city of Aurora along East 17th Avenue. We got to our easternmost point of the race, turning right on Galena Street, then again onto East 16th Avenue.  We then got to experience another iconic moment of the race, running through the Aurora Fire Station No. 1, and then emerging onto Del Mar Parkway.

Official race photo coming out of the firehouse...
The race namesake avenue...
After making our way around Aurora City Park, we took Dayton Street down to the namesake street of the race, Colfax Avenue.  The full gets to race a considerable length of Colfax Avenue, but the half gets only about 1.75 miles of it.  And frankly, it's not the prettiest 1.75 miles - from the western reaches of the city of Aurora into the Denver neighborhood of East Colfax/East Montclair, we ran down a wide avenue with a mix of different business catering to the largely immigrant community living around the area.

HELLO, firemen...
We turned onto Oneida Street, running up a couple blocks, before turning again onto East 17th Avenue in the tony neighborhood of South Park Hill.  This parkway, with a manicured grass median, took us another 1.75 miles westward as we headed back toward City Park.  This is also where we got to cheered on by the shirtless and buff firemen from the Colorado Firefighter Calendar!  I, of course, HAD to stop.  They were, in fact, part of the reason I wanted to run this race, anyhow!  As we continued westward on East 17th Avenue, on the last mile of the race, we got a nice downhill stretch, before we got to turn into the park, and make our way around Ferril Lake up to the finish line!  Being a mile up in elevation made it a little harder to breathe, and I was definitely struggling toward the end, but got to cross with my godbrother Andy, both of us in our tutus... in 2:23:09 -- a bit slower than I'm capable of running, but considering our elevation, I was happy with the finish, and to hit the sun for the second time!



Second corgi of the weekend!

Creamies... mmmm...
We partook in the delicious post race spread, which included ice cream bars from regional favorite Creamies and some barbecue from Jim 'N Nick's, while we awaited finishers of the full marathon... With my flight back to New York leaving later that night, several of us went out for some celebratory drinks at local breweries, and I headed home satiated from a fantastic weekend out in the Centennial State.

Post race celebrations!

Pretty bling!

Victory Headstand!

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