Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Platte River Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
When the opportunity to run the Platte River Half Marathon caught my attention, it didn’t take long for me to reach out to my good friend Annmary and ask if she and her family were open to receiving guests in their home in Colorado. Thankfully, they were! We booked flights, scheduled time off work, and waited in anticipation. That was October.
As race weekend approached, I got nervous. What would it be like running at altitude? Would I pass out on the course? The answers to these questions…coming up!
Friday – Acclimatizing
Pre-dawn alarm, train to the airport, one of the smoothest security and immigration checks I’ve ever experienced, and we were in the air before 8am. Three hours later, we landed in Denver, a mile above sea level, and our long weekend had begun! We grabbed our rental car and arrived at Annmary’s place just in time for lunch. We hadn’t seen each other since we lived in Japan – could it be 15 years already? But it was like no time had passed and we were welcomed warmly into the family.
The girls – Meghan and Becca – arrived home from school and decided to join me on my shakeout run. Armed with a bottle of water (I never carry water, but Annmary cautioned me on the only way to prevent altitude sickness) and we were out the door. Half a mile and a loop of the block later, I dropped the girls off at the house and ventured out on my own.
The Cherry Creek Spillway is an urban nature trail – I saw prairie dogs, birds, rabbits and deer along the 2 kilometre route, and then extended my run to incorporate the West Tollgate Creek Trail. Ended up going a bit further than planned – 11km. Although I drank my entire bottle of water, I had a splitting headache. I blame the elevation (averaging about 1,700 metres or 5,500 feet).
Slept early, after taking a Tylenol.
Saturday – Bib Pickup
Not too early on Saturday, we headed off to Runners Roost (a local Colorado store) to pick up my race packet. In the downstairs community room, I got my bib, an awesome long-sleeved race shirt, and samples from race sponsors nuun and Honey Stinger. It was quick and efficient, and the volunteers were friendly and helpful.
My only regret: I neglected to stock up on my go-to fuel – PowerGel Double Latte flavour – and despite visiting several stores, no one had it. I bought ‘Orange Dream’ instead. Lesson learned.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent sightseeing in downtown Denver. I probably walked too far, but we had a great time with the family!
Another relatively early night, since morning would come early!
Sunday – Race Day
The Platte River Half starts in Littleton, a small city south of Denver. It took us about 30 minutes to drive, accompanied by Annmary, Meghan, and my better half. After a quick porta-potty visit, I glimpsed a flash of orange and dashed over to meet fellow BibRavePro, Katherine (@MagicofRunning) – moments later, we were joined by Abbie (@AbbieMood). Thank goodness for BibRave orange! This was my first official BibRavePro race, and I was thrilled to represent with these two amazing women! We hugged, wished each other well, and headed towards the start line.
A few announcements were happening, and despite being near the front I couldn’t hear a word – some sound system issues? And all of a sudden the countdown was on, and we surged forward into the streets of Littleton. It’s a cute, historic town – we did a loop and ended up back where we started before turning west down a small path (Little’s Creek Trail) until we reached the Platte River.
For the next 10km, we followed the windy river route, crossing several bridges (5, by my count) before detouring into an industrial area as we got closer to the city.
Highlight! The race includes a 3-leg relay – two 5-mile legs, and a final 3-mile leg. As we approached mile 5, a boy of about 6 or 7 was pushing towards the exchange point with his dad. It was obvious he was running out of steam, but a whole bunch of runners started encouraging and cheering him on, and he sprinted towards the timing mat to pass the baton to his older brother. Great inspiration!
The aid stations – and I took advantage of every one of them – were well stocked with water and nuun, and the volunteers were great. I got a chuckle out of how many pronunciations of ‘nuun’ I heard…from ‘noon’ to ‘nun’, and every diphthong in between. But it was excellent hydration no matter how you say it!
We veered back towards the river, now running alongside the highway as we crossed another bridge. The finish line couldn’t be too far away. I resisted the urge to look at my watch, and spent a significant amount of time converting miles to kilometres and back again.
One more right turn, we passed under the highway – and then Mount Everest was looming in front of us. OK, it was actually just the 8th Ave Viaduct, but after running a gentle downhill slope for the past 12 miles, it looked insurmountable. It wasn’t, of course, but once I reached the top the bridge itself seemed to go on forever. I started encouraging myself – I think I was speaking aloud: “You’ve got this. Don’t give up. Almost there.”
Down the far side, a quick left, and the finish line was just a block away! I picked up the pace, and pushed myself with a finally burst of energy. Platte River Half Marathon complete!
Everyone was there to welcome me, and accompany me to the post-race festival. In addition to a nifty mason jar mug, there were lots of freebies and samples. Best of all, I got not one but two veggie burgers from the Buckhorn Exchange, and a beer from Breckinridge Brewery! First sip of beer, and Katherine was there for a cheers and a race debrief!
Back to Littleton to pick up the car – and the rest of the day relaxing with the family!
Monday – Hiking
Making as much as we could out of this trip, we took an extra day to enjoy Colorado. Annmary took the day off, and we headed south towards Colorado Springs. Not too far out of town, however, we caught sight of some beautiful landscapes, and pulled off into Castlewood Canyon State Park. We intended to stay briefly, but ended up delighted by the scenery and hiking for nearly two hours. Exhausting, but totally worth it.
We finally reached the remarkable geological phenomena called Garden of the Gods. Striking red rock formations protruding from the ground – simply amazing! It was a bit foggy, and we were pretty worn out – so we just drove around and snapped a few photos before heading back to Denver.
Hugs and farewells – and we headed to the airport. Home again after a successful race weekend!
Platte River Half Marathon – Quick Review
Social Media: I engaged very regularly with Platte River Half on Twitter, and was disappointed that I never got a response. In fact, their most recent Tweet (as of race day) was from St. Patrick’s Day. Their Facebook page was kept pretty much up-to-date, however, and they provided few (but enough) emails.
Packet Pickup: Quick and straightforward with some sponsor samples available to try out!
T-Shirt/Swag: Beautiful long-sleeved technical shirt in just the right size.
Course: Scenic views of the river for the majority of the route, and mostly downhill. The foray into some industrial areas was nothing special. The viaduct uphill in the final mile was a killer. The altitude was a challenge, but despite the ‘thin air’ I was happy with my results.
Post-Race/Medal: Excellent after party include free burgers and beer for runners, and a variety of sponsors sampling their wares. Big, beautiful medal – the largest so far in my collection! Plus a Breckinridge Brewery mason jar mug branded for the race!
Organization: With the exception of disengaged social media, the race itself was extremely well-organized. Volunteers were plentiful and friendly, aid stations were well-stocked, and everyone had a great time.
Would I run it again? Colorado is a beautiful place and I’d love to visit in the future. Given the time and opportunity, I would definitely do another Platte River Half!
Chip Time: 1:53:15
Average Pace: 8:39 min/mile
Place Overall: 190/540
Age Category Place: 35/75
*Also, from the results page, it looks like I might have been the only runner from Canada!
Have you ever run a race at altitude? Did you find it more challenging?
And after a bit of a hiatus, happy to link up again with HoHo Runs and MissSippiPiddlin for their Weekly Wrap!