Mystery Weekend Race Report 
Sunday, April 27, 2008, 01:47 PM
Posted by Administrator
This race report starts way back in December. Paul and I always have a difficult time thinking of gifts for each other and so we decided that, instead of the usual holiday gift giving, we would each plan a surprise weekend trip for the other. We both love to travel, have fun planning trips and love surprises - it was perfect! The only details you had to tell were the dates of the trip and the sport and distance for which you needed to be prepared.

Paul went first and all I knew was that I had to be prepared for a 25K trail race - he would be doing 50K. As many people pointed out, I probably could have searched online and found the race and location. But, I love surprises and wanted it to remain a secret as long as possible! Paul did a great job with this, but the beans were partially spilled when, a few days prior to the trip, a friend stopped by the house. As he was leaving, he said, "Have fun in Colorado this weekend!" So, that gave away the state - but I was thrilled! I had only been to Colorado once before and was excited to go back.

TRAVEL DAY
We took Friday off of work and had an 8am flight out of Tucson. I didn't even look at my boarding pass...I didn't want to know where we were going until we got to the gate! And the destination was...Denver! I have to say that I was a little nervous as I had heard weather reports that it had snowed in Denver the day before. Sure enough, Paul pulled up the race website on his laptop and we looked at snowy photos of the course which had been posted the day prior. But he assured me that the temps were expected to be in the 70's during the weekend.

For the past few years, we've been traveling non-stop whenever possible, figuring that, if the plane takes off, then we're guaranteed to get where we're going in a reasonable amount of time. On this trip, we learned there are no guarantees. Halfway through the two hour flight, it was announced that the pilot was seeing a warning light for the right engine and that we would land in Albuquerque...and that we should not be alarmed by the fire crews that would be waiting for us, as it was just a precaution. Fortunately, we landed without incident and were booked onto another flight to Denver that would leave two hours later.

After finally arriving in Denver, we picked up a rental car and headed for Deby's Bakery & Cafe, a gluten-free restaurant. Paul was ecstatic! We had delicious bread, a rather bland chicken pot pie and the most delicious German chocolate cake I've ever had...and it was all gluten-free!

With full tummies, we drove to Hotel Monaco in downtown Denver. Although we did not have the dogs with us, we like to patronize dog-friendly businesses whenever we can. This hotel offers doggie beds and toys, as well as a welcome board in the lobby with the names of all of the dogs who will be guests that day. Rex, Mielo and Molly would have loved it! When we checked in, we were informed that there were 15 minutes left to the happy hour, which included complimentary wine, hors d'oeuvres and chair massages. That's my kind of welcome! We left our bags in a corner and joined the festivities.

After settling into our room, we strolled along the 16th Street Mall, admiring the beautiful green spaces and water, and checking out restaurant menus. We found that Denver is a very dog-friendly city, with dogs running free at parks and hanging out with their owners at many restaurant patios. Our kind of city!

THE RACE
We were up early and drove about 45 minutes to get to the Greenland 50K, 25K and 8-Mile Race in Colorado Springs. The three events drew 500 participants who ran a loop one, two or four times, depending on their race distance. I had come prepared for any kind of weather, but, as Paul had promised, the snow had melted - there were just a few patches along the course - and I was comfortable in just shorts and a t-shirt. I had not trained as much as I had hoped to (as is pretty much always the case), but I was not nervous. Paul would be running twice the distance and so I was in no hurry. The sooner I finished., the longer I would have to wait for him, right?

All three events started together and the course quickly narrowed to a double-track dirt trail. It was pretty congested for the first 20 minutes, which made it a little treacherous. You either ran in one of two ruts or on the uneven patchy area between them. The first 3.5 miles were fairly flat and then, after the first aid station, we began a 1.5 mile climb, followed by a mostly downhill 3 miles to the end of the first loop. I power-walked the uphills ran the flats and downs. Those last 3 miles of the first loop felt great! I was flying along, enjoying the scenery and was looking forward to my second loop. That all changed when I got to the turnaround and realized that I had been running with the benefit a tailwind...which was now a brutal headwind. I was, however, consoled by the fact that I did not get lapped on my first loop. I was about 1 minute into my second loop when I saw the first two finishers of my race (25K) coming toward me. This meant that they had about 1/4 mile left to go...and I had about 7.75 miles to go.

I quickly realized that the second loop isn't exactly the same as the first. I was now on a trail that paralleled the trail from the first loop and, where the first loop bypassed a large hill, this time we went right over it. I was not thrilled with the unexpected added elevation AND the headwind...but, again, I was in no big rush and so I concentrated on the gorgeous views of Pike's Peak in the distance as I hiked up the hill. Every so often, I was lapped by 50K racers who were on their third lap and I kept an eye out for Paul, but never saw him. I was happy to reach the first aid station (for the second time) and, as I trudged up the big climb once again, my hamstrings and glutes started to ache.

I was really looking forward to those last few downhill miles, but, when I got there, I found that running gave me a side stitch. Too much water? Not enough salt? Who knows. So, I alternated walking and running and tried not to bounce too much as this made it worse. Also, as my legs were pretty fatigued by this point, I was not feeling as stable as I did on the first loop and so I did not barrel downhill quite like before. I got to the turnaround spot and was very happy not to be heading out for another lap. The finish line was just about 1/4 mile beyond the turnaround, but it seemed like a LOT longer. I managed to pick it up for the last little bit to finish in 3:29:29 which gave me 150th place out of 162. After stopping, my calves immediately began cramping and so I tried to keep moving. I spent the next 90 minutes walking, stretching, playing with dogs, chatting with other participants, eating, and keeping an eye out for Paul.

Paul finished in 5:11:06 which was good for 32nd place out of 85. It was not what he had hoped for, but he was not feeling very well which, we discovered a few days later, was due to an exposure to gluten a few days earlier in Tucson.

POST RACE
We hit the hotel happy hour once again and then enjoyed a delicious dinner at Rioja. We had planned to walk around the 16th Street Mall some more, but were exhausted and stiff, and so turned in early. The next morning, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast, including gluten-free muffins at Panzano's, the hotel restaurant, and then took advantage of the Earth Day free admission at the Denver Museum of Science and Nature where we enjoyed a viewing of "The Alps" in the IMAX theater. We headed back to the center of town and enjoyed yet another excellent gluten-free meal at Maggiano's Little Italy. After informing the waiter of Paul's allergy, the chef came to our table to help us plan our meal, which included rice pasta.

All-in-all, it was a fantastic weekend! Paul did a great job of planning all the details from the location and the race to the hotel and restaurants. I feel like we ate our way through Denver, and it was wonderful!
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