Getting The Chance To Run the Hot Chocolate 15k

Disclaimer: I received a free entry into the Virtual Denver Hot Chocolate 15k to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review, find, and write race reviews!

Since the Hot Chocolate race series started, I’ve had my eye on that jacket and medal! If you’re a runner, you know exactly what I’m talking about. However, literally, every year since the beginning (in Colorado), I have had to work on race day.

This year was finally my year… albeit it would have to be virtually!

It’s nobody’s first choice to choose a virtual race over an in-person event, not the race directors nor the runners. Ironically, it’s because of the current state of affairs that I did not have to work (timing) a 5k and I got to do the (virtual) Hot Chocolate.

It’s also ironic that literally as soon as I signed up for the race, my body started breaking down. Since having Layton, my running has been up and down, up and down, over and over. I’ve had really good periods of running and then really bad. I’ve had times where I’ve been able to resume a regular training program and other times where I haven’t even been able to squeeze in one day a week for a run.

Training with my running buddy.

When COVID first started and the quarantine hit, I was doing really well with training. As the pandemic went on and on and my home/work-life balance became wonky (it is still all wonky), my training plummeted again. Then, as cross country season was approved to resume, I started running with the kiddos again. I don’t know if I started too much, too fast (or maybe not enough stretching and recovery) but before I knew it everything was hurting. Between my hips, low back, knees, and plantar fasciitis, something is usually in pain during or after my run.

I digress… I still wanted to do the Virtual Hot Chocolate race – this was my chance. I wanted to earn that swag, so I came up with a plan. I was going to split my 15K into sections. I decided to do three 5ks, three days in a row.

I really appreciated the communication from Hot Chocolate. We got a couple of emails about what to expect and “how-to” participate.

My packet arrived a few days before “race day” and I was so excited to unwrap the infamous jacket. I’ll wear that with pride now!

The only thing not picture is a CBD topical cream thing that came with my packet.

On the day of the race, they posted a video of the national anthem at an iconic location in Colorado, Red Rocks Amphitheater. Nice touch.

Race Day(s)
Part 1 – Friday
I took my favorite running buddy, Layton, out in the stoller for an afternoon 5k. I walked for the first mile, ran for a mile and a half and walked the rest of the way home. This worked very well for me and I kept my pace slow as to not aggrevate any of my “injuries.” Even though there was a ton of smoke in the air and my stroller was broken, it actually turned out to be a good run. Afterwards, Layton and I stretched, as you can see, in the living room.

Part 2 – Saturday
Since we had a morning cross country practice, and I had a babysitter, I thought the trails would be a good place for part 2 of my virtual race. We’re getting closer and closer to the end of season, which means all the remaining athletes are super fast! That leaves me alone during the run. I walked for the first quarter of a mile and walked/jogged the rest! I actually ended up running 3.8 miles on the trails and felt pretty good.

Part 3 – Sunday, Done!
For my last section, Layton joined me again and we got the stroller fixed. The air quality was much better and we had a nice leisurely run around my town. There was actually more running than I expected and this was my fastest 5k out of the three! We celebrated in my driveway where we split our finisher’s medal chocolate!

Post Race
I uploaded my time, uploaded my photos and the joined the “after party!” On the Denver Hot Chocolate 15k Facebook event page, they hosted an after party with fun chocolate trivia, city of Denver highlights, music and giveaways! I thought it was a nice touch for a virtual event.

I think Hot Chocolate did the virtual race thing well. Like I said, no body that does in-person events wants to do a virtual event instead – believe me, I know first hand. But the crew at Hot Chocolate did all they could to make your virtual experience fun. From the national anthem, email communication, results, photos, and post race “party,” they made you feel like you were part of a real event, rather than just running on any regular day of the week.

Didn’t get into the Denver race? The beauty of the virtual series is that you can sign up for ANY hot chocolate and be a part of the action! Click here to pick a city! The next one is Chicago and it is a Virtual event as well!

Check out my review.

Keeping Hydrated During This Hot Colorado Summer

Disclaimer: I received SIS Hydro Tablets to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review, find, and write race reviews!

I don’t remember it being this hot last year! Here in Colorado, we have been blasted with a few close-to-100 days this summer already and we’re just now getting into the traditionally hottest time of the year.

Maybe I wasn’t outside as much last year, but I definitely wasn’t running this time last year. This time last year I was 8-9 months pregnant at the beginning of summer and home with a newborn at the end of the summer.

This year, I have been very aware of the summer heat, especially while running. We have been allowed to start practicing with our Cross Country team again (with regulations/restrictions in place due to COVID) and I had to get acclimated to the heat quickly. Right now we’re running in the morning, which is bearable, but soon, we’ll have to shift practices to the afternoon and I’ll need to be even more cognizant of my hydration.

When it comes to hydration for me, I try to be pretty good with drinking water all day long, especially on days BEFORE we have practice. When going out for a run, the water you drink right before is not what hydrates you during the run; it’s more about the day before’s water intake; ironically something we’re constantly trying to teach our cross country kiddos and has come up pretty recently!

running, summertime, science in sport hydro tablets

My go-to summer bag…sunscreen, water, sandals and now SiS Hydro Tablets

When it gets extra hot, my normal water intake is just not quick enough and I need a little extra oomph in the nutrient replenishment department. In the past, I’ve tried all sorts of hydration/electrolyte replacement beverages. I had not actually heard of Science In Sport (SiS) until now and I was very excited to try something new.

When it comes to hydration or electrolyte replacement drinks, there are two things the product for sure has to meet:

  1. Has to taste good!
  2. Does what it’s supposed to (re-hydrate me or keep my hydrated during a workout)

Yeah, I’m not high maintenance.

Sis Hydro tablets definitely meet my two qualifications.

I received a four-pack that included Pineapple/Mango, Lemon, and Cola flavors. The Cola tabs also have caffeine.  The first one I tried was the pineapple/mango and I was pleasantly surprised! They were really good! I used them after a run on a specifically hot day and felt pretty refreshed!  I then started making some and drinking half my water bottle per-run and saving the rest for after.

The Lemon is my favorite flavor. I don’t particularly like the taste of the Cola one but like that it contains caffeine which makes it perfect for before a long run. A lot of the other BibRace pros liked that they weren’t fizzy. When you first drop the tablets in, they fizz until they dissolve. I personally can go either way. I bet having fizz with the Cola one might make that one better!

If you’re looking for a new hydration/electrolyte sources, these are definitely worth a try! The taste good, do what they’re supposed to, and they are reasonably priced (a little bit cheaper compared to similar products).

I mean, they must be good, because Ben has used most of mine! 😉

Get Some For Yourself!

A pack of four (80 tablets) is $39.00 (or $11 for one tube of 20 tablets). Use coupon code BIBRAVE20 for 20% off the hydro tablets.

Check out what the other BibRave Pros are saying:
BluegrassBAMR |  The Swag MamaRun Nerd Girl | Run, Eat, Ralph | She Runs By The Seashore | Ken Stands on Things (youtube) |

The Racin’ Rams (Coaching During Covid and Our Virtual Fundraiser Race)

A little background info for those that are new to my blog: I am a Head Cross Country Coach and Assistant Track & Field Coach at a local high school. I have been coaching for over seven years. This post is merely to provide some information and observations during this unprecedented time. I will not open the floor for debates on the efficacy or rights of mask-wearing or the realness of COVID, because….well, there’s nothing to debate. This is my blog and I TRUST in science and the experts and think that a minor discomfort is worth the chance I could be saving a LIFE – anyone’s life. In the words of Colorado’s Governor, “wear a damn mask.”

Coaching in the time of COVID is, well, interesting. With regulations and requirements changing weekly, sometimes daily, it’s has been a challenge. Despite the stress it may cause myself and my fellow coaches, I do have to say that I truly believe it is extremely beneficial for the kids, as well as us coaches, to get out, run and see other people – as long as we can do so safely. Luckily, we can!

Kids (gosh, I would have hated being called a “kid” in high school) need to play and see their friends – all ages; I could see it on their faces when we played our first game of ultimate frisbee (albeit with some new social distancing rules). The laughter and joy that game was that first game was magical.

I know this time is tough right now, but I’m super grateful that the school district and local high sports association has allowed the kids to resume practices. By far, cross country is the easiest sport to implement the health protocols put into place by the local officials. It’s truly a blessing to be coaching this sport (in comparison to football, for example, where there are many more things to have to worry about, sanitize, and monitor).

With all the end of the world, zombie apocalypse, dystopian books I read and movies I watch, I never thought I would live through a time like this. It’s surreal seeing everyone in masks all over the place. Currently, when we all arrive, the coaches first, take a medical screening. Our temperature is taken and we’re asked if we have had any health concerns recently. We are required to wear masks when gathering and screening the kids. If we are not physically practicing with the kids, we, as the coaches, are required to wear a mask the whole time.

The kids have to show up wearing a mask and keep them on until we are actually running. It is weird looking, to put it simply.

As soon as we are running and practicing, we can remove our masks. Ultimate frisbee is allowed, with no contact, and keeping distance while “guarding” your opponent. We also have to regularly sanitize the frisbee itself. Some kiddos, about three out of the 24 that come to summer running practices, choose to wear their masks the whole time. Power to them! It’s not fun to run with a mask, doable, but definitely uncomfortable!

Most of the kids are great at following all the rules. They do need some reminders to keep their distance from each other because kids just naturally gravitate toward one another. We do have to keep on them because there are people from the district “spying” and taking pictures.

We still don’t know what the season will look like. We don’t know what competitions/meets will look like. They could say that all the participants need to wear masks in the races at the meets. They could limit the number of kids that can compete, even in the JV races. Who knows!

Truth be told, we could be practicing all summer, and “they” (the local high school sports association) could just say no. If one fall sport is deemed not safe, they would probably cancel all sports. Or, more likely, they push some sports to the winter season and some to the spring season. I hope that’s not the case. It’s actually kind of nerve-racking to think about.

But we are positive! And we push on!

Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts.

But seriously. You do have to prepare like all will be well; it keeps the kids happy and in a positive mindset.

Since this year is a bit different, we have been looking at different ways to fundraise for our team. In the past, we’ve had a live 5k race that raised money for ALL the sports programs of the school. We’ve done financial presentations and Chipotle nights. Sold merchandise and candles.  But this year fundraising needed to be easy and less stressful.

So I suggested a VIRTUAL 5k! Introducing the Racin’ Rams Virtual 5k Fundraiser!

racing rams virtual 5k race.

Yes, I am the “race director,” and here’s my shameless plug. If you’re looking for some virtual motivation and want to help out a local Colorado Cross Country team, sign up for our race and let us know Coach Vestal sent you! All funds raised go towards meet fees, transportation, food, safety and health equipment, uniforms and room and board plus transportation for our regional and state meets.

You’ll receive a Racin’ Rams t-shirt (gender-specific), sticker, and digital bib. Plus the cost (only $30) includes all fees and the mailing cost! You run anywhere you want before the end of August and you can report your time to see how you rank with all our athletes!

Walk, run, skip, hike…join the Racin’ Rams Virtual 5k!

Sign up HERE!

Okay, I’m Ready To Write About Running Again

Deep Breath. Edit. Edit. Close Computer.

Deep Breath. More edits. Delete, delete, delete. Close Computer.

Fuck it. I’m just going to press publish.

Yeah. I haven’t been here in a while. But I’m back and back with a doozy. So strap in, get comfy, or maybe uncomfortable depending on your opinions; this is a really long post. It took me a while to get my thoughts straight and even then, this post seems a little chaotic and random. I’m still kinda nervous to post this one for some reason! But I feel like I have to get something out there about my thoughts and feelings toward the running community in relation to covid before I can move on and post other stuff.

Also, “enjoy” the photos; the ones posted here are a collection of what I saw that represented the times we are living in. 

I was definitely avoiding writing anything about COVID. I wanted to, but I  didn’t know where to begin and I didn’t know how deep I wanted to dive in. I was also trying to avoid a lot of online running groups (and still am for the most part) but I can’t completely do that due to my job. Reading people’s posts about covid made me want to avoid my running-related blog even more.

But I’m back. And I’m ready to talk about running again. Right now, in relation to COVID. We gotta get this out of the way.

I started this post at the end of March when the pandemic in the US really started to be noticed (I say “noticed” because it was probably already here well before that and should have been addressed sooner, in my opinion). This post, although edited over and over, was supposed to go live after my last post which was March 31st.

It’s now July, in case you didn’t know (and I wouldn’t blame you; I’ve lost all track of time).

In my little world, Layton turned 9 months old, then 10 months…and then 11 months old, and now we’re planning his 1st birthday party! I also started another blog (Creating Mama; you should check it out if you’re a parent or like crafting!), all my jobs took a hit and my pay, hours, and responsibilities changed. In the big world, there were stay-at-home orders, tons of people lost jobs, people were getting sick, protests on the stay-at-home orders…then the Black Lives Matter movement took precedent to bring much-needed attention to the injustice people have been and still are facing. And somewhere in there, there were murder hornets…right? And maybe an alien sighting back in May? I’m not even sure anymore. And now, I feel like we’re on repeat.

Even though I have been avoiding putting all my thoughts together about our current situation, I did want to share some of my thoughts on COVID in relation to my blog and running in general, but when I started writing, I was overcome with thoughts of “seriously?! In the grand scheme of things, running being affected by COVID is so small and unimportant.” And I still feel that way.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when everything was just starting to get shut down and states were starting to put “shelter in place” orders out, I had to stay off Facebook and other social media due to new anxiety triggers but also because there were so many people completely distraught that their races were being canceled. It was all over my social sites because that’s the community I’ve built up. And yes, I realize how ironic all of that is considering my job, my financial livelihood, is literally dependent on running events.

Listen, I know running is a lot of people’s passions, hobbies, and livelihood. Heck, I’ve literally made a career out of it. And I KNOW most of my readers are these people. However, I feel, that’s the beauty of having a passion such as running. Running itself was never canceled. In its purest form, all you need is your body and a good pair of shoes (heck, even the shoes are debatable these days; I saw a lady running barefoot in the street yesterday!) but reading people’s comments about how the race they’ve been training for was canceled and how “unfair” the race director was being by not making a decision in that instant was driving me crazy. I know, I know, there are tons of benefits of an in-person event (competition, the social contact people seem to need, the reward of the finish line, etc, etc), but this period of time is TEMPORARY. It really is. I promise you. I don’t know how long temporary will be, but overall when you’re 80 years old, this year will not seem that long and by golly, you’ll have great stories to tell. Nevermind the fact that we have way bigger fish to fry than a few races being canceled (i.e. literally a virus killing people).

I am actually glad I waited a while to finish this post. Some of the things I had previously written down or thought were pretty dramatic at the time and now seem irrelevant. The truth is, I still actually have some of the same feelings and opinions about the virus itself, the seriousness of it and how the world (and the U.S) handled it, but in the beginning, I started experiencing true anxiety for the first time (which is still lingering in random spells, mostly in the form of insomnia), which led my writing to be pretty dramatic. In the beginning, I was so worried and so unsure of what was going to happen. I did not like the thought of not knowing things (mostly about work and our finances in addition to the unknowns about the virus). And there is still a lot of unknowns in regards to all of those things.

Over the months stuck in quarantine, I’ve learned that my opinions and thoughts are pretty different than a lot of people, but I don’t want to share the bulk of my opinions because really, I DON’T Like having debates and I DON’T want to learn that more of my friends don’t care about others’ lives. Bottom line, I think that if there are some things we can do as a populace to save lives from a virus that shouldn’t have even been in the mainstream world population in the first place… that it’s worth it (read: “stay home orders”). And even if there is conflicting data on whether an action works or does not work, if there’s even a small chance it could save someone else’s life, even if that action makes you uncomfortable for a small period of time, it’s the moral, ethical, and right thing to do (read: masks). Science and findings DO change – that’s the whole process of science – but in this situation, the scientific findings on the virus and masks, etc. have been the same. Listen to the damn scientists!

Okay, okay. Moving on…

I am trying to be as diplomatic as possible. I don’t want to have “woe is me” pity party, nor do I want a debate on this blog, I just want to record my thoughts and opinions about this time and how it relates to my hobbies, career, and life….and this blog.

Let’s go back to the beginning of March…. life was “normal.” I was working all three of my normal jobs while having a baby at home. Track season had just started, race directing was going just as before as I prepared for a bunch of upcoming events.  In track, we had our first scrimmage when we learned that a parent of a student had come into contact with someone COVID positive. Back then (ha! that sounds ridiculous), not much was known. From that day on, I was bombarded with emails, and events were starting to get canceled. In my world, a concert I wanted to go to was canceled, some friends spoke of plays being canceled, we (at the running company I work for) were starting to get the emails that cities were banning events over 250, and track (and all high school sports) were put on a 14 days pause (spoiler, that “pause” was indefinite). As for Golden Mountain Guides, the rock climbing company I own with Ben, March was the time we would just start getting busy, but the phones weren’t ringing. People weren’t traveling.

The day things really got really REAL to me, was the day that Jeffco (the school district I coach at) closed schools. That was weird. That meant Track was officially canceled. For the whole season. We had had one scrimmage for the 2020 season (and, oh boy, does my heart go out to the seniors!!). At the running company, our last in-person event was a Saint Patrick’s themed event and, in my opinion, it was borderline probably not supposed to happen, and I was super uncomfortable being there, not just in terms of COVID, but also as a hard-core “rule follower.” We were pressing the 250 order that was just put in place (for the record we literally had about 240 racers and about 10 staff/volunteers), but looking at the city we were in’s website, it was debatable that we should be there. I remember a racer gave me a hug after winning a prize and immediately realized what she did and apologized saying, “oh maybe I shouldn’t have done that” and I was immediately paranoid. That same day I attended a funeral later and was constantly thinking I could be carrying it to all these people!

After that, more emails started coming in. Each city that we hold a permit in (and we have over 50 events), was sending out emails. Some races were not until the summer or near the end of the year and those emails would say “we are closely monitoring the situation and will keep you posted” and some were very concise: “You can no longer hold your event.”

Let’s give you a bit of perspective: The company I work for has 50+ events a year and thus are constantly getting registrations, some for the next event in a week, and tons for events 8 months down the road. With COVID-19, no one was registering for anything. Nothing. Not even future events. It all came to a halt.

Then there’s the damage control. What to do with the canceled event. Turn it into a virtual race? Defer everyone to the 2021 date automatically? What about people requesting refunds?

What about us, the staff??

I’m part of a lot of running groups on Facebook and I saw everything from “this is stupid!” to “give the RD’s a break.” I saw people mad at races for HOLDING an event in the beginning and people mad at races for CANCELLING the event.

Anyway. All that was to explain, my life was drastically changed. My main job was reduced in pay and hours, track was canceled, and Golden Mountain Guides was closed.

During the “shelter in place” orders and quarantine, we (my family) got a lot done. We worked on projects around the house we’ve been putting off and caught up on work put on the back burner. I actually started working out and running a lot more! I started out keeping track of the number of books we read, projects completed, puzzles done, family walks we did together and miles ran, but I quickly lost track.

Life was so weird. But we were doing okay. We could plan with a known shut down, thinking it would only be a few months.

Now that cases are starting to go up again, the anxiety and defeated feelings are creeping back. It’s been really rough for the last month of not knowing what’s going to happen with all my jobs, the company I own, and what we should start doing (i.e. should we look for other jobs, hang tight a little longer, etc, etc).

To wrap things up, without getting into it more,  I did want to share some thoughts and things I learned about myself throughout the pandemic:

-Free time and “being busy” is all about perspective and prioritization. It’s also about saying no to things you truly don’t want to do. During quarantine, I learned that I need to prioritize things I WANT to do (with a healthy balance of things I HAVE to do, because, you know, money and food) and not put too much on my plate that takes from things I WANT to do and truly enjoy and make me happy. I’m still trying to figure this out.

-I learned that I CAN make time for running more…if I’m willing to get out my comfort zone and run during my not so ideal times of day and weather…. or while pushing a stroller.

-I also learned that I NEED to make time for myself. That could be running, a long shower, a skincare routine, time to blog…anything really. But since it’s available to me, I need to be better about “handing over the reins” and push a little bit to ask for a moment for myself.

-I learned the importance of having multiple things to identify with (hobbies). Not me particularly, I actually feel I’m very good at not putting all my eggs in one basket, but I watched many people just lose it, lose their wellbeing and become depressed, because their identity was so tightly wound with something that was greatly affected by COVID.  I’m going to use coaching as an example; if you devote your whole life to coaching and those things aren’t able to happen, that cannot define WHO you are. Just because your season gets canceled, doesn’t mean you should be depressed.  Yes, grieving is allowed and warranted, but you have to move past it too. I always have highly encouraged people to find additional hobbies or modes of exercise they enjoy; it’s the same when you get injured and can’t run anymore. For me, I also really like hiking; that fulfills me as much as running. I also cross-stitch. 😉

-Even though my pay was significantly cut and there was so much uncertainty, truth be told, I was super grateful for the break. With all my jobs and raising Layton, it was much needed.

-However, it was also a very interesting time. Layton reached so many (mobile) milestones during that time, that once I did resume work (part-time), trying to get anything done with Layton crawling (and now walking) all over the place is nearly impossible. Scratch that, not nearly, it IS impossible.

-Marriage is hard. Although I’m not technically married, being in a committed relationship takes work. It’s not easy. But it’s worth it. The pandemic, and things we did to put money on the table, were rough on us. That sounds like one of us took up prostitution. I assure you, we did not; Ben just took an overnight job.

-I learned that I would gladly trade a few months of a paycheck if it means saving lives.

-I learned, or reinforced the idea, that I don’t need that much social interaction. I’m perfectly fine being stuck at home for long periods of time. Truly an introvert here! I have so many hobbies and things to do, that I did not get bored (although we were pretty strict with the “stay at home” following and I was craving hiking for awhile). But really, I don’t need to see people that often! HA! (In a serious note, I totally understand those that do and I know that the quarantine had a lot of bad repercussions and led to higher domestic violence and suicides and for that, I’m truly saddened.).

-I think nature loved, and needed, the break.

-The pandemic followed by the black lives matter movement really pointed out that our country needs help. I don’t know how or what kind, but we as a whole are so divided and so closed-minded and rude and uncaring. I’m not saying all, certainly not myself or friends or family, and I do hope a majority of people are good. Recent events have pointed out the bad. I don’t think I’m perfect at all, I know I have a lot to learn and work on, but it is sad to see how many people still do not believe in equality for all and good vs bad. I believe there are good and bad people as a whole and that we need to change some things to make sure the bad people are recognized and punished appropriately and that good people are recognized and celebrated appropriately.

– I still don’t understand why people went crazy with the TP!!

-Honestly, I’m not sure I want to go “back to normal” or to the way it was before. I’ve learned a lot about people and friends that I wish I didn’t know. I also learned a lot about what I feel is important in my life and I realized I am ready for change.

As things are slowly going “back to normal,” I’m apprehensive about diving right back in, yet if I don’t, I feel like we’ll be left behind and be in a very tough spot, financially. It’s not “over” yet; cases in the US are increasing again and hospitals are more than full still.

When it comes to my jobs, we’re starting to prepare for our first in-person event in August. I’ll be timing it but it won’t look anywhere near the same as our normal races. I’m also glad that cross country practices are able to start up (with a lot of social distancing and safety measures in place). It gives me a schedule to stick to again and I have to remember what day of the week it is now. But I am nervous that we’re doing all this work and prep for something that may not happen in the end (i.e. competitions may not happen or schools don’t reopen – who knows!). Our phone is starting to ring at Golden Mountain Guides again, but every trip we take does come at a risk no matter what precautions we take and regulations we put in place regarding mask-wearing and sanitation.

It is just so much right now, still. But we’re just taking it one day at a time.

Also, can anyone tell me if we still need to be worried about the murder hornets?

Yes, that last line was my attempt at humor.