2017 In Review

Looking back on 2017

2017 has probably been one of the worst and one of the best years I’ve ever had in my entire life.

It was most definitely one of the busiest years I have ever experienced. But it had a lot of fun moments.

It was definitely the most stressful year. But it was rewarding.

Grand Teton National Park

There were a lot of tears. And a lot of smiles.

There were times I wanted to quit everything and give up. And times that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

It was one of those years.

A lot of the bad included losing a step-grandparent, stressful home/work life balance, a tragedy within our cross country team, hail damage with a shifty, unethical car repair shop, loss of two pets, and probably more that I have repressed.

The good included a lot of travel, realizing love sees no bounds, a successful second year for Golden Mountain Guides, being part of five weddings and lots of time with family and friends.

I really am ready for a new year, carrying lessons from this year.

Here are some highlights from the past year…

January… started off slow. I started training to be a race director, track pre-season started, I started my #60HikesDenverChallenge (trying to hike/run all 60 trails in the 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Denver Book), we did a little bit of snowboarding and I did yoga challenge.

Walden Ponds, Boulder. Start of my #60HikesDenverChallenge

February…I did my first race as the sole Race Director (the Heart Throb 5k in Longmont), track season really starts, and we went to see the Mummies exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

See me in the background?? Literally holding back the flag from the wind as the race started. Sometimes race directors do some random tasks.

March…Ran the Erin Go Braugh 7.77k (my favorite of all the races the company I work for produces), and went to a Bridal Shower for Ben’s sister (which means wedding madness for the year starts).

Oh yeah, my outfit was AWESOME!

April… lots of work between all my jobs and my birthday month (wooo… 30 – that’s sarcasm in case you’re curious). But 30 did come with a zombie-themed escape room (we didn’t escape, for the record).

May… was full of the State Track & Field meet (one of my jumpers missed state by just a few inches – literally), running of the Bolder Boulder, and got hired for my first freelance writing job (10Hikes.com)

June…a ton of hiking (for my #60HikesChallenge and 10Hikes.com), a typical bachelorette party, and the first wedding of the year (Ben’s youngest sister) gets married. I also got a spot on a Ragnar Trail Snowmass team at the last second.

July… brought wedding #2 (Ben’s Cousin), a trip to Pennsylvania, lots of work (finished up my first 10Hikes project which reviewed the 10 best hikes in the Denver Region), and another Bridal shower (for my friend this time).

August...included another bridal shower (Ben’s other sister), a Trip to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, a bachelorette Pary in New Orleans, and Cross Country season starts.

September… Held wedding #3 (my friend), I race directed my biggest race yet (a 500 person 5k), and two trips to Moab with Ben (one for scouting and back again for guiding a 12-women group).

October…was wedding #4 (Ben’s other sister), I finished up my second freelance writing project (reviewing the 10 best hikes for Rocky Mountain Nation Park which is not live online yet), we did another Moab trip, we travelled to Florida and on a cruise for wedding #5 and I ran the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon.

November…Cross Country season had ended but work with the running company picked up for our biggest race of the year (Broomfield Turkey Day 5k/10k). Then Thanksgiving brings some nice time in Estes Park as we prepare for the holiday season.

Relaxing in Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Sprague Lake

December…here we are, in December. This is when we try and play catch up with all of our jobs. Christmas was busy travelling between all of our families and we travelled up to North Dakota to see my friend and her new baby (baby #2 for her) and on to Dakota, IL for New Years and to visit Ben’s Grandparents. We even hit up TWO National Monuments on the way!


In the beginning of 2017, I set a few goals to focus on for the year. Let’s see how I did….

Running Goals –
1. To love running again (I do enjoy the sport again, but I’m not on a meticulous plan; I’ve going a week or more between runs sometimes.)
2. And work my way through hiking/running all 60 trails in the “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles” Denver Edition (I got 17 of the 60 done. I did take on a freelance writing job involving hiking for 10hikes.com which involved hikes that are not in this book. I hiked 50+ different hikes this year. Maybe 60 was pushing it, but not bad for how busy the year was.

Other fitness –
I like to be active in general and play in the great outdoors, but I have one specific goal in mind:
3. Climb 5.10s consistently (I got ONE 5.10 done!)
3a. I guess that means I better start strength training regularly again…too. (Well, I definitely worked out more than I did the previous year, but not as much as I had hoped. I did climb a 5.10 in the gym just a few weeks ago, which felt pretty good.)

Career –
4. I would like to see more clients with Golden Mountain Guides than last year
5. Learn more about the tourism industry, in particular, marketing. (We did see more clients than last year! It’s pretty awesome to see your own company grow! And I did learn  a little bit more about tourism, mostly through our own company.)

Other –
6. Travel to FIVE new places, in or out of Colorado. (Check X5! See above and all the travel we did this year! We even made it to at least 8 National Parks of Monuments).
7.  Learn about a new topic every month. (This gets 1/4 green. We started out strong, learning about Egyptian History, oceans, and I took a month to study Jumps Coaching (track and field). But as our business got busier, we put this one hold, only to pick it up in November, studying Mayan History)

Overall, I am truly glad this year is coming to a close. I’m ready for a “new start” of sorts in 2018.

Chasm Lake – One of my favorite photos from 2017.

Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon – Race Review

At the end of October and into the first week of November, my boyfriend Ben and I took a much-needed vacation to Florida and then got on a cruise. While the cruise itself seemed to be more stressful than relaxing since we were involved with a wedding party, we are really glad to have gotten a few days beforehand in Florida to check out the National Parks.

Also while we were there, I decided to check off a state in my 50 states running goal. I ran the Miami Beach Halloween Half Marathon the morning of the day we were getting on the cruise.

The night before, I tried to relax a bit and not stress about the race the next morning. Ben was off on a bachelor party with the other groomsmen and I planned my outfit and tried to get to sleep was the band outside the window played on into the night.

I woke up for the race just shortly after the groomsmen were done with their night out.  I got dressed in my “costume,” dressing up like one of my high school runners I coach. Since I already knew I would be unable to attend State before the season even started due to the Cruise Wedding, and I told the girls team that if they qualified, I would dress like them at my race. I did as promised, braids and everything, and I think I did pretty well!

The race was set to start before the sun rose, and for good reason, as it usually gets pretty warm, even this time of the year. I hailed an Uber to go to the race while others climbed in their awaiting cars to go home. #runnerslife.  I made my way to the starting line and joined in with all the costume glad runners to wait until the whistle was blown.

Overall – 4/5 – I did enjoy this race for the most part. I could really see the locals having a blast at this event with all their friends and spectators cheering them on. A few things took away from my general experience; some race management related and some personal, as described further on. However, I did love the theme, the participation by the racers as most people dressed up, and the support along the course.

T-shirt/swag – 4/5 – The shirt was high quality and fit well. The artwork was fun, I just didn’t like the BIG plastic feeling of the sublimation. The medals were HUGE and had a unique Halloween design.

Aid Stations – 5/5 – They were great! Each one had water and Gatorade. There was one about every mile with plenty of volunteers.

Course Itself/Scenery/Difficulty  – 5/5 – The course was easy with only one tiny hill. It was fun to run along the bridge where the cruise ships were pulling right into port. After the bridge, you wound around to a concrete and boardwalk trail that was along the beach with beautiful views as the sun rose.

View of the road I ran on from the cruise ship!

Miami Beach

Expo Quality – 1/5 – If that. There was not a real big expo beforehand (like those of Rock n’ roll and such), but even at the finish line, there was barely anything except the food. Now, I didn’t go to the after party that was at the local bar, so maybe there were some booths and vendors there. For most people, this probably isn’t a low point, but I like expos and booths to see new running gadgets/trends and the local businesses.

Parking/Access – 3/5 – I stayed at a hotel right in Miami Beach. It was about two miles from the finish line and about 4 miles to the start line. They did have good instructions for parking on their website and in emails as well as a shuttle service from the finish area to the starting line (and vice-versa). I had already returned our rental car the night before (on purpose) and took an Uber to the finish area to catch the shuttle. I’m glad I did it this way because the Uber car would have gotten stuck in traffic trying to get me to the starting line.

On the bus

When the bus dropped us off, we had a tiny walk to the starting line. Now, the starting line was right outside a parking garage that was open for parking. People were warming up and waiting in the chute while cars were driving in. SUPER DANGEROUS! There were a few police officers just telling cars to turn into the garage but no other way to block cars from runners. I found it super curious the way they had an open lane of traffic next to so many racers. I know people aren’t driving fast, but still!

Race Management – 3/5 – This is where I get to be the pickiest and only because I am a race director myself and notice things that not everyone notices. In addition to the parking/access situation, there were a few other things that took away points from this rating. First, I read online and in the emails that there was a bag drop. I had brought a bag that I placed my small jacket and my cell phone in. Upon getting to the start line, I could not figure out where the bag drop was. I couldn’t even see any booths for registration tents and there were no signs or any sort of communication. I asked the DJ, other runners and the kids at the water station. No one knew. I was starting to get concerned I’d have to run with my phone with nowhere to put it (my costume shorts did not have pockets). Finally, I overheard someone say they got their bib in the parking garage. To get there, the ONLY way to get there, I had to cross traffic, while police yelled at me to stay out of the way, walking alongside driving cars pulling into the parking lot, and around the corner were the tables for registration and alas… the bag drop!

That was a huge thing that made me give lower marks to the race management. Second, was just the advanced packet pick up. There were a couple of location and date options, and I chose the one that was closest to our hotel the day before the race. For a non-Miami beach resident, the traffic is HORRENDOUS. We had a hard time finding the Dick’s Sporting Goods store even with the navigation on my phone. Then once inside the store, there was no employee or race person directing us to where to get my stuff (which was way in the back of the store). I would recommend investing in a lot more signage for ALL areas of their race from packet pick up to race morning.

And the third reason I score this part pretty low is that I had emailed the race directors about a month before the race to ask a question. I never got a response and found my answer, not on the website, but searching the visitor posts section of their facebook page.

MY RACE – 3.5/5 – I’m super frustrated with my personal race. I didn’t really have any goals except, always in the back of my mind, I have a sort-of goal. You know how it is. This time, my sort-of goal was to finish around two hours. Now, I wasn’t really doing any specific half marathon training but I was running with the cross country team I coached and hiking long miles for my 10hikes.com job. I actually felt pretty fit.

I started off with a 2-hour pace group and was keeping up just fine. I felt good! I wasn’t struggling to stay with them, the pace felt great and the pace group leader was very nice. It was around mile 3 that I started noticing the dreaded chafing. Dun, dun dunnnn……..

Now, I’m aware that this does, in fact, happen in humidity. I’m not a completely naive Coloradan that’s used to the dry climate. However, I totally thought the shorts I was wearing for my “costume” were plenty long enough. Oh boy was I wrong and oh man did it HURT. I had 10 more miles. TEN.

So, I did what I could, constantly pulling down my shorts, looking completely foolish, praying that my thong wasn’t showing in the back and pretty convinced I looked like Burt in Mary Poppins.

I was altering my running form to try and avoid the chaffing (unsuccessfully). This led to really sore muscles and back for the following couple of days. I was kicking myself for my outfit and not bringing any “glide.” I was super upset that I felt so good cardio wise and couldn’t finish right with that pace group!

I managed to finish just seconds under a 2:15. Which put me at 12/59 in my age group. After checking the results, and wondering what I would have placed had it not been for the chafing, I decided not to go to the after party and called an Uber to bring me back to my hotel. No way was I walking the short two miles with caffing legs. I still have scars.

Besides all the running stuff, I think one of the most memorable parts of the race is that right after I dropped my stuff in the bag drop, I came out of the parking garage to see a HUGE cruise ship coming into port. It was looming over the bridge that the race was queuing up on. It was enormous, beautifully lit up and sure enough, I saw the words, “The Escape” painted on the side. That was the boat I was going to be getting on later! It was pretty intimidating to a newbie cruise goer that wasn’t so sure about the whole idea.

After the race and returning to my hotel room,  I showered, packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel. We caught a ride to the cruise ship and I hobbled around the decks in my new Halloween Half T-Shirt.


Race Website

July 23rd, Castle Rock Prairie Dog Half/10k/5k – Review/Discount Code

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Many of you know I work for a running company in Colorado called 3W Races. This is a dream job that I started almost two years ago now!

I mainly do marketing for them (emails, local event promotions, acquiring sponsors and social media) but I have been transitioning into more race production and race day tasks. For our big races, our half marathons, after set up, I am the volunteer coordinator and organize all the water stations and course marshals. This means recruitment, mapping  out where they go, communication with volunteers and making sure they get to the right location and do the right thing.

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The next one that I have been working on is coming up on July 23rd. We have the Summer Splash Prairie Dog Half, 10k and 5k in Castle Rock. This race in particular I got to run two years ago! It’s a beautiful course that is just hard enough to give you a workout and feel accomplished without being too hard.

The year I did it, I placed second in my age group for the half marathon! I remember that day pretty well because I showed up early to help set up, ran the race, then stayed after to help clean up. I also remember my knee hurting really badly for that race after doing a double race weekend. You can read all about it HERE.

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Anyway, let’s just cut to the chase. I’m writing this post to invite all you (Colorado) runners to run with us!  As you can see from the picture below, I am offering 18% off any of the distances (which is probably the biggest discount we, as staff, are ever allowed to offer). *Cough, cough* we may be having a friendly office competition to see who can get the most people to register. Cough*

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This year’s race has awesome swag: a gender specific t-shirt, souvenir race bib, wooden finisher’s plaque, and a SPINNING medal for half marathon participants! If you place overall, you get a unique wooden carved trophy (pictured below) and if you place in your age group, you get a wooden, carved plaque (not pictured).

So, if you’re interested, check out the website HERE, sign up HERE and don’t forget to use you 18% off discount code ( 3WWHIT18 )!

Dream Catcher Half Marathon Review

20150307_111017Uh oh. Now that I work for a racing company, I have a feeling I am going to be super nit-picky about other races I go to and my recaps might become super detailed. I noticed it while running Saturday, thinking things like, “hmmm..I would have put a course marshal there” or “I would have explained things to the water people a little better.” But I guess that is part of the “biz” right? Hopefully I wont come off as rude.

About a month or so ago, I decided to register for the Dream Catcher Half. I was ready to get another half under my belt and knowing it was in Grand Junction (4 hours away from me), I wanted to treat it as a mini-vacation, (really mini – I was literally gone from my house for 23 hours and 45 minutes).

The last half I did was back in September of 2014. I beat myself up at that race and took about a month or more off, not completely, but a HUGE reduction in running. Running and I broke up for a bit of time. Then in November/December, we got back together. I used my own personal training knowledge and slowly started ramping up my training. I then read the 80/20 book (I will have a review on that soon, I promise), and my whole (running) world changed.

I was nearing a point of being able to run a half marathon based on a beginner time-table. That’s why I decided to register. I knew I wouldn’t PR and I pretty much wanted to treat it as a “long-run training” run. 13.1 miles is the most I’ve run (in a row) since September!

I haven’t done an in-depth race review in a long time, so without further ado, let’s get on with this review!

dclogo1The Dream Catcher Half Marathon:

Life has been pretty busy for me lately between my full-time job with 3W Races, track practice (I am a coach) and my few hours at the rec (my beer money, as I call it). I knew it would be a late night when I had to leave for Grand Junction after a track meet. Well, the meet was canceled, but we still had normal practice and I didn’t start my drive until 5:30pm.

I actually really hate night driving, wishing I had a co-pilot, but I headed west anyway. I may or may not have purchased a Taylor Swift album (her new one) to rock out to in the car. Don’t judge.

I made it to my destination, a friend of a friend’s place, around 9:30pm! I was super lucky to have some connections and one of my good friends has a friend that lives in Grand Junction that let me crash at her place! Saved me $50 or more on a hotel! I walked into game night, was handed a beer and we played the “worse case survival board game.” It was nice to meet new people and a good relaxation before a race.

Shortly after, I went to bed and woke up the next morning for my race. I wasn’t set to race until 9am! Not that early at all! Grand Junction is not that big and it only took me 10 minutes to drive there about an hour and 15 min before race time. I got my packet, ate my breakfast and warmed up.

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 4.09.39 PMThe Course (design, aid stations, etc): I really liked this course! It was not over challenging being relatively flat. There was one big hill around mile 1 that lasted for about a half mile. From then on out it was flat with a few tiny hills here and there.

The layout of the course was nice as well. For the first 3 miles you did a small lollypop loop out east, came back by the start/finish line and did the remaining 10 miles as an out and back. This really broke it up nicely for me, as I play mental games with the remaining miles of my races. When you hit the turn around, at 8 miles, there’s only 5 left, less than half!

The course was next to a river the whole time and offered really pretty views of the surrounding rocks. Not sure if they were quite mountains or not, but they were pretty!

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 4.10.12 PMHere’s the nit picky part: They had sticker arrows marking the course with a few stand up signs. The signs they used were pretty flimsy and one was turned about backwards from the wind. Luckily there was people in front of me who investigated and realized it was telling us to turn right. The sticker arrows were stuck everywhere: on the sidewalk, fences and sometimes the dirt. I have never seen these used before, and I wondered how A) the didn’t come off (some were stepped on enough times that were barely distinguishable) and B) did they have to go through afterwards and un-stick all of them!?! I’m glad we don’t use those at my job.

The other nit picky thing I have is there was two or three spots I think could have used course marshals. Two of those spots were street crossings. Now, I didn’t encounter any cars myself, but one of the streets was in a residential neighborhood we only ran through for a quarter-mile (the rest was on the trail following the creek), but you never know! The other spot I would have put a course marshal at was where the turnaround at 8 miles was. It was another small lollipop, but where the circle came back around and joined the main course, there was a group of spectators standing there waiting for their racer. That’s fantastic, however, they left only a small opening for runners to get through. It was strange.

That view the whole time!

That view the whole time!

Water stations: There was definitely plenty, and the volunteers did fantastic and I appreciate them being out there, but no one was holding out water, they left in on the tables so you had to really stop, grab one and then throw it away. Just another small nit picky thing I would never have noticed if I didn’t have my current job.

Organization: Every thing was well-organized. The emails prior to the race were detailed and left me with no questions. All the race volunteers/organizers were nice and answered any questions I did have and they seemed to run things well.

A couple unique things about this race though:

1.They had a runner’s program in the goody bag. This had all the sponsors info in it as well as nicely printed course maps! I liked that a lot!

2. They had a staggered race start time, but in the opposite way. It broke down based on your average half time like this:

7:00AM – Rocker Start (4 hours or greater)

8:00 AM – Roller Start (3-4 hours)

9:00 AM – Flyer Start (2-3 hours)

9:30 AM – Jack Rabbit Start (less than 2 hours)

I chose to start at 9:00 even though I told them my time was sub 2 hours (barely). At packet pickup, I heard someone ask if they could start earlier and they said yes. Now, I selected that time at registration. I wasn’t sure if I would finished under 2 hours. In the group that I started with, only about 4 people went out in front of me and stayed that way for the whole race, as I expected. However, with 3 miles left, I was passed by a handful of speedy people who started at 9:30, after me. It was SUPER demoralizing. I did not like it at all. I passed people who started early than me as well and I have no idea if they felt that way too or not. It’s not like the faster people said anything to me, I’m sure they didn’t even noticed, but here I was trying my hardest to simply finish my first half in a long time and these people passed me. Not only did they pass me, they FLEW by me!

I know why they had start times like that, (to make sure all the runners had support on the course), I get that, 100%, but I just did not like being passed like that. Its one thing when you all start at the same time, but when someone who started 30 minutes after just flies by, it really just breaks ya down, mentally. That’s my opinion.

IMG_20150307_112705Swag: Oh man! Lot’s! The medal itself was pretty sweet. It was connected to the neck ribbon by a key chain.  You also got a long-sleeve, gender specific tech shirt, a goody bag full of fun snacks, samples and coupons, and a lunch bag at the finish line!

After party: Really close to the race was a brewery. All the runners got a free beer, free meal (not just snacks they had at the finish line but at registration you selected one of three meal options) and they were doing giveaways! It was a really good after party.

Now, here’s the sad part. I got done with my race and headed over to the brewery. I got my free beer and with both hands full I proceeded to walk around to find a seat.

I was exhausted and I was by myself.  I am the most non-threatening looking person ever. I approached multiple people who were at big tables with plenty of empty seats and asked if I could sit and join them. I do stuff like this all the time, especially when I am by myself. 99.9% of the time I make new friends. This was the 0.1%. These people were so rude. I don’t know if it was the families of the racers or the racers themselves, but I was rejected multiple times, telling me that they were saving the seats. There was a couple of other ladies that were either looking for seats themselves or just content on standing, but they were outwardly disgusted by the others as well, and even said, “well, shouldn’t the people who have already finished get to sit too,” giving me a sympathetic look. They wandered off. I, on the verge of tears, found a small table inside.

20150307_113154I was a little bit embarrassed, saddened, but also dumbfounded at the rudeness of those people. I do want to make it clear that it was NOT anyone associated with putting on the event or the brewery workers. The people rude to me were racers and their families.

Inside, I ate my delicious chicken burger and drank my free beer while playing on my phone and without trying to make any more new friends, got back in my car to head back to Denver.

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All the swag!

Overall/Cost: Well worth the price! The race, at the highest cost was $80. I registered for slightly under $65 with a discount. For the medal, the goodie bags, shirt, and the actual production…well worth it! I do recommend this race! It was fun, organized and great swag!

My Race: Alright, here’s important stuff.

My goals for this race were: 1. Race and Finish strong. 2. Sub 2 hours. Those were my only goals. No PR, no crazy things. I wanted to treat it like a training-long run.

I did, indeed accomplish both goals. I ran strong and finished strong. And I did indeed finish under 2 hours with a time of 1:58:17.

I felt really good for the first 10 miles, after that was when I started hurting. Thankfully, I didn’t have any real pain (for once in my life!) I was just aching and tired. I had a GU on me (they didn’t provide those at the race), and decided to eat it then. It helped, but only a little. It was the last one and half miles that were REALLY hard.

I looked at my overall time. I had 10 minutes to finish and get under 2 hours, with 1.1 miles left. “I could do this,” I told myself. It was hard though, my legs were hurting, my cardiovascular fitness was trudging, but I was almost there. I was right next to a lady and I was trying to pull ahead but she kept catching up. With 0.1 miles left, I kicked it in and sped up considerably. Thinking I had left her, she totally passed me with less than 20 measly feet left. I literally laughed out loud!

I never used to be an analyzer of my own times or recap the break down of my miles. In fact I usually skim over it your blogs. Sorry. Skip this part if you like, but I think with my goals this year to PR in the half, I need to. I had my GPS watch on and even though it said the miles were off, I can still see how generally fast each mile was:

Mile 1: 9:10, Mile 2:8:30, Mile 3: 8:35, Mile 4: 8:35, Mile 5: 8:48, Mile 6: 9:06, Mile 7: 8:56, Mile 8: 9:26, Mile 9: 9:49, Mile 10: 9:39, Mile 11: 9:52, Mile 12: 9:31, Mile 13: 9:30

Now, these aren’t that accurate because like I said, my GPS was off, but you can see that I really started slowing at mile 8. Although, I still felt well here. It was mile 10 that I started feeling really tired, and the last mile was definitely was the hardest.

Now, to beat my PR, I have to get my average pace to 8:12 min/mile! I have a long way to go.

Overall, I felt exhausted afterwards. Like I could NOT have pushed myself any harder. That’s good and bad. It’s good that I raced that way. I wanted to. I wanted to race strong and finish strong. I did that. But my brain couldn’t help going to the fact that I was so beat, so tired, and I finished in 1:58, 10 minutes slower than my PR. How in the world am I going to get faster!?!

I know, I know. Training. I know this better than all of you. I am a coach and a trainer myself…it is just really hard to train yourself. See, even the Coaches deal with the same things you guys go through! I guarantee it! Even the elites have thoughts like these, but on a different scale.

The aftermath: I am resting it up today (Sunday), and putting together a training plan. I will be taking an “easy week” and will cycle and swim this week as well as get in some short, easy runs. This saturday coming up, I am running a 7.77K (about 4.8 miles), the Erin Go Braugh, with the company I work for. (You can join me, use code 2015WhitneyV15 for 15% off). Then, after a low-key week, I begin training for the Horsetooth Half Marathon. A hard half, no PR expected, but another one to build up my strength.

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Dream Catcher Half Website

Your Turn: I’m curious, have any of you had a run in (no pun intended) with mean runners?? Usually runners are SUPER nice and welcoming. The people I talked to at the after party were super rude!