Denver’s Race for the Cure – Post Race Review, 10+ years in the making!

SGK_racelogoYesterday I ran the Denver Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure. This was the…….??? Ya know, I’m not sure how many times we’ve run it!  We, as in my Mom and I, think we started doing this event in 1999, which would put it at 15 years in a row! That may not be entirely accurate, but close enough. I have done it every year and there was only one year that my mom had to miss out due to prior engagements.

If any of you have read my “About Me” you’ll know that it’s because of this race that I really started running.

Correct me if I’m wrong, Mom, but I believe we started running the event back then to support a family friend who had survived breast cancer.  I was in either 7th or 8th grade and we first ran the race when it used to be held at the Denver Civic Center park.

Back then, it was “small” race.  We would challenge ourselves to run to every other street and take walking breaks in between. I remember that not many people were there and the expo area was super small. It was like a traditional neighborhood race where they had boxes of bananas and bagels that people could grab after they finished.

Past Race for the Cures

Past Race for the Cures

 

Now, it’s held at the Pepsi Center and there is thousands of people and I have taken to running the whole thing. I don’t remember what the race was like when we first starting running it, but as it became larger and larger, it has become a run/walk, not timed and just mass amounts of people.

As the years went on, we had more reasons to run the Race for the Cure. One being my Grandma who survived breast cancer a few years ago. Now, not only is it a tradition for my Mom and I, but it’s also a run in celebration of her.

As the race has grown, the race has changed as well. Last year they decided to add a “competitive race” before the joggers/walkers so that people who wanted to could actually run…and run fast! We didn’t know that was an option last year, and were kinda mad when they wouldn’t let us go up to the start line yet.

This year, the same competitive race was still an option but they decided to change the course. And not only that, a lot of other things changed: the sponsors, the expo, as well as the organization.

This Year’s Race:

Because this event is so big in the Denver area, they offer a large-scale RTD and car pool system. My Mom and I always do transportation this way and met at Arvada High at 6:30am to take the bus to the race start in Denver. Knowing the course was different but not sure what to expect, we exited the bus and took a look around. It was actually very confusing. There wasn’t much signage and nothing was in the same spot. Usually there are loud speakers and constant announcements. I didn’t hear any of that. Also, the same parking lots were blocked off, but they just set up everything backwards.

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We finally fingered out where everything was but still had trouble figuring out where the actual start was. There was one “start line” sign near registration, but that is not where the official race was. Maybe that was for the newly added 1-mile fun run/walk, I’m not sure.

We followed the crowd to the street and up the off-ramp from the highway. Now, it was 7:45am, the time the “Competitive Race” was set to start. We looked up ahead and saw people running/walking and realized they started. We registered for the 8am regular run/walk. This is what we have always done and we usually nudge ourselves close to the start line so that I can run and not have to dodge that many people and my mom runs/walks at her pace as well.

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This year, as we got in line, we just kept walking. We thought they would separate and blockade off the noncompetitive people and then have a huge count-down and start our race like they always do. But people just kept walking. It was really strange. It says all over the website and brochures that the run starts at 8am. The line kept moving so we guessed that we would just go ahead and start. Everyone around had the noncompetitive bibs on as well. We passed under the start line and just kept walking! It was so frustrating and felt so unorganized. There was so many people we couldn’t run. Frustrating for me as an avid runner and for my mom as well because likes to run it too! There was just nowhere to go!

Since I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, I decided to stick with my mom this year and run with her for the first time in many years. We dodged people left and right and tried to actually speed up, but it wasn’t working that well. Finally after about a mile the crowded thinned enough so that we could actually continued to run in a straight line. We ran off and on toward the finish line!

SOOOO many people!

SOOOO many people!

When we finally completed the race, we headed towards the expo area. As the race has gown over the years, so has the expo area! It’s quite the spectacle and it gets quite hectic. Every year the same sponsors, more or less, have been there. In the past, Sports Authority was a regular (always giving out bags to collect your goodies), the Shane Company (always has hats or visors), Allstate (always a wheel to spin for awesome prizes like a backpack and pink fuzzy gloves), Ford (giving out collectible scarfs – I have a dozen or so from all the years), Safeway (with DELICIOUS steak and string cheese), Yoplait (with bins to collect the pink lids), and a dozen or so other booths giving out the normal: Snacks, chapsticks, pens, coupons, cowbells, etc, etc.

Finished!

Finished!

I have actually collected a fair about of food and goodies from past Race for the Cure events. This year however, Ford, Yoplait, Safeway and Sports Authority were nowhere to be found! It was actually quite shocking and left we wondering what happened. (I speculate at the idea that Susan G. Komen foundation losing sponsors. There has been a lot of controversies with the foundation over the years and I have no idea what has happened with their sponsors). Even with those sponsors gone, there was still a ton of booths to collect goodies from. My favorites this years were the Honey Smoked Fish Co (handing out decent sized portions of their 5 Super Food Salad), the Allstate booth (I spun the wheel and won a sweet pink backpack purse thing and a pair of pink fo-Ray Ban sunglasses), and all the food (Duh, I’m super food driven. Tell me there’s free food and I’ll be there)! But I definitely missed the steak, string cheese and yogurt!

Slacker and Steve are host of a local after-work radio station show! They are hilarious! Yi!

Slacker and Steve are host of a local after-work radio station show! They are hilarious! Yi!

With the race course and whole expo area being set up different, that left all these booths to squeeze in a smaller space than before. Which also meant all of the racers squeezing in the same space! HOLY CROWDED, BATMAN! My mom and I always get the race done relatively fast, which means we get to wandered the expo before most. But just because of that fact doesn’t mean we aren’t waiting in a lot of lines and getting lost in the crowds! The line for the Honey Smoke Fish was like 20 min (Sooooo worth it) and only got longer. By the time we were almost ready to leave, I was thinking about revisiting a shoe-lace donation booth where they would give you new pink shoelaces if you donated yours and for every pair of shoelaces donated, they donated a dollar to the a breast cancer research fund. Unfortunately the booth was in the center, the most crowded area, and I got a few people deep and bailed. MISSION ABORTED!

After that craziness, I was little overwhelmed, and wanted to head home. We caught our bus back to the school and the followed up with a trip to IHOP…..mmmmmm…..pancakes….. I love me some pancakes! OH, and these were pumpkin pancakes!

komen_logoOverall: I love the tradition of running this race with my Mom, especially in celebration of my Grandma. This year, however, was way less organized than it has been for a really long time. I have no idea why! What I don’t like is that it seems to have become a social gathering and not necessarily for the right reasons and it gets so overwhelmingly crowded. I’m a little iffy on the Susan G. Komen foundation (I wont get into it, but there has been some controversial things with where the money comes from and goes to as well as some lawsuits from the foundation regarding the use of the pink ribbon symbol. Do your own research; make your own opinions).

Above all, the race and the foundation have the right idea and their hearts are in the right place, as well as all the racers’, volunteers’ and workers’.

Your Turn: I’m actually curious if other people have done the Race for the Cure, whether in Denver or another City, and what you think of it all! Let me know in the comments! 

Related Links:

 The Race for the Cure Denver Website

Susan G. Komen Denver Website

More info (Wikipedia) on Susan G. Komen Foundation

Ragnar Relay Colorado – Post Race Recap – Part II

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(You can catch Part I HERE.)

Leg 25 – 6.3 miles

It’s 5am and my phone starts ringing. Not the alarm, my actual ring tone, and I don’t have the number saved. Super sleepy and confused, I pick it up, knowing that it could be a team member.

“Hello,” I say in a very sleepy, raspy, quiet voice.

“Hey Whitney…. It’s Piar….” he says, gently. (A runner from Van 2)

“Oh, hey. What’s up,” still whispering, rubbing my eyes.

“Oh… we’re here and Monique (the current runner) will be here in about 5 minutes!”

Wait. WHAT??

My brain immediately kicks into action, “OH! OK! I was sleeping. I’ll get ready as fast as I can!”

One of my teammates was sleeping next to me and obviously wakes up to this. I tell him they’re here and he offers to gather all my stuff  so that I can run to the van and get everything else I need! How nice!

I can’t imagine what I looked like to everyone else; to those few awake in the gym that is. It was probably hilarious watching me try to put on my shoes as I’m run/walking to the door. One of my shoes was only half on as I reached the doors and pretty much sprinted to the car.

SEE!!!! All uphill!!!!!

SEE!!!! All uphill!!!!!

Our team captain was sleeping in the van, doors locked, and I probably scared him half to death as I came pounding on the door.

“James! It’s locked! I need my shoes! They’re here!”

He pops up, opens the back door, all his stuff spilling to the ground, (what he was trying to avoid by locking the door) and I try to remember everything I need.

Running Shoes: check. Safety vest: check. Blinky light: check. Headlamp: check. Phone: got it. Granola bar shoved in my sports bra just in case: check. It’s a good thing I slept in most of my running clothes, all I needed was a long-sleeved pullover to keep warm.

Obviously a horrible picture of my self… but this is pretty much what my vision was like as I was running that morning.

Obviously a horrible picture of my self… but this is pretty much what my vision was like as I was running that morning.

Without even my shorts tied, I took off running, not really sure where to go, and had to ask a volunteer as I ran away where the actual exchange zone was.

You see, we had a spread sheet of projected times, and everyone read it wrong before we went to bed. We were reading the time I would be FINISHED in the morning, not when I should start running. All six of us read the sheet and all six of read it wrong.

I later found out this conversation: “How will we be able to tell if it’s Whitney since it dark?” Answer: “Oh, she’ll be the one running over here.”

I didn’t even need to be near for them to know it was me. I came tearing around the corner and I hear familiar voices calling my name, “WHITNEY! Over here!”

I held out my arm, Monique slapped the bracelet baton on, and I started running.

“WAIT! Where do I go?!” I had no idea where the trail was. A volunteer on the other side of the exchange zone yelled directions as I took off running.

Still not fully awake, my eyes were super blurry, but I just followed the trail. This was going to be a tough one. Let alone did I get a “rude awakening” but this 6.3 miles was ALL uphill. No exaggeration.

This is a pretty accurate picture of what my vision saw for the first half of the run. Blurry and all.

This is a pretty accurate picture of what my vision was for the first half of the run. Blurry and all.

Before the sun rose, it was pretty chilly and I didn’t think to grab a pair of gloves. But I’m kinda glad that I had to just start running, only for the sake of the rest of me NOT being cold. From sleeping inside and immediately starting to run, I didn’t have a chance to adjust to the cooler morning temps. If I had been the 2nd runner or beyond, we would have been walking around in the cold waiting for the other runners and once I’m cold, I feel like I never warm up.

As the sun started to rise, I could see that I was running along a river, which probably would have been very pretty in the daylight. Then you get out the city and into what I would call a little more rural area. There were houses, but each had lots of space and yards and some had farms. I continued to trudge up the hills as my van passed by and cheered out the windows.

Watching the sun rise of the mountains

Watching the sun rise of the mountains

I passed four other runners on this run!!! (And only one other person passed me). I didn’t stop running. I couldn’t. If  I did, I wouldn’t have been able to get going again.

One of the runners I had passed turned out to be a girl I went to high school with! Very ironic! I didn’t know it was her until after we were both done running and she approached me to say hi. I had said something to her on the trail like, “man these hills SUCK!” not knowing I knew her!

The hills just kept going and going. It would decrease in incline percentage for a bit, only to go back up. Finally, I saw a “left turn” sign and my last half mile or so was relatively flat…ish. I saw a bunch of people, vans and cones in the distance hoping it wasn’t a mirage from sleep left in my eyes.

At the top of the hill I thought I still had to climb, but luckily it was our next runner that had to climb this.

At the top of the hill I thought I still had to climb, but luckily it was our next runner that had to climb this.

There was also another hill in front of me. I was hoping that I didn’t have to climb it. Thankfully the next runner met me at exchange which was at the bottom of that hill. I handed off the slap bracelet and stumbled around.

I was DONE! Done, done, done, done and done.

DONE! The first of our team to fill in all of their boxes!

DONE! The first of our team to fill in all of their boxes!

Afterwards:

After my run, I wasn’t feeling all that great. I was hungry but nauseous all at the same time. Clearly it was due to poor nutrition since I was on the run less than 10 minutes of waking up and didn’t get to fuel properly. I helped cheer on my fellow van-mates at the remaining exchange zones while I managed to suck down a Muscle Milk to get something in my stomach.

Lisa handing off to Chuy, our last runner of van 1!

Lisa handing off to Chuy, our last runner of van 1!

You could tell we were nearing the end of our journey. Watching other teams get in and out of their vans (including us) was almost comical. More and more people had limps or were just moving reeeeeaaaaalllllyyyyyy slow.

Finally our last runner had arrived at the last major exchange before the finish line. In all the Ragnar information we were promised pancakes (all you can eat!) and were very disappointed when we found out the pancake people never showed up.

yes, that was my contribution to the van art!

yes, that was my contribution to the van art!

Instead, we went to a local diner and of course I got pancakes! I was really looking forward to those delicious breakfast treats as you can tell from my window decoration!

Once we stuffed ourselves silly, or maybe the was just me, we drove the remaining way into Snowmass, found our condo that some of us would be staying in for the night and I promptly aimed for the hot tub! After soaking my bum knee, I finally cleaned up and hung out at the finish line/expo to wait for our last runner to finish!

Waitin' for our last runners!

Waitin’ for our last runners!

When she finally arrived, we met her at the top of the hill. As she ran the switch backs, we ran down the middle! We gave her high fives and made a tunnel! It was such a blast!

All of us running to the finish line with our last runner!

All of us running to the finish line with our last runner!

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Yes, that's me!

Yes, that’s me!

We collected our medals and posed for pictures!

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Some of us got TWO medals! Yep, that’s right! Those of us that also did Ragnar Trail – Snowmass earned the “Rocky Mountain Fever Medal.” There were four of us, I believe, from 3W that got them. I was told only 80 total people in the ENTIRE world earned this medal this year! And the medal itself is super awesome! It’s a double bottle opener, and it’s hunk of METAL, literally! It’s super heavy!

Three out of the four of us 3W people that earned our double medal!

Three out of the four of us 3W people who earned our double medal!

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After high-fives and congratulations, half of our team left to head back to Denver. The rest of us were staying in Snowmass for the evening. Some went to the condo to take a nap. I hung around Ragnar village eating ice cream and drinking beer (Duh, what else would I do!?). I waited for the other team to finish. Soon after they came across the finish line as well!

Breckin' our Aspens off coming in for their finish!

Breckin’ our Aspens off coming in for their finish!

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OVERALL 4.5/5

There are only a few (tiny) things that take the 0.5 away from my overall rating. First off, I feel like Ragnar is such a big event that they could have a few more sponsors and booths at the Ragnar village. especially at the end. There was really only a few things there: Sierra Nevada beer, ice cream, Nuun, a leg massage tent and this Peace Tea company. There was also their Ragnar store, but that’s actual merchandise, so it doesn’t really count. That’s about all they had a the finish line.

The lack of FREE beer. They said there was supposed to be free beer at the finish line. Well, I take that back, there was free BEER, but you had to pay $1.00 for the CUP. Sure it’s not expensive by any means, but A) I wasn’t carrying my money with me and B) that’s just ridiculous! Free beer but you have to buy the cup??? Silly people.

Lastly, I feel like there wasn’t that many volunteers out there or there could have been at last more course markers. I personally didn’t get lost, but I heard of a few people who did get lost. There just wasn’t a lot of course markers. All my routes were pretty self-explanatory; I would have had to exit the main path to get lost, but I can imagine other routes being more confusing in the mountains. However, I guess when you sign up to do a relay, you’re basically agreeing to read all the instructions and course maps.

A non-Ragnar fault’s thing is the construction! Ragnar has no idea if/when a city is doing construction, but man was there a lot! My second leg was filled with construction! Two thirds of the 3 miles was under construction and I really had to watch my step for when the side walks would just end abruptly which proved to be difficult at night. Even driving in the vans, we passed a lot of construction. But then again, Colorado has two seasons: Winter and Construction Season.

Van art – This was a blast for me! During the Wild West Relay I did a few years ago, we didn’t decorate our van. And obviously with the Ragnar Trail, you don’t have a van to decorate! There was so many interesting vans! People are pretty creative. Besides our van, some of my favorites were the Scooby Doo Van, there was a van that lit up at night, a Toy Story Van, and a “Cannibus” van! All were pretty awesome!

Our Van!

Our Van!

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Some favorites of other teams!

Tagging the Other Vans – We didn’t do this with the Wild West Relay either! I learned this was a “thing” during this relay. Basically, you just “tag” other people’s vans….you write your name or some people had a magnet, others drew pictures… The only thing I can compare it to is like a dog marking its territory. We had a blast sneaking up on people! And I loved coming back to our van to see what people would do. I collected all the magnets and my favorite tag was by our other team! (Look in the picture for the Bart butt, it’s kinda hard to see but that’s my favorite).

All the "tags" we accumulated!

All the “tags” we accumulated!

Kills – I’m sure there’s some people out there that probably hate the idea of counting the people you pass, but I found it super motivational! There was only a few teams that I saw that DIDN’T tally their kills on their vans. We clearly did, and the thought of trying to catch someone made me keep running even though I had some aches and pains. I dreaded getting killed, and only got killed once! I thought it was pretty clever of one team to keep track of people “saved,” making fun of themselves and putting a good light on the fact that they were maybe slightly slower than the other teams. As long as one isn’t out-loud keeping track of kills as they pass, or at least plays it off in a joking way, I don’t see anything wrong with it!

Ragnar Village(s) – In the beginning of the race, Ragnar Village was pretty small with just a few booths set up. Since the same area was where the first major exchange zone was, it actually filled up later in the day as teams were passing through. It was very crowded and quite the party (minus the beer). I’m mostly concerned with the end, as described before. The booths/sponsors that they did have were relevent and great, but I feel like for such a big event, there could be more!

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Other Teams – I didn’t meet a single team that wasn’t nice. The only weird people (or that I thought were weird) was a team that we had tagged that immediately wiped it off when they found it. They did have their own writing on the van, so we figured it would be ok, but clearly not. They didn’t want to be tagged. My favorite other team was the High Flying Vikings, but only because one of the members was my running “buddy” during the first leg. I kept seeing him at a lot of the exchange zones. I made jokes that the other members of his team better start running slower so that we could run together again. I believe his team did end up finishing ahead of us, but not by much!

Swag – Besides the freaking awesome double medal we few got for doing both the Colorado Trail Ragnar and this one, we also received a t-shirt, stickers and a patch. Worth the price? (Even though we didn’t pay for our registration, I still know on average that a relay is about 100 plus per person) To answer that: Eh… I get where the money goes. I mean, a relay covers A LOT of time and space, but we didn’t really get much included. But hey, I didn’t pay for it, so I’m not going to complain! I think the price is DEFINITELY worth the whole EXPERIENCE!

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After it was all said and done, the remaining team members from both teams dined together at the Base Camp Restaurant. We all chatted and told stories of the race and then all went back to the condo to do the same. On the way back to Denver the next day, we traveled over Independence Pass and stopped to enjoy the view! All in all, a great weekend. I couldn’t ask for better: Running, Traveling, Friends, Beer, Colorado, Pretty Views… That’s the life!

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Tuesday Newsday – 8/21

Last week I didn’t post a tuesday newsday…. I didn’t really have anything of value to say, so I didn’t want to bore you with my babble.

Last week, running wise, I took it pretty easy because I knew marathon training was staring!!!!!

But I had a pretty awesome weekend. Friday, I didn’t do much because I was house sitting three crazy dogs. But saturday after work, I got to see my Dad, who is in town for a week, and I met up with one of my best friends and did this….

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New Piercings! can you even tell which ones they are?

We then joined the company of other great people and enjoyed pancakes at a local diner. Mmmm…chocolate chip pancakes.

Sunday followed with climbing indoors and dinner in longmont with my mom. I drove to longmont for dinner but also to meet my friend from fort collins to do a hike.

We left longmont at 9 pm to get a few hours of sleep and start hiking at 3 am…….why in the world do I do these things to myself!? I conquered my second 14er, Long’s Peak, and believe me, I’m feeling it today. Hardest hike I’ve ever done, and no desire to do it again! You can definitely look forward to a post on this. Needless to say, I’m sore, bruised, scraped and my pride may be hurt a little.

The top of Long’s Peak!