On Saturday, I participated in the 2015 Rocky Mountain Half Marathon presented by Vacation Races, who, in case you aren’t familiar, hosts races at various national park locales across the country. I was super excited to register for this one because the Rocky Mountain National Park is celebrating 100 years this year, and as a proud native of Colorado, I really wanted the commemorative medal!
Got my bib and my shirt!
I’ve been to the location of the race, Estes Park (pronounced Estis) many times, but I’d never gotten up at 3:45 on a Saturday morning to get there before. The race started promptly at 6:00 am, and we arrived at about 5:35 with plenty of time to park and walk to the start. My saint of a husband came with me and brought his camera. He’s a keeper for sure!
Not quite awake but I’m ready to run!
Sunrise over Lake Estes
The race entry was limited to 1500, and 1329 raced. I felt this was a perfect number of people for the course. There was lots of room to move and maneuver, and I was never alone on the course even though I was running by myself.
Just keep waiting, just keep waiting…
And I’m off! I’m the one in purple (of course).
The first hill is in sight.
People are walking a half a mile into the race. Altitude + hills = no bueno.
I love when the mountains are pink from the sunrise!
I scoped a lot from the course, starting at mile 1. The course took us around the eastern edge of Lake Estes, and the views were pretty grand just like they were every mile of the course! Although the National Parks Service supports these races, we didn’t run through Rocky Mountain National Park. Instead, the course runs along the paved streets of the town, but the scenery is still spectacular. Nestled in a small valley with the lake and surrounded by Longs Peak, Mount Meeker, and many other peaks, Estes made sure the Rocky Mountain Half lived up to its name!
The weather was perfect for running. It was 54 degrees Fahrenheit when we got to the race, and by mile three, I was stripping off my hoodie and tossing it to my husband as I ran by! They also had a gear check at mile three for you to leave your jacket and they’d bring it to the finish for you. Nifty!
Mile 3 and I’m feeling strong.
It’s so pretty!
A bit further along came the first long hill of the course. I ran/walked it and felt good at the top, only I knew what was coming ahead. A slow, gradual 4 mile uphill slog where most of the 490-ish feet of elevation on the course is gained. There was a lot of walking going on in this section, folks. At least it was pretty!
The long, slow climb.
This is about the time that Meri texted me to see how I was doing. I whined to her about the never-ending hill of little oxygen, and she reminded me of something very important.
I love this girl.
Then I rounded a bend and saw this view. I stopped complaining.
At mile 9, the hill ended! HOORAAYYYY! I stopped for a potty break, grabbed some Honey Stinger energy gels, half a banana, and some Nuun and was off again. I loved that the aid stations had water, Nuun, energy gels, bananas, and orange slices. Way to keep us hydrated and fueled, Vacation Races!
It seems that mile 10 is were my body starts to whine and get annoyed. My hips start to get tight and pinchy, and I’m ready to be done. I put my head down and slogged through the rest of the race. I didn’t take any photos or video. My husband was down at the finish waiting for me and he got to see the elite runners come in. They were lucky enough to see some elk on the course!
Elk are a common site in Rocky Mountain National Park. That buck has HUGE antlers!
The elk were not cheering for the runners, and moved on to the golf course.
The finish is in site and I CANNOT WAIT.
I finished with a time of 3:17:47, much slower than my 1st half marathon. It’s okay, the elevation at this course was just under 7500 feet, plus there were lots of hills and no cushy Boardwalk to run on. I expected that my time would be quite a bit slower than at the April Fools Half. All in all, I’m quite pleased with myself!
It’s so pretty and special and I love it!
The medal for this race is really fabulous. It’s huge and heavy and bronze plated and I can’t wait to get a medal rack!!
I think I need to get this baby engraved.
I’m so proud that I ran this race and accomplished it. I knew going in that this would be the hardest thing I’d aver asked of my body, and I did it. It was hard and it hurt, but it wasn’t as hard or as painful as I expected it to be. This is something I’m super proud of, and will be for a long time. I conquered the Rocky Mountain Half!
Then it was time for recovery. Pro Compression socks, Mexican food, and vintage Batman. Perfect ending to a prefect day!
If you’re considering a Vacation Race, I would recommend you do it. I have nothing negative to say about the race. It was well organized, well sponsored, and well stocked. They fed us generously, gave us a pretty shirt and a GORGEOUS medal, and we got to run in a spectacular setting. Really, what more can a runner ask for?
What’s next on your race calendar? Have you done a Vacation Race Series race in the past?Do you like Mexican and/or classic sci-fi? Let’s chat in the comments!
*No compensation of any kind was given to me by Vacation Races for this race review/recap.