Red Rock Canyon Half Marathon – Post Race Review


It’s been a couple weeks since I checked off Nevada from my 50 States list. That makes 15 states that I’ve run a race in – although I did not do a half marathon in all of those so I may go repeat some states later.

My boyfriend and I had already planned a mini vacation to climb in Red Rock Canyon. Later, I was scrolling through, like I normally do, and started looking at Nevada races for 2018. It just so happened there was a half marathon the same weekend, in the same park(!), when we were already planning on visiting! Serendipitous? It was just too perfect.

I “begged” Ben if I could run it and he worked in a “rest day” into our climbing schedule. Although I do really like climbing, running (and checking off a state) is a huge passion of mine and it was just so perfect to have a race the same weekend.

It was truly a unique experience to vacation and explore the Red Rock National Conservation area to its full potential by climbing, hiking, running a race and camping all in one trip.

As much as I want to do a whole blog post on the entire trip, this post’s focus is on the race.

When I found the half marathon on the calendar, I wasn’t training for anything in particular. I was still about 6 or 7 weeks from race day so I decided to increase my mileage every week. Essentially, I did a very basic, beginners half marathon training plan. I ran 10 miles a week and a half before the race and I felt relatively prepared for a half marathon.

Since I only had a short, low mile base built up, I didn’t have any big goals for this half. I just wanted to finish, not push too hard, and still be mobile after the race since we had a few more days of climbing afterwards.

The Night Before
Ben and I were just planning on camping the whole time in the park. However, since we weren’t quite sure if the race was going to shut down roads or the entrance to the park, race morning logistics were becoming difficult. The race company did have a free bus shuttle from the race’s host hotel to and from the race, but if we were to camp, we would have had to get up all that much earlier to get ourselves to the hotel (driving back into the city) and on the bus. I decided to just rent a room in the hotel for the night before to make everything easier. This way Ben could sleep in and then get on the bus, which was free for spectators as well (and I could get in a shower afterwards)!

Packet Pick Up
Since we were in the hotel already, it made packet pick up SUPER easy, as we took the elevator down 5 floors. With time to spare and nothing to do, we took advantage of the bowling, bars and amenities of the Sun Coast Hotel and Casino.

Race Day
Maybe because I wasn’t worried about anything not having many goals, this seemed to be the easiest, least stressful race mornings I had ever had. I got dressed (my clothes laid out the night before), grabbed my food (I packed myself a breakfast bag the night before), and caught the elevator to the first floor and boarded the bus (benefit of being in the host hotel).

Race Start
After reading their million warnings in email and on the website, they STRONGLY suggested getting on the bus really early. That left me with an HOUR to wait, standing, in the cold at the start line. Luckily the bathrooms were heated and there was plenty of people to chat with. Actually, now that I mention it, racers were so friendly at this race and I got to chat with so many people that morning. It was quite refreshing. Besides the local company I work for, many of the most recent races I’ve gotten to actually run haven’t had all that friendly of people.

Finally, the gear drop bus showed up, and I had to strip off my layers with 5 minutes to spare before the race. Not that I minded, it was a chilly morning, only 35 degrees at the start, so keeping my layers on as long as possible was desirable. After lining up and cueing my music, I anxiously awaited the start, but there was no gun or whistle, and it seemed in mid-sentence to another racer, we were running! It was a very strange, uneventful start.

The Race
Holy HILLS! This was probably the hardest race I’ve ever run. The hills were never ending and even though I knew that the biggest hills were over by mile 7.5, the little rolls in the road felt like monsters near the end.

Nevertheless, I trucked along, keeping steady. I didn’t walk until mile 5 and then only a couple of 30-second walking breaks every other mile or so! For not being that trained, I was feeling good. It wasn’t until mile 10, as expected, that I felt DONE. My feet seemed to be the limiting factor and were hurting with every step. I kept going, even up the hill that put you into the finish line, and Ben was right there, running with me up the last two-tenths of a mile.

Overall – 3/5
If it weren’t for the amazing views, this race wouldn’t have much going for it. I’m guessing the location itself is really the only reason people keep running this race. Yeah, sure, everything was organized and in place. Things were started on time (sans a huge production or announcement). The course was marked and coned appropriately and safely. There was plenty of water stations….. But, to me, those are all things that SHOULD go with ANY race. I have very little money and when I choose to spend my money on a race, I’d like it to be on the best event it could be. Yeah, I’m picky and have high expectations, but for $90 – $100, I expected a lot.

There was no bells or whistles with this race EXCEPT the constant view to distract you from running up so much elevation gain.  The swag was alright (not being advertised ahead of time, I had no idea what I would get), there was no expo (none at packet pick nor at the finish line), there was bare minimum communication and the medal was, frankly,  just a medal with the race name (I like unique and fun medals).

Also, on top of all that, photos were NOT free. I’m a little spoiled in Colorado I guess because almost every race I run has FREE photos for download. I’ve already paid this company $100 to run, $130 to stay in a hotel and now there’s more money for photos of me. Geez!

The one other thing that made this event worth my money is the finisher food. They had OPTIONS! All the options. Bagels, candy, pastries, chips, chocolate milk, hot drinks and PANCAKES. You betcha, I got a pancake.

T-Shirt/Swag – 2/5
For being such a great location, the swag sure was ‘eh. Seriously. The t-shirt was just the race name (white, long-sleeved with too short of arms), same with the medal and there was virtually nothing in the goodie bag (except a flyer from their on-course nutrition, Hammer – which I tried and promptly spit out! That stuff is gross!)

Aid Stations/Support – 5/5
Like I said before, course marking and water stations are critical to ANY race. This one was no exception and they had plenty of water stations along the way, about every two miles or less. There was water and HEED (from Hammer) at all the stations and snacks at some (probably for the marathon distance runners). Due to the nature of a national park, there were restrooms throughout the whole course.

Course Itself/Scenery/Difficulty – 5/5
I’ve already touched on this. The course scenery was GORGEOUS! I think this is the most scenic and pretty race I have ever run. The course followed the scenic drive of the National Conservation area which just so happens to be about 13 miles. How convenient for them! We had already driven this road a few times before race day, so I knew what to expect, but those hills just kept going and going and going!

Expo Quality – 1/5 (if that)
There was no expo. Not at the packet pick up and not at the race start or finish. It surprises me that this is the second race in less than a year that has virtually no sponsors. Don’t they know they can MAKE MONEY from sponsors!?!?! As a race director/marketing coordinator for a running company, I know that, for fact, you can get people to PAY YOU to come to your race because you are bringing in a specific market of people, i.e. runners, and if someone has a product that appeals to that target market – it’s a no-brainer! As a racer, I like expos because I like to see the lastest running gear, trends and local businesses.

Parking/Access – 4/5
There was no parking allowed at the start or finish of the race. Obviously, not everyone follows the “rules” and people still parked at both locations (and paid the National Park entrance fee) but because of this, the race provided buses to the start and from the finish and buses for the spectators to/from the finish for FREE from the host hotel. I think that is AMAZING and actually makes things easy. If we hadn’t stayed at the host hotel, thinking like a local racer, It would have been just as easy to park at the hotel and get on the bus as well. There was another option if you were staying in a hotel near the Vegas Strip for an affordable fee.

Race Management – 4/5
Even though I’ve knocked the company for not having all the bells and whistles, they still get a 4/5 for race management because things were in place and on time. It does take a lot of coordination to get the bus to/from the hotel and to the race location. Plus, they did have all the info you needed on the race website. The thing that knocks off one of the points is timing and post-race communication. It took three days to get our results and it wasn’t until day three that anything was even acknowledged. There were no live results, even though it was chipped timed. When I looked later that evening after the race and didn’t see results, I was a little irritated, but when I got back to town on Monday after climbing and there was STILL no results, I was bothered. I finally checked my emails and saw one email at noon on Monday saying the timer was working on results but there was a bug in the software. Then email #2 came at 2pm saying preliminary results were up, but they weren’t 100% correct. And finally, email #3 at 8pm, a FULL TWO DAYS (not including race day) AFTER the race stated that the results were final and online. Being a race director and timer, I was irritated at the format of results as well, being a stationary PDF that you can’t easily search. I know the systems they were using for timing and the software; plus the registration platform was on Run Sign Up which is so user-friendly that results could have easily been integrated and searchable by name. Oh well. There goes my nit-picking.

My Race – 4/5
I achieved my goals and wasn’t completely wrecked after the race! Sure, it was my slowest half marathon time probably ever (which is why I dock one point), but it was the prettiest (and hilliest) half marathons I had ever run as well. Plus, I got to rep 3W Races, Legend Compression Wear and Golden Mountain Guides while running around Nevada, so can’t be a loss there!

The afternoon after finishing, we checked out of the hotel, picked another campsite at the park and then recovered by walking parts of the Vegas Strip. The day after, I was only a little sore in my shins and feet and ended up climbing 1090 vertical feet with a hike in and out, 12 hours car to car…but more on that adventure later!


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 (

June…a ton of hiking (for my #60HikesChallenge and, 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 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 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

Footnotes – A Book Review

Well, well. What to say about this book…. I don’t even know where to begin.

I guess I’ll first just copy and paste the synopsis:

Footnotes – How Running Makes Us Human by Vybarr Cregan-Reid

Running is not just a sport. It reconnects us to our bodies and the places in which we live, breaking down our increasingly structured and demanding lives. It allows us to feel the world beneath our feet, lifts the spirit, lets our minds out to play, and helps us to slip away from the demands of the modern world.

When Vybarr Cregan-Reid set out to discover why running means so much to so many, he began a journey which would take him out to tread London’s cobbled streets, the boulevards of Paris, and down the crumbling alleyways of Ruskin’s Venice. Footnotes transports you to the deserted shorelines of Seattle, the giant redwood forests of California, and to the world’s most advanced running laboratories and research centers. Using debates in literature, philosophy, neuroscience, and biology, this book explores that simple human desire to run.

Liberating and inspiring, Footnotes reminds us why feeling the earth beneath our feet is a necessary and healing part of our lives.

Sounds interesting, huh? I think it was. I did read it. All of it. But I barely can recall what I read.

Okay, okay. It’s not a horrible book. There’s some good pieces in there….if you can find them or haven’t skimmed right over them. The description makes the book sound like a personal journey through running. I think that’s in there… somewhere.

On first impression, this book is dense. The chapters, and paragraphs within them, are long and overwhelming and upon opening it, I didn’t want to begin reading. Then, you start… There’s a TON of info in this book. I mean A LOT… studies, personal opinions, references to fictional literary works, and more.

I started off strong, trying to absorb all the info, but it was tiresome. The long bulky paragraphs feel like a textbook and the topics switch too quickly for me to follow. One minute we’re in the author’s personal story and then next we’re following the research of some scientist or a fictional character from a book the author studied.

Maybe the concept of the book was lost on me but I find that hard to believe because I’m a very science minded individual. Topics range from biomechanics, senses, mindset, to the treadmill and how to (literally) run wild and trespass to find a route.

My favorite chapter was the last one (and not just because it was almost over). It was about running and the creativity and freedom it can bring to one’s life. The author tells the story about their first marathon and how he accidentally finished it and about running through different countries and the social barriers to doing so.

Overall, I give the book a 2 out of 5. In my opinion, it seems to me like the author didn’t really know what they wanted to write about and just threw EVERYTHING they knew about running in to this book. The topics jump fast and I got lost. There’s just too much info to sift through. I found myself skimming a lot to find the personal stories rather than reading through the references.

A couple of quotes I did like:

“My running has become something much deeper than a habit or an exercise routine. Now it is part of who I am. It is a part of my personality. I am unsure which came first, or what came from what: am I more self-reliant because of my running, or am I running because I am more self-reliant? The same goes for resilience: I feel like it has taught me how to be in my own company, and continues in helping me to maintain perspective.”

“Running doesn’t have to exercise. it doesn’t have to done to make you ‘strong’ or ‘fit’. It doesn’t even need to be done as a sport – it can be done entirely for its own sake”

-Vybarr Cregan-Reid

Don’t believe me and the synopsis still interested you? Add it to your Goodreads list or buy it on Amazon: