Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Denver Rock n Roll Race Recap

This past weekend I ran the Denver Rock n Roll half marathon. So yes I am a little "half crazy" at the moment, this being my 5th half marathon this year (and I have another one in 3 weeks!). I truly just love the experience of races and if I am going to run that far anyways I might as well get a medal for it! I also LOVE the Rock n Roll series. They have the best race expos, awesome race course in amazing cities with bands that play every mile, and so much excitement that comes with big races. Don't get me wrong-I love the small intimate races too but they lack the excitement and energy of one that has 18,000 people running. Since moving to Colorado, I hadn't really seen the town of Denver so what better way to take a tour of my new city?!

I got to meet Dorothy Beal at the race expo (EEK). She is a marathon and all things running lover, and a mommy of 3 who is inspirational in the world of "mother runners". She lived in the town next to me in Virginia, we ran the same paths, and we had many mutual friends which is how she got on my radar. I started following her blog but seeing our connections it is funny how I never had the chance to actually meet her until being in Colorado. Check out her blog at! And of course the race expo itself was amazing (besides the fact that I had to corral my 4 kids there). If you look closely in the background of this picture you will see Asher playing in the Mazda booth "wind tunnel" and Josie behind us wearing my race t-shirt. There were booths after booths of running gadgets, energy foods, race info, and games to play in order to win prizes. I always spend a bit more money than planned but still happily left this expo with 2 new pair of pro compression socks, a flip belt, 2 Sparkly Soul headbands, and a new running water bottle (runner's retail therapy!).

 The start line with 18,000 other runners. There were 5 races to choose from in this event (all starting at the same time!): marathon, half marathon, marathon relay, 10K, and 5K. I had originally wanted to run this marathon but backed it down to the half when I realized how long it was going to take me to adjust the elevation in the mile high city. It was a bit chilly but knowing what a beautiful day it was going to be I chose to wear shorts and t-shirt (with a pair of my new compression socks of course). I always scour the closet the night before a race for a "throw away" shirt to shed at the start line and stop myself from freezing while waiting in the corrals.

The race started and finished next to the town hall, one of the many beautiful buildings I would get to see along the course.

Photo taken by Katie Torrence (@katietorrenc on instagram). Thanks Katie!
The course was extremely hilly the first 6 miles but I was somehow distracted enough by these views. You had the mountains in front of you for a few miles and then went around Sloan's lake with a great view of Denver and crazy cool clouds. One thing I LOVE about Colorado (among many) is the sky. The clouds are always seem so close that you can touch them and always have cool shapes and textures. Then we got to cruise down some hills too!

Photo taken by Amy Zader (@runwritehike on instagram). Thanks Amy
We also got to run by Coors Field (home of the Colorado Rockies)...
Photo taken from
...And Mile High Stadium (home of the Denver Broncos).
Joel is a saint as he again corralled the kids (after a 5am wake up so we could leave the house at 5:30 to drop me off at the start line) and still managed to see me 3 times during the race! Nothing makes this girl run faster than high giving my kids along the course. Their shouts at the end always bring me home and are what spurred me to push that last mile even with an uphill climb to the finish.

And I finished in a time of 1:47.52 seconds (at an average of 8:13 minute per mile).  I had no idea what to expect of myself on my first road race in Colorado. I tried to enjoy the miles and not really obsess over my Garmin. At some point I knew I wasn't going to PR but said I was still going to give it all I had. I am SUPER happy with my results and think I just might be adjusted enough to the elevation now to start adding some speed work back into my running routine-YAY! I will be chasing my half marathon (and marathon) PR down in no time! BTW, don't you love my socks!?!?! I got so many compliments on them and I LOVE them. Bright colors make me happy.

The race ended at the Capital and I couldn't help but snap some photos with the crazy clouds! Thank you Denver and Rock n Roll series for a sweet race! There is nothing like a runner's high at a mile high!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pikes Peak Adventure

About a month ago I booked our family tickets to ride the Pikes Peak cog railway. The train trip takes you to the summit of Pikes Peak while enjoying all the gorgeous scenery along the way. Our reasoning for picking October 10th for this family adventure was because it was fall! Early October is the perfect time to see the beautiful fall foliage on Colorado's most famous mountain, right?! Wrong. Yes we are Colorado newbies. September is the perfect time to see the fall foliage. October is the perfect time to see 4 feet of snow. That was not a typo...Pikes Peak is currently covered with 4 feet of much that the railway crew has not had time to plow the track and we could only go 6 miles up Pikes Peak (which meant no summit for the Thorson family this time). We had a choice to cancel our trip but decided to take the discount and see where the adventure brought us!

Pikes Peak is in the enchanting town on Manitou Springs, CO. If it had been warmer maybe we would have walked around and explored a bit but we were still in snow shock. Isn't this train depot adorable?

It was "fall" when the train ride started but we quickly saw the snow getting thicker and thicker on the trees.

It was breathtaking.

 At mile 4, the train allowed us to get out and play for about 45 minutes. We were in tennis shoes....very unprepared for the snow but we didn't let it stop us from having a snowball fight!

A rare moment when Jesse actually allows me to take a picture of him (and he is smiling!!) Can you see his missing teeth...quite cute if I say so myself. 

 Family photo time. It was hard to get Josie to stop eating the snow long enough for a picture.

 Josie had to be carried as she was just wearing crocs and kept sinking in snow up to her knees.

A picture with the cool train.

A picture to prove that Colorado does indeed have a fall season! I was warned that my fall-loving spirit would be let down by fall in Colorado. Fall is my favorite season and I know that nothing can compare to our New England years of fall splendor but look at this?! My trail runs have provided truly gorgeous golden views that have made my heart sore. Colorado does not disappoint. Next year we will just make sure to book our Pikes Peak train ride in September!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Bear Chase Trail Race

I am still on my runner's high after running my first trail half marathon this past Sunday in Lakewood, CO. (So anyone who says that the runner's high doesn't exist-they are wrong!!!). Running has been somewhat of an uphill battle after our move to the mile high city as it truly takes longer to acclimate to the elevation then I "planned". My paces aren't what they were before the move and I still can't run as far as I would like. I have had to alter my goals for my races this fall and gave myself a little attitude adjustment...competitive Mary just had to be put on a shelf or she wasn't going to survive. Without that Mary running along side me, this Mary has been able to breathe in the beauty of the state God has lead us to and have felt freedom with each step. I have run in places I never dreamed of and couldn't be happier! I signed up for this trail half "just for fun". I mean I am going to run that far anyways so I might as well earn a medal! 

I drove to the shuttle parking area by myself, so my family didn't have to get up at 4:30am, and met up with one of my new instagram friends to ride the shuttle together and help calm our pre-race jitters. This gorgeous sunrise sure helped! I was super nervous about the whole shuttle situation-in all my races I have only rode a shuttle once and my husband by my side always gives me confidence. Without him, I tend to "over worry". The race was so well organized that the parking was a breeze and the bus ride no problem!  We had plenty of time to hang out at the start line with this view (and hit the port-a-potties a couple times).  Just so you know we did have to run up that hill, Mt. Carbon, in the distance. The bag drop was literally a bag drop with the hopes that you remember where you dropped yours! I guess the thing with trail races is the intimacy of everything...fewer people, super encouraging, all with a different attitude then the big road races. It was a pleasant surprise and my friend Amy and I were stoked as we lined up for the start.

The first few miles were along a babbling stream and I felt like I was flying as we navigated through the trees and over bridges. I was averaging under 9 minute miles up until mile 6 which I totally didn't expect. I really didn't know what to expect but I started to get a little nervous that I may die at mile 10 but it felt so good to just go. However I hit Mt. Carbon at mile 6 and that slowed me down! Many runners had the gusto to run up Mt. Carbon but I power hiked it (a move widely used by trail runners) and snapped some photos with my go pro (my new favorite toy).

The views from the top of Mt. Carbon. Doesn't it look fake?! It was an amazingly beautiful course.

The course had not one, but three water crossing! And these were no joke...water up to my knees! They came one right after another at mile 7.5 which left 5 miles to squeegee out my shoes. It wasn't as big of a deal as I thought it was going to be and made me feel hard core! I loved it! I did hit a low point right around mile 10 as the course introduced us to some rolling hills (I have some sort of mental block with mile 10) and went for my pocket of gummie bears that I was saving for just that occasion. Gummie Bears are my new go to for my long runs..I have to hide my stash so my kids don't eat them up every weekend! My kids-I started thinking of them at mile 12 and that is when I started telling myself "I can't slow down because they are waiting for me"! My family has only missed 2 of my races and there is a serious let down at the finish when they aren't there. I truly believe knowing they are there, anxiously awaiting to spot me, make me run those last miles faster. And then I heard them with a half a mile left to go (it was a little loop so they could see me there and cross the finish line). I didn't see them yet but I heard them as I crested the last hill. Their cheers made my legs and heart soar. Their high fives pushed me on and my boys ran behind me the last 100 yards shouting as we crossed the finish line together. Such a special moment. I have the best cheering squad around!

I finished with a time of 2:03.30 (a 9:26 average pace). I am ecstatic with that time. My goal was 2:15 with anything close to 2 hours being a bonus! I felt good at the end, not at all winded or beat so maybe I could have pushed myself a little harder.  But that is competitive Mary whispering in my ear. This Mary is extremely proud and loved every minute of The Bear Chase. The volunteers were amazing, a few runners became my friends along the course, the views were out of this world, and the race well organized. It is already on my schedule for next year (but I plan to bump up to the 50K).

And I pray that I am blessed enough to have my crew by my side again. I am one lucky runner girl! And yes, I did have some gummie bears left to share. They earned it!!