Friday, October 5, 2012

16 Down, 6 to go!

16th Half Marathon of 2012: Rock 'n Roll Denver!!

Wednesday September 19th:

I arrived in Denver mid-afternoon and checked into the Hyatt Regency Convention Center Hotel (thanks to a lower-than-advertised price via Priceline bid). The hotel is a haul from the airport but walking distance to everything I will need to access while I'm here, including being adjacent to the Rock 'n Roll Race Expo and about 5 blocks from the Start and Finish lines of the Half Marathon--whoo hoo!!

After check-in I had plans to meet with Steve Chavez, the Plains-area District Manager for Allard, USA. Steve has a radio interview set up for me for tomorrow and we need to discuss our plans for that trip along with making a schedule for the race events this weekend.

Steve met me in the lobby of the hotel and we walked across the street to the nearest restaurant which just happened to be Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. I'm not big on themed restaurants, or chain-restaurants for that matter, but this one was convenient and just happened to sport a theme well-suited for my upcoming Half Marathon:

I do have friends who tease me about this, usually saying "Stop, Beth, Stop" instead.

Here is Steve, breaking out his pen to make sure he remembers where & when to be on Race Day.

Shameless promotional material...

And more...

"It's like my mama says, 'Life is like a box of chocolates'..." (You should know by now that I can't resist the opportunity for a silly photo op!)
While Steve and I were discussing our race day strategies, my husband, Jim, had meetings of his own with local distributors of his company's products. We both finished up about the same time and decided to use the evening to walk around town to begin our acclimation to the altitude and dry air. The only request Jim had for this weekend was to get to one or two of the critically acclaimed brew pubs in town, so off we went.

About 2 miles from our hotel we found Great Divide Brewing Company. I had been here years before when they were just opening, I was here for my job with Hogs Head Beer Cellars. That's right, many years ago I worked for HHBC and part of my job description was to taste beers, write about beers, visit breweries and go to the national beer competitions. Cool gig, huh? Many of my friends couldn't believe I scored what they termed a "dream job" but it really was a lot of hard work... and for every great beer out there, there are 25 horrid ones! I finally quit the job after 2 years, not because of the job itself but I could barely stand to look at another beer much less sip it to describe all of its nuances.

Years later and I do enjoy good microbrews again, and since Great Divide was one of my favorites I wanted Jim to see this one for himself.

The Tasting Room at Great Divide.

Around the corner is the entrance to the mash room.

Where the magic happens...

I do still love the smell of mash, wort and hops!!

Proof that I'm not the only fan of Great Divide Brewing. Year after year they win national and international awards.
After a Sampler from the tasting room we set off to explore more of downtown Denver. It was getting dark and we didn't want to be more than a few miles from the hotel so we headed back along different streets towards 'home'. On the way we found several cool areas with galleries, theaters and restaurants. Tonight we were in search of light fare only and one of our finds was a walk-up window boasting the best pizza in Denver. I wasn't really in the mood for a slice but the guys tossing the dough said that if we didn't love our slice we wouldn't pay... how could we resist?
Aside from the claim of Best Pizza, there wasn't much else that seemed inviting about this place... "No Apologies, No Bathrooms, No free water". We even had to stand outside on the sidewalk while they cooked our slices.

The name of the joint.

The view of the workers from our sidewalk counter. Very heavy "Death Metal" music is playing in the background.  Jim's slice of pepperoni on the counter in the foreground.

The verdict? For a simple slice of pizza we both had to admit that it was very, very good! We did not ask for our money back and walked on as we made quick work of our slices.
Bunny with Head Wound. I know this is random, just trying to see if my older sister, Maria, really does read my blog!!
Thursday, September 20th:

An early wake-up call today had Jim off to meet more of his reps and me finishing the writing of my Philadelphia blog. Once my blog entry was officially posted I went down to the lobby to ask some of the locals about their favorite spots in the area (I don't usually trust the books and travel magazines in the rooms). I jotted down their recommendations then set out to find the Expo.

I didn't have to go far, literally out the door and thirty paces to the left...

A big blue bear was peering into the very floor I was heading for.

Another view of Big Blue... he (she?) was getting a scrub down from workers in a crane and a cherry-picker.

Almost done with the bear shots... I'm on the inside looking out, directly behind me is the race Expo entrance.

I'm in the right spot!

First stop, Emily and Marathon Jewelry for my latest bling addition...
Just a few more openings are now left for my Rock 'n Roll Marathon Jewelry charm bracelet!

I have to point out that Emily said she almost didn't recognize me without my hat and running shorts.
After getting my charm, my race packet and bib number I made my way through some of the other vendors. I saw a few t-shirts and had trouble deciding which motto I should adopt for this weekend's run:

Goodness knows I have enough t-shirts so I opted for photos-only.  Now on to the rest of the vendors. Alas, no Merle yet again at the Sweaty Bands stop but here's a shot of two of her trusty stand-ins...

As I made my way to the exit I came upon the Starkist Tuna booth again. Remember in VaBeach when I won the Charlie Tuna rafts for my nephews? I decided to spin the wheel again to try to win some other prize and this time won a head cover for my golf club...

I'm not sure if I'll use it or give it away but since I already won a raft I opted for this guy instead.
Next I was off for a light bite somewhere. I missed the window for breakfast (and honestly, the hotel options were very pricey) so I needed something in my belly besides the pot of coffee I imbibed while working in the room this morning. I found a little diner that had something quick and healthy for me but also happened to be showing the Players Championship on the Golf Channel. I forgot about the time difference from the East Coast, this was a nice surprise since I do enjoy watching the bigger golf tourneys. 

My healthy (if not gourmet) selection for the morning: Steamed fresh veggies and cottage cheese. Something tells me that most of you aren't exactly drooling over my choice today. :-)
And now out into the sunshine and beautiful crisp air in downtown Denver. I wanted to get the lay-of-the-land for later on, as well as get my sign-making supplies while I had some free time.
A beautiful day to explore!

Sam's diner, apparently "As seen on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" on the Food Network Channel. Have to remember to tell Mary and John about this one.

I did find several of the spots recommended by area locals but just made mental note of where everything was. I needed to get back to the hotel to meet Steve who was taking me to the radio station in Aurora today for the interview.

A cool sculpture on the wall in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency. 

Okay, this attempt at a shot of the traffic was a fiasco but it does serve as a reminder to me that our 20-minute ride took an hour due to heavy traffic. Thank goodness Steve planned ahead and we made it to the station with 2 minutes to spare!

We made it to the station right on time and I was excited to visit my first radio studio ever. I was scheduled to appear on KLVZ, on a program called Good News hosted by Angie Austin. Steve informed me that Angie has been his "celebrity crush"... or "celebrity waiver" if you're familiar with this concept.

Which reminds me...

To my husband's dismay, I got to meet my celebrity crush a few years ago in Baltimore: Michael Rowe of Dirty Jobs and Deadliest Catch...

Talk about a catch! Yes, Jim, of course I'm talking about you...not Mr. Mike Rowe as pictured here. Sigh.
I suppose I will soon find out if my husband is reading my blog. Hi, honey!! But I digress...

So, apparently Angie was a TV news anchor for a long time before switching over to her own radio show. Steve made the switch along with her as a loyal stalker, er, I mean 'fan'.


Steve nervously awaiting meeting Angie, lamenting the fact that he didn't wear his tuxedo for the occasion.

We're exciting!!

Angie is in the background and beside her is Dr. Lisa, a therapist who joins her on the hour-long show each day. Both of these women are incredibly funny, wise and very down-to-earth.

I was thoroughly engrossed in the program and enjoyed listening to the show before my spot began.

Angie and Lisa enjoying some laughs during a commercial break.

The view of the studio from Steve and Jim's perspective.
I have to say that I didn't know what to expect with this interview or with the show itself. Usually with a TV spot we have, at most, 4 minutes to get out our Get Back Up message and today I would have 10-15 minutes of discussion time with Angie. I was so pleasantly surprised at how easily Angie was able to guide the conversation. She asked so many great questions and our conversation continued through the commercial breaks. The nervousness that I was feeling before entering the sound studio magically disappeared because of how easy Angie was to talk to... she is a true professional. Not only that, but her show is all about Good News as well as the daily challenges we all face. Angie has a very "real" nature to her and is disarmingly hilarious... I have become a fan of hers as well so I can easily understand Steve's crush. If you want to listen to Angie, check out this link and connect to her daily podcast:

Thank you, Angie, Lisa and Paul for a wonderful time today. We really are grateful for your program and for sharing our message with your listeners!!!
Upon return to the hotel we parted ways with Steve and set out to find a restaurant with the NFL Network so we could watch part of the Panthers/Giants game tonight along with getting a healthy dinner somewhere. Tonight we walked along the 16th Street Mall and stopped for some of the sights along the way.
It didn't seem to matter what time of day or night we walked by, these public chess tables were always occupied with players waiting to take on the latest winner.

More chess in the streets.
We opted for dinner at a recommended Sports Bar & Grill, Lodos (named for the Lower Downtown area of Denver). This place was purported to have "better than bar food" but also was showing the game we were hoping to catch.
Yummmmmm! I tried the Baja Fish Tacos and was pleasantly surprised by how fresh they tasted.

Another view of my dinner. It didn't last long.
Unfortunately, the game was not as good as the dinner. After 2 quarters the Giants were embarrassing my Carolina Panthers so we got the heck outta Dodge and walked the mile-and-a-half back to the hotel for an early bedtime.
This was around the corner from Lodos.... a pretty view of Coors Field where the Colorado Rockies call home.
Friday, September 21st:

An early start to our morning and we were off on a 5-mile run to see what effect the altitude would have on us during tomorrow's race. The concierge directed us to a bike path and running trails through the downtown area so off we went.

I believe the founding of Denver had something to do with striking gold along the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River. Here is today's view of the historical location.

Across the creek is the tony Cherry Creek neighborhood and mall.

Fun murals everywhere you looked along the Cherry Creek trails. I took this opportunity to devise my backup plan for tomorrow's half marathon in case the altitude got to me: I was going to summon my friends here to swoop me up and over to the finish line.

While Jim was trying to get a nice, easy running pace going I kept stopping him for photo ops like this one. Hey, what can I say? Usually I stumble upon these opportunities when I am by myself so I have to take advantage of a photographer when I can!

More views along our run.

We ran into another jogger, not literally of course, along the route and she offered to take a photo of the two of us together. Thank you, perfect stranger, and good luck on your 50 miler this fall!
The run was really nice, the weather was perfect and although we did feel the effects of the altitude on the hills we felt ready for tomorrow's event. I do still have the lingering effects of my cold from a few weeks ago, mostly just a bronchitis-like cough from deep in my lungs but no other sinus or fatigue symptoms anymore. I'm ready to rock and roll!

Since Jim had not yet had the chance to get to the Expo for his packet pick-up we headed back over to the convention center. This time we ran into another friend, whom we met in Philly, Laurie Shannon who works for Injinji socks. She gave me a pair of these socks to try and I must say I really love them. I have had so many issues with blistering on the foot that I can't feel due to the footdrop paralysis so I have to be careful what I wear; the Injinji socks were lightweight, cooling and totally friction-free. I'm not trying to sound like a commercial, I was just pleasantly surprised by their performance and wanted to mention them.

Here's Laurie, slaving away!
After the Expo we exercised our legs a bit more by walking over to the Sante Fe Street Arts District. They were having an Artwalk this evening and although we couldn't be out late we wanted to check out the galleries. Most of the galleries weren't opening until 5pm so we stopped at a cool Mexican cantina for a snack while enjoying the beautiful weather.
Our patio view.
The menu from El Noa Noa on Sante Fe.

Fountain View. (Hi Julia and Terry, if you're reading this and get the connection!!)

Jim being cheesy on the patio.

While we waited for the galleries to open we tried to calculate how many miles we've logged through the neighborhoods of Denver. We figured it was at least 20 miles over the last few days, and tomorrow we'd log 13.1 miles more!

The gallery row along Sante Fe.

Some teeny-tiny houses just past the galleries on our way back to the Hyatt.
The last stop on the way to the Hyatt was a place recommended by many of the downtown locals, Leela's European Cafe. This was a 24-hour joint with good, inexpensive food and excellent coffee. The owner (Leela?) is a waif-like Russian woman with a fabulous accent and a powerful presence. We really enjoyed our sandwiches and the conversation here... we hope to return for breakfast before leaving Denver on Sunday.

One page of the menu at Leela's, although their selection is much bigger.

Saturday, September 22nd...RACE DAY!!

After our dinner last night we made it back to the room where I immediately made my sign for today's race then went to sleep in anticipation of this morning's early wake-up call. We were off to find the starting line before the sun came up and, just as our map had indicated, it was a short 5 blocks to the event!
Jim carries my sign while I play photographer. 

A shot of the park in the start/finish line area... I imagine this will be gorgeous when I can see it in full daylight!

Speaking of gorgeous... the flowers at the Rock 'n Roll VIP tent are always amazing. 

Different arrangements are on every table... quite stunning.

I'm doing my Ryan Hall impression (see San Diego post) as I try to massage my IT Band with my trusty Rumble Roller.

My friend, George, is making his way to the coffee in the background while I've already finished my cup for the day.

Jim and George with hot coffee on a cool morning before the race.

The food tent in the VIP area.

These always look so great but I always opt for fruit and yogurt.

My pre-race meal, along with half of a banana, is one of these fresh berries and yogurt cups.

My Chilly Tat is back, along with a question for my good friend, Cecil, back home.

The sun's coming up and George is finally waking up!

It's pretty hard to miss George if he's anywhere within a 3 mile radius. Here he's showing off his handmade running outfit, complete with his sponsor's logos, along with his trademark red mohawk.

Sweaty Band sighting!

Emily's out in the chill of the morning as well. She and her friend, Craig, will be working in the booth at the Finish Line all morning.

Yea!! Steve and his sons, Nicholas and Patrick, have made their way through traffic just in time to see us off. These three will be running around the course all morning trying to cheer us on. Thanks, guys!!

The Get Back Up team du jour!

The view from my starting corral. I can see the sign's streamers blowing in the breeze ahead on the right.

My view of the corrals behind me at the start.
13.1 miles and 1 hour 59 minutes and 58 seconds later... I'm done!! I can't say "thank you" enough to Steve and his sons for their hard work on the course today. It is always so uplifting to have support on the sidelines and believe me, I KNOW how hard it is to traipse around town with that sign all day. You put so many smiles on my face today and I really appreciate your efforts!!!

We did it!! Steve, Nick and Pat managed to get to 3 different mile-markers on the course today. With the streamers blowing and the sun shining so brightly on the sign it was easy to spot the Pit Crew from a mile away.
We were lucky again, thanks to the team at Bouvier Kelly in Greensboro, and CBS 4 TV in Denver, to get great media coverage. This time Katie (of Competitor Group/Rock 'n Roll racing) had a backdrop in place for potential opportunities--it was perfect!

I'm not sure if this link will still be active, but here's the airtime we got in competition with so many other amazing runners' stories:

While waiting for George and David to finish running the Full Marathon I met the Pilkingtons from San Diego. Amazingly, they knew Andreas from Sweden, a cyclist with CMT who wears 2 of Allard's braces. They were here waiting for their daughter to finish work today, she's a member of the Rock 'n Roll race crew.

New friends, The Pilkington's, are recruited into the GBU team.
The Japanese women swept the awards today. Here they are as they just stepped off the podium.

Another win for the Kenyans in the men's race in Denver today.

The beautiful flowers by light of day.

George and David finish the Full marathon, they are inspiring! David leaves Denver in a few hours to head to Montreal for TOMORROW's FULL MARATHON there! I told you he's a beast... Good luck tomorrow, David, and Congrats on a great run today.

Our view upon leaving the Rock 'n Roll event... the same gardens from my pre-dawn shots.

Now we're heading back to the hotel to clean up then find food after a very long morning.
It didn't take us long to get cleaned up and go off in search of food. We were lucky enough to stumble upon Denver's version of Octoberfest, what fun!! The accordian music plays in the background with great food smells tempting us in every direction.
What a party!

Strangers sit side-by-side with plates of Bratwursts, Italian Sausages, grilled veggies and beer steins galore.

A perfect day for Octoberfest in downtown Denver. A perfect way for Jim and I to walk off the aches and strains of this morning's half marathon. It seems like so long ago!

The crowds.

The temptations.

The tasty treats.
And then, Jim has the opportunity to meet his celebrity crush!!! Ha ha... just kidding, Jim. Sort of.

Jim meets Sam Adams, his celebrity crush. :-)

They've become fast friends.

On our way back through town we pass Coors Field again as the crowds start arriving for tonight's game.

Jim and I find our way to The 9th Door, another restaurant recommended by locals.

We arrived in time to get a spot on the patio, this is the view looking inside as the restaurant just opens its doors for the night.

The first page of the menu at the 9th Door. We had so much trouble choosing, there were so many wonderful options here on the Tapas-style menu.

Jim's happy to have another Half behind him. 

Beth's happy to have more food in front of her!

Delicious cheese plate to start the meal. I especially loved the fresh honeycomb, blue cheese with raw spanish almonds.

Sauteed artichoke hearts were next...

...followed by the best avocado dish I've ever had!!
This was a flash-fried avocado with fresh pico de gallo on top.
We had more fabulous shared-plates but got distracted by some friendly folks who joined us on the restaurant's sidewalk patio. This little girl in particular was precious, and I couldn't help but admire her needlework dog barette!

And so another race weekend comes to a close. We were able to share the Get Back Up message with the greater Denver area thanks to Angie Austin and KLVZ radio and also CBS Denver's local channel 4TV. Hopefully this will mean more people will have the chance to Get Back Up, and back to a better quality of life thanks to ever-increasing technology for those of us with mobility issues.

Cheers, friends--I will see you in San Jose!

The medal.

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