Friday, December 11, 2015

13th race of 2015: Denver Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

13th Race of 2015: Denver Rock'n' Roll Half Marathon
Teaming UP with CMTA & The National Stroke Association

Friday, October 16th:

I arrived in Denver last night because I had a 7:00am breakfast meeting scheduled with a woman named Molly Hummel to discuss an exciting opportunity for 2016. Molly is the Manager of Strategic Partnerships with the National Stroke Association, whom I met through a mutual friend, Billy Lister. By reading Billy's inspiring story you will understand his connection to the NSA (& here's the link to an older post showing how/when I met Billy,

This morning was the first time Molly and I met in person, though we had several previous phone conversations before deciding we may really be able to help each other in our respective outreach campaigns. She generously offered to drive up from Centennial to Stapleton to meet me near my hotel at this early hour and although I neglected to get photos we had a great breakfast at!stapleton/c1bn4. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Molly and we discovered that we have a lot in common, not the least of which is our passion for helping people become their "best selves" despite obstacles in the way of this goal. As of this posting, we are still in talks about how best to partner but the NSA has launched their Come Back Strong campaign which dovetails so nicely with our Get Back UP Today message. As you know, the GBUT message focuses primarily on people living with foot drop and other mobility issues but what you may not know is that Stroke is one of the leading causes of foot drop. Until we know how our paths might converge in 2016, please read more about their inspiring campaign and impactful association:

In particular, Molly shared this with me about the campaign and its logo: 

The movement is centered on the blue return symbol—a visual symbol of strength that marks the recovery journey. Intentionally left open, the return symbol reflects the reality that while not everyone makes a full return to their former self, each survivor has the opportunity to journey forward toward a new normal.

I love the message about journeying "forward toward a new normal" since the Get Back UP Today movement is all about this exact journey. I look forward to our next discussions, Molly!!

After saying goodbye to Molly (at least until Sunday, as she and her husband are running the Rock 'n' Roll 10K) I walked to a nearby grocery store to grab a few healthy bites for my stay in Denver....

My room at the Holiday Inn Stapleton has a refrigerator so I can stock up on healthy snacks and quick meals.

I worked for a few hours on my computer back at the hotel before having lunch and then hitting the race Expo.

"Deloria...Party of one....your table is ready."

The Expo was packed when I got there but alas, for the first time in a long list of RnR events I didn't see anyone I knew. I knew that many of my friends should be here this weekend but also that many of the RnR regulars would be at the Rock 'n' Roll St. Louis Half Marathon instead. 

Without having anyone to pal around with I decided to zip in and out quickly amid the crowd but made sure to stop by the info booth to get a few race updates. I actually signed up to run the Full Marathon on Sunday but received an email from the RnR organizers that there was a course and time change for the Full Marathon. Apparently, due to the concerns of local residents in downtown Denver, the RnR team had to settle on a compromise with the city and changed the marathon course while leaving the Half Marathon course as is. The residents' and local businesses' concerns regarded the extended road closures and ugly traffic tie-ups that sometimes happen when a marathon meets a metropolis. From what I learned (though not directly from any RnR or Denver official), the compromise would be that the city would continue to support the RnR Half Marathon but in future years would not permit the running of the Full Marathon. In addition, they would allow the marathon this year as long as they could work out an alternate course that did not involve lengthy road closures...which they did (see below). The marathon start time was also moved from 7:00am to 8:00am, and my guess was that this would allow enough time for the runners to be shuttled about 20 miles away from the finish line to run a more "point-to-point" course instead of the original circuitous path around the downtown areas. 

As you can see, the new course starts 20 miles away from the Start/Finish
of the Half Marathon and 10K races on Sunday. The course is almost entirely
run on a concrete bike path that parallels the South Platte river and runs through
Commerce City. Marathoners will be shuttled to the new start line from
the original Start/Finish line festival area downtown.

In comparison, this is the Half Marathon course which shares the finish line with the marathon but not much else.

So, I have a decision to make. I really want to run the full 26.2 miles but...

1) Logistically this could be unwise as I have a 3:00pm flight out of town on Sunday. Traffic in and out of the Denver airport is experiencing more delays than usual due to heavy construction along the route (and it's NEVER an easy trek to make). So, I'll need to allow at least 2 hours to get there, return my car, check my luggage and get through security. My hotel is located 15 minutes north of the finish line, the airport is further north and east of that...and there's no telling what the traffic situation will be.  I will be cutting it close if I don't run a speedy marathon.
Which brings me to...
2) This is a "mile-high" city which makes it a more challenging run for anyone not acclimated to the altitude and thinner air (Me!) so running a speedy marathon will not be easy.
3) They moved the starting time from 7:00am to 8:00am giving me one less hour to work with
4) If the marathon begins on time as currently scheduled, it could be doable to run a 4- to 4-1/2 hour marathon and make my flight, but with shuttle buses being a new addition this year there could be logistical delays. To that point...
5) If there's any delay in start times, any congestion on the new course, any issues with race support (not to mention issues with my own health/fitness/brace) I will have no shortcut back to town if I need to bail on the race. 

Hmmm...I guess I'll need to think about this very carefully. In the meantime I'll get all my race gear together so I'm ready for whichever event I elect to run.

I'll be running Sunday to honor my friends at the CMTA (many of whom I get to see tomorrow) so I've got
my official CMTA singlet to go along with my TeamUP jacket.

TeamUP & CMTA: Two of my favorite organizations.

Dinner tonight at the hotel was a meal they made special for me: Grilled Ahi Tuna
over salad with edamames and avocado.

Saturday, October 17th:

My breakfast this morning (minus the coffee, which is still brewing).

The view from my hotel room on the top floor of the Holiday Inn in Stapleton. 

Another view from my balcony as the sun rises over Denver.
Today I'm heading to Golden, CO to meet some of my favorite people at the local CMTA branch meeting. You may recall the names of Dick Kutz and Ron Plageman from previous blog posts, I met them 2 or 3 years ago when they invited the TeamUP campaign to their monthly meeting. Since then we've been great friends (and besides perhaps my dad, I think Dick is my most avid blog reader--thank you, Dick!) yet it's been awhile since we've teamed up again...until now. Thanks to both Ron and Dick, and the entire Denver-area branch, for moving the meeting to this weekend to accommodate my schedule--I'm so looking forward to seeing everyone again!

Dick is far left, Ron is far right, and in the middle are a few of us who stuck around after the meeting to talk more
about mobility issues and how the Allard bracing can help. Thanks once again to the Denver CMTA Branch for
inviting me, I truly cherish my time with all of you.
I can't tell you enough how much I love my friends and family at the CMTA. I wish I could've spent more time with everyone today but after the meeting and some visiting time afterwards I needed to head back to Denver for a media opportunity. Let me just add that there've been many exciting things happening in the research for CMT, thanks to the STAR program and some key partnerships. You can read more about the new programs and progress on the official website, see link below:

As it turns out, my interview back in Denver was a live on-air conversation with KOA Radio 850. I'm not sure if this link will work, but try clicking the link below to download my mp3 file:

After the interview I headed back to the hotel and learned that I had no other media spots for the day. I decided to head to the hotel's pool area to see if they had a whirlpool--my muscles have been so tight recently and running tomorrow will be rough no matter which race I opt for. As luck would have it I actually discovered that there's an onsite a massage therapist with her own studio adjacent to the pool area. She had an opening for me right before dinner so I was in luck!!

Thanks, Suzan, for a fantastic massage today! And good luck in your own marathon training,
I hope to see you in Las Vegas next month!

I highly recommend Suzan if you're in the Denver area and in need of a great massage. She operates
independently out of the Holiday Inn Stapleton and has tons of experience working with athletes and
also with amputees and people with paralysis. Thanks again, Suzan--I feel like a million bucks!

After the incredible pre-race massage I finished off the last of my salad from yesterday and added a protein bar and a few hard boiled eggs.

Ahh, the glamorous life. :-)
Sunday, October 18th: RACE DAY!!

I arrived downtown in time to catch the shuttles out to the Full Marathon you can see, it's still quite early.
Upon arrival at the start line VIP area I found Competitor Group staffer Katie who was in charge of the VIP shuttle for the marathoners. She told me the driver was lost so she was frantically setting up a plan B to make sure the runners weren't delayed. As I sat there waiting, still debating whether or not I should run the Full or the Half, I finally decided that it didn't make a lot of sense for me to run the Full and risk missing my flight. Had the marathon started with the half marathon as previously scheduled I would have done it, but with the 1-hour delayed start (and perhaps a longer delay with shuttle issues) I decided it wasn't worth it. The new marathon course was also unappealing to me and since I knew that I liked the Half course from previous years I decided to drop down and stay here at VIP to get an earlier start on the day, and finish a few hours earlier as well.

My decision to run the Half took a lot of pressure off of me time-wise so now I was able to fully enjoy the race experience and catch up with my friends, almost all of whom were running the half as well. Here are the photo highlights:

Of course the first person I see (besides Katie) is "VIP Joe" Harris.

I'm ready to run in honor of all of my friends with the CMTA.

I bought a robe at an area Goodwill store to keep me warm in the start line corrals. (I will
discard the robe where it will be picked up by race volunteers and get donated right back
to Goodwill--circle of life!) Before I discard it I decide to have fun with Joe...

Just a little Gypsy fun...don't worry, mom, I've got my race gear on underneath.

It's cold here before sunup in Denver!!!! BRRRRRRRRRRRR.

As the sun comes up the Half Marathoners head to the start line. (Meanwhile, the full
marathoners are still be shuttled 21 miles out of town and will start in just over an hour)

Once I get running it's gonna be a beautiful day for a race...can't wait to move though to get warm.

I saw a lot of runners with Full Marathon bibs here in the Half corrals...I guess I wasn't
the only one to change events.

No Gypsies in sight (and Jim is at home for a family wedding) so I'm running this one solo.
I hope to catch up with some of the other gypsies at the finish line before heading to the airport.
The Half Marathon course was as lovely as I remembered. I took my time to enjoy it and met several new friends along the way. As my backup battery for my camera has been malfunctioning I had to save power in case I got a call for media so I skipped the on-course photos. Here are a few from after the run:

Ainsley earned her Hall of Fame Medal today for reaching 15 RnR events this year.
Congrats, Ainsley!

I earned my Rock Idol medal for completing 10 Rock 'n' Roll events so far in 2015....
talk about a heavy medal, this one hurt to wear around my neck!

Finally, some gypsies in sight! As I'm about to head to the airport I find Al, Caryn, Kamika and Joe. The rest of our
gypsy family is running the RnR event in St. Louis today. We miss you guys!

I'm so glad I've made it to 10 RnR's so far this year...still feeling so grateful that my
surgery earlier in the year didn't stop me from Getting Back UP.

Well, I didn't earn the Full Marathon medal--or the finisher's jacket--but I had a great
weekend and there'll be more running next week.

Just to show you in perspective how large the Gold Record heavy medal really is.

Afterword: I read several online articles about the full marathon course and realized I actually made a great decision by switching to the half. In fairness, I do believe the race organizers did everything they could to compromise and still put on the full marathon event but I think the runners were disappointed that the city of Denver and the RnR team couldn't come up with something better. Here's one excerpt from the local Denver Post...

“I wasn’t very pleased,” said Matt Adams, a Longmont, Colorado, resident who ran the marathon on Sunday and the half marathon two years ago. “I saw that the new course went through a crummy part of town. Part of the original appeal was that in previous years, you would run through the Mile High Stadium, and there was stuff to keep you entertained. This year, they picked a concrete bike path.” 
Culpepper, one of the race organizers, acknowledged that the race “failed to keep people in the loop” regarding the course changes, but he said, “As a runner myself, I understand what goes into the preparation, so we felt an obligation to come up with something that would give folks an opportunity to complete their goal.”   
The 2015 course route also led participants through Commerce City, a town home to an oil refinery, a water treatment facility, and a landfill. 
“For about five miles of the race, it smelled awful, to the point where it was making me nauseous,” Adams said. Other runners echoed Adams’ report on social media and through local news outlets.
The odor wasn’t something race officials could have predicted, Culpepper said. 
“It’s one of those things that’s seasonal and dependent on the day and which direction the wind is blowing,” Culpepper said. “It wasn’t factored into the design process, and unfortunately, there was no way to negate that.” 
Various aid stations ran out of fluids and in some cases, cups, Adams said. The issue forced him to drop out of the race at mile 21 because he became dehydrated. 
Culpepper said the level of support was definitely lower than the event would have liked. Because the marathon course was completely separate from the half marathon course on Sunday—in previous years, more than a third of the marathon shared roads with the half marathon—resources were stretched thin.  
“There are only so many volunteers, and with two different courses, it made for a tall order to staff all of them,” Culpepper said.