Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fav Races for 2012

As 2012 gets started, I know a lot of folks out there have race goals on their resolution lists- 

  • first marathon 
  • first triathlon 
  • first race
  • try something new
  • qualify for Boston
  • set a new PR
So, in hopes of encouraging you to accomplish these goals, I compiled a list of.....

-Please note: this is entirely my own opinion-

May 6th, 2012, Ft. Collins

The Colorado Marathon refers to itself as "the fastest and most scenic marathon in Colorado."  I couldn't agree more! The winding course travels through the gorgeous Poudre Canyon on the way to Ft. Collins. On one side of the road is fast-flowing river overshadowed by tall, steep cliffs, and on the other side of the road are more tall, steep cliffs.  For a mountain girl who loves running in nature, this marathon beats anything urban Denver has to offer! The Marathon is well-organized, small (caps at 1,000 runners), and almost entirely downhill (but still a Boston Qualifier!) If you were lucky enough to get in for 2012 (both the full and half have already sold out) you will not be sorry.  And for those of you who missed out for this year, get it on the calendar for 2013!!!

April 15th, 2012, Littleton

Personally, I've run the Platte River Half for the last 3 years in a row and I keep coming back! The race starts in downtown Littleton and ends in downtown Denver, following the Platte River Trail to the Buckhorn Exchange restaurant.  The course traverses through scenic parks, across long bridges, and past a few golf courses- although you do also have to pass the Waste Management dump and run along the side of I-25 for a bit, but hey, this is the city, right?  The race caps at 3,000 runners, but sections them off into two different heats to minimize the crowding.  Since it's one of the first Half Marathon's of the racing season, you never really know what you'll get weather wise.  One year it was hot and sunny, and the next year they were plowing the trail on race morning and everyone was donning full snow gear.  The after party is great- burgers and beer, chocolate and burritos- and then you get a one-way ticket on the RTD back to downtown Littleton.  In my opinion, it's a great way to spend a Sunday morning in the springtime.

June 23rd, 2012 Loveland

Unfortunately along the front range, Olympic triathlons are few and far between.  However, the fact that the Lake to Lake has been going strong since 2011 should attest to the awesomeness of this race! The swim is 1500M in Lake Loveland and follows the three sides of a rectangle (which is nice because it minimizes the water traffic and turbulance of an out and back course).  The run is 6.2 Miles around the lake and surrounding neighbors and very flat (bonus!).  But the real reason people keep signing up for this tri is the bike- a 30 mile loop out toward Horsetooth Reservoir, up and down the hilly reservoir road, and back on lots (and lots) of rollers.  The talent that comes out for this triathlon is also amazing.  Not only will you see a large chunk of very competitive athletes (it's a qualifier race so the talent shows up!) but you'll also see some amazing disabled athletes, including a local man who pulls a boy (every year) through the race.  On the swim the disabled boy rides in a raft, on the bike he is in a bike trailer, and on the run he is pushed in a jogger.  Everything about this race- the elites, the disabled athletes, and the views- is inspiring. 

August 26th, 2012 Ft. Collins
1/2 Mile Swim, 12.2 Mile Mtn. Bike, 8K Run

 Xterra enthusiasts like to say, "Once you go off-road, you'll never go back."  In my experience, off-road was crazy tough and something I will probably only put myself through once a year. And as far as Xterra's go, this is the only one I've found that's convenient to the Denverite crowd.   But regardless of it's slim competition, I still believe it is one of the best.  Put on by Without Limits Productions (a proven tri company that also puts on Outdoor Divas and Oktoberfest), the swim takes place in Horsetooth Reservoir just outside of Ft. Collins.  The mountain bike course alternates annually between an uphill loop, crazy climbing type of loop and a beginner friendly, meadow-riding type of loop.  Most people are friendly (as long as you avoid the elite-crowd) and the course is fun.  After a 12 miles on your mountain bike, you get to climb straight up the side of a mountain for the run.  Honestly, I'm pretty hard-core and I thought it was insane.  But on the positive end of things, you get to come back down the steep mountain slope and finish with an awesome slip n' slide across the finish line.  I was dirty, tired, and my feet were bleeding, but I was smiling.  And that's Xterra in a nutshell.
August 12th, 2012 Longmont
1/2 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, 5K Run

As far as all-women triathlons go, I'm not a fan of the crazy-crowded, everybody-hugging-everybody type of races.  I prefer a smaller race, where I can actually pass slower bikers/runners without killing myself (or them!).  And that's why I love Diva's.  Sure it's all women, but it's still competitive.  Everyone is friendly, but they still try to beat you.  And the race caps at 550 people!  The last couple of years I've driven up to the race with some awesome friends and we've all had a great time.  Oh! And the course is fast!  Bonus, right?


Summer Open: May 19th, 2012 Longmont
Oktoberfest: September 23rd, 2012 Longmont
1/2 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, 5K Run

Both of these triathlons take place on the same course as Outdoor Diva's and are put on by the same company, Without Limits Productions.  The swim is in Longmont Reservoir (about an hour drive from south Denver) and the bike is a 3 loop closed-to-traffic course.  In past years, I've averaged between 22-24mph on the bike- so it's fast! The run is out and back on a dirt road with only one hill.  The nice thing is, even though you have to run up the hill on your way out (around the 1 mile mark), you finish the 5K by cruising down the same hill, plus a short flat, and into the finish line.  Don't hold me to this last statement, but I'm pretty sure 8/8 of the triathletes I know that have done this course, have PR'd on this course.  Just saying.

Olympic: August 18th, 2012 Aurora
 1500 m Swim, 40K bike, 10K run
Sprint: August 19th, 2012 Aurora
500 m swim, 12 mile bike, 5K run

I think more people would be attracted to triathlons if it wasn't for the scary factor of the open water swim.  I remember when I signed up for my first triathlon, experienced racers did not hesitate to tell me all the horror stories of the water: "You'll get swum over, kicked in the head, and feel like you're drowning.  You'll want to stop and cry and quit, but you can't because you're in the middle of a freaking lake!" or something similar to that.  Of course you can opt for a pool swim triathlon, a great option to help you gain some confidence and race experience. But the truth is, and I'm sure this will make some folks mad, but real  triathlons take place in lakes and oceans.  Not pools.  I'm sorry, but it's true.

That said, there is another option beside the crazy-free-for-all wave-start.  At the Rattlesnake triathlon (Sprint and Olympic), racers line up in single file and enter the water one at a time, with about 10 seconds between each swimmer.  When it's your turn, you simply start your swim alone and at your own pace.  Sure you'll probably get passed by a swimmer or two, or pass a swimmer or two, but compared to the alternative, you'll be in much calmer waters.  

The Rattlesnake triathlons take place at Aurora Reservoir.  The bike course follows rolling hills and the run follows a low-to-moderately hilly bike bath around the reservoir.  And if you're feeling really ambitious, they offer the Back-to-Back option: compete in the Olympic distance on Saturday and come back for the Sprint distance on Sunday.  Oh, the fun never stops!

 September 9th, 2012 Aurora
1.2 Mile Swim, 56 Mile Bike, 13.1 Mile Run

Even though there are very few (like, only 2) half ironman triathlons in the state of Colorado, I still pick Harvest Moon as my fav.  They are reasonably priced ($135 for an entry, vs. $250 for the "other guy"), late in the season (giving you plenty of time to ramp up to the distance), limited to 600 people, and fun.  The crowd varies from elite to newbie with everything inbetween, and the race even offers an aquabike and relay category.  The bike is tough, with lots of the rolling hills that Aurora Res. is famous for, followed by a low-to-moderately hilly run around Aurora Reservoir.  But the best part? You finish by slip 'n sliding across the finish line! No one can take themselves too seriously on a slip 'n slide, am I right?

Littleton, CO    Date: TBD

Alright, alright, I'm totally partial on this one.  But it really is a great race with a fun, local feel. You get everybody from elite runners, to seasoned athletes, to the new runner crowd Plus, my personal favorite, is all the kids that come out to run (or walk) their first 5K.  The course is beautiful as it follows the Highline Canal and Lee Gulch trails around Old-town Littleton.   And not very many races take place on the Highline Canal since it's very hard to get approval.   Plus, the cause it great! All money raised (every penny!) goes to the Justice Project and their work with human trafficking victims.  But again, this is all my own personal opinion:)

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