51 half marathons...one in each of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. That and annual dues to the 50 States Half Marathon Club earned me a finisher plaque as award for that effort.
Actually, I've run many more than 51 half marathons, repeating my favorite half marathons several times, and doing other races in states I'd already checked off my list. But it was the planning and logistics needed to pull off this 50 States quest in just 2.5 years that made this challenge fun.
I got the last state - Maine - done in July, in plenty of time before the annual club awards banquet. This year's banquet was being held in Golden, CO. It's always held in conjunction with a half marathon somewhere in the country. Last year it was in Omaha NE. So when details about the weekend event were announced, I made my air and hotel reservations and then eagerly waited for October to arrive.
My flight to Denver was painless as was collecting my rental car and getting to the fitness center where I could pick up my race packet. As luck would have it, there was a big grocery store in the same strip mall as the fitness center so I was able to pick up some fresh fruit and snacks for my room. Then I met a friend for lunch and we both headed to the hotel in Golden and hung out until it was time to go into the little downtown area and meet some of the others at a brewpub for a little socializing. Four of us then walked the town until we found a great place to have dinner.
|Friday evening meet-up at Barrels & Bottles Brewery|
The next day I slept in a little, walked to a nearby fast food restaurant for lunch and then met my friend for an afternoon outing up to Lookout Mountain and the Buffalo Bill museum. It was a pleasant afternoon spent enjoying the views and the museum. I had ordered an Edible Arrangement for our club president to thank her for all of her hard work and we stopped by their store to pick it up before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the banquet that evening.
|Buffalo Bill Museum|
|Buffalo Bill Museum|
|View looking southeast from Lookout Mountain. Downtown Denver|
can be seen just to right of center, partially obstructed by
hill in front.
|View looking northwest atop Lookout Mountain near Golden CO|
Some snow-capped mountains just barely visible in background.
The banquet was held at Table Mountain Inn in downtown Golden. We had a great turnout and it was nice to see so many receive awards for achieving either 50 States or 100 Half Marathons or both.
|Downtown Golden, Colorado|
One of the club members makes fun goofy sunglasses for any member who achieves one of the club goals. She made a bunch for all of us finishers....we wore them with pride!
|Receiving my award from Nicole, the club president|
|My award and my fun glasses!|
|All of the 2015 award winners: 50 States, or 100 Half Marathons, or both|
|Awards banquet - all of us wearing our "special" glasses, made for|
us by Ali Levering (second from left in photo)
The next morning was the Kooky Spooky Half Marathon. The evening before, I was seriously considering blowing it off, seriously concerned about the elevation. Well, that plus I really didn't need to run it. But ever the over-achiever, I talked myself back into doing it the next morning. When my friend arrived at the hotel to pick me up, I was ready and raring to go.
The elevation of Golden CO is about 5400 ft. The course started at an athletic complex north of town and took us east on beautiful paved trails along a river, the first mile losing some altitude on a long gradual downhill stretch before flattening out for the next four miles. At around mile 5.5 we did a u-turn and continued back along that trail but rather than return back to the athletic complex the way we came, it took us up to the top of a bluff and along the northern edge of a reservoir. We gained about 600 ft elevation over about 3 miles, some of it on a switchback trail that was very demoralizing.
|Data from my Garmin GPS watch. Lots of elevation change on this route!|
Runners ahead of us looked like tiny specs as they zig-zagged back and forth up this switchback trail. The trail straightened out but still continued to climb until we got to about mile 10. Then it plummeted back down on a switchback trail that lost most of that 600 feet over the course of a mile.
|Close-up of miles 8-11 of the route. Switch-backs climbing up miles 8-10,|
and switch-back in mile 11 losing all of that elevation. Then steady uphill
to the finish line.
|Very glad to be crossing the finish line. Breathing optional. LOL!|
But finally I could see the finish line ahead of me. What a feeling of exhaustion, relief, and...yes...satisfaction.
|The route, data from my Garmin GPS watch|
By far the hardest half marathon I've ever done and the longest distance I've ever completed doing a sustained uphill elevation change. Big Cottonwood started at 7400 feet and finished at 5200 feet, but that was all downhill. It is done. My first thoughts were, "I'm never doing another half marathon at high elevation, ever again."
|Some of us at the finish line|
|Fellow 50 State Half Marathon club members at the finish line|
Those of us still in town Sunday evening got together again for a group dinner in town before we all went our own way for the night.
|Very nice finisher medal.|
My flight the next day was not until late afternoon so I spent the late morning at Colorado Railroad Museum before heading toward the airport.
|Small collection of rolling stock. Not nearly the quantity or quality as the|
rolling stock at the National Park in Scranton or the museum in Cheyenne, but still enjoyable.
|Fantastic HO layout in the basement of the museum. Some of the best detail I've|
ever seen. A couple of quarter slots activated some of the layout, including
an amusement park and one train around the perimeter of the layout.
I lingered at the very nice travel center near the airport, topping off the rental car gas tank and having lunch. A Subway sandwich followed by a very good Dunkin Donuts cappuccino and pumpkin cheesecake tart. Then it was on to the rental car drop-off and into the terminal to wait for my flight home.
Coming up: Revisiting the Big Sur Half Marathon and spending the weekend having a "girls' weekend" with my daughter-in-law in Monterey.