By Mike Reynolds
After my son moved to Colorado, a tradition of running a race in the winter in Colorado was established. The goal was to break up the winter with an event and have a father/son weekend.
This year Scott, my son, selected the Ralston Creek Half Marathon in Arvada, Colorado which is a northern suburb of Denver. The event is put on by Racing Underground and the price was reasonable at $55 for early signup. I liked that the course was shaped like a tennis racket so it was not just an out and back, runners were limited to 650, and the start was unique.
The Ralston Creek Half Marathon had two waves with Wave1 leaving 45 minutes early for runner/walkers that will take 2 hours and 30 minutes or more while Wave 2 was setup for runners under 2 hours and 30 minutes. If you take Wave 1 and do better than 2 hours and 15 minutes you are disqualified and the results list showed several who were disqualified.
Packet pickup for the Ralston Creek Half Marathon was one day only, Thursday before the Sunday race so I missed it but I still visited the store, Runners Roost in Lakewood, Co, because I had to buy a pair of running shorts, more on that later. The start area for the race had adequate parking and a large setup area. Packet pickup was quick and we saw off Wave 1. Now the conundrum of racing arrived, what to wear for the next 2+ hours of the race. The problem was it was 61 degrees and windy. Not breezy, but 30-40mph winds out of the west. Guess which direction we were headed. So Scott and I went to shorts (did not pack any for the trip) and t shirt while Scott longingly looked at his jacket.
From my Garmin:
Feels like 61°
37 mph W wind
Wave 2 went off at 9:45AM with clear skies and wind. I will now quote from Ralston Creek Half Marathon’s literature on the course. “The opening 5 miles are fairly flat, with a barely noticeable gradual gain in elevation. Miles 5 through 6.5 are rolling with one good climb leading to the high point of the course atop Ralston Mesa at 7.75 miles. From there, the course is almost all downhill and flat to the finish…” Sounds easy right? I should have noticed that there was no elevation chart in the literature.
From my Garmin:
Elevation Gain: 951 ft.
Elevation Loss: 923 ft.
Min Elevation: 5,477 ft.
Max Elevation: 6,002 ft.
The first 5 miles are run through a park and a golf course and the slight rise in elevation is minimal while the area was somewhat sheltered from the wind. The one good climb at 5 to 6.5 miles was 7% Grade with a face full of wind on an open plain. My 9:30 pace went to 10:30 pace as I struggled to put the hill behind me. My son pointed to the east where a line of runners were going up switchbacks to the
top of the mesa. The area is a reservoir area with minimal ground cover and the climb to 7.75 had elements of 10 to 14% grade. Overall in the first 7 miles we went from 5400 to 6000 feet and battled wind the whole way.
At the apex of the hill, if you still have your wits about you, look south and you see downtown Denver. As advertised the last 5 miles were downhill back along the golf course and park but I struggled to maintain a 10 minute pace as Scott and I finished 2:12:25.
Looking back at the race, the Ralston Creek Half Marathon delivered what I want in a race. I never hold a race responsible for weather and my son and I ran in shorts in February with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop. The nonchalance of altitude and elevation I chalk up to a flatlander like me not understanding the local culture. This was a local race based on my review of the runners signed up showing only 5 of us from other than Colorado/Wyoming with most obviously from Denver. The finish line had immediate results on flat
screens and you could print out your time and finish. Food and medals awaited the finish. The finish line had immediate results on flat screens and you could print out your time and finish.
Even after the race the benefits continued. I received a notice that digital images of myself were free for two weeks to download. A finisher certificate could be downloaded and a YouTube of your specific finish was provided for viewing. I came in second in my age group but never received my plaque. I waited for the awards ceremony but like so many races the Ralston Creek Half Marathon has their award ceremony so late that I was not willing to wait an hour after I finished.
Grades for the Ralston Creek Half Marathon
Rating for the Ralston Creek Half Marathon Organization-A- (Well marked, volunteers at all turns, as well as smooth start and finish, only caveat is the awards ceremony)
Ralston Creek Half Marathon Course-B (Calling it hills with an elevation gain of 940 feetmust be a Colorado term)
Ralston Creek Half Marathon Swag- A (Shirt and Medal first class while the little things, pictures, certificate,YouTube is great)
Ralston Creek Half Marathon After race Food – B (Water, coffee, breakfast burrito, banana bread with chocolate chips. Had to pull my son off the food).