August 28, 2019

Race Report / Weekend Recap: Frisco Trails Half and Beaver Creek Food & Wine Festival

Weekend of August 10-11

Before I talk about the weekend, I’d like to first write about a truly epic Thursday night. Nonprofits seem to get last minute event tickets to things all the time, but Thursday was the first time I’ve been able to take advantage of that. Our Meals on Wheels volunteer coordinator emailed everyone to say she had four tickets to Billy Joel performing at Coors Field that night, and I ended up being able to snag two of them for myself and my friend Kelli. I was psyched!

We met up with my friend Heather (who already had tickets to attend with her family) for drinks at Union Station’s Kitchen Next Door, and then headed over to the stadium. After going through security and scanning our tickets, we started heading up the many escalators to get to our seats in the very top section. Neither of us were concerned; we were just excited to have scored free tickets to be there! However, our luck was about to get even better…

At the top of an escalator, two kind-of-sketchy-looking guys approached us. “Hey ladies, would you like better seats?” Now, what kind of scam was this? We were already inside the venue; it seemed weird for scalpers to be inside. But they were handing us the tickets for free, with seemingly no strings attached, so we said thank you, and then headed back down the escalator to check out the seats. Really cool that we’d be lower down, though we didn’t quite understand why.

However, when we showed our tickets to an usher downstairs to ask for help finding our section, she said “oh, that’s down on the field – you girls are right up front!” I had seen that the new tickets were “row 1”, but I assumed that was just the front of a random section. Nope – we had been given literally front row center tickets to the whole concert!!

The front row was filled with women (only women) who were was giddy and excited as we were. It turns out that Billy Joel specifically does not sell the front row of his shows, and instead gifts those seats to fans with seats in the nosebleed section. We were flabbergasted! Kelli and I kept shrieking and gaping at each other with expressions of disbelief. This was incredible!

This is us literally standing at our seats, giddy about our good fortune!

The show absolutely did not disappoint – Billy Joel played all the hits we wanted to hear, and with our front row spots, we were totally immersed in the music and the show. We even got featured in closeup on the big screen during “She’s Always a Woman”, and I got a text from several friends (who I didn’t even know were at the concert) telling me they had seen me down there! This was by far the coolest concert experience of my life, and I have to admit, it kind of made me want to pony up for front row seats for future shows.

Gang’s all here, and so are we!

My Friday was absolutely packed with meetings and calls; however, I was able to leave home after my 3:30pm call and take my last calls from on the road. I was headed out to the mountains for the weekend! I was hoping that I had left early enough to beat traffic, but I ended up getting snarled in it pretty badly… bummer 🙁 Still, I made it to Frisco at 6pm, which meant I could swing by the packet pickup for the race I was doing the next morning, and then continue on to Minturn.

As I drove to town, I tried to figure out what I wanted for dinner. I decided that what I could really go for was a big box of shrimp fried rice; however, it was slim pickings for good Chinese food in Vail. Instead, I decided to take the healthier and more frugal approach: I stopped at the grocery and picked up a single-serve container of fried rice, plus a pack of sugar snap peas and some shrimp. It was a much more reasonable portion size than I would have eaten if I picked up takeout, and still really filling!

I used Tai Pei Chicken Fried Rice (which I reviewed several years ago here), then added a bunch of shrimp plus some sugar snap peas. So good! And still only about 500 calories, whereas I totally would have eaten 1000 calories if I’d gotten takeout.

I spent a little while after dinner trying to write up my XTerra race report, but my eyes were closing before it was done – so that would have to get finished up after the race instead. One of these days I’d catch up on blogging! (Update: now finished here.) For now, bedtime.

I woke up on Saturday feeling pretty well-rested – I always sleep so much better in the mountains! It was earlier than I would have liked, but I knew I had a fun day ahead. First, the Frisco Trails Half Marathon! I was really excited for this. I got dressed for cooler temps (hooray, mountains!), toasted a bagel, and decided to have a mini orange scone as well while I waited for the bagel to toast. I was going into this race very well-fueled, especially compared to my usual strategy of running without eating. I was out the door by 6:45am, coffee and bagel in hand, and the drive to Frisco was faster than I expected – only 30 minutes. I listened to Billy Joel the whole way, and got pretty pumped up in doing so 🙂

With plenty of time at the start, I was able to hit a porta potty that was off next to a soccer field and was totally empty. It was nice to not wait in line stressing whether I’d make it in time! I was also easily able to wear sweats over my running clothes, and then ditch them in my car before walking to the start, so I could be plenty warm. Temps were in the 50s, and I expected them to mostly be in the 60s for the race.

Finally, I headed over to the start. While I waited, I checked the course map again to remind myself where the hills were – and then decided to grab a pen from the check in table and write the highlights on my hand. The more I “race” for time rather than just take it easy (like I used to do with marathons), the more helpful this is – I like to know what’s coming when.

This is how the pros do it, right?

I knew the course was single track, and I had learned the week before that on a single track course, it’s important to get out in front. However, I also know that I totally suck at high altitude… and Frisco sits all the way up at 9100 feet. Where to line up? I settled for being about two people deep in the crowd at the start (and lots of room in between us and the actual start line, which it seemed no one had the courage to actually line up on). When the gun went off, though, I took off – and found myself the first female leading the way.

There were half a dozen guys in front of me, and as it turned out, we were on a wide paved trail for about a quarter mile; then we turned off onto the single track trail that went around the Lake Dillon peninsula. A few women started passing me, one at a time (I was careful to give them room to do so), and I settled in around 7th place. Fine by me!

As I had drawn out on my hand, the major hills were from miles 4-6 (up 300 feet in 1.5 miles), 8-9 (up 300 feet in 1 mile), and 10-10.5 (up 150 feet in 1/2 mile). I was happy for the opportunity to run easy along the shoreline for those first few miles to settle into a rhythm! I clocked the first (speedy) mile at 7:52 pace, then settled into 9:01 for mile 2 and 9:14 for mile 3 (not bad with a water stop in there). So far, the miles were ticking by pretty easily.

But that fourth mile is where the first big hill started – and it was tough! I spent the first half of the mile wondering when I’d reach the hill, and right after I took a beautiful picture of the avalanche path down Peak One, it began.

Ah, the avalanche path (way in the background), portender of doom and gloom and really steep hills.

There was one especially steep incline (11%) from 4.8-4.9, and that was where I gave up my goal of running all the hills with no walk breaks. This was a challenge! I ended up taking two more walk breaks in mile 5 (one of which was a water stop at least), but at last, I reached mile 6 and knew I had cleared the first big hurdle of the race. Split times: 10:10 and 11:28. Definitely slower! I had also allowed a few more women to pass me in this section, and by my count, was now in 11th place. To keep myself motivated, I set a goal of making it into the top 10 by the end of the race.

After cresting the top of mile 6, the course definitely wasn’t flat, but the hills were rolling rather than either steep or steady. I loved this! Although I was slower than some of those around me on the uphills, I more than made up for it on the downhills. There was some solid back and forth in this section – a woman would pass me on the uphill, and then I’d pass her back on the downhill. I clocked miles 7 and 8 in 9:24 and 9:08 – about back to the pace I started running. This felt good!

Ah, but here came mile 9 – the next big hill, about 300 feet in just one mile. This was a tough one! It was a steady uphill for about half a mile, then super steep for a hot minute (which I walked), and then steady again to mile 8.9. But I did it, and finished that mile in 10:51 – slightly faster than my double-walk-break mile 6. The end of the race was now in sight – I had a long, steady downhill, one more short (but steep) hill, and only four miles to the finish.

This hill was much steeper than the pic looks… everyone was walking here.

We turned from the single track trail onto a wide dirt road – and I took advantage of the fresh terrain and lots of room to really fly. I ran past a few groups of runners who were chatting as they ran, and I had deja vu to the wide downhill road in the Camp Hale Half. As with Camp Hale, my pace picked up significantly here – I clocked 7:48 for mile 10, my fastest of the race. The only downside here was that it started to rain, which was a little bit of a bummer, since the weather prediction had been to stay dry until later in the afternoon. Fortunately, it wasn’t enough to really impact anything; I just know I would have been happier runner on a blue sky, white puffy cloud day 🙂

I’m starting to learn that my strength is really pushing it fast and hard on the easy suggestions, which makes up for when I get tired on the harder sections. I’m okay at pushing myself on short uphills, but when the hills get long, that’s where I tend to give up and take walk breaks. So – my new goal needs to be finding courses that really roll, rather than anything flat or with long steady uphills.

Speaking of uphills, though, we turned from the wide road back onto singletrack trail at mile 10, and this was where I got my last hill of the race. 150 feet gain in half a mile – the steepest hill of the race! But as I mentioned, short and steep is fine by me – and I didn’t take any walk breaks in this section. Almost to the end!

I crested that very last hill and turned down into a paved parking lot, for the last aid station of the race. I grabbed a cup but barely drank it. I just wanted to finish strong! I took a few turns back onto singletrack, and then found myself back on the same trail where we had started the race. I knew what was left – homeward bound!

Knowing I had only about two miles left, I tried to pick up the pace, and gain on the women I could see ahead of me. In this section, there were a lot of 10Kers still on the course that I was passing, but it was pretty easy to tell who was a 10K runner and who was a half marathoner, so I knew which ones counted for placement. I ended up passing one guy and girl who were running together, taking me into ninth place, and I could see another woman ahead of me who also looked to be a half marathoner. Could I pass her too? I hoped so, but she was keeping a pretty steady pace. I clicked mile 11 off in 9:49, and then mile 12 in 9:26. Getting faster toward the finish!

I had been listening to Billy Joel hits all race, and I didn’t want to mess with that, but I did want something a little special for the finish. So when I crossed the 12 mile mark, and had 1.1 to go, I dug my phone out of my pocket and switched over to “River of Dreams”, which just has an awesome beat and melody for a power song. Time to kick it in strong!

With a half mile to go, we turned off the singletrack and onto the wide paved bike path. I tried to pick it up to catch the girl in front of me, but a slight uphill slowed me down as she surged. I reminded myself that I only had a few minutes left, and tried to give it everything I had – but while it was enough to finish strong (9:04 pace for the last mile and 6:28 pace for the final tenth mile sprint), it wasn’t quite enough to overtake the lead she had gained on that hill. Oh, well – ninth female overall!! I was incredibly proud of that, especially at this high altitude that normally puts me at a disadvantage. I had run a faster pace than the week before in Castle Rock, even though I was 2,500 feet higher! That was pretty awesome.

Race stats:
Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: 2:03:25
Pace: 9:25/mile
Overall place: 36/200
Gender place: 9/109
Age group place: 6/33

I stuck around to have a few slices of watermelon at the finish, but didn’t really feel like having the pizza or beer they were giving away. It was definitely a nice spread; I just wasn’t in the mood to go crazy at 9:30am, especially since I had eaten a big breakfast. Plus, I was getting kind of cold now that the race was over – I had gotten pretty wet (though not soaked) due to the rain, and while the rain had stopped, it was still pretty gray and chilly.

After checking the results to make sure I wouldn’t be missing an award (nope – five of the eight women ahead of me were in the same 30-39 age group!), I got in my car to head back to Minturn. And as I made the drive over Vail Pass, the sun started peeking out. Instead of this making me disappointed that we hadn’t had nicer weather during the race, it just made me excited for the day ahead (maybe Robert Glazer’s positive mentality is rubbing off on me?). And… it made me want to run more.

By the time I got home to Minturn, I had decided I would do a short “cool down” run (even though it would be about an hour after I had finished the race). I thought I’d go for just two or three miles, easy, on the steep trails right next to town. No worrying about pace; just enjoying the scenery and the beautiful day.

I got home and shucked off my wet tank top and sports bra, switching to a fresh bra and t-shirt. (Good thing I keep lots of extra athletic basics in Minturn.) After checking out some options on the Trail Running Project (which my friend Kelli recently pointed me to), I decided I’d try the brand new Everkrisp trail, which had just opened to go between Minturn and Avon. It was 4.5 miles point-to-point, but I figured I’d do just 1-2 miles in, then turn around and come back. That did have the unfortunate effect of meaning I’d hit all the vert (since the trail basically goes up to the halfway point and then descends into Avon), but 1-2 miles outbound sounded really doable… especially since I’d get the downhill on the return.

And then… this happened.

Wait for it….
Views for daysssssss!

It was so gorgeous that I couldn’t resist running further! The day had completely changed, and it was now a beautiful blue sky, white puffy cloud kind of day… my absolute favorite, which just makes me grin from ear to ear no matter how tough the trail I’m on. I decided I’d run even further, and now set my sights on making it to the end of Everkrisp before turning around. That would turn this little “cool down run” into a 9 mile tough trail run with 1700 feet of vertical gain, and would put my mileage for the day at 22 miles! That was aggressive, since my longest run this year has been 15 miles (and only 1000 feet of gain over the 15), but I told myself pace didn’t matter and I should just enjoy myself.

With these stunning wildflowers, how could I NOT enjoy myself?

The uphill was definitely tough, and involved a lot of walking, but I was more than rewarded by the beautiful views along the way. It turned out that the uphill went further than the halfway point – I was going pretty steadily uphill all the way until mile 3. But that meant that on the return, I only had to grit it out through 1.5 miles of uphill before I’d get 3 miles of downhill. Tit for tat!

This little meadow was a nice break from all the uphill.

It felt glorious to hit the peak of the run at mile 3 and then start heading downhill. Even as I reminded myself that this downhill would become uphill on the way back, I felt so happy and accomplished that I didn’t care. When I got to the end of the Everkrisp trail, my Strava still hadn’t clicked over to 4.5 miles, so I kept running a little bit further till I got to 4.6 miles, just to make sure I wouldn’t short myself with fewer than 9. I now really wanted to break 22 miles!

Twenty two miles of THIS? Thank you, I’ll have some more please.

Miles 5 and 6 were definitely tough, but I just reminded myself that it was three half mile segments up, and then a lot of glorious down. Breaking it up like that really helped me keep going (although yes, with a lot of walking). My pace wasn’t very fast on the downhill, and I was definitely getting tired (um, probably should have brought some food or water with me?), but I was enjoying myself despite the challenge.

Final stretch…

I finally finished this 9.12 mile run in 1:56 – nearly as long as it had taken me to do the entire half marathon, but this was after racing that, and it also had a lot more vert. I couldn’t believe I had run 22.2 miles for the day – that is a serious long run, especially on trails! This definitely got me thinking about signing up for a fall marathon. It’s clear my endurance is there; the question is whether my speed is at the level I’d like it to be so that I can totally smash my 3:48 PR.

I had to hustle once I was done running, though – I had my good friend Mike and his girlfriend Brittany meeting me at the house soon. After checking in with them and learning they were stuck in traffic, I hightailed it to Safeway – it was definitely time for me to get some recovery food in my tummy after all that running.

The problem was… what to get? I was definitely hungry, but it was now 2pm, and I was going to Beaver Creek Food & Wine Festival with my friends at 6pm. Of course I needed to refuel, but I wanted to make sure I had a big appetite for all the deliciousness that was to come! I settled for getting a sushi roll, which I figured would be a good blend of carbs and protein, without totally filling me up. (I swear I can eat an insane amount of sushi and still be hungry… just me?)

I normally wouldn’t get a roll with this much mayo, but the supermarket has limited options. Plus, TWENTY TWO TRAIL MILES.

After wolfing that down and taking a shower, Mike and Brittany arrived. While I kind of wanted a nap, there was no time for that – onward to Beaver Creek! There, we met up with my friends Heather and Kirk, and the five of us had an absolute blast sampling all kinds of delicious foods, wines, and spirits.

This pic was unfortunately snapped while I had left for a bathroom break, but I’m still posting it without me in it because it captures just how beautiful the outdoor space was! These guys could be a magazine cover.

I was thrilled with the festival. While the winter Food & Wine Fest this year had been a disappointment (too crowded, not enough food to offset all the drinks), this one was fabulous. Relaxed and casual (no waiting in long lines for food), but still elegant and exquisite food – this is what a food and wine festival should be! It was lovely to be there with such good friends.

Toward the end of the festival, we were surprised by the arrival of some special guests… chefs bearing trays of Beaver Creek’s famed chocolate chip cookies! In the winter, chefs bring these hot and fresh baked treats out to the slopes at 3pm for hungry skiers; it was fun to get to have them at the end of the festival. However, not everyone seemed to enjoy them as much as we did, so the chefs had tons left over… and they ended up giving us an entire tray to enjoy! After the festival wrapped up, I got to fulfill my dream of being a cookie server and bring them down to random non-festival guests in Beaver Creek Village on our way out 🙂

One for you, two for me.

But rather than call it a night just yet, the five of us headed to Vin 48 in Avon for one more bottle of wine and some great conversation. And when Mike and Brittany and I finally headed home, Brittany and I stayed up chit chatting till 2am. What a night!

The next day was pretty low key. Although Mike, Brittany, Heather, Kirk, and I had discussed going fishing, we woke up to a very rainy day. So instead, Mike and Brittany and I grabbed breakfast in Minturn, and then headed back to town to beat the traffic. Unfortunately, it seemed that with the rain, everyone else had the same idea, so I still encountered some slow downs 🙁 No matter, though – small price to pay for an incredible weekend in the mountains!


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