Review: Summer Breeze Half Marathon

SummerBreeze_finishWhen I discovered that I had an off day on a Saturday when planning a recent business trip, I did what any runner would do: Scour race calendars for a suitable event.

Since the trip took me to Denver it was easy to find races. 5Ks, 10Ks, trails, half marathons, marathons, etc. After some research, I settled on the Summer Breeze Half Marathon in Arvada, Colorado, a suburb to the west of Denver. The race was put on by All-Out Multicourse Productions, which organized and directed a terrific event.

Summer Breeze Half Marathon

5,344 feet of elevation is no joke

The city’s elevation is 5,344 feet, making it approximately 5,300 feet higher than where I usually run. Since I was flying in to the Denver area the night before I had little time to acclimate to the elevation.

I didn’t want my race to resemble a Summer Wheeze so I decided to get there early, run two slow miles and then relax with a UCAN until race time. The strategy seemed to work. The 18 or so minutes of warmup time enabled me to acquaint myself with the thinner air, plus get a general idea of the start (and end) of the course.

During the race, there were a few times when breathing became a challenge at the pace I was running. I concentrated on my breathing, exaggerating breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth. By monitoring my breathing and keeping my thoughts elsewhere, I was able to push through even though the picturesque Rocky Mountains in the background served as a constant reminder of where I was.

The race itself was run mostly on a paved trail, which we shared with the nearby residents and their dogs. The start/finish line was in a parking lot adjacent to a soccer field complex. After leaving the parking lot and gravely road that led to the path, runners headed out toward the end of the trail then ran along a hilly street turned briefly onto another street, turned around and headed back. We retraced our steps, continued past the gravel path, and ran until the end of the path on the other side before returning. That was one of two loops for the half-marathoners. The 5K and 10K participants had variations of that route.

Um, that’s not mud

Before the half marathon event began, the race director briefed us on the route, rules and mentioned that — because of recent rains — a small section of the trail was slightly covered by water runoff and mud. No worries, I thought, I ran a half marathon trail race at night just two weeks ago.

As the race began, I fell into a decent pace toward the front middle of the pack. There was lots of moving up and moving back in the first half mile or so, as in most long-distance races. The trail was wide enough so I never felt like I had to slow or wait for someone.

A couple of miles in, we came across some volunteers who warned us of the slick spot that the race director mentioned. It was nothing at all, but I still appreciated the heads up. The water was not standing — it just covered the trail surface. And the mud was largely unnoticeable.

About another mile down the trail, I saw more mud. In clumps across the road.

As I got closer, I realized that it was not mud.

Apparently, a horse or pair of horses from one of the nearby farms had been recently strolling on the path.

Going all out

At around the halfway point, I figured I was in 25th place. I was feeling good and saw some targets to pass. As I progressed, I estimated that I was in 21st place around the 12-mile mark.

That’s when I was passed by the guy who I was trailing for most of the first half of the race. By this point, the sun was really beating down — Denver would hit 90 in a couple of hours — and I was taking water at every aid station, which is unusual for me. If I were to finish strong, it was going to take everything I had physically and mentally.

After we hit the final turnaround spot, around 12.5 miles, I knew we had a straight shot and then two right-hand turns to the finish line. I also noticed that there were three other runners on my tail.

I had run too far to let any of them beat me at the end. My plan was to hold them off until the penultimate turn, then accelerate into it and go as fast as I could to the end.

It worked. Not only did I hold off the hard-charging runners, I easily passed the guy directly in front of me. And that final burst was a good thing since it pushed me to 20th overall, and third in my age group, six seconds ahead of another one of those runners who was closing in on me in the backstretch.

It was definitely a good feeling to hear the announcer say, “That’s how you finish a race,” as I sprinted toward the finish line.

At the finish line

SummerBreeze_podium2Just like the race course, the tent at the finish line had well-marked signs of where runners should go. This was helpful as there were different medals for the various distances. All of the volunteers were very friendly and ready with water, Gatorade and a refreshingly cold towel to cool the runners down.

The food area was well organized. The runners’ bibs had a coupon that entitled the participants to a breakfast burrito (with or without bacon), banana, orange slices and a popsicle. A nearby truck was giving out chocolate milk. All in all, it was a very tasty breakfast on a Saturday morning.

The race organizers set up each of their races so that the longer distance runners start first and end last. In between, the 5K and 10K races were held, as were the awards ceremony and raffle prizes.

Here’s the best part about the awards ceremony: Every runner received some sort of raffle prize. And they are worthwhile, too. At the half marathon awards, runners received prizes in a random draw ranging from $100 spa treatments to restaurant gift cards to slick water bottles. Everyone went home with something.

Also note: these prizes supplemented the goodies already in the bag runners received at packet pickup. Those were filled with coupons, sample energy bars and other items.

Run a race by this company if you . . .

  • Want to experience a new adventure.
  • Enjoy the challenge of running at elevation.
  • Like getting lots of free stuff.
  • Just happen to be near Denver during one of their races.
  • Like downloading free race photos.

Would I do this race again?

I’m not sure if I would actually do this race again. However, I would absolutely encourage anyone to participate in an event put on by All-Out Multicourse Productions.

In addition to the great post-race spread, free photos and prizes, the race directors excelled in every facet. The staff and volunteers were friendly, helpful and approachable — easily identified in their themed T-shirts.

And I really can’t say enough about the raffle drawing. After the prizes were handed out, the race director asked if every racer had received something. Two had not — they neglected to turn in their bib tag. But, no matter, the race director fetched them prizes — discounts from local restaurants.

For me, my prize was a coupon for a free Road ID, which of course is more useful to this out-of-towner than a discount at an Arvada-area restaurant. And, once I get my Road ID, I’ll have an extra layer of security whether I’m running at home or racing at altitude in Denver.

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