Can we just usher this #NeverEndingWinter out the door and bring on Summer? It’s been a long winter in many parts of the country as ranching friends in Montana are just now thawing out. Although we haven’t had much winter in Denver, I am ready for the warm weather to arrive and stay so I can go running in the mountains on dry trails. Thankfully, we have the Westminster Trail Half Marathon.

We moved one step closer this weekend by kicking off this 2018 Endurance Race Series. I’ve signed up for all 10 trail half marathon events this year. It was a bargain price and I now have good milestones on my training calendar all the way through summer and into fall. The first race in the series was the Westminster Trail Half Marathon just northwest of Denver on Saturday, April 28.

Westminster Trail Half Marathon Endurance Race Series

Westminster Trail Half Marathon

The Westminster race took place at Standley Lake city park with HQ at Wayne Carle Middle School. Saturday’s weather was a perfect preview of early summer (see, we’re just going to skip Spring!) with morning temperatures in the 40s, warming quickly into the 60s. There was a strong crowd with 10k and 5k races taking place on the same course.

The Half Marathon course took place on dirt service roads and two-track, with some single track on the back side and some concrete bike trail near the end. The route was mostly out and back with a few doglegs to add distance. However, my Garmin and most Strava results showed a distance of 12.8 miles. So I ended up walking out the final .3 miles in the parking lot to make it 13.1.

Trail Half Marathon Endurance Race Series running

Westminster Trail Half Marathon Course

The Westminster Trail Half Marathon wasn’t my favorite type of trail, but really a good way to kick off an early season race. We circled Standley Lake (an urban reservoir you don’t want to swim in) and were relatively close to traffic at some points, but for the most part, we were able to enjoy the views of the Rocky Mountain Front on course. The first 3ish miles were an open service road, which allowed the group of 162 half marathoners to spread out.

Even though we started out plenty fast for the first few miles (don’t we all?), I wasn’t set out to race the event. I’ve signed up for the series to explore Colorado trail systems, meet the regulars and have supported runs that add some structure to my training this season. I ran two of the ERS series half marathons last summer and was impressed with the pre-race communication and race-day organization. Plus, I got a dang good deal by signing up for the ERS Season Pass. And it just happens to come with a big swag bag.

Endurance Race Series Season Pass swag

Course Aid Stations and Finish

The middle of the race ran along the banks of Standley Lake. We ended up with some good views and a few bird sightings. We ended up on some single track on the back portion of the course with a few short hills thrown in for good measure. That’s where I was able to maintain pace and gain some ground on several people.

The course had 3 aid stations that we hit twice each. These were stocked with water, sports drink, and a few Honey Stinger gels. I didn’t carry any water or fuel for this race and just used what was on course. Considering this wasn’t a huge distance relative to my training, I wasn’t too concerned. I grabbed water or sports drink at each aid station and felt just fine.

As we neared the finish line, the half marathon runners took a dogleg on concrete bike paths for a few miles. The course was well-marked with baking flour and 12″x12″ signs, but apparently, some people missed those and were headed the wrong direction on the loop. Just gotta keep your eyes open, people!

Westminster Trail Half Marathon Endurance Race Series running chocolate milk

Westminster Trail Half Marathon Finish

The finish line was atop the final hill, as it should be. The final distance on my watch read 12.8 miles. So I cooled off by walking around the parking lot to complete the 13.1-mile distance. I was very excited to see several coolers of TruMoo chocolate milk (shout out to Western Dairy farmers), burgers and Avery Brewing Company beer at the finisher’s tent.

The race medals and shirts for each of these races is always a high point. Many local races tend to skip on the quality of these. But the Endurance Race Series puts a nice touch on this detail. I ended up 5th out of 12 in my age group. 29 out of 162 runners in the half marathon distance. I finished in 1:49 with a pace of 8:19/mile. My fastest 13.1 this Spring.

Westminster Trail Half Marathon Endurance Race Series running medal

I saved my legs and completed another 16 miles on Sunday, making it 46 miles for the week. 141 miles running for the month of April. Next weekend is the Greenland Trail 50k near Palmer Lake, Colorado.

Overall, the Westminster Trail Half Marathon was a fun way to kick off the season of trails. I look forward to the entire 2018 Endurance Race Series and seeing what we find on the trails across Colorado!

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