Colorado is done and three reasons why I hate the Denver airport

Date: July 27, 2013

Distance: 13.1 (13.23 actual)

Time: 2:14:44

In what turned out to be one of the quickest trips on record, state #23 is done. Dog days

I left Salt Lake City on an 8:30 Friday morning flight and was back home by 2:30 p.m. the next day. The race was great, but events leading up to and following the race were a series of inconveniences. Luckily, those inconveniences did not have anything to do with missed flights or an inability to fly non-rev. For that, I was thankful.

The race was a small, local race in the Westminster, Colorado City Park–about half an hour from the Denver Airport. I needed to get Colorado done because my other 50-states running buddy, Denise, has already run a race in Colorado and I needed to catch up with her. The race appealed to me because of the timing but also because it was a fundraiser for Colorado Canine Rescue–a great cause. Plus, since I work for Westminster College, I couldn’t resist the idea of earning a race shirt that not only had a cool picture of a dog with sunglasses, but also said, “Westminster” on it.

I caught the first flight out–a general rule when flying standby–so when I arrived at the Denver airport, I had some time to kill before picking up the rental car. (I was trying to keep my rental to a 24-hour time frame so as to save money). To burn some time, I decided to catch breakfast at one of the restaurants at the airport.

Inconvenience #1: The server (or the cooks, according to the server) lost my order and I wasn’t informed of this until after I had waited about 45-minutes for my Eggs Benedict. When the server had realized that no one was cooking my breakfast, the menu had switched over to lunch. No eggs for me–I ordered a Chicken Caesar salad instead. No huge deal. I wasn’t in a rush and I had lots of extra time anyway. Besides, the manager graciously comped my meal, which I thought was nice.

After finishing my salad, I headed down to meet the car rental shuttle. (Reason #1 why I hate the Denver airport–the car rentals are miles away from the airport). Reason #2 why I hate the Denver airport–the airport is miles away from ANYTHING.

I arrived at the car rental place only to see the longest rental line I have ever seen–four rows of people in those cattle-type mazes like they make you go through at airport security. Airport security is reason #3 why I hate the Denver airport, but I’ll tell you more about that later.

It took me almost a full hour to get to the front of the line at Dollar Rental. After declining all of the suggested upgrades and insisting that I wanted an “economy” car despite the agent’s persistence in trying to convince me that I needed something with a V-6 for my drive “all the way over to Westminster,” I was finally released to go find my car. “Select anything from the E row,” I was told. I trekked all the way to the last row only to discover that there were no cars in the E row. Not only that, there were no cars in the C (compact) row, either. The agent’s hard-sell approach was apparent–I was going to get a mid-size car anyway–but at the “economy” price. Vindicated. Never fall for the up-sell. Half the time you end up getting a bigger, better car anyway.

The drive to the hotel was uneventful, thankfully, but as I entered the hotel lobby, I was met with the longest hotel check in line I’ve ever seen. Inconvenience #2. Evidently, all the swing dancers there for a weekend convention all decided to check in at the exact same time. This line, too, took almost an hour. But, again, there was nowhere I had to be, so it was no big deal for me to wait. Plus, I ended up getting a really great room with a good view, so all was good.

View from Westminster Westin

View from Westminster Westin

I’ll call the fact that I was alone and bored “inconvenience #3.” One of the best parts about knocking out this 50-states goal is that I’m usually running the race with other people. Most of these weekend races trips allow me to spend time with friends or family and play tourist a bit. Not this time. Instead, the highlight of my day was walking across the street to get take out Thai food that I took to my room and ate in bed while I watched the local news. I couldn’t even get my race packet–as is the custom the day before the race. Instead, this race only offered two race packet pick up times–Thursday evening or Saturday before the race–I call THAT “inconvenience #4.” That meant having to get up even earlier for the race. Oh, well. Again, not a huge deal.

Now here’s where things go well. The race itself was great. Normally, I hate out-and-back courses, but this one was nice and very well-organized. We went 1.5 miles out and back, then went just over 5 miles out and back the opposite direction. Here’s what that allowed for:

  • lots of aid stations–at almost every mile
  • a great running surface the whole way–either paved or fine gravel running trail that was wide and well maintained, with nice views
  • close proximity to my hotel for the start and the finish

Additionally, the swag bags were nice–they even included dog treats for my dog. I liked the finisher medals, post-race grub was plentiful and good, and the event, overall, was very well-organized. To top it all off, the weather was great and the people were all very friendly. Plus, it was, of course, dog friendly! Dogs lined the course and some were even brave enough to run one of the three race events (5K, 10K, or Half). I’m really going to give my running-challenged dog a hard time–he can barely get through three miles and I saw one Yellow Lab run the entire half marathon. I was impressed.

I had a decent finish time, even with the higher elevation and rolling hills, and I felt good the whole way. Very enjoyable race.

Inconvenience #5: I was unable to stay to find out if I was the winner of any of the $5000 worth of donated stuff (had to be present to win), nor could I simply hang out a bit to enjoy the post-race happenings because I had to rush back to the hotel to shower, check out, and return the rental car before my 1:00 flight.

The car rental return went well (thank you, check in lady) but I can’t say the shuttle driver was all that helpful. He neglected to include “Delta” in his announcement that the first stop was for Southwest and Jet Blue flights, so I remained on the shuttle for an extra stop longer than I should have. That was the reason for inconvenience #6–I had to walk quite a bit further than I should have on my achy, tired feet. Instead of saying I put in 13.23 miles–it was more like 16 after I added up the hotel and airport treks. Still, I was happy that I was still okay on time at that point.

from Google images

from Google images

Here’s where I get to reason #3 why I hate the Denver airport. AIRPORT SECURITY!!!!

I travel a lot. I know all the TSA rules about liquids, shoes, laptops, nothing in back pockets, etc. etc. etc. Getting through TSA at any other airport has been pretty much a non-event for me. I do what I’m supposed to, I get through the line rather expeditiously, and life goes on. Not at DEN. Today’s experience was typical of what I’ve previously enjoyed at the Denver airport and the encounter with the TSA Nazi guy actually put me in such a state of frustration that I actually shed a couple of tears as I hurried to make it to the airport shuttle–tears that were most likely brought on by a serious lack of sleep from the night before, the exhaustion from having just run a half marathon, and the stressful state of being in such a rush immediately following the race. But, in all honesty, the way I was treated by the TSA agent was ridiculous and, alone,  justified my response.

My carry-on innocently ambled along the conveyor belt, just as it had going through security in SLC. This time, though, I was informed that an agent had to look through my luggage in more depth. The Blue-Shirt noted, “there’s something sharp in your bag.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “I have a pair of scissors in there, but I’m certain they meet the length requirements.” He opened my suitcase, saw the 3-inch blade scissors that I use for cutting my PT tape and he agreed with my assessment. Seemingly unsatisfied with not being able to bust me for anything, he proceeded to rummage through everything else in my bag too. I hope he enjoyed pawing through my sweaty running gear.

He then pulled out my bag of toiletries–which included the normal items–deodorant, toothpaste, lotion, etc. He suddenly seemed puzzled when he got to more unfamiliar, running-specific liquids–my off brand lube stick, Gu packets, a 5-hour type energy drink that was part of the race swag, and my beloved “Rock Sauce.”

Never heard of Rock Sauce? Think of a more liquefied form of Ben-Gay muscle rub, and you’ve got it.  I’m guessing the menacing skull logo initially caught his attention, but what he really focused on was the “4 oz.” size of the bottle.

Everyone knows that TSA rules only allow liquids up to 3 oz. max. Duh. So, in order to needlessly delay me further, which seemed to be his goal, he informed me that he had to x-ray all of my liquids AGAIN and he would then return. I sat there for several minutes waiting and watching the clock as my flight’s departure time was nearing.

When he returned, he almost gleefully told me he needed to take my Rock Sauce because it exceeded the 3 oz. limit.

He quickly disappeared and I asked another nearby TSA Agent, “What if the amount of liquid in the bottle is less than 3 ounces?” He asked if I was sure, and I responded, “Most definitely.” He faltered, and said I could choose to press the issue with a supervisor, but at that point I was more concerned about being to my gate on time and chose not to argue. I am well-aware of the potential for TSA encounters to go very wrong very fast. That was not a battle I felt like starting.

I thanked the agent for taking the most expensive liquid I had in my bag for no good reason. HUGE INCONVENIENCE because I have to order it online.

So, friends, that is my Colorado race report and I know you are now all feeling much safer in your travels, because I was prevented from bringing home my fancy Ben Gay.


My favorite TSA spoof? Check out the classic 2006 SNL skit about the ban on liquids and gels. Click here. It’s awesome. “Three ounces of liquid can’t blow up an airplane, but four ounces can.”


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