Sunday, May 7, 2023

Colorado Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 17; 4th Edition
65.5 miles raced in 2023 races
Race: Colorado Half Marathon
Place: Fort Collins, CO
Miles from home: 854
Weather: Mid 40s degrees and party cloudy

When I had originally signed up for this race, I had a much different plan in mind. But then I DNFd my first ever marathon and with that gnawing away at my psyche, decided to throw in an impromptu marathon a week ago. 

That race's success cleared many of my ills but undoubtedly left me a little bit tired for this half marathon. When I initially threw the Redemption Marathon into the mix, I figured that I would be absolutely decimated for this race. But somehow I felt surprisingly good not only after the race but all week.  My shakeout runs were tragically slow but I figured some of that was me being at altitude from Wednesday on. But when I feel good for seemingly no reason that only means I will simply expect more out of myself than is reasonably smart to do. I’m sure I can look back over about 20 different recaps of races where I said something akin to “just because there’s no reason to believe I should’ve done as well as I hoped doesn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed anyway.” Is it any better if I recognize the insanity?

As one of the sponsors of the race weekend, we were happy to meet and greet runners at the expo and get them excited for the pending launch of Sherpa.  The continued feedback we get from people of all skill levels tells me we have a homerun on our hands here. Cannot wait to let everyone use it!

Race Morning:

I have raced four times this year and three of them have required me to get up at an ungodly hour. This race was no different as even with staying close to where the buses would pick up the runners and take them to the start, I still had to get up at 4 A.M. Just not a good start for Mr. Nighttime Circadian Rhythm. I felt I had done an excellent job getting to bed at 10 p.m. but still didn't fall asleep until after midnight. That said, I woke relatively refreshed. Took a very comfortable bus ride to the start that went by too fast, and then got into the bathroom line basically three consecutive times just trying to kill the hour from when I got there to when the race would begin. 

As time drew near for the start, a director had us all line up at the 13th mile marker. Then, when it was time to get started, we moseyed down the the starting line en masse.I  heard some runners behind me giving each other the business so I joked with one of them that their timing chip wasn't on their shoe. It wasn't because it was attached to our bibs. They still freaked out for half a second. I'm fun to be around in the mornings.

First 5k:

This race course boasts a mostly downhill run, but is rather gradual in its descent for the most part. The biggest downhill section comes in the first 2-3 miles, and I decided to try to take advantage of that the best that I could. My 1st mile went by in 6:39 but felt like a 6:30 effort. I sat back on my haunches for a little bit of the 2nd mile and this netted me a 6:52 mile. I wondered how long I would be able to keep a sub 1:30 pace, and simply decided to see where the day took me. The 3rd mile ending with a 6:56 told me I was going to hold on to the desired pace for a little bit more at least.

In these first three miles, while super speedy runners took off, a couple of less speedy but still fast groups formed. Occasionally one runner would get spit out of one group and join the one behind or one would spurt forward and leave the one they were in. I always enjoy watching these little games within races and wonder what everyone's plan is and how much it changes on race day.

To the 10k:

After the third mile, I was simply trying to get to the 6th mile. From five to six, the biggest uphill of the course was on my mind. But I had forgotten about how the 4th mile also had a little bit of a bump. When I got that 4th mile under seven minutes I felt pretty happy. I sped up a touch on the mostly flat fifth mile as we continued to run on wide open roads. I love a long open road where I don't have to spend  one calorie of thought on where I am turning or if I have to hug a turn. But for the most part, this course had its fair share of long twists and turns. I was always shocked to see how few fast runners seem to know how to run the tangents. I ran every single possible "shortcut" possible and still was having my GPS ping right at the mile markers. All those people running on the long curve outside were only adding more distance to their day. And would undoubtedly say the curse was long.

The climb at mile six did a number on me, giving me a 7:20 for the mile. This was definitely slower than I wanted it to be but not as bad as it could have been. At just over halfway, I was ready for the race to begin.

Onto Mile 10:

I tried to make up for that lost time on the next mile and really pushed it hard, passing a female runner who passed me going up this hill. Unfortunately, I only ran a 6:46 mile and felt a bit of a stitch in my side. I figured maybe I could still hold onto that sub 1:30 but it all depended on how I responded to the last 5 miles. For all intents and purposes, these last five miles are flat with just a net total loss of 100 feet. I will take that over a gain of 100 feet but it was basically imperceptible. As such, the course wasn'tgoing to help me if I was faltering at all.

As we continued running down the road on this partially cloudy, perfectly temperatured, excellent day for racing I was struck once again about how I have seemed to have chosen races that leave me with virtually no spectator support. Don’t get me wrong, the volunteers were great, and the people who did come out I appreciated, but the latter were definitely few and far between. One shouldn't rely on spectators to get you through but it sure helps at times.

When we left the road and joined a bicycle running path at mile eight, I was bummed. Not only was this mile way slower than I expected at 7:13, but the fact that we would spend probably the rest of the run on this bike path was not to my liking. You see, these bike paths have always been the bane of my existence. They mentally challenge me with their twists and turns and quick ups and downs. Somehow they are just extremely difficult for me to excel at. Only fittingly, the 9th mile was the slowest so far at 7:20 and now I was beginning to wonder if I would even run a 1:31. A few runners would pass me here and there as they were able to keep up their pace and I only seem to be slowing. In fact, it was very odd how basically five of the first 7 miles were within seconds of each other and then there was a quick jump up about 20 to 30 seconds. Then that became my new normal with no intermediary slowing down. No gradual reduction. Just a big jump and that was where I stood. As much as I pushed along is bicycle trail I basically ran a 7:15 mile.

To the Finish:

I was hoping that I would be able to pick up the pace over the final 5K because I would be able to smell the barn, but the legs simply weren’t responding. It didn’t help at this juncture we joined the 10K runners who were making their way back to the finish line. Obviously they have every right to run however they see fit as they paid for their race as well. Yet, when you know you’re going to be running up the back of people who are often running two or three abreast on a narrow bike path you spend way too much energy trying did not run into them and not enough energy on your own race. Fittingly, as I maneuvered through runners, one came to a dead stop and there was almost a big ole collision. It would have been my fault even if he was the one who stopped because I was the one approaching the runner, but either way it would have been bad. Fortunately, I side stepped them and continued on.

I had another couple of runners passed me in these last three miles and I hung with them for a little bit, but I simply didn’t have the juice.There was quite a cruel mile hill at the 12th mile as we left the bike path and join the city streets that really suck the energy out of me. But once back on the streets, I found my groove again and was able to run my fastest mile since the downhill at seven. 

Even four right-hand turns in the last half mile didn't stop me from picking up the pace a little bit. I wish I would have picked it up just a smidgen more to get her 1:32, but unfortunately, I crossed the finish of my 116th lifetime half-marathon in 1:33:04. Good enough for 46 place overall and second in my age group, this was quite a stunning turnaround from just a little over a month ago when I could barely walk after my DNF marathon. Now I am disappointed that a week after my first marathon in 3.5 years that I didn't run a stellar half-marathon.

Running sure is a weird sport and one I enjoy continuing to explore its weirdness!

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