Saturday night I probably got five hours of sleep. Maybe six. Sunday (race day) I woke up around 3:30am and was awake for a while. This is normal for me the night before a race. I’m always paranoid I’m going to oversleep (plus there’s my insomnia, but whatever). Fortunately, I had slept well Friday night, which is really the key for me.
I was up for good by 5:15am and out the door at 6:10am with all my gear, plus some overnight oatmeal to eat on the way. A cup of coffee was already down the hatch.
This was the first race I’ve ever done where I didn’t have to drive at all. I was picked up and shuttled to the race and back door-to-door. Thanks again to the fabulous ladies who invited me to come along! We had an uneventful drive up to Ft. Collins. In fact, the farther north we got, the more obvious it became that the snow was lighter up there. That was reassuring.
Parking presented a bit of a challenge. I’m not sure if the original parking plans the race had didn’t quite work out or if there were more people than expected, but we ended up in the lot to the old drive-in movie theater, about 0.75 miles from the race start. The extra distance wasn’t the factor — the huge mud puddles were! Our shoes were wet and gloppy the second we got out of the car. So much for starting with dry feet.
We slogged our way to the start and headed to gear check. I was still wearing my ski pants and just really didn’t want to go through the work of taking them off (there was nowhere to sit and with all the mud, well, it just wasn’t going to happen), so I kept them on. I had never run in double pants layers before, but I figured I could ditch the ski pants partway through the race, whenever I was ready for a rest. I actually felt perfectly dressed with them on from a temperature perspective.
We hit up the porta potties (always a necessity) and then huddled at the start. They had delayed the race just a bit, probably because of the parking situation and weather, which worked out well for us or we would’ve been a bit rushed. In the end we waited maybe 20 minutes? Not bad.
The race was small enough that there weren’t waves. We just all massed together and more or less lined up next to the appropriate pacers. I like races like that; simple and no one is edging you aside to try to get to the front of a corral. It’s all chip timed anyway — what’s the rush!?
We started out slowly and it felt so good to get moving and generating some heat. It wasn’t actually that cold (it was 34 degrees) and the wind wasn’t really blowing, so the race conditions were actually pretty nice all things considered. Snow was lightly falling and the landscape all around us was blanketed in white; it was quite pretty.
Right away there’s a big hill. I knew that was the case and yet it still surprised me; it just kept going and going! We ran the first part and then walked the rest. No sense in developing jello legs at mile 1!
I had originally planned to lollygag my way through the race. I figured it would be my slowest half to date given the hills and weather. But a couple of miles in (after finally cresting the first big hill) I decided I’d pick up the pace a little. The hills were the wrinkle; the second one peaked at mile 5. I walked most of it and used the opportunity to eat some pretzels. Despite having eaten my oatmeal and part of a bar before starting, I was already hungry and envisioning scrambled eggs and hashbrowns.
Of course, the best picture of me from the race is the one where I’m walking and eating!
To make up for walking, I jammed down the backsides of the hills. The only problem is that my bladder is not what it once was, especially when running fast downhill! Good times.
The scenery in the first half of the race was pretty. I really wanted to take some pictures but I was afraid I’d drop my phone. The first few miles were right next to the reservoir and then miles 5 and 6 were alongside snow-covered fields dotted with horses and houses/barns and big old trees.
By the halfway point I was starting to feel tired and wondered if maybe my speeding up had been a bad idea. It’s not like I was running fast, but I still had 6.55 miles to go! And I was at the base of hill #3. I walked most of it and ate my shot blocks. (It was much easier to fuel while walking; my hands were too cold even with gloves on to navigate my waist pack while running.)
I still had my ski pants on and honestly had no intention of taking them off. They may have looked funny, but I wasn’t too hot and they weren’t chafing or anything, so I just carried on. (See, doing something new on race day doesn’t always come back to bite you!) I hadn’t even stripped off my jacket. I was obviously warmer than when I started, but I really was layered quite well (for me).
I coasted decently until mile 9 or 10. By then my legs felt really stiff and I had to start playing some mental games to keep going without slowing down. By this point the course had intersected with the same course as the Colorado Marathon half I had done a few years ago, so it was familiar to me. That was both good and bad because I knew exactly how far I had to go.
I think the reason my legs were so spent (besides the hills) was the concrete. I did a lot of training runs this spring on trails and, while I got the necessary distance in, it didn’t quite train my legs the same way. Pounding on pavement and concrete is harsh on the body.
With two miles left I felt like I wanted to collapse. Every step I took was like a hammer driving my legs up into my hips. I really hadn’t expected to feel so beaten up, so it was tough mentally. By this point my cheap Target watch had died (well, it wasn’t dead, but the stopwatch had gotten stuck) and my phone was in my waist pack (I would’ve expended way too much energy to get it out), so I had no idea what pace I was running at. For all I knew it was an 11:30 min/mile. Regardless, I had to slow down.
I focused on the runners in front of me and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I wished I had music to motivate me. I tried to sing a song in my head, but that lasted for about a minute. I would pass people and then they would pass me back. It was mentally and physically challenging. I thought about all the people I know who can’t run and that helped my perspective, a little.
With about a half mile left, someone on the sidelines yelled, “Just one more turn — don’t leave anything out there!” Man, I had nothing left; I was on fumes.
I could hear the cheering at the finish line before I turned the corner. And then I saw the end. It was like nirvana! I dug deep and sped up just a tad. My net time ended up being 2:17:00. Amazingly, even with walking the hills, that time ranks right in the middle of my other half-marathons. Apparently I am a very steady 2:15-2:20 half-marathoner, regardless of terrain and weather. (San Antonio was my one exception. Gah, will I ever run that fast again?!)
The post-finish area wasn’t particularly well arranged. The booths were a bit too close to the finish line and the walkway was a bit narrow for the volume of people. Runners didn’t really have space to spread out. I feel like lots of races get this part wrong. We’ve just run 13.1 miles; we cannot simply stop cold! We have to keep going a bit to stretch out our muscles.
I pretty immediately found one of the women who had started with us; she finished in just under two hours — impressive! So we stood together and I attempted to stretch while waiting for the others to finish. I was so stiff I could hardly move, but I knew I had to. Of course, as my body started cooling down and the sweat started congealing I started to freeze. I had gotten my gear check bag, but there was nowhere to change.😦
Once the other ladies finished we grabbed some post-race food. They were very appropriately serving hot soup; it really hit the spot. There was free beer, too, but it didn’t sound good at all, so we skipped that.
All in all I’m glad I ended up doing the race. I don’t think I’d do it again, but that’s mostly because I like to try new races.
After I got home later that afternoon I really just wanted to relax. Of course, the girls hadn’t seen me all day and wanted to play. They were doing melty beads (in their swimsuits) in the dining room and guess who ended up picking up all the beads that got kicked all over? Yeah, the one with the super sore legs.
Then Shelby had a huge fit because she couldn’t go swimming. (Chris had told her he’d take her, but I got home a little too late to really make it work.) So we had a big lesson in dealing with disappointment. Needless to say, my dream of relaxing by a fire didn’t come true, but I was really glad I had cleaned the house the day before so I didn’t have to deal with it!
Now it’s time to figure out my next race! (Update: I’ve already done that. It’s the Grand Teton half! I also registered for the GoldenLeaf half in September. I think I’ve ticked the box on scenic races!)