I’m about the recap my version of the 2015 Colfax Half Marathon approximately four [very long…] weeks after the fact. As a rather impromptu race it wasn’t necessarily a huge day for me but I learned a lot, got one heck of a confidence boost in my ability and finish just 20 freaking seconds shy of my half marathon PR so I really want to write about it, if only as a reminder of what I learned. In theory I would have been smart enough to take these lessons and use them during the Steamboat Marathon but…I’m not quite that smart!
After a Saturday full of hiking, storage unit organizing and ice cream eating race morning rolled around way too early…well before the sun popped up above the horizon. I drove into downtown Denver and parked near the Denver Zoo about 90 minutes before the race starts. I forgot how frustrating the logistics of parking is with road races! You have to get there WAY too early just to get access to the start/finish before they shut down all the roads. Luckily my Forester was prepped for an early morning nap and I got another hour of sleep before I pinned on my bib and joined the masses at the start.
Literally, masses! There were so many people! I never want to be someone who polarizes road and trail racing [yea, I totally used to be that person but I’m realizing there is a lot of value to both] but I will say that big road races are so much more crowded that big trail races! Good grief. There were people everywhere and while the race started at 6:30am I didn’t get to the start line until about 6:40am and I was in corral F [it went all the way to corral P and beyond!].
Going into this race I had no big goals - I was running for the “training miles” and to see how my body handled that much time putting in a solid effort on pavement. I had gone so far as to look up my PR [1:53:23] and did a little math on the pace but that’s about it. Jeremy challenged me to a sub-8 pace…which was insanity. Instead I wanted to maintain a sub-9 pace and start out aggressively strong with high hopes for survival.
If you broke that down into actual goals I guess I started the race with this game plan…
A Goal - survive in a condition that would lead to quick recovery
B Goal - run a sub-9 pace that was fairly consistent throughout the race
C Goal - snag myself a PR [sub 1:53:32]
Yup, my goals are a little reversed with my most far-fetched goal being the least important. I hadn’t/haven’t done speed work or consistent road running since…two years ago?…so I had no big expectations. However, I did know that it is entirely possible to shock yourself on race day if you push yourself with a little optimism. That’s what I did…I started out with an effort that felt a bit faster than I thought I was capable of and did what I could to hold on for as long as possible.
Somehow I managed to hang on for a full 13.1 miles…for the most part. I was moving along pretty darn well for most of the race. I was having fun, the other runners + spectators were entertaining and I never had a chance to get bored. The roughest part of the race went down as we were actually running along Colfax, somewhere between mile 10 and 11. It was hot, it got boring and I had to put more effort into my pace than I wanted to. I knew a PR was within reach but I just couldn’t keep my legs going. I kept dropping back into a more comfortable pace.
Those last few miles were a long, drawn out conversation with myself. There was a lot of “shut up, you’re fine!” and “just X more miles, you’ve done that distance faster in the past!” smack talk floating around in my head.
Ultimately, it felt great to be that far into the race, with a potential PR on the horizon, and still enjoying myself. I was running hard, my muscles were working, my feet/tendons were happy and I was actually have fun! It felt awesome to race again! Of course, the last kick hurt, a lot. I swear the finish line just floated further and further away as I chased it down. Looking back…I wish I’d kicked it in just a tiny bit harder. I crossed the finish line and threw myself over the metal finish area corrals, struggling to catch my breath.
A quick glance at my Suunto watch told me I hit 1:53:xx…but what was the :XX?! That’s what mattered, I knew my PR was 1:53 and there was teeny, tiny chance had just pulled a half marathon PR out of no where. Alas, I did not. I was twenty-freaking-seconds short of a PR! TWENTY SECONDS! Good grief! If only I’d fought a little harder around mile 10-11 when I was struggling. I finished with an official total of 1:53:52.
That said, I am really happy with myself and the wonderful stars that chose to align on race day. I had no idea was in good enough shape to run that fast and it was a massive confidence booster to know I had the physical [and mental!] ability to pull off a race like this! Now, if only those selfish stars had aligned last Sunday during the Steamboat Marathon… [up next: the marathon recap]