Sunday, March 27, 2011

Race Review: Boulder Spring Half

It wasn't perfect, but it was progress! And for a race that came after the long, sick week I had (my nose in that photo isn't red from sunburn), it was pretty satisfying.

I didn't get to hang around for the results (we had a 4-year-old birthday party to attend), and they haven't been posted online yet. But I'm pretty sure I was under 1:57 and I was definitely under 2 hours. I am disappointed not to have run the sub-1:50 that would have indicated readiness to try for a Boston qualifying time in my fall marathon, but I didn't really expect to be that far along at this point. You hear a lot of stories about people qualifying for Boston on their first or second marathons. I'm not ever going to be one of those talented folks. If I manage to do it, it will be tortoise-style: slow and steady, a gradual increase of endurance and pacing skills over months of hard training.

Here's how today's race unfolded:

My number was 1066, the year that William the Conqueror arrived from France and changed the course of British history. I noticed this as soon as I picked it up last Wednesday (and the nice volunteer at the gear truck today noticed it, too). I also decided to wear the "Be Great Today" sticker that Jim at 50after40 sent me earlier this week. While I don't know if I quite lived up to that standard, I felt cool wearing it, an emblem of all the support I get from this blog (thanks Jim!). So between King William and Jim, I had some good karma going.

I woke up at 5:30 after a decent sleep, ate my dry Special K and a banana and then took a quick shower. I don't have a lot of girly girl traits, but I do like to feel clean and I shave my legs every day. I knew I'd feel lighter like this. I also had two trips to the toilet while still at home--and have heard nothing from my gut since! Maybe the lighter eating this week helped. Having a cold really cuts into my appetite (as does tapering).

As with all of my recent races except the Colder Bolder, I traveled to the start with my friend Kathy, who drove up with her husband from Centennial to run. (Her goal was to do 2:10 or better, which she did. Yay Kathy!) It was good to have her there--it kept my pre-race nerves in check, especially when the start was delayed by 12 minutes (I think because of the parking situation). Though it was chilly, we decided we wouldn't need our jackets (a wise decision in the end).

The start/finish area was crowded. In addition to the half marathon, there were also 10-mile and 10-K races on the schedule. Kathy and I were toward the rear of the lined-up half marathon folks, so it took us a minute or two to get across the line once the race started. We wished each other luck and were off. My Garmin, unfortunately, had lost its satellite connection due to the start delay, something I didn't realize until we were already over the timing mat at the start. I fired it up again but it was definitely off.

The first mile was slow as the crowd strung out, but by the crest of the first hill at mile one things had opened up. I saw Beth of Shut Up and Run at the mile two aid station. She was waiting for a runner she coaches.

I kept my music off for the first half of the race as I planned. There was a light headwind, but I've definitely seen worse. At each mile marker, I told myself "Three miles to music....two miles to music....a half mile to music...." I know this course so well that I was autopilot for this entire part, occasionally tuning into conversations around me but mostly just keeping an inner eye on how I was feeling. Oh, and wiping my nose on my left sleeve. There was a lot of that too. I did "come out" of myself when I was passed by a lean man pushing another guy in a wheelchair. Very inspiring! They got a lot of cheers from the handful of spectators along the backroads.

I had my small water bottles, one in each hand, and some pomegranate Jelly Bellys, so I didn't have to stop at the aid stations. When at last I got to the turnaround, however, I did walk for about 30 seconds in order to drink some Gatorade. Then I fired up the music and bore down. Dan, Kathy's husband Eric and my kids were waiting at a corner by then, so I got big grins and cheers from my kids. I tossed my son the water bottle I had emptied and kept pushing. The downhill straight along Niwot Road was quite fun, but I knew I was in for some pain in the last two miles, when suddenly the uphills reappear.

It helped when another wheelchair drew up to me. This one was being pushed by a fit man and woman who traded it back and forth. I stayed with them until the end, passing and being passed by them. My quads and my calves were quite sore by the time I passed mile twelve, and I slowed to a 30-second walk twice before the music and the shame got to me (I think walk breaks are great, but only if you are planning on them from the beginning). When we turned to go into the finish area, I found a kick, passed the wheelchair couple and a few other folks and crossed the line with nothing left.

I paced around in a daze for ten or fifteen minutes, wandering into some of the expo tents but not really lingering anywhere. When I went to collect the gear I had checked, I discovered my voice was strangely constricted. Soon after that I began coughing and hacking like a lung patient. Kathy found me, and we found Dan, Eric and the kids soon after. Dan was worried, because he didn't know about the 12-minute delay at the start and thought I had had a bad race. I was pleased to disabuse him of that notion!

I allowed myself birthday cake at the party and ice cream this afternoon (flavors: Peanut Butter Chocolate and Death By Chocolate--if you're ever in Boulder, go get Glacier Ice Cream). This will be my last such indulgence for a while, as I'm going to embark on the Racing Weight Quick Start beginning tomorrow.

More lessons from the race to come in the next post (which I hope will also contain my actual time). At the very least I know I get to change my personal record for the half marathon!


  1. Glad you got the sticker ... hope it helped! I had a similar experience with a weird Garmin when I was at Utah, if you let it, it can throw you off of your game! Good job on getting through it.

  2. Glad to hear you ran a sub 2 hours! Too bad they don't have a sickness handicap. Perhaps had you not had the cold you would have qualified to qualify.

  3. Congratulations! It sounds like you were amazing. Lots of love, P,K & S

  4. You did awesome!! Congrats!!!!! Keep up the great work. :) Can't wait to hang out with you in September!!!

  5. Congrats on the PR, and such a well-written race report. It took me three half-marathons to break 2 hours, and then five marathons to qualify for Boston. You're attacking it like a pro, and you WILL get there. I'm proud of you for you determination! --Alex

  6. Thanks everybody!! Baby steps....