|Before the race--the snow was still coming down, the sky was gray, the road was icy! But we were there!|
The night before the Rock Canyon Half Marathon (in Pueblo), I (in Boulder) called my friend Kathy at 6:30 p.m. and suggested maybe we should bag the race.
You see, Pueblo is a 2.5-hour journey from Boulder. A storm, complete with snow and 40-mph winds, followed by frigid temperatures, was the forecast for race morning. I'd had a long day with my kids, whose birthday party was scheduled in Boulder on Saturday 3.5 hours after the time I would probably finish this race. I knew if I missed my kids' party because I'd driven to Pueblo for a race in bad weather that I'd feel like a terrible parent.
I hadn't run that day. You know what that means: cranky pessimism triumphing briefly over my accustomed sunny outlook.
Since I put the picture up there, you know that ultimately I changed my mind and drove to Kathy's place. In her cozy Tahoe we made the rest of the drive down to Pueblo before the storm hit. By 10:30 we were fast asleep in our hotel room as planned. It was a risk. We decided if we awoke to weather that looked so horrible it would require hours to get home, we'd skip the race after all and set out first thing so I wouldn't miss the party.
The risk was still there in the morning. We both woke up well-rested between 6 and 6:15 and checked the weather. Kathy belongs to a tight running group, and her phone was full of texts from her buddies who had been turned back by the storm in the wee hours. But where we were, though the snow was falling, the wind wasn't horrible and the roads looked passable. We decided to race. Kathy agreed to pick up her running buddies' sweatshirts for them (this race offered comfy old-school sweatshirts instead of the now-ubiquitous tech tee--I love mine despite the men's size small). I called Jill, who was actually on her way with her son!
I took my requisite pre-race shower (and afterwards used the hair dryer, which I almost never do in bone-dry Colorado). We bundled up in our best cold-weather gear (not counting my hat, which is a hand-knit one not meant for racing at all; I couldn't find any of my running beanies on Friday) and set out to get our numbers and sweatshirts. That errand was accomplished quickly (after we found the park where the start and finish line were, passing a frightening looking accident on the slick streets on the way). We fueled up at Starbucks, then returned to wait for the 9 a.m. start in the Tahoe. One more bathroom trip, a quick meet-up with Jill (she and her son made it with about ten minutes to spare, so we didn't get a picture) and we were off!
Do you always hope for PRs? I do! Despite the conditions we observed driving over there, I was still fantasizing about a big half-marathon PR (I do like cold weather)....until we actually started running. The first two and a half miles were on park roads. They were flat but slick, basically ice on pavement. The wind, on the portion of the loop when it blew in our faces, was bitter and relentless. Kathy and I stuck together for most of this part. With the footing what it was, we didn't talk much. I watched my feet, which at least had warmed up quickly once we started.
Eventually we left the park and veered down to a paved trail that runs along the Arkansas River. I lost Kathy on a steep little downhill (I found out later she was developing a wind-induced headache that really slowed her down). The wind was fickle. Sometimes it seemed full-on in our faces, sometimes it seemed to be shoving us from behind. The whole thing was relatively flat, and the trail (which ultimately changed to gravel under snow) no longer slick, but I still couldn't muster much speed with that wind.
|Not bad for Colorado! Too bad about the wind.|
I caught up with Jill on a weird little bridge on the loop by Pueblo Dam that finally turned us around near mile 8 (thank you for wearing the bright pink jacket, Jill!). She asked me how I was feeling and I said I wasn't sure. (What I meant was, I wasn't as miserable as I know I could have been, but I also wasn't running as fast as I'd hoped. Hence, the uncertainty.) I was about to ask her the same question when suddenly we felt the bridge bouncing underneath us. It's a disorienting feeling when you've got a rhythm going. We came upon an aid station right after that, and I moved ahead of her. I wondered how Kathy was doing.
The wind was less intense at this point. I had turned on my iPod at mile 6.5. An old favorite ("Goody Two Shoes") and two new-to-me songs came on (both by Pitbull: "Shake Senora" and "Give Me Everything"). This put something that passed for a spring in my step. I managed to pick up the pace just a little. At that point, I hoped to finish this beast under 2 hours, but even that wasn't to be. My final time was 2:01:16, average pace 9:05 miles, good for 19th out of 56 in my age group and 254th out of 558 runners (750 had registered, selling the race out, which gives you an idea of the number of no-shows in that weather).
At the finish line, I tried to wait for Jill and Kathy to cheer them in, but I was too cold. I headed for the Tahoe, sponged off with some antibacterial wipes I had in my purse, changed into my party clothes (yoga pants and the race sweatshirt) and was about to go looking for them again when Kathy arrived. She'd finished slower than she wanted to as well, but was feeling good again. Very quickly we were on the road, Christmas tunes pumping, and in the end I made it to the party in Boulder with 10 minutes to spare. I traded some texts with Jill, who was hilarious about the race and how miserable it was (what she didn't mention was that she finished 8th in her age group--may I please have her base in ten years?! the woman's an animal).
I am really grateful to the brave volunteers and race organizers who turned out for this icy race. I definitely plan to send them a big thank-you email. My biggest thanks go to Kathy!! She's always up for an adventure, she's a great driver (not too fast or slow in whatever conditions) and she didn't mind skipping the post-race festivities to get me back north in time for the party. She earned her baking and her time by the fire that night, in more ways than one. I'm so glad that she'll be my roommate in Houston too.....in just six weeks!