Race #8 for 2011 is checked off: the Heart Center of the Rockies Half Marathon in Loveland, CO. This is my third time running this race and I’ve liked it every time.
This year I was determined to use this half marathon as my long training run for the week. I wasn’t looking to PR and I looked forward to some pleasant scenery and regular snack breaks.
This race is a point-to-point course from the Medical Center of the Rockies around Boyd Lake and finishing in Boyd Lake State Park. I’ve enjoyed this race in the past though thinking the middle miles (straight north on a county road for 4 or 5 miles) were somewhat dull. This year, the middle was routed through a neighborhood providing a view of the east side of the lake and a chance to do more than grind out several seemingly endless straight miles.
The morning was crisp and clear – 32 degrees on the car thermometer, light breeze – good conditions for a long run.
Parking was easy at the medical center and I had plenty of time for the porta potty, gear bag drop and warm up. While waiting to get my packet, a woman in line ahead of me mentioned she had come from South Dakota just for this race as there aren’t any in the wintertime there. She said it was an easy 6 hour drive and I blinked. So far, I haven’t left Colorado for a half marathon except for one in Wyoming a few years ago. But I have traveled quite a bit for marathons.
Last year for this half marathon they had us start across the road from the medical center near Equalizer Lake and I crossed over to do some warmup jogging. Sitting in a tree at the edge of the lake was a bald eagle, unflustered and eyeing the geese out on the ice. I did eventually notice the start was going to be back in the parking lot and jogged back to get in line. The race started on time and I set off nice and easy.
There were 4 aid stations with water and Heed and the post race food is a pancake breakfast put on by the local boy scout troop. There were also orange slices and bananas.
The first (approximately) 5 miles are a lap and a half around Equalizer Lake and Houts Reservoir on mixed concrete path and gravel trail. The recent snow and sluggish melt off left some icy areas and some areas of packed and crunchy snow. I’m not a purist and I believe having to negotiate awkward terrain is good training and keeps me from being complacent. I sure don’t want to slip on ice, however, and there were a few quite fast strides to keep from taking a digger. I probably looked like the old style cartoon character with legs spinning and forward speed nil.
Once we exited the natural area, we headed north on County Road 9 and I resigned myself to a long uphill grind. Just as I was toying with the idea of walking for a while, a woman came alongside and we started talking. Turns out we were close in age and number of marathons run and both of us were looking on this half as winter training. As we were comparing running history she mentioned she had enjoyed coming to this race without worrying over the details much and then she said, “I don’t respect the half marathon distance anymore after running several marathons.” My first thought, Wow – that’s arrogant, was quickly overwritten with my realization and admission, “I know! Neither do I!” She then mentioned that she hadn’t brought anything to eat or drink during the race – and I allowed as how I hadn’t, either. We agreed that people do train for this distance – and certainly neither of us were fast – but the distance didn’t worry us. (As a personal aside I want to clarify what I meant. 13.1 miles is a long distance to run. It takes some effort and it does take some conditioning. I’m always pleased to finish a half marathon within my target time and I do feel like I accomplished something. What I meant is that I’m not worried about getting overly hungry or thirsty and don’t feel the need to carry emergency supplies.) We matched pace for about 2 miles before she slowly pulled ahead. That interlude kept me running when I might have settled into a walk and, as a result, I was doing well in my time frame.
Somewhere around mile 11 I realized my glutes were a bit numb. This may have been in part due to the chilly air but I also think I was running out of energy reserves. I may not ‘worry’ about carrying extra food for this distance but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have benefited from some. I realized I was likely to be sore in a couple of days from this but by then I wasn’t about to stop running.
With 200 yards to go to the finish, the path takes a hairpin turn to the left and I caught a glimpse and an earful of what was coming up behind me. Three perky young girls running along like some highschool pep squad were speeding up – planning to pass me! Huh. Well… if looks could kill, they’d be a few small piles of ash blowing in the wind. I felt my lip curl in a snarl and I knew: they’d pass me over my dead body. And so I called on an empty tank – I actually heard a sucking noise – and ‘sprinted’ that last 200 yards. I say sprinted. A cat moving at napping speed could most likely have beat me – but they didn’t.
And yes – I’ll be paying for it. The legs are already tired and I know how they’ll be on Monday. But I did it.
This year was the second year they gave a finisher’s medal and this time it was shaped like a heart. Bling!