Monday, September 14, 2009

Indian Summer Half Race Report

Well it's been a while since I did a race report as I haven't raced since the Bolder Boulder. The summer training has been weird what with being burnt out, fired up, burnt out, and fired up again, but more often than not, consistent. At the end of all of it I can take away two amazing results: one, a new half-marathon PR bettering my April time by almost 2 minutes, and two an age-group podium finish (2nd)!

This was the inaugural running of the Indian Summer Half Marathon put on by the Boulder Running Company and other great sponsors (of particular interest to me Brooks and Avery). In this case the collective experience of the organizers really made this a well run event even though it was the first running. Saturday I drove up to Boulder to pick up my race packet and was already impressed by the sweet pint glass and restaurant gift card included in the race goodies. My race number was "9" and the lady who gave me the number remarked "no pressure"...nice. In reality even with all of my assertions to others that I was running for fun, I was holding myself to a higher standard. My improvements in my speedwork have been steady through the summer and the leg speed has translated well to faster long runs, I felt I would be able to break my April PR. I definitely had pre-race jitters throughout Saturday night and into Sunday morning but they melted away by the time I hit the starting line.

Not knowing what kind of course support to expect I had studied the course map that morning to keep the turns fresh in my mind. As it turns out the only confusion was when everyone lined up facing the wrong direction at the starting line, but the race director quickly had that straightened out. Unfortunately some runners walked around the starting line, and others just crossed over so it ended up that by the time everyone was facing the right direction I was further back in the pack than I would have liked. The first part of the course is a loop around the parking area, which is kind of tight so it was challenging maneuvering through slower runners for the first few hundred yards. It had taken me longer than expected to pick up my chip and get situated before the race, so I was not warmed up at the start. As a result the first mile felt tough, but I stayed with Todd as planned and he pulled out the first split in 6:44, perfect! At that point it was evident to me that keeping to Todd's pace was not going to happen so I let him go off on his own, resigning myself just to keep him in my sights as long as I could. By the time a few miles had ticked by the field was pretty strung out, but there were a few people around me running similar paces so I was able to keep myself running decent splits, between 6:40 and 6:50. When 7 miles had gone by I could tell that there was very little fatigue in my legs (unlike last week's tune-up) and I knew that I would be able to maintain a strong pace for the rest of the race, the question was how much I could ramp it up. At 8 miles I knew it was time to start my push. I dropped the pace down to the 6:30 range, and started reeling people in. While the first part of the course traverses paved and dirt roads at this point it transitions onto the gravel path that runs around the backside of the reservoir. This makes it a little more challenging as the path snakes around quite a bit and it is not really clear where you are heading next. Throw a few little hills into the mix and the pacing really started to be become difficult. I thought for sure I was slowing down as I was passed by a couple of runners who I had passed before, but my final splits were still consistent so it was likely the cumulative damage of this red-zone effort that made the mental game tough. I was pretty much cooked when I finally entered the finish area, but I caught sight of the race clock as I came in and it read 1:26:52. I decided I was not going to let it get past 1:27 on me and poured it on to get through right at 1:27. The 9 seconds that I had spent getting to the starting mat got me a chip time of 1:26:51.

Apart from the PR and unexpected age group finish (2nd age group, 29th overall, so there were a ton of faster runners but only one in the 30-34 age range) this was a fantastic race. The course is really pretty, running through the farmland of the foothills with views of the Flatirons. The volunteers were great and did an awesome job of directing traffic and manning the aid stations. Post race activities were outstanding with lots of recovery food variety (everything from orange wedges to croissant sandwiches) and of course the essential Avery beer garden! With 392 finishers this year and the stellar Boulder running community (winning time was 1:15:56!!) I think this was a great start for what I am sure will be an awesome race in years to come.

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