Monday, April 18, 2011

Horsetooth Half Marathon (Race Recap)

Fort Collins, CO
Sunday, April 17
Half Marathon #32
Colorado Half Marathon #4
Weather - Sunny, Warm (upper 40s), Windy (later in race)

My friend Rose that L and I stayed with in Washington DC had plans to be in Colorado for the weekend. She is also planning on doing a half in all the states, but on a longer timeline. She asked if we would be interested in running the Horsetooth Half Marathon with her in Fort Collins. L decided not to do it after looking at the elevation profile. I, meanwhile, had signed up without even thinking about that. (More on this later :D )

Anyway, my friends had arrived late Thursday night, but we hadn't met up yet since had just done the whole Kansas craziness. Rose's husband does martial arts and had a fight on Saturday night in Denver. We had gotten back to late to attend, and they were planning on staying at our house when they were done.

Well, by the time we had gotten back from Kansas, we were EXHAUSTED. I stayed up and watched a movie with A, and then finally decided I would nap until they got to our house (they were expecting to be late, like midnight-ish). I asked J to wake me up if I missed their text. They arrived later than they thought, around 12:45. We made quick plans to be out the door by 6:30-6:45 (they had driven up to pick up our packets the day before so that was one less thing to worry about), and I headed back to bed.

6:00 came SUPER early. I was still really tired, and I was sluggish getting ready. I had decided to keep my ankle taped for this race to see if that would help, so it was wrapped and compression socked the night before. We had a breakfast of PB and bagel before heading out the door (A was going to spend the day with Grandpa). Rose and I headed up on the hour long drive to Fort Collins.

The drive went well until we got about a mile from the start line at Hughes stadium. They only had one entrance open, and there was a lot of traffic. We were able to get in and parked about 18 minutes before the race was supposed to start. Enough time to grab gear, apply sunscreen, and stop to use the bathroom.

Now. About that elevation profile.

Yep. That's a 9.2% grade you see there...
So if I wasn't already crazy enough to be doing yet ANOTHER back to back, Rose had managed to pick one of the hardest looking courses I have ever seen. According to the race website, it is rated as one of the hardest half marathon courses in the country. Goody :D

I mean, look at the back of the race shirt! 
We had over to the start line, and see these awesome people dressed like... (we assume) Playboy bunnies! We aren't sure where the dude was planning on attaching his race number. I never saw them on the course. They must have been fast.

Crazy start line
Me and Rose at the start
They had said that they were going to delay the start of the race 10 minutes. Not sure what the reason was, but people started surging forward sooner than that. Rumor is that the elites started just a few minutes earlier. We crossed the line only about 5 minutes late.

The most hilarious thing said on the race website is to "take it easy the first two miles." I'm sorry, but I have no intentions of trying to sprint up those two monster hills in the beginning. Haha. Right off the bat, we are starting a pretty descent ascent:

I am definitely taking it easy, and moving at a slower pace than I have EVER had to run. Especially at the beginning. Here is a view of the first monster hill. I am already taking my first walk break. My Garmin says .54 miles and I'm just over 6 minutes in. Crazy. This first part is going to take FOREVER.

Luckily the first hill pretty much stops right after going around that corner. The course flattens out just a bit, and we end up at the start of the first descent on to the flat section of the road, one of the dams for the reservoir. I can see the downhill is going to be a great change, but had a take a quick picture of the sign:

Cruising down the hill, and straight ahead, you can see the 9.2% grade hill known as "Monster Mountain." Looks tragic, doesn't it? Keep in mind that we are also more than a mile above sea level. This, my friends, is tough.

Running across the dam, with a nice view of the reservoir. To my right there is a nice view of Fort Collins and northern farm country, but I didn't get a picture of that. My legs are feeling surprisingly good, and no pain from my ankle at this point. I know that I'm barely a mile in, and the course is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Right from the base of the monster hill, I can tell I am going to be doing a lot of walking. The "run/jog" pace I have at the base? Around 12:30 min mile. Honestly, not worth the exertion to try to run the whole thing. I turn around to get a picture of the reservoir behind us. Yep. You can almost everyone is walking:

And in front of me? The same thing. I'm only about 1/3 of the way up the hill. The madness continues around the corner.

About 2 miles in, and we are finally done with the two biggest/longest inclines of the race. The first aid station is not until mile 2.5. I am HOT. The sun is beating down and I am already sweating like crazy. I had to stop at the aid station to also fill up my water bottle. There are only 4 aid stations on this course, and I can tell I am going to need more fuel than that.

Nice view of the reservoir
The next hill comes around mile 3.5. I have to walk quite a bit on this one also, but do a walk/run based on the cones in the middle of the road. I try to walk for two and jog for two. I actually end up passing a few people doing this.
AWESOME downhill!
My legs are actually feeling pretty good on the downhill, but I am trying not to go TOO fast, as that usually makes my quads ache.

We are only running along the reservoir for the first 4.5 miles or so of the course. Then we have another nice downhill before arriving at the second aid station, around mile 4.8. The course flattens out a bit, and we are running on a nice country road. There are even a few people spectating way out here! Crazy! I am running a pretty good split, and coming up at one hour I am VERY pleased to see that my pace for the first hour averaged about 5.6 mph. Crazy considering how much I had to walk with those hills!!

The course loops to head back into the city, and that's about when the wind started to pick up. Not crazy wind like we had in Kansas, but enough wind that I kept checking to make sure I hadn't lost my headband. We are running through cute farm country, and then we come up on mile 7 and yet ANOTHER hill. More walking, and get to the top and this is where I start thinking... "It's all downhill from here." I had forgotten that there was another small hill before mile 8, but considering what I had just been through, it was shorter and a small enough grade that I actually ran the whole thing. NOW for the "downhill." Not sure of what the temperature was at this point, but I was hot. My hair was SO wet that I had to take it out of my ponytail and wring it out. GROSS! (I actually did this a few times later in the race too).

The next aid station didn't come until about mile 8.6 and I definitely needed it! I had been feeling pretty good up until this point, but I was starting to feel fatigued. My ankle was still feeling ok, which was definitely a good sign.

Coming up on mile 9
We crossed a super long wooden bridge, then ran past a place called "Butterfly Woods." Which was weird because there weren't really any trees. Or butterflies. And more farm country.

The course LOOKED flat, but it actually felt mildly uphill (even though it wasn't) and felt harder than I imagined it would.  We started running on a cement path through some open space and I was taking brief (maybe 45 second long) walk breaks at the mile markers. I was pretty surprised by how hard this course was at this section. Maybe I was expecting the slight decline to feel easier.

Another walk break at mile 10. The course is uninteresting at this point. The open space becomes wooded on one side and an industrial junkyard on the other. I'm expecting the next aid station to be at mile 11 so I decide to save my walk break until I get there. It is actually closer to mile 11.4 and I stop a bit longer to refill my water bottle. I imagined briefly I'd run to the end since I was barely 1.5 miles away. But it still felt hard, and I still felt a little tired. So even though I was aiming for a sub 2:15 (yes, you see that right) I walked a bit at the mile 12 marker.

I decided to push the last mile the best I could, and as usual, I was pretty psyched to see the marker at mile 13. I was pretty happy with my finish crossing the line!

Official Time - 2:15:23
Official Pace - 10:20
Overall - 913/1443
Division - 61/129
Garmin Time - 2:15:22
Garmin Distance - 13.16 miles
Garmin Pace - 10:17
Mile 1 - 12:26
Mile 2 - 11:54
Mile 3 - 9:54
Mile 4 - 9:45
Mile 5 - 10:22
Mile 6 - 8:58 (Cruisin!!!)
Mile 7 - 10:17
Mile 8 - 9:51
Mile 9 - 9:52
Mile 10 - 10:05
Mile 11 - 10:03
Mile 12 - 10:19
Mile 13 - 9:58
Mile 13.1 - 8:23

**Of note. I actually did not have to stop and use the bathroom this time. LOL**

I walked through, got my water and pint glass (AWESOME!) and waited at the finish line for Rose. She is from DC, which is about 0 elevation, and I knew this course would be tough for her. She looked good crossing the line!

The wind had really picked up and it had cooled off a bit. But we still wanted our post race food, catered by Texas Roadhouse!
And since the finish line was at the New Belguim brewery, there was beer too (in my new pint glass!)

The drive home felt SUPER long. I was tired, that's for sure. Picked up A at my parents house, then headed back to the house for some much earned relaxing. Did I mention that Rose's husband is an AWESOME cook?? Look what he made us for dinner:

So ends another crazy race weekend.


  1. Wow! That was HARD!!! I think you are more than earned the kabobs and beer. Nice job! I'm in pain just reading about it!

  2. great recap- can't imagine having that elevation profile be on the 2nd day of a back to back- way to hang in there. I'm sure the food was a nice reward :)

  3. WOW Great job on a double header weekend and the hills must of been killer on those legs or at least a butt killer. Awesome on the beer and pint glass swag.

  4. that is tough!! what an awesome finish line spread! much better than bottled water and a granola bar :) i love that the medal has the elevation profile. awesome job on a very hilly course and a back to back race weekend (with a TON of travel). superwoman.

  5. Awesome! I've been following your blog and didn't even realize that was you when I complimented the two of you on your skirts before the race. I was in the Cheetah Pool Running Skirt. Great race recap! Love all the pics.


  6. I ran this exact same race! And just like you, I'm on a mission to run at least a half marathon in all fifty states -- but I'm not running a race everyweekend like the warrior you are. Very impressive, indeed. I loved the recap with real-time pictures. I don't take pictures mid-run, but here's my recap of the event anyway:



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