Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Black Hawk trail half marathon (Race Recap)

Sunday, July 18
Golden, CO
Half marathon #
Weather - Sunny and warm

I volunteered at the ERS Westminster Trail half marathon back in April and got a comp entry to a future race. Initially, I picked Snow Mountain Ranch since I expected to be running Vermont 100 the weekend of Black Hawk. When Vermont cancelled, I opted to run Black Hawk - it's a lot of climbing, so I figured it would be good training for Bigfoot.

Ben opted to not sign up, so I was going to be running solo. Even though I had mapped it out the night before, I managed to get out the door about 10 minutes later than planned - which is not a good idea for this race since parking is so limited.

Either way, there was no traffic on the drive and I managed to get a parking spot on the road (not the lot) and had just enough time to get my bib and use the bathroom before it was time to start. They opted to do a few wave starts of about 25 runners each to keep the congestion down. I had no idea what my body was going to feel like doing after covering so many miles, so I started in the last group of folks.

Unbeknownst to me (because I guess I didn't read the pre-race emails, nor did I listen to the RD at the start line, haha) the course was going to be done in reverse. I've done the half three other times and the 10K once, and we've always done the loop counter-clockwise. You wouldn't think it would make that much of a difference doing it the other direction, but it really was a lot harder in my opinion.
We started up almost immediately. Even though I had intentionally started towards the back, I was not the last one, so I was very conscious of my pace. Right of the bat, I felt like shit. My calves were insanely tight - to the point of being painful. I obviously had no intention of running the climbs, but even hiking briskly didn't feel great. I didn't enjoy being in the conga line. The same little spur where we have gone off track in the past got a bunch of folks on the way out, so in addition to them adding mileage, we all had to wait while they scurried back up - since the people closer to the front were supposed to be the faster ones anyway. I wasn't really sure what the course was like since I hadn't looked in advance, but when we took a turn down to the first aid station, I knew I could at least jog that part. I did manage to pass a few people in this section. I didn't stop at the aid station at the bottom, other than to grab a package of Honey Stingers.


Nothing improved from here. I thought that the nice section of downhill at an easy jog pace might loosen up my legs. It didn't. Things got even worse from here. I was wondering how stupid it might be to just turn around and go back to the start. I mean, people DNF short races too, right? This was awful. It was sunny, it was warm, I was sweating like I had been sprinting. I couldn't believe how hard this felt. The climbing seemed to go on FOREVER. We arrived at the cute lake I always take pictures of, and I remembered how nice it was to run by this and have a few miles of downhill. Sigh.
Climbing continued up, then we had a short out and back (which we actually had in the past as well, but it was much further in the race previously). I had actually been listening that the next aid station wasn't until mile 8.5 and I was wondering if there was any way I would even be able to make it that long. Even though I had down this route (in reverse) before, I was having a hard time remembering where the trail actually went. We came to the section where we had to go up the sweeping switchbacks which are a blast to come down and NOT super fun to hike up. I had to actually pull over on the side of the trail a few times here to catch my breath. At this point I was wishing I had looked at the course info to see how much gain there was actually supposed to be now, because it certainly seemed like we had been climbing F O R E V E R.
I was happy, briefly, when we got to the top, because it was cooler and because I knew the downhill was coming. The downhill, however, was pretty steep, so I wasn't able to blaze down like I normally can. Plus, my legs were burned out from all the climbing, so it was more gingerly hopping down the trail and trying to stay upright.
We entered into the pretty area by the river that I've always enjoyed coming up in years past. I had never done this section going down, and I didn't care for it. I don't know if it was the time of day, but it was really hard to see all the roots and rocks and I felt like I had to go a lot slower through here than I would have liked. I did actually manage to pass a few people coming through here, although that would be short lived when we had another big climb coming out of there. When we finally got out of that section, we were at the part where we would be on an exposed double track. I remembered this section from the beginning of every other year. 
It was SO hot. I knew we had an out and back that was probably close to three miles. Hit the second aid station, and friend Pete was working. I didn't stop long at this station either, just filled up my bottles. I was able to run the downhills and made note of how miserable everyone looked on the way back up. I just felt so incredibly defeated. Came to the big climb out to the turnaround and I kept having to stop in the shade to rest. How the hell am I going to do Bigfoot? How am I still so horrible at climbing? Why why why???? Ugh. Finally hit the turnaround, and I walked a bit with a gal on the climb out to the aid station. I tried to run a bit when I could - I was just SO SICK OF BEING OUT ON THIS COURSE.
I thought I knew where the course was going, but then we somehow ended up on a trail I had never been on out here. It seemed like it wouldn't be that bad, but then we had another grueling climb around 11.5 miles in. FINALLY we got to the intersection where we had originally gone down to the first aid station and I really did know that it was actually all downhill from here. Finally. I had absolutely nothing left, so what I did was a pathetic run at best. Thankfully, the course "only" measured 13.25, and not the rumored 13.5. SO HAPPY TO BE DONE.

Garmin Time - 3:33:15
Garmin Distance - 13.26 miles
Elevation Gain - 3,090'
Official Time - 3:33:08
Overall Place - 108/127
Gender Place - 37/49
Mile 1 - 18:50
Mile 2 - 12:04
Mile 3 - 17:06
Mile 4 - 16:36
Mile 5 - 15:53
Mile 6 - 18:11
Mile 7 - 14:49
Mile 8 - 16:09
Mile 9 - 13:10
Mile 10 - 17:05
Mile 11 - 17:50
Mile 12 - 19:02
Mile 13 - 13:30
Mile 13.25 - 11:45
No, I did not place in my AG. I think I placed about 6th from last
Alison, Maureen and Me
Maureen and Alison were hanging out by the red barn waiting for me - apparently I took took too long, lol. We stayed for a few minutes - ERS was finally able to have food again! They didn't have a BBQ like usual, but they at least had beer and seltzers, which was nice. I even had a chocolate milk (for like the third time ever after a race).

Thoughts:
  • I really do/have liked this course. I did NOT like the course done in reverse, at all. Normally I enjoy myself at least most of the time, this race, I did not.
  • Medal is cute - not as big and blingy as years past, but I'm fine with toning it down a bit.
  • Shirt is cute, although I didn't get one. They usually sell them for $5 as an add on after the race, or I think you can pay extra at registration for one, but the last thing I need is more race shirts.
  • Will I run this again? Probably, I already gave my feedback on the course to the race director, and sounds like I was not alone in my thoughts!

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