Rock Canyon Half Marathon

The Rock Canyon Half marathon, put on by the Southern Colorado Road Runners is a great local event with a fun and challenging course and a good end of season race. I hadn't done it in a few years so decided to take advantage of my Pueblo connections and test myself at the 13.1 distance. It's been a while since I ran a half so I was hoping for good weather and fast competition. Well, one out of two isn't bad! There were plenty of speedy women on the starting line, so I am really happy with my 1:29:26 and second place. The woman's winner Ellie Keyser turned a 1:23:13 and was out of sight for most of the race. The weather on the other hand was far from good, with sub freezing temps, gusting winds and enough snow to make sections of course a little slick. I can't thank the volunteers who stood out in that weather handing out water enough. Just running was cold and I was fairly warmly dressed!

My morning was pretty easy thanks to Micheal O allowing me to stay at his house. An easy warm up with a few spare clothes in a bag so I had some options and I was at the staging area in Pueblo's City Park. I finished my "warm up" and decided take advantage of the options I had. SInce my toes were already numb, that ,included wool socks and a nice warm vest. It wasn't super windy then, but I was afraid that the wind might pick up. If it didn't, I could aways unzip my vest. I left my hat on and grudgling changed into my lighter weight gloves. My hands always get warm, so I knew it would only be a few miles of cold. But while I was all bundled up by running standards, there were still plenty of people in "race attire" ie shorts and lightweight shirts. One person was even wearing a tank top and arm warmers! Just nuts, in my opinion.

The field was much bigger then the last time I'd raced in Pueblo. I found a good spot near some other women and waited. I wasn't planning on starting super fast and the thin layer of ice under the snow in City Park affirmed my choice of trail shoes. At the fun, the mass of runners surged ahead - two women were quickly out in front, running faster then I wanted. I settled into a steady but still fast pace along side Connilee and Rochelle. The first two miles are two laps around city park, then we dropped down to the Arkansas river. I got a small gap from the other two, but wasn't moving any higher in the field. The two women were already out of sight along the twisting bike trail. The course had a few inches of snow on the bike path and a little more along side. But the footing was okay and I was able to maintain the pace I wanted. Rochelle and Conillee caught back up about mile four and we ran together for several miles. I took both my gloves and hat off, hoping that the wind would stay light.

But it was not to be. Just after the nature center the course got on a dirt road that paralleled the cliff walls. And those walls formed a wind tunnel, sending the artic wind howling into our faces. It was like hitting a barrier across the course. We all slowed drastically as we fought into the wind for the next mile. Then back into the trees alongside the river. This is the fun part of the course - a double track trail meandering among the trees. I took advantage of my trail running experience and my trail shoes to prize open a bit of a gap from the other two women. The leading men were starting to come back on the trail af that point, so I know I was running well. Up to the dam at Lake Pueblo, then across the carnival bridge. I hate running across it when there are other people. The bridge bounces and throws your foot strike and gait pattern all out of wack. But all part of the charm...

Now I was on my way home. I did some math at the nine mile mark and while my original goal time was out of reach, I would still be able to break 1:30. I just needed to keep the pressure on. With just four miles to go, I picked up the pace as best I could. And then we hit the wind agin Back straight into my face. I actually put my hat back on! But I was able to work through it and still keep up a decent pace. But time was ticking away... I found a few more seconds on the flat bike path after the nature center, hoping it would be enough to make up for the hill looming at the end of mile 12. It was. I made the last turn to home and saw the finish clock tick over to 1:29. A little sprint and I crossed in 1:29:30. I was actually second overall - one of the woman in front of me had pulled out. But at that point, I just wanted to get some warm clothes on! It was a good race under some pretty adverse conditions. Everyone who finished should be proud of them selves. And a huge thank you to all the volunteers who stood out in that cold for hours to give use water. Not an easy job in those temperatures...

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