Super Half!

After two years of nice weather, it was bound to happen. Watching the weather and seeing the cold front moving in, the snow falling and the temperature plummeting, I knew it was going to be an odd race on Sunday for the Super Half Marathon. We got snow Tuesday, then a Chinook wind on Thursday. I was hopeful that we wouldn't have to deal with snow for the race. The weather man proved to be right this time as we woke up to fresh snow Friday with more coming down. Tim B, race organizer assured us that the course would be plowed, but the snow kept falling Friday and most of Saturday. The other issue was the falling mercury - from a week before the race to the day before the race the high dropped from 45 to 20 degrees! Yikes! So when I laid out my clothes (had to go with blue and orange)  I was prepared for the cold. And it was super cold. So to all the volunteers who were there, directing traffic, handing out water or doing results - a huge thank you! I can't imagine being stationary under this conditions. And the Woodland Park HS Pep Band - they came down and played their hearts out, freezing fingers and all. Everyone who helped the race deserves kudos - it takes a lot of work under the best of conditions, let alone a deep freeze with inches of snow.

It was a balmy 8 degrees when I got to the race staging area. Luckily, we were able to wait inside at the Plaza of the Rockies, so we had shelter from the cold. It was pretty funny - all the runners all bundled up, wondering if they were overdressed. Then someone would go outside and come back in shivering. "Nope! Not overdressed!" I ventured outside for my warmup, wanting to check out the course and see which shoes to wear. I'm not sure I've done a warmup for a race wearing my down jacket before! But I was even a little chilly with the down puffy, especially in the shade. I knew it would warm up a little before the start - maybe up to 11 degrees. I had to trust my clothing choices - wool socks, heavy tights and two wool shirts along with my head tube and gloves. Nick was really smart - he insisted that I bring a pair of toe warmer with me. I'd originally argued against them, but after my warmup, those puppies went into my shoes until the start. And I had some toasty toes! I kept the toe warmers even after the race, first in my bra then just holding them. I had gloves on at the start, but my hands usually get too warm with gloves. Taking the gloves off and holding the heat packs was perfect. My hands could breath, but were still nice and warm. Bringing them with me was smart - and keeping them during the race was even smarter. Under those conditions, using all available method to stay warm wad just logical.

The start was low key - a sea of blue and orange on the line, all eager to get going and get warmed up. I started a row back from the line and had a good start. A few words with Conliee, who was doing a workout during the race, then I settled into a solid pace. I knew the times I needed to run for my goal, but was also hesitant about the snow further up the trail. The city had done the best job it could with plowing, but there was a thin layer of ice under the snow in places. Attention to footing was definitely needed - there would be no zoning out and just running. For the first few miles, it was comfortable running. We started right down town, then got on the Santa Fe trail and headed North. An easy out and back course, with a few hills and a mix of pavement and gravel trail. I was cold for the first mile but started to warm up and the sun was nice on my shoulders. The first water station was just before the 5k turn around and I really felt for those volunteers. One of them was holding a water cup and just laughing "this water is frozen solid!" Good thing I didn't need water just that soon into the race. I hope all the volunteers had plenty of warm clothes for standing around in....

This part of the trail was nicely plowed!
Photo - Nick Thelen

I was maintaining right around the pace I wanted for the first five miles and felt pretty good. The footing wasn't great, but I could still get a nice quick stride and smooth turnover. I was starting to look forward to the turn around and finally getting to see where the rest of the woman's field was. I hadn't seen another woman since the start, but knew there were several very fast ladies behind me. And while I've been running a lot this past few months, it's not much compared to what most of them run. But first I had to reach the turn-around. My first inkling that there was someone amiss was when I saw the volunteer with the snow shovel just north of CostCo. Huh. Though the course was plowed - it had been really good for the prior miles. Then I crossed the bridge back over it the west side of Fountain Creek. And I think the city miscalculated how far a half marathon was! All of a sudden, the easy plowed trail was snowed in. There was a faint double track shoveled as best as the volunteers could, but it wasn't much. The footing went to heck and I really had to slow down to keep from twisting an ankle in the deep snow. There went my time! I wasn't as worried about getting caught in the snow since everyone had to run in it. Sure, I was going slower right now, but once I was off, I'd be able to pick up the pace again. It was just frustrating and momentum sucking trying to run hard and fast in five inches of slightly packed powder. Running in the unshoveled sections was even harder. Again, everyone had to run in it, so I really can't complain. And I got my first look at the women's race behind me. I had a good gap - one that would be hard to make up in six miles. But there was about 6 women running close together behind the second place woman. I was happy I wasn't closer to them!
 
On the return trip back to the finish line.
Photo - Anya Inman
 

It was a constant stream of runners heading north on the Santa Fe Trail as I ran south. Ninty percent of them were wearing orange and blue or Denver Bronocs colors. There were a few brave souls decked out in Seahawks clothes, but orange seemed to be the primary color of the day. I was as guilty as the next person - with an orange short sleeved top over my blue long sleeved top. One of the biggest concerns I've had about doing this race was the narrowness of the trail and the possibility for congestion. But I had no issues. Everyone was happy and smiling despite the cold weather. I did however notice that the footing had significantly changed from the trip north. The trail was tracked up and slicker, with traction a little harder to find. Oh well - part of running and racing on a cold winters day! It could have been much much worse. With my goal time well out of reach at that point, it wasn't worth taking a chance. I backed off a little and made sure I was running smart. The miles were clicking down quickly and I was feeling very comfortable. As I approached the Bijou bridge, I saw a guy wearing blue and yellow with a fat bike next to him. Nick had stopped by after his ride to watch the finish! Keeping with the football theme of the race, I crossed the line holding a golden ball. It's a good thing I'm not a reciver or something! I have no clue how to hold a football tightly! I ended up running 1:33:13, good enough for 17th overall. Not bad considering the conditions!

Yeah, football player I am not! How does one hold that thing?
Photo - Nancy Hobbs

This was a fundraiser race for pikespeaksports.us - a local website that supports all kinds of outdoor pursuits. I've been lucky enough to work with Tim and Andy for the Ascent Cycling Series for the last few years, so it was time to give back and support them. Now it's time to return to playing mountain biker - assuming the snow ever melts and I get to ride my bike.....

Comments

  1. Hey, I "accidentally" found this blog. Nice recap! I was a few *cough* runners behind you on Sunday :). Great job, very inspiring, keep it up!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Abby! Anyone who ran in those temps did awesome, regardless of time. It was a fun but hard day.

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