Race Report: Pueblo Rock Canyon Half Marathon
For the second year in a row I got up at 5:15 on a Saturday morning and drove 2 hours to race in the Rock Canyon Half Marathon in Pueblo. I’m so glad I did. The Southern Colorado Runners put on such an excellent race. This year the fee went up to $25, but you get a great sweatshirt, abundant food/drink before and after the race, plentiful water/gatorade stations during the race, and an excellent well marked (and measured) course. Results are nearly instantaneous, and are posted on the website the same day. Race photos are posted very quickly as well. They also start the race at 9:00 to allow those of us driving on race morning a little extra time to get there. A+!
My race went really well. I learned my lesson from last year (report) and didn’t dress so warmly this time, just shorts and a long sleeve shirt. 30 degrees at the start, and upper 40s at the finish. The weather could not have been more perfect.
Last year, I ran 1:41 and finished 52nd OA and 9th in my age group. This year I knew I could easily get down under 1:40. The question was how far. I have been training hard for the past few weeks and didn’t let up prior to the race, so I knew my legs wouldn’t be optimal. Two weeks ago I did a 20 miler running from home to do a 10 mile trail race (1:12) and then running back, last week I ran a demanding 17 miler on trails (2:31) near my house, then two days later (Monday of this week) did another 18 miles (2:09) in California while there on a business trip. Lots of medium distance runs were sprinkled in between, but no real speedwork.
My legs felt flat, no spring at all. Everything else felt great, so I told myself tired legs were no reason to run slow and tried to give it a good push. It took me about 4 miles to get into a groove, we hit the start of the dirt road/double-track section and I dropped my pace to around 7:00 min/mi and held it there the rest of the way. Despite being tired, I didn’t ever feel like I was running ragged or about to crack. I quit looking at the pace on my watch and my heart rate and just ran by feel. It felt good to run like that.
The course seemed tiny! I kept recognizing landmarks and thinking – I’m here already?!? It seemed HUGE last year. I can’t believe how much having raced before on the same course helped me. I always knew exactly where I was and what was coming up, which can be tricky on this course because of the dirt, rock, asphalt, and concrete surfaces, loops on both ends, tight and twisty sections, and long straightaways.
I passed a couple of young guys (prob from the academy or Fort Carson) around mile 11 and got a booming “GOOD JOB, SIR!” in unison as I went by. It made me smile as I thought they had probably been encouraged to say that whenever they got passed; good-natured punishment for being overtaken by an old guy, perhaps? I told them to hang on and we’d get ‘er done. They stuck with me for about a mile before dropping off a little.
I had been running hard, but still somewhat comfortably up to this point. Now I gave it everything and basically turned myself inside-out. I came across the line and thought I was going to projectile vomit all over everyone! Good thing that feeling passed quickly. 1:34:10 was the result. Seven minutes off my time from last year!! I was so happy to see that. Especially on junky legs. I figured I must have been sandbagging last time, but my 178 average heart rate from that race said otherwise. It had been a good effort. Today’s average was 175. Good and steady.
The crazy thing is, taking 7 minutes off my time in a smallish (500 finishers this year vs. 350 last year) half marathon only moved me up 3 spots. From 52nd to 49th. And the exact same result in my age group – 9th. Only in Colorado! This area is stacked so deep with fit/fast people it’s ridiculous – in a good way! I think the nice December weather brought out the speedsters this time around. The winner’s time was 1:17 for both years.