Horsetooth Half

It’s been 12 years since I’ve run a road half marathon. To be honest, it’s the race that scares me the most. It’s short enough that you have to run really fast, but it’s long enough that it will hurt a lot to do so. Of course, April’s Horsetooth Half is not a typical road half marathon. The two big hills in the first two miles make for 600 feet of climbing. It’s a pretty brutal way to start a pretty brutal race.

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Colorado kept things interesting by dumping a few inches of super wet snow on us overnight. The course was plowed, but there was a lot of water out there. My friend Stephen drove to my house and we ran over to the start line as a warmup.

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Photo by Melissa

That would be the last time I’d be in front of Stephen that day. He went on to win the race. It was his first half marathon.

The race was delayed a bit on account of traffic backups. Once we got started I eased into the first climb, with at least 30 people ahead of me. By the top of the first climb I was closer to 15th place. 7:16 for the first mile.

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Photo by The Coloradoan

Next came the harder climb. 7:31 for the second mile. Once over the top came a nice gradual downhill and I really ramped up the pace, passing a few more people. Things were going well. I did tempo runs on this hilly road all winter long, so I felt well trained for this part of the race.

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Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

Down the steep hill at the north end of Horsetooth Reservoir I started to ease up a bit and the guys I had been running with pulled away from me. One more guy caught up with me and passed me around Bingham Hill.

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Photo by Monnier Photography

Finally, I reached the easy part of the course. The last 5 miles are a very gradual downhill on the Poudre Trail alongside the river. This should have been where I really excelled. Every time I pushed the pace up to where I thought I should be I was very uncomfortable. As soon as my concentration broke I slowed down 15-20 seconds per mile and felt like I could run all day. Then I’d speed up again. Then I’d slow down again. I spent very little time training to run that kind of pace, and the lack of training really showed. I just couldn’t run fast.

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Photo by Melissa

A couple of guys passed me on the finishing straight. I finished 13th place overall, 12th man, 1st 35-39 (old) man. My time of 1:24:13 was technically my fastest half marathon race (on a hilly course at elevation), though I actually ran 13.1 miles of last year’s Loveland Marathon in 1:20:34 (but that was entirely downhill). It was good, just a bit slower than I thought I’d run. But I’ll take it.

Run Through Time

The Run Through Time Marathon in Salida, CO is kind of a big deal in this part of the country. In mid-March it’s really the first long distance trail race of the year. It seemed like everyone I knew was doing it. Melissa really wanted to go to Monument Valley the following weekend, and since she was injured there was some talk of me doing that race instead. Fortunately her injury healed up, so she was able to do the race she really wanted. And at the last minute I was able to jump into this marathon in Salida.

All my best marathons happen with when I decide to run them at the last minute.

I scouted out a few places to camp the night before the race. Being mid-March with sub-freezing temperatures at night, one would think there wouldn’t be much competition for camping spots. But in Colorado there’s always competition for camping spots. I really had no idea what to expect. Complicating matters was the fact that we arrived to a campground along the Arkansas River after dark and we had trouble finding our way around. We eventually made it to a campsite. In the morning we discovered it looked like this:

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On the way to the race we were treated to a glorious view of the sunrise hitting Mt. Shivano (14,235 ft).

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Once at the race I saw what seemed like every single person I know in Colorado. The course started with 2-3 flat-ish miles near town before heading up into the mountains.

Photo by Melissa

The start was fast and the competitors spread out pretty quickly.

Photo by Melissa

Will ran the kids race.

Photo by Melissa

After 5 miles of up and down (more up than down) the climbing started in earnest. I felt like I may have been struggling early on, but once I hit the steep part of the climb people started coming back to me. I passed two friends who had started out faster than me.

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Photo by ???

I hit the halfway turnaround at the high point on the course (~9,000 ft) feeling ready to rip the descent.

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Photo by ???

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The way back down the mountain went well for a while. Then we turned off the nice wide Jeep road and onto a twisty, freshly cut mountain bike trail. I had to slow quite a bit. There were a few places with deep snow where I had to stop and look around for a while before I spotted the trail. I thought for sure a ton of people would catch up and pass me at any moment, but that never really happened. There was one person who passed me on the way down and it turned out to be a guy I knew. The trail got easier with about two miles of downhill left. The marathon runners merged with the half marathon runners at that point, so I had to do quite a bit of passing in the last two miles.

Of course, it couldn’t be easy. On a switchback I happened to see my friend Pete just behind me and closing fast. I had to haul ass down the rest of the trail to stay ahead of him to the finish line.

Photo by Melissa

Photo by Melissa

My time of 3:47:40 made this my fastest trail marathon ever (just barely). I had a few minor problems, but things mostly went well for me. I did the race in the midst of a heavy month of training with essentially no rest before or after (this wasn’t an A race), yet I managed to run pretty strongly.

Running in 2015

I got way behind on my training log, so I hadn’t actually seen this until just now. Notably, December 2015 had my highest mileage day, week, and month. Ever.

Month Workouts Total Dist Avg Dist Total Ascent Avg Ascent
January 27 274.15 miles 10.15 miles 34486.2 feet 1277.27 feet
February 10 86.31 miles 8.63 miles 12141.1 feet 1214.11 feet
March 12 57.27 miles 4.77 miles 12320.9 feet 1026.74 feet
April 12 96.01 miles 8. miles 14028.9 feet 1169.07 feet
May 17 128.92 miles 7.58 miles 19814.3 feet 1165.55 feet
June 15 183.07 miles 12.2 miles 28361.2 feet 1890.75 feet
July 24 281.46 miles 11.73 miles 43619.1 feet 1817.46 feet
August 26 252.57 miles 9.71 miles 29024.9 feet 1116.34 feet
September 22 167.85 miles 7.63 miles 15629.9 feet 710.45 feet
October 25 184.11 miles 7.36 miles 14208.3 feet 568.33 feet
November 27 211.72 miles 7.84 miles 36867.1 feet 1365.45 feet
December 20 285.14 miles 14.26 miles 10399.6 feet 519.98 feet
Total 237 2208.57 miles 9.32 miles 270902. feet 1143.04 feet

Running 2015 12