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.