I ran the Crossroads Half Marathon this morning in Fort Collins and it went better than I expected. I signed up for the race back in May or June when I decided to run the Denver Marathon. I knew that running a half a month out from the marathon would be a good check of my fitness and tune up for the marathon. I had planned to have been running focused marathon training with tempo runs and track intervals following my recovery from the Grand Mesa 100, but after my DNF and decision to run Lean Horse, my training plans changed and I did almost no speed work. In the three weeks since Lean Horse I have been taking days off and running easy 3-6 mile runs only, so I had no expectations of being able to run any kind of fast time at the half. My plan was to go out at a comfortable 7 min pace or slower and see how I felt after a few miles and go from there. A time of 1:35-1:40 sounded reasonable and would still be a good marathon tune up.
I woke up feeling alright this morning, ate a waffle, drank two cups of coffee and drove down town for the start. It was a cool, foggy morning that felt really good for a run. I saw a few friends at the start, jogged a good warm up, ran a couple strides and lined up for the start. I went through the first mile in 6:24 feeling pretty good, but worried about how this fast starting pace would affect me later. I ran miles 2-9 pretty steady in 6:38-6:50 per mile. I was definitely pushing, but I felt reasonably strong and hoped to keep it going through the final miles. A sub 1:30 finish looked very possible if I could just maintain the pace. I went through the 10K mark in 41:58 which was faster than my Bolder Boulder time this year. After the first 4 miles through neighborhoods around New Belgium, the course turned est on to the Poudre Trail and followed in out to the intersection with Spring Creek. I have run these paths many times and felt very comfortable cruising along at a steady pace.
My legs started feeling heavy in the middle of mile 10 going through Edora and Spring Parks and my pace fell to 6:58. We turned off the Spring Creek Trail on to Remington just before mile 11 and I knew I was slowing down. I tried to keep pushing knowing that I just need to keep the pace under 7 minutes for 2 1/2 more miles to go under 1:30. I hit mile 11 in 7:14, my slowest mile of the day, and started to lose the will to push for the sub 1:30 finish. Mile 12 was 7:08 and I tried to ramp it up for the last 1.1 miles. There was a little down hill coming in to Old Town and I was able to step up the pace a little, but I didn't have a lot of kick left. Mile 13 beeped at just under 7 minutes and I didn't look at the total time as I crossed Jefferson towards the finish. I pushed to finish strong, but I didn't think 1:30 was possible and there was no one close enough in front of me to try to catch. I ran in to the finish strong, but controlled and hit the stop button - 1:30:06. I was frustrated with coming so close to 1:29:xx and missing it. I'm sure I could have taken 7 seconds off my time somewhere, but I didn't. On the other hand, I did run faster and stronger than I thought I could with an average pace better than 6:52 per mile. I have run 15+ half marathons, and never had a bad one. It seems to be the perfect distance that is not too long yet not long enough to require a really fast pace.
By the finish, the sun had come out and it was a beautiful fall day in Fort Collins. I grabbed some water and a bagel and cheered on the finishing runners. Cat from the trail runners came by before long pushing a running stroller with one of the kids supported by Dennis' Athletes in Tandem organization.
The post race at the park was warm, sunny and friendly. I talked with some friends about their races and the beautiful weather, cheered on some more finishers, checked the results (39th OA, 4th AG) and headed home.