Saturday, April 23, 2011

Horsetooth Half and the Fast and the Furriest 5K

We had beautiful weather last Sunday for the Horsetooth Half Marathon which has to be my favorite local road race. I woke up feeling good, ate breakfast and had a nice warm-up run through Pineridge over to the start by the stadium. I ran well throughout the race and other than my legs feeling a bit heavy on the hills, I felt strong right to the finish. . . but I ran my slowest time on the course of the last four years. I ran 1:34:02 averaging a bit over 7 minutes per mile. I went in to the race with a goal to run in the low 1:30 range and if all went really well to go 1:29:xx. I'm not exactly sure what happened, I just couldn't run any faster. After a 7:51 and 8:23 first two miles going up to the reservoir, I needed to run 6:30-6:40 for the rest of the race to hit my goal time. I did run 6:35s for miles 3 and 6 and a 6:46 for mile 9 (these are the miles with a lot of down hill), but everything else was 6:57-7:08 and I that was all I had. I guess there is no way around the lack of speed work and intervals in my training over the last few months. I have been running plenty of miles but without the 800s, 1000s, and 2000s at 10K pace and better, I don't have the speed to maintain sub 7:00 min pace for 13.1 miles much less 26.2. I realized at the finish that I needed to reassess my goals for the Colorado Marathon.

I had a great time as always at the Horsetooth Half. I saw and ran with lots of friends. I enjoyed the course along the reservoir on a beautiful spring day, I got to cheer on Chris and Molly as they each finished their longest race ever, and I celebrated with beer and music and the post race festivities at New Belgium.

This morning, I woke up groggily far too early for a Saturday to take Maddie downtown for 7:15 am team pictures before her 8:00 am volleyball game. The Fast and the Furriest 5K was starting at 9:00 am at the CSU Oval and I really wanted to run. I thought it would be fun to run a race with Shadow and I thought a 5K would be a good final hard effort the week before the marathon. The race is a benefit for CSU's Veterinary Medical Center's Companion Animal Care Fund and the Professional Veterinary Medicine Class of 2013 and the race director is FCTR and Queen of the Hill, Jen Malmberg. I knew that it would be a fun race for a good cause with lots of friends so I really wanted to run, but didn't see how Maddie, Shadow and I would be able to get from her game to the race, get registered and get to the start by race time. On top of all that, as Maddie and I headed out to volleyball, it started to snow.

Maddie played three great games of volley ball with a bunch of great returns and several sets of nonreturnable serves including her newly perfected overhand serve that she has been working hard on and is very proud of. The last game ended at 8:36 and I thought that maybe it could happen.

Maddie and I walked quickly to the car where Shadow was patiently waiting. It continued to snow as we drove through town to CSU. We found a parking spot and were heading to the registration tent by 8:47. I normally prefer to arrive at a race, even if I am preregistered at least an hour before the gun goes off, so I was a bit stressed. As we jogged to the tables, we saw that the line for preregistered runners to pick up their packets was stretched around the building and there was almost no line for race day registration. I saw Nick waiting to get his number with a borrowed dog, Chester, that he had just met a few minutes earlier.

I got my race number and heard the announcement that the race start would be delayed by at least 15 minutes. I relaxed and stopped to talk with Pete, Scott, and Celeste who each had a dog with them. Scott, just one week post 2:53 marathon PR, was planning on an easy run with Duke. Pete had just run 40 miles and some ridiculous amount of vertical on Friday at the InSanitas birthday run in Boulder so he and Misty were planning on a pretty easy pace as well. I went back and forth thinking about running easy with Pete and Scott or going for it and seeing what I could do. It was still snowing and I didn't have tights or a long sleeve shirt to run in just shorts and short sleeves under a jacket and long pants. I consulted Shadow, who thought the weather was perfect, and he had already decided so I handed Maddie my jacket and long pants and moved up to the front of the pack of 400+ runners (probably closer to 800 including dogs).

At the signal for go Shadow took off and I had to hold him close on the gentle leader. Sarah and I laughed as we watched Nick try to run forward while Chester was anxiously trying to run back towards his person. Within 100 yards, Chester came out of his collar and took off across the grass back towards the start and Nick jumped the curb and ran after him empty leash in hand.

I was feeling good and Shadow really wanted to run, so we pushed on at a steady pace around the oval and out through campus. We passed dogs and runners and hit the first mile in 6:13. I watched a runner just ahead of us trip over his dog's leash and go down hard on the wet sidewalk, so I continued to hold Shadow's leash close to keep him right beside. Shadow cooperated pretty well, but he wold have liked me to run a bit faster. There was a pack of 6 or 8 dogs and runners about 30 yards ahead of us and Shadow was determined to catch them. We took all the sharp sidewalk corners pretty slow since it was wet and I had to keep the leash from crossing in front of me. Sarah flew past us just before mile 2 and Shadow kept pushing the pace. Mile 2 was 6:21 and I started to think that a sub 20 minute 5K was very possible. We kept going and passed a couple more dog/runner teams as we headed back in to the oval. Mile 3 was a 6:23 and Shadow was starting to pull a little less on the leash. I glanced at my watch as we went around the bottom of the oval to see it hit 19 minutes and I knew we had to keep pushing to make a sub 20 minute finish. Shadow was game and we kicked it in passing one more dog/runner team 25 yards from the finish. We crossed the line in 19:52 for a new Colorado 5K PR for me and an all time best for Shadow. It was the most fun I have had in a 5K or any race in a while and Shadow seemed very happy. We jogged around the oval to cheer on Scott and Duke, then Celeste and Ziggy then Jennifer and her dog and then Pete and Misty (who had needed to make a potty stop early on but ran well after that). Nick had managed to recover Chester and finish in 21:xx. Shadow and I were 9th overall and 3rd in my age group. What a great morning of animals and running. This race gave me some new confidence for next Sunday's marathon. 3:15 should be very doable and if all goes well I think I can safely aim to go sub 3:10. Maybe I should bring Shadow.


  1. Congrats Shadow (and Alex)! Best of luck next Sunday. You could probably go sub 3 if they would allow Shadow to pace (pull) you.

  2. Good stuff all around, congrats!
    It sounds like you are training well with great volume for the ultras. Agreed that getting your absolute top marathon speed also requires a bit more speedwork, tempos, and other painful flat fast stuff on hard surfaces. That said, go for it in the marathon! Keep your pace up through the first 20 downhill miles, then see what happens at the end, if you can hold onto even splits -- you never know!