Unlike in previous years when there was sleet pelting runners in the face or snow falling, the weather prognosis for this year’s Horsetooth Half Marathon promised still air and ideal weather for a high heart-rate exercise fest. Or, as I called it a few days leading to the event, “a no excuses type of race.” Not that any should be needed. My overall fitness was decent—if still many rungs under world-beating—and the recent Mission Run in the Ozarks marathon gave me new confidence that my hill running ability is not that bad.
“I think I can run 1:37,” I replied when a friend asked me about a goal time. But I quickly added that I would be happy with anything under sub-1:40, which is something I failed to do on this course by 35 seconds during my last attempt when I was three years younger.
One hour, thirty-seven minutes would be within sprinting distance of my time from 2007, which I figured would serve as a good guide for pacing. My top-end and cruising speed is not what it was, but I somehow convinced myself that my ascending ability had improved. So I wanted to attack the hills more aggressively than I did back then.
So after the national anthem was sung and and my friend Nick, the race director, commenced the final countdown, that is what I did.
The race brutally began with a 0.8-mile ascent, including the steepest switchback in all of Fort Collins. Then there was a short descent followed by a flat, quarter-mile straight. I used that stretch to try to recover from a gut-busting effort before the next major climb: 0.8 miles to the top of Monster Mountain. Before that uphill, I was 30 seconds ahead of 2007 pace.
Too hard! I couldn’t recover enough and my lungs—and I imagine my heart rate (too bad the Garmin Forerunner 35 didn’t seem to measure heart rate accurately)—were maxing out. My speedster friends Alex, Chris, Forrest, Josh, Mike, and Sarah all caught and dropped me on this stretch.
You can even see me (wearing white) at 5:43 (-11:18) of Chuckie’s Photoblog running alongside Alex (in black) and Mike (wearing red). Even though Mike was pushing his son Jamo in a stroller, I was struggling to hang on, and by the time I reached the top of the mountain both Alex and Mike were ahead by 50 meters.
This year’s race featured elite talent, including Ethiopian Abadi Gebrekidan (a 2:12 marathoner living in Aurora, Colorado), Tyler McCandless (a 2:15 marathoner from Boulder), and Scott Dahlberg of Fort Collins. They finished one, two, and three overall.