Thursday, September 4, 2014

Breck Crest Half Marathon

The racing itch came back after a two month absence and I had been looking for Sunday races that I could jump into without having to ask off of work at the bank. As you may have noticed I've been taking a lot of time off work...

Signing up for Breck Crest had been in the back of my mind and I knew what the first half of the course was like from a recon mission last summer. This race is one of my favorites because it has the perfect blend of epic scenery and good competition with speedy locals coming out to play, while still maintaining that down-to-earth, no frills feeling that a lot of races start to lose over time. Plus it's pretty nice that they give a decent chunk of money out to the podium finishers for the half and the full.

Running the Wheeler Trail summer 2013

So I talked Cory into heading up to Breck after work on Saturday to camp and maybe hop in the race. I hadn't decided which distance to do so I figured I would see how I felt the morning of the race. I ended up feeling pretty crappy that morning with a headache and the beginnings of altitude sickness so we stopped at the grocery store and got me some "Altitude Adjustment Pills" which I'm pretty sure are just a placebo that gives you an attitude adjustment. Cory decided to hop in the half as well.

At the race start, we didn't really have time for race jitters to set in and I realized too late that I had forgotten my watch. Just before they released us into the mountains, it started to rain. It was that kind of nasty drizzle where you don't know whether to put a shell on or to just tough it out. I firgured the rain wouldn't last long.

Cory on the Burro Trail
Photo by Vertical Runner

Off we went on a 7 mile climb up to Peak 9. A good number of women took off at a pace I knew I could not sustain and my stomach was immediately sloshy. I decided it wasn't worth it to push the pace and have another race like the Leadville Marathon so I took it steady and talked with a girl named Laura from Aspen. I was able to run almost the whole way until the Wheeler Trail where I switched into hike mode. I really need to improve my hiking because I always get passed on the steep stuff. As we ascended above tree line, some blowing snow hit us and since most of us were already soaked from the rain, it was a dangerous situation.

Near the top of the Wheeler Trail
Photo by ClimbBetty

Normally, I don't approve of people switching distances midway through a race, but people were just unprepared for the conditions and a lot of runners switched from the full to the half partway through. This made the competition for the half a little more stiff. I knew I had my work cut out for me on the downhill if I wanted to get within the top ten. A lot of people stopped at the mile 7 aid station, but I plowed through it which put me ahead of about 3 women who had passed me on the last climb.

As I turned down the rocky 4 wheel drive road, there was no one in sight. I could see many switch backs below me but no one on them, so I figured there was no way to make up enough ground to pass anyone. I was so cold that I couldn't feel my hands and all I could think about was getting down! About 3 miles from the end I caught my first glimpse of someone and as soon as we switched from dirt road to more technical stuff, I passed 3 more women. One stayed pretty close to me and when I missed a sharp turn on some single-track she saw me swearing and heading back to the course and got ahead of me.

I realized my mistake pretty quick so it didn't take more than a few seconds to backtrack, but it just made me lose my momentum. After that I was stuck in maintenance mode, trying to keep others from passing me back. My legs felt like jello and I was running as fast as I could without puking. Its funny to think that a few years ago a half marathon felt like a long way to me, but now it's like a prolonged sprint.

I crossed the finish line and was happy to see 2:22 on the clock. Since I didn't have a watch I incorrectly assumed this was my time. Apparently the clock was set for the 10k runners that started 15 minutes after us, so my finishing time was 2:37, good for 10th place. Cory got his first first place finish ever at a trail race and kicked the crap out of the competition with a time of 1:57. He got $250 which covered our race entries for the weekend. Pretty proud of that guy.

I won my age group

Cory won the whole thing

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