Sunday, August 21, 2005

Basalt Half Marathon

Sat, Aug 20/05
Basalt Half Marathon
Basalt, CO
1:42:03 1st AG

I had scheduled this race as a much-needed speed workout since I hadn’t raced since the Faroe Islands Marathon in mid-July. However I hadn’t counted on the week of misery/health problems/pain that preceded the race. But as you know that finally eased up a few days before the race so the sports manager and I left on Fri for the drive over to Basalt, CO.

Basalt is a small resort town located about 15 miles north of Aspen at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan Rivers in the Roaring Fork Valley. The town was celebrating its annual Basalt River Days – a weekend festival with fishing contests, the Half Marathon, parades and free music concerts.

After checking into our hotel I drove the course to check it out. It was described as a fast, downhill course starting at the Ruedi Reservoir (elev. 7700 ft) 12 miles east of town and descending 1100 ft along the Frying Pan Road – a narrow two-lane road squeezed between the Frying Pan River on the south and the red bluffs of the Elk Range on the north. A very scenic course. After driving the course I guessed that it would take a sub 1:45 time to win my age group so that became my time goal.

Fri. evening we walked around the small, quaint town and enjoyed a free music concert while eating a pasta dinner on the patio of a nearby Italian restaurant.

Since the race was point-to point we had to be bussed to the start line at 7am. There were about 200 runners in the Half. The big surprise was that more than 60% of the runners were young, well-fit women in their 20s and early 30s? That ratio ensured some wonderful scenery along the course and ended my frustrating pattern of chasing the lead female across the finish line. At least 3 or 4 lovely young ladies thoroughly beat my sorry, old ass in this race!

The race started at 8am. The weather was perfect – sunny, temps around 48F and even a slight tailwind. I started out with the Big Dogs and chased them through the first mile (including the lead female) in 6:48! My legs felt fine but my lungs were on fire as I tried to suck in enough air/oxygen to keep the old legs churning at that pace. I knew that pace was totally suicidal at that altitude so I threw out an anchor and slowed my pace down to a more reasonable 7:50 over the next mile. I had settled into a smooth/easy sub 8-min pace by the time I passed mile 5 in 38:00 flat. However my heart rate monitor indicated that I was running at 92% Max HR – about 10 to 15 bpm faster than my normal marathon race level? I figured the higher level was mostly due to the high altitude and since the legs felt OK I decided to ignore the HR monitor and continue to push the pace.

At mile 8 a ROF (Real Old Fart) who looked to be in his 50s or my age group blew by me? At first I tried to stay with him but quickly realized he was running about a 7:35 pace and I didn’t believe I could hold that pace for another 5 miles so I decided to drop in behind him and try to keep him in sight and hope he faded by the end? I passed the 10-mile mark in 1:17:50. I knew my time goal of sub 1:45 was in the bag. But I still wanted to catch the ROF in front of me so I continued to push the pace in spite of my HR monitor telling me that my HR was now at 95% Max!

I reached the edge of town at mile 12 in 1:33:45. I knew the last mile had a few rolling hills and figured that if I charged up those final hills I might be able to catch Mr. ROF because he was starting to slow? My HR monitor started beeping wildly warning me that I was pushing the old bod at 100% Max! Screw it! I could hear it so obviously I was still alive –“Keep pushing Maddog”! I struggled across the finish line on the school track in 1:42:03!

As I staggered around the infield desperately trying to suck air/oxygen back into my lungs and body I soon realized that I pushed the old bod to its absolute limits – needlessly! Turned out that the ROF who had beat me by less than one minute was only 50 years old! I had indeed won my age group – 2nd place was 10 minutes behind me!

Oh well! I was very pleased with my time and performance. I had achieved my time goal – won my age group – and ran a very fast speed workout as a tune up for a tough marathon next weekend. I plan to run the Silverton Alpine Marathon. It starts /finishes at 9318 ft. – more than 60% of the course is above 11,500 ft and the high point is 12,930 ft. It should be a good training run for the Everest Marathon?

After the race the sports manager and II watched the ‘big’ parade for the Basalt River Days and then drove home through Aspen and over Independence Pass.

At 12,095 ft. Independence Pass is one of the highest paved passes in the country and offers some spectacular views/scenery (when it is not raining). However the drive can be kind of scary since there are no guardrails on the very narrow switchbacks!

Stay tuned for the next race report!


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