Sunday, August 12, 2007

RR US Half Copper

Race Report
US Half Marathon Copper
Copper Mountain, CO
Sun, Jul 15/07
1:59:06 – 1AG

This was one of two races I had planned to run this summer because – “Are you sitting down”? - I am not running any marathons this summer (Jun/Jul/Aug)!
I am taking the advice offered by several doctors and my trainer during this past spring when I was suffering all the problems with DVT and cramps in my legs –“You need to take some time off from running/racing”! I interpreted that advice to mean marathons?

As most of you know I have not raced since the Christchurch Marathon on Jun 3rd. I have been doing ‘easy’ runs in the mountains and a lot of hiking and climbing 14ers. But I wanted to run a few Halfs in the mountains this summer as ‘speed work’. This race was the first. Last year this race/event was a full marathon but it was changed this year to a Half and organized as one of a series of National US Races. When I looked at the race entries I figured that it would be difficult to be competitive since there were lots of elite athletes registered to compete in the National Series? On top of that Chris and I had just completed a tough climb of three 14ers on Fri. Thus I wasn’t expecting much!

The race started at 9 am on Sun – a bit late even for the mountains. It was sunny and mid 50s at the start. There were 350 runners in the Half. The race started in the center of Copper Village (9600 ft) and the first mile was uphill for about ¼ mile, then dropped down towards the East Village. Because the course had lots of hills and climbed to 11,000 ft I figured it would be difficult to run an 8-min pace and had set a pre-race target of 1:50. By the time I reached mile 3 in 25:42 I was becoming concerned and when mile 4 turned off on to a rocky trail that traversed and climbed the Alpine Ski Run at Copper Mtn I knew that a sub -1:50 wasn’t going to happen. I soon realized three facts:
1) My legs weren’t as tired/trashed as I thought they would/should be after climbing six 14ers in the previous week?
2) I found myself (surprisingly) to be in 1st place in my Age Group when I made the turn at the top of the trail on the Alpine Run?
3) A sub 2-hr finish would probably win my AG

However we were about to start the toughest section of the course! When we returned to the East parking lot at the bottom of the trail (mile 4) the next 5 miles climbed from 9500 ft to 11,000 ft. near the top of Vail Pass! Mile 5 climbed back through Copper Village to a paved bike path at 9600 ft. The path climbed relentlessly for the next 4 miles. I knew I had to save some energy for the final 4 miles back down the path and it was a painful struggle just to hold an average 10:30 pace over those 4 miles to the top of Vail Pass.
I reached mile 9 and the turn-around at 1:26:02. I had 34 minutes to run the final 4.1 miles! I needed to run an 8-min pace on the 1400-ft descent back to Copper Village!
Thankfully I got some incentive/motivation when I saw that another old fart had closed within 1000 ft of me at the top of the Pass. I stretched out my stride and let gravity pull me down the bike path and mtn. I reached mile 10 in 1:34 - a split of 7:58! Surprisingly –and thankfully – my legs felt OK and I managed to hold that pace until I entered Copper Village and crossed the finish line in 1:59:06!

I was very pleased with my time and performance – and very surprised that I had been able to hold off some of the best runners from Denver and the Front Range? And since it was an inaugural race I have the honor of holding the course record for my AG – for at least one year! I did stick around and collect my award because it was useful – running gear!

I am again surprised that my legs feel amazingly fresh after the race so Chris and I are going to climb another 14er on Mon before he heads back to Seattle.

Stay tuned for the report!

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