Saturday, August 23, 2008

RR - US Half - Copper

Race Report
US Half Marathon
Copper Mountain, CO
Sat, Aug 23/08
2:02:25 – 1 AG

I wanted to run this Half Marathon as a final tune-up for Bhutan since the race started at 9600 ft and climbed to 10,800 ft – i.e. it would be a good altitude training run at a fast pace. I use ‘fast’ figuratively since I set the course record (for my AG) last year with a blazing 1:59:06! The course is tough!

I didn’t believe I was in good enough shape to challenge my course record or a sub-2 hr finish but I figured/hoped I could finish close to 2 hrs? I was joined in the race by two friends from FL - Frank (the only other sane person in the world) and Cynthia – aka Attila the Huness and Frank’s daughter Alexis from PA. I warned them to add at least 15/20 minutes to their normal Half marathon time because of the hills and altitude!

The race started at 9 am on Sat – a bit late even for the mountains. It was sunny and warm – high 50s at the start. There were less than 100 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, and then dropped down towards the East Village. I remembered the course from last year and warned my teammates (and myself) to start SLOW! Somehow I didn’t follow my own advice and passed mile 1 in 7:56 sucking for air! Mile 2 in 15:27 – lungs burning and really sucking for air! The next mile was on a dirt/rocky service road traversing an Alpine ski hill and I struggled to reach Mile 3 in 25:29 (a split of 10:02) but that was still faster than last year?

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 10,800 ft. near the top of Vail Pass! Mile 5 climbed back through Copper Village to a paved bike path at 9600 ft. I passed mile 5 in 44:06 – only 6 secs behind my record pace? 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 I tried to average a 10:30 pace like last year but struggled to hold a 10:45 pace. I could feel the difference from one more year of age! OLD AGE SUCKS!

I reached mile 9 and the turn-around at the top of Vail Pass in 1:27:33. I had 32 minutes to run the final 4.1 miles! I needed to run a sub 8-min pace on the 1200-ft descent back to Copper Village to finish under 2 hrs! Last year I had 34 minutes at that point and a competitor biting at my ass! This year the closest competitor was more than ½- mile behind me and I just couldn’t force myself to accept the high level of pain necessary to push the old bod at a sub-8 min pace at 10,800 ft so I cruised the final 4 downhill miles at an 8:30 pace to cross the finish line in 2:02:25!

Yeah, Yeah – I know! I should have handed the race over to Maddog. He would have accepted the pain to finish under 2 hrs! But I won my AG and finished w/o any injuries/problems so I am happy. And I feel I am ready (as I am going to be) for those Himalayan hills in Bhutan.

My team did very well also! Cynthia sprinted across the finish line in 2:53 and Frank and Alexis crossed the finish line hand-in-hand in 3:11! That was definitely a moment-to-remember for Frank!

Frank and I have one more week of altitude training in the High Country before we travel together to Bhutan for our next marathon/adventure!

Stay tuned!

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