Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fort Collins Human Race 10K: Report and Review

Preface
The Fort Collins Human Race includes both a 10K and 5K race and two kids races sponsored in 2010 by the Raintree Athletic Club, in Fort Collins. The proceeds support the Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County, Colorado.

Runner Disposition
Having not slept well in the nights preceding the race, I was a little tired on the morning of the race. I got up my usual 3 hours before the race to shove down 300 calories of carbs, two cups of coffee, and to hydrate before leaving for the event. At the starting line, I had some doubt I would be able to maintain a strong effort throughout the race, particularly because it seemed a touch humid and it was warming up fast.

CourseThe course was a pretty standard Old Town Fort Collins course, in general. Most races that start in Old Town tend to include stretches of Mountain Avenue east of College, and Remington between Mountain and Lake Streets. That takes the course through some neighborhoods that have some old/tall trees that can offer some shade as the sun rises and help keep the runners from overheating so much, so that's a good thing.


Both of the races started on Walnut, just southeast of the intersection with Lindon st. at at the east end of the pedestrian mall in Old Town Square. The course proceeded southeast and turned right onto mountain, then left onto Remington. Runners proceeded down Remington and turned left on Lake St, then north on Peterson, and west on Pitkin, circling the old Fort Collins High School (now the CSU University Center for the Arts), before runners turned north on Remington, east again on mountain, and then at Walnut and Mountain, the 5K racers headed back up Walnut to finish near where the race had started, while 10K runners pulled a 180 and retraced their steps south around the University Center for the Arts again, before sprinting up Walnut again to the start/finish area.

Conditions
The race had an 8:00 start time, but it was already feeling pretty warm/sticky and only got warmer during the race. Still, temperatures were high enough to slow some runners down, but not to put anyone in jeopardy.

The Race
The start: The turnout was good, and there were a lot of kids who crowded up to the front of the start. Most of them I figured were running the 5K, so I was happy to line up behind them with three other Fort Collins Running Club members. I was able to avoid starting too fast for this one, partly because there was a turn shortly after the start and I had some slower runners in front of me. That was ok because I wanted to start slower and be disciplines.

First loop (first ~5K): Even with the slow start, I peeled off the first mile at a low-7 minute pace. One of the other running club members is pretty even in speed/ability to me, and we paced each other throughout the remainder of the first 5K, which we finished with an average pace of about 7:10, which I hoped to be able to maintain through the second loop.

Second loop (second ~5K): At about 3.5 miles, an older runner (in his 50's) caught us from behind and started talking to us, encouraging us to stay together and push the pace. This kept me pushing through the remainder of the race, and I'm sure the pace would have declined in mile 5 even more than it did were it not for this encouragement. The three of us ran basically side-by-side, trying to keep up the intensity, and at about 5.5 miles, the runner who had paced us encouraged us to let loose and pick up the pace to finish strong, indicating that he would do what he could to keep up. So, I started using my arms a bit more at that point and striding it out, and pulled ahead slightly.

The finish: I was able to very gradually extend the lead I took at the 5.5 mile point through the finish, running the last 0.1 mile at a 5:12 mile pace (a pretty strong finish for me), and crossing the line not quite 5 seconds ahead of my fellow running club member, who finished a couple seconds ahead of the pacer that had spurred us on when we started to flat in the second half of the race. Some of the publicity for the race had indicated that the 10K route would be 6.1-6.13 miles, rather than a full 6.2, but while the course was a little short, it was not a disappointing surprise for me after the race. Unfortunately, it did mean that my final time of 44:45 was probably about 35-45 seconds less than it would have been for a full 10K, but it was still the fastest pace I have completed a 6 mile course in, so it's a PR with regard to average pace. Official average pace was 6:13, but that did not account for the short course. Actual average was 7:20.

SummaryIt is always nice when race distances are "as advertised" for the runners. When you complete a race on a course that is off by more than a 2-3 hundredths of a mile, you feel like your time need some kind of asterisk or something and some qualification as a non-standard distance. If I had learned the course was short after the race, I might have been pretty disappointed. Knowing in advance took the edge off, however, so I was ok with it. There seemed to be enough facilities available, despite the relatively large turnout for the event. In the 5 and 10K's combined, there were well over 400 finishers. Not bad for one of the smaller citizen races in a city the size of Fort Collins (population ~138,000).

I would definitely run this race again. The Boys & Girls Clubs are a worthy organization that I am happy to support. The only caveat is the course length. I would encourage the organizers to lay out a course that includes a true 10K, as well as 5K, option.

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