Monday, August 16, 2010

Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon: Report and Review

The 32nd Annual Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon was held on August 14, 2010, to benefit the Clear Creek Booster Club for the youth at Clear Creek Middle School and High School.

Runner Disposition
For the two weeks before this race, I had been having some difficulties with my left knee.  I had tapered more than I otherwise would have during this time to give the knee some rest before the race, but the discomfort was still there on race morning.  Since I generally did not have problems when the knee when I was running hard, and I didn't want to DNS/DNF after paying the registration fee, I decided to do the race and hope for the best.

From what I have heard, the course has changed over the years as roads were paved and repaved, etc...  This year, some of what had been unpaved in 2009 had been recently paved, and there was only one segment on dirt road, maybe about a mile in length (I think).

2010 Course Map for Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon
(Click here on on map for full-sized version)

The course starts with a 2.5 miles of relatively flat terrain with a 2 mile loop in georgetown then about a half mile north (passing the start line again) to where the course heads downhill from the dam at Georgetown Reservoir. From there, the terrain alternates between relatively steep downhill grade and relatively flat to slightly uphill grades to the outskirts of Idaho Springs, where after a brief dip under Interstate 70, the course is relatively flat again with some slight downhill grade to the finish.

The race had an 8:00 start time, and temperatures in Georgetown at that time were around 50, with little/no wind, and clear blue skies, so conditions were excellent for running.

The Race
The start: Over 3000 people were registered, which was a record for the event. Tom (the fellow running club member I rode down with) and I lined up only about 5-10 meters from the start line, knowing that it was going to be crowded and wanting to be far enough forward to avoid having to run around a lot of slower runners before we could hit our stride. The start went off without a hitch, and as usual, I was little fast out of the gate, but I just went with what felt good and relaxed and decided I'd pick some places later on to recover some energy if I needed it.

First 2.5 miles: I polished off the first 2.5 miles through Georgetown and along the lake/reservoir at a low-7 min/mile pace pretty easily, and knowing that the next 1.5 miles were usually the fastest portion of the course for runners, I knew I was positioned to put some time in the bank, in case I had to slow down later.

2.5-4 miles: I let the gravity take me down the hill as fast as I could stand without fighting myself and just tried to retain good downhill running form. For much of the initial descent downhill from the top of the dam, I was running a low-6 min/mile pace, but the course then levels some, so my average pace for miles 3 and 4 stayed in the low-7 range. Very respectable, and I figured that would let me slow down as much as I needed in the slower miles later on. I was on track to come in at under 1:40 at this point, so I was pretty happy, as that was my "pie-in-the-sky" goal (my realistic goal was 1:45).

5th mile: The fifth mile included a long slow, slight uphill grade that slowed a lot of folks down, including me. I completed the mile in 7:55, and was happy to have kept it under 8. I was still in good shape and running pretty strong, going into another couple miles of downhill that I figured I could shoot for some faster pacing.

6-7 miles: I took advantage of the hills to average a pace in the low-mid 7 min/mile range through this part of the course, so I was still kicking some butt and feeling like things were going pretty well, my by the end of mile 7, I started to notice "something" with my left knee, and fatigue was starting to affect my form some.  Not a good sign, but I thought if I could just keep focused on form and keep my pace up through mile 10, that I still might have enough kick in the final 5K to come in under 1:40.

8-10 miles: While running mile 8, what I noticed in my knee began to turn into achey kind of pain/stiffness, which made my decision to make a pit stop at the beginning of mile 9 a little easier. It took about 25 seconds, and I was back on the course. Not counting the pit stop, I managed to watch my form and get through mile nine in about 8 minutes flat (7:59 according to my Garmin), but by the end of the 9th mile and through the 10th, my knee was getting painful enough to affect my gait and slow my mile pace by 20-30 seconds. I was frustrated, by noticed that my time was between 1:15 and 1:16 at the 10 mile marker, so I figured I could bear the pain for the remaining 5K. Some of the roads on this part of the course were curvy and heavily banked, which did my knees no good whatsoever.

11-13 miles: I was in pain during the last 5K, and I know some of the spectators must have been concerned about me, because I was running like a gimp. The course went from curvy and steeply banked and downhill in mile 11 and 12, to flat in mile 13. The knee pain rose to a crescendo at around the 13 mile marker. There was one last relatively steep but short downhill heading down into the I-70 underpass, and on my way down, the pain suddenly went from "ouch, ouch" to "HOLY MOTHER OF ... "  I had to stop and walk the rest of the way down the hill until the pain settled back down (maybe 10 seconds), and then I started a job, thinking happily that I had just finished the last downhill, so the rest of the course would be just  a short uphill and then almost flat to the finish. So, I gritted my teeth and just pushed through the remainder of mile 13. Later, my right calf would be sore because of my efforts to compensate for lost time by pushing off harder with my right foot on each stride.

The Finish: Early in the race, I noticed that there were a pair of young women holding maybe 10-20 m in front of me and we seemed to be going about the same pace. I vowed that if I was near them at the finish, I would try to get ahead of them and try to push us all to finish strong, but I turned the final corner to the finish with both of the young women somewhere behind me, and I had already picked a new target to race on the final push to the finish. Then, one of those young women came sprinting past me and my new target with maybe 100m to go, so I leaned forward and started my kick to follow her, and overtook her about 5 m from the finish (Garmin says I hit 4:26 pace during the sprint). After a very brief breather, I made a gimpy beeline for the medical tent for an ice pack with my eyes burning from sweat and sunscreen running into them. I was a mess.

This was a bit of an "overcoming adversity" race for me.  For a first official Half Marathon race, I had hoped for a better experience, but in the end I couldn't complain about my final time of 1:42:10, and despite being in pain, dehydrated, and cramping up on my way onto the football field where the post-race expo stuff was going on and all the cool freebies were being handed out, I'd have to say I really enjoyed the event. It was a bargain at $35 to register for the race. While the downhill running can sure take it's toll (on me, anyway), overall the course along the bottom of the clear creek canyon is beautiful. I was surprised at the number of spectators, and the cheering crowds at the finish were great. Even cars driving down I-70 honked in support now and then (or perhaps at each other, I don't know).

If I decide not to run this race again, it will be because my knees can no longer take the abuse, not because of any mistakes on the part of the organizers. This event was carried of smoothly, although the cannon seemed to have malfunctioned at the start-humorously: "Ready...  Set...  [nothing happens]...  ok, Ready... Set (simultaneous barely audible pow from canon)...  Go, Go, Go!... "

1 comment:

  1. Strong race Mark, that knee sounds like it treated you brutally so I'm impressed that you could finish strong and beat your goal time. Nice work!


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