Monday, May 19, 2014

Colfax Half Marathon 2014: Race Recap

OK, so I had taken a bit of a hiatus from running and this race was supposed to be my comeback of sorts. Running had never really been my thing, but my wife really enjoys it so I started running with her years ago. After I did the St. Louis Marathon back in 2011 I swore I would never run one again, but Kim signed up for the Chicago Marathon this year and I decided that if she could run a Marathon less than a year after having a baby I could suck it up and run one too. We signed up for this run as a way to ease ourselves back into distance running as we were both pretty out of shape.

Denver Colfax Half Marathon Shirt and Finishers Medal
The trainup:
My goal for this run was to get a sub 2 hour half marathon. I would have loved to PR my half but I wasn't holding out hope. Especially since this was going to be a half marathon at altitude. I trained using the First training program put out by Runnersworld which consisted of three "quality runs" versus just pumping up a ton of mileage and I have to say I was pretty happy with the overall plan. The three quality runs are one sprint workout, one tempo run and one longer mileage run each week with two cross training days. I tried pretty hard to make sure that I was hitting each of the runs and I focused less on the cross training days and overall it had the desired effect. By race day I was feeling confident and was ready to get out there and make my triumphant return to the world of running.

Pre Race:
The race is in Denver and since we live in Colorado Springs we needed to make a separate trip for packet pickup as there is no race day packet pickup which was inconvenient but not a deal breaker. The Expo was held at Mile High stadium and had free parking which was nice and the venue was interesting for the simple fact that it was at a stadium I had never visited before, otherwise it was nothing to write home about. The actual expo was held on the third floor, which meant lines for elevators and generally just a crowded feel. I expected the expo to be on the field and be a lot bigger but it wasn't. The vendors were your typical try to sell you things vendors and we both walked out with our bibs and some standard race swag (gu's, bars, stickers etc). Overall I was underwhelmed by the expo but I was really there for the race not the expo anyway. On race day the next morning we woke up at the butt crack of dawn and made the trek to Denver, we found parking on street relatively close to the start line and made our way over. We got there in time to watch the full Marathoners take off and waited our turn in the Corrals for the half Marathoners start. There were plenty of port-a-pottys at the start and the corrals were well organized. It was a pretty smooth start, I think the race organizers did a good job.

The race:
The Full Marathon and the Half Marathon don't share the same course which is nice in a lot of ways, that allows the course to stay a lot less crowded which is good because with 5,800 some half marathoners and 1,300 Marathon finishers it could get a little crowded. The route started and ended at City Park and after about a mile or so actually went right through the Denver Zoo, which was really cool. I really enjoyed seeing all of the animals and it made it a much more enjoyable run. After exiting the zoo the route ran by the museum of science and then exited onto city streets and residential neighborhoods on Montview Blvd. You run essentially straight on this road for the next four miles or so on a long gentle uphill before making the turn south towards Colfax ave. The run through the fire station was a nice touch on the route but besides the fire station and the zoo there wasn't a whole lot to say about the route. It was a fairly boring set of city streets and really a tour of the not so nice part of Colfax ave. On the whole, I think they found a decent course but with all of the beauty in Colorado, I wouldn't say that this ranks high on my list of races for scenery. Despite the location my race went really well, I came out of the gate too fast as seems to always be the case with me during races, and spent the first 7-8 miles running between 8:30 and 8:45 minute miles, by the time the 9th mile came around my legs were shot and I slowed way down and ran the rest at 9:30 or so. The worst part was that at mile 12, when I needed my watch the most to keep me on pace it ran out of batteries (I am notoriously bad at making sure it is charged before runs). But by the end of the race I finished at just under my 2 hour goal with a 1:59.00 which left me really happy and was only about two minutes off of my PR pace for a half marathon. Overall successful race. I had read a few reviews about the race in 2013 and they had said that the race was not well supported at water stops but I found the water stops to be well stocked with both water and Gatorade and I had no problem with them, they came at pretty regularly spaced intervals along the course as well. Below you can see my data from Garmin Connect for the run, although the data is cut short grrr.

Overall impression:
This was a decent Half Marathon for a local race although I wouldn't travel to do it over. Many things about it were underwhelming and the vast majority of the positives were things that would be expected of any big city race. Not a bad race by any means and well put together but not a race I would do again. If you are looking at doing this race good luck and enjoy!