- 1,027 miles
- 151,000 feet of vertical
Last Monday I ran the first annual Highlands Ranch Half Marathon. I entered the race to help raise money for someone we know who is undergoing treatment for a very serious form of cancer. But of course I didn't joy-run it (that's just not in my nature). I finished 11th overall out of 636 starters, crossing the line in 1:25--good for 6:33 pace. This was my first half marathon in more than five years!
Although 1:25 is three minutes off my half-marathon PR, I was pretty pleased with my result, given that I'd run the Leadville 100 two weeks prior and I didn't do much fast stuff over the summer. I passed easily 25 runners along the way and didn't get overtaken a single time except in the first few hundred feet. I definitely felt the 100 at about the mile 7 mark of the half. But fortunately I did a decent job of holding pace and finished strong. It's a downhill, point-to-point course but it gives you a decent climb at mile 12 to keep things honest. Personally, I think point-to-point courses are the best.
Interestingly, my average heart rate for the half was 148, with a max heart rate of 158 on that last climb before the finish. My MAF zone is 136-146, so I was pretty much right in it for the whole race. It seems to me that half-marathon pace should be 10-20 beats/minute above MAF.
For the past few years--and really since I've been running--I feel like there's been an imbalance between my aerobic fitness and strength, despite the fact that I've always done a good job with tempo runs. (Admittedly, this summer I didn't do as many tempo runs as usual since I was on the trail every single day.) My aerobic fitness appears to be very good, but for some reason my legs just can't seem to keep pace. I need to figure out the reasons for this imbalance and correct it. A big part of me thinks my tempo runs have been too hard. Maybe I need to relax the pace a bit and stretch it out longer.
Anyway, the Highlands Ranch half left me pretty sore. I'll probably do a few more races this year. I'm interested in the El Grito 5K next weekend, the Highlands Ranch Backcountry Half Marathon in early October and the Rock 'n Roll Denver Half Marathon in late October. I really enjoy the half-marathon distance and right now I'm just not feeling motivated to do any ultras.
And speaking of the Denver Rock 'n Roll, someone told me that if you drop out of any Rock 'n Roll race they'll give you a ride to the finish and you can get a finisher's medal despite the fact that you really didn't finish. I didn't believe this, since it goes against EVERYTHING I believe in and stand for, but then I heard another person say the same thing. Is that really true? I guess if this is true, then it's probably also true that they give finisher's medals to those who drop. In all seriousness, if it's really true, it's hard to believe a race would do such a thing--and it makes me kind of hesitant to take part in the Rock 'n Roll "trophies for everyone" circus.
That said, I'm not one of those ultrarunners who thinks the world revolves around the "elites." Recently, a new international ultrarunning series with points and sponsors (and lots of question marks, too!) was announced, and the series involves some pretty big races like the Western States 100 and Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. This appears to be an attempt to bring some structure to the sport. Personally, I'm not a big fan of efforts to organize a sport that for decades has more or less functioned in the shadows. I'd rather ultrarunning remain low key and small enough so that everyone knows everyone and there's love out there on courses. Sadly, I think that's a pipe dream. I think there are folks who are pushing as hard as they can to make ultrarunning something I believe it was never intended to be. It's almost as if we're embarrassed that our sport is so grassroots and down-home. Be that as it may, I think efforts to organize the sport and bring more corporate participation to it will "work" for a few years, but I don't see them being sustainable as there's just not enough money to be made for sponsors and the sport just isn't that spectator-friendly. I believe that in almost every case where corporate interests and money can be found, there is corruption and greed. We'll see. It wouldn't surprise me if ultrarunning eventually implodes and then comes back as it once was.
If at some point I find myself dissatisfied with the direction of things, then I'll turn to other endurance endeavors, like multi-day, self-supported jaunts on the John Muir Trail.
At this point, I'm still undecided about returning to the Leadville 100 in 2014. It all depends on whether or not Lifetime Fitness addresses the problems we saw this year. I am definitely entering the Western States lottery and, if by some miracle I get in, then that would be my focus race in 2014. If I don't get into Western, then I may consider a few other races that would include Leadville. I had thought seriously about Wasatch, but it's pretty late in the summer and this whole debacle left a bad taste in my mouth. We'll see what happens.