I ran a half marathon on July 4th at an altitude of 6,000 feet and lived to tell the tale! Here is my race recap.
We arrived in Colorado Springs around 3pm on the afternoon of July 3rd. After picking up my race packet (loved the tech shirt), I went for a 2.3 mile jog to loosen up my legs after the long drive from Dallas, and also get a feel for running at the altitude. I’ll admit it – I was nervous. I had so many people (including my doomsday nurse mother) tell me that it was going to be very difficult running with virtually no acclimation; I had visions of jogging 50 ft and collapsing, gasping for air.
It wasn’t that bad. Yes, I felt a little lightheaded, like I was floating, and had a touch of nausea, but I was still *able* to run. The beauty of catastrophic thinking!
clothes laid out, ready for the race
The morning of the race was gorgeous – sunny and 65 degrees. The first hour of the race was beautiful; by the second hour and a half, it was hot (80-85). I woke up early, ate my (packed in my bag) banana, Belvita crackers and peanut butter, got dressed, and walked over to the park. The hotel we stayed in was only a 10 minute walk from the race start.
10 minutes before the start, with the sign my daughter sent with me.
The event was small – probably around 500 runners total. We were gathered in a park, with the initial race “course” consisting of the gravel walkway winding through the park. Well this was … different. As I looked around, I noticed all the people looked very athletic. Trim. Runner-y.
So this is what a half marathon in Colorado looks like. I miss my Texans. These people are intimidating.
Mile 1: I don’t even feel the altitude! This is awesome. It is beautiful and I am running a half marathon in COLORADO! This is crazy. This course is crazy. I’m running on a trail. An adventurous run for me is running on the bike path instead of a treadmill, and here I am running on gravel, next to mountains, on wooden bridges over creeks. Here we go over the bridge. Wait. The bridge is swaying. Thump, thump, thump as we all pound over it, and the freaking thing is moving. Lots of nervous laughter from all the ladies around me. I cannot believe this course.
Mile 1.5: Ruh roh. Sub-11 min/mile pace. Slow down.
Mile 2: SLOW DOWN RIGHT NOW MISSY. You are going to die. But I feel so good! This is effortless! Maybe altitude has the opposite effect on me. Maybe it’s easier for me to run with less oxygen. Maybe all those years of swimming are paying off! Okay, for real, I need to slow down.
Mile 2.5: I am seriously failing at slowing down.
Mile 3: I cannot believe how gorgeous this run is. Yes, it’s bizarre that I’m running a race on a 5 foot wide gravel path through the woods, but this is ridiculously beautiful. I mean, there are mountains on my right and a babbling brook and forest on my left. Speaking of on my left, O.M.G. there is a DEER bounding alongside the race! She is running WITH us. I AM RUNNING A HALF MARATHON IN A DISNEY MOVIE. Yes, lady with the long ponytail that I am pacing to, I see it! Yes, other lady who is right on my tail pacing to me, I see it! Can you guys believe it?! We are all pointing as we run.
Mile 4: There sure are a lot of homeless people in Colorado Springs. A lot of them out here on the race path. Some of them have ignored us, a special few ranted incoherently at us as we passed, but thank you, kind sir, for shouting encouragement. I CAN do it. Yes I can.
Mile 5: Okay. I’ve settled into a good rhythm. This is a great pace. I know I’m only 5 miles in, but if I can keep this pace, I’ll PR by a lot! I just feel so good. I’m sure I can keep this up. Everyone was so worried about the altitude. Maybe I’m so distracted by all the natural beauty, I don’t even notice!
Mile 6: Um. Okay. So now the trail is only 2 people wide. This is … awkward. Is this a legit half marathon or a high school cross country race? Good thing everyone is so friendly. But still…this is a weird race, man.
Mile 6.6ish (turnaround): Hi, event volunteers. I have to say hi to you because the turnaround is at the trail’s end, with a card table holding Gatorade, in the woods, where we stop, pivot, and then go back out on the other side of the two-person wide trail. This is not a race for introverts. But hi! And yes, I will take something to drink, thank you very much.
Mile 7: People are starting to walk, a lot. Not me! I’m still trucking right along. Altitude, schmaltitude. The people heading into the turnaround are mostly walking. See, that’s the thing with this “in the woods” race. It’s easier to walk because there are no people standing there on the street, watching you wuss out. I miss people cheering. This is pretty, but kind of lonely.
Mile 8: It’s hot. It’s so hot. I’m so hot. And my feet hurt. Damn gravel. I can’t believe I have 5 more miles of this.
Mile 9: I’m totally gonna catch this guy up here. He’s moving so slow. But he looks so weird. Why is he … wait is he … no. No, he’s not. Yes he is. He’s doing a half marathon with prancercise. I have no words. But I’m passing him.
Mile 9.5: Cannot. run. any. more. I can’t. GODDAMMIT, I have to walk. I have to. Wait, I think this is the altitude. This must be the altitude. Or the heat. Or both. But I’m walking.
Mile 9.6: Running.
Mile 9.8: Walking.
Mile 10: Okay, let’s make this a game. I will run one entire song. And then I get to walk the first part of the next song. Until I count to 60. That’s probably a minute. And then I have to run the entire rest of the song.
Mile 11: Okay, I’ll run the FIRST 60 count of the song, then walk the rest of the song, then run the first part of the next song.
Mile 12: Please let this end. I’m so hot. And tired. And hot. This was stupid.
Mile 12.5: It’s the last mile. If I can’t run the last mile, I officially suck. No matter how slow I go, I am running the last mile.
Mile 12:75: Okay, I am running the last quarter mile.
Mile 13: I see the finish. Oh thank God.
I finished! Slowly, but I finished!
- Mile 1: 10:43 min/mile
- Mile 2: 11:05 min/mile
- Mile 3: 11:09 min/mile
- Mile 4: 11:28 min/mile
- Mile 5: 11:12 min/mile
- Mile 6: 11:12 min/mile
- Mile 7: 11:29 min/mile
- Mile 8: 11:33 min/mile
- Mile 9: 11:40 min/mile
- Mile 10: 12:20 min/mile
- Mile 11: 12:15 min/mile
- Mile 12: 12:37 min/mile
- Mile 13: 12:34 min/mile
Official time: 2:35:26. 187/280 for all women, 60/81 for my age group. Clearly this was an event for “runners”!
Postscript: If this wasn’t my best (of two) half marathons, it was definitely my most kickass “recovery”. The next morning, my husband and I headed to the Manitou Incline and climbed to the summit. I’m pretty sure it would have been challenging on a good day, but hiking up 24 hours post-half marathon? My legs were not happy!