Tuesday, March 3, 2015

RACE REPORT: 2015 Colchester Half Marathon

The 23rd Annual
(My 3rd Annual)
Colchester Half Marathon

It was pretty unanimous from all the runners that the Colchester Half Marathon tops their list for the best half marathon around.

Why you ask?

Well...  for $14 ($20 on race day), you get a race that is chip timed, professionally photographed, and fully volunteer supported that also boasts some of the best post-race food I've ever seen at ANY race (cooked 100% by the high school students), pre and post-race massage, a locker room with showers, and a race director that runs around on the course just to give you high fives!  Oh, they even throw in the hills for free!!  What a deal!

Sure, it's February and cold, but I dare you to find a better deal!!

Therefore, without further ado, here is my report for the Colchester Half Marathon.

The race starts at 10am and is about a 45 min drive to get to, so I was up at 6:30a to get breakfast in before 7.  Three eggs, 2 pieces of toast, and a bottle of water.  Then I stretched and rolled myself out.  I headed out about 7:30a and for the first time was able to easily get a parking spot.  Usually I end up finding some tight spot off in the far corner that everyone has skipped over.  I got my bib and did some more stretching/rolling.  I hit up the bathroom multiple times and laid around a bit waiting for some friends to show up.

My biggest dilemma of the day was what to wear.  Some websites said it was in the single digits, some double, some below twenty, and others above.  It was very inconsistent, but they did all agree that it wasn't warm.  Most people had thermals on.  For me, 20 degrees is my cut off.  Below twenty, I put on my thermal tights.  Above twenty I can go without.  I kept debating and then Adam, a friend of mine, came by and he was wearing shorts.  That was it!  I put on my shorts, went outside to see how it felt and with the sun out and little wind (at least at that moment), it felt just fine.  Shorts it was! 

I took half a Powerbar energy bar at 9am and a Clif gel at 9:40a.  I did some dynamic stretches and headed out to warm up.  I got in about 7 minutes with a few 20-30 second striders.  I felt like I should do more, but everyone was lining up.  We then sat in line for the next 7 minutes or so.  Oh-well.

I lined up on the left hand side.  I knew I wouldn't be leading the race, so I gave those who wanted to battle for position their space.  I knew one guy who was there; his name is Ken.  He goes to the Fleet Feet track workouts and he is FAST!  He would tell me during the first mile that he would be happy with a 1:15 today (he ran a 1:20).  Gees!!  So I gave them room and set myself up to run my own race.

Staring Line

And We're OFF!

The race starts off on a slight incline.  Since this is the hilliest half I've ever run (725 ft of gain/loss), it only seems right that it does.  The front thinned out fairly quickly and I found myself up in front with maybe 6 other people.

I'm in "don't shoot me" orange

My goal for this race was to increase my average HR from last year, 171 bpm.  I didn't care about my time.  It's the hilliest course I've run; there's no way I'm going to PR!  So it was all about finding that redline as early as I could and staying as close to it as I could.

Well, with that in mind, about 20 seconds into the race, I'm up front with Ken (super fast guy; blue shirt & tights above), Steve (a buddy of Ken's; white shirt behind me above), and some others behind us and I'm feeling like I am WELL under my threshold effort.  For a minute or so, I stuck right behind Ken thinking I didn't want to blow up, but then I shook that thought off and pushed ahead; "run your own race Kurt!"  For the next half mile, I was leading the race.  Steve was tucked in on my left side and I could hear Ken close behind us.  As we passed the first mile marker, Steve asked Ken what we were at - he said 6 minutes.  I rolled my eyes and pushed on.  I had silenced my GPS so that I wouldn't know what I was at.  Somehow that always gets foiled.  Oh-well.

Maybe a quarter mile later, we hit the first real hill and both Steve and Ken were off.  One thing I am very good at is maintaining an effort.  Whether it's a flat course or super hilly, my average HR doesn't move more than 1 bpm.  Unfortunately, that means that I get smoked when we hit a hill.  I would be on my own until around mile 8.  The majority of this race was a tough training run. 

Comparing in my mind to my PR, the Chesire half last year (HR ave = 176), I felt like I was definitely under that effort level.  However, my mind was uneasy pushing harder since I was unsure of how close I could be to that redline.  This is why I do these spring races; to redefine my feeling for that redline and get comfortable with being so close to it.  Ultimately, I stayed put.  A part of me felt bad about it, but then the other part of me just laughed 'cause it wanted nothing to do with pushing harder.

Around mile 5, I took out one of my two gels.  I had opted to run without a water bottle and instead use the three aid stations on course for liquids.  I started taking "bites" of my gel and they immediately sat oddly in my stomach.  In my head, I knew I needed the gel for energy, but I felt if I ate it, I'd end up stopping for a bathroom break (and this course does not have port-a-potties!).  So I ate maybe half a gel between miles 5 and 11 and had three swigs of Gatorade from the aid stations.  That was it!  After talking with my coach, I might go with just the aid stations on the next race. 


I'd like to call this next section "Slip-N-Slide."  There are a couple dirt roads on this course; the first is a large hill and the second is a flat, curvy backroad.  The race director warned us beforehand that while they have been plowed, sanded, and salted, they are still quite icy.  There were people stationed at the first road to make sure we were aware of that as we made the turn.  WOW they were icy!!  I took up the line right along the far right trying to run more on the snow than the ice in the middle of the road.  It didn't keep my feet from slipping right out from under me on the push off though.  I didn't fall, but I heard of others who did. 

At mile 2, I had turned my head back to see someone maybe a quarter mile back.  I put in my head that I wanted to hold them off for at least a mile.  Well, turns out I held them off for about 6.  There is one super nasty hill on this course and Melissa caught and passed me on that hill.  I kept her within a quarter mile the rest of the race, but could never close that gap.

After the 2nd dirt road which is much longer but thankfully is not a hill, we have about 2.25 miles to go.   At the mile 11 marker, I tried to kick it up a gear.  Turns out I went up 3 bpm, but it didn't feel like I was going any faster.  I tried to imagine myself at home on a training run.  I pictured where I would be if I was 2 miles from home.  That seemed to help 'cause at that point on my normal route it feels like I'm practically home. 

After the mile 11 hill (yup, it has a hill all to itself), I hit the mile 12 marker.  I started thinking of the Savin Rock Half now where my breathing was so incredibly ragged for the last 2 miles.  I thought of my progression runs and how hard I'm pushing at the end of those.  I tried to push and I got a little more out of my body.  It certainly was fighting me.  I had actually been wheezing for a majority of the race which is really weird, but I found some rhythm in the wheezing now on the final hill and pushed just to maintain that effort and rhythm.  It'll all be over soon!

As you may recall, my main goal for this race was to increase my HR average.  I had silenced my GPS because I didn't care what my time was.  My PR here (though sick at the time) was 1:33:xx.  I figured I should beat that and if I was lucky maybe break 1:30.  Honestly, I hadn't given it much thought.  It was all about HR.  That is, up until about 5s before I crossed the finish line.  Haha.  Here's how that happened.

I'm pushing up the final hill, trying to keep the effort high enough to make my breathing ragged.  I cross the street, run right in front of a car, and line myself up with the cones that make the final turn.

Inside the cones!

I know I only have 0.05 miles to go (probably less!) and I'm pushing hard.  I make the final turn with plenty of people there cheering me on.

Right turn!

All of a sudden, I get a glimpse of the time clock at the finish line.  1:24:xx. 

CONFUSION!!  Is that real?  That can't be real!  What else would it be timing??  Did that just happen?  How did I just run a half marathon PR on the hilliest course?  Am I dreaming?!

2015 Colchester Half Marathon
4th overall
HR ave = 173 bpm

As soon as I got a drink and my breathing came back down, I switched all my data back onto the screen of my GPS.  My average HR was 173, 2 bpm higher than last year.  Success!!  And yes, my time was 1:24:22!  I think I would have still been second guessing it if I hadn't timed it myself.  With those two pieces of data, I was on cloud 9!!

I warmed down a bit, went and put on sweats, and headed back up to the finish line to catch one of my athletes finish, who by the way beat his course PR by about 12 minutes!  AWESOME!!  We were both very happy with the day's run.  We warmed down, got changed, and headed in for the best part of the race, FOOD!!

Remember that this race costs $14 if you pre-register.  And after the race, there are massages, a full locker room to shower and change, and homemade food prepared by the high school students.  They always make use of the cafeteria since the race is based out of the Bacon Academy High School.  And the food is always GREAT!!  One even better thing this year was that they had specific vegetarian options; vegetarian chili, vegetarian lasagna, and ziti.  I was one happy vegetarian!  

The post-race at Colchester seems to take just as long as the race itself because we sit and talk about our races with all our friends so much that time just flies by!

So if you're ever in the CT area on the last Saturday in February and want to check out a REALLY cool half marathon, I highly encourage you stop by Bacon Academy High School in Colchester and join us!


1.  What is the hilliest race course you've ever been on?
I've run other races that SEEM hillier, but Colchester certain wins at 725 ft of elevation change over 13.1 miles.

2.  What is the best deal of a race that you've ever done?
With massage, showers, and food, I could care less about shirts and medals/awards.  

3.  Have you ever run a race and thought the whole time "Eh, I could do better" only to be surprised at the end by how well you did?  Or maybe the reverse; felt great, but did horribly?
During the race if I had to guess, I might have said I was right at the 1:30 mark.  I would have never guessed I would PR!

4.  Do you run races with data or do you go by feel?
I much prefer going by feel.  Data in the past has ruined my race by getting me depressed, though it has also lit a fire under my a$$ and got me going.  But ultimately, I prefer going without.