I love small, local races that benefit local organizations, and the Loveland Sweetheart Classic 4-miler is one that I return to year after year. I first ran it in 2009, when I was just learning to be a runner and the race route was really kind of boring. Since then, the race and I have both grown — I’m a smarter and stronger runner, and the race has moved a couple of times, ending up with its latest course that starts and finishes at the Loveland Sweetheart Festival. Since the race is around Valentine’s Day, I’m always coming out of my winter down time, so it’s a good race to find out the starting point of my fitness as I head into spring training.
The last couple of years, J has walked while I ran, and that makes it even more fun.
This year’s race started at 2:30 p.m., which is kind of a weird time, but it coincided with the Sweetheart Festival downtown. The afternoon start time actually worked out well for me; I was at a conference in the morning, so I would have had to skip the race if not for the new time. As it was, I got downtown around 1:30, picked up my packet, did a little warm-up jog, and met up with the husband before wandering over to the start. As we waited for the gun, I saw my friend from work, Chris, who used to be slower than I but has been training hard and is now WAY faster. We chatted for a few minutes, and then a quartet sang the anthem, the gun fired, and we were off!
The new course is a challenging one: the first half mile is downhill, steep enough that my legs wanted to hammer but gradual enough that I knew I should rein it in. I didn’t rein it in enough, though, and ticked off mile 1 in 6:40 — not a bad pace, if I was in better shape. But I wasn’t in better shape, and that quick start would come back to bite me.
About a mile in, the race turns into River’s Edge Natural Area, one of my favorite places to run in Loveland. The crushed-gravel paths were pretty snowy, so that slowed me down (excuse? Maybe), but the little ponds were pretty and the sun came out for a while, making the loop around the ponds a lot more fun.
Fake smile for the photog. I think I look like a velociraptor in this picture.
I looped the ponds in a more-reasonable 6:53 for mile 2, but then the wheels started to come off. The wind was in my face, and the gradual downhill of the start became a gradual uphill for the finish. My motivation to push also started to wane: I knew the lead woman was WAY ahead of me, as was Chris, and no one was very close behind me, either. I know I’m supposed to compete with myself at races and all, but without a not-me competitor, I couldn’t muster the gumption to push hard. Miles 3 and 4 ticked off in 7:07 and 7:06 –disappointingly positive splits. Nonetheless, the finish was soon in view, and Chris, who had finished long before me, cheered me in as I approached the line.
I finished in 28:18 — not terrible, given my lack of speedwork since… June, I think.
I talked to Chris for a while, then went to get my coat (I got cold when I stopped running) and waited for Jordan to come in. As the awards started, I found out that the lead woman was registered as part of a couple (since it’s a Valentine’s race, couples can register together, and couple-runners aren’t eligible for single-runner prizes). That meant that I was the first-place woman!
I won a nice plate (Sweetheart City races always have handmade prizes/medals, a nice touch for local races) and FREE SHOES! I was stoked — that’s a heck of a prize for a $30 race entry.
After the quick awards ceremony, I waited for J’s dramatic finish:
I’m pretty sure I say this about this race every year (see here, here, and here), but this is a great little race, and if you’re local (or visiting), definitely worth your time. Sweetheart City Racing puts on great events — they’re well-organized, affordable, and benefit local charities/groups, and they have the BEST race shirts. Although I was out of shape (and probably will be again next year), I loved this race and will definitely be back!