Horsetooth Half Marathon 2019 Recap

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve visited my own little corner of the internet, hasn’t it? The end of the school year and the start of summer flew right by, and now it’s been over two months since the Horsetooth Half — high time to get a recap written!

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Before the start. Apparently blue was the theme of the day.

This was the second year that I’ve run the Horsetooth Half. In 2018, I ran 1:40:14, with too little hill training and mileage in general (you can read that recap here). This year, I wanted to train harder and run better on race day, so I built up to the race with more mileage, more hills, and several training runs on the course itself. I didn’t do as much speedwork as I probably should have, but on race morning, I felt as ready as I could be.

This race doesn’t waste any time with its elevation profile, starting with the race’s hardest climb in the first 1.8 miles.
Horsetooth Half Marathon Course Elevation Profile

In my training runs, I’d learned that I had to start that climb nice and warmed up, so before the race, I ran a couple of easy miles and shook out with some strides and dynamic stretches. There’s really nothing you can do to make that climb feel easy, though; you basically just have to gut it out. I did, hitting mile 1 with a pace if 8:18 and mile 2 with 8:33 — right about where I wanted to be, knowing that downhills were coming. Over the next few rolling miles, I made up some of that time, ticking off mile 3 in 6:52, 4 (another little climb) in 7:25, 5 in 6:43, and 6 in 6:53.

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Still a little crowded up the first climb. Photo courtesy of the race — gotta love free photos!

The first half of this course is stunningly beautiful, and race morning was no exception. The sun was shining, and Horsetooth Reservoir showed off with its glistening blue surface contrasting the snowy foothills around it. As I struggled up a little incline, the guy running next to me made a comment about how gorgeous it was, and I realized that I was so focused on my pace that I’d forgotten to drink in my surroundings — “Oh yeah,” I thought, “This is supposed to be fun!”

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Climbing “Monster Mountain”

The fun faded as I turned onto Bingham Hill Road around mile 7. Although the course was still lovely, the sun had gotten quite warm, and I was regretting my decision to wear long sleeves. Bingham Hill’s a good little climb, and at mile 8, it’s especially challenging — it’s that awkward point in the race when you’re pretty tired, but there’s a good bit of running still to do. But I knew my friend Becky was working the aid station at mile 9ish, so I kept telling myself, “Just get through this section, and then you’ll see Becky!” It worked (kind of) — mile 7 ticked by in 7:36, and mile 8 in 7:23.

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Trying to smile for the photog as I climbed Bingham Hill. The smile didn’t quite come…

Seeing Becky at the aid station did lift my spirits and give me a little boost of energy. Flat miles 9 and 10 ticked off in 7:15 and 7:05. Around mile 10, this race gets really challenging mentally. You’ve left the roads (and thus, the cheering spectators), and you run along the Poudre Trail bike path. It’s pretty, but a bit monotonous. The sun bears down hard through that corridor, and since it’s mile 10 of a half, you’re pretty dang tired. The mental battle to keep pushing is real. Compounding the struggle was my old nemesis, gut trouble, who started showing up around this time. Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as sometimes, but it did cause me to slow my pace a bit. Mile 11 (with a porta-john stop) rolled in at 8:18, and mile 12 at 7:29.

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On the bike path, fighting that mental battle

By this point, I was pretty spent, and I knew I wasn’t going to make my A-goal of 1:35. I’d moved on to my B-goal — beat last year’s time– and knew that even to do that, I needed to push to the end. Luckily, the last mile is pretty spectator-full, and their cheers encouraged me to push a little harder and cruise it on in. Mile 13 ticked by in 7:27, and I crossed the finish line in 1:37:55 — 16th woman and 4th in my age group.

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Orange guy totally out-kicked me. I didn’t even know he was there until he passed me. 

Although I missed my A-goal, I’m satisfied with how this race went. I got a solid mileage base built for summer training, pushed hard with what I had on that day, and placed well in a super competitive field. As always, Horsetooth was a fantastic race — well-organized, beautiful, and tons of fun. I highly recommend this race, and I can’t wait to go back next year!

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