In honor of the holidays, I am posting special blog posts chronicling 12 of my favorite running races from 2012 and the somewhat funny lessons, or gifts you could say, that came from them (well…they’re funny now; at the time not so much).
On the 2nd day of running, Horsetooth Half gave to me: a 2-mile mountain.
Horsetooth Half Marathon takes places in Fort Collins, CO, in April. It was my first out-of-state race (well, Missouri is out of state, but when you live in the Kansas City area, anything in Missouri or Kansas is pretty much the same state to you…unless you’re trying to buy liquor or rooting for a sports team).
Horsetooth Half Marathon is named because one of the nearby mountains looks like a horsetooth – it has sort of a square top with a big notch in the middle of it. You actually start the race at the Colorado State University football field and slowly make your way up Monster Mountain for the first 2 miles of the race.
I’d never run a race out of state or at altitude or up a mountain. And yet I LOVED this race. Since high school when I got nicknamed Hill Master for my love of conquering hills, I’ve loved tough races with elevation. So, when I heard about this race where you run up a mountain plus end at a brewery (New Belgium Brewery, famous for their Fat Tire beer), I was like SIGN ME UP, SCOTTY! (because in addition to being a runner, I’m a huge nerd).
The week of the race worked out really well – our friends lived in Fort Collins, my boyfriend got called in to work at the Fort Collins office that week, and I had a week of vacation to burn. So I was able to be there and acclimate to the altitude a week before the race. But running at altitude is still a struggle; in addition, Colorado runners don’t mess around.
In Kansas, you have a wide variety of runners. In Colorado, they all look serious about running. I almost felt fat and out of shape compared to some of them. They were all decked out in matching name brand apparel with fuel belts or were skinny and muscular. But you can’t judge a runner by his/her cover…
Because my friend Jen and I did awesome in that race. That week she, her husband, and I ran up the steep part of the mountain three times for hill repeats (or in this case, mountain repeats). I leg pressed over 300 lbs on the leg press at the student gym and had gym rat dudes checking me out. I also ran sprints on the university track and…
felt like that slow kid in gym class. I couldn’t breathe. I’d run 10 miles of Rock the Parkway race in Kansas City, MO, the weekend before this race in 80% humidity, but I huffed and puffed in Colorado. Running in Colorado, or anywhere with a thin atmosphere, is a challenge for anyone who doesn’t live in the area.
But if you’ve been training, then running in Colorado is possible. You just have to realize it’s not going to be the same as running in your hometown. And you’re going to want strength when running up a mountain, too. But the reward and bragging rights are worth it. I felt like I had earned the title Mountain Master. Graduating from Hill Master to Mountain Master.
Running up a mountain is tough, but on race day, it’s so much easier. I tried running up the mountain by myself early in the week and failed. I had to walk. But on race day, with hundreds of people and my friend Jen, it was so much easier going up the mountain. Even my boyfriend, who’d had knee surgery 6 months before he first ran this race in 2011, was able to run up the mountain the first time without walking.
Friends, race day camaraderie, and race day ambition will help you accomplish so much more than you ever think you can do. And going outside your comfort zone is fun too. If you have friends outside your normal race area, find a race near them and enjoy the chance to visit and try a new race. You’ll grow as a runner and experience something you might never have if you’d just stayed in your area.