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Dispatch” is an online column from Triathlete Editor-at-Large Holly Bennett that features pro updates, industry news, happenings afield and otherwise random reports related to multi-sport. Look for “Dispatch” every Thursday on Triathlete.com. Look back on the other “Baker’s Dozen” entries from Bennett.
I had no real business rocking up to a start line just four weeks after finishing Challenge Penticton. But it was important to me to follow through on my race-a-month Baker’s Dozen commitment, so I looked for a competition toward the end of September, allowing for as much recovery time as possible. The recent Boulder Flood–which left a path of destruction throughout the county–made this a rather difficult task, as many planned events were understandably canceled or postponed. A majority of our roads and trails suffered serious damage from the flood, including my beloved Coal Creek Trail, just a stone’s throw from my doorstep and the site of nearly all my training runs. Despite my sadness at losing this gorgeous trail (at least temporarily) I wasn’t one to complain–mourning the trail seemed selfish and superficial in contrast to the losses that so many people suffered. Still, all the run routes I enjoy are slathered in mud and secured with police tape at the moment. Thus, racing the Prairie Dog Half Marathon in nearby Westminster (a mere seven miles from my apartment and in an area already cleaned up post-storm) seemed an ideal way to spend last Saturday morning. I signed up on Friday night.
Twelve hours later I nearly backed out. I woke up with an ever-so-slightly scratchy throat, which would have been an easy enough excuse to stay home. Plus I hadn’t exactly logged any quality training since racing in Penticton–I’d exercised starting one week out from the race, but I’d kept every session easy and short (by choice and also by necessity, as my body would have nothing to do with any harder efforts). I peeked out from under my cozy covers on race morning, saw the still-dark sky and admitted to myself that I just wasn’t feeling it.
Still nestled in bed, I reminded myself how lucky I was to have a long run venue right down the road. I’ve raced there before, and while it’s not the most picturesque area in contrast to the plethora of other trails, it’s one of the only ones currently open–the gift of perspective transforming it into a beautiful spot. And I knew that I needed the uplift in spirit that goes hand-in-hand with racing a local event–the sense of community and camaraderie that would surely serve as a healing balm in the aftermath of disaster. I also wanted to race simply to regain some fitness, as my skinny jeans were feeling a bit too snug following the past month’s post-iron-distance binge. But the final straw that got me to the start? The race’s start/finish area was in the parking lot of a Super Target, and I needed to replace a broken vacuum cleaner. May as well tackle my weekend errands in my sweat-drenched SOAS kit–a nod to my constant need to multi-task. Off I went.
I was surprised to find myself feeling good early on. I was hitting 7:45-8:00 minute miles and running comfortably. I figured if I could keep that comfy feeling (along with that pace) until the halfway point, then I could probably push through the discomfort of a faster 10 kilometers on the return. I figured wrong. Instead, I added time to each mile coming home, until I was running a full minute-per-mile slower by the end. But I was happy with my result. Even though my muscles felt mostly fresh I was obviously still fielding deep fatigue. Regardless, I nabbed the third-place podium spot. And at least I perfected something–a flawlessly executed positive split.
So I had no complaints–in fact I was quite pleased just to enjoy a steady 13-miler and be reminded of somewhere decent to run while much of Boulder’s trail system awaits repair. Even more so, I got a kick out of the race’s small-town feel and the special touches that made it a true community event. (Case in point, the dog refreshment station wherein canines in attendance enjoyed cool water and complimentary Milk-Bone biscuits.) And the thing that most made the race a memorable experience? No, it wasn’t my flash new Dirt Devil. It was 77-year-old Ross Westley, the oldest athlete in the half marathon category (with a finish time of 2:20:14 he was 156th out of 245 runners). Mr. Westley had the hugest smile I’ve ever seen on a champion as he scaled the top podium step during the awards ceremony, gleefully fist-pumping to the delight of the crowd. I could learn a thing or two from a guy like that. I doubt he hit the snooze button that morning.