Ft. Collins Half-Marathon Report


What things in life are good? 13.1 miles, a full squat & a full beer.

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of running the Colorado Half-Marathon in Ft. Collins, CO.  My official results are as follows:

  • Final time: 01:47:26 at a 00:08:12 pace.
  • Overall place: 204 out of 1529 in the HALF MARATHON.
  • Division placing: 13 out of 68 in class M35-39.

I’m not too terribly disappointed in those results.  I came in in the top 20% of my age group and top 13% overall.  That sounds kinda cool… Makes me think I could actually be competitive.  Too bad they don’t do standings by weight class.  I wonder how I did among men in the 200 lbs. range?  I know I could’ve done better though if I’d been a little smarter.  More on that in a moment.

Early morning & a perfect day

I couldn’t have asked for better racing weather.  It was dry, clear and temps were somewhere in the low 40s at the start.  Cold but perfect for a vigorous run.  The pre-race meal consisted of some Bulletproof coffee and a bit of beet/celery/apple/cucumber/kiwi/kale juice.  About a half-hour before the race I had an old-fashioned Powerbar which always seems to agree with me.

Start time was 6:30 am.  Getting up at 4:30-ish was a little tough but being that I get up early most days, it wasn’t anything freakish.  Racers boarded buses for a ride up along the Poudre River to the start.  The scenery was typical of Colorado’s Front Range: mountainous, beautiful and powerful.

The race: I’ll be smarter next time.

My goal time was 1:47 and change. I did in fact hit my goal time so that’s fine, but the course was a fast course and I thought I could finish faster.  (Maybe 1:45? Sounds like a nice almost-round and realistic number.) The big issue is I started off too fast. Every runner who’s ever raced more than one race has done this.  The results always confirm that we are just as human as everyone else.  No matter how good you feel at the start of a race you’re not going to feel that good at the end.  Hold back.  Feel like you’re going slow at the start so you can maintain speed at the end.  Lesson learned (again.)

I planned on running with a pace group.  There was a 1:40 group and a 1:50 group.  I started with the 1:40 group with the idea that I’d stay with them just a little while, slow a bit and maintain my goal pace of 8:11/mile.  Bottom line, it didn’t work out exactly.  I slowed down near the end.  If I had it to do over–which I will–I would’ve maintained even splits the whole time. Fortunately, there was beer at the end which in all truth may not be the ideal post-workout/race recovery drink but it still takes a special prize.  To paraphrase Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now: “I love the taste of cold suds in the morning.  Tastes like…. I ran 13.1 miles.”

The final word

I have great affection this race. Ft. Collins is a delightful place and I love going there for any reason. If you get a chance to run this race, do it.  (There’s a marathon, half-marathon, 10k and 5k–a distance for everyone.) Register early though because the marathon and half- fill up fast.

It’s tempting to think about running the marathon, but training for a spring marathon during the Colorado winter sounds less-than-enjoyable.  I’ll have to think on it.


One Week Until the Colorado (Half-)Marathon


I like this plan. You might too.

The Colorado Marathon and Half-Marathon are coming up on May 5.  It’s in Ft. Collins, north of Denver.  I’m running the half-.  It’s actually my first half-marathon.  I’ve run several 10-milers, a 15-mile trail race, 10k’s, 5k’s, and one marathon, so this shouldn’t be any radical departure.  This is a very popular race that fills up early.  The course is supposed to be scenic and this time of year is spectacular in Colorado.  It’s also slightly downhill which should make for a fast race.

My goal time is just under 1:38 about 1:47.  That’s based on a 23:10 5k I ran last year.  That it’s downhill makes me think I might get a little bit better time.  I’ve been following the 3-run per week Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster plan developed by the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST).  I enjoy the plan for several reasons.  First, it covers the whole spectrum of speed: fast track workouts, tempo runs, and long runs. Everything is paced.  Times are based on a 5k race time.  The plan pushes me to run harder than I probably would on my own.  That’s good.  Second, with only three runs per week it’s time-efficient.  The idea is for you to do only what you need to do and nothing more. That’s another good idea.

I’ve been lifting several times per week with two of those workouts being hard workouts.  The workouts are loosely based on the Wendler 5/3/1 scheme. (Week 1: 3×5 reps.  Week 2: 3×3 sets.  Week 3: 5 reps, 3 reps, 1 rep.  Week 4: reduce the work load and take it easy.  Then start the process over with more weight.)  They’ve looked like this:

Workout 1

  • barbell, kettlebell, or dumbbell clean & press
  • box back squats
  • core work, one or more of the following: ab wheel roll-outs, hanging knee-ups, cable chops, cable lifts, side bends, Turkish get-ups, 1-arm farmer walks

Workout 2

  • 1-leg work: pistols alternated each week with 1-leg RDLs.  I mix pistols off a box with TRX pistols.  Two weeks from the race I’ve done some single leg jumping on and off a plyo box.
  • weighted pull-ups or chin ups
  • bench press
  • core work: similar to workout 1

Other workouts

  • Mobility work: I’ve been religious about using the rumble roller, lacrosse ball (big-time favorite of mine), and the Stick to address my soft tissue.  I’ve also been smashing my quads with a barbell ala Kelly Starrett’s Becoming a Supple Leopard pg 326.  (That one’s great for nausea.  That is, if you’re not currently nauseous and you’d like to be, the barbell quad smash will get you there.  Seriously, it’s really improved my hip flexor ROM and helped reduce soreness.)  I’ve worked a lot on ankle mobility; foot/big toe mobility; hip flexors, extensors, adductors and rotators; quadratus lumborum (HUGELY for me lately), and thoracic mobility.  I’ll often combine this work with a trip to the hot tub either before or after.
  • If I missed an exercise one day due to time or fatigue, I fit it in on another day.
  • There are lots of core exercises to pick from.  I don’t do them all in one workout, therefore I often get one or more in on another day.

I think single-leg work is very important.  Running is a one-legged gig.  Mobility, stability and strength on one leg is an essential ability.  Further, it seems that getting strong on one leg makes me stronger on two legs (squat or deadlift), but getting stronger on two legs doesn’t necessarily seem to make me stronger on one leg.  The last week before the race I might do some single-leg jumping only–and nothing else.  It’s time to rest.  More work at this point won’t improve my race performance.

The core work has been a big part of this scheme.  I’ve spent more time on specific core work than I have in the past.  I understand it better.  I perceive its importance more thoroughly than I used to.

I’m hoping for good weather.  Spring in Colorado can be sunny and gorgeous or it can be frigid, snowy/rainy, and rough.  Sunny and gorgeous is my preference.

Ski Haus Continental Divide Trail Race Outcome


I ran the big Continental Divide Trail Race on Saturday and I didn’t come in last. It was on the rough side of brutal (my feet feel like they spent the weekend in Guantanamo Bay) but I’m fairly content with my performance. That said, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

The good

It’s been less than a year since I’ve returned to serious running. I finished in the top half of the participants and middle of the pack for men. (Results weren’t broken down by age group.) This is nothing spectacular but it makes me happy. I simply couldn’t have run this race at all a year ago.

I ran for almost three hours which is well into marathon-time territory. I’ve never done that. That’s good. I bet I can do it again.

Also, the race included a very long downhill stretch near the end (about 3000 ft.!) and my legs held up. Downhill running is typically very strenuous on the muscles. I’m not saying it was easy but I held up and I haven’t been unduly sore since the race. I think I hit it right with my strength program.

My only pain issues were in my metatarsal heads (the part of my toes that attach to my feet; more on that in a moment.) No Achilles pain. No heel pain. No back pain. No knee pain. No hip pain. Don’t call me “bulletproof,” but maybe… “bullet-resistant.” I’ve worked years to overcome chronic pain and I’m on the winning side.

The bad

By far the biggest negative to this race was some severe metatarsal pain, particularly on my left foot and to some degree on my right. (Specifically, we’re talking about metatarsal head pain. The met heads are the part of your toes that meet the feet. Think of the knuckles of your feet.) Holy s__t those things hurt!! And they hurt for quite a while. They’re still sore as I type this. By the end of the race I thought those bones must’ve popped through the soles of my feet. I’ve got to find a solution to this issue before the marathon.

Without going way too much into it, I’ve been reading Anatomy and Biomechanics of the First Ray to get a better feel for what’s supposed to happen and what can happen in the toe neighborhood. Further, I’ve been reading and learning more about Morton’s Toe, including the possible implications and what to do about them. This is a situation in which the 2nd toe is longer than the big toe. Wow… There’s potentially a lot to this issue. For now, I’m experimenting with a Morton’s Toe shim. I’ll probably write more about this issue in the near future. (If you’re experiencing foot pain and your 2nd toe is longer than your big toe, you may well want to look into this Morton’s Toe business. In addition to the links above, the Barefoot Runners Society has a whole discussion board devoted to the matter.)

I should’ve fueled better. I consumed two Honey Stinger gels and one package of Honey Stinger chews. Based on my weight, I should’ve had about two more gels or another package of chews. The race featured a lot of repeated ascents, some of them were quite steep. Then we had a long downhill run to the finish. I was more tired near the end than I expected, though I didn’t bonk. Not that I expected to feel fresh as a daisy, but I have no doubt that more fuel in the tank would have ameliorated some of my weariness. Lesson learned.

The near future

I’m taking it somewhat easy this week. I’m probably only running twice–easy runs with my dog–and possibly a little mountain biking this weekend. Then next week it’s back to work. I’m going to use the FIRST marathon plan. I really like the three-day per week plan. I’ve ordered Run Faster, Run Less which is written by the team that formulated the quality-over-quantity scheme. Assuming my tender toes are up for it, I’m looking forward to a track workout next Tuesday, a tempo run then a long run next weekend.

I’ve got the Park-to-Park 10 Miler on Labor Day.  This is a fun, scenic race and it’s local so the logistics are easy.  Then in a month is my Moby Dick.  I’m planning on running the Denver Rock’n’Roll Marathon.  I’ve wanted to run a marathon for years.  My injuries have gotten in the way.  Now I’m winning the battle and I’m ecstatic to be within striking distance of the event.

Finally, as part of the marathon preparation, I’m going to start doing group runs with the Boulder Running Co. located in the Denver Tech Center.  They do group runs on Saturday mornings. Group runs should do a couple of things for me.  First, I’ll be pushed to run harder.  That’s good. Also, suffering through long runs with other similarly suffering individuals should help the miles go by a little easier.