Prairie Dog Half Marathon Race Report

This is my first ever race report, the reason is simple, this was my first ever race! It was a personal record by default because not only was it the first half marathon I have ever done, I am fairly certain it is the longest distance I have ever run ever in my life! I am happy to have the experience under my belt.

This was not an A race for me, in fact, it was the culmination of a 3 week build phase in my training. Brian, Sarah, myself, Don, Kaira, and Sabrina (Sabrina did a different half) did this with the opposite of a taper. In the work week and Saturday leading up to Sunday’s run, this was our workout schedule:

Tuesday: Swim – 2200 meters Bike – 7×5 minute hill climbs, negative splits
Wednesday: BRICK – 1 hour bike @ moderate intensity, 20 minute run at threshold intensity
Thursday: Run – 12×1 sprints with active recovery Swim – 2000 meters (done back to back)
Friday: Swim – 2500 meters
Saturday: Bike – 3 hours (61 miles) Run – 30 minutes (I skipped the run)
Sunday: Long Run – 13.1 miles

If your legs are a little sore (as mine were) from the previous days bike ride then you haven’t tapered properly.

Sunday morning, race day, I am a little nervous because this was my first ever half marathon and only second organized run I have done since the 90s. The weather was not favorable. It was about 32 degrees and sleeting. If you are unfamiliar with sleet, there is a precipitation between straight rain and nice fluffy snow. When snow falls (or rain depending) and there is a mean temperature difference between origin and ground, the snow turns into a frozen ball of ice/water which, when picked up with even the slightest amount of wind, stings the face.

Start Line

Even considering the weather, a good many souls showed up to brave the conditions to do one of the three (5K, 10K, 1/2 Marathon) runs available. As a quick aside I would like to mention that we had great community support from Arvada and a good many volunteers who stood in the freezing rain to hand us slushy Gatorade and oddly thick power gels. Arvada is an older suburb of Denver and often overlooked in favor of newer communities. A few years ago they widened their roads and put in generous bike lanes (where we ran when we were on a road) and many running paths, which we took advantage of. The Arvada Apex Community Center (where we started/finished) is a nice facility with a full workout facility and 4 pools.

If you come from a warm climate and wonder how you equip for a run like this, there are solutions. I wore a pair of Pearl Izumi multi-sport pants (good for breaking the wind since they are designed for cycling), a Nike hyper-warm turtleneck running shirt, an Eddie Bauer BC-200 rain shell, Pearl Izumi thermal cycling gloves, a Swix winter hat, and a Newton Running branded Headsweats visor. I also carried a fuel belt with 2 water containers with Skratch secret drink mix and a GU Gel (I meant to grab a honey stinger gel which I like better).

The first half of the race was fine as it was all on concrete or road so the weather was more of an annoyance than anything. course profile

The course was not overly aggressive but the longish climb required some personal race management to make sure I wasn’t prematurely burning myself out. One thing to note, those little spikes in elevation seem quaint enough on the profile but when you running up that grade (some oddly placed high grade hills in residential neighborhoods??) it can be spirit breaking. In fact, there was a sign at the beginning of the highest grade one which said “It’s a hill, get over it”. Clever race people, clever.

There was only one real problem spot for people. Up until the lake the trails were paved. The trail around the lake was not paved or grated in any way so somehow the mud was both sticky and slippery at the same time. While out there, some of us joked that this was our first half marathon survival run. Lake Circle

Not only was the lake practically dangerous to run on (a lot of people walked for safety) it coincided with a time where mother nature decided that freezing rain was better with a bit of wind. This was the only time I ran with my hood up which blocked most of the freezing rain from hitting my left/right cheek). I passed people here who were better runners than I was, but not as sure footed and without the mountaineering class jacket I was wearing.

Fortunately, once you finished this the course was essentially out and back so that gradual climb in the first half was a gradual downhill on the way back in. There were not a ton of runners out there so I found myself either alone or within sight of one or two other runners. By this time the 10K people had all but cleared the parts of the course they shared with us. We were on wooded trails so line of sight wasn’t great, if it had been a sunny day this would have been a relief because the trees would have provided ample shade.

The finish line was not lined with people, too cold for that. The organizers had space blankets for us, which was nice. I found my co-runners and waited for my wife to come in who was a few minutes behind me. When I saw her I jogged in with her.


Of course we had to take the obligatory medal selfie: Patrick and Sarah

I averaged 9:45 a mile, which isn’t brilliant but my run plan was actually to be paced at 10:00 a mile so I was well within my planned pace. It would have been faster but the trip around the lake cost me (and many other runners) minutes. Not a huge deal, it wasn’t as if were were competing for money.

My fueling and electrolyte plan was spot on. I had begun hydrating the night before (a combination of preparing for the run and recovering from the bike ride that day) with an amino-acid electrolyte supplement. Morning of the race I had an english muffin with peanut better and jelly, a cup of coffee, and a KIND bar. During the race I hydrated from my fuel belt every 10 or so minutes and took the race water twice. Halfway and three quarters I had a gel, the second gel was probably unnecessary but a nice race volunteer handed me one so I took it. Sarah and I took a potassium supplement post race and besides some soreness in the calves (not uncommon with Newton Running shoes) we haven’t had any cramps. Our attitude during the race was positive and we didn’t have any emotional drops or feelings of “Can’t this run be OVER!” which are common signs of glycogen depletion and electrolyte depletion.

This was supposed to be the last organized race before I went on to do the Boulder Sprint and 70.3 in June but we may run the Colfax 1/2 marathon in May which is flatter – maybe I can improve my time. Realistically, I will probably do it, I have enough friends who are running it so they will bully me until I sign up Smile.


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4 responses to “Prairie Dog Half Marathon Race Report”

  1. literarylydi says :

    Congratulations on completing your first half! You were much better prepared and trained than I was, I wished I had some water when it ran out at about 8 miles (race was cancelled due to water not being delivered but some 4,000 entrants ran anyway!). Yours sounds hardcore with the weather and mud! I had a “can’t this run be over” moment at 10 miles, must have been the lack of fluid? I had about 500ml, how much are you supposed to drink?

    • patsullivan6630 says :

      I read your blog and based on what I saw it is most likely a problem of fueling. The severe emotional low (sometimes called “Bonk”) is due to glycogen depletion, the fix for this is eating. For a 2 to 2.5 hour run gels should suffice. Heavy legs, locking up legs, and cramps are hydration and electrolytes. My coach says every ten minutes you should drink (not much, one gulp) and eat every 45 minutes.

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