startI lived in Louisville during the mid ’90s.  I always considered it more of a suburb of Boulder than Denver.  I appreciated their ample hike and bike trails but never ran on this particular trail along Coal Creek.  Of course, that was back when I could count my annual runs on one hand.  I get out a little more often nowadays.  I’m out here this morning at Louisville Community Park to run the Louisville Trail Half Marathon on the Coal Creek Trail.  Karen captures this first photo here about 100 yards after the start.

4 milesThis second photo is the same spot but on the return from the first 4 mile loop.  That’s 44 year old Grant Nesbitt running on my heels, where he remains the entire race, finishing 22 seconds behind me.  There’s a 10K and 5K sharing the course with a different configuration, but the half itself is a decent size with 180 runners.  Being a fall race in Boulder County, I expect it to be competitive.  It is as I find myself behind 20 runners by this point, and it’s a large gap between me and number 20.  I run my first three miles in 7:17, 7:18, and 7:19.  I’m happy for the steady pace but had a loosely defined race plan of starting out at an 8 minute pace.  I’m not looking at my Garmin, it’s in my pocket, but I know I’m running too fast because I’m in oxygen debt.  I consider slowing down but the sound of Grant’s footsteps has me in race mode.

4 miles farmThis photo is just a few steps past the previous, and captures the typical landscape view.  This trail is really nice.  It’s mostly groomed cinder with a bit of cement near bridges.  Since I’ll be running the Denver Marathon next Sunday, this is just a training run for me.  Being a race with other runners, I do expect to run somewhat harder than I might working out by myself.  That’s the point of registering for these events – a good workout – but shoot, this pace is fast for me.  I run mile 4 in 7:05 and mile 5 in 7:06.  I know I’ll slow down eventually and that’s fine.  Just looking for a good distance workout.

kick 1Immediately after the 5th mile, the course’s one big hill begins.  And it’s fairly sizable, about a 400 foot rise over a quarter mile.  The far side drops in half the distance.  I pass one runner on the ascent and another on the descent.  I’m surprised because they were out of view for the last couple of miles.  This slows my 6th mile down to 7:27, I figured at the time, since I wasn’t checking my Garmin, that I slowed down to an 8:30 pace for the rest of the run.  Instead I run 7:17 for mile 7, 7:32 for mile 8 and  7:47 for mile 9.  The photos above and below are on the final kick.

kick 2I get passed by 55 year old Chris Levine at mile 9.  I can tell by his gray hair that he’s about my age.  I really don’t feel like racing, I just want to coast in – so I let him go.  I end up passing him back though as we return over the massive hill, which slows me down on mile 10 to 8:03.  Chris is slowed down from some cramping.  I keep this pace to the finish running mile 11 in 8:20 and mile 12 in 8:19.  The course ends up just short of 13 miles but my final stretch is at a 7:40 pace.

2nd place awardI finish in 2nd place for the 50-59 year old division with a time of 1:37:23, and add another pint glass to my collection.  This is about the time I was expecting although I didn’t expect it to hurt quite this much.  The weather was hot for an October race, in the 60°s.  I run into Bob Kania afterward, a work colleague.  His wife ran the half.  Bob’s a few years older than me but he’s always been extremely fit and could pass for 10 years my junior.  In addition to being a good training run before next weekend’s marathon, this race reinforces for me the need to start out slow.  I’ll target an 8 minute pace for Denver next Sunday.