Saturday, April 14, 2012

Boulder Spring Half Marathon

Ben and I ran the Boulder Spring Half on April 1st. For those of you who don’t know, it was my first race of the season and Ben’s longest run since his birthday run in December! I love spring racing and was a little nervous that Ben might not be able to participate, but he did and we did better than I expected! When we started the race, we both agreed to have a conservative pace, and I agreed to let Ben set the pace (plus, my GPS had gotten left behind so I could only be of limited help with the clock). The start was a little breezy and chilly, but I was glad I had opted to wear my warm weather gear, as it heated up fast and the course was almost fully exposed! For the first half, we really focused on having fun and taking in the sights.

Once we hit the turn around, Ben indicated that he was feeling good and wanted to push it a little harder for the last half. As a PT and his running partner, I was a little hesitant but decided to roll with it. The back half of the course is a little tough, as there are a few relatively long slow hills that you can see for an eternity before you even get to them, so I was not sure how this was going to turn out. With one mile left, we realized we would potentially be able to beat 2 hours (not near our PR, but still a good goal), but only if everything played out just right. Ben and I love hills (most of the time) and remained consistent with our pace as we climbed the last few, dropped into the reservoir, and made the final, smallish ascent to the finish line. Somehow, even with a very conservative start, we were able to finish in less than two hours, both feeling great!

Overall, I was extremely excited about our race. That said…I know right before this post I talked about pre-race prep. Well, let it be known that things do not always turn out how you think they will. For example, my GPS was ready to go and was accidentally placed into the wrong bag. I also decided to wear a black visor, which proved to be a problem with how hot it ended up being.

Now onto the dirty details… Races are one of my favorite things to do. They feel like mini vacations from reality. Races bring runners in the community together for one common goal. Let’s face it, unless you are trying to place, races are a time to challenge yourself, meet other runners, and have a good time. If I could afford to, I would race every weekend!

Needless to say, I had been looking forward to this race for a long time. We registered almost as soon as the race was open. Because we had both been race marshals for the full marathon in September, our entry fee was comp’ed.  I was disappointed that I was not able to go to packet pick up, but in reality, it turns out I am glad I did not get to! Packet pick up for the Boulder Spring Half occurs at the Fleet Feet Store in Boulder. The store itself is relatively small, so it truly is just packet pick-up and not an expo. Ben’s report of packet pick up was less than satisfactory. It took over an hour for him to retrieve three packets (his, mine, and one for a colleague of mine), not including drive time. It took a while for the volunteers to find Ben’s bib and then some additional time to rematch it to the correct timing chip. While the shirts were rather large, and Ben was originally given the wrong size, the glasses provided are always an added bonus of this race.

Parking on race day can sometimes be a little intimidating. The Boulder Spring Half, however, does a fantastic job with parking. Parking is available to runners in the reservoir, so your car is close to the start and finish and entry to the lot is quick and painless. Apart from parking, I am always worried about porta pottie access at the start line. There were abundant toilets in the parking lot and close the start/finish line, so the line was kept to a minimum.

The race was off without a hitch and some amazing weather. The course leaves from the Boulder Reservoir and runs through the “back roads” of Boulder. Some are paved while others are dirt. The roads provide an awesome view of the foothills on the way out and the reservoir on the way back. In addition, there are some pretty decent long hills and with the way the roads are set, you can see other runners plodding along before you even get to the hill! Most of the hills are rolling, however, be forewarned that there are two climbs in the last mile just prior to entering the reservoir that are not bad, but feel brutal because of their location. The finish is also on a slight incline- not enough to really matter during any other run, but enough to notice when you are pushing it out at the end! The one disadvantage of the course being on roads is the exposure. There is absolutely no shade on the course.

Aid stations were well manned and appeared to be well stocked and the volunteers were very friendly! The finish line was packed with spectators, which made arriving back at the reservoir so much better. The race had a variety of sponsors but food was primarily provided by Udi’s. Post race food included vegetarian burgers, bagels (with cream cheese, who doesn’t love cream cheese?!), oranges, energy drinks, and water. Beer was provided in abundance, (who doesn’t love post race beer?!) by the Boulder Beer Co. and could be enjoyed while soaking in the sun on picnic tables.

Overall, the race experience was a positive one. The volunteers are very helpful (they even exchanged Ben’s shirt on race day!). The course is a great course and the post-race party leaves little to be desired (maybe some shade?).

Would I do this race again? Absolutely! I would love to do the full in the fall as I think they do a great job with volunteer coordination.

Would I recommend it to a friend? I would… with the caveat that one needs to be prepared for a few hills!

Would I change anything? Packet pick up could have been a little more organized. Although the shirts were tech shirts and had a cool design, I am not a huge fan of the way shirts made by Leslie Jordan fit. They tend to be oversized and baggy.

Is it worth the value? You bet

Things to consider: Time of year can make weather unpredictable, the course is fully exposed

Overall race experience: Fantastic

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