Saturday, July 27, 2013

Keystone Half-Marathon

Sun. 22 July 2013

This last weekend I ran the Keystone Half-Marathon. It’s a well-run, small race in a ski-town in the summer. This race is part of the Endurance Race Series in Colorado. It bills itself as Colorado’s Largest Trail Running Series.

I would argue that calling it a trail race is a little generous. About 9 to 10 of the 13 miles are on the bike path that goes along the Snake River. The one section of trail comes about two miles into the loop when you climb about 250 feet around the town golf course. The half-marathon is two loops of the 10k course plus a 0.7-mile loop tacked on at the end. The total elevation gain for the half-marathon is around 1,400 feet – hardly noteworthy by mountain racing standards, but significant enough to separate the climbers from the non-climbers. The entire race itself stays about 9,000 ft.

Elevation Profile

I left Boulder around 6:30 and made it to Keystone just a little after 8 am. Racers parked on the north side of the road and walk about a half-mile under the underpass to the eastern side of the Keystone Lake. The packet pick-up was easy and I was glad to see that they had a bag check spot so that I did not have to haul my gear back to the truck. There were three porta-potties there which was perfectly adequate for the number of runners. Lines were pretty manageable. I lathered up on sunscreen and did a quick five-minute warm-up.

The race start was relaxed – a quick explanation of the course and a ready, set, go. I surprisingly found myself in the lead. The course starts of going west and downstream which means downhill; so, in spite of my effort to go out easy, I ran the first mile in 5:50. A 10-k runner briefly caught up to me and was a little dismayed to see that I was running the half. I told him not to worry – I might not be pacing this right. But once we turned at the golf course and started going uphill he dropped back and I was all alone.

The single track portion of the course was lovely – if short. The course pacer warned me about the “hill”, but while not insignificant, a 250-ft climb over a mile is hardly bad. For that I have to thank Greg Nash and the Boulder Track Club’s Mountain, Ultra and Trail Running Team. After training on the Shadow Canyon loop, the ascent here was pretty tame.

Once I regained the bike path I headed back to the start and a gradual uphill climb. While I was alone as a runner, there was ample company from what appeared to be a large bike ride going on that weekend. While I would have preferred the solitude of running, the bikers were very courteous and friendly and we all seemed to share the trail rather well from my perspective.

The second loop was a little slower than the first, but I maintained an average pace of 6:30 miles. While I have run a faster pace on road marathons, this one was at 9,000 feet and there was no one really pushing me so I felt okay with that. The last 0.7 mile loop was a bit of a ball buster. You climb for what feels like a while before returning to the bike path for a smooth finish. My watch had the whole thing at 12.7 miles, but I lost about two tenths of a mile each time through the single-track portion of the loop. Finishing time was 1:26:01 – not blazingly fast, but good enough for the win.

There was free Left Hand Sawtooth Ale at the end and the race organizers were pretty efficient at getting the results out. The spread of food was also pretty respectable for a small race. I got my award and was on my way home before noon. Another fun race in the books.

The Taste of Victory (which tastes like Lefthand Sawtooth)

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