Race Report: Spring Equinox Four Miler

I ran the Spring Equinox Four Miler on March 26th, but it’s taken me some time to sit down and write a race report. I’m pretty proud of my effort here though, and definitely wanted to write it up for posterity!

Having PRed in the four mile just a few weeks earlier, I was really excited about the Spring Equinox Four Mile race to see what I could do. I tried hard to do things right, too: resting up the few days before the race, even though it was on a Sunday and I hated having to take a Saturday off from workouts. (Usually, Saturday is my all-out day, since I don’t have work and have time to hit it hard.) I went to bed at a reasonable hour the night before the race, and even skipped drinking on Saturday night to try to be in great shape. #RaceSacrifices

…and it worked! I woke up on Sunday morning feeling reasonably decent, and then freaking fantastic after I made some caffeinated coffee. I normally drink decaf coffee for exactly this reason – it allows just one cup of caffeinated coffee to really give me energy when I need it :) I got myself together and hopped into the car for the hour drive up to Fort Collins for the start.

The drive was peaceful and relaxing. I forgot how beautiful it is to drive up I-25, with the open sky to the right and beautiful mountains to the left! I had been worried about rain on race day, but while the sky wasn’t bright and sunny, it looked like it was going to hold off for a little while.

Arriving at Anheuser-Busch Brewery, there was a bit of a line to get into the grassy overflow area that was being used for parking. But for once, I had arrived early and knew that I’d have plenty of time! The volunteers kindly directed me to a spot, and while there were a lot of cars there already, it was a really short walk to the brewery where the start and packet pick up were. I was thrilled about this – in so many races, you have to walk forever to/from your car, so this was really nice to be so close.

 

Anheuser_Busch_Equinox_Run_Parking

With any luck, these clouds would part before the start rather than rain down on us?

The biergarten was packed with people, and after easily getting my packet, I got in the long line for the bathrooms that snaked all the way through the building. It took about ten minutes to get to the front of the line, but it was well worth it to have real, flushing toilets and sinks! Much prefer this over a line of porta potties, though I realize it’s not always feasible. After getting out of the bathroom, I said a quick hello to Becki, who was also running, and we made plans to meet up after the race. Then, it was off to the start!

I debated for a while what to wear for the race. I was wearing a t-shirt and long tights, but most people were wearing heavy long sleeves. However, I also recognized that a lot of them had fanny packs / gels / water / etc, so I assumed they were running the half marathon. For a quick four miler, surely I wouldn’t need heavy gear, right? I decided to ditch my jacket in the car as planned, and hoped that I wouldn’t be too cold. Again, hooray for cars being so close to the start!

Once I got to the start, though, I started to wonder if I had made a mistake. The wind was whipping around like crazy, so much that I tried to take shelter behind a food truck. No luck – it seemed to be coming from all directions. So I did my best to sandwich myself in between the truck and another runner ;) I was only there for a few minutes until it was time to line up for the 9am start…

…but that 9am start wasn’t meant to be. Evidently a lot of runners had arrived late, and the organizers were pushing back the start of the race so that they could make sure everyone was able to get their packets and get to the starting line. I was kind of frustrated by this, but nothing you can do, right? And it wasn’t like it was really going to hurt anything to have to wait a few more minutes. Oh, famous last words…

The race finally started at 9:13am, and I pushed hard at the start. We snaked around a bit to exit the brewery grounds and get out on the main road, and I was careful to run the tangents on the looping road. Most people weren’t doing this, so I ended up passing quite a few people just by keeping my eyes ahead and trying to run a straight line. I am forever grateful to Adam for teaching me the amazing benefits of paying attention to tangents – it makes a big difference!

I felt like my pace was aggressive, but comfortable, and in checking my watch I found I was running about a 6:45 pace. Not too shabby! My goal was to improve my PR from the 30:33 I had run about a month before. I went out way too fast that day and then was exhausted in the later miles, so I wanted to try to be just under 7:00 per mile for every mile in this race. However, I was feeling good at 6:45, so I was fine with that being my starting pace.

I had researched the course carefully the night before, and it was a pretty easy one to remember: after the initial zig zagging to get out to the main road, it was basically just one big box around the brewery. Mile 1 was west toward the mountains, mile 2 was due south, mile 3 was due east, and mile 4 was up north and back into the brewery parking lot. I checked out exactly where the mile markers were on the course, and I knew that I’d be coming up on mile 1 just before turning left to head south, right next to a church. But before I could get to that church, we had to cross a set of train tracks at mile 0.7…

…and here’s where that late start came back to bite us. As I started approaching the train tracks, I heard a clanging and saw the gates starting to close. A train was coming! The runners in front of me sped up like crazy, with many of them making it across the train tracks before the gates closed. A volunteer nearby tried to get everyone to stop, but others were ducking around the gates to cross anyway. I couldn’t believe I was about to have to stop for a train, but I also knew that a PR wasn’t worth risking my life over, so I dutifully stopped. I was the first person to stop rather than speed through, but everyone behind me stopped as well – the train was now honking his horn furiously at those runners who had kept going, and was nearly at the intersection. Better safe than sorry!

We frustratedly stood at the tracks, and while I of course wasn’t going to pause my Garmin, I definitely looked at it so I could know how long we were delayed. 20 seconds, 30 seconds… the train wasn’t that long, but I clock us as stopping at 4:37 and unable to run again until 5:45, so it was a pretty significant delay for such a short race. I also realized that since I was the first one to get stopped, I was also the most impacted by the train – others behind me would have a shorter stop on their run, and those in front of me didn’t have to stop at all. Maddening! If I was at all in contention for an award (I had no idea if I was, though I doubted it), everyone ahead of me now had a minute lead on me that would be tough to make up. And, not only had I lost a minute on the clock, but I had also lost my momentum of the comfortable pace I was running.

Mid_Race_Train

I took a pic of the train, because what else was there to do?

The train finally passed, and we were able to run again. By the time I hit the one mile mark, my split time was up to 7:48. Not exactly the start I had imagined! But I told myself to just keep running and do the best I could. We turned south, and I was relieved to find that the wind was now at my back rather than blowing me sideways. This part of the course felt nice and easy, and even with a water stop at about mile 1.4 (I took a quick walk break to drink a cup), my split for this mile was 7:08. Definite improvement over that first mile!

But shortly after mile 2, we turned the corner to head east… and things got tricky again. The wind was now blowing me to the right, and it was a little tricky to keep running forward rather than on an angle. It definitely seemed like the wind had picked up in intensity, and beyond that, I was starting to get tired.

As is my usual for races lately, I was listening to the Orangetheory playlist on Spotify, and the song at this point was Kanye’s “Stronger.” I love this song because it reminds me of a final boss song for some kind of video game, and I tried telling myself that I only had a little over a mile left. I wanted to believe that “work it harder / do it faster / makes us stronger”, but my legs were not having it to keep going at the same pace. I ended up clocking 7:28 for this mile – not terrible, but not what I wanted either. But surely things would be better when I turned the corner right?

UGH NO. This last mile was directly into the wind, and also had the tiniest bit of a hill. Not enough to look like a hill, but when I checked out my Garmin later, I saw 23 feet of incline on this mile – which made sense as to why I was struggling. End of the race + 12 mph headwinds + slight incline = very unhappy Laura! I allowed a woman to pass me, which frustrated me, but she seemed to have a lot of pep and be going at a good pace and I just couldn’t keep up. I gave her a thumbs up as she went by, and just tried to hold on till the end.

Finally, we turned off the road and into the Anheuser Busch parking lot. Only about 0.2 left, and I tried to push the pace to make up a few precious seconds now that I was out of the wind! I swung around the parking lot, turning into the wind briefly just once more, and then I turned right, to where the finish line was right in front of me. Go go go! I sprinted as hard as I could toward the finish, trying to shave off every last second, and it was a good thing I did. When I checked my official time, I had managed to PR by one second! It wasn’t much, but I would take it, particularly with the train and the wind to contend with.

Spring_Equinox_Four_Miler_Finish

VERY proud finish photo. I had gritted it out under tough circumstances and STILL managed to PR!

My ultimate goal had been to go sub-30, and I finished only 31 seconds slower than that. I’m not a believer in making excuses, but that train stop of 68 seconds surely meant that I was capable of running sub-30, right? I’d like to think so. While my time wasn’t quite what I had hoped, a PR is a PR, and I’m proud of myself for continuing to push hard even when I thought the conditions might not make it possible. And for my efforts, I was rewarded with first place in my age group!!! Hooray for that.

First_Place_Age_Group_Spring_Equinox_Four_Miler

For my award, I got a cool metal pint glass with a packet of seeds inside – in keeping with the race’s goal to be as green as possible.

But the best part of this race was after. The Anheuser Busch Biergarten is a really gorgeous facility, with rustic wood throughout and beautiful stained glass skylights looking west. The taproom picked up the rustic German notes of a classic biergarten, but was also light, airy, and spacious, and I loved it from the minute I stepped in.

Anheuser_Busch_Biergarten

Plus, it was packed with runners – my kind of biergarten!

After Becki and I met up, we were able to head to the taps and pick out anything we wanted. There were the usual Budweiser suspects, but I was also thrilled to be reminded that Budweiser bought Goose Island back in 2011, and so I was able to enjoy a Goose Island Sofie! I love that beer so much, and it was a treat to enjoy it on the patio with the mountains in the background.

Goose_Island_Sofie_With_Becki_At_Anheuser_Busch_Biergarten

Now THIS is how you relax and enjoy yourself after a win :)

Overall, this race was a lot of fun, and I’m so glad that I went up to FoCo to run it. Every time I go up there, I’m reminded that Fort Collins is not that far and it’s a pretty easy drive – I need to go up there more often! The Anheuser Busch Biergarten was a great place to hang out, and I’m looking forward to going back sometime soon and getting to stay for a while (plus hopefully do a tour, which I didn’t have time for on race day). So I think I may head back in the fall for the Fall Equinox Five Miler? Maybe the extra time will allow me to chop a few seconds from my five mile PR. But only if I can learn to work it harder / make it better / do it faster to get stronger in the meantime!

Race stats:
Distance: 4 miles
Time: 30:33
Pace: 7:39/mile
Overall place: 26/325
Gender place: 6/212
Age group place: 1/70

Comments

  1. 1/70 for your age group…not too shabby, train be darned!!! Obstacles no match for determination. Love this running tale and admire the grit knowing your “cold” aversion!

  2. How frustrating to be stopped by a train during your race! And still a PR is awesome!!
    We have lots of tracks throughout the city (including our transit) and I’m always baffled by people who try to beat trains – definitely not worth risking it!

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