Race Report: Broncos 7K

Race report from Saturday June 29

My firm gives us the entire week of July 4th off – amazing! This year, my break kicked off with a race – the Broncos 7K in Fort Collins.

I had a busy work day on Friday, mixed with volunteering at Meals on Wheels and Rock Creek School, but wrapped it by heading over to Louisville to celebrate the grand opening of my friend Heidi’s new photography studio. I had originally thought I’d head home early for a healthy dinner, but my friend Chris and her husband invited me over for champagne at their house afterward, and I ended up spending the beautiful summer night relaxing on their deck, laughing with some glasses of bubbly in hand… but not eating any dinner. Whoops!

I woke up early on Saturday morning feeling that lack of food, and immediately headed down to the kitchen to make coffee (caffeinated since it was race day!) and eat something. With all my travel, I have a bad habit of totally overstuffing my freezer at all times, and I’m constantly trying to rectify this. On Saturday, I decided it was the perfect time to toast up and polish off some Irish soda bread my friend Heather had brought over a few weeks ago… yum!

I was on the road by 7am, which ended up being the perfect time to leave for Fort Collins. The drive to the Anheuser Busch Biergarten, where the race was being held, was almost exactly an hour, and I had a blast listening to a Spotify autogenerated playlist with my favorite songs from last summer. Many of them were songs I did long runs listening to last year, and it was the perfect pump-me-up music! The drive up I-25 to FoCo is always really beautiful (mountains to one side, wide open fields the other), and it passed quickly.

Upon arrival at the race, it was really easy to park, grab my packet, stow my extra stuff in the car, and then use the (real) bathrooms (not portapotties) before the race. This is probably the fifth or sixth race I’ve done at this biergarten, and it’s always a really well-organized, nice experience!

Anheuser_Busch_Biergarten

Such a lovely spot to hang out pre- and post-race!

This time, my race experience was made special by running into my old friend Dave Bell waiting for the start. Dave is a 50 state marathoner who I used to see a ton of back when I was running marathons, and I had forgotten that he lives in Colorado! We briefly said hello before the race, and then also caught up for a little bit after the race – hopefully we can run together sometime soon.

Although I had plenty of time between when I got to the race and the start, it passed quickly, and I ended up being one of the last to head out to line up. Since I had won the race last year, I lined up right up close to the front line, but I also knew that I had won it less because I’m fast and more because it was a small field :) So no guarantees what my performance would be like this year!

Start_Broncos_7K

Even though I had won this race last year, I still felt weird lining up on the front line. I just never think I’m fast enough to belong there!

I had reviewed my previous race reports on my blog, and hoped to run 6:20, 7:10, 7:30, 7:10 splits for the first four miles, then just go as fast as I could for the last third of a mile. That would be just slightly faster, but also much more even splits, than my pacing last year. Whether that netted me an award, I didn’t care, but my big goal was to break 30 minutes, and my backup goal was to beat last year’s time (31:09).

However, that plan didn’t really account for the weather. Although I’ve run this race twice before, the weather has been very different each time. In 2017, the race was lovely and springlike and mild; in 2018, it was snowy with low visibility. And this year, it was unfortunately hot and humid.

After some introductions of the Broncos football players and cheerleaders, the singing of the National Anthem, and some stretches led by the Broncos mascot, we were ready to go. I took off pretty fast as the first female, with only one guy in front of me, but even before I was out of the parking lot, I could feel that my throat was already parched. Plus, while I was out in the front, I could also tell without even looking at my watch that I wasn’t going all that fast. It was a hot one, and I knew it would only get worse.

By the half mile point, another woman passed me, and my Strava called out my first split – 3:15, which meant I was running a 6:30 pace. Indeed, I crossed the one mile mark at 6:34, which meant I was just a touch slower than I had set as my goal. However, my tendency is always to go out way too fast – so usually my intention for the first mile of a race is to slow down to hit my goal pace. Not so today! Again, it was clear to me that the heat was going to have a big impact on my performance.

Broncos_7K_First_Mile

This serious grumpy face is me realizing that perhaps this race won’t be my fastest. Ugh – you can’t control the weather!

We turned right onto the straightaway, and several more guys (but no women) passed me as we made our way across the railroad tracks and to the next turn for the longest straightway of the race. (As always, the course is set up as one big box – nice to not have to make too many turns!) I grabbed a cup of water as I passed the water station, but didn’t stop to drink it – just sloshed it around in my mouth, tried to swallow what I could, but mostly focused on continuing to go as fast as I could. I clocked the second mile in 7:13, which meant I was still pretty close to on track (plan was 7:10)… but I also knew the toughest mile of the race was coming up.

The third mile has the type of sneaky, insidious hill I hate – where you look ahead and it feels like it’s flat, so you think you should be going faster, but it’s actually on an incline and slowing you down. As an old pro at this course, I knew that was the case, but I still found myself slightly demoralized by how I was doing. I told myself that I was nearly halfway through, and that I needed to suck it up, but I felt my energy getting totally sapped… and furthermore, me not even caring. It didn’t help that there is essentially no shade at all on this course (except for one or two passing trees that provide a few seconds’ respite each), so the Colorado sun was wearing me down. Come on, Laur, pick it up!

Instead, I took a quick walk break for a few seconds right after the 2.5 mile mark, hoping it would give me some energy. It did not, and my third mile clocked in at 7:39. That really wasn’t all that much slower than the 7:30 I had planned, but walking totally demoralized me, and my head just wasn’t in it the rest of the way. When I reached the 3 mile mark, instead of thinking pleasantly how 1.35 miles is only about 10 minutes of solid running, I found myself thinking about when might be reasonable for me to take a walk break again. Blech :P

I headed across the road to the quarter mile out-and-back, and started seeing the frontrunners coming back my way. The female in the lead was a solid 45-60 seconds ahead of me, and didn’t look like she was struggling; I didn’t entertain any thoughts of catching her. After I made the hairpin turn myself (grabbing a cup of water from the volunteers to again try to combat my relentless dry mouth), I soon discovered that the third place female was at least a minute behind me, and it didn’t look like I was in any danger of getting overtaken by her (or any women behind her). So my position was safe, my goal times were unattainable, and I was exhausted. With all that in mind, I completed the out-and-back and started back on the homeward stretch… and I took another walk break. Yuck.

I tried to keep my walk break short, and I told myself that once I got back to running, I’d feel well rested enough to then go strong to the finish. But when I started running again, the break hadn’t really helped my energy, and I found myself still running roughly the same sluggish pace as before. I had less than a mile to go, but I just wasn’t motivated to pick up the pace :( And instead, I took yet another walk break :P

When I moved to Colorado, I was delighted to find that the winters were warmer and the summers were cooler than what I was used to in New York. However, this day was a not-so-pleasant reminder of how much I hate the heat. More so than most people, it makes me feel rundown and listless… and running when it was already 80 degrees out just felt terrible. At this point, all I wanted to do was finish the race and get inside the air conditioned biergarten with a big glass of ice water.

Fortunately, within another minute or two, I crossed the 4 mile mark. Okay, now I really had no excuse – less than three minutes of running to go! With that little to go, I tried to pick up the pace to finish strong. I ended up averaging 7:06/mile for this last stretch. Not my fastest speed of the race (which is how I usually prefer to finish), but pretty good considering how hot and tired I was!

Final_Stretch_Broncos_7K

I look VERY happy… to be almost done :)

I crossed the line in 32:31 – a full minute slower than last year, and nowhere near my sub-30 goal. However, for the hot weather, I’ll take it! I really hate hot weather and find myself more affected by it than most, so to be only about 15 seconds per mile slower than last year was, in my opinion, pretty good. And, I kept my position as second female overall! I’ll take that too.

Broncos_7K_Finish

Done!!! And with a pretty good finish photo, too.

Post-race, I was so hot and sweaty, and very grateful for the water / snacks just past the finish line. Then, I headed to the yard so I could get autographs and photos with the Broncos players and cheerleaders! Finishing toward the front of the field meant no lines, which was a pretty awesome perk :)

Laura_with_Broncos_Cheerleaders

I’m sure these trophies are really cool to football fans, but I’m not entirely sure what they are.

Finally, I headed into the cool air conditioned biergarten, where I got to hang out with my coworker Sara – who I’ve spoken to over the phone / on IM numerous times over the last few years, but who I had never before met in person! However, Sara just moved to Denver the weekend before, so now we’re finally in the same place. I was thrilled she was able to come up to Fort Collins for the race, and we ended up making plans to hang out again Saturday night in Denver (which was a blast). What a great end to a great race!

Race stats:
Distance: 4.3 miles
Time: 32:31
Pace: 7:28/mile
Overall place: 9/351
Gender place: 2/206
Age group place: 1/54

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