Having completed the 50k at Lovell Canyon in 2015, as part of my Calico Racing Progressive Slam, I knew what was ahead of me on March 12th. There are some strong climbs, and fast descents during this course, some very suitable to my running style, others… I would see how I felt come race day.
Friday night, as Joyce and her team of volunteers were setting up the course, a storm blew in; massive winds, along with a mini-blizzard battled against the race director. They persevered, despite nature’s attempt to derail their work.
Saturday morning, coming down from the pass we were greeted with snow dusted ground, and plants. Our start line area was relatively snow free, with dry dirt, even! For the most part, anyway. It was a brisk 38 degrees as we picked up our race packets, warmed up our legs, and lined up for the start.
Right on time, Joyce rang the starting cow bell, sending us half marathon competitors up Lovell Canyon Road.
When I say, up the road, I literally mean, up! Calico Races, almost always, include a number of climbs. At a race in Lake Mead, one of the Calico Racing 50 mile competitors made a comment, “I thought I was off course, the route was flat!”
Lovell Canyon Road’s Half Marathon route contains a 4.5 mile climb, a sharp descent, followed by just under 3/4 of a mile more climbing. At that point, we turn around, and head back for the sharp, 3/4 mile section, containing nearly 400 feet elevation gain.
At this section, I planned to keep my effort steady, and allowed my pace to drop, quite a bit. By quite a bit, I walked, steadily, purposefully up the hill. Another runner I had been battling on the trip up the course was behind me, with a running gait, staying the same distance behind me. Experts have been pontificating for years about the fact of walking hills being more efficient than running up them. It seems they are very right.
Once I hit the peak, I kicked it back into gear, and brought the pace back to sub-8 minute miles, cruising down the hill. Before too long, I ran past a group of runners who were enjoying the snow covered ground, and were making snow men beside the course.
The way my timing chip was bouncing on my foot, and my bib was catching the breeze, it sounded like there was a runner right behind me. Not wanting to give up my placement in the field, I did not let myself ease up.
With around a mile remaining, I glanced back, and saw the yellow shirt of the next closest runner. He was far enough back that I would have to stop for him to have any chance at catching me, physically, or chronologically.
Powering up the last little hill, I kept my rhythm going as I entered the chute, finishing in 1:46:58, as the third overall half marathoner, third overall male, and first in age group. The last first is voided on the official results, as I took an overall podium spot!
I am not going to lie. Looking at the previous year’s results, I went into the race hoping for an overall victory. With under a mile into the race, I knew first and second were very strong runners. We left the line, and I hit at around a 6:25 pace trying to keep up. My only hope to take an overall, at that point, was for the climb to take its toll on them. At the turn-around point, they were approximately one mile ahead of me. By the finish, they were 20 minutes ahead of me!
Needless to say, I was ecstatic to podium overall at a race, 3rd out of 50 is nothing to make me sad.
Update: Not previously noted in the race report, I had a strong feeling going into the race that this was going to be my final Labor of Love race, and possibly final Calico Racing race. I was saddened by this line of thinking, while excited by the possibilities that lay ahead. With a baby on the way, a transfer nearly 1,200 miles away on the horizon, this Labor of Love Half Marathon was something special for me. I pushed hard to make my final Calico race a memorable one. A third overall effort was definitely a great way to go!