Colorado Half Marathon – Race Recap

It’s done! We did it and had smiles on our faces at the finish line.

family finish line

Yesterday the Van Kirk clan completed the Access Health Colorado Half Marathon in Fort Collins. We had a beautiful, though slightly warm, day and a scenic course. Let’s back up to pre-race.

Saturday night Josh’s family and our friends the Gilberts arrive at our house for a little pre-race dinner. Josh overruled my suggestion of a non-spaghetti meal. We ordered take-out from a local italian place that makes their own noodles…delicious! We were able to eat outside and enjoy the summer-like weather. After getting our fill, Josh’s family headed to their hotel, the kids went to bed and we said good night to Ryan and Claire, who we owe big time for spending the night and watching our kids. Thank you times a million!

So 3:30 rolls around and I get up, eat, get dressed and slide back into bed to feed Anderson. I was hopeful that he would just eat and go back to sleep since I didn’t pick him up…no dice. I did everything I could to get him back down, but it was 4:30 and we HAD to go otherwise we’d miss the bus up the canyon. I felt so bad. I was anxious about it even after Claire texted me to say they were up and it was no big deal. Luckily he went back to bed around 5 am.

We arrived in Ft. Collins just in time to stand in line to get on the buses. My stomach was not feeling so hot. Luckily when I got on the bus, I was able to get to the bathroom before anyone else was. So much relief and I could stop worrying about having to make a mid-race stop.

J&J bud

We arrived at the starting line in the canyon with just enough time for everyone to hit the porta potties, drop their bags and take a quick picture.

Prerace group

We split up into our starting group – Josh just in front of the 1:40 pacer and me optimistically with the 1:50 pacer. The starting line wasn’t very well marked, so when people started sprinting out, I figured maybe there just wasn’t a chip mat at the start. I hit start on my watch only to realize there was a starting mat and my watch was now 10-12 seconds ahead. Oh well.

I started conservatively, maybe too much so. I stayed with the pace group for the first few miles, not pushing myself to be right next to the pacer, but have her just in my sight line. I was really worried about going out too fast and regretting it in the end. The temperature was just about perfect in those first few miles.

We cruised down the canyon, making our way towards Old Town. I was feeling really good and happy that I was keeping up with the pacer. I had no idea what to actually expect of my pace for the race. I knew I could do 8:XX but wasn’t sure if that was going to be almost 9 min/miles or closer to 8:30. I took my first GU just after mile five as I saw the only real hill on the course ahead.

I briefly passed the pacer at the top of the hill but slowed down a little bit to make sure I wasn’t pushing too hard too soon. About mile eight we passed some horses that had their heads over the fence as if they were cheering. I’ve never seen horses on a course before. It was kind of a nice change.

The final five miles were on a bike path. Most of it was cement but we hit a patch that was loose dirt and big rocks. Remnants of the damage the flooding did last summer. We went over a few bridges that felt more like trampolines than bridges. It was a bit unnerving but nice to have the quiet of the water and trail around us.

At mile 10, I was running right with the pacer. I told her that if I could just keep up with her for three more miles, I’d set a postpartum PR. She said she liked it and told me I was doing great. I was feeling comfortably uncomfortable. It was about the time I went for my final gel that she looked back and then turned around. I have no idea what happened behind me, but I didn’t see her again the rest of the race. I took my gel and told myself to just keep going. I knew that even if I slowed down to a 9:30-10 min/mile pace, I was going to PR.

It was shortly thereafter our course merged with the 10k course. There was a bit of dodging and weaving to get around the runners/walkers who were walking three abreast on the fairly narrow trail. Luckily by the time I got to mile 12, the crowd broke up a bit. Right before mile 13 we turned off the trail and onto Linden where I could just make out the top of the finish line. When I passed the 13 mile marker, I put all the energy I had left into sprinting towards the finish line.

finish line

Josh was right by the finish and cheered me through. With my trigger happy watch starting, I had no idea what my official time was. Josh however, had just run a 1:32 half. That’s a 7:03 pace for the entire race. Fifth in his age group!

J&J finish lne

I cheered in my sisters-in-law and my mother-in-law before having to run to the car for relief.

girls finish line

Nothing says celebration like pumping in the car in a parking garage after a race. When I was finished I rejoined the group who had just cheered in my father-in-law and also met up with my friend Jeanne who I hadn’t seen in far too long. It’s amazing how moving away brings people back together!

Jeanne and Jess

We piled back into the cars and headed for home. Ryan, Claire and Ella were happily watching Peter Pan when we got home with wine, beer and some gift cards for them – the Gilberts, not Ella. Anderson was sleeping like an angel, of course.

We all showered and headed out for lunch and ice cream to celebrate. When we got home, we all tried to nap, but I wasn’t successful. I did get my official race results though:


I missed my goal by 26 seconds, but beat my previous half marathon best my 3:33! I just might have to do a half when we get to Minnesota.

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