I ran the inaugural Polar Prowl Half Marathon today and it was a great race. It was very windy, but overall the temperatures were great so that I could run the race in shorts. The forecast called for wind speeds up to 28 mph and so I was a bit concerned initially, but in the end – while it was very windy – it could have been worse. The Polar Prowl Half Marathon was held in Arvada, CO – about 40 minutes away from where I live. I left the house at around 7.30 AM and arrived at the race location at around 8.10 AM. The parking lot was already quite busy even though there was plenty of time left before the race.
I parked my truck and then went to pick up my race bib and race swag. At my last half marathon I picked up my stuff two days before the race, but it was a painful drive due to being stuck in rush hour traffic on the way back. So, this time I opted to use the race day pickup instead and it was a good choice to do so. I had to wait in line for maybe 2 minutes and then had my stuff in no time. The registration/pickup was very efficient and the volunteers handled things great even though the strong winds made it difficult for them.
I went back to my pickup truck trying to get a feel for the weather along the way. I was not sure if I should run in shorts or put on running tights. When the winds were calm it actually felt pretty warm, but I was not sure how the wind chill would feel like with the stronger winds. I decided for shorts and in the end that turned out to be right decision. I felt warm during the entire race and even took off the head and the gloves after a few miles.
At around 8.45 AM I left my truck and headed over to the start area. I used the porta potties one more time and then lined up for the start. The winds were very strong here and the race organizers had to take down the Start and Finish signs because of the strong winds. The Stars Spangled Banner however was holding up quite nicely and the flag flew in the wind when the national anthem was played. Next up was a quick briefing about the race and the course and kind of what to expect. Then the horn blew (miserably) and we were off running. My initial goal was to start with a 9:30 minutes per mile pace, but I never achieved that goal. The first mile came in at 8:41 minutes per mile and I never dropped down into the 9:x minutes per mile at all. I had fear I would be going out too fast and I kind of desperately tried to slow down gracefully, but that did not work. I started averaging between 8:40 and 8:52 for the first few miles and once I had a feel for the course that was actually good. The aid station at mile #3 (?) offered Cliff Gels and I grabbed one, but waited until after mile #4 before I ate it.
The course was nice and away from busy streets. Most of the course was on a public trail system and only a small section ran along a quiet country road. The hills along the way were not challenging at all and in general were not an issue for me. I guess my “local” hills make great training ground. I saw other people during the race that had to fight the hills a little bit and I was really happy that I make hills a big part of my training routine. Along the country road was a horse property and the horses were great spectators. The entire area was nice and made it easy to be distracted from running. I heard a lot of dogs barking and I am sure the people living there were happy when the race was finally over so that the dogs could quiet down.
While running I kept a close eye on my Nike Plus GPS watch and the first 2 or 3 race mile markers were spot on, but then things started drifting. In the end my GPS watch did not record the half marathon distance correctly. Since the course was USATF certified I assume that my GPS watch was off – the same thing had happened at the Fa La La Half Marathon back in December. It is a bit annoying though that the Nike Plus GPS watch has problems recording the correct distance.
The race had fewer runners participating compared to my last half marathon. 125 people finished the half marathon this time. I am not sure what the reason for the lower participation was. I know January is not necessarily the best time of the year to run a half marathon here in Colorado, but on the other side it can be quite warm as well and today was proof for exactly that. When I left the parking lot to go home the temperatures were in the upper 50s. Anyway, I enjoyed the race and I came in as #21 overall and as #9 out of my age group (40-49). My official race time was 1:48:36 which is a new personal record for me. During the race I also set new personal records for the 1K, 1 Mile, 5K, and 10K distance which is pretty cool. I did not intend to run that fast, but on the other side I do not complain about it either. The post-race area was setup a bit differently compared to the Fa La La Half Marathon and visitors and runners had full access. The post-race recovery food and drinks were very good. I grabbed some water, some Powerade, a Chocolate Milk and Breakfast Burrito.
The Not-So-Good Stuff
While water/aid stations were located in good distance from another, I was a bit disappointed about the overall setup. As an example the aid station near the finish line offered Cliff Gels for refueling. While the location was good for the first lap of the course (it’s a double out & back, two lap course), it was kind of useless for lap #2. Also, all Cliff Gels were already opened when handed out to runners. What the @#$! – why would you do that? I don’t want to get the stuff all over my hand + I don’t want the volunteer to open it for me from a food hygiene perspective. The other thing I was disappointed about was the lack of Gatorade (or whatever brand of energy drink was offered). Only one aid station had Gatorade to offer and this is sufficient for the 10K runners, for folks running a half marathon I would expect at least one more station to hand out Gatorade. It is important for long distance runners to keep glycogen stores at healthy levels for optimum performance and while it is my own responsibility to figure out a refueling strategy for a race, I do expect decent supply during the race from the aid stations. During the Fa La La Half marathon several photographers took pictures during the race and at the Finish Line area. I did not see anyone taking pictures during the race at all; the only photographer I saw was at the Finish line. I am not sure if the other ones were in the bushes or trees along the way or if there were none, but a big reason for me to sign up for this race was the anticipation for free race pictures. This race had fewer participants compared to the last race and I wonder if that played a role?! Not sure, but I felt a bit disappointed. I would have taken my own camera if I would have known before.
Overall it was a great race for me. The weather co-operated even though it was quite windy. I really liked that I could run in shorts and did not have to wear running tights. I always have the feeling they slow me down a bit and in general I feel most comfortable in shorts. I am very happy with the pace I was able to run. My pace has been getting faster over the last two months, but I know that running a marathon at that pace is not possible for me just yet. However, if I would slow down about 30 seconds per mile I see it as a possibility to run a marathon under four hours. For the half marathon distance I felt just fine and now many hours later at the end of the day I barely feel the effort from this morning. I am on the right track with my mixed approach for training and I am very happy about that. I did not particularly practice for this half marathon and my weekly running mileage would be considered too low for this distance, but since I do a mix of running and my beloved Kosama workouts (Boot camp style / cross fit) it seems to come together just fine. My carbo loading strategy and fueling strategy before and during the race worked out good. I am not sure if my stomach can handle the Cliff Gels though as I felt some stomach pain towards the end of the race. I might go back to bring my own race fuel (Gatorade Chews) next time – just to be on the safe side. The race course was good and definitely not boring.
Would I run another race organized by All-Out Multiport Productions?
I cannot give a definitive answer right now. Overall the races are well organized, but I had a few things today that I feel could have been done better. I also want to give other race local organizers a chance and run their races. I know it takes a lot of effort to organize a good race and All-Out Multisport Productions is doing a good job, but they do have some room for improvement to make it even better. They did a good job today and on a scale from zero to ten I would give them an 8 today. Running their races and those of other race organizers gets a bit expensive for me, so I will pass on the Spring Fever Half Marathon in early March and pick something different. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great race experience and was very happy today with the race.
Race pictures for this Half Marathon should be available on Tuesday or Wednesday. I will provide an update once I have them.