Sunday, May 18, 2014

2014 Colfax Marathon

26.2 – 3:58:48 (1:12 under my pacer target time)
Marathon #18, Colfax Marathon #4, Marathon Pacer #1

The Colfax marathon is my favorite marathon and it’s near my home in Denver. At this point running this marathon has become a yearly ritual and I just fit other races around it even if my schedule gets ugly. This year I decided to run the Colorado marathon which is two weeks before Colfax but I figured I would be fine since I did the same thing last year (Colfax and Deadwood). Over the last 6 months I have become much more active in a local running club which supplies the pacers for the Colfax marathon. I volunteered to pace between 3:45-4:45 but asked specify if I could have the 4:00 group (9:09 pace). I felt happy and lucky when I was granted the pace group that I wanted most. A few years ago I would have killed to run a sub 4:00 now I was going to help others accomplish that same dream. 

Last year I ran 2 marathons in 14 days nearly unscaled running both within 10 minutes of my PR, 3:31 at Colfax and then 3:37 two weeks later at Deadwood. This year while attempting the same combo I felt like I pushed myself much harder at the Colorado marathon trying to get a PR. I came off of that race really beat up and dehydrated, neither of which would go away. In my experience recovery is slow painful miles that you need complete. It seems like you need a set number of miles regardless if you take time off or not (sometimes you have no choice). The next weekend I went for a 12 mile run with my friends only to have my calf locked up out on the run. I walked back the running store with my confidence in the gutter. I spent the days leading up the Colfax marathon running easy. Every run my calf felt a little better but they never got back to 100%. 

Start 0 – 6 miles 
I slept terrible the night of the race. I was so nervous and anxious, it felt like my first marathon again. Anything slower than 4:00 or faster than 3:57 would be a failure. I lined up in my corral and was immediately greeted by many strangers introducing themselves and then asking about pace strategy, aid stations my marathons stats etc. These questions carried on into the race and I didn’t mind because it was keeping my mind off my calf. The pace felt really easy which was a good confidence boost. We started a little slow because of crowding but we were on target pace by the end of mile 2. I knew we had to take advantage of the downhill over the next few miles and build up a little cushion of time. After the stadium it gets pretty hill so at best we would run on pace. As planned at the Broncos stadium (mile 6) our group came in around 1 minute ahead of schedule. 

7 – 16 miles 
Right after running thought the stadium the course creeps uphill for the next 9 miles. On the first hill I could again feel that twitchy calf. It felt like every step could be my last. On the flats the feeling would go away but I couldn’t stop thinking about how quickly those cramps came on and ended my run the week before. Today that I could not happen because I would probably really hurt myself by continuing on to the finish. Talking with runners again helped my put that into the back on my mind. I warned the group that the toughest part of the race is miles going up a big hill around mile 16. Every year that I have run this race this location has been my toughest spot. I forgot my own advice and at the bottom of this hill I gave my pace flag to another runner and said “I got to hit the bathroom can you keep pace for a bit?” Once I started running again I looked up the hill and couldn’t see my group and then I panicked. I charged up the hill and caught them within a mile, I think I had to run about 8:00 min pace to do this up that darn hill and beats me up every year. The good news was I caught them at the top of the hill so I could now rest the bad news my calf was screaming at me. During this hilly section time we ran right on pace keeping our 1 minute cushion. 

17 – 21 miles 
This next section is an awesome its 4 miles of gentle downhill. I didn’t enjoy that downhill so much this time around. I knew that we had to take advantage of this downhill and get a little more time in the bank. I didn’t want to speed up but that’s what the group needed. We picked up the pace by about 10 seconds per mile and by the time we passed though the stadium at mile 20 we earn another minute. My calf was crying with each step. A few times I contemplated passing on my flag and letting the group go without me but I couldn’t, I committed to a time and I was going to meet it that time if it killed me. At mile 20 I let the group know that we had a 2 minute cushion and if you feel good go for it and if you feel like crap you can run 9:30’s and still break 4:00. 

22 – Finish 
Our group went silent. The folks with energy to talk pulled away and the rest of us suffered in silence. I wanted to be a good cheerleader but I was suffering in silence too. Any other day I would have called it off miles ago and walked into the finish. But today it wasn’t about me and I had a job to do. My friend AL coordinates the pace groups and over the last few months I have become good friends with him. His personality reminds me a lot of my grandfather (AL is a little younger). But this is also why it was so much harder to back off when I was hurt. I thought a lot about AL in those final miles I kept thinking “I promised AL I would hit that time so I better hit that time”. The last few miles of a marathon always hurt but this one hurt more that it should. Over the last few miles the group lost almost 1 minute but that what I was expecting. In the final miles our group swelled as we caught up to runners that had fallen off their pace. At this point in the race no one was happy to see me I kept hearing “Ah crap the 4:00 guy caught us”. My calf continued to feel on the verge of injury but it held strong. Crossing the finish line felt amazing almost like it was my first. My watch read 3:58, success. 

Post race 
I was immediately meet by runners thanking me for keeping pace. Everyone had a unique story to tell me about their race. Some had not ran with me but kept me in their sights the whole race. Also at the finish were tons of my friends from the running club. They all wanted to ensure me that I was crazy for taking on a 4:00 marathon 2 weeks after coming within 1 min of my marathon PR. A television crew interviewed me another pacer. I also bumped into countless old friends and even my high school cross country coach. It was my best post-race experience ever. 

This is the majority of the full and half pacers 

Mile 20, you can just see the hurt. The longer the race went on the lower that sign was. AL said he was worried when he saw me at mile 25 nearly dragging the sign. 

Happy to have finished 

My friend Bruce completed his first marathon. He ran with my pace group for a good portion of the race. Next time he will have no problem getting under 4:00 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

2014 Mothers Day in Denver

Last week I talked about how hot it was at the end of the marathon. It was probably in the 70’s which is hot for a race, later in the day it did get up into the 80’s. One week later the high on Sunday was around 40 with lots of snow. It snowed all mother’s days and most of Monday too, this weekend when I pace the temps will be back into the 70’s.

2014 Mothers Day in Denver

Sunday, May 4, 2014

2014 Colorado Marathon

26.2 miles - 3:27:53 

Comparing this race to my PR marathon I am not as fit, I weight 10 lbs more and the weather was much hotter (I don’t do well in the heat) yet I was able to come with in 1 minute of that PR time. How is this possible? The course might be part of it because it has lot of downhill but the heat probably canceled out that benefit. I think the biggest change is my confidence, I wanted a PR and I was willing to risk hitting the wall to get that time. In the past I have been too conservative and scared that I don’t run to my potential. 

Miles 0 – 16, 2:04:06 – 7:45 pace (900ft of elevation loss) 
10 minutes before the race I got to meet Bill Rogers. This race is a beautiful point to point course that starts up in the canyon and runs all the way back to town. The only down side to this is you have to catch a 4:30am bus which meant I was up around 3:30am. I knew it was going to be a warm day when it was already 55F at the start (usually under 40F). The race had 1300ft of elevation loss and 900ft of that was in the canyon. The downhill weren’t steep it was just perfect amount of downhill. I felt like I was coasting down and round the corners. The scenery in the canyon was amazing and the walls kept us in perpetual shade. During these early miles I felt great and little warm but happy that I was clicking off the miles. My watch wasn’t so happy in the canyon I had to rely on overall time and mile markers (old school). My original goal was to run 3:20 pace to give myself a little room for a PR. At times I ran at that pace (7:38 ) but I could tell it was over my threshold because I would get out of breath. I decide to slow down a bit, 10 seconds per mile (7:48 ) felt so much easier and was still on pace for a PR. In case you’re wondering I do spend my marathons endlessly calculating pace times, finish times and what if times. 

Mile 17-20, 4 miles at 7:48 pace (225ft of elevation gain, 100ft of elevation loss)
Coming out of the canyon we were no longer shaded in fact now we were completely exposed for the rest of the race. Spectators are not allowed in the canyon so many of them wait at the bottom. I was happy greeted by a wall of spectators as we ran up the first hill of the race. This section contained a few hills that weren’t all that big but when you hit them at 7:40 pace they can put you in the red zone real quick. I remember checking my watch at the 20 mile marker and saw 2:35 my fastest ever in a race or training. In my head I said “you got this”. My friend Alex was also at 20 so I got a double boost of energy. 

Mile 21-24, 3 miles at 8:08 pace (150ft of elevation loss) 
But then everything started to come apart. I actually started to slow down on mile 20 but I told myself that I just needed a mile or two to recover. I ran about 7:55 for 20 and 21 a little off pace but this was just the start of bad. The heat was really bothering me and I realized I was in trouble. I couldn’t calculate needed times anymore and I ran past my family at mile 22. I have never run past my family without noticing them, I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I ran miles 22 and 23 in 8:09 and 8:21. I didn’t know if a PR was still possible I didn’t care I just wanted to finish and end the pain. 

Mile 25-26.2, 2.2 miles at 8:58 pace (150ft of elevation loss) 
I don’t remember much about these last few miles other then I was hot and miserable. My muscles had gone stiff and I felt like each step could set off a cramp. I didn’t walk, I didn’t look at my watch I just kept moving forward. I told myself “I can do anything for 20 minutes” I ran mile 25 and 26 in 8:34 and 9:21 with my finishing kick 0.2 also around 9:00 pace. 

Post race 
I am happy with my finish time which ended up being 0:58 off my 3:26:55 PR. But I had the guts to go for it and commit to a hard goal, I left everything I had out on the road and it hurt. I feel like if it hadn’t been so hot I could have held on and finished in 3:23. This has been a huge motivator and now all I want to do is go get that PR. I am already researching fast fall marathons. After the race I realized how dehydrated I was my lunch was 2 slices of pizza with 2 glasses of water and 2 glasses of root beer (and a Gatorade, bottled water and frozen coffee between the race and lunch) 

Weird Stat 
Actually my 3 fastest marathons are separated by 58 seconds. 
3rd 3:27:53 – 2014 Colorado Marathon 
2nd 3:27:27 – 2012 Colfax Marathon 
1st 3:26:55 – 2012 Rock n Roll Denver 

A few pics 

Here is where I past my family around mile 22 

My favorite spectators