Monday, September 05, 2005

American Discovery Trail Marathon

Colorado Springs, CO
Sept 5/05

Race Stats:
Sept 5/05
American Discovery Trail Marathon
Colorado Springs, CO
Marathon # 248
3:58:49 1st AG

This marathon was neither exciting nor memorable – it was just plain (friggin) Ugly and Painful! Let me tell you about it before my mind erases it like childbirth.

I ran this marathon last year but I had suffered a foot injury at Pike’s Peak two weeks earlier that had not completely healed and had prevented me from training during those two weeks. Somehow I finished in 3:44 and won my age group. This year I felt confident that I was in much better shape so I set my goals to:
1) Win my age group and defend my Senior Title
2) Finish at least 10 min faster than last year

With these goals in mind I decided as I lined up at the start line with about 250 runners “to go out as hard and fast as I could and try to hang on”! It would either be a really, really Good race or a really, really Bad race! There would/could be no in-between. Thus I lined up with the Big Dogs for the 6:30 am start. The weather was sunny with temps in the low 50s. I followed the lead group (including 3 or 4 ‘gray hairs’ who looked like they were only in their 40s?) through the first 2 miles at a 7:30/7:45 pace. I knew I could not hold that pace over 26 miles on this course. The course started at Confluence Park @ 6200 ft and followed paved and dirt bike trails along Monument and Fountain Creeks to a turn-around point near the Air Force Academy at mile 16. Miles 14 to 18 were a series of BAHs (Bad Ass Hills) that rose 300 ft in elevation! I backed off on the pace and by mile 5 had settled into a smooth and easy 8-min pace. Then the problems started. The mile markers became totally screwed up and useless! Mile 6 was 6:29 (impossible) followed by mile 7 in 9:06?

It was impossible to determine my pace and adjust as needed so I was forced to pace off my heart monitor and try to stay with a group of young runners who had been running a sub 8-min pace. I passed mile 10 in 1:20 and already knew that I would not be able to hold an 8-min pace through 26 miles but decided to hold that pace through the first Half or even 16 miles and then reassess the situation? However the mile marker problem got worse. After mile 12 I never saw another marker until mile 18? That really upset me and messed with my mind because I had no idea what pace I was running or what adjustment I needed to make? ! I figured that I struggled through the BAHs over miles 14 to 16 at an 8:30 pace. When I reached the turn-around at the AF Academy I was hurting and knew at that point the race was going to get Ugly! I struggled on the return loop through the BAHs and reached mile 18 in 2:31. My fuzzy mind calculated that I had averaged an 8:30 pace through the hills – but my legs were mush!

When I reached mile 20 in 2:51 and a 10 min pace and the temps had soared into the 70s (F) I knew that the race was over for me! I struggled to run mile 21 in 10:20 (if the marker was correct)? The wheels were falling off but I figured that I was still in 1st place in my age group so I was forced to go into ‘semi-survival’ mode – just try to keep the legs running/moving at a10-min pace to preserve my lead and hope that I could finish the race – safely, injury-free and alive! My legs were screaming/crying/pleading with me “to stop and walk” but I ignored them – until mile 24. At mile 24 there was a BAH that looked like Pikes Peak! As I contemplated how to trick my tired/used-up legs to run up that hill a competitor with a flock of gray hair and a gray beard passed me. He certainly looked like he was in my age group? Instead of trying to respond which I knew was hopeless it took a lot of stress off me. Not only had I blown my time goal I had now blown my age group goal! And I knew from the nausea and dizziness I was beginning to experience that I was pushing my old bod beyond its limits on this particular day! I recognized these problems as symptoms that my electrolytes were out of balance and/or my blood sugar levels were too low? So I went immediately into ‘full survival mode’ – just try to finish the race - ALIVE! Screw the time- screw all goals – except the primary goal of finishing alive!

I started walking. I managed to walk/run/crawl the next mile in 11:52. I reached mile 25 in 3:45. My very foggy and disoriented mind somehow calculated that if I could walk/crawl the last mile in the same time I could break 4 hrs and salvage some respect?
Bad News! I knew that Maddog would take over! I won’t repeat the names he called me or what other incentives he screamed at me but we finally agreed that I could walk for two –1 min intervals if I forced my old/wasted/exhausted legs and half-dead body to run the rest of the time! I ignored the pain – I ignored the dizziness and tingling in my arms – I totally focused all my will power and energy on keeping the legs moving and finally struggled across the finish line in 3:58! At least I had salvaged some sort of respect!

Other than collecting my finisher’s medal I did not stop at the finish line- I did not stop to look at the preliminary results – I went directly to the car to suck up some high-octane sports drink that I knew would replenish and rebalance my electrolytes and increase my blood sugar level to correct the problems I was suffering. It worked almost immediately as expected and I became lucent and felt better within a few minutes.

We had to return to the hotel immediately. Since I had run so slowly and the hotel would not extend our checkout (another complaint – the host hotel would not grant late checkouts for the runners) I needed to get back for a quick shower! After a shower we returned to the finish area for the customary finish line photo and to check the race results.

My official finish time was 3:58:49. Needless to say I was not pleased with my time or performance but neither was I disappointed. I had set an aggressive (in hindsight – a foolish) goal and deserved the painful consequences. But Maddog was absolutely disgusted with my time and performance. He was very upset that I had set an aggressive goal and couldn’t follow through and “do it”!

The only thing that saved my ass was the shock and surprising discovery that I had finished 1st in my age group? Mr. Gray Beard who passed me at mile 24 was only 50 years old. I need to take a course/lesson in guessing ages of old farts? I stayed to humbly collect my award since 2nd place finished 15 min behind me.

In summary it was an ugly/painful race that resulted from an aggressive and foolish race strategy. It proves that even after 248 marathons it is still possible/likely to make foolish race decisions and have to live with the painful consequences! It was not the first time nor is it likely to be the last. However because of the poor results I have already resolved that I will return next year to defend again my ‘Senior Title’ but next year I will run smarter and maybe not run an Alpine Marathon and climb four 14ers in the week preceding the race?

But for now I have to concentrate on resting the legs and hope they can recover in time for my final speed workout in the High Country next weekend when I run the ‘Road Kill Half’ in Kremmling, CO. I have even arranged to import a ‘rabbit’ – Fast Freddy - from Dallas, TX to pace me through the race!

Stay tuned for the next race report!


No comments: