Monday, May 22, 2006

RR Colorado Marathon

Race Report
Colorado Colfax Marathon
Denver, CO
Sun, May 21/06
Marathon # 264
3:58:39 - 1AG

Thank goodness. The third and final marathon in the past week!
As I mentioned in the two previous reports this brilliant idea originated with Maddog as a test of my marathon shape/condition prior to starting his ‘Suicidal High Altitude Training Camp’ this summer.

After running my old legs into the ground on Sat trying to win my age group at the Fargo Marathon I was not sure how much energy was left in them? And logistics didn’t help. The flight was late getting out of Fargo and arriving in Denver so it was 10 pm by the time I drove to the west end of Denver. I ate a late pasta dinner and checked into a hotel at 11 pm. I managed to get four hours of sleep since I had to wake at 3:30 am to drive to the finish line to catch a bus to the start line of the Colorado Colfax Marathon.

This was a brand new/inaugural marathon for Denver. The race started in Aurora, CO and ran along Colfax Avenue through Denver to finish at the Colorado Mills Mall in Lakewood, CO. All 26 miles of the race (except for a 1½ mile loop through Denver City Park at the mid-point) was run on Colfax Avenue – the longest continuous street in the country! The three cities had closed down all six lanes of Colfax Ave for 6 hours for the marathon! The race ran from east to west so that the runners always had a beautiful view of the Rocky Mtns to the west. The street is as straight as an arrow and the elevation starts about 5400 ft in Aurora and drops about 100 vertical feet over the first half and then climbs about 400 vertical feet in the second half – most of the elevation increase is in the last 8 miles!

As I was riding the bus to the start line I began to suffer severe stomach cramps and nausea? I figured it was the late meal, bad food or just too much stress in the past 24 hours? By the time I lined up on the start line for the 6 am start I was hoping that I would throw up and get whatever was bugging me out of my system.

I met a good running buddy (Edson) from NYC at the start line and we started the race together. The weather was sunny with a temp of 62 F and forecast to warm up to the mid 70s by the time we finished. There were about 2,800 runners in the Marathon and Half with 800 runners in the marathon. I started slow because my legs were a wee bit stiff and I needed to warm/loosen them up. We passed mile 1 in 9:00 minutes and were both sucking for air. I had hoped to average an 8:30-min pace till mile 18 and then expected to slow down as the course climbed the hills over the last 8 miles. However by the time I reached mile 5 in 43:07 I was struggling to average 8:45s and I had already left Edson behind.
I realized already that there was nothing left in my poor old legs and it was going to be an ugly/painful day. I decided to take GU gels every 3 miles in the hope that I could get some much-needed energy to my legs during the race. The stomach cramps and nausea had ceased by that time because the body had shut down all organs and systems that were not needed to survive and to run! Our bodies are pretty smart!

I realized that only experience and sheer willpower was going to get me to the finish line so I focused everything I had on blocking/ignoring the exhaustion and pain and keeping my wasted old legs moving. I passed the Half in Denver City Park in 1:53:55. Any thoughts/hopes of a 3:45 finish that I figured was necessary to win my age group were gone. I wasn’t even sure if I could hold on for a sub 4–hr finish since I still had to face the hills in the 2nd half? Somehow I managed to keep clicking off 8:45s until I reached the hills and the start of the 400 ft elevation climb to the finish. Mile 18 was a slow and painful 9:25!
I continued to climb to mile 20 in 2:57:53. I only had one hour to run the last 10K and mile 20 had been a 9:38 pace. By mile 22 I was struggling to run a 10-min pace. Mile 23 was a painfully slow 10:39 – my slowest mile of the race. Time 3:28:17! I had already conceded any chance of winning my age group but if I continued at that snail pace I wouldn’t even break 4 hrs! Fortunately Maddog took over. He did not consider it acceptable or respectable to finish slower than 4 hrs so he ignored my pleas and cries of pain and lowered the pace back to 9:30s! I knew it was pointless to argue so I just hung on and went along for the ride while trying to block the pain and feeling of total exhaustion! Thankfully mile 25 was a gentle downhill that gave the old legs a chance to recover while running a blazing 9:15 pace to pass the marker in 3:47:40.
I had 12 minutes to run the last 1¼ miles. Even though they were uphill there was no way Maddog was going to be denied his respect and he pushed my wasted old bod across the finish line at the Colorado Mills Mall in 3:58:39!!

As I walked to the car in the parking lot of the mall the stomach cramps and nausea came back and I wasn’t sure if I could make it to the car w/o another swan dive like I did in Boston a few years back? So I laid down in the parking lot for a few minutes and recovered enough to walk to the car, get my camera and walk back to the finish line for the customary finish line photo. The results weren’t posted yet so I decided to go back to the hotel for a long hot soak and to get some coke and chocolate (sugar) into my system because I knew my blood sugar level was alarmingly low!

The hot bath and sugar made me feel much better but the stomach cramps would not go away? I wasn’t really keen on going back to the finish area to learn how badly I had done but I figured I should stop and check. I was totally shocked (almost embarrassed) to learn that my time of 3:58 won 1st place (out of 17) and established the course record for my age group! At first I felt like I didn’t earn/deserve it but then I remembered how much pain I had suffered and endured to get to the finish line and decided that maybe I had earned it for perseverance? But next year I plan to go back with fresh legs and run a better and more respectable race. I know I can take at least 15 minutes off my time!!

The stomach cramps and nausea worsened after the race and robbed me of a much-anticipated reward – a few Colorado microbrews in my hot tub!
I am now back in Paradise/High Country. The stomach cramps and nausea lasted until Mon so I don’t know what caused that problem and I hope it never returns? I can’t say that I am happy with my performance on this 3rd marathon. I was happy just to finish alive! Maddog was disappointed and furious! He did not give me high marks for my marathon shape/condition based on his test of three marathons in the past week. I guess that two –1st places, one course record and one – 2nd place do not meet his high standards/expectations? I fear that my training program has now become harder? And Maddog’s ‘Suicidal High Altitude Training Camp’ starts this week. Anyone care to join me? I have to get ready quickly for four mountain/high altitude races in the Rocky Mtns in June – one each weekend! Nothing but 1st place in each race will appease Maddog!

Stay tuned for the race reports.

Race Review:

A good race for an inaugural marathon.
Good website.
Expo was well organized and had some good deals on running gear.
The course was well organized. Good traffic control (we had 3 lanes of Colfax to ourselves with no cars). Water stops and digital clocks every mile. Lots of spectators along the course.

Only a few minor negatives – poor course control at the relay exchange points – had to fight our way through relay runners at some exchanges!
Award ceremony was held at 4 pm in Denver and they would not give out any awards at the finish area to those who could not go to the ceremony. Hope they mail my award to me?

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