Monday, September 21, 2009

RR - Boulder Marathon

Race Report
Sun, Sept 20/09
Boulder Marathon
Boulder, CO
Marathon #318
4:30:04 - 1AG

I’m Baaaaaaaaaaaaaccccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After a 7-month sabbatical from marathoning – 5 months of rest/recovery and physical therapy to heal those mystery back and leg injuries and only 10 weeks of training I decided to run the Boulder Marathon as a long training run.

With two 20-mile training runs under my belt I felt confident that I could finish the race but was not so confident that the final 10K would not involve a lot of walking??
A bonus for choosing this race was that two of my good mates from the UK – Roger Biggs and Jack Brookes were also running the race. They planned to arrive late Sat night, run the race and continue on to CA to run the triple marathon in Lake Tahoe next weekend. Roger is on a quest to run at least one marathon every weekend in 2009.
We always have a ‘friendly’ competition when we race together but I figured my goose might be cooked in this race. It was going to be a contest to see if my advantage of altitude and jet lag could overcome their superior marathon conditioning?

I drove over to Boulder on Sat and picked up our race packets since Roger and Jack would not arrive from London until 6 pm. Since I had the afternoon to kill I decided to check out the racecourse. The race started and finished at the Boulder Reservoir northeast of the city. The entire course was located in the foothills of the Flat Irons (a mountain range west of Boulder). The lowest elevation was 5100 ft – the highest 5600 ft! About 20 miles of the course were dirt roads and the rest paved roads – all in a rural setting. There were lots of rolling hills but no shade on the course. I didn’t consider the course to be as difficult as Steamboat Springs where we had all raced together a few years ago and felt comfortable with the target I had proclaimed a few days before the race – to finish with a BQ time of 4:15!

My mates arrived on time and we enjoyed a nice pasta dinner while I described the course and we caught up on ‘war’ stories. The marathon started at 8am on Sun. The weather forecast had called for temps of 52F at the start and a high in the low 70s. They lied – or were wrong because a warm front blew into the region in advance of a severe cold front that was supposed to bring snow on Mon? The front included strong gusts of wind from the west – a tailwind for the 1st Half and a headwind for the 2nd Half!

It was sunny and 54F at the 8am start as we lined up with 3000 runners. I have to commend the race committee for great organization. They had lots of portable toilets – it is the first race I have never had to line up – even 10 minutes before the race – to use a toilet. And the race started on time! I figured Roger was determined to beat me and get revenge for my victory in Israel in Jan – and I was right. He took off and Jack and I tried to keep him in sight.

Jack and I passed Mile 1 in 9:30 and stayed together until Mile 5 (45:55) where Jack started to pull ahead. I started to get my answer about which was more important – conditioning or altitude acclimation? With the long straight stretches of country roads I was able to keep both Roger and Jack in sight. Miles 6 to 8 were uphill and I managed to close the gap a little and then we turned on to a paved road that dropped for 2 miles and I closed the gap some more. When I passed Mile 10 in 1:30:57 I was concerned that I was pushing the pace too hard to keep my mates in sight and hoped that I wouldn’t suffer for it later? I passed Jack at the Half in 2:00.45. I felt OK but was now very concerned that I was running over my head. And by then the sun was beating down on us and the temps had soared! It didn’t take long to confirm my fear. When I passed Mile 16 in 2:28:46 my legs were starting to tire rapidly. I hoped that I could hold the pace to 20 miles and then worry about walking? As I approached a turn at Mile 17 I was surprised to find that Roger was only about 1000 ft ahead of me? I figured if I could hold my pace I might catch him in the hills around 22 miles? Wishful thinking! Roger later told me that he faded and started walking at 18 miles – but he didn’t fade as much as I did.

By mile 18 I knew I was in trouble and tried to hold on until mile 20 before the inevitable walking started – but I couldn’t do it. As I reached mile 19 in 3:00:39 my legs were completely out of energy and I had no option but to start walking. The next mile was my worst/slowest of the race – a split of 13:22 as I tried desperately to keep my wasted legs moving. Finally I decided it would be better just to walk slowly and take a short rest at the water stop before mile 20 to give my legs a much-needed rest in hopes that they would start to recover? I knew that the final 10K was going to be ugly and painful and thus I figured the smartest strategy would be to use the ‘Galloway method’ – walk for 1 minute and run for 4 minutes. That worked OK until I got into a series of rolling hills near 22 miles and then it became ‘walk up the hills and jog down’. By the time I got through the hills my legs had recovered a wee bit and I was able to walk/jog a 12-min pace. During the final 5K I was both frustrated and happy that I was able to run a sub 12-min pace. Each time I tried to push the pace down to 10 min my legs would protest and quit moving. I calculated that a 12-min pace would get me to the finish line in 4:30 – and that would just have to be good enough!

I crossed the finish line in 4:30:04. Roger finished in 4:21 and Jack in 4:34. We checked the results. Roger and Jack had placed 3rd in their Age Groups and I had finished 1st place in my AG. I wasn’t surprised because I had checked results from 2008 and learned that 1st place in my AG was more than 5 hours. We collected our awards and said our farewells. Roger may come to Sarasota next spring to give me an opportunity to beat him and reclaim my title? I can’t say I was happy with my time or performance but I am not disappointed either because I finished as expected. The Good news was that no body parts fell off or hurt during the race. And one benefit of running so slow is that my legs were not sore after the race. The Bad news however is that I confirmed that I am in poor/pathetic marathon shape and I have a lot of hard/painful training to do to get back into peak/competitive shape. But it can be done if I can just stay healthy and injury-free!

I now have one day to pack and close up the house since we leave for FL tomorrow. We will only be home for one week and then we leave for Tundra Land – aka – Canada for a family wedding and reunion. By chance I will be there during the Ottawa Fall Colors Marathon and have decided to join my good friend and mentor Wally Herman to run his hometown race!

Stay tuned!

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