Wednesday, June 29, 2011

RR - Estes Park Marathon

Race Report
Sun, Jun 12/11
Estes Park Marathon
Estes Park, CO
Marathon # 344

This will be a hard report to write since a month and two races have elapsed since I finished this race.
And I already posted the more recent reports because they were international races and I felt my readers were more interested in reading them. But I need to write this report for record purposes and there were some interesting and challenging circumstances leading up to this race.

If you recall the last race/report was Guam at the end of Mar. When I returned home my left leg was hurting? The first test confirmed no DVT but a 2nd test unfortunately confirmed a stress fracture in the left fibula. Actually it was a ‘stress reaction’ but the orthoped strongly emphasized that it needed to be treated like a fracture – no running or exercise that would stress or impact the leg for six weeks! That was a big problem since I was registered for Boston in 3 weeks and two international races in mid –Jun.
I reluctantly cancelled Boston for the 2nd year in a row began a 6-week program of cross training at the YMCA. I tried weight machines for the upper body, an exercise bike and swimming. The bike seemed to cause stress/pain on the leg so it was quickly dropped. I cross trained with weights and pool faithfully for 6 weeks. At times I felt like I was growing gills after swimming for 1 hr every day? Finally in mid-May I decided to test the leg. I began with very short distances- 3 miles of run & walk and quickly built up to 8 miles. By the time we left for our summer home in the mountains on May 24 I was running/walking 10 miles in FL!

Our summer home is located at 9,000 ft in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The 1st week of training in the mtns is always tough but this year was the worst I experienced in all the years we have lived here! The high altitude combined with my poor conditioning just plain kicked my ass! I couldn’t run more than 3 min w/o sucking desperately for air and if I tried to stretch the time out to 5 min I would become totally fatigued? Once again I confirmed and warn all my (running) friends that cross training may help maintain a basic level of aerobic conditioning – but it doesn’t do shit to help train for running. Only running can train you for running! It was like I had to start all over again!

I was concerned about the two international races I had scheduled – and paid for- in mid –Jun. I only had 3 weeks to train for them! I figured in the worst case scenario I could run/walk the races so I started training with that strategy in mind. I started with a cycle of run 5 min and walk 1 min. By the end of my 1st week in the mtns (when I normally run 10 miles) I was struggling to complete 8 miles with a cycle of run 10 min & walk 1 min. I was very disappointed and discouraged. The 2nd week I decided to go back to a shorter cycle of run 5 min & walk 1 min. I was hoping to build up to 13 miles and gain enough confidence to register for the Steamboat Marathon. I wanted to run/walk one marathon before travelling to the South Pacific to verify that I could do it? By the end of the week I did succeed in finishing a 13-mile run – however Steamboat was full and I couldn’t get into the race! Plan B was to attempt the Estes Park Marathon one week later and only a few days before leaving for the S. Pacific.

The final week in the mtns I managed to complete another 13-mile run with cycle of run 15 min & walk 1 min. I was ready for Estes Park! Sure I was! Estes Park is the highest paved marathon in the USA and is a tough race with much of the course above 8,000 ft and many, many BAHs (Bad Ass Hills). I wouldn’t even have considered that race if it weren’t so close and I could drive to it. Also Nicole and I like to visit the town of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

So I registered and we drove over to Estes Park on Sat morning to pick up my race packet. This year the weather was great – sunny and mid 70s as we strolled around town and enjoyed pasta dinner at Mama Roses. The race started at 7am on Sun at the high school. It was sunny and a cool 40F as I lined up with about 300 runners. My initial race strategy was to run 5 min & walk 1 min. That strategy lasted less than 5 min! The race started at 7500 ft and the 1st half mile was uphill. I was sucking desperately for air about 3 min into the race! I changed the strategy to “do whatever is necessary to finish the race”! I soon learned that the best I could accomplish on the uphills was run 3 min & walk 1 min. On downhills I was able to run as long as 10 min before walking. I reached Mile 3 in 34:00 – not too bad? Then a long 3-mile climb began to the highest point of the course (8150 ft) at mile 6. What a bitch that was! I reached mile 6 in 1:14:09 and a split of 14:12 before stopping for a scenic photo of Lake Mary to share with my readers. I was still on a 12-min/mile pace and I figured if I could hold that pace for the entire race I would be happy. My goal was actually to run a sub 5:30. The next 4 miles dropped back down to Estes Park and I reached Mile 10 in 1:56:01 and a split of 9:50 – my only split under 10 min! And I was averaging less than a 12-min pace!

I reached the Half along Lake Estes in 2:32:11 and a split of 11:21. I already knew that the 2nd half wouldn’t be that fast. I was struggling to maintain a cycle of run 5 min & walk 1 min on the flat sections along the lake. And the 2nd half of the course has a lot more BAHs! As I slowly climbed a BAH at mile 15 I met Nicole who was walking from the hotel to the finish line. She asked for the car keys. I was happy to stop for a rest on that BAH and give her the keys. I reached mile 15 in 2:56:07 and a split of 12:41. I stopped again near mile 16 for more photos to share with my readers and to give myself a rest before starting the toughest BAH in the course. The course climbs relentlessly from mile 17 to mile 20 back above 8,000 ft. I sucked it up and forced myself to hold a minimum cycle of run 4min & walk 1 min up that BAH as I passed a lot of runners. I reached Mile 20 in 4:00:31 and a split of 14:28!

The next two miles were rolling hills and I walked the uphills and jogged the downhills to reach mile 23 in 4:36:12 and a split of 11:52. The final 3 miles were downhill back to Lake Estes and then flat to the finish line at the high school track. But my legs were trashed and very tired! I managed to keep them running/shuffling until I reached the final 2 miles of flat section along the lake. Then all I could manage was a cycle of run 3 min & walk 1 min! I just wanted the agony and pain to end!

Finally I approached the high school and entered the track at 26 mile (5:12:23). I would like to lie and say I sprinted the final 200m – but all I could do was just jog the final 200 m to cross the finish line in 5:14:41! It was a PW (Personal Worst) for a road marathon but I didn’t care! I had finished (ALIVE) and proved to myself that I could run/walk a marathon even in my pitiful shape. Hopefully it would be a bit easier at sea level for my next two races?

After a long, hot soak and shower Nicole and I visited the Estes Park Brewery for some greasy food and a few great microbrews. We have enjoyed good meals at some of the better restaurants in EP and tried to decide where to go for dinner. This year we opted for a ’view’ and selected the Shores Restaurant overlooking Lake Estes. Great views but unfortunately the food was mediocre at best.

On Mon morning we enjoyed a pleasant drive back home through RMNP. Colorado and RMNP enjoyed record snow this past winter. There were still 18ft snow banks in many areas of the park. Unfortunately there was not as much wild life as usual up in the alpine meadows since they were still covered in snow but there were lots of elk in the low lands near the park entrances.

I posted photos of the marathon and RMNP to my website weeks ago.

Thankfully I had already scheduled a massage on Mon afternoon with Pegi de Sade to flush my legs and prepare them for the 41 –hrs of flights and airports that I would have to begin on Tue morning.

I can’t say my usual “stay tuned” at this point since those trip reports have already been posted.


No comments: