Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Denver Marathon

Ok - that title's a bit misleading. It should really be Denver Half Marathon.

After Chicago it took me a couple of days to get my legs back under me. It still hurt to walk downstairs on the Tuesday, so I dismissed thoughts of running in Denver the next weekend. On the Wednesday things weren't quite so stiff so I went for a fairly easy 5 mile jog. At least that was the intention. It felt great. I picked up the pace each mile and finished with a huge smile on my face. Thoughts of another race started to creep back. That said - there's a big difference between a 5 mile jog, and running in a half or full marathon race. I didn't want to just jog the race itself - I'd at least want to be semi-competitive. I decided to run again Thursday and this time push things a little harder. If I started to fade I reasoned, then clearly I wasn't ready. Quite the opposite. I ran well - finishing strong on a 6 mile hilly loop at work at around 7.10 min/mile pace.

I still wasn't sure, but decided to take a rest day Friday and check out the marathon expo at lunch. Big mistake. Once I got in there and felt the energy from the other runners my entry was a foregone conclusion. Still - I didn't sign up Friday, figuring I could fool my mind into not caring so I could at least sleep well Friday night. It worked. The best night of sleep for over 3 weeks.

I sought advice from friends and other runners and finally decided to sign up for the half marathon. I went to the expo to sign up for it but agonized for several minutes over which box to check - the half or the full. Remembering the pain of the last few miles in Chicago, surely my body hadn't recovered fully and I'd just be opening myself up for more of the same. Reluctantly I checked the box for the half marathon.

Race day Sunday - up at 4:30am. I took my scooter down and parked a couple of blocks from the start / finish. Gotta love the local race. Off came the license plate, now a 50cc vespa - legally parked on a bike rack. I stood at the 7 min/mile pace sign in the start area and chatted with Bruce from the gym at work in my trash bag porto potty. The weather was great. Temps in the high 40s, with the sun rising into a cloudless sky. 80+ degrees were called for, but not until long after the race was done. A far cry from the week before in Chicago. At 7am we were off.

I didn't have high expectations. I figured I should take the first mile slowly, then try to get around a 7 min/mile pace and see how things went. My PR at Georgetown had been at that speed so I reasoned that in the unlikely event I could maintain it, then a PR might be in order. I didn't want to get to the end of the race with too much left, but just 7 days after a full marathon I didn't want to suddenly run out of steam half way round. First mile 7.13, then as we ran down into Lodo I picked things up a little (6.52). Early in the race I was running on feel, ready to throttle back at the first sign of distress. It didn't come. The miles ticked by (6.56, 7.07, 7.00, 7.01, 7.00) and I was feeling good. The crowds were a lot smaller than Chicago, but still much better than the Colfax race earlier in the year. The aid stations were good, and the course was interesting. I decided just a couple of miles in that I was going to run the full marathon the next year.

Round City park, then up to Cheeseman. 6.58, 7.05, 7.14 (the incline in cheeseman), 6.59. Ok - now I've run 11 miles and I'm still feeling strong. I'm not going to bonk, so time to push things a little more. 6.48, 6.42 for the last 2 miles, then the bit at the end and I crossed the line feeling great. Hardly out of breath. The easiest half marathon I've ever run (ok - I've only actually raced 3 of them - but still).

Looking at my garmin I realized it had been off. It showed 13.26 miles instead of 13.1, so the spilts I'd been using would have been slower than I thought. Instead of running close to my PR, I ended up at 1.32.25. 40 seconds slower. That's about 3 secs/mile more than it was showing. That was unfortunate because I was pacing myself very much to the watch. Given how good I felt at the end, I'm pretty sure if the watch had been accurate I could have run that little bit faster. Still - a week after Chicago, I was happy with the performance. Over 3 minutes faster than the Colfax half 5 months earlier and a much more relaxed, controlled run. Enough to place me 80th overall for men, and 96 for the whole race - out of some 4500+ racers. I even had my name in the paper the next day (listed the top 100).

After the race I met up with Bruce again, then waited to support the full finishers. With the great crowds the week before I felt it was the least I could do. I stood on the course half a mile from the finish and yelled a few 'HTFU' and cheered on the racers.

In a masochistic way, I'd been hoping to have suffered more in the race to confirm that my decision to just run the half was the right one. Unfortunately the opposite happened, which meant I'm still second guessing the decision. If there was another marathon in Colorado this season I'd have already signed up. I want to knock at least 5 minutes off my full time to get to a level that I feel more accurately reflects what I can run. I don't want to let my fitness go and then have to train myself back up, so I'm looking for one more marathon this year. As I type this I'm considering either Las Vegas, or CIM (California International Marathon) in Sacramento - both in early December. I've got the airmiles for both, and have found cheap hotels. This time it would be more of a business trip. Fly in the day before, go to the expo, sleep, race, go straight to the airport and fly home.

I've bought a book for the Pfitz training program and with a December race would get 7 or so weeks to change things up a little. The program I'd used for Chicago was cobbled together from several I'd seen on line. I'd been running my long runs at marathon pace, which I've learned isn't the smartest thing to do. I'm hoping to make a decision today. I can then shut it down for the season, before starting up again for Boston early in the new year.

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