Saturday, May 25, 2013

Another Sub 3...

I signed up for the Colorado Marathon as a back-up to Boston.

It's a popular picturesque course in Fort Collins, winding along the Poudre River.

In 2012, after a disappointing London, I had tried to sign up last minute but it was full.  With the heat in Boston that same year, I decided to enter the 2013 race just in case Boston didn't go well.

Then I ran my first sub 3 in Boston.  There was no reason to run Colorado.  But as the race got closer, I felt I'd recovered fairly well.  This was a race I'd wanted to do.  I had an entry, for what was now a full race - why not go along and jog it ?  Honestly - just jog it.  Really.  Maybe...

As a test, the weekend before, I raced the Cherry Creek Sneak 5 miler.  While my time was about 20 seconds slower than I'd run in a 5 mile race earlier in the year, that was enough - along with my leg recovery the following days - to tell me I was okay to start the race.  I talked with my coach, and decided to give it a go.  I didn't know what to expect, and was fully prepared to shut it down at any sign of injury or pain.

The afternoon before the race I drove the course.  I found a gas station at mile 17 and decided that was where I'd bail if things weren't going well.  I'd make sure I had $20 in my shorts to pay for the taxi.

Perhaps the only 'negative' about the race is it's early start.  Gun time is at 6:30am, and it's a point to point course.  Buses to the marathon start left at 4am.  Fort Collins is about 70 miles north of Denver.  Needing to eat breakfast too, I'd decided to stay the night in Fort Collins.

Race Day

Even though I was staying the night, my alarm went off just before 3am.  I am NOT an early morning runner...

I drove to the bus pick up location, and managed to meet up with running friend Phil who was running his only marathon of the year, and hoping to get his BQ for next April.

The bus drive was uneventful, but we weren't allowed to wait on the buses at the start line.  Temperatures were pretty cool, hovering in the 30s, and we waited outside as the sky gradually lightened.

I was trying to delay removing my clothes as long as possible.  Unlike Boston, where an hour before the race we were stripping down and heading to drop our checked bag, here it was less than 10 minutes until the gun and I was still sitting fully clothed wearing a trash sack.

As I started changing, the reality of the time - or lack of it - became clear, and it was a bit of a panic to get myself ready.  I rocked up to the start line with less than a minute to go.  A 'good luck' to Phil, and we were off.

It was cold.  Perfect.  I'm a cold weather runner.  I was running in my race kit from Boston with the 'sub 3' t-shirt in the hope that it still had some magic.  The only addition was gloves.

Again I started with a bottle of water and 7 gels, with another already consumed in the frantic seconds before the gun.

Surprise surprise, I decided that I didn't want to jog the race - I wanted to go out for a fast time.  I didn't know how it would turn out, and mentally wasn't 100% in the game.  I figured I'd give it the best I could, and if things went bad - it really didn't matter.  Knowing I had my 'mile 17 quit point' made me a little nervous.  I felt I shouldn't be thinking like that.  Too easy to give myself an out.

Up ahead I saw a team-mate from my training group, German.  I knew he was shooting for a 2:59:59 so I joined him and we ran together.  Both of us wanted to start out slowly.

7:00 for the first mile.

That works.  Ideally I wanted to take a crack at 2.55.  That's an average of 6.40 pace.

I told German that I'd be pulling ahead and not to feel like he should stick with me.  I also told him he'd probably be seeing me later.

May as well try and go big.  Just hope I don't go home...

Although I was kind of home already.  My 13th marathon - but the first in Colorado.  My first marathon at altitude.  The altitude itself didn't phase me - I really don't feel a lift when I go to sea level.  I think my limiting factor is something other than cardio vascular, so I fully expected to be able to run as fast at 6,000 feet, as I could at sea level.


My fingers were cold the water bottle, despite the gloves, so I kept alternating hands.

Just before the end of the 3rd mile we ran through a rock tunnel.  The scenery was spectacular.

First aid station, grabbed some water.  I wasn't dumping it over myself today.  At least not yet.


On my own now.  The field is very strung out, and not a whole lot of people around.  I see a group 100 yards or so further up the road, and one person in between.  No one watching on the side of the road.  Almost like a training run.  All alone, other than the 25 odd people in front, and 2000 behind.


Slowly tracking the guy down.


Catch him and talk for a few minutes.  He said he's hoping to run 3.15.  I laughed out loud.  I'm not the best pacer in a race - I often fade at the end - but I continue to be amazed at how some people pace their marathons.  We were clicking off miles around 6.40 - and he was hoping to run a time that required 7.25 pace.

I wished him luck, with my inner head voice saying he probably needed it, and then pushed on.


Now I'm gaining on the big pack ahead.  I see 2 women wearing matching pink outfits, and a number of guys, all in a pack.


I pass a straggler from the group ahead, but he gets right in behind me.  I'm taking tangents, and for the next 5 miles - every time I glance back, this guy is there literally 1 yard behind me.  He didn't say a word the whole time, just followed me.  Limpet.


Continue to pass the stragglers, with my shadow firmly attached


Through 9 miles in a few seconds under an hour.  I knew 9 miles / hour on the treadmill was 6.39 pace - so this was my first confirmation of my true pace.  6.39 would get me in around 2.54.30


Still tracking the group ahead, although it's been disintegrating.  I can see a core of 5 now, with the 2 lead women.


Since the first 100 yards after the start when positions settled, I haven't been over taken.  I've been gradually picking off people along the road.

Either I'm running too fast now, or these people went out too quick.

Finally I catch the pack.  One of the women has dropped back 10 yards.  I talk to her briefly - she's part of the local Roost run team, then I push on.


Through the half in 1.27.13.  30 seconds quicker than in Boston 20 days earlier.

Feeling remarkably good.


Catch the lead woman, who's now running with just one other guy.  The 3 of us pull ahead of those around us, and I finally lose my shadow.


Still picking things up.  I'm running by feel.  I see the miles check off - and the splits were 5+ seconds quicker than I'm showing here (I adjusted these later to be accurate based on the extra 0.3 miles my garmin had me running).

I know I'm probably running faster than I should be - but decide to go with it.  Now the pressure of the sub 3 has gone, I can run more freely.


6.27 ?  That's half marathon pace 16 miles into a marathon.

Out of the valley and onto the plains.  I know the 17 mile point is coming up.  My 'quit point'.  I do have that $20 in my pocket for the taxi...  Naah - just 10 miles to go - I'm going to finish this thing.


A gradual uphill and the first crowds we've seen.  The lead female is strong.  She glances over her shoulder to see where the 2nd place female is (a ways back now) and then she picks up the pace.  I try to hang on.


A 6:21 mile at 18 ?  Hope that doesn't come back to bite.


Check my watch.  Through 18 miles in 1.59.  Now that's 2.53.xx pace with 8 to go.  Realize then I could run 7.30 min miles to the end and still break 3 hours.  Push those thoughts from my mind.  I want 2.55.

The main hill of the race is coming up.  It straddles the 19th and 20th mile.  Mentally putting myself back to Boston.  Pretend I'm in Newton.


The woman has dropped us now (she ended up running 2.53).  She's maintaining the pace, whereas I'm hurting going up the hill.


Ok - 6.50.  That's okay.  That's 3 hour pace.  With the amount you have 'banked' - I'll settle for finishing like this.  6.2 miles to go.  Just 10K.  JUST 10K ??  That seems like a bloody long way...


Now we're onto a bike patch.  Ugh.  It's horrible.  Concrete with quite a bit of fine sand.  My shoes aren't getting good traction, feeling like I'm slipping with every step.  Think of that energy being wasted.


Uhoh.  22 miles in.  My first unintentional 7 min mile.  Hanging on now.  Playing mental games.  Keep trying to figure out what my time will be.  Losing contact with the other guy now, although he's slowed too.  He's 20 yards ahead.


The bike path takes right angles here and there with you having to almost come to a standstill, change the direction, and then start up.  Not what the legs need.  Then zig-zagging over a wooden bridge.  It may be picturesque but I'm not enjoying life at the moment.  Want this to be over.


Just over 5K to go.  Hang in there.  Giving back gobs of time.  Someone overtakes me.  The first person to overtake me since 100 yards into the race.  I tell him he's looking strong.  I'm envious.


Ugh.  2 miles.  Think of the lap in Wash Park.  Just run that once.  Try to pick it up.  Overtaking half marathoners now.  I'm blowing by them, but I'm slowing still.  Nasty short hill.  That's cruel.  People lying to me.  "Looking great".  Bollocks I am.


Finally, off that hideous path.  Now onto the roads again.  Up in the distance I can see the finish line.  Try to hold it together.

7:15 for last 0.2

A local friend, Phil, is standing on the finish line with his camera.  He takes a shot and high fives me.


That was ugly.  All that effort for a 42 second improvement over Boston !!

I seriously thought I could have gone sub 2.55.  The race had been going so smoothly for the first 20 or so miles.  The bike path portion was horrendous.  If we'd stayed on straight roads I think I'd have fared a little better, but I'm honest enough to know I'd have been slowing down there too.

Still - I'd got another sub 3 hour marathon.

It was amazing how little pressure there was this time.  I wasn't concerned about a mental barrier, so I could run a lot more freely.  I was in better shape going into Boston than I was here, but I was still able to run quicker.  Bodes well for my next race, when hopefully I'll be in better shape and still able to run more freely.

The stats - 15th overall and 2nd master.  20 days after Boston, at altitude, I definitely can't complain.

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