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This morning I ran my first standalone marathon since I started doing Ironmans. I was really curious to see how it went, given that my perspective has changed quite a bit over the last two years. All I really wanted going into the race was to FINALLY have a marathon time that started with a 4, instead of a 5. For the past several years, I’ve been consistently doing my long runs at a 10:00-10:30/mi pace, but come race day, I’ve had a knee injury (My first marathon: The 2010 Adirondack Marathon), heat exhaustion (the 2011 Buffalo Marathon), and peroneal tendonitis (the 2012 DC Rock n’ Roll Marathon – my standing PR at 5:00:24). My other two marathon attempts ended at the half due to a knee injury (the 2010 Buffalo Marathon), and illness (the 2011 Adirondack Marathon). So suffice it to say, I really wanted to have a decent race for once. Just once.
As per usual, I didn’t train as well as I had hoped. This was the first year of my Ph.D. program, and things were quite busy between school, work, and trying to have some semblance of a social life since I’m living in a new city and trying to make friends. I could get in the occasional short run or two (5-6 miles) during the week, and a long run just about every other weekend. I’ve also gotten in a few decent bike rides (65 miles and 75 miles of the IM Boulder course) in the last couple weeks. So I wasn’t in a horrible place. But it certainly wasn’t ideal either. My recent short runs are usually in the 9:00-9:15/mi range, and my longest run topped out at 18 miles at a 9:59/mi pace. I was really happy with how that run went, so going into the race this morning, I was feeling good.
The biggest thing that has changed since my last marathon was the completion of my two Ironmans (the 2012 Beach2Battleship – race report parts 1, 2, and 3, and the 2013 Ironman Lake Placid – race report parts 1, 2, 3, and 4). Doing Ironmans has significantly changed my view of what exactly is a “long” day. Now, 4.5 hours doesn’t seem all that bad.
So going into the race this morning, I was stress-free and relaxed. I was just going out for a nice fun run and whatever happened, happened. No big deal. I looked at it more as a nice training run for Ironman Boulder, which is coming up in August. That said, I still wanted to have a good race and enjoy myself. But it wasn’t my A race like marathons have been in the past. Removing that A race stress is really great.
My mom had come out to visit this weekend, so we spent the few days before the race doing what essentially amounted to a “food tour of Boulder.” I had so many good restaurants that I wanted to take her to, and limited time to do it in. So we ate. A LOT. No chance of not having enough fuel in my system here.
Race morning dawned painfully early. The start was at 6 am down in Denver (about 30-45 minutes away, depending on where you’re trying to get to), and we also had to account for the inevitable race day traffic. So I was up at 3am and out the door by 4:15. Ouch.
The drive to City Park was uneventful. We didn’t hit any traffic until we pulled in to the park, and even then we were able to find a parking spot right near the start line – score! At this point, it was about 5:15 am. We had 45 minutes to kill before the start, so my mom and my friend got some coffee, while I did the ever-important pre-race port-a-potty stop. Then we hung around the starting corrals until about 5:50, when I got in line in my corral.
Right at 6 am sharp, we were off. They were pausing in between corrals, so one group would take off roughly every minute. I was in corral E, and at 6:06 am, we were at the start line and on our way.
I crossed the start line and headed out with my group. Amazingly, I ended up passing most of my corral, and was in the front of our little pack. I was feeling really good! I did the first mile coming out of the park at a 9:15 pace. Sweet! Also, the spacing out of the corrals was perfect – we weren’t bunched up at all. Even right in the very beginning.
The first 5.5 miles were pretty uneventful. We made our way out of City Park, and west along Colfax (one of the main drags through Denver – not the prettiest street in the world). Around mile 4, we passed through a fire station (fun), and ended up on the Cherry Creek bike path. It was really pretty and peaceful running along the creek, and Confluence Park was a cool spot. There were two guys on SUP boards at the confluence, cheering and playing some game where they have to jump over a floating bar thing. One guy fell in. It was entertaining.
We turned southwest and continued along the South Platte River bike path, past the amusement park, and headed toward the Broncos stadium. I was still feeling awesome, and super excited to be running WAY better than I had anticipated (first 6 splits: 9:15, 9:28, 9:03 – sweet!, 9:16, 9:27, and 9:20). I was averaging a 9:18/mi pace. This was fantastic!
* Note: At this point, the splits from my watch were just a bit ahead of the mile markers (about 0.1 mi – it got more exaggerated in the second half of the race), so I was probably a second or two slower per mile than that, but I’m just going off my watch.
Around mile 6, we entered the Broncos stadium. This was really a neat touch for the course. We ran in through the tunnel, and came out on the field. It was so cool to look up at all the seats and see it from a player’s perspective. It must be so amazing when those seats are all full.
We ran around the field, and headed out the other side of the stadium, past the first relay exchange, and back onto Colfax.
Coming out of the stadium, we hit our first decent hill. It really wasn’t too bad. Overall, this course is mostly flat. There are some long gradual inclines, and two or three small hills that are worse, but it’s a pretty flat and fast course. I just slowed a teeny bit and chugged up it.
Around 7.5 miles, we hung a right onto Perry Street and headed north to run around the beautiful Sloans Lake. I really enjoyed this part of the course. First, it was the first time I saw my mom and my friend, so that was really nice (they did a kickass job of running all over that course – it was impressive), and it was just a super pretty spot. When I saw my people, I ran over, showed them my watch, yelled “I’m killing it!” and then ran off smiling. I was in a good mood.
We ran all around the lake, and then headed back south on Perry to get back on Colfax. We continued west for a bit until about mile 12.5, where we turned north to head to the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. We ran around the campus, and hit the halfway point. According to the race clock, my half time was around 2:04:00, and I was holding a 9:28/mi average pace (estimating with my start time). I was currently 7 minutes ahead of where I thought I would be on a good day. That was awesome!!!
My watch splits up to this point: (my watch was reading 0.25 miles ahead of the course at this point)
- Mile 7 – 9:24
- Mile 8 – 9:46
- Mile 9 – 9:04
- Mile 10 – 9:13
- Mile 11 – 9:34
- Mile 12 – 9:28
- Mile 13 – 9:20
We headed out of the campus, and continued north on Pierce Street. Then west on 20th. There was a decent hill right after we turned on to 20th, but nothing too terrible.
We headed west on 20th for a while, and I saw my mom and friend again. I was amazed they had made it all the way over to the west end of the course! That was some dedication!
A little after 14.5 miles, we turned south and headed through a really nice little neighborhood. There were a bunch of residents out cheering, and manning their own aid stations – including one that had bacon and donuts for the runners. (Also, this reminds me, I thought it was really entertaining every time I passed someone wearing the “Team Beef” shirt, since I was wearing my awesome No Meat Athlete top. Oh, the irony.). Also in this neighborhood, I decided to begin my “walk two minutes at every mile marker” strategy to keep my energy up for the second half. It seemed to work well. When I started running again after my quick break at mile 15, I felt rather good.
Around 15.5 miles, we emerged back out onto Colfax, and headed east to begin our trip to the finish line.
We ran down Colfax for a LONG time. But fortunately, most of this was a very gradual downhill. It was a nice little reprieve for the legs. I decided to skip the walk breaks through here and just enjoy the downhill. My official 16.1 mile split was 2:33:00. I was still holding a 9:30/mi average pace!
Then, at mile 18, I had my first twinges of unpleasantness. I recognized it immediately. It was the beginnings of the same peroneal tendonitis that had plagued me at the 2012 DC Rock n’ Roll Marathon, except in my right foot this time. I decided to implement an “I can walk for two minutes at a time whenever I need it” strategy to keep things under control. After the first minute of my two minute walk break, I saw my mom and my friend a few blocks down the road. I couldn’t stand to walk past them, so I picked it back up again. As I passed them, I waved and yelled something along the lines of “remember how happy I was to do my 18 miler at a 9:59 pace??? Look at this!!!” and showed them my watch again. Then I took off down the road. A few blocks later, I walked for another minute.
My splits through 18 miles: (watch was running about 0.6 miles ahead of the mile markers at this point)
- Mile 14 – 9:22
- Mile 15 – 10:17 (First walk break)
- Mile 16 – 10:18
- Mile 17 – 9:10 (Yay! Downhill!)
- Mile 18 – 9:15
We continued down Colfax, all the way to the Broncos stadium. At this point, my foot was pretty rough, so I was doing a bit of hobbling, but I could still run most of the time.
We ran back through the stadium, and out onto the bike path along the South Platte River. My official 20.1 mile split was 3:14:22, and a 9:40/mi pace. I was happy with that!
This was when the foot really started to become unpleasant.
A little way down the bike path, the 4:15 pacer passed me. I wouldn’t have it. I started running again, passed him, and stayed a head for a minute. Then he passed me again. Then I caught and passed him. We went back and forth like this a few times. I really didn’t want to lose him. Even though 4:15 was way ahead of what I had planned on doing today, I had fallen in love with the idea of it, and I didn’t want to let it go. Eventually, I had to. But that’s okay. I was still far exceeding my expectations, so I really couldn’t complain.
Along the bike path, there was much limping and stopping to wince, but I slowly made my way back toward City Park and the finish line.
We came off the bike path at Lawrence Street, and made our way down 17th Street and closed in on the park. At mile 23, I managed to find another friend who was spectating, and at that point, I was feeling good (the pain in my foot would come and go, depending on the particulars of how I would move it), so I happily ran past, waved, and said hello.
Somewhere around mile 24 was the last somewhat unpleasant uphill. My foot wouldn’t have it, so I walked (well, limped). I did much limping in those last few miles, but I was feeling alright. I was SO happy with how the first 18 miles had gone, and I knew I would finish under 5 hours at this point, so really, that was JUST FINE. I just needed to keep moving, that’s all.
At mile 25, I tried to run it in the rest of the way, but had to stop to hobble here and there. I eventually entered into the park, and ran it the rest of the way in.
Final splits from my watch: (my watch was reading 0.8 miles ahead of the course by the end)
- Mile 19 – 9:50
- Mile 20 – 11:20
- Mile 21 – 9:27
- Mile 22 – 12:00
- Mile 23 – 10:06
- Mile 24 – 10:00
- Mile 25 – 12:51
- Mile 26 – 12:43
- Mile 27 – 11:37
I came into the finish area, and ran my way down the chute. I saw my mom and my friends right at the finish line, cheering, and carrying the wonderful box of Voodoo Donuts that I knew would be waiting for me at the finish line.
I crossed the finish line with a final time of 4:34:10, and an average pace of 10:27/mi. I’ll take that! New PR! By 26 minutes!
- Final time: 4:34:10 (PR!)
- Average pace: 10:27/mi
- Overall place: 771/1329
- Women: 239/554
- Age group: 87/200
I’m so proud that for ONCE, I was actually in the top half of my age group AND women! I’m always bringing up the rear!