Monday, October 17, 2011

Race Report: Denver Rock 'n Roll Marathon

I can't think of a creative intro, so let's get straight to the race recap!

The start line for the race was downtown, about a 20 minute walk from my house.  Even though I was so close, didn't have to deal with parking, and the race didn't start until 6:55am, my alarm rang at 4:30.  Yuck.  Luckily waking up was not hard as I slept very well the night before.  I did my best to relax physically and mentally all day Saturday.  I spent some quality time on the couch, watching the Texas-OU game (meh) and the Hawaii Ironman online (awesome!).  I dressed in my race outfit with throw-away cover-ups purchased from Goodwill (warm-up pants, hoodie, and gloves for $8!), grabbed my gear bag, some waffles and peanut butter, and headed out the door.

Gear check opened at 5:30, and I got there at about 5:25.  I was the first one to check my bag when it opened.  I then walked down to the Blue Bear at the Convention Center to meet my running group.   Guess what?  I can stand fully upright underneath the Bear's crotch!  You learn something new every day!

I warmed up, chatted with my coaches and training partners, made multiple bathroom stops, and headed back to the start line.  The best part of having a good night sleep the night before was that I felt very ready and very calm.   When I haven't slept well before a race I have nervous energy to contend with while waiting for the start.

Before the start
I lined up in my corral - (my) lucky number 11!  My goal for this race was 4:45, but I thought I would be happy with anything sub-5.  The official race pace group for a 4:45 finish was in my same corral.  I did not want to run with them because I needed to stick to my 9/1 run/walk strategy.  But I planned to keep them near me throughout the race so I would have a good sense of whether my pace was on track or not.

The race started with a "LET'S ROCK AND ROLL!" and I was off!

I made a conscious effort to go s-l-o-w the first few miles to properly warm up and not get too caught up in the early race frenzy.  I had 26.2 miles to cover, I didn't want to blow it early on.  My Garmin was a little off on mileage (my watch said about two tenths of a mile over each time I passed a mile marker) and I didn't really trust that it was giving me an accurate pace.  I stopped focusing on my actual pace and only paid attention to my average pace, which seemed to be about right, although a probably a hair fast.  I was glad to have the pace group nearby as an extra check that I was on target.

Cruising By Coors Field around the 5K point
I ran slightly ahead of the pace group for about the first half.  I made my way past Coors Field through downtown and up the hill to City Park.  I ran into one of my coaches (wearing a "Coach" bib meaning she could go anywhere on the course) and she ran with me for a couple miles.  I felt pretty good at this point.  My favorite band/song of the day was playing right as I entered the park - "Oh What a Night!"

Next the race worked its way over to Cheesman Park, a regular stomping running ground of mine.  At this point the half-marathoners split off from runners doing the full.  A woman looked at me and said, "I guess there's no turning back now."  Nope.

My experience at my last marathon was, in a nutshell, first 13.1 easy, 14-16 kinda tough, 17-19 second wind, 20-26 OMG get me out of here!  My experience was fairly similar this time, except I thought that the race just got gradually tougher miles 14-19.  Starting at the half-marathon point, the pace group caught up with me.  I passed them, they passed me, rinse repeat. 

The next park was Wash Park, where I have trained at least once a week everyday for the last year (according to Foursquare, I've checked in 27 times in the last 6 months), so it was comforting to arrive there.  I saw a port-a-potty with no lines around Mile 18 and decided to take the opportunity.  I fell behind the pace group at this point, but they were still in my sights.  I decided to take it easy and hold back until Mile 20, then I planned to let go and give it everything I had.

My speed up at Mile 20, pass the pace group, and never look back plan lasted only until about Mile 22.  I caught up with them briefly, but then huge waves of mental fatigue and self-doubt set in.  Why do people voluntarily sign up for this kind of thing?!?  If you look at my splits, I did speed up for a couple miles, but once I got to Mile 23, I needed to slow down back to my normal pace.

I saw another one of my coaches at this point and she ran with me from Mile 23 to 26, which was amazingly helpful.  I told her I felt fine but that I was struggling mentally. I was not in a place where I could smile or talk or express appreciation in any way, but I did really appreciate that she was there.  She re-filled a water bottle from my fuel belt, which were all empty at this point, and she calmly told me periodically how far we had to go.  She asked me if I wanted to catch back up to the pace group and I said no.  As long as I could see them, I knew I was in range of my goal time and that was fine with me.

There was one last uphill on the way back to downtown between 6th and 8th Ave.  I tried to focus on the fact that I only had to get back to 14th, so I couldn't have far to go.  My coach left me and I ran the last 0.2 on my own.  It wasn't long before I saw the finish line and (best of all) my cheering section!

And I beat my goal time!  I crossed the line at 4:43:30 (a PR by 44+ minutes!)

I celebrated afterward with brunch and Bloody Marys.

A week has gone by and I am walking normally again.  I took the entire week off from exercise and focused on getting plenty of sleep and doing plenty of walking.  My legs felt very sore, but as soon as the race was over and in the days after, I felt absolutely great from the waist up.  When I ran the Los Angeles Marathon five years ago, I remember feeling like I'd been hit by a bus. 

Tonight was my first day back at the gym, for a combination weights and cardio class.  I felt pretty tired going in and thought it would be a tough work-out since it's been awhile since I've done that kind of thing.  It was a hard class, but I felt great, especially during the cardio segments.  It's a nice feeling to have the level of fitness I've built up after the months of tri training and running.  It won't last, I don't want it to - I need a break.  But I am glad to know that it's not completely gone yet.

Rock on!


Beth @ Kitchen Minions said...

Hey Emma, I just wanted to let you know that I tagged you in a post today. Hope all is well!

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