This was the hardest run I have ever done. This race is advertised as the highest fully paved marathon in the world. The highest I had ever run was Moab at 4,000 feet back in March.
I knew it was going to be hard based on the course descriptions and what other people had written, but I didn't know exactly what "hard" meant. I had looked on a pace calculator, which said 3:17 at sea level was equal to 3:33 at 7,500 feet. Add some time for hills, but how much time? How much time for unknowns. I would find that out.
We arrived in Denver yesterday and drove to Granby, to meet Jenny's parents at the condo they were renting. Their condo was at 8,400 feet, and I could definitely feel it as I was unloading the car and walking up the steps. I drank lots of water to help with the adjustment and we found a nice local restaurant and had some pasta. Jenny, her mom, and sister were going to run the 10K.
We woke up at 3:30, left just after 4:00, and arrived in Estes Park at 6:00, but it felt later, since I was still on Florida time. The drive across Trail Ridge road was spectacular. Saw tons (literally) of Elk and a few deer. Climbed up over the tree line and back down. We lucked out on the weather because the park ranger told us that last week they had to close down the road a few of the nights for snow. But, the drive went perfect, so far so good.
I had a plan, which was to try and go out at about an 8:00 pace, and see how I felt. Go slower up the hills if I needed to, and maybe pick up some speed down hill.
Mile 1 - 8:22
Mile 2 - 7:48
The plans quickly changed. After just 0.11 miles I was in a slight panic mode, feeling like I wasn't getting enough oxygen. Fortunately, that subsided somewhat, we hit the first down hill and my pace picked up. After 2 miles, I was close to an 8:00 pace, maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. Just before mile 2, I was running next to a woman, she was running pretty strong and looked like she knew what she was doing. Another woman on a bike pulled up to her and told her that she was the first place female and so would be following her the entire race, which I thought was a nice touch.
Mile 3 - 8:40 + :18 Garmin adjust
Mile 4 - 9:24
Mile 5 - 9:37+ :20 Garmin adjust
Mile 6 - 9:48
Then came mile 3, my left calf was burning, tight, not good. In the 4th mile we were starting to climb. My heart rate was up, almost felt like a tempo run. I saw a porta potty and stopped to use it. I didn't really have to go, but figured that this might save me time later, I mainly needed to stop. Got out and back on the road, heart rate was back down and I trudged up the hill.
This was the big hill. I had never done anything like this before, 600 feet up in less than 3 miles. On the way up, I was behind a few guys, I thought I could pass them. So, I did and lasted about a minute before dropping back and having to walk. I caught back up to them and fell in behind them for the trip up the hill. The hill crested at 5.75 miles. They had some big speakers set up, playing music and announcing runners as they neared the crest. That really lifted up my spirits.
Mile 7 - 8:13 + :18 garmin adjust
Mile 8 - 7:58
Mile 9 - 7:42 + :11 garmin adjust
Mile 10 - 8:11
Mile 11 - 8:19
Mile 12 - 8:28
Mile 13 - 8:00 + :18 garmin adjust
These miles seemed to all go pretty well. Miles 7-9 and part of 10 were mostly downhill. Some of it was pretty steep and I tried to stay in control. I eventually caught up to 1st place female (whose name was Karen), she seemed to slow a little bit and I passed her. This worried me somewhat, as I didn't know what I was doing on this race, and thought it might be asking for trouble, setting myself up to crash later on. Oh, well, just go on and see what happens.
Mile 14 - 9:00
Mile 15 - 8:43
These miles were slower but not terrible, but it was getting a lot warmer. Early in the morning it was much cooler out, so I had on a long sleeve shirt. That was the wrong choice. I took my shirt off and tied it around my waist so the bib would still show in front. I suddenly felt much, much better.
Mile 16 - 9:29
Mile 17 - 8:18 + 2:16
Mile 18 - 9:56 + :33 Garmin adjust
Mile 19 - 9:03
Mile 20 - 9:51
A lot of uphill running in this stretch. I really don't remember what happened in mile 16, maybe I took a long water stop break or something, but I had thought it went well, oh well. Then in mile 17 I was feeling good, like I could really just keep moving. But then, I got to a water stop, and ended up wasting a lot of time. My mouth felt very gummy and dry, so I drank gatorade and water until I was almost feeling like I might slosh, but stopped short of that, and took some salt. I also realized that I was just standing there, I at least could have been walking, not sure how much time that cost me. When I finally got going again I just hit the lap button so I could concentrate on the next mile. Mile 18 had another long stop but I didn't try for the start fresh approach. Just before mile 20, was the crest of the second big hill, another 500 feet up. After that it was mostly downhill from there. I was doing a lot of leap frogging with various people. Passing, getting passed. Especially with 1st place female. I chatted a bit with her at one of the aid stations, then she pulled ahead of me. I wished her good luck thinking that would be the last I saw of her.
Mile 21 - 8:33
The downhill here felt pretty good, but I was quite beat up at this point and the wind started whipping directly into me, at least it made things feel cooler, and at least I was getting the wind on the up hill part.
Mile 22 - 9:41
There was some walking involved in this mile. It was a mix of down hill, flat and a little bit up up hill, along with the wind still blowing. Things got better after this.
Mile 23 - 8:43
Better, more consistent, and resisted walk break urge.
Mile 24 - 8:44
A lot like the previous mile.
Mile 25 - 8:28
Better, I was no longer worried about crashing, I could do it, I could still get under 4:00. I also caught back up with 1st place female.
Mile 26 - 8:20
Shortly after mile 25 marker, I could see Jenny and her parents. I waved to them and Jenny ran over to me and said she would run me in. It was great having her to run with for most of this mile, she really came through for me and is easily my number one inspiration. She warned me that there was one more steep uphill before getting onto the high school track. I was worried about it, but when I got there I just did it and it wasn't so bad. I was hurting quite a bit now. Calves were on fire.
Last 0.11 - :44 (6:26 pace)
My Garmin actually measured a total of 26.3x miles, but with all of the adjustments and that odd adjustment at mile 17, my garmin was a little out of sync with the mile markers at the end. I gave it all I had as I ran about 3/4 of a lap on the track and headed into the finish chute. I wanted to be done. I had no idea what my total time was, just that I had a lot of slow miles.
I was actually pleased with my time since I made it under 4 hours, and beat (slightly) my time for my first marathon.
Karen (first place female), finished slightly after me. Her husband thanked me for helping to pull her in, which was very nice of him. Actually, I needed to thank her, as she was often pulling me along, but I didn't get a chance to. So, thanks for all the help and congrats on 1st place!
I tried to walk of the calf pain. It wasn't going away. I looked like I was wandering around in a daze and Jenny was a bit worried about me. They gave her a big bag of ice which she rubbed up and down my calves which helped quite a lot. Slowly I returned to normal. They had the showers available in the high school which I used, and those helped tremendously.
It was a great race, very well organized. It also had a very casual feeling about it which was nice. Although there were only 104 finishers, I never felt lonely out on the course, due to all of the leap frogging.
If I had stuck around , I might have gotten an age group award, the overall winner was in my age group so I think that bumped me up to 3rd place, but not every race does that. The winner ran a 2:47 which is incredible.
We had a great drive back over to Granby across the Rocky Mountain National Park. The kids got a chance to play in the snow and we saw a bunch more Elk and even a couple of Moose.