Going into this race a little blind as training had been sporadic at best. I only hoped to hold on and see what I could do . . .
The weekend started out extremely early on Saturday as the alarm clocks went off by 3:45 am. We were heading to Broomfield to time the Kohl Elementary 5k and had to be there at 5:45 to get ready. It was a great morning and the group up there was awesome. Met George Zack, saw Lori Walker who finished 2nd, and Sam from Operationjack.org as well as a few others. Super fast times as always at this race and everything went great!
We left Broomfield around 10:30 to head to Fort Collins to get lunch and pick up our packets before checking into the hotel. After a quick nap, we went over to Carrabba’s for dinner with Phil and Lauren and their friends from DC, as well as Liz, Fred and Rachel. We had a great dinner and everyone was pretty excited for the morning, though we were more excited about the wine and beer we were drinking with dinner! A quick walk back to the hotel and we were in bed by 8. A second day of 3:30 am wake up calls loomed.
We got up early, made some oatmeal and made our way to the buses that were taking us up the canyon to the start. Last bus leaves at 4:45 and we wanted to be on one of the last so we got there about 4:35. We had a nice 45 minute drive up to the start line and I dozed off a bit but no more meaningful sleep was going to happen. I ended up going with the Mizuno Ronin instead of the Universe. Such a good decision! We make our way to the bathroom lines and before we know it, it’s time to strip down and head to the start. It was pretty cold at the top but I always plan for mile 3 and beyond so it was just singlet and shorts for me. A quick warm up and as we line up and say good luck to each other. The announcer tells us one of the guys had won it a few years ago. There went his anonymity cover!
As the gun went off and we started down the road, Ryan, the former winner, and I head out a bit quicker than the rest. He asks what my goal is and I do the same. When he says he’s going for a 2:30, I tell him good luck but he tried to convince me to go with him. Ha! Maybe next year. I slowed off and ran alone for the first mile, probably a 5:50ish pace. I let the next guy back, Michael, catch up and we ran together through about 4 miles before my bladder couldn’t take any more. Never had that happen in a race below 50 miles. At least I was hydrated. After a quick stop, I was back at it and in 5th place now. Even though we were about 50 meters back on 2nd and 3rd, 4th and I kept an even pace and didn’t ever really fall back. Good to know.
I kept doing a self check to see how everything was doing. Breathing. Fine. Not breathing hard at all. Kinda odd actually. Legs. Painful. The camber of the road was pretty intense and I could feel the strain on my legs. I was less worried about the legs thinking I’d get past that pain and more worried about the pace becoming laborious. By mile 9, I made a very slight surge to catch the two guys in front of us and bridged the gap pretty easily and not much longer, we had all four of us working together, taking turns in the lead. Kept forgetting that there was a guy way ahead of us!
By mile 14 though, I could feel my hydration coming back to get me but in a good way I guess. Had to stop again. Don’t know what my deal was. Rolled back up on the group within a few minutes and found out we’d averaged a 6:09 pace through 14 (1:20 half marathon). We left the canyon and hit the flats and I could tell my legs had taken more of a pounding than I had thought. My muscles felt fresh but the IT bands and knees were achy from the slant of the road. The pack strung out and eventually I was left in 5th but still moving pretty well through 18.
Mile 19 brings the biggest climb of the day, a short and fairly shallow grade of maybe 400 meters in length. Nothing bad and I kept my effort nice and even. By the top though I was hurting bad. I had a few guys catch me at this point and I didn’t even have the ability to stay with them even though I wanted to desperately. My IT bands were just on fire. Nothing is worse than the inability to make a move. I tell myself to just keep moving. 7th isn’t bad and I can keep my pace for a good finish still since I had been on a 2:40 finish pace. I kinda blanked out as we hit the bike path until I saw a guy with a big tattoo on his back. Realized it was Brooks but went on by as he was running with his finacee and I was in the pain cave.
Before I know it, I hear him talking with someone with a British accent. Only one person that can be in Fort Collins, right? Nick Clark was out clearing the way for his friend as we were going by the back end of the half marathoners at this point. I got a boost from them being there, talked a bit, heard about Nick’s goal for Western States 100 and hung on for the ride as they went by. Everything was great until mile 23 or so when they turned off and I could feel my legs giving into the pain again. Those last few miles were brutal but I kept on moving. The mind games you come up with to trick yourself into continuing and finishing are pretty astounding.
I saw a few people in the half that I knew so that helped but I was so out of it I barely was able to wave! The final turn and up to the road and now an slight uphill to the finish. Nothing bad can happen now. I can see the finish line. I’ve been lying to myself about how far it is for miles and I can finally see it. Maybe a 150 meters to go it all stops. My left hammie tightened up so bad I couldn’t even take another step. Full on cramp. I grabbed it and tried to take a step. No go. Worse cramp. I stand there in the middle of the road for a good 2 minutes and rub this knot the size of my fist until I can take a step. Seizes again. Someone is handing me a water bottle. Another asks if I want them to stretch it if I lay down. I look up and say, “Thanks but I don’t know if I can even lay down.” For some reason everyone else thought this was funny.
After another minute or two and a few marathoners passing me (ended up being 5) I slowly take a step. Then one more. I’m clenching my hamstring so tight in my left hand to keep it from getting worse that I get a cramp in my arm. Whatever. I can keep hobbling to the finish. I walk it all the way in. Yeah. I walked in finish in a road marathon. Lauren even says something from the side about running it in. Ha. Not possible! The announcer recognizes me and says something to me off mic that I don’t even remember anymore. I was just trying not to fall over. I’m not sure if I was landing differently because of the pain or if I needed more salt but it’s something to figure out.
2:56:26 for 15th and 1st in my age group.
What a struggle. No idea how much time I lost at the finish. Probably a good five minutes over that 150 meters. The guys I had been running with finished in 2:42 to2:45 so I know where I should have been anyway. I eventually grab my medal and head over to get my bag. I run into a few Roost teammates and hear that our team did well in the half. Great news! After trying to eat an orange slice, my stomach turns and I decide to wait a bit on food and go find Phil and Lauren along the finish chute. We see Liz come blazing by doing a pageant queen wave at the crowd and before long Courtney is coming up. I look at the clock and realize it’s just over 3:43 and that this was going to be a huge PR! I take off to the finish (as fast as my marathon legs would) to see her as she comes out with her medal and she just wraps her arms around me and sobs tears of joy and shock I think. So proud of her. How she ran over ten minutes faster than the last marathon with half the training . . . who knows. Check out her recap at cisforcourtney.com. We see Heather and her friend and walk around while trying to calm down after the race. We decide to head to the hotel and clean up and check out then meet up with people for lunch. We ended up back at awards, had some free pizza but everyone else decided it was time to head home. Understandable after the weekend we had! Saw a few more Roosters and headed for home.
What a weekend. Let’s hope I can walk normal again soon.