28 June 2012

2012 Colfax Marathon, pt 2

The day before the race was cold and miserable, with rain and wind and just about everything else you don't want to run in. But by 4 am on race day (when I woke up), however, it was clear skies and warmer temperatures. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day.

My original race goal was to finish under 4 hours. I've been chasing that time ever since my first marathon back in 2000 when I finished at 4:08. Subsequent marathons have not been so kind, often seeing me finish well after 5 hours. But those past races, I thought, were run with little training. This time I was well prepared.

As I lined up with the other runners at my speed, I sipped the last drops out of my bottle. "If I can hydrate early," I thought, "then maybe I won't lose everything half way through." The gun went off, and I tossed my empty bottle of Hot Squirrel into the trash bin as I trotted over the starting line.

Mile 2 saw me at 21 minutes, which is about where I wanted to be: 10.5 minute miles; taking it slow and warming up. I stopped at the port-o-let to relieve myself. "Excellent--kidneys are working and I'm processing my water." It was as valid concern. If I couldn't pee it meant my body wasn't doing anything with the liquids. Actually, this was pretty much my only concern.

Between mile 2 and mile 10 I was cranking out sub 9-minute miles and feeling fantastic. Sarah met me at the 10-mile mark to take my warm-weather clothing and give me a huge emotional boost. (Thanks, Sarah!)

The next 7 miles were all uphill, and I was feeling the ache by mile 18, when the course finally changed to a long descent. I stopped again, thankfully, at a bathroom, for a much-needed break. Then it was downhill all along Colfax, into the football stadium, and back along Cherry Creek heading towards downtown Denver. And I was thirsty the entire way.

I felt desperate for fluids, and at each aid station (placed 2 miles apart), I guzzled down cups of water and sports drink. Each mile got a bit slower: 9:30 pace . . . 10:15 pace . . . and when I met the volunteers at mile 22 it happened. I bonked. I was out. I couldn't keep running. Hell, I could barely move forward. I felt like I was wearing shoes filled with sand, and my vision wobbled. The horizon before me seemed to sway as though I were on a boat. There were 4 miles left. I had run for 3 hours and 40 minutes. If I could run a 10 minute-mile to the end, I'd meet my goal.

Those last four miles would take over an hour.

As I walked, hobbled, stopped, collapsed, and walked along the now-sunny streets of Denver, I had two thoughts repeat in my head: keep moving forward, and don't puke! I would do both, but the latter only until I crossed the finish line at 4 hours and 45 minutes. Sarah met me there and helped me from one shady tree to the next where I exuberantly expelled the contents of my stomach. Just like my training runs, my body seemed to have stopped processing liquids, instead deciding it was a good idea to just keep them in my belly--you know, for later.

But that didn't stop me from drinking my victory beer. No matter that I got to see that victory beer again very soon after.


John Love said...

About 3/4 through "Born to Run" I started running. I've been slowly building up my K's on a training matrix that-- hopefully-- gets me to the finish line at the Jerusalem Marathon on March 1, 2013. If I get through 20 weeks of running, I'll register to run the full marathon; I'm in week 7.

Thanks for the book, James. Wish you could come and run through Jerusalem with me. Hope you got the prezzie I sent you.

Karen said...

It sounds like you've been through the wars. Way to persevere! You might be ready to do the Kepler Challenge before you run through Jerusalem with John.

Molly said...

I can't tell you how exhausted reading all of this makes me feel. Do continue, though, as I'm likely to never experience this firsthand and I find it oddly fascinating. Way to go bro (and John too!!).