A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 3; 14th Edition
290.6 miles raced in 2008
Race: Boulder Marathon
Place: Boulder, CO
Miles from home: 532 miles
Weather: Sunny and 50s-60s; mostly overcast
In the week leading up the Boulder Marathon, it did not feel like I had a race that weekend. There were no jitters, no excitement brewing or any of my usual feelings. In fact, I just felt tired. Not like my legs were tired or my body was tired but rather an overall tired. I just wanted to sleep. I couldn't figure it out and I did not feel sick. Therefore, I just chalked it up to the fact that in 82 marathons, one will have a few bad days. I thought about it some more and thought perhaps that is what happens when you win a marathon - there is an inevitable let-down, especially just one week later.
I have a plethora of friends in the greater Denver area. Unfortunately, most were either sick, out of town or had plans that meant I would not be able to meet them. However, one who I was most assuredly hoping to meet was available: Ross Kinney. I have written about Ross before (HERE) but we had never had the pleasure of meeting. However, Ross made the trip from Denver up to Boulder and he did not come alone. He brought TWELVE pairs of shoes with him to donate to One World Running! Thanks so much, Ross!
We shot the breeze a little bit but then duty called as I need to work with the race in my speaking capacity. Before he left however, I got a picture from Ross who was kind enough to send it to me.
After a low-key speaking engagement (the main course would be after the race on Sunday after the awards ceremony), Race Director Jeff Mason, suggested I simply go back to the hotel, which he graciously provided for me and relax. Given the tired state I mentioned before, I decided that would be good. However, on the way to the hotel, I drove through downtown Boulder, which either had some sort of a festival going on or was always like this on weekends. Either way, I was not going to miss the opportunity to check it all out. Checking into my hotel, I went out and people-watched for a few hours. It was quite a spectacle as there were all sorts of shops and stores in this tree-lined section of Pearl Street which is permanently blocked to car traffic.
Soon, my bed called and I decided to get a good night's sleep for a change. When morning broke, I had slept soundly and felt better than I had in days. Not great but "better". A quick trip over to the Boulder Reservoir where the race started was done in my rental minivan (don't ask me why THAT was the cheapest car!) and before I knew it, the race was underway.
First 8 miles:
Almost immediately, a group of four or five runners took off. As a marathon relay was also starting along with the runners doing the full (the half would start an hour later) and I hoped that a few of those ahead were doing said relay. About a mile or two into the race, a second similar-sized back broke away from me. The race started uphill so my slower than usual miles did not frighten me. In fact, as I was feeling far from stellar, I decided to try and be conservative with my first half and see what could be done in the second half.
By mile 5, I was just plain beat. Mentally, I was not really in the mood to run for another 2 plus hours. I tried to put it out of my mind and just run on. I knew there were a couple of sections ahead which would provide me some downhill running relief and simply tried to focus on them.
In the meantime, a few other runners passed me, I passed a few other runners and we passed through the relay exchange section. I now basically had no idea what place I was in. I guessed 15th.
Around mile 7, I could hear breath and footsteps behind me. As we neared mile 8, I could tell from the sound of the breathing that the runner was female. I hoped it was a relay runner, but as the runner passed me I could see it was a Japanese (originally or of descent I don't know) woman running with a Japanese man. I hoped to keep them in site and maybe give them a run near the end. Luckily for me, right there, we both hit the downhill and I felt a surge. My miles went from being over 7 (7:10 or so in a few of the miles) to mid 6s (6:36 or so).
After about 2-3 miles of this, my miles returned to "normal". Soon thereafter, one runner passed me at the mile 11 aid station and another passed me around 12. With no "relay" sign on their back or another marking, I could not tell what race they were running.
Around mile 14 there was a section of the relay exchange. I knew from the course map that we had a 3 mile out-and-back section and therefore told a bunch of the runners standing by that I wanted them to trip as many returning runners as possible. I got a good laugh and the reaction fed me for a mile or so.
Around mile 16 or so, the lead runner came flying by. As the altitude of this race (well over 5500 feet) was definitely taking its toll on me I marveled at his speed. I offered him a high-five and he graciously accepted. After I hit the turnaround point, I spent the better part of the next two miles passing out "Way to go!"s and "Nice run!" to every runner who I passed in the opposite direction. While it definitely took a little energy to do this for every runner, the smiles I got from those in return more than made up for it. A fair amount of this race is run on dirt roads (with some rather hard-packed) but you could tell it was beginning to be a little bit of strain on some of the runners. Obviously there are many runners who run better on trail or dirt roads but I am guessing most of them are not those who were going to be finishing in the 3:30-4:30 range today.
I had received an email earlier in the week from a runner I had met at the Run for the Ranch Marathon, my final marathon of Fiddy2. Jacob Wells was his name and seeing him around mile 18.5 was nice surprise indeed. If I had not yelled out his name, he would have missed me as when I was passing him, he was looking at his shoes to see if his chip was still attached (An interesting side note: one of the runners in the front of the pack had, at one point, lost his chip. I saw it at mile 5 and yelled ahead to the two runners ahead of me to check their shoes. Neither was missing one and I could not think of another thing to do so I left the chip on the ground. I know Jeff worked with the timing guys to figure out the situation.) Jacob let out a yell and continued running. He and his friend are the only reason I have any pictures of the final Fiddy2 marathon and for that I am eternally grateful.
Around mile 21, I saw the runner who had passed me close to 10 miles later was wavering. In fact, I had been tracking him for many miles, inching closer and closer. Having passed another runner around mile 18 or so, I now had no idea whatsoever what place I was in. Anytime there was a long stretch, I could see the lead female not too far ahead but did not have the energy to do anything about it. However, I did pass him here, which rejuvenated me for a mile or so.
Here is where the half-marathoners joined the full course and I spent the remaining 5 miles dodging and weaving. On a skinny dirt road this is not easy and I did my best to stick to the tangents of the road to minimize the distance run, while at the same time trying to avoid as many halfers as possible. I have always maintained that the race course is just as much theirs as it is the marathoners, but I do wish that they would not run six abreast.
At mile 24, with the red arch and expo tent in the distance, I knew there was a fairly decent downhill left followed by a cruel uphill at both mile 25 and then again around mile 26. Pushing the hills out of my mind, I concentrated on my form. I knew I was going to be close to a 3:08 or so (I ran the first half around 1:32) and just wanted to make sure I qualified for Boston.
Going down the big hill, then back up and then down again, I heard some footsteps. With so many other half marathoners around me, I did not know if the person on my tail was someone I passed or a runner chasing me down. As we began to take on the last uphill, the runner I passed at 18.5, passed me. But just like last week, he most assuredly did not do so with any such authority. I had a feeling he made his move too soon.
As we began the final stretch of the race we were passing half-marathoners left and right. In its first year ending at this Reservoir, the RD was not quite expecting the final crush of runners to be this big (there were nearly 500 marathoners running, not counting relay runners and probably triple that for half-marathoners). I fell right into the hip pocket of the runner who passed me. Determined to crush his hopes about 10 yards before the finish, we drew closer to the red arch signifying the end of our journey.
I have always been pretty good at picking my way through obstacles, be they humans or rocks, on a downhill trail course. Two or three times, the runner in front of me took a route that was questionable to me but I followed. When a slot opened to our left and he went right, I figured I had enough of the cat and mouse game. I burst through the hole and began the last bit of sprinting about 190 yards before I wanted to do.
Cutting close to the final curve and almost decapitating a curious spectator who strained their neck out to hear why people were suddenly cheering so loudly (the spectators saw our battle unfolding and were really getting into it), I heard someone scream my name and shout out to me. Girl in pink, whoever you are, thank you so much and please identify yourself! (Addendum: Thanks for coming out, Christina!)
The final push was worth it as I crossed not only in BQ time of 3:09:15 but finished tenth male overall.
Knowing I had to check out of my hotel room and make the hour plus drive to Denver's airport, I quickly hopped in the car to grab a shower before checking out. Back by 13:30 and ready for my speech, I was treated to a beautiful day of sunshine and Rocky Mountains. For most of the course, clouds (ugly ones at that, which never broke into rain) covered the sun. It was more or less a perfect day for running on a challenging course. (So yes, Jacob, your 3:34 was easily 10 minutes faster on an easier course and you can tell all your friends I said so.)
After the awards were given out, I was given the microphone and gave a shorter than usual version of my longer speech. The runners still attending were quite receptive and I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with them. All in all, the race was well run. Aid stations were decently plentiful (although on a warmer day there would need to be one or two more near the end), the volunteers were friendly and the scenery was very Boulder-esque. The swag in the goody bag was extremely plentiful and all well-made. Runners received a veritable smorgasbord of things to take home. In fact, about the only complaint was the place where the courses joined together near the end and the runners became too plentiful for the small dirt road. This is an issue which I am sure will be addressed next year. This runner hopes that does not involve a move from the Reservoir, as the cool water just a few hundred yards away from the finish was a wonderful place for runners to soak their weary legs.
Now I am just 6 short days away from the Akron Road Runner Marathon. Stay tuned for full details on that race sometime mid-week.