Monday, April 8, 2013


Last I posted, completing the Colorado Marathon was all but a distant hope. I figured I’d be contacting them this week to change my distance down the half and then just hope I could complete it.

But a funny thing happened after my short run on Thursday.

I started that run the way I've been starting all of them lately—with a walk. Given my injured leg, walking for the first quarter mile or so gives me a chance to further loosen up the muscles. I definitely stretch before hand, but this is just a little more time to get ready for the run.

As I moved along, I noticed that my walking pace was in the low 13 minute range. It even dipped into the high 12 minute range a few times. As I ran, I started doing the math. Me doing math in my head is a dubious proposition at best, all the more so when running. However, I estimated about out about how long it would take to do a full 26.2 at an average pace of 13:00 per mile: 5:40. That’s pretty slow but still within the six hours permitted for the race. However, who said I would walk the whole thing.

I continued to crunch the numbers (this time on a spreadsheet instead of in my head) and determined I could reduce the time to under 5:15 if I could reduce the average pace to 12:00. So I could mostly walk, do some running, and still finish not much slower than my only other full Mary, the 2006 Rock-n-Roll San Diego. The time there was 5:01.

But figuring this out in my head and actually doing it are two different things. It had to be put to the test and with the race four weeks away, I decided to do just that on Sunday.

It was a pretty good day for a run. Low 60* range with a breeze to make it feel just a little cooler. I donned my triathlon shorts (they seem to be the best for longer distances) along with a long sleeve technical fleece which might have been a bit warm, but weather in Colorado changes rapidly. It would turn out to be a pretty good choice.

Since my home sits at over 6000 feet, nearly any out and back run involves climbing on the return. The longer the run, the more the climb. If I had been healthy, I would have done just that. However, my soleus muscle complains mostly when I’m going up hill. What’s more the Colorado Marathon is a mostly downhill affair since it starts in the mountains of the Poudre Canyon and finishes on the plains of Fort Collins. Being the supportive person she is, my wife gladly agreed to pick me up just outside of Cherry Creek State Park which would be the finish of my point-to-point trek.

From the mid-point of my drive way, I headed out, at a walk until reaching the Sulfur Gulch trail which is the main bike path through my neighborhood. It’s a slow descent from east to west until it intersects with the Cherry Creek Trail which would take me north toward the park.

The first four miles (save for that opening walk) were done at a moderate pace of a little over 9:30. My leg was complaining a fair amount as I reached mile four even though I felt okay from a cardio standpoint. I decided I would walk for the next two miles. However, I felt better as I reached the 6 mile mark so I decided I would run some more. Things were actually feeling okay until I hit something of a steep decline around 6.5 miles. It’s usually the uphill portion that hurt but this time, my leg felt really sore. I went a little further then stopped to stretch a little at 6.5. I started walking again and felt good enough to run until a little past 7 miles.

As I walked, I focused on trying to stay under a 13:00 pace. It’s not as easy as it sounds. You really do still but a lot of effort into it. In fact, I noticed my glutes becoming sore as I proceeded, but I still felt okay and kept going. At the nine mile mark I started up again for two miles of running. Things hurt but soon the pain became duller and I was aided by a mostly flat course. By now, I had crossed into Arapahoe County and was approaching the point where I would no longer be on the bike path. This was where the run became more exploratory.

I was pleased to still feel like I had plenty left as I reached mile 11. I walked off the path and across Arapahoe road and then on the unpaved side. It was a planned walk, but if it had been a run, I would have stopped and walked this section. The area was uneven and I even stumbled once. Fortunately, the whole rough section was only about a half mile long or so and then I was back on the sidewalk.

With a right turn on to Jordan road, I was on my way to the park. Several times I’ve ridden my bike out to Cherry Creek State Park and back. With a loop around the park, it’s a good way to get a forty miler in, even though the road in the park is particularly rough. Today, it was the same scenery, only slower. My next running section began at 13 miles and I went through the next two at a sub ten pace. My leg was not bothering me so much, but I started to feel winded. Somewhere around 14 and change, the rain started. It was really just a shower, but I knew it was also enough to get me pretty wet. Had it continued, I could see it sapping my energy and threatening my ability to finish. I put the thought out of my head. Shortly after starting my next walk break at 15 miles, the rain stopped and the sun started to come out again--typical Colorado weather.

By now, I was well into the park and was actually on the run section of the Creek Streak triathlon. I had, in fact, stopped to walk this very section during that hot run. Today was much cooler and I was walking through miles 16 and 17 rather than mile 5. I knew I was doing better!

Mile 17 was where I started running again and it started on a fairly flat stretch. However, it’s also here that the path starts a climb on the lake side of the dam that forms Cherry Creek reservoir. I’ve experienced all of this before because it is the outbound portion of the run for the Aqauman event. Coming back, you get to enjoy a nice downhill, but not today. I slowed back to a walk as I hit 17.5. There’s no question I was tired. But I was also concerned about pushing to hard and injuring something else. I continued until 18 when I was past the dam and looking at steady flat to down section that runs on the north (outside) face. I was only planning on going to 18.5, but I felt good enough to keep going to 18.75. It was there that I stopped running. The last section was back up hill again. It was not as steep as I expected, but at this point, even walking it was becoming a chore.

From then on, it was just a question of getting to the 20 mile mark before four hours had passed. I did that with time to spare. Ultimately, I hit about 20.35 before four hours. Again, I did the math in my head. Even if I could not run any more, but managed to walk at a 15:00 pace, that would mean in another hour, I would have covered 24.35 leaving 1.85 left. Doing so would result in an overall time of 5:27:45 which is not bad considering I’ve been running almost not at all.

There was a little more walking to get to the parking lot where my wife was meeting me. When I was done, the total distance covered was 20.75 with a total time of 4:05:56.

Today, I am sore as hell. My legs are aching and I’m moving slowly. But I also think I’ll be feeling better by the end of the week. I have no runs planned for the rest of the week, just riding and swimming.

I think I may just be able to shave a little more time of the run by the time May 5 rolls around. For starters, here’s the elevation profile for my race and below, the profile for the marathon:

No, those are not drawings from the same source, but you will notice the lack of steep hills at the end of the lower drawing. I know this is an accurate rendering because those last four miles are the same course as the Horsetooth Half Marathon which I ran almost a year ago. On that day, my biggest enemies were a steady breeze in my face and legs that were especially sore from climbing huge hills around Horsetooth Reservoir.  I may not be feeling any fresher, but I think I can walk at 15:00 and possible faster.

A stretch goal would be to average 11:27 which would bring me in right at the 5 hour mark. That would be great, but considering that a week ago I was thinking about pulling out altogether. So if that’s the stretch, the more likely would be around 12:00 which would result in a finish time of 5:14:24. And if I can’t pull that off and slow to a slow walk for the last four, I could still finish in under 5:30. Not what I hoped for when I started out, but better than not running at all or cutting the distance down to a mere 13.1

We’re forecast for some fairly severe weather in the next day or two, but by the weekend, spring is supposed to return. That means that this Sunday, I’m going to try and do this all over again. I’m also going to try and increase the distance to 23.

Beyond that, I still think a taper is in order so while I may do some run/walking at longer distances; they’ll be much shorter than this. Most of this will also depend on how quickly my body recovers during the week ahead.

More to come.

Thanks for reading!

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