After a 7 month layoff I have returned to marathoning. Last November I decided to admit I had plantar fascists and took a 6 week break from all physical activity. Then we moved from sea-level San Diego to 6,500’ Colorado Springs. As previously discussed I struggled with the transition but the past few weeks I have been getting much stronger. Running with the Pikes Peak Road Runners “Sunrise Striders” group has definitely played a big part in the improvements I’ve seen over the past month.
Saturday afternoon I drove up to Denver to get my bib from the expo which is held at Mile High Stadium. It is a beautiful stadium but a terrible place to hold an expo. From the front of the building most of the action was taking place to my left so I walked to that side of the stadium. There were a bunch of vendors set-up in the parking lot and people coming out of one of the gates. Unfortunately that was “Exit Only”, the entrance to the expo was on the exact opposite side of the stadium.
Once you actually get into the expo they had one of the indoor, VIP-looking areas set aside for bib and bag pickup. Once done there you had to walk outside on the upper level around about half the stadium until you got to the next indoor area where they had shirts and vendors. From there you went the rest of the way around to where I initially tried to get in to exit. Really not a great set-up, especially considering the Pepsi Center (Denver Nuggets/Colorado Avalanche) is right next door. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they don’t use that venue on the off-chance one or both teams need it for the playoffs.
After the expo I picked up some supplies for the next day (Chobani, Red Bull, water) and went to my Airbnb. I dropped my stuff off and then headed back out for dinner with Team RWB Denver at Tony P’s. The food was “meh” but the company was good. I also got the scoop on parking that avoids the race course and huge crowds when it comes time to leave. I did a test run from the neighborhood I planned to park in back to the house then headed to bed.
Race morning I got up at 3:45 and started getting ready. I was out the door by a little after 4AM and was parked right in the spot I picked out by 4:30. I was going to nap in the car before heading over but sleep was not coming so I walked over to the race area. Team RWB had a pop-up in the charity village so I was able to drop my bag there vice using bag check. At ten minutes until race start I went to my corral and found the 3:15 pacer.
Because my training wasn’t really restaurant quality and the utter lack of runs longer than 16 miles (thanks April snow storms) I wanted to set an easy pace for the day. Unfortunately I badly mis-remembered the paces for various marathons. I thought a 7:15 pace would get me a 3:15; the actual pace for that time is 7:26. By mile 3 I was pulling away from the pace group and on my own. I found another runner who looked like he was moving pretty well so I struck up a conversation with him. His goal was to finish in 3:05; I didn’t think I was feeling that good but I stuck with him for a while. At this point we were running along a bike path that is below street level and runs parallel to a small brook. It wasn’t the most scenic stretch but it gets you off the city streets which is good for race coordination and is nicer than running past hotels and office buildings.
After that you go up and behind some amusement/water park before getting to Mile High Stadium. You go through the tunnel and do a half-lap around the field before going out the other side. After that you go up Colfax and enter an area that reminds me of some of the nicer sections of Tijuana. The only thing missing was the Oxo’s on every corner. After a couple miles of that you turn right and go around Sloan’s Lake. It is a very nice park and made for a nice break from city running. After the loop around the park you spend a couple miles back on the city streets until you get to Lakewood.
You don’t notice it but from mile 11-16 you are gradually going uphill. The Lakewood section is mostly quiet little neighborhoods that look like they were built in the early 1900s. The downhill after mile 16 is noticeable and really feels good, after you finish that stretch you are back on Colfax Avenue for a long stretch; 4 miles of slight downhill back to Mile High Stadium. You go back in the way you came out, finish the loop around the field, and then head back out to the bike path.
As we approached the stadium several runners went by me pretty quick. I checked and they weren’t relay runners several of them blew by me like I was out for a morning jog. One guy was running a little faster than I was so I latched onto him for a few miles. The first mile (Mile 20) felt pretty good but after 5 miles of sub-7:00 pace I was definitely feeling it. I backed off a little and let him go and really suffered the last couple of miles. At that point some crowd support would have really been appreciated but it was far and few between. The lead woman from the 10 mile race caught up to me which gave a moment of excitement but she was going pretty quickly and took her entourage with her.
When I finally got back to park I felt like my legs were dying and I was struggling to keep going. The last stretch in the park has a gradual uphill and curves around so you can’t see the finish. I spotted what I thought was the Start/Finish and picked it up a little; sadly it was just the Start, the Finish line was another 200 meters past that. I am pretty happy with how things went overall. My only real complaint about the course is the lack of crowd support although I think part of the problem was I was done before a lot of people came out to cheer. When I went out to cheer for some Team RWB teammates there were a decent number of people clapping for them for the whole stretch of the park. I jumped in with the Team RWB relay team coming in; we then waited for another Full Marathoner and picked up a few others who were done; it felt like the end of a Ragnar with a big old group coming in together to finish. With the exception of the criminally awful expo this is a great race. The aid stations every 2 miles were great and they had Clif products at mile 7 and 20 (the same place on the map).