|Number of Runners||700+|
Today was the big day. The Colorado Marathon. And as usual, I didn't sleep well. I actually feel asleep but about 60 minutes later I was woke up by various cat fights and wife movements so it was hard to get back to sleep. I finally did. At about 2:45 AM I woke up to another noise and figured I would just get up and get ready. My alarm was going off in 15 minutes anyway. At that point, my 1/2 asleep wife tried to convince me that I was late and shouldn't be there. Go back to bed, honey.
I had my gear all laid out but I wasn't exactly sure what to wear. Luckily you could bring a drop bag to the starting line and they would shuttle it to the finish. So I suited up and made the drive to Fort Collins, about 30+ minutes north. No rain. That was good.
I arrived and parked and then was loaded on to a nice coach bus for our ride to the start. This is a point to point race. The driver took off and proceeded to drive the bus at a nice speed but he kept driving and driving and driving. Every mile that ticked off was another one that I would have to run home. That was sort of depressing.
The starting line was up the CO Highway 14 canyon about 17 miles after you left the city. We arrived and unloaded.
Um, who forgot to turn on the lights? Start time isn't until 6:15. Its 5 something. Sitting in the dark trying to stretch and eat and stay warm. The sun finally came up and started warming everything up. It was a great place to "wake up".
Pretty unceremonious start. I was watching my pace carefully. Don't want to burn out. But everyone kept talking about this being fast because you are running downhill. It was. It was pretty effortless to stay quick in your pace.
The route winds back down through the Poudre Canyon for miles. We use this same road to drive to some ATV locations and to pass through to Steamboat. Whenever I am on this road, it feels like it will never end. I had some of the same feelings on the run but it wasn't too bad. I just kept a good pace.
I wanted to hold a high 8 minute pace. This would get me to the finish in under 4 hours. My super fancy watch has a little guy on the screen that you program to run the pace you want. Then you see you vs. him on the screen. Video games! I was up to 0.75 miles ahead of him at one point. Not bad.
I took my camera as a test. Its fairly light. I wasn't able to capture much during a run. Not steady enough. So I pulled over for 5 seconds a couple times to take a few shots to show any of you flat-landers what this looks like. Later in the race, the last thing I wanted to do was pull out a camera. So you get what you got!
I felt good at the half way point except when I realized it was only half way -- of course. We exited the canyon at about mile 17 and headed along the highway into town. If you have driven this, you know that town is quite a ways away still. Oh man.
Mile 18 was a decent size hill. People started slowing and walking in front of me. I oof'd it up the hill but then at the top my legs overruled my brain and I got my first needed walk of the race. I walked about 100 feet and then started shuffling along again. However, my quick pace had fallen off. Instead of 8's I was in the 11's. And that little bastard on my watch screen was laughing at me and he kept coming.
I kept the shuffle going along various streets. My quads started to burn -- bad. Up till this point, my knees and shins, which I spent tons of dough getting fixed, were perfect. Quads -- not so good. Should have done some weights. Oh well. Must finish.
The route then moved us off the road onto a paved trail. Some sort of city bike trail. This was nice and flat as compared to the very uneven roads of the canyon. However, the flatness and "back lot"-ish atmosphere didn't help my motivation. I keep checking the watch. Guy is getting closer. 5 miles left. Run, run. 4.8 miles left. Run, run. 4.72 miles left. Run -- stop looking at watch! So I just tried to zone out and keep my legs moving. I get a sharp pain up under my right rib cage now and it started popping. Can't run well with it. So I had to do a few brief walks to rub it out. This helped my quads think they were done only to kill them again moments later.
The last mile seemed like forever. Then with about 0.2 left, we popped out onto a downtown city street. The finish line was in the distance. I saw my family cheering up on the right side. I reached out and brushed them with my hand as I marched on. How great! One lone tear came to my right eye -- either something landed in it or I was slightly emotional after pounding through that last hour of quad pain.
I crossed the line and finally got to stop running. Now, my only goal was to keep walking before my legs paralyze themselves! So I finished officially in 4:07:48.5. Nearly 8 minutes over my goal but still a good finish for a first marathon I thought -- especially when I could run at all after hurting my knee last November. The results site showed I was 32/45 for my age/sex group and 236/364 for men. This was a fast race with lots of good strong runners.
Here are some images of the course. Hopefully it gives a sense of what this run was like from a bird's eye view.
So I was proud of the finish. It was the one I couldn't get last October when I was sick at the 2006 Denver Marathon. I waited from that day until today to do this. I thought about it everyday. It motivated me to run in the snow for the first time ever. I kept me going to therapy because I wanted to do this thing. I wanted to get better. I learned so much about injuries and your body in preparing for this race. I thank a lot of that to my therapist, Bob Cranny of Altitude Physical Therapy here in Longmont, CO. Bob is an active triathlete who has done Ironman and such. Someone like that in your corner is a valuable asset.
In the end, my only regret is that I didn't train harder. Isn't that always the case? However, because I was working through the injuries I think I could only do what I did. But hey, its only May and I just did a race that I normally would prepare all season for! Way to start with a bang. I once heard that the best way to train for a race -- is to race! So that's what I am doing.
I came home and slept and just got up. Its one step at a time to get up and down the stairs. Going to my massage therapist tomorrow! He was also vital in getting me to this race. In 4 session, he got those shin muscles right in line. Another great person to have in your corner.
The Marathon is not about running, it is about salvation. We spend so much of our lives doubting ourselves, thinking were not good enough, not strong enough, not made of the right stuff. The Marathon is an opportunity for redemption. Opportunity, because the outcome is uncertain. Opportunity, because it is up to you, and only you, to make it happen.
There is no luck involved in finishing a marathon, the ingredients required to tackle this formidable challenge are straightforward: commitment, sacrifice, grit, and raw determination. Plain and simple.
So you set about in your training to prepare your body for the rigors of running 26.2 miles. You train like crazy, dedicating yourself wholeheartedly to the challenge ahead, pouring everything you've got into it. But you know the Marathon will ask for more. In the dark recesses of you mind, a gloomy voice is saying, you can't. You do your best to ignore this self-doubt, but the voice doesn't go away.
The Marathon shakes you to the core. It deconstructs your very essence, stripping away all your protective barriers and exposing your inner soul. At a time when you are most vulnerable, the Marathon shows no pity. The Marathon tells you it will hurt you, that it will leave you demoralized and defeated in a lifeless heap on the roadside. The Marathon tells you that it can't be done, not by you. Ha! It torments you, in your dreams.
You fight back, however, and stand courageously at that starting line, nervously awaiting the gun to go off. When it does, you put your head down and charge off into the abyss with the knowledge that you either paid your dues, or skimped along the way. There is no lying to yourself, the Marathon sees right through excuses, shortcuts and self-transgressions.
All goes well for the first half. But slowly, step by step, the pain mounts, while the intensity of the endeavor amplifies. You remain steadfast, knowing that you did not skimp, that you did not take shortcuts along the way, that every footstep was earned through months of diligent preparation. Still, with each wearing thrust forward, that little nagging inclination of self-doubt progressively advances toward the surface of your awareness.
Then, at mile twenty, the voice looms louder than ever. It hurts so bad you want to stop. You must stop. But you don't stop. This time, you ignore the voice, you tune out the naysayers who tell you you're not good enough, and you listen only to the passion in your heart. This burning desire tells you to keep moving forward. To continue putting one foot boldly in front of the other, and don't stop. Courage comes in many forms, today you will have the courage to keep trying, to not give up, no matter how dire things become. And dire they do become. At the 26 mile mark, you can barley see the course any longer, your vision is faltering as you teeter on the edge of consciousness.
And then, suddenly before you, looms the finish line. Tears stream down your face as you cover those final few steps. Now you are finally able to answer back to that nagging, pervasive voice with a resounding: Oh yes I can!
You burst across that finish line and are liberated from the prison of self-doubt and limitations that have forever held you captive. You have learned more about yourself in the past 26.2 miles than you have known in a previous lifetime, now you are freed from the chains that bind. Even if you can't move for a week, you have never been so free.
As you are being carried away from the finish line, wrapped in a flimsy mylar blanket, barely able to raise your head, you are at peace. That daunting adversary that, as a runner, has haunted you for an entire lifetime is now your liberator, you fondest ally. You have done what few will ever do you have done what you thought you could never do and it is the most glorious, unforgettable awakening ever. You are, a Marathoner, and you will wear this distinction not on the lapel of your clothing, but in your heart, for the rest of your life.