Denver Marathon 2009 / Boston Qualifier

Adventures18 Comments

Distance 26.2 miles
Time 3:15:01 (PR)
Pace 7:27
Rank 83 of 1924 (Top 4.3%)
GPS Analysis Garmin Connect

The deed is done.

Denver Marathon

I woke up this morning feeling fresh. Not tired. I just got up on my own about 10 minutes before the alarm went off. My internal clock was counting down. I geared up in my office as not to wake anyone. Then Wyatt hobbled downstairs as he always does when I get up early. So we went outside in the darkness and took a quick run around the block. I just wanted to get some blood pumping and my digestive track moving. Got back to the house and felt like this was on for today.

Got in the truck and drove downtown to my favorite parking spot for the race. Sat for a few minutes sipping on water and listening to some music. Had to get some tunes in my head for there would be no iPod today. I had more important things to tune into. I exited the truck and put on my huge freaking Costco garbage bag. It went down to my knees. Most people were walking in sweats and stuff and ready to check their gear. I never go that route. I had a singlet on and I knew I would be great given the temperature projections. Just had to get through the breezy morning before sunrise.

As I was walking into Civic Center Park, this guy came pushing a Port-a-Pot towards me and stopped. They had a bunch that were stacked door to door that nobody could use and they had to get them ready to go now. So I hoped right in and skipping the enormous lines just down the way as the people looked on in shock. Right place, right time.

Headed up to the start line and sat on a curb huddled in my bag. Just staying warm. Some news-ish looking photographer took my photo. I probably looked kind of interesting in my bag tent. Maybe it will show up somewhere. Got to 15 minutes before race time and I took a return visit to the pots. Had to go far away to find one. It was fun standing in the line because all the first timers were freaking out about getting to the start line. I was like — whatever. The only bad news was that on my return the corrals were full and you couldn’t get in. However, I joined up with some other enterprising dudes and we figured out how to get through the 6 minute corral and made our way back from there. Race got underway from there minutes later. I think they were 2 minutes late by my watch. As always, I shed a tear on the start line. It is the culmination of a season and for an instant I feel some small amount of pride that I was able to bring myself to this point again — stronger, lighter, faster, and fitter than I have ever been in my life.

I wanted to go out slow so I did just that. About a 1/2 mile in, I forgot that the GPS freaks out about the tall buildings and either says you are running 4 minute miles or 16 minute miles. I just ran what felt good. Unfortunately, when it started dialing back in, I was low 8’s for pace. Oops. So I just kept cranking up the speed slowly till I hit mile 1 at 8:00 in. I knew this would be painful to watch because I just lost :30+ on my time but I felt like it was investment that would payback later.

Coming into LoDo then out to the Pepsi Center, I was feeling my stride. No effort to hold goal pace. I had planned on staying on the high side of pace for 2 more miles but that plan, like any good sensible one during a race, went out the window. But I tried to focus on not running faster than goal pace. As you can see from the splits below, I drifted down into the high 5’s in each of the next 3 miles. This was mostly come and go with the pace. Fast, then slow, then turns, then shoot for a tangent. It isn’t steady running through this part of the course.

Denver Marathon 2009

As we got to Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, I had a hunch that Simon would be lurking about. And there he was! I gave him a big shout out and cruised on out. He had some work to do catch back up with Kelly (his wife) who was minutes ahead of my pace. As we turned to head back to the center of downtown, the wind whipped up and blew right at us. I hid behind a pack of runners. Why waste the effort? We motored back near Civic Center Park, where the race starts, and the crowd was on fire. Everyone out there to see us charge up the hill on the way out east to City Park. I cranked up that hill probably blowing my HR target a bit but it was fun to pass 100 people up that sucker. I don’t run up Sanitas every week for nothing!

Out to City Park and around. Into mile 7 and I hadn’t stopped for water yet, I felt OK but I had to pee. It was messing with my concentration. So I popped in a solo pot just on the side of the road. No line — in and out. Sweet. But I looked at my watch at the next mile split, 7:55 for that. Damn. That just blew 30 seconds of padding. And I am down to seconds with this race plan today. Better make that up. But I couldn’t. Just couldn’t get into a faster rhythm without feeling that it wasn’t time. So I held pace and knew I was behind schedule. It is a long race — we can make that up.

Coming into Cheeseman Park, I was feeling a bit of “ok, we are running” as opposed to “just cruising along”. However, I had a new distinct intestine issue that quickly arose. I needed to poop. I swear — Runner’s Diarrhea. That’s my claim to fame! Its been better on shorter races but on a marathon, my body is purging and I just accept the stop. However, I burnt up my time pad with the pee break. What to do? So on mile 11, I saw a quick in and out and I made the pit stop. Came back out of the pot literally pulling my pants up. I was in there too long. So the mile 11 marker comes up and the split was 8:21. You motherfucker. I just lost this thing. Poor planning. I should have padded more time and made room for this. Clear my mind — then I hear screaming “BRANDON, BRANDON, BRANDON FULLER”. There before me at the marathon relay station was Mr. George Zack. My personal cheerleader. He yelled something positive like “GO GET IT! LOOKING GREAT!”. Fine, let’s do this! I barreled into the next mile which had some quick downhill and tagged the split at 7:01. A few more of those and I am back in this.

We lost the 1/2 marathoners at mile 12 and the race always becomes much more calm. Not so many huffers and puffers around. Time to get into a good rythmn. Plus, I knew that George would be on my tail. The long out and back on 7th made me feel good. A couple of 7:1X splits. Those were taking 10 seconds off the deficit at times so I was making progress. I was pushing it a bit harder through this area — miles 13-17. But I felt like I was behind and I was. The bad part was that this is when you need to stay calm and even but I was pushing the pace a tad to make up time. That was the call I had to make. Then as we got close to Wash Park, George was standing next to me. He went and told me how great I looked and my form was strong and other good stuff. The bad part about running solo on all my training runs — I can’t talk and run. Told George that I had to keep it brief but he could hang with me. Pace stayed about the same but he took my mind of the race while we did the big loop around the outside of Wash Park. Then some dude in panty-hose came up along side of us. He was in the marathon relay like George. George wasn’t going to lose his segment to a dude in tights — so George put the coals to it and was gone. I have a feeling — no wait…I knew — that I would see him again shortly.

Denver Marathon 2009

I entered Wash Park and came through the relay transition area and George popped out the other side. He said he would go with me to the finish. Let him know what I needed. When we entered the next aid station, George was stocking up on drinks and GU and then nearly running backwards — what do you need? I was good. I was just concentrating on my pace and he was there if I needed him. Exiting Wash Park is a my favorite part because you are done with the parks. Just a few big long stretches to go. But I was starting to tire. As we turned on to Logan, my watch beeped for the mile 22 split. I hadn’t seen what my deficit was in quite a while. I frankly left it alone and committed to what will be will be. I knew if I just ran every mile split under pace, it had to add up. So at 22, I hit the Garmin and saw myself dead even with the little man. Fuck — I recovered this thing. 4 miles to go and I am on target. The bad news is that the target doesn’t much account for random clock delay or missing the tangents too much. I had a Cliff Shot Pace Bracelet on and I kept seeing myself up to 2 minutes off the clock. That was too much. But I didn’t put too much into those on course clocks because I always feel like they aren’t perfectly synchronized.

Somewhere in the next mile, George saw a spectator he knew so he peeled off to say hi. I spent the time having conversations with myself. The race hadn’t been hard so far. Without the bathroom break, I probably would be skipping along right now with this in the bag. But that wasn’t how this played out today — I had to dig. I didn’t have the “moment” during the 16-20 mile section. I had trained myself past that point. But I never did that 22-24 mile training run so it was payback time. It came right during mile 24. George had just caught back up to me and we turned onto Santa Fe. This is the last big stretch. A slight uphill at first. I wanted to hold pace so I did but my legs started burning. The moment arrived. Just like the grim reaper showing up running next to you, I had to decide if this was going to happen today. Frankly, I was sort of content with it not. I had ran hard so far. I made a mistake with the pace in regards to the potty break. Better luck next time. I will just go to sea level and do it in 2 months. On top of that, I wasn’t sure how close the buffer was. Recall, I was shooting for 3:15 flat, but I get the whole 59 seconds as well. That was my buffer — just in case.

This is a “no holds barred” blog — I have to confess….I had an accident. We were pushing the pace up the hill and I had a fart. I let it rip and it was the kind of fart you do not want to have while running. It was the wet kind. At that instant, which was right around the “moment”, the choice was simple — you stop to fix this or poop and you might as well just walk to the car because your dream is over today. Or you be a man and run with some shit in your pants. Do you want to be a Boston Qualifier with shit in your pants? Or do you want to be just a wanna-be dude with shit in your pants? That choice was so clear and that was the way I got through the moment today. My guess is George had now clue. I wasn’t talking right now. A little further to go but my legs were tiring fast.

As we came up to the mile 25 clock, the time showed (as I recall) 3:06:??. Quick math — and it is so hard to do math at that point — 3:06:?? + 7 minutes is like 3:13:something. Crap! But the 0.2 miles of the 26.2 miles — that always takes longer that you remember. I had just run a 7:12 split for that last mile. I had always figured that mile 25 to 26 would easily be a sub-7 split to make up max time for padding. As we turned up 13th, I decided I had to do this now. George was already yelling this for the last 1/2 mile but I wasn’t pulling the trigger. There wasn’t much to pull. I wasn’t sure I could push the pace much harder without blowing up. So my quick math had this thing close, run what I can up the short uphill on 13th. Then hope for a quick pump from the crowds and seeing the end and push it then. So that is what I did. George faded (on purpose) but I could hear that loud motherfucker yelling from behind me until I turned on the last street. RUN! PUSH! GO! DIG! …..

Denver Marathon 2009

As I turned on to the street with the finish line, I could make out 3:14:?? on the clock. Nothing worse than running towards a clock. It just keeps ticking. It doesn’t flinch. I got closer and closer. The announcer called out my name — Brandon Fuller from Longmont, Colorado — and I crossed the line with something like 3:15:24 on the clock. I tapped stop on my watch and saw 3:15:02. Oh, man — did I make it? How far off the clock time was I? I couldn’t think straight. Did I do it? Somebody would have to tell me I though. I got some drink and about 2 minutes later realized that I was good on time. I wasn’t that far behind the clock and my Garmin (while it doesn’t know distance perfectly) probably is 99.9% accurate on the clock. I guess I just qualified for Boston!

I thought it might have invoked a tear but it did not. I was happier to be done running. That was enough for today. That is why the marathon experience is brutal. You have to run it out till you hit that line. That was the first time I ever had to race the clock so strictly and it was a bitch. It is an unrelenting opponent. I don’t desire to do that again anytime soon. Much more fun to race for place any day!

Microsoft Excel

I waddled out of the finisher’s area and saw George there. He asked about the time to confirm what he had hoped and congratulated me on the result. I thanked him for his support — not just for today but with a few training runs, teaching me to get out there more, commenting on my progress, and generally being a great friend. I didn’t really say all that because my legs were burning but that is what I meant through that handshake. It was good having him out there for support since the family didn’t come down. I like to think I could have made it without him. I had a minute to spare, right? But his presence kept me focused. And we didn’t have to use the TOW rope.

I proceeded to the port-o-pots to clean up a bit after the accident. It wasn’t as bad as I felt like when it happened so that was a relief. I had visions of that dude on YouTube running and it is just spraying out everywhere. That wasn’t me. Don’t think anyone noticed. Who doesn’t stink after running 26.2? Still glad I haven’t had to pee down my leg during one of these things yet.

I caught up with Simon and Kelly nearby to see how she held up. She had just gotten over H1N1 this past week so there was some worry about her pre-race condition. But she made it happen and finished in style…probably 10 minutes faster than I. She looked wiped afterward. The temps were reported at 80 degrees when I finished. If you run in the AM before work or late at night, you aren’t used to that. For me, it was great — other than I could have used more water.

From there, I was done. I hobbled to the car and sent a quick status update that I had finished and by all accounts, I am now Boston Qualified. Last year, I ran a 3:35 at Denver. Today, I ran a 3:15. That was a 20 minute improvement year over year. One more of those and I am in with the big dogs. I know it doesn’t keep adding like that all the time but I haven’t seen much of a slowdown yet so I hope it continues.

That’s 4 Denver’s in a row for me — every one since they brought the race back to life in 2006 after the old one had shutdown and there wasn’t a Denver Marathon for a while. It remains my favorite “normal” road race of the year. However, I might look for something different next year. Who knows? It would be fun to run the 1/2 here instead and go for time. I will leave that decision for another day.

As I drove home, I started calling, emailing, and texting various people without whom this would have been a whole lot harder — maybe impossible! George, Glenn, Jeff, Luke, Lucho, and Natalee to name a few. Called my Mom. Called my wife and kids to give them the news — we have a trip in April. Thanks to everyone for coming along on the journey that sort of evolved over the last few months when I decide that if I trained harder and longer, I could probably do this at home — on my own course — at elevation! As far as marathons that are Boston Qualifiers, today was my 6th (3 Denver, 1 Colfax, 1 Napa, 1 Colorado). So about 2 1/2 years after my first, I made it to the next big thing. The road to Leadville 2010 now leads to Boston and back.

What’s next? Nothing! For tomorrow at least. Then back to running for fun for a bit. A few more random races might be in store for rounding out the year. Scream Scram? B-A-S-I-C? Longmont Turkey Trot? Or just run up and down Green Mountain 20 more times. I don’t know. Will let you know when I figure it out. I gotta go and register for Boston now!