Denver Marathon Race Report

People sometimes ask me “what next” after learning the number of marathons I’ve run. The fact is, I continue to learn with each one.

Today’s take-aways:

  1. I am good at sticking with an established plan and meeting my goals. I flounder if I don’t have a set goal in mind.
  2. Clif shots don’t do it for me. I had one at mile 7 and spent the rest of the race belching when I tried to ingest anything.
  3. Bring ID to a race, especially if it’s known a beer garden will be at the finish.
  4. Put flip flops in your gear bag!

Today was the Denver marathon. Having just moved to Colorado two weeks ago and not having followed a formal training program, today’s run was ‘just to finish’. In the few days leading up to the race, I wasn’t preparing as for a target run: I spent Saturday wandering Boulder with a friend, had a beer and no bananas! My last short run the day before, my knee seemed a bit out of whack. And, I moved from the Saucony Omni Moderate 5 to 7 on Tuesday, leaving me only a few miles to test them out before race day. Lastly, last night my ear started ringing and my lips felt chapped, so I was a bit concerned I may have had a cold coming on.

Still, this morning I rose at 5:30 and prepared for the race. It was forecast to be warm, so I was prepared for a potential sports-bra appearance. I headed downtown and had no problems finding a parking spot. I was pleasantly surprised as I arrived in Civic Center Park: they had a nice large starting area. It took a few moments to locate the gear check, but it was well-manned and organized, and then it was time to toe the line!

I started off behind the 3:40 group a bit. I knew my goal was sub-four, but I figured a 3:40 would be REALLY nice! The race started, and I went out at what I felt was a conservative pace. The 3:40 group pulled away, and I let them, because I knew I wasn’t tied to a time goal. Imagine my surprise when I hit the first mile marker at 8:14! I kept trucking along, and the second mile came in at 7:56. By this time I was closing in on the 3:40 group, and I wondered how his math was so different than mine (3:40 is an 8:24 average). The first water stop was around mile 2, and I learned that the Denver marathon organizers do NOT water down their gatorade!

My Garmin beeped at me that we’d done three miles a mere 7:48 later, and I wondered about the strategy of the pace group leader. Obviously, I’ve never led a group, but I’ve always guessed that running too aggressively at the beginning probably discourages runners. Mile 4: 8:00.

Before I’d started running, I’d checked on Meredith’s time in the Columbus marathon. She had a goal of 3:30, and I knew she was aiming for an eight minute mile pace. I knew I didn’t have the same training or goal, so I wasn’t sure why my own splits were mirroring hers.

I’ve done this enough, you’d think I would know better. Around mile 4 or so I pulled ahead of the 3:40 pace group, and I hit the 5th mile in 7:42. This is definitely not the race I should have been running, I knew. Yet I didn’t have a firm goal, so it was hard to reel it in.

The Denver marathon is only in their third year, so they may have had a few things to work out yet. No plastic cups is one of those things. Water was served in plastic cups that didn’t fold well, so I found that if I wanted to actually get some in my mouth without spilling or choking, I had to walk a little. My 6th mile was a more acceptable 8:07 before I rebounded to 7:56 for the 7th mile.

I should mention that as the race went on, my mile splits from my Garmin became further and further off from the official markers. in the end, my Garmin had a distance of 26.49. Therefore, my splits are somewhat more aggressive than the official splits.

They had clif shots at mile 8, and I simply must learn that Clif shots are not my friend. It was very hard to choke down even with water (walking), and after this point for much of the race I belched anytime I tried to take in anything. Free gels aren’t worth not being able to properly fuel later!

I have a few personal checkpoints in any marathon. I generally tell myself that I shouldn’t feel anything until mile 8; the time should just fly by til then. In this race I felt pretty good at mile 8. Yes, my pace was starting to slow a bit but I knew it was still definitely a good clip. Mile 9: 8:10

The course was really pretty: for many of the early miles we were running through downtown and I was admiring buildings. Around mile 9/10 we were running around a beautiful park. It was a gorgeous day to be outside, and the beautiful blue sky was just gorgeous.

Mile 10: 8:20
Mile 11: 7:56
Mile 12: 7:49

We split off from the half marathoners at about mile 11, and I actually felt like a bit of my energy left as well. All of a sudden the course was half (or less!) as full. I’m actually surprised to see my splits above! There was a bit of an out-and-back at the half way point, and I was surprised to see that I seemed closer to the 3:30 group than the 3:40 group. I toyed with the idea of catching them for a moment, and then was actually prudent enough to realize that was silly. I wanted to keep running my race and see what happened.

So, remember the new shoes I bought this week? Up until the middle of this race, I’d forgotten what specifically I didn’t like about the Omni 6. I found I had an ongoing problem with the tongue of the shoe sliding to the side. I made the unpleasant discovery that the Omni 7s suffer from the same problem. However, they did it not just in the right shoe (as the 6), but in both. I don’t know how many times I slowed to adjust my shoes, and as I type this now, the tops of my ankles are sore from the friction. I also found that the banked roads caused the sides of my ankles to become sore as well, as though my feet weren’t aligned straight forward.

Mile 13: 8:37
Mile 14: 8:18
Mile 15: 8:14
Mile 16: 7:51

Since Steamtown in 2005, my other personal checkpoint for marathons is mile 16. In fact, I like to tell myself that the race doesn’t start til 16. Although my pace had started to slip a little, the checkpoint helped me get my head back in the game again.

And then, I’m not really sure where my head went. Or my legs, for that matter. I wasn’t sore (other than my ankles), I wasn’t overly hot, but I stopped to walk water breaks (I even started mixing gatorade and water in a cup to overcome the too-strong gatorade and the plastic water cups), and my mile splits reflected it.

Mile 17: 8:43
Mile 18: 9:09
Mile 19: 8:21
Mile 20: 9:04

Mile 20 made me happy. I was in a decent place in my head: it was the first time I realized that 20 miles is roughly 75% done. Sometimes in a rough race hitting mile 20 can be demoralizing, that you still have so far to go, but I knew it was just a matter of bringing it in. I stopped at mile 20 to adjust my shoes yet again, and when I looked up, the 3:40 pace group had passed me! For the next two miles, my eyes were fixed on those balloons bobbing up ahead. Based on my garmin overall pace, I was still on track for sub-3:40 (which, remember, wasn’t a REAL goal anyway) so I just kept plugging along.

Mile 21: 8:45
Mile 22: 8:10
Mile 23: 9:40 (Another “walk-and-mix-gatorade” break.)
Mile 24: 8:34

Although the pace doesn’t reflect it, I felt like these miles flew by. At 21, it was easy to think “only 5 more miles” and believe it. Probably the worst part of the last few miles was that it was a straight shot up Santa Fe, which was concrete and ran right next to traffic. Yuck!

By mile 25, I knew I wasn’t making 3:40. So in true Andrea fashion, I decided to walk some.

Mile 25: 9:45
Mile 26: 8:51

I think that one of the hardest parts of a marathon are those signs that people hold up that say “1/2 mile to go” when they’re wrong. My advice to any spectators, don’t do that!! I ran past a 1/2 mile to go sign.. and ran…and ran.

The end of the race did end ok, with a few twists and turns and then there was the finish ahead of you! I don’t like a long finish. Although I knew I was ready to be done, I managed to pick off a few people in the final stretch, and was happy to hit the finish mats in 3:42:20.

Despite the heat, I felt ok upon finishing (unlike Edmonton!). I grabbed some water, apples (thanks, McDonald’s!) and made my way out of the athlete section. At mile 19 the announcers had been talking about the Left Hand Brewing Company being at the finish line, so I grabbed my gear and headed over to the Beer Garden, to be greeted with an “ID Required” sign. What?? In all the races I’ve seen beer at before, I’ve never needed ID before. The Canadian in me questioned how any runner could be under 18, and then I remembered this was the US and the drinking age was 21. Whoops! So, no beer for me!

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I wandered the rest of the little expo, and was really impressed. There were samples of 
“runner’s chocolate”, a few massage tents, and my personal favorite: the Melting Pot was giving away trays of chocolate sauce for marshmallows, strawberries and pineapple. Attention race directors: get the Melting Pot at your next expo! I was happy to hear that Helen and Meredith did well at the Columbus marathon, and then I happily headed home, another race under my belt!

I will admit, the last few miles weren’t as great as they could have been. But overall I wasn’t sore, or defeated. This was my first marathon in Colorado, two weeks after moving to altitude. I expected battered lungs and a struggle. I ended up with a pretty decent time for any course! Now I just have a week to recover before I can start training for Arizona!

Average heart rate: 172
Max heart rate: 186

Overall: 359 of 1719
F30-34: 19 of 143
Gender: 77 of 685