American Discovery Trail Marathon Race Report
I didn’t plan to run a marathon this September, it just happened.
Indeed, through June and July, I thought I was over this running stuff. Yes, the excitement of Pikes Peak got my interest in running sparked up again, but I logged a mere 60 miles in August, including the marathon!
But when my old friend Chuck “MarathonJunkie” Engle emailed me on a Thursday to say he was running a marathon in Colorado on a Monday, I didn’t even hesitate. (I suppose I owe him one: I bailed on running the Estes Park Marathon with him back in June).
Chuck flew into town Sunday afternoon for a Labor Day Marathon in Colorado Springs. We stopped for a pita at Garbanzo’s Mediterranean Grill, and then headed south. Despite the beautiful weather Sunday morning, it actually got quite chilly and rained a bit on the drive. We arrived at the host hotel, and were barely even in the door when we met up with some of Chuck’s many running friends. I suppose when you’re closing in on 200 marathons and you run every weekend, you get to know some folks!
Jeff and Linda had picked up everyone’s race packets, and we headed to Giuseppes for dinner. We were sat way at the back practically in a room by ourselves, which was fine because we ended up being a boisterous group! Matt was recovering: he’d run a marathon in Idaho on Saturday, New Mexico on Sunday and was preparing for his third marathon in as many days.
I had a blast hanging out with a gang of fellow runners, and Jeff told me I was officially “part of the gang” and tried to convince me to meet up with everyone in Omaha in a few weeks.
Soon enough it was time to head to bed, because the last shuttle bus was leaving at 5:30am. Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep well, and morning came too early. The marathon toaster had made the trip, so I had my traditional breakfast of toast, PB and banana. I decided to try out my new Lululemon Run:Ultra shorts, which were form-fitting but still had extra pockets for gels and keys. I packed up three gels, some e-caps and a few of the caffeinated espresso beans we’d received in our race kit. I also wore a tank top and trail-running shoes. The fellow runners I’d met all had light(er) racing flats on, but I was operating on the assumption that this was a trail race.
We headed out on the long bus ride to the start, and the sun came up just as we got off the bus. I used the portapotty once, and then it was time to get started!
Because I hadn’t planned on running the race, I really had no goals. I told myself I’d be happy with 3:42, 3 hours faster than my last marathon, but I wasn’t really holding myself to it.
I started out pretty comfortably; not particularly paying attention to pace. Despite the overall elevation drop of the course, there were actually a lot of rolling hills through the race. I just chugged along, marveling at the pretty course (which some runners dismissed as “boring”). But imagine my surprise when at mile 5 I was engulfed by the 3:45 pace group (which is definitely NOT the pace I was going! I was at a sub 3:40 pace). I stuck with them for awhile, and then around mile 6, a relay exchange point, our pace leader disappeared! I kept running with a couple folks: a local woman running her first marathon and looking to BQ, and an older gentleman who’d raced in Breckenridge the day before. We kept each other company for a few miles.
At mile 13, my running companion said those words I think we all utter during our first marathon: she looked at her watch and saw she was “ahead”. No one realizes that being ahead in the first half of your first marathon is NOT a good thing. Soon enough, I pulled ahead and we never crossed paths again.
One of my favorite times of a marathon: 10 miles to go! Although my pace was apparently slowing significantly, I was feeling okay. There was actually a weird twinge in my left leg, but it had shown up a few days earlier while biking, and then disappeared again. I just kept pushing, although it was definitely starting to get warmer. With each water stop (only every few miles), I grabbed gatorade to drink and water to sip and splash on myself.
Although this race had been billed as a trail marathon, about the last 8 miles were on bike path or concrete. While the harder surfaces are faster, they’re no good on legs that got used to soft path.
With about three miles to go, the course came off the shaded path for good, and I stopped and took a LONG walk through the water stop. A volunteer asked if I was all right. I responded unenthusiastically that I thought so. She asked if I needed something. I asked if she had any pain relieving gel, as my leg was feeling sore. She didn’t so I kept plodding along. I’ll admit that I honestly considered just stopping for 10 or 15 minutes, but then I figured I may as well just get it done.
.2: 7:38 pace
The last few miles were on concrete right below the highway. As I passed below the bridges, I noted the street names, and knew I was getting close. In the last half mile we had a brutal climb up to street level, crossed over a bridge, and then we were entering America the Beautiful park! Spectators were cheering, music was blaring, and kids were playing in a gorgeous fountain as the course wound around the park. My smile was wide as I circled, motioning for people to cheer because “I’d just finished a marathon!” I crossed the line in 4:02:35; under-4 would have been nice but I didn’t feel any regret because I hadn’t explicitly set myself such a goal.
I grabbed some gatorade and tried to find some shade. It was definitely warm: a time-and-temperature sign nearby showed 85F. I checked the results eagerly, hoping my friend Chuck had won (as had been his goal). Unfortunately, the altitude proved to be an unexpected challenge. I relaxed and stretched a little on the grass, and for some reason was overcome with emotion. It was a gorgeous day: people were playing sports and enjoying the day. I don’t know why I feel as though I need to run a marathon to ‘treat myself’ to such frivolities. I stopped by the food tent, but the idea of pizza made my stomach turn a little. I splashed my legs in the water for a bit, and then slowly made my way back to the hotel. I got cleaned up (the joy of a 6:30 marathon and a hotel close to the finish: I was able to freshen up before check-out).
Chuck and I got lunch, and then he asked if we could head over to Pikes Peak. He ran the race in 2008, but he had never simply visited it. We drove up the highway, and he was absolutely in awe. He declared that he simply HAS to move here: we’ll see if that comes to fruition. But all of the crazy marathoners I met from sea level said they struggled with the altitude. While I didn’t run a great race, I didn’t run a bad one, and perhaps my being accustomed to the altitude DID make a difference. After some donuts at the top of the Peak and another meal in town, we headed back to Denver. Once again I was oddly proud to hear a fellow runner in awe of the state I live in. And sure enough, the marathon maniac bug has bitten: that evening we were checking out other races to try! (The Boulder Backroads marathon is Sept 20th.. hmmm).
I’m writing this report on Friday, 4 days after the marathon. Although I was quite sore the two days post-race (my quads were aching like they haven’t in years!), I did an easy 2 miles today and I think I’ll be back running in no time. And even enjoying it!