Rock and Roll Denver Half Marathon Race Report

This is a hard one to write – I want to spend the time to craft the perfect race report, but I also want to get it out there before the post-race euphoria wears off.

First off, my Sunday morning facebook post:

Yes, the NYCM qualification I’ve been chasing for years is finally mine. And it was handily mine. Just like how my first BQ had me cross the line with minutes to spare, so too did this one. But I’m getting ahead of myself..

I was incredibly mentally prepared for this race. Training has been going well, and a few days prior to the event I really started getting focused. Reading running magazines, watching DVDs, wearing running shirts. I was feeling the part of a runner. The day before, I headed to the expo and wandered a bit, got a pedicure to get the ole feet ready for their work, and met Loren and KJ for dinner. Loren was getting ready to do her first marathon the next day! I recently started back on the TBT so I’ve been eating clean, but I decided to go with tradition over health, and had sprite with dinner, along with (whole wheat) pizza with cheese! My stomach actually didn’t like the cheese much, but I didn’t want to order something too bland and not eat.

Before heading to bed, I figured out where I wanted to park, and went back and forth about what to wear. The weather has recently changed, and it poured all day Saturday and was threatening to rain Sunday. There was also a freeze warning in effect. The forecast for the start of the race was 40. I decided to change my outfit from a tank and shorts to compression tights, a tshirt, gloves and a headband (to keep my ears warm). I wore my swiftwick thin socks with my brooks racer shoes.

I woke up around 5 on race day, had a quick shower and made myself some toast and tea. I haven’t even unpacked my coffee machine since I moved so I did have to buck tradition a bit by eschewing it. I was out the door shortly after 6, with a gear bag for afterwards. Parking was a breeze, and I found a free meter and walked to the start. I actually stopped into the Sheraton to use the facilities and hang out in the warmth for a bit before heading to the start. It actually was much warmer than I expected (although: still not warm). The starting area was a bit of a mess with the gear check being off in a corner behind a huge sponsor van. I dropped my gear and was heading to the corrals when the anthem started. Yikes! But there was some time after the anthem before they even started the wheelchair runners, so I was ok.

I was calmly excited about the race. I knew what I had to do, and I didn’t feel nervous about it – but part of me almost worried that I wasn’t anxious enough! I was in Corral 1, so I was under the starting banner with 33 seconds of the race. I only had to dodge a couple people, and very quickly it was able to settle into a comfortable pace.

So because I was so intent on making sure I came in with a recorded time of sub 1:37, I did something different with my watch. I didn’t want to assume my pace was ok based off what Garmin said, as it was in the end the race organizer’s course measurement that counted. So rather than have my Garmin record miles by its measurement, I manually hit the lap button every mile marker, so I could check my pace that way. It’s actually pretty interesting to see how my Garmin measures the miles differently, that could actually really screw a person up!

So for example, the first “lap” took me 7:14. According to my Garmin, though, it was actually longer than a mile so my supposed pace was 7:05. The biggest discrepancy was later on – according to the mile markers, my fastest mile was #11, which I finished in 6:39. However, my Garmin says “hey – that was only .9miles so you were really much slower at a 7:23 pace!” Let’s say that was an early mile – say mile 2. If I saw 6:39, I’d have told myself it was too fast, and made myself slow down. But if I was really running a 7:23 because the measurement was off.. well, that could make a real difference to a runner. I guess this is why it’s good not to be a slave to the watch!

So how did it feel?
Overall, It really felt great. The first few miles I had a few moments when I’d sense myself pushing, I’d look at my watch and see a sub-7 pace, and force myself to pull back. I didn’t want to burn out. Yet it really felt good. I felt strong and in control. The miles kept ticking by.

The course serves cytomax, which I don’t like, so I stuck to water. I had some gu twice (in all, never even finished one pack).

The half distance is really nice, it’s amazing how quickly the miles fly by. I hit the 10K timing mat at 44:58, and realized I was pretty sure that was faster than I ran the BolderBoulder. But honestly, it didn’t scare me. I know I’ve been training hard and smart. Those tempo runs at 7:13 made me confident in that pace – and I can’t help but think they’re a good reason why this race ended up as it did. My body got to know that pace and just tapped into something faster than “race pace”. (This also happened to me at the Rock and Roll AZ marathon a few years ago).

As I was cruising around the park, some guy standing on the sidelines smiled my way and said hi. I blanked until I realized it was Niels, a running acquaintance who’d offered to pace me for a few miles! Niels and I know each other from Columbus. He and his wife moved here about a year after I did, but we’ve never run together. He started running with me and asked how it was going. I said that I was going a bit faster than I should; about 7:10 and I was supposed to be going 7:23. He set off at a good pace and I found myself chasing him a bit. He asked how I was doing for nutrition and fluids, he’d brought along gatorade and water. That was super b/c of the lack of gatorade on the course, so I took advantage. We ran along, chatted about our races for 2012 (he’s considering the lead man series!) and before I knew it, the four miles were up! In the last mile with him, I’d felt myself dragging a bit, but there was something incredibly liberating to hit mile 11 and realize I had 19 minutes to finish 2.1 miles to meet my goal. Niels parted ways, thanking me for a good run, and then I kicked it into gear to finish. I felt a bit light-headed, and I do wonder if it’s because of the Gatorade (I struggled a bit with the sugar from skittles at Pikes Peak – I don’t take in that sort of stuff anymore).

Part way through mile 12, I heard fast footsteps approaching. I commended the fellow about to pass me on his great pace, and he said “I know you! We ran around Sloan’s lake together!”. Yes, it was Jonathan from the lake! He recognized my shirt (the pink shirt from when Mom and I did CIM). As he flew by me I had a chance to ask if he’d made it into Boston, and then he was gone.

The last few miles were a super finish for a race. A nice steady downhill, a small flat section, and then you turned the last corner and saw the finish line ahead. As I was in the last half mile or so, I realized I actually had a chance to break 1:35, which was a pretty surreal thought. When I saw that finish line, I dug deep and flew towards the finish. All that speed training kicked in and it felt amazing. I forgot to stop my watch right away but was elated to know I’d finished sub 1:35.

I chatted with Jonathan a bit (he thought I’d placed 3rd in Pikes Peak overall women, not in my AG. Kind, but incorrect) and then spotted KJ waiting for me at the finish. We wandered over to gear check where I triumphantly texted my Mom to tell her we were going to New York, and then went back to KJ’s for me to change into warmer clothes.

The weather during the race was actually about perfect. It got sunny but not too warm. I just regretted not having a hat with a brim (or sunglasses) because parts were a bit too sunny. But there was a coolness on my skin that I just find perfect.

KJ and I relaxed at her place for awhile (looking up training groups and races) and then headed back to the race to cheer on Loren. We’d seen she’d passed the half marker at 2:04 so we watched the finish for awhile, cheering on other runners and anxiously awaiting her finish. I joked to KJ that if I’d never run a marathon before, looking at most of these finishers wouldn’t have convinced me to try! So many folks looked miserable! Then Loren came trucking along. She shot us some “what the heck was this” look (hard to describe, but typical Loren) and although we tried to keep up to see her actually go through the finish gate, my poor legs wouldn’t have it.

We met up with her afterwards, she looked and felt pretty darn good for finishing her first marathon! (Granted, she’d done a half-ironman before, so distance events aren’t new to her) We chatted for awhile, then headed to eat. It was a great day of running and spectating!

At home later I curled up with “Run for your Life” and used this new bio-electrical massage machine I got. I actually didn’t feel overly hungry or thirsty or sore.. just like I’d had a good workout. I think the mental satisfaction of over-achieving my goals also helped too! I realized my time was exactly 5 minutes faster than what I ran in Rock n Roll AZ in 2010.

So where does this leave me? Excited about running, as normal. But also feeling pretty strongly that if I feel so great after 1:33, how hard would 1:30 be? That’s totally a ridiculous thing for me to think-a few years ago I’d have never thought I could run a 1:30, but now it seems completely attainable (with some training).

I wasn’t sure what to do about Houston. I was registered for the half, but now that I have this goal reached, the full was beckoning. Finally this morning I decided to register for the full, to cross another state off my 50.

It’s amazing to think it was at RnRAz 10 months ago that I had to drop out of the race injured, and told myself I needed to pick between roller derby and running. Fast forward 10 months and a choice is made and I’m seeing previous barriers just toppling over ahead of me. It’s a really exciting time for me as an athlete. I have a lot of new goals (I’ll likely be outlining over the next few days or weeks) and I’m excited to see what else is to come!