Sunday, June 21, 2015

Garden of the Gods: Crash and Burn

This past Sunday was the first race of the Triple Crown, the series I signed up for (perhaps a bit naively) this spring when I decided I needed a new challenege.

Coming into the Garden of the Gods Ten Miler I had begun to deveop shin splints and had lost a lot of the confidence I had gained from Colfax. On top of it my mind was anywhere but the race at the start, more focused on goodbyes, airports and a lack of sleep that entie week before the race. This was clear as I left my water bottle in the car, forgot to coordinate with friends who were also running (didn't remember until I no longer had a phone with me) and was just generally scattered with no plan for the race. The no plan realization set in as I joined the crush of people at the start and I had a sinking feeling that I was already doomed.

As the start gun went off I trailed behind a new friend Jocelyn for the first mile or so, weaving through the crowds. As we started the first hill up to balanced rock I glimpsed Riannon ahead in the crowd and pushed through to catch her by the top. Those first two miles were realistically the only good numbers at the end of the day.

Yep. Bad Numbers.
Riannon and I started downhill and I began to feel the creeping pain in my left calf. With eight miles to go, I knew it was too early. As my the pain started to magnify I unconciously began to compensate for it, a huge mistake that would cost me later. As we hit the bottom of the next climb and mile three I flew backwards from Riannon. I don't think I passed a single person for the next six miles. 

I hit mile five and Jocelyn caught and passed me as well as a new friend Chris, who I had run with earlier in the week. By this point my back and shoulders had clenched (lesson: never compensate for pain by losing form) and everything was hurting. I would walk at least part of the next five hills from mile five to the finish.

By now I had fallen into no man's land. There weren't a lot of people around and I kept looking back for the end motorcycle, I thought I was that far back. My mind had checked out and that was that.

The only bright spot left  in the race came at mile nine. As I crested the hill at balanced rock I found a little energy and picked up the pace for the last mile descent, passing most everyone in sight. The faster pace took a toll though and as I rounded the final bend I was fighting back tears and the urge to walk. I can say with absolute confidence that the only thing that got me across the finish line was Jill, Gloria and Riannon cheering and running with me, and Gloria catching me in a big hug at the end!

I have a hard time remembering a more physically and mentally painful race, even from my history in cycling and even counting the crashes I experienced in cycling. Both outside factors and the race itself led to not a great day, but that being said I can't remember being more proud of a finish either.

Having the ladies from CRC there at the end made all the difference. It wasn't long before I was sitting in the grass with a smile on my face, too happy to think about the pain in my legs as I listened to everyone else's race stories. I have some recovering to do, but I am looking forward to regrouping and getting back to training. 

The Triple Crown of Running: That Stupid Hard Series I Signed Up For

Earlier this spring I was looking for a challenge and a few local races to use as tune ups for the American Discovery Trail marathon in September. Last year I did the half marathon and with Colfax getting switched to a half, ADT seemed like the perfect opportunity to do a full before my 25th birthday. The more I looked at local races, the more that the three legs of the Triple Crown of Running here in Colorado Springs seemed like the perfect fit. I had watched all three legs last year and I knew they would be a challenge, but would also give me something to work towards.

All three races in the Triple Crown are run in Colorado Springs, limiting travel expenses and the stress of extra planning. In addition there is once race each month of the summer leading into the ADT in September, perfect to help keep me on track. However, the Triple Crown also features a very challenging slate of races. The first is the Garden of the Gods Ten Miler with over six distinct climbs. The second is the Summer Roundup 12k, a trail run through Bear Creek Park. The final leg is The Ascent, a half marathon up Pikes Peak using Barr Trail. This is already a notoriously challenging hike with an elevation gain of 7,815 feet, let alone trying to actually run it. Brutal.

The more I think about it the more I wonder 'what in the world did I get myself into?!?' however, I think I needed a new challenge in my life and these three races represent a great one. I view the entire series as tough, but doable, or at least I did until this past Sunday.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Colfax Half Marathon

A year ago I had planned for Colfax to be my first full marathon, but health problems over the winter made training next to impossible. I pulled back to the half marathon and was glad I did as I was able to train to the point of being confident going into the race rather than just trying to survive it. With Colfax being the same weekend as my birthday I wanted the race to be fun, not a death march.

Riannon, Jocelyn and I before the start,
Going into the weekend my goal was to run under 2:00 and I planned on using one of the race provided pace groups to accomplish that. I was feeling great and after a few months of running with the CRC ladies I was confident that sub 2:00 was feasible. To make matters even better I would be on the start line with my friend Riannon, a huge confidence boost for my first big race.

However, when we got to the start corrals Sunday I realized there was a flaw in my plan. There would be no pace group in the wave I was supposed to start with, I would be on my own for pacing myself as I knew Riannon would likely run faster than me. There wasn't anything to be done about this so as the gun went off we headed out with out wave for the loop through the park. Colfax is unique in that the first three miles run through Denver’s City Park and the Denver Zoo. The joke had been that the mile through the zoo would take me an hour.

I was able to keep up with Riannon for the first two miles but as we reached the Zoo I knew I needed to fall back just slightly. As much as I wanted to run the entire race with her, I knew that I needed to be a bit more conservative. The zoo provided a chance to settle my mind and also focus on something other than running. How many other races do you get to see cheetahs, monkeys and mountain goats?

After we left the zoo we hit the straight portion of the race, basically three miles out, turn around and four miles back. I had begun to look for Norman as he had planned on seeing me along that section for the out and back. I also tried to find people running roughly the same pace as me to try and make my own de facto pace group. No one really stuck and I quickly realized I would be on my own for the entire 13.1 miles. Seeing Norman at around mile five though was a huge energy boost, and I would see him again at about mile ten.

Riannon and I after the race, medals and all!
Those miles kind of dragged by. There wasn’t a lot to see and it was pretty much an endless run down a straight street. Although there were a fair number of spectators, the run along Colfax had no shade and no aide stations, nothing really to break up the monotony. When we finally returned to neighborhood streets and got closer to City Park it was a relief. Turning into City Park was a huge tease, because there was almost another mile left before we would see the finish line.

As I did finally turn towards the finish line I had a burst of energy. Except it wasn’t the finish line. Rather than finishing where we started Colfax has everyone run another 1/10 of a mile to the finish truss. Deceptive little jerks. That was a bit torturous but I still crossed the line with a time of 1:58, well within my goal time and without a pace group to boot.

In the grand scheme of things it was a relatively uneventful race, and if anything that was what made it so memorable. I wasn’t in pain, I knew what I was a capable of and I stuck to my plan. After having run ADT I had more confidence going into the race, and having friends there made a huge difference. It was great to have someone at the start line and even better to see everyone at the finish. I have been lucky to find a community of active women in Colorado. Colfax made for the perfect end to a wonderful birthday weekend and next year the race is on my actual birthday so, assuming Collegiate Road Nationals isn’t the same weekend, I would love to race it again!