Sunday, June 29, 2008

Slacker Is NOT an appropriate name for this race-Slacker Half Race Report

So, this is a bit of a novel here. Hopefully it will help others who go into a race feeling prepared for, and possibly expecting a PR, but wind up with a completely different experience altogether. I'm trying to view it in hindsight as deposit in the getting tough bank, if nothing else.

It was an all-over-the-place day for me-I went in with such high hopes, seemed to be managing an ITBS issue well enough to run the race without fear of major injury, and REALLY thought I had a shot for a PR and maybe even a top-10 finish in my AG. The race I ran wasn't really just one race from start to finish, was more like several totally different races pieced together to form one.

The Slacker Half Marathon is the highest altitude downhill half in the country, starting at the parking lot at Loveland Ski area, moving through a forest service road/trail for the first four and a half miles, then hitting paved roads and bike trails for most of the remainder of the run to the little town of Georgetown. The name comes from the net downhill, going from 10,800 ft to something like 8400 feet. I figured the altitude and downhill would cancel each other out, and I've been doing good hill and speed workouts recently. I was mentally ready (I thought) to attack on this course.

We rode the bus from Georgetown Lake to the true slackerish form, the buses were a few minutes behind schedule, but nobody seemed to mind. It was a very laid back crowd, and the weather was just beautiful-cooler than where I live, but sunny and crisp. There was definitely a much larger crowd there than the results showed from the year before.

Final instructions were made before we started, and it felt like a little like our local running club's monthly races...he said he'd shout ready set go, and send us off. No guns or trumpets like the Bolder Boulder. I was digging this already.

We started after his call, and I went out like gangbusters (for me), off to an early 7:30 pace. We went down a hill, but then started climbing UP immediately in the forest service road, with some flats and more uphills. I pulled back a bit because I felt a little funny....I'm talking feeling almost like I was having heart palpitations. Slowing down didn't help, though....I was feeling worse and worse by the second, legs feeling like lead, getting passed by TONS of people and on a pace I haven't run since I first started running again.

Around this time, I look down to see how I'm doing and discover my Garmin's decided to stop timing for some reason, and is only giving a pace. Awesome. Ordinarily this wouldn't be something I'd overly stress, but things were already going poorly.

There's one guy from our local run club who appeared behind me....shouted out my name, asked where one of running buddies was who had planned on doing this race. I told her where she was and said "I don't feel so good." He asked if I was okay and I kind of nodded weakly. I'm soon passed by another local guy who had made the trip over for the race. As in...blew past me and I couldn't move faster than a snail's pace. This is a guy I always look for at races because our paces are fairly close-he never blows past me and I never blow past him. I felt sick and off in a nonspecific but intense way.

I was shaky and wierd feeling and had a feeling of NEEDING, not wanting to bow out of the race. As much as I never wanted to walk in this race, I made a split second decision to walk then, mentally and physically regroup, and fight whatever was going on. My best guess-and I know some folks have NO trouble with altitude changes...was that the 6000 ft change in altitude was an issue for ME.

Walked it out for a bit, got to a water station, and drank a full cup. We were now on a downhill section so I tried getting going again at a slower pace. So far so good. I was just fighting to stay in it now so on I trudged.

Arrived to the paved road portion of the race, about 4 1/2 miles in. There were some more gentle downhills, flat sections, and surprisingly, more uphills than you'd expect on a net downhill course. I stuck with stopping to walk through the aid stations and drinking at each one-not something I've done at my other halfs but again I was trying to avoid any sickness issues. The 15 second walks/water break seemed to help.

Midway through the race, I was feeling better and started drawing on people I know who have ever had health or other situations to overcome, as well as the beautiful, beautiful views and weather on the course. It wasn't some awful tragedy that I'd had a bad start to the race, and everyone has crapola races sometimes so I really got in the mindset of running smart and doing the best I could with what was left of the course. My ITB was whispering to me a little but we're not talking pain or something that felt like cause for serious concern.

Things kind of turned for the better for me in this section....five miles later, I caught up with that guy from the local club and passed him....I honestly NEVER thought I'd see him again on the course, and it's not like he wasn't running strong when I caught up to him. This was a nice little morale boost because I knew I wasn't as far gone as I started out.

We came under the highway, four miles to the finish, and then came up on a bike path that runs right along I-70 for a bit then sharply down hill toward Georgetown. I ran this downhill section great...I was proud of myself given that I almost bowed out a few miles in. Someone had warned me, though, to be prepared to get to Georgetown and then have to go UPHILL to the finish.

I thought I was mentally prepared for the finish, and knew I was going to be tired, but couldn't believe how spent I was going uphill again the last mile to the finish. It was gravel and dirt, and I struggled hard to move slowly on it.

This is one thing that's bugging me now...I stopped to walk again in the LAST MILE before the finish. Other people were taking walk breaks too but I should've just stuck it's a slippery slope once you start those walk breaks. Something to improve upon next year. (Did I just say that I'm coming back for this next year?).I passed a woman at half a mile to the finish who was struggling too, and she stopped to walk/power hike again and I saw her cry out in frustration or perhaps pain from something hurting.

We finally hit flat(ish) paved road again and I could see the time clock off in the distance. As I mentioned, Mister Garmin bailed on me so I had no idea what my time lost walking and slowly running/making up time and ground once I was feeling better ratio was. I truly had no idea if I was even going to finish in under two hours, and was quite overcome with emotion to see that the finish clock was in the 1:52's when I turned for that last tenth of a mile. I pushed on home and finished in a time of 1:53:14-nearly six minutes slower than my half in March, but also about the same amount of time ahead of my first half marathon time last October. I was 39/167 AG, which is the lowest, percentage wise, that I've placed in anything in nine months.

On one hand, that sounds pretty awful to be six minutes off my PR...on the other, I nearly dropped out of the race early on. I'm disappointed that I didn't do better for myself yesterday, but think I did the best I could at salvaging things.

I'm trying hard to fight the urge to question my BQ goal.....I know logically that this is just one race but I'll admit it does make me think a little that I'm kidding myself on it being an attainable goal.

If you look close just above my right knee in the above photos, you can see a red line where I didn't realize until after I'd done a sloppy job putting on the ITB rubbed my leg raw along the edge of it.

My DD also ran yesterday, in the 4-miler. She agreed that it was a tough course and also walked bits of it but finished it in a bit over 40 minutes nonetheless.

1 comment:

Ronster said...


It's great that you stuck it out. Races like that have so many variables, you almost have to approach it like an ultra. My IT bands cry out just thinking of so many downhills(also that bouncing in the chest cavity can make your heart/lungs feel faulty). And the altitude..
Don't let that race change your self-assessment. Next time, maybe plan a few walk breaks so it won't feel like such a psychological battle.
nice run.