Monday, November 16, 2009

Rim Rockin' It...Inaugural Edition. A Race Report

This is a race that has existed for I believe sixteen years as a gate-to-gate run across the Colorado National Monument, 22.6 miles. It starts around 4600 feet, climbs about 2000 feet, and descends a little more than that in the second half. The race has been directed by different people over the years, and this year had new race directors, and a brand new distance for the event-a full marathon, with an additional mile starting down the road from the entrance to the Monument, and the rest added on at the end, turning out of the park onto highway, with one last turn into one of our state parks for the new finish line.

I've been a volunteer at this race for the past two years and always joked "better them than me!" with regard to actually running it. This year, though, it just seemed like the time to do it. The start is maybe a mile from my house, I could sleep in my own bed, and it's a beautiful albeit challenging course. So, I signed up this time around, thinking of it as a "fun" marathon where I'd still train hard and run hard, but not hold hard and fast to any time goals.

Fellow runners Jen and Ilana were coming up to run it too (Jen ran the 37K version last year), and we were hearing that a general rule of thumb was to add 20-30 min to your flat marathon time. With that in mind, I was thinking 4:00 was a good and realistic goal, with anything faster than that kind of being icing on the cake. I was in no way, shape or form thinking of a BQ time (3:45:59 or faster for me).

I had sort of winged it for training plans this summer and fall, loosely basing what I was doing off of Pfitz (medium-long run midweek, long run on the weekend, general time on my feet, and substituting a slew of 5K and a few 10K race for formal speed work). Though I ran a 5K and half marathon PR during this time, I really wasn't overly confident about what I was doing for this marathon. After all, it's a whole 'nuther ball of wax, and I was wondering if I'd shot myself in the foot to essentially run on feel from day to day, signing up for races on whims and deciding on long run distances while I was running. I took the "experiment of one" approach, though, and figured I'd never know unless I tried new stuff. It was a VERY enjoyable training cycle, so that was good to me, if nothing else.

The girls got into town Friday night, we had a nice dinner out, and we got up early the next morning. Stepping outside, it was cold and overcast but nothing was coming down. I then spoke the famous last words of "it's cold, but there's no rain or snow!" Yeah, you know what comes next. Cue the snow while my words are still hanging in the air. I'd already been leaning toward tights, long sleeve tech shirt, fleece vest and winter hat but this kind of confirmed what I wanted to do. When my DH dropped us off at the start, the snow was REALLY coming down. There were talks of snowplows clearing the road on the other side of the Monument. It was comical and kind of took the edge of that the weather was so craptastic. As they called us to line up, I made a very last minute decision to leave on the lightweight jacket I was going to shed and send over, and re-pinned my number to my tights just before we started. Soon, we were being counted down, and off we went.

This first mile was a nice warm-up, and just a slight uphill grade before beginning our climb. I had no pace band or chart, and just started running on feel from the get-go. The only bit of advice or number stuck in my head was one of my early morning training partners, who told me that someone my pace wasn't going to want to hit the five mile mark in faster than 50 minutes. Though that was in the back of my head I wasn't closely checking my watch.

Mile 1: 8:46

Okay, time to twist and climb steadily

Mile 2: 9:49
Mile 3: 10:49
Mile 4: 10:56
Mile 5: 10:12

I was pleased to stay in the 10 m/m range through here. This was hard but not HARDER than I was anticipating through here, which was a confidence booster. I also hit that five mile point a few seconds faster than that 50 minute mark my friend mentioned, so it seemed like I was spot on for pacing. The running club was manning the four mile aid station and I got a shout-out from a friend who was working there which was another nice boost.

We're still climbing but it's not as steep for the next few miles. The less steep sections really feel like we're running a flat section after the first five miles, and soon we're evening out somewhat, though we still get good uphill pitches here and there.

Mile 6: 8:32
Mile 7: 9:03
Mile 8: 9:11
Mile 9: 9:33
Mile 10: 7:53

I pass the GOTR aid station here, and again it's an awesome lift that they're all hollering for me. While I LOVE quiet country courses without a lot of people on them, I won't was a great pick-me-up to see those guys. And, regarding the aid stations in general-they were VERY well organized with each one having kind of a "lead" worker hollering at us as soon as they saw us, asking if/what we needed as far as drink, gel, snack, etc. While I would have gladly moved my way over to the tables, all the aid station workers were lining themselves up with us before we got there for perfect drink pass-offs.

Mile 11: 7:56
Mile 12: 8:25
Mile 13: 9:45 (oh, who threw this big hill in here?)

Okay, now we seem to be all the way up. Between about miles 8-16, there had been several men and one woman that seemed to be pacing about the same as me, but as we moved on I seemed to drop most of them. There was a woman who was always a curve ahead on the road that I wasn't making up any ground on but wasn't losing sight of either.

Mile 14: 8:00
Mile 15: 7:44
Mile 16: 7:44

The road twisted and switched back and forth as we moved downhill. I felt excellent through here and just kept going with it. I could still see the next woman up running with the guy she'd been with the whole race. When I had an opportunity to look back at one point through here, I see that there is nobody behind me on the quarter-mile or so stretch. The road is wet and it's still snowing but not heavily.

Mile 17: 8:13
Mile 18: 8:14
Mile 19: 8:24
Mile 20: 7:58

This is the US Bank (title sponsor) aid station. I've got a friend/fellow runner at this aid station too who works for the bank, and again it's great to see a familiar face. The whole route had kind of been the best of both worlds-breathtaking red rock and trees dusted with snow, for a very quiet and peaceful run, with little bursts hooting, hollering and cheering at the aid stations, and waves from drivers in the open lane.

Some guy through here standing on the course tells me "Looking good! Top ten women-definitely!" Normally, I've counted as best I can from the get-go, or from whatever I can see on stretches of roads and know where I stand but I hadn't looked hard or counted at all this time. I wouldn't be able to accurately count anyway on a road that twists like Rim Rock Drive anyway. I didn't know where exactly this meant I was, but it was good to have him tell me that nonetheless. I started thinking about going for it and trying to catch the girl up ahead. I'd been using my Geetah straws through all aid stations and had been picking up seconds here and there from never stopping to walk.

There are now little breaks in the clouds, and I can see bits and pieces pastoral, snow-dusted farmland. It's kind of a nice little teaser knowing that we're moving closer to the finish.

Mile 21: 7:27
Mile 22: 7:43

I passed one or two more guys in the late miles. I could see that woman ahead getting closer as I rounded one curve, and saw that she'd actually caught another lady, and was running even with them. I knew I might regret it but really started going for it to get past both of them.

Mile 23: 7:15
Mile 24: 7:05

And now I'm past both of them. And we're heading out onto the road. The hard, much harder than I'd anticipated it being, rolling road.

Mile 25: 7:42

And-crap. All of a sudden it happens...the legs just become lead. I'm working harder than I had at any point during the race and my body is just screaming "I'm done! " If I had anything left in my legs I'd be kicking myself for letting my pace venture up into 5K range like that. I thought I was going to have enough to hang on all the way through.

One of the girls I passed now passes me back. I'm REALLY losing momentum and just kind of want to die right now. Unbelievable. 25 miles of feeling really good and now I just want someone to shoot me. Right then I see my husband driving by on the road to come see the finish along with our youngest daughter (my son was sleeping over with a buddy, and oldest daughters had various activities going on too). I suck it up and say "come ON! Don't be a weakling." I fight the shutdown with all I've got.

And then...I see the finish approaching! As Garmins always measure these courses with significant elevation changes in the mountains a little short, I've tricked myself into thinking I've got more to run then I really do. We're in the park, and I can see the woman radioing ahead to the finish with racer numbers. As I turn the last corner, I realize that despite the hard, hard last mile and fade, I was going to make it without resorting to the "walk of shame" and without dozens more people blowing past me.

My Garmin measures .88 of a mile (I just let it autolap whether it was accurate or not....I really didn't feel like thinking too hard about manual laps) as I cross the finish, calling it 7:24 or an 8:27 pace for that last portion of a mile. Total Garmin time 3:41:40, chip time 3:41:39, gun time 3:41:41. Good for fifth woman overall out of seventy six (26 seconds off of fourth), first in my age group, and 27th out of 185 total M/F finishers. Ilana comes in five minutes later, sixth woman overall, and first female masters woman after they took out the one over-40 overall woman. Jen comes in at 4:00, a huge PR and with an upset stomach for most of the race to boot.

While I know I kind of played it wrong there and probably picked up too much speed, emptying out much of my gas tank in miles 23 and 24, I also feel like I can't complain. I didn't have any goals or expectations other than enjoying this beautiful course, and I most certainly did that. The running was rough late in the game, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel good to run a BQ time on this course. I'm not even sure that the course was certified in time and I'm not thinking seriously about using it for 2011...but just hitting that mark by surprise was a nice boost.

All in all, I loved this race! Good first year organization, my favorite local specialty pizza place was giving us food and cookies, and drinks, and there was a little beer garden where I enjoyed a nice frosty one post-race. The aid station workers were fabulous, and the road crew people hired to be on the course did a great job keeping traffic moving at a safe pace in the open lane. If I do not get drawn for NYC next year, I will come back to run this again. Heck, just because I'm not smart enough to say no...I might just run it again anyway even if I go to New York City-I really did enjoy it that much. And would like a do-over on the last 1.2.


sllygrl said...

Wow you did awesome! I love reading these race reports - its my new form of 'running a marathon. Thanks for the well wishes on being pregnant - its definitely a new chapter for us. Good luck in Boston - are you shooting for a sub 3:20?

TiredMamaRunning said..., yes, yes I am. It's out there now. Eek.

Preston said...

Great race report. I think the daughter of one of my coworkers does that race or has done that race. Anyway, good luck in training for Boston.

L.A. Runner said...

Awesome, awesome job! Your miles 21-25 ROCKED! So, what's up next for you?

monicac2 said...

Wow, you are very, very FAST! This kind of thing? Only happens in my dreams:

"I knew I might regret it but really started going for it to get past both of them.

Mile 23: 7:15
Mile 24: 7:05

And now I'm past both of them."

Great job!!!

Elizabeth said...

I had no idea how challenging this course was! Wow! I also didn't realize that you beat your goal time by so much. This sounds brutal. Congrats on placing so highly and finally tackling your home town race!

Christina said...

That is an amazing race report and your splits at the end were so impressive. I'm in awe. Great job!