When I signed up for today’s Colorado Marathon back in September with the intention of trying to break three hours, I didn’t envision that the amount of training I’d fit in this year would be only marginally more time than Donald Trump put in to hone his diplomacy skills before openly musing about a presidential run. Still, there were a few signs of encouragement: the few long training runs I did do (including one of 26.2 miles) went brilliantly, and the last month or two I’ve started to feel pretty fit due to cross-training and high-intensity workouts. The fast course (a gradual descent of 1000 feet from start to finish) also was ideal for a balls-out effort. So despite thinking my odds of success were about 1:9 I decided to take a roll of the die and run with the aggressiveness and audacity of The Donald himself.
“It’s three hours or bust,” summed up my motto.
To give myself the best chance, I didn’t even go bar-hopping until midnight the night before unlike the last time I did this race (2006). Instead, kind of like a normal person, I went to bed at 10:00 pm which nearly took the sting off of having to wake up at 3:45am to fuel up and then board a charter bus that took runners up the Poudre Canyon. I’d say my pre-race routine went almost exactly as planned except for the excretion of yellowish fluids. Despite jumping in line for a Port-a-John with 27 minutes until race time, I never got within whiffing distance of human body waste. Instead, with three minutes to go I ended up giving a thirsty tree the gift of water and nutrients.
The first 10 miles I kept switching off leads with my friend Dave, who also was shooting for three hours but had a more realistic shot at it. During this time it seemed like I hardly had to breathe at all, but yet all my legs could muster were mile splits in the low 6:40s. Nothing to panic about, but I felt it was a bit too slow for a sub-three hour marathon to be in play.
The news got worse. When I crossed the halfway mark, my watch read 1:30:03. Because there was no way I’d be able to negative split this race (even if only by a few seconds)—my race was effectively done. Except that I still had to run another 13.1 miles, which turned out not to be a trivial matter.
I really started to slow around Mile 17, which is when my friend Alex ran past. He was looking really strong, and our differential in speed drilled home just how much my pace had petered off. Yet, my leg turnover would still slow even more.
By Mile 21, my left calf was cramping and my normally indestructible feet were blistering. A mile later, Tina (fourth woman) ran past. I knew she was shooting for 3:10, which for me would have been the time to qualify again for Boston—but my motivation to dig any deeper was sorely lacking. So were the mitochondria in my legs.
A couple miles after that, Kerry (sixth woman) and our friend Scott (who was pacing) caught me. “Just cruising… cramps,” I explained.
“Because of the heat?” asked Scott.
“No, because of lack of training.”
“Ha, this is your training, right?” Scott replied, well aware of my past antics of entering races with a sparse mileage base, effectively using the events as training themselves.
As it turned out, today was little different from then. When I crossed the finish line the clock read 3:18—not even close to trois heures.
On the other hand, the race did produce my second fastest half-marathon ever (missed a PR by four seconds) and gave me experience at running at a 3:00-marathon pace. More importantly, it incremented my annual marathon running streak by one. Lastly, it was a gorgeous course with great friends (all of whom ran amazingly—many personal bests!) and good food served up by Whole Foods.
In sum, my race turned out to be a bust that wasn’t quite one.
First half: 1:30:03
Second half: 1:48:21
Final: 3:18:24, 65/990 overall, 58th men, 13/76 M35-39
Mile 1: 6:43
Mile 2: 6:39
Mile 3: 6:39
Mile 4: 6:37
Mile 5: 6:35
Mile 6: 6:47
Miles 7-8: 6:51/mile
Mile 9: 6:43
Mile 10: 6:43
Mile 11: 7:00
Mile 12: 6:51
Mile 13: 7:11
Mile 14: 7:13
Mile 15: 7:26
Miles 16-17: 7:35/mile
Mile 18-20: 7:43/mile
Mile 21: 8:09
Mile 22: 8:46
Mile 23: 9:15
Mile 24: 9:31
Mile 25: 9:02
Mile 26: 8:57
Mile 26.2: 7:49