Last weekend, I traveled with some family and friends (Jennifer, Hannah, Amanda and Steve) for a "training marathon" in Colorado Springs. What is a training marathon? Good question. A training marathon to me is a pre-excuse for not pushing yourself too hard in a race, but just enough to feel a little pain. I still have fun at these marathons, but I know going in that I really shouldn't be pushing myself so hard that it takes me days or weeks to recover.
So how did this training marathon play out? I'll cut to the chase. It's now 5 days later, I didn't PR (or even close), I didn't place (or even close), yet I still hurt. Training Marathon, fail. Ok, not so much fail, as I did have a good race and a good time, but it didn't quite play out as planned. Read on.
I went in thinking altitude would be my issue. This race began at about 7,200 feet, with about 1,200 feet of net elevation loss over the course (for those math idiots out there, that means the race ended at around 6,000 feet). Despite the significant elevation loss, there would be a few bumps along the way (my watch said only about 200 feet though, but they were all pretty steep climbs). Most of this I knew going in, and planned to just charge up the hills and recover on the way down. Ultimately, I didn't find the hills (up or down) or the altitude to be a real issue. While I had these factors under control (at least in my mind), the issue I didn't have under control was the heat. So 70 degrees isn't really that hot, but with the open skies, lack of shade, and thin air in the mountains, 3+ hours in the sun can just bake you. And bake me it did.
The race was set to start at 6:30. After a long but necessary wait in the port-o-potty line, I found the race start at 6:29:30. No time to spare, but I had made it to the start. With about 400 people in the race, and a 10ish foot wide trail, it took a bit of time to work through some crowds and settle in to pace. When that all played out, I found my self at a comfortable 7:00 min/mile pace. While this was a bit faster than I intended to run, I decided that 13ish miles at the harder pace would be good training, and I'd just moreless relax along the last 13.
The first half marathon was fairly uneventful. The course was beautiful, the runners were nice, and I passed by many, many runners who started a bit too optimistic (with the downhill grade, this is easy to do). I seemed to be doing fine.
Then 14 and 15 hit. The thin air, bright sun, low humidity, and the failure to really hydrate in advance caught up with me. About this time I really started feeling thirsty and tired. I knew the issue, slowed down and tried to hydrate over the last 10 miles. I settled into a steady 8 min/mile pace for the next 5 or 6 miles.
At around mile 20, I met up with a local runner (ok, he caught me), who was on pace for a PR and his first Boston Marathon Qualifying time. But he needed a little help and company keeping a pace, which would require around a 7:20 pace. By this time I was beginning to feel sorry for myself, and hating my pace, so I gladly joined up with him. I love pacing people, as it gives me something else other than me to focus on.
We covered the next 4 miles in a steady pace. With about a mile to go, I began to feel the urge to finish. Why you might ask? Well, its my time for honestly. I found myself in a group of about 4 guys, non of which I really knew their age. Were they in my age group? Was it still remotely possible that I could place in my age group? I didn't know. And while I didn't really care, I knew I had plenty of gas in the tank to pick it up over the last mile and finish just ahead of them. So I did. I finished in 3:13:18, with 30 seconds plus on the gentlemen behind me (happily, I made sure my Boston-qualifying time was in well under his time before I left him).
I'd finish in in 17th place, which I was thrilled with. I was well outside my age group awards, which was fine (I'm not overly concerned with placing when I know I'm not pushing too hard).
Good time had by all. My wife and friends all did well.