Sunday, June 16, 2013

Estes Park Marathon: Round Five


After a three year hiatus from a race I once swore off, or at least temporarily retired from, I came back. Reincarnated as a tourist.

Saturday night I went to bed early, since I had to get up at 4:15 am to get ready for the marathon and the hour drive to Estes Park. Dennis was out at a work-related function.

I couldn't sleep, so I got up and sat down at the computer, hoping reading would make me sleepy. Around 9:30 I went back to bed to try again. Eventually I dozed off, but within a few minutes of falling asleep suddenly Iris pounced on me and I heard what sounded like baseballs falling on the roof.

Iris curled up next to me, practically smothering me, and she was trembling.

Hailstorm.

The hail itself only lasted a few minutes, but it was enough to terrify Iris and wake me up. Isabelle is the one who usually gets scared of things. She's the one who hides under the table when there's a fly in the house. She was sleeping on the floor, in front of the fan. I don't know if she even heard it.

I comforted Iris for a while, until she seemed okay. I thought of my tomato plants and the apricot trees on the patio, and then I wondered if the hail did any damage to the roof or my car. I'd find out in the morning.

I think I finally fell asleep around 11 pm. I never heard Dennis when he came home. The alarm startled me at 4:15 and I dragged myself down to the kitchen for coffee, a zombie.

The drive up to Estes went quickly, and I arrived an hour before the start, which was plenty of time, but a good thing, since this year they decided to make the runners park far from the start. I think I got an extra mile of walking in before the race. They didn't make it clear where runners were supposed to park this year, they used to have us park in the parking lot next to the school but they moved the starting lines there this year.

There was this woman in a race shirt and a skirt, screaming at people driving in. I don't think she understood that anyone who has run this race before would be confused by the changes. There were no signs posted to direct people, drivers were confused, it was chaotic, and people are always a little anxious before races anyway. She might not have been a runner and didn't understood this.

Anyway, people were whipping their cars around, making U turns, driving through the barricaded area, and getting pissed off. She was yelling back at them. When I opened my window to ask her where we should park, she screamed at me too. She even called me "ma'am". Hisssssssss...

Don't ma'am me.

The parking nazi. At 6 am. Welcome to the Estes Park Marathon.

I parked and then went up to pick up my number, and ran into Joanne and Hunter, my friends from the running club. Joanne was running the half marathon. Hunter is her husband. Joanne and Hunter are going to crew for me at the 24 hour race in Oklahoma City this fall. Joanne forgot to bring something to carry water in, and the race came up with this goofy device called the hydrapouch. The point was to reduce waste, avoiding the paper cup trash that goes along with these events. That's a good reason for it.

But it's a flimsy little soft plastic cup with a clip that supposedly clips onto your belt or waistband. I tried it the last time I ran this race and it sucked. I spent too much time bending over and picking it up when it fell off my waistband. It's lame, if you ask me. They were using paper cups anyway at the aid stations, so that kind of defeats the purpose.

Anyway, Joanne forgot to bring one and they wanted to charge her something like ten bucks for this goofy thing. Since I was in the marathon, I got one for free, so I gave mine to Joanne. I had my water bottle and my full pack, I didn't need it.

I can't believe a race where they charge you almost $100 for an entry fee can't get the hydrapouch as a sponsor or buy them and give them to all the runners for free. Plus they were using paper cups, so I bet anyone who spent an extra ten bucks on that thing was pissed.


The race started and I had to pee like a race horse from the get-go. There were only 4 portapotties at the starting line with long lines, and the school bathrooms were far away. So I waited, and the race course passed through the starting area around mile 2, and I used them then. I took my time going up the long hill to where the course tops out overlooking Mary's lake, around mile 6. The morning was perfect. Not cold, not too warm and the sky was clear. No trace of haze visible from the Big Meadows fire.


I was going slow, taking my time, taking pictures, and posting them on Facebook. My legs were tired. They felt okay, but they were flat. I had a great week of workouts and this is what I expected, so I didn't worry about it. I was out for the scenic cruise.


There were wildflowers everywhere. This year there's been so much more moisture. Things were green, the meadows were wet, and there were iris everywhere.

It started to heat up as we descended into town, but the aid stations had cold water and ice. They also had this different kind of gel, I've seen it before but never tried it, it's called Vi Gel and it's made for young runners. Why? Because the size of the font on the ingredients list is so small that anyone my age would need arms 10 feet long in order to read it.

I picked one up that said "Peach Cobbler" and that soudned a little funky so I tried to read the ingredients. Fortunately I saw the word "cinnamon" at the end, and put it back in the pile. I *HATE* cinnamon. If you get that $@%# near me when I'm running, I will barf. This princess is traumatized by cinnamon. So I tried the vanilla and chocolate flavors instead. Not too bad. I think I still prefer Hammer Gel and Clif Shot crack.

I ran the downhills and alternated between running and powerwalking the uphills. I was too busy taking pictures to get too excited about running.

Between 10 and 15 miles the race course goes through town and around Lake Estes on the bike paths. It's very scenic, there are views of all the mountain ranges on this side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The marathon and half-marathon courses branch off here, the marathon goes around the lake and the half marathon goes back to the high school to finish.

There was one spot around 12 miles where it was very confusing, and the signage didn't help. I saw marathon mile 12 with an arrow, then soon after that there was another mile 12 sign, then there was a half-marathon mile 12 sign.


I looked around and only saw half-marathoners with their blue bibs. I wondered if I was on the right course. I kept going, not too worried if I did extra distance, since I wasn't racing, but it took a while before there was a course marshal directing people in the marathon.

Soon after that, I saw the marathon mile 12 marker again. I knew I was on the marathon course but not sure if I was making an extra loop. I kept going and eventually saw the 13 mile marker, which told me I was making progress. Except my split for mile 12 to 13 was 22 minutes, and I was running a good bit of it. Strange. I must have counted it from the first mile 12 sign I saw.

I knew I was in the right place, this is the 4th time I've run this race. Actually it's the 5th, but in 2011 I bagged it halfway through in a cold rainstorm and swore it off forever. I kept going along the path around the lake.


Soon there was this sign, and it wasn't lying. The aggressive elk was right there 10 feet off the path. But it wasn't really aggressive. I walked by it slowly, and it just watched me and chewed on some grass. When I got far enough away I whipped out my camera and then I saw all the other elk, and the elk calves down by the water.





Whenever I run this marathon I always feel like I'm almost done when I get across the highway and through the residential area just before you turn onto Dry Gulch road at 16 miles. This is also where it gets hot, most years. It was 75 degrees as I turned onto Dry Gulch road. The aid stations had been well stocked with water and ice.



I looked at the sky and the clouds were moving in. By 17 miles it was cooling off and there was more of a breeze. I didn't bring a jacket this year, I wore my hat but decided to take a chance on it not getting too cold and wet. Probably not a good choice, but I was warm, and the clouds didn't look too threatening. I figured I'd be done in less than 2 hours.




Going up Dry Gulch road and then turning back toward town at 19 miles, it was still warm. Then the wind picked up. After 19 miles the course is mostly downhill with a few little rolling hills, but there was a headwind. I was still being a tourist, but I had my eye on the clouds. At the 20 mile mark I decided to get it over with. I was done with being a tourist. I picked up the pace and put my camera away.



Right before mile 22 I could see a greenish haze downhill, ahead of me, in the forest. The wind was blowing hard. I took off my sunglasses since it was getting dark, and I could see that it was dust.


Then I saw the aid station, there was a dust devil and the paper cups were being blown everywhere, the rain drops started coming down, and the aid station volunteers were running around chasing trash.



I jogged through the rain and headwind and when I got to 23 miles, having whipped out the camera again to take pictures in the storm, I decided to, finally, seriously, get it over with. With only 5K to go I pulled off an 8:30 mile and did a couple of 9 minute miles as I headed into the finish. It always seems like it takes forever to get up the last stretch of bike path to the high school track, where the finish line is. It was raining.

5:28:16. A good long hill run, time on my feet, with a little heat and altitude, not a bad day at the office. And yes, the tourist option was MUCH better.


It looked like they were starting to break down the finish line area and covering the sound system. Someone gave me a finisher's medal, there were very few people around, everyone was running for shelter from the rain and wind, putting jackets on, and heading for their cars.



I went back to my car, taking the long cooldown hike to the remote parking area, and drove home. The place was deserted. I was hungry but it was jammed with tourists in town. I didn't want to deal with it, I could eat gels if I got desperate. The drive home down the canyon was ridiculously slow and backed up, and it would have been worse if I waited.

Finally I got home, got to hang out with Dennis and the girls, ate, drank a beer, and took a nap. Then I called my dad to wish him a happy father's day and talked with him for a long time.

I talked to my brother, too, who told me my niece Jenny who is a junior in high school, is interested in coming up here this summer to check out Colorado State University. That would be awesome. Jenny is cool. She's going to be queen of the universe someday. Except she seems more like a Boulder sort of person, than Fort Collins. We'll see.

Other than the hailstorm, and maybe the parking nazi, it was a pretty good weekend. As it turned out, we got lucky with the hail. Only one tomato plant got damaged, that's all we could see. The sky is dark tonight, I hope we don't get a repeat of that.

One more day off, then I have four 12 hour shifts at work this week, which I coordinated to fall on my rest week of my running schedule. If I think I'm tired now, just wait. I plan to spend all my days off this week on the bike. I'll resume my training the last week of June...

8 comments:

Tonja Treece said...

Fun! I spent yesterday watching my husband and his friend run the dirty dash for the first time- I let them run while I take pictures!

Ultra Monk said...

The one race I did that had hydra pouches pissed me off because they also had funky coolers at the aid stations. It had a weird nozzle that fit pouches, but you couldn't fill a regualr water bottle without spilling it all over.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Tonja, sounds like fun for all of you!

Alene Gone Bad said...

Ultra Monk, I hear you. The last time I used the hydrapouch it was a freezing cold day, my hands were already frozen and I kept spilling the cold water all over. Torture.

giraffy said...

That's a beautiful course! I wish CO had more oxygen ;)

I love playing tourist during races. Running fast is so hard.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Heather, you really need to come up here and do this one. It's ideal for being a tourist.

HappyTrails said...

Ok, I am LOVING the "It's a hill - get over it" sign! Love it, love it, love it!!! :-) Does that make me bad??? I always laugh when people moan and groan when a road marathon has a total elevation gain of 100 feet - "it's so hilly!". Ha, ha - I AM bad! :-) Glad you MOSTLY enjoyed your day and got to be a tourist. Too bad you got stuck in the tourist traffic heading home. So did your plants survive the hail?
Our Sage used to shake and glue herself to us whenever it thundered, hailed, or even when we drove over the strips in the road that caution for a stop approaching. They are so funny and so loveable. :-)

Alene Gone Bad said...

Kathleen, Australian Shepherds are picky when it comes to their fears!

I'll be thinking of you as you go forward with what I hope is the final chapter in your thyroid saga!

Keep me posted. I wish you a smooth journey through the upcoming weeks...