Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Redrum: Estes Park Half Marathon 2014

Redrum. That was what I thought at mile 11 when we were running by the Stanley Hotel, where the movie The Shining was filmed.

At that moment, I felt like I was going to puke something that looked like red rum.

I ran the Estes Park Half Marathon this morning as a hard training run. Might as well have been a race, except I wasn't thinking about competing. The effort was close to what I'd do in a race, except my legs are dead at the end of an 80 mile week.

The race started at 6:20 so I woke up at zombie o'clock and dragged myself out of bed. I was so tired, didn't want to wake up. But I got my act together by 4:15 and drove up the canyon to Estes Park in the darkness. It was just getting light when I arrived.

As the sun rose it looked like it would be a perfect day, it was calm, with a few clouds, and cool. In past years it always seemed to get hot in the marathon by about halfway through.

I told Wheaties Boy the other day that I would happy with a sub-2 hour effort at the half marathon. This race is TOUGH. The fact that it starts at 7500 feet and tops out at 7900 feet, with lots of hills in between, is enough. The temperatures were perfect, it was about 50 degrees, but there was a stiff headwind for about 4 miles on the downhill section in the second half, which made running the downhill part a bit more difficult.

I was doing this run more for my head than my body, even though it is a hard training run. Since I rarely train above 7000 feet, I don't generally run well at altitude anymore. I want to be able to carry a 9 minute pace easily, for hours, as part of my ultra training, but a 9 minute pace at this altitude, on this course, would be a challenge.

I was hitting 8:30 to 9:30 pace consistently, with one 7:54 and a 10 minute mile or two. I knew the effort was hard because I felt nauseated the whole time, which is typical for me when I make any kind of effort at altitude. The best I ever did at this marathon was a 4:12, in 2007, and I ran well that year in all of my other races. I've never done the half before.

The course climbs consistently from about mile 4 through 7, then there's a fairly steady downhill until mile 11 that's broken up by a few steep little uphill pitches. I was fighting that headwind and my splits were down in the 8 minute range but it was so hard.

I was working too hard to want to try a gel. It probably would have helped. I stuck to water. I carried my pack with a full water bottle and a couple of gels so I wouldn't have to stop at the aid stations. That turned out to be a good plan because every time I got to an aid station table, there were a lot of people and it was crowded.

It was interesting and somewhat entertaining to be running a distance that I rarely do anymore. I noticed a lot of funny things watching the runners. Lots of those multi-bottle waist packs, lots of compression socks, lots of camelbacks and running vest-packs. Looked like these people were out for a long day in the woods, like they packed a lunch and then some. But they were doing a road race that might take them 2 or 3 hours. Just interesting to see what people think they need for this distance. There were aid stations nearly every mile.

I ate a big breakfast at 4 am, but it was long gone and when I finished I was starving. When I got to 11 miles, we run by the Stanley hotel and I was to the point of taking deep sighs and wishing for it to over. So as we ran past the Stanley, I was thinking about how I felt like death, like redrum spelled backwards (for anyone who never saw or read The Shining). I looked at my watch at 11 miles and it was 1:39 something. Oh shit. I better push hard to get in under 2.

The last two miles of the race go on a fairly flat bike path until the last half mile, which is a steady climb up to the high school track. You finish with about 3/4 of a lap on the track. I felt a little better on the flats and picked it up, passing a lot of people. But I couldn't turn my legs over much faster, I know I would have been on the side of the path puking then. I just wanted to be done. My watch time was 1:57:29, and the chip time was a second or two off of that. My last 5K split was sub-27 minutes.

I checked the results as soon as they were posted, while I ate a breakfast burrito inside the school and stayed warm. A storm was moving in, which made me even happier that I wasn't in the marathon. When I saw the results, I noticed that 1:57:29 puts me at an 8:59 average pace. Awesome! Sub-9!

I also saw that I placed third in my age group, and the two women ahead of me were only ahead by 2 and 4 minutes. I decided not to stick around for awards, I wanted to get home and eat and sleep!

I drove back down the canyon and I realized it was the first time I've been on highway 34 since the flood last fall. I could not believe the devastation, of the river banks, boulders, trees, houses, and bridges, especially in the area around Drake. There was this one area that was completely leveled, and in the river there were still large pieces of debris in a few spots: washed out bridges, pieces of houses, furniture, pieces of cars, and other large objects that have still not been recovered. Lots of buildings with half the foundation gone, sticking out over the edge of the riverbanks, with signs all over the front entrances, driveways and windows.

It's a cool day here in the Fort and I needed some food so I made some pancakes and now I'm about ready for a nap. Tomorrow starts another week. That was so much fun this morning, I'm considering running a 10K next weekend if I can find one. Don't know where this wild hair came from!


Ultra Monk said...

Sometimes people know they are slow and might take 3 hours to finish a half marathon. And sometimes aid stations are out of cups by the time the BOPers get there.

Alene Gone Bad said...

True. I was amazed by the high tech gadgets and clothing people wore though, seemed like they were out for an all day adventure!

giraffy said...

I always laugh when I hear CO people say it's hard to run at altitude. Duh! :D

I see a LOT of people carrying extraneous aid on all types of races, people are nuts. At a 5 mile trail race last week, with three aid stations, I saw someone with a camelback and a handheld. What.

Congratulations, sub-9!

Alene Gone Bad said...

Maybe they need an IV pole if they can't make it through a 5 mile race with 3 aid stations. Unless the trail went straight up in the middle of Death Valley.

Altitude: we make up for it with the beer.