The quicker version
I went through the first half at 1:23:30 feeling pretty good. The weather was perfect. 50 degrees, sunny and mostly calm for the first two loops. I ran smooth and hit my pacing goal pretty close. I had a goal of 2:45 and felt that I had the fitness for it. My awesome bike support crew Steve and I were loving the weather. The ponds down by Valmont road were glassy smooth. Hardly a breeze in the air.
I thought I might have dodged the recently forecast wind bullet!
Not so fast...the morning isn't over yet.
In the 3rd loop the wind picked up. When I reached the 4th loop it was on in full force. At mile 21.5 I was nearly stopped in my tracks by a monster gust of wind in the face. Running along the edge of the flatirons golf club the entire sky in front of me was full of twirling blowing leaves. It was a really cool sight! But not the easiest of running conditions.
I was getting blind-sided by the leaves in the face. By this time my pace had deteriorated, and I was knew the goal was out, so I tried to focus on pushing through the wind and fatigue. And I was not successful in pulling the pace back from the dead until the last mile.
I ran a 1:33:49 for the second half turning in a 2:57:19 for my first attempt at racing a road marathon.
I've got to start somewhere right?
Here were the loop splits:
- Loop 1 - 41:21 - 6:19/mile average
- Loop 2 - 42:09 - 6:26/mile for the loop, 1:23:30 for the half - 6:22/mile total
- Loop 3 - 45:03 - 6:52/mile for the loop, 6:32/mile total
- Loop 4 - 48:46 - 7:26/mile for the loop, 2:57:19 total - 6:45/mile average
The numbers might make that look like a classic blowup and suffer-a-thon. But actually there wasn't much suffering going on. That was the problem. I wasn't able to motivate myself enough to push through the pain required to keep the pace near 6:20 the whole way. So I just ended up slowing down to basically a jog by the last lap (7:26 avg).
So I didn't hit my time goal. But how about these positive takeaways:
- I set a PR!
- I took 1st place!
- I totally annihilated the Course Record!
OK, that's totally lame.
There are some actual takeaways though, but first…
The lengthier details
Pre-race - The weather forecast on Tuesday was looking perfect. Saweeet! I love you weather! November 12 could serve up all sorts of nastiness if it wanted to, but 50 degrees and Sunny?? I accept!
Oh wait…what's that? Severe WIND WARNINGS started popping up on Thursday. NOOOOOO!
That was bugging me. But I wasn't going to change the date. I was already tapered and the next time to do it was a week away which was less than ideal from a tapering standpoint. So I decided to go forth.
But Jeff V gave me the great idea to just change the route…and head straight east with the wind. I remembered Boston this year and got excited about the idea of running a marathon with a 30 MPH tailwind. So I mapped out a backup route. I decided to use the new route if after one loop the wind proved too brutal.
But I was surprised to find no wind at my 7 AM go time. It was almost eerily calm as I took off my jacket and got ready to push start on the watch.
Steve met me at the start and after giving him my liquid shot flasks and water, I jogged around for 1.75 minutes to warm up. Then promptly got the project under way.
As expected, the first lap was easy. Steve and I chatted, it stayed calm the whole time, and everything was right on track. I thought I might do the first loop in 42 minutes and try to decrease from there. I did 41:21 which was right on goal pace, so that worked.
At 30 minutes in I started a pretty regular schedule of taking a swig of EFS every 15 minutes along with water periodically. I kept this up consistently for the next couple hours.
41:21 - 6:19/mile average
I slowed down a bit on this loop and chatted a bit less with Steve. I saw my mile splits a bit slower, but didn't try to increase, because I still felt like hitting the half in 1:23 or so would be optimal.
Around mile 10-11 the remaining 16 seemed a bit daunting. But I wasn't hurting and I moved my thoughts back to the current mile and that felt better.
When we got back to the park for the half way point my family was out there cheering me and giving me high fives. I enjoyed seeing them…but it also made me kind of want to go play at the park with them and relax. I think I was tiring of the pace already at this point, mentally at least.
42:09 - 6:26/mile for the loop, 1:23:30 for the half - 6:22/mile total
Coming through the half is pretty much just smiles and staches
I slowed for a minute or so to regroup after leaving the park, then pressed onward.
At mile 16.1 I looked at my 3 mile split from the half - It was about 20:10 - so 6:42 pace. I knew my goal pace needed to be at 19 minutes for that 3 mile section and this was discouraging.
It was mainly downhill yet I was falling off pace. What I didn't think about yet was how much the wind had picked up. But I was feeling a bit tired and it was disheartening to notice myself off the goal pace so much after 3 miles.
Then we passed the pond that was glassy in on the first two loops. Now it was pretty choppy and wind was coming at us from all directions it seemed.
That made me glad I didn't change the course to go straight east. At least on my loop course there were sections that were protected from the wind.
At this point I was still on a pace to be able to run 2:50 or so. But I didn't think to latch onto a new goal pace. Instead I just started avoiding looking at the mile splits not wanting to know anymore. That didn't help with my motivation to run fast or push through the fatigue.
My mind was pretty tired at this point. And I think that was amplified by not having a defined goal any more, since the original goal seemed out of reach.
And the wind continued to pick up. Running north under the Arapahoe tunnel I felt like I was trying to pull a parachute or something.
45:03 - 6:52/mile for the loop, 6:32/mile total
Am I too happy for 19.65 miles in? Maybe I need to learn to suffer (or not)
It was nice to have the family cheering section again as I got back to the park. I was pretty far off pace at this point, but at least I was feeling encouraged now by being on the final lap.
And then the wind got relentless.
Which did a fairly decent job at destroying my newly acquired 'bell lap' motivation. 6.55 miles is kind of a long bell lap by the way…just fyi.
This is where 5 inch leaves were blasting me in the face repeatedly.
Then rounding a corner trying to pick it up only to have a 50 mph (estimate) gust nearly stop all progress.
Then finally getting back to the ponds only to see them fully windblown with waves and the trees and leaves going crazy everywhere.
I can't complain about the sun and temperature, even if the wind was brutal
Just kept plugging along. Looked down at the watch periodically to see the pace in the 8 min. range. Tried to pick it up and at least get it back to the 7's.
I pretty much threw in the towel on the 6 minute range 5 or 6 wind gusts prior.
The 22 mile face
Going north under the Arapahoe tunnel for the final time was twice as hard as the previous time. All the wind being focused directly down the tube in my face.
Oddly enough, 1/4 mile up the hill the wind was at my back.
1.5 miles to go and I've got myself a solid tailwind. And it was pushing me for about 1/2 mile which was extremely nice and much appreciated at that point!
But it was too little too late to even come close to salvaging the original goal. And anyway I made a left turn and the tailwind was gone.
I was able to cover the last mile in about a 6:30 though, thanks to Steve.
Pick it up, nobody has ever regretted going too hard in the last half mile.
The truth of that statement made me laugh to myself. And I was finally capable of picking it up again.
Finished: 48:46 - 7:26/mile for the loop, 2:57:19 total - 6:45/mile average total.
Finishing is nice.
And of course it's all grins and goaties when you finish a marathon.
Though I didn't hit my initial goal, I was fine with it for a couple reasons.
- I didn't know what to expect. I gave my best attempt at a goal time and went for it. It didn't work out. Now I know better what to expect for the next time.
- That wind was rough!
My observations post Marathon
Loop running can be kind of challenging mentally.
I can use work on the mental middle game.
My legs aren't sore the next day, and I can easily run up and down the stairs at home. That tells me my mind and not my body was the limiting factor.
I think I needed to set a new goal at mile 16.1 when I realized 2:45 was out the window, in order to find new motivation. My mind didn’t have much to work with at that point.
A solo time trial effort is a very different animal than an organized race.
I have a lot more respect for the marathon today.
The Free Fall Marathon?
Would I do that again? Sure, why not? I thoroughly enjoyed training for it, and the price was right! But I do want to do an actual marathon event sometime...perhaps this spring even.