A few weeks back, one of my facebook friends posted one of those "hey, I'm thinking of running this, anyone want to join me?" posts. I vaguely knew about this race but never thought to research it. September is "get serious about training for that half marathon in October" month. I've been HORRIBLE at getting in my long runs on the weekends. I also had to find 2 more races to do for Team SONY. Even through the price was a bit steep ($60) I thought that this would be good for me because a) it would force me to run 10 miles and b) it would count as one of my Team SONY races. Win-win!
The run starts at the Natural History museum / zoo and works its way through 5 parks, with the finish line at South High School. I know Washington Park / South High School very well (my dad lived near there) but I wasn't very familiar with any of the other parks. I was excited to explore Denver as a runner and see some new things.
Since this run is a point-to-point, getting to the start or finish is interesting if you show up by yourself. The website offered 3 suggestions: 1) park halfway and run to the start and from the finish (about 4 miles each way); 2) get a group of people, stash a car at the finish, then ride to the start; 3) pay $8 for a shuttle that will either take you to the start or from the finish. I opted for option #3, the shuttle. You could either park at the finish and take the shuttle to the start or vice versa. I know South High School very well AND I thought it would be handy to have my car right at the finish so I could leave when I wanted to leave, so I chose the early option. That meant for a 7 AM race start, I had to catch the shuttle at 5:50 AM. UGH. On a holiday no less!
My last "long" run, all of 8 miles, was on July 16th. SEVEN weeks ago. Granted, I've been ok about doing mid-week 6 mile runs, but horrible about doing anything over 6 miles. I really had no idea how 10 miles would feel. I remember last fall, when my IM coach was getting me ready for a December half marathon. She had several of my long runs as descend tempo runs, where you get faster in the last half of your run. So that was the plan... descend this sucker. I wanted to run the first 5 miles as I felt, keeping my HR in the 150's and warm up nice and slow. Then miles 5-8 were at Zone 3, with my HR somewhere in the 160's. Then mile 8 should have my HR in the upper 160's lower 170's. The last mile should be fast where I'm working but not all out, and the last half mile would be as fast as I could sustain until I crossed the finish line.
The pre-race was very low-key. They had last-minute packet pick-up at the race start, a van for you to drop your gear bag (they'd take it to the race finish, a VERY nice feature since it was chilly out and I needed my jacket before the race), and the start line with pace groups. As part of Team SONY, I have a running kit and a tri kit. Only one problem with the running kit - no pockets! I need gels for anything longer than 1 hour, so I wore my tri kit. I think I was the only one (out of 971 people) wearing a tri kit. But at least I had my gels! I found some of my Saturday running club buddies (who I haven't seen in 7 weeks) and said hi. They were going to run faster than I was (how'd that happen? we were the same speed!) so I put in my SONY MP3 player in my ears and decided to be anti-social for the race. Also: my bib number was 777. Such a cool number!
The race went by in a blur - it really didn't feel like 10 miles. The course twists a bunch and travelling from park to park really does provide a good distraction. There were only 3 aid stations (2.5 miles, 5 miles, 7.5 miles) and for whatever reason, that helped things to seem shorter than it really was. Maybe its because I'm trained to see aid stations every 1 mile.
Nothing huge to report on this race report - I kept pretty much to plan. I ran with my hand-held bottle filled with water, as I'm trying to live off the course better. I had 2 Hammer Gels in my pocket, but they were really as a supplement if I needed them. On the way to the race, I had a Coke Zero and a PowerBar, trying to minimize stomach issues. The first few miles my stomach felt a bit icky, more like it was too full. Need to remember that I don't need to eat a whole bar - I bet half a bar would be fine. Fortunately my stomach worked itself out and was a non-issue. I took a gulp of PowerAid at each aid station. At mile 5 I started to get a bit dizzy, so I took in a 1/3 of a gel. It helped, but didn't fix the problem. At ~8.5 I took in more gel, so I'd have good energy for the push to the finish, and that seemed to do the trick.
Pacing was really good. There were some slight hills, and the uphills, while not steep, were LONG. I stayed focused, working on keeping my steps small and light on the hills. I actually passed quite a few people on the hills :) The fun part about going up the hills is when you crest over the top and go downhill. If you keep your foot cadence the same as you did on the uphill, you can FLY downhill. I really pushed the downhills, while staying in my HR zones.
The first 5 miles were pretty uneventful. Just running and getting warmed up, taking in the sights. I'd say that I never really felt warmed up until somewhere around mile 4 or 5. Also around mile 4 or 5, my bladder decided to make its presence known. The port-a-cans at the mile 5 aid station were busy and I was secretly hoping that my bladder was just confused and with time (and more running) it could be ignored. I decided to hold off until the 7.5 mile aid station and use the bathroom then. I increased my pace at mile 5 per my pacing goals and everything was going fine. At mile 7.5, I was happy for a bathroom break, only to find out that the port-o-cans were LOCKED. No idea what the deal was here. I just knew that I had 2.5 miles and no more than 30 min of running left. I decided to suck it up and push for the finish. If I was running hard, then chances are, I wouldn't be thinking about my bladder. This worked and I was fine for the rest of the race.
Miles 8-10 went through Washington Park, which is the area I'm most familiar with. I knew the finish wasn't far and I wanted to see how hard I could run. I kept looking at my watch and was seeing 9:30-9:15 pace. 9:15 is my PR for 1-mile repeats on the track. I didn't know how I could keep up the pace for 2 miles but I was going to try. We got the south end of the park and I pushed more. Then out of the park with 1/2 mile left. You could see the high school, only they were sneaky and made you run around the school into the staduim, and around the track to the finish. I kept the pace, passing people, and once I saw the stadium parking lot, I just lit on my afterburners. That's the best way to describe it. I was tired, but I wanted to push more, so I just went for it. It was such a cool feeling to demand MORE from my body and to have my body respond. I was now running somewhere around an 8:30-8:15 pace and passing all sorts of people, including several who had passed me early on. Then finally the finish line. I'm sure my photo is precious, as I'm redlining and feeling pukey. But I'm happy because I executed my plan, ran FAST, and barely trained for this. Maybe not training is the way to go.
Chip Time 1:43:34
5 mile split: 53:21- I ran the back half of the race 3:08 faster, which is about 37 seconds/mile faster than the first half. PERFECT.
Overall Place 741 / 971
Gender Place 402 / 591
Division Place 86 / 128
Age Grade 48.5%