Only a few months after completing my first full marathon in January, and vowing to never run another, I found myself registered for the Revel Rockies Marathon. Whether it was the power of a persuasive friend or the lure of the marathon distance, I can’t be sure. But what I do know is this ….deep down inside of me, even while swearing I’d never run another, I felt I needed one more just to prove to myself that it wasn’t a fluke …that I could do it again. For some reason, the ‘one and done’ felt like I was wimping out. So, when Holly asked if I was interested in running this marathon with her …I knew I had to do it. I had to run ‘just one more marathon’.
I have to confess, I almost didn’t even make it to the airport on Friday. My sweet Chester boy (my lab) had a seizure literally as I was walking out the door. He has them occasionally and I am seeing a trend that ‘stressful’ situations seem to trigger them. Apparently, me leaving is stressful. My heart ached as I held him tight until the seizure passed. For a split second, I seriously considered canceling the entire trip. Crazy, I know. As always, all I needed was a quick conversation with Major Hubs to talk me off the ledge and I was on my way. Or so I thought. I did have a slight ‘issue’ getting into the long-term parking garage at the airport which caused more stress only to be compounded by the announcement just as I reached my gate that my flight was delayed. Seriously? Is this a bad omen? Are the running gods trying to tell me something? Regardless, I pressed on.
Fortunately, Holly’s flight was delayed as well and about four hours later, we were finally on board our connecting flight out of Atlanta. Denver, here we come!
I believe it was a little after 2 am when we finally walked into our hotel room and I’m pretty sure it didn’t take long for either of us to fall asleep. We found a nearby french inspired restaurant for breakfast and coffee before heading to the expo. It was a beautiful day with a cool breeze and majestic mountains all around ….and we very quickly noticed a shortness of breath in walking up the slightest of hills. We tried to put it out of our minds and continued to hydrate like crazy.
The expo was absolutely perfect ….not too big and not too small. Within 5 minutes, we had bibs and packets in hand and were cruising the vendor tables. Give me this size expo any day! Swag included a nice tank (Tiffany blue) with a reflective logo and a Headsweats cap. I also really appreciated the throw-away gloves and heat sheet provided for a cool morning start.
Later in the day, we took the train to downtown Denver for dinner and an adult beverage to fuel up and calm the nerves before turning in early for a 3 am wake up.
Since we were staying in the official host hotel, we only had to walk outside and board a shuttle taking us directly to the starting line. Pretty nice. Holly and I were not able to sit together so I chatted with an elderly gentleman who was running his 15th marathon at the ripe old age of 72. I will admit, I pondered the idea of still running marathons at that age before I remembered that I had declared this would ‘most definitely’ be my last full.
As we meandered up the mountain at a snails pace, watching the sun slowly rise above the mountains, I began to feel the old familiar pre-race butterflies. This was it. We stepped off the bus, headed to the porta-potty lines and the realization that there was only one way down this mountain hit hard. It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be rewarding.
After a few pictures and an inspiring National Anthem, we walked as a group down the mountain a few yards to the starting line. It was a quiet and peaceful start …no loud guns or horns ….perfect for the serenity of being 10,500 ft on top of a mountain with the sunrise to your left and only the sound of your feet pounding the pavement beneath you. The first few miles were steep, fast and fun! I intentionally didn’t start my music because I simply wanted to soak up my surroundings …the sights, sounds and smells. It was incredible…. almost spiritual.
Even though I did feel the shortness of breath and slight chest tightness associated with the high altitude and thin air, the steep downhill more than made up for it and the first 11 miles felt easy. I had decided to just run by feel and only take walk breaks when needed since this was a totally different animal than anything I’d ever run and certainly nothing like any of my training runs. I took no walk breaks the first 11 miles and found myself fighting the urge to run faster …but I knew the second half wouldn’t be nearly as steep and would actually have some uphills.
We entered the town of Evergreen around mile 12 and it was a beast. Oh my! While the hill climbs were not nearly as steep as those I train on, after 11 miles of steep descent ..they felt like mountains! I walked, as did everyone around me. Somewhere around 12 or 13, I began to feel the burn in my quads. I stopped for a potty break at mile 13 and noticed the huge bottles of something called Deep Blue Rub ….I lathered up and went on my way.
Shortly afterwards, I was rewarded with an elk siting off in the distance. My legs were hurting but he was beautiful, so it was all good. I also started my run/walk intervals at this point.
There seemed to be several miles here with some ‘gently’ rolling hills. Although, the elevation chart doesn’t show it ..they felt much larger and harder than normal. As hard as I tried to maintain the ‘scheduled’ intervals, my body just simply protested. My legs were trashed. Quads, hamstrings, calves and even my glutes were on fire. It hurt to run but it hurt to stop. Walking felt good but the stopping to walk hurt. Two toes were getting sore from the downhill barrage of pressure. The positive at this point was that the shortness of breath had subsided and the altitude didn’t seem to be bothering me as much. Maybe the pain in my legs was just louder than the pain in my lungs?
By mile 16, all I could think about was the next aid station and those giant bottles of Deep Blue Rub …which I rubbed everywhere, every stop. Mile 16 was my first 14 min mile… previously I was averaging 11:30ish miles. I knew it would be brutally slow the next 10 miles.
And so it was …the battle of mind over body the next 10 miles. So many thoughts ….why did I agree to this? Just get me to the finish line and I’ll never do another! I have got to make the time cut off. What if I don’t make the time cut off? Pick up the pace, you don’t want Holly waiting all day for you? Damn, my legs hurt! I should’ve done more wall sits. Come on, dig deep, you can do this! Just finish this thing!
Unlike my first marathon, I had no surge of energy the last mile and to be honest, the slight uphill at mile 26.10 totally deflated my finish line experience. I was toast …but I had finished. I was a marathoner x 2. It wasn’t pretty. It was hard. But thanks to a fast first half, I shaved 11 minutes off my first marathon finish time and most importantly …I started and finished uninjured!
Pro’s of this race:
- Beautiful course
- Early start (6 am)
- Free race photos
- Relatively small race
- Great swag
- Well stocked aid stations
- Large finisher’s medal
- Well organized
Con’s of this race:
- Ran out of food at the finish
- Fast field of runners leading to a relatively short cut-off time (5:40)
The 100,000 dollar question that everyone seems to be asking me ….will I run another? I don’t know. I’m content right now. But I’m learning to never say never. I’m learning that there is an allure to the marathon distance. I’m learning that there is pleasure in pain and even some satisfaction in unsatisfactory performances. I don’t know if I’ll do another. However, I do know this …downhill marathons are far from easy. The marathon can make you feel like a total bad ass while bringing you to your knees all at the same time. It’s a beastly distance with a ‘sirens’ call. Beware.
…and that’s a wrap, for now!
Finding “Fabulous” at Fifty, one marathon at a time!