Thursday, November 6, 2014

Denver Rock n' Roll Marathon - 2014

  • The Thursday before the Denver Rock n’ Roll Marathon, my weight was the highest it’s been since January.
  • The day before, I ran my last real training run, and was 20 seconds over my 1 mile PR.
  • The forecast was for temps in the low 70’s – 20 degrees warmer than ideal.
  • The first half of the course was going to be completely different, with more climbing than in past years.

Not very good omens heading into the weekend, but for some reason, I was still relatively optimistic.  I kept telling myself that I was now smarter, better at pacing myself, and had better endurance.  I’ve had some pretty good ultra results this year, but a road marathon is so different – so short and fast.  There’s just no room for error.  No time to recover.

I was also going in with modified orthotics, with only a 7 mile jog to test them prior to the race.

My optimism was in large part based on my great performance at the Bear Chase Race 100K, just 3 weeks earlier.  I never have two good races in a row, but I was hoping this could be the start of something new.

The forecast was for mid 70’s, a bit warm for my taste, but I was planning on being done around 10:15, before the real heat set in.

There are free places to park for this race, but for a mere $5, I always choose to park in the garage that’s only a block away from the start/finish.  I got there early, as usual, and walked around a bit, while scoping out the shortest potty lines.  The ones on the south end were extensive, from early on, the ones on the north end of the park were had no lines at all, until about 6:30, then every port-o-potty had unbelievable lines.  I just don’t get it.  Why can’t race organizers get enough potties to alleviate this hassle?  There’s nothing worse than waiting in line and looking constantly at your watch, wondering if you’ll miss your start time.

I ran into a couple of fellow runners from the Belmar Running Club in the dark and chilly morning.  As the clock struck 7:00, I took off my nice warm layers, handed them in to the sweat check volunteers, and headed off towards the start, which is on the opposite end of the park – another thing I’m not crazy about on this race.

It was tough getting into the crowded corral, but as I made my way across to the left side, I found a bit of elbow room.  I also found a few more club runners, including Eric.  He was shooting for a 1:28 on the half, and actually wound up finishing in just over 1:25, which is amazing, especially with the tougher course.

After the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, I took off my disposable shirt, shuffled closer to the start, and we were off!

I was running along at a very comfortable pace, feeling great, when I looked at my Garmin and saw that my pace was 7:30 for the first half mile – no wonder it felt so easy.  I slowly picked it up, knowing that I couldn’t afford much of a deficit.  With a nice downhill, I recovered to 7:01 by the end of the first mile.

As we climbed up the bridge that would take us over the tracks and I-25, everyone was shocked to see the Mile 2 marker to our left.  It was a full .15 miles short.  On the other side of the bridge, my fellow runners’ GPS beeped along with mine, when we hit the true 2 mile mark.  Mile 3 was then long by .2 miles.  This got the overall mileage pretty close, but these errors would totally crew up anyone running without a GPS.  This is my 5th running of the Denver Marathon and it seems that every year they have some distance issues.  In 2010, before it was taken over by the Competitor Rock n’ Roll group, mile 24 was long by .144 miles.  I had realized this immediately, without even having a GPS back then.  The past few years, the mileage markers in the middle of the race were off by noticeable amounts, but the total worked itself out by the end.  This year, many of the miles were short or long by .1 to .2 miles, and my total came in at 26.47.  I know that GPS’s aren’t 100% accurate, weaving adds distance, and the course is measured along the shortest tangents, but that stuff is irrelevant when you have single miles off by up to .2.  Today’s GPS’s are not off by 20%, and any errors would not be consistent enough to have all of them beep the mileages off at the same time.

Members of the Belmar Running Club & Runners Roost Team were manning one of the early aid stations near Sloans Lake.  The friendly faces and encouragement were definitely welcomed.  I tried to flash the Belmar tattoo, though they were on the opposite side.

The off mileage was annoying, but I tried to not let it affect me too much.  What did affect me, was the additional climbing.  After 3 years on the same course, they totally changed things, taking the first half west as far as Sheridan Blvd.  This added quite a bit of extra climbing, and most of it in the first 7 miles.  I made up decent time on the downhills and was pleased to be only off by only 30 seconds after those tough 7 miles.  I took advantage of the decent back to east and made up almost all the lost time in the next two miles.  Unfortunately, the wind was picking up a bit, and though it never got really strong, it was enough to add noticeably to an already hard effort.

By mile 10 I started having doubts about my 3 hour goal.  .  I had kept close to the 1:30 half marathon pace group but by the time the half marathoners split off, I knew it wasn’t going to happen.  I was a bit disappointed, but certainly not devastated.  I figured I would ease up just a bit, run the second half at a 7:00 to 7:10 pace, and still finish with a second best marathon performance.  Unfortunately, that did not work out.  I kept slowing down, little by little, but it didn’t get any easier.  My pace slowed down to the mid 7’s, then through the 8’s, then a few 9 minute miles (which actually felt more like 12’s) before it was finally over.  I went from a 3 hour pace, down to finishing in 3:22:05 over the course of the second half.  I kept a smile on my face and a relatively positive attitude, repeating to myself that I just couldn’t push my limits and expect to have a great day at every race.

I got passed by Joel, who was pacing the 3:15 group, in Wash Park and apparently lost another 7+ minutes to him in the final 3 miles.

Back in May, I fell apart at the Colfax Marathon, but it was nothing like this.  I started off with a 3 hour goal and lost that even earlier, by mile 7.  Even though I slowed after that, I still managed a 3:09 and never felt quite as dead as I did at the Rock n’ Roll.  The worst part of this horrible performance was probably that I couldn’t quite pinpoint the reasons for it.  Yes, I went out too fast and hard, but I should have been able to hold onto a slightly slower pace without continuing to fall apart.  Cloud cover made the temperatures quite pleasant until the sun broke through in the last hour.  The wind was a factor, but not extreme.  I just can’t quite figure it out.

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