Time to summon the beast within, it’s marathon morning. It’s BQ attempt morning!
As I rolled out of bed before 2am, I think I had myself talked out of a great race before my first cup of coffee was even brewed. I tried and tried to get my head in the game early on that morning, but something just didn’t feel right. Most of the time when I awake on the morning of a race, I start visualizing. I start feeling that energy. I get my game face on. So here begins the struggle within.
I’m not sure if it was the pressure that I put on myself was what was taking a toll or not. I think I was feeling just some overall exhaustion, too. I just didn’t feel 100%. You know, it takes feeling 110% to run your best marathon. I think it was probably a combination of the two.
I knew, and posted about this previously, that I was really taking a lot on by scheduling myself such a whirlwind trip to Colorado to begin with. I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I couldn’t just be satisfied running one race (a marathon), I just had to go and schedule a second one. Looking back on it, more than likely it did me in. Oops, I’m giving away the ending already aren’t I? Well, it’s probably no surprise, but I didn’t get my BQ on Sunday at the Rockies Marathon. There, I said it. I’ve admitted it. Now I have to own up to it. Here is what happened, and it may or may not have had anything to do with flying for four hours on Friday, then driving for four plus hours right afterward. Going to bed at 2am, getting up and pacing a Half Marathon on Saturday morning. Driving another four hours back to Denver…. Yes, it kinda goes something like that. My hips hurt, my feet didn’t. My hips rarely hurt. My ass hurt. I just drove 8 hours, and flew for 4 right before a marathon. A BQ attempt. DUH!
And so it began… With a drive to Bandimere Speedway in Morrison from my hotel in Westminster at like 3:30am. Total darkness, about a 20 minute drive. Smooth, right? No one else on the roads except for other runners heading to the same place. Simple. Well, you would think. It was completely simple until I got to the exit for the Speedway. Headlights streaming into view from the other direction, lined up for what seemed like miles. I was on the easy side though, with just a right hand turn off the exit, and another quick right into the parking lot. It was dark. There were too many cars trying to merge into one lane. It took far too long. It added stress, that just didn’t need to be burdened on a marathon runner before the big race. As I past into the parking area, there were two buses on the side of the road. One was being looked at by a mechanic. PANIC! See? Those words rhyme.
I finally parked. Still with plenty of time to catch the marathon buses. You see, the marathon and half marathon had different times to load onto buses since the races started in two different locations at two different times. We started earlier. 6am, to be exact. At an elevation of over 10,000 ft. This meant we had about a half hour bus ride. No portopotties that I saw in the parking area, but still plenty of darkness. I say I’m sorry to that 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix that may have gotten accidentally splashed with urine. Sorry, really. I got into what seemed to be a three tiered line for the marathon buses which were already going. Within about 5 minutes I was loading onto a bus which clearly was going to reach maximum capacity before I could find a seat. Note to bus driver…. Count passengers as they load. If the bus has room for 65 passengers, count to 65, and then tell the next person the bus is full before they get on, argh! Of course this didn’t happen, and I am on the bus with about ten other people, all standing there realizing there are no seats. We all had to get off, and of course, lose our place in the bus line. Ok, don’t get me started! I just tried to roll with it. I got into the line again. And we waited, and waited, and waited.
Once another bus finally showed up, I found a seat next to a woman who was also going for a BQ. We chatted away in the darkness. Eating oatmeal bars, and hydrating. We had a great conversation. I told her I had paced in Aspen the day before. She said, oh, I know a woman named Jill that paced up there, too. Lol, yeah, same Jill I drove to the start in Aspen. Small world.
After a long and winding journey up into the mountains, we arrived. We arrived at about 5:30am. Just barely getting light out. The sun was rising. It was chilly. About 45 degrees. I made my way to the table to grab some throw away gloves and a Mylar blanket. A perfect race amenity that surely was needed on a chilly morning way up high in the Rockies. This is what I saw.
Views abounded through the pines. I knew right then that this was going to be a masterfully beautiful run. I took these photos on my cell phone, and aren’t the best quality, but you get the picture.
I stretched, and took in the mountain air. With a slight delay of ten minutes while we waited for the last bus to arrive, I shook out my legs, my nerves, my bladder.
We lined up, got my Garmin set and soon I was running.
I ran free. With abandon. I felt good. Wasn’t feeling my sore hips. Was breathing great considering the altitude, was developing a nice fast pace. For me, that is. A pace I knew I needed on the downhill. Not too much, but just enough. Comfortable. I never felt I was going too fast. I had overheard a runner at the expo talk about three uphill sections later in the course that would be a test. I tried to plan for them both mentally and physically. I didn’t want to pour on too much sauce too early. Been there, done that.
The miles ticked by. Taking in the views of the sunrise, the gorgeous mountains in the distance, the fresh air. I was happy. I felt good. I enjoyed myself. I was going after my BQ, and things felt better than I though they would. I was positive and smiling. My pace was great. Five miles in at about 7:25 overall. Not too fast like Big Cottonwood last year, I told myself. Keep it even. Stay focused.
8 miles in…. 7:35 pace. Perfect, I thought. I was feeling good. As the course continued it’s downward path, I enjoyed every bit of it. I spent a bunch of those miles hanging out with, and swapping positions on the road with this woman. She had Boston in mind, too. Luckily a photog on the course caught us in a happy moment.
She didn’t get her BQ either, and I never saw her again when we hit one of the hills on the course. Thanks for keeping me company Denise! Hope to see you in Boston one day!
Somewhere between miles 10 and 12, it happened. BQ hopes and dreams went up in smoke. I felt the first twinge. Then another. Then another, and another. My calves were starting to give me trouble. They finally set in, and pretty much out of nowhere. Cramps that were just debilitating. The kind of cramps that set you off the side of the road, in pain. Waiting for the pain to subside. Massaging it away, willing it to go away. Stay away!
They didn’t. Unlike any other race prior. Mind you, this was my 20th marathon. For the next 10 miles I struggled with these damn cramps. Off and on. On and off. Terrible. I struggled not only with those, but also the voice inside me saying “it’s over”. It was over. I knew it. When the cramps didn’t go away after a few bouts, I knew it was over. Ok, wrap your head around just doing the best you can. I tried to make the most of it. Hell, I even took some pictures when I was trying to walk out a cramp. At least I had great scenery.
The cramps were relentless. I adjusted my stops at aid stations. Trying just water, trying just Gatorade, trying a combination. Eating a banana. Well, bottom line is that they lasted easily ten miles, the most irritating ten miles I think I’ve ever run. Irritating because of all of the starts and stops. Knowing my time was slipping further and further and further away from my goal. It was just excruciating. The agony of defeat. A bitter pill, for sure.
As my time slowed to a nonsensical pace at times, it took everything I had not to cry out of pure frustration. Was it the altitude? How was I dehydrated? Did I overwork myself the day prior? Why in the hell was I cramping like this today? The day I was going after my BQ? Why? Bite the bullet and run when you can. Try to salvage what you can. I convinced myself that I would not give up, that I would still give it all I had. What? Now my nipple was bleeding? Bloody hell! What now? I did my best to cover the suspect at photo spots on course. What’s worse than free photos with bloody nipples?
I tried to paste on a smile. Every now and then.
Sometimes it worked, other times, well, not so much.
But guess what? This guy doesn’t give up! I don’t quit, and I make the most of what’s given to me. And I’ll be damned, I ran that final three miles and never stopped. Sure, I struggled for what seemed like an eternity. But you know what? I didn’t stop. I will never stop. I won’t stop. Nope. I know it will take the perfect race for me to get to Boston, but it will happen. One day.
I made it to the finish on Sunday. I ran with pride into the town of Morrison. Not a soul passed me the final three miles of that race. The cramps subsided, and I made the most of it. I may not have scorched the finish line that day, but I ran my way to my best marathon finish of the year, despite the trouble I had. It goes to show that part of my race was good anyway.
I crossed the finish line in 3:46:46. Tired, but holding on. Marveling in another marathon finish, really, what can I not be proud of? Sure, I didn’t get that BQ I had hoped for, but I still finished strong. My calves did me in that day, but so hard to complain. I made it to the finish, in one piece. Breathing, alive, and mostly happy. It would take a few minutes for the sting to wear off, but it did. Looking back on it now, I wish I had a second chance. That is such the perfect course for a BQ. I know in my heart that if I hadn’t dealt with cramping issues that day, I could have done it. It just wasn’t meant to be that day. But, there will be more opportunities. That is what I love about our sport. The opportunity is there tomorrow, if you want to redeem yourself. Really, the opportunities are endless.
When I had a chance to sit in the grass afterward with this ginormous medal around my neck, my thoughts turned to this…. Where to next?