I trained this summer with the intensity and focus of an obsessive-compulsive with Asperger Syndrome. Friends and family questioned my sanity. I sweated out ten pounds in the High Plains heat of July and August. My end goal was the Boulder Marathon. I was satisfied with that run, it was my best marathon from the ten I have run since 2010. Call me greedy, but I just can’t let all that training go without squeezing in another run – and today is the Denver Marathon. I know my training is no guarantee of a good marathon, two of those previous ten went horribly wrong. I hit the proverbial wall in the Austin 2011 and Steamboat 2013 marathons and took over 4 hours to finish. I developed arthritis in my symphysis pubis from the Denver 2010 race. I think about all my previous marathons, good and bad, as I ride the shuttle to the race start at Adams County Fairgrounds. Marathons can be brutal, but I feel good about this one.
It’s not enough that the Denver Marathon is run at a mile high in altitude. This year’s course is entirely uphill from start to finish. I was initially irritated by this as I only learned of the course change after registration. I’m maintaining some optimism now after more careful study of the elevation chart. It only rises a little over 200 feet, maybe 600 feet total elevation gain, over 26 miles. With the exception of what appears to be a sizable hill after 9 miles, I probably won’t even visually notice the incline. Hope my heart rate is equally blind.
The major difference over previous years is that rather than running through beautiful and classic old Denver parks and neighborhoods, this year’s course runs upstream along the South Platte River – from Brighton to Downtown Denver. The marathon will launch from a section of trail termed the Colorado Front Range Trail – part of a proposed 876 mile path stretching from Wyoming to New Mexico. Despite the cynicism that accompanies age, I’m hoping for a picturesque, fall-colored, riverfront experience. On paper, the 18 mile South Platte River Trail flows through significant industrial parks and waste treatment facilities. It might be more aptly named the Commerce City Marathon.
I left my iPhone at home so I won’t have any photos. Just as well I show the Denver Marathon logo to note that this will be the final Denver Marathon, at least for the Rock and Roll series. They can’t get approval for the requisite road closures. They’ll continue to run the Half. I start out feeling good and on pace. My goal is to run under 3:30. My first 10K is nearly perfect at 47:50 – about a 7:50 pace. I maintain this for the half, again running almost perfectly to plan at 1:45 with an 8 minute pace overall. Problem is, I start to feel fatigue at 10 miles. I run miles 9, 10 and 11 at 7:53, 7:51, and 7:50 respectively, but slow down to 8:13 for both miles 12 and 13. And this is where the wheels begin to fall off. I slow down to 9 minute miles by mile 16, and the 3:30 pace sign passes me.
I begin running a 10 minute pace by mile 18, slowing down eventually to a 13 minute pace after mile 20. I walk parts of the final 10K and finish in 4:05. My 3rd worst time ever and my 3rd marathon over 4 hours. The fun was over by the half way point and finishing was pure hell. My legs, specifically my glutes, had zero power after 13 miles. I feared this in the back of my mind because my runs have been like this for the last two weeks. I might have strained my glutes in the Jamestown Hill Climb. I’m pretty disappointed but happy I finished. I don’t take these marathons for granted. You can be in the best shape ever and run a poor marathon. I know that.
I suspect strained muscles as my biggest issue, but there could have been others. My age division ran horribly. My Boulder time would have finished 3rd here. I still finished 17th which is hard to believe. The winner barely broke 3:30. So maybe it was the heat. It warmed up into the 70°s and the course had no shade whatsoever. General consensus from talking to others afterward is that this course sucked. It felt so long running out in the farmland north of Denver. Things hardly improved in Denver. Pipes spewing industrial waste into the South Platte were pervasive. And the smell running past the treatment plant was disgusting. This course essentially ran through Denver’s toilet. The South Platte Trail running through Downtown wasn’t exactly spectacular either. Denver’s urban trail system is awesome, but this course wasn’t the showcase.
Maybe I’m being bitter because I had a bad run. Or a bad second half. But then there was the idiot lady who walked in front of me with a metal suitcase at the 26 mile sign without looking. I hit her suitcase hard. Still can’t believe I didn’t go down, but it was a momentum killer for sure. There was no kick after that.
Might take some time off from running to heal. Absolutely everything hurts so much right now. I might be burned out on running. Winter sports are calling me. When I think I can do stairs again, I’m going to check out my snowshoe and snowboard gear in the basement.