M&Ms and Red Bull … but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I have been experimenting with the day before long-run fuel. There is the traditional past carbo loading dinner, but I have been reading that it may not be the most ideal. Your body needs time to process the food and if you eat a large meal, it can make it difficult to get well-rested sleep. Fueling should ideally start at least 3 days before a long run to prepare your body for the journey ahead.
We had a team lunch that had us going to East Moon Asian Bistro. It is exactly where in mind I wanted to go when I remembered it was team lunch day, so that was perfect. Sushi (not all the best) and chicken lo mein felt great. Protein and some carbs to fill the tank while time to let me body process it all. For dinner, Tanya made stuffed spinach manicotti and grilled zucchini picked from our garden that afternoon. Of course, had to have dessert, so she made mini-apple pies. I could have eaten 8 of these!
I had no trouble sleeping or getting out of bed. In fact, I was finding myself full of energy and ready to get moving! Breakfast was 2 waffles with syrup (carbs and some sugar) with a cup of coffee. As I’m treating marathons a long training runs, I filled up my camelback with the electrolyte mixture and grabbed a tube of M&Ms plus 2 Honey Stinger Gels. Yup, that’s it for a 4-5 hour run.
Why the M&Ms I have been asked. It seems that I have a tendency to slip into hypoglycemia for some reason. My son has this situation during the day at school and is allowed to snack on pretzels to compensate. After Leadville this year, I realized that the only substance keeping my stomach working was M&Ms and Twizzlers. Sugar. I notice I get this way during the day as well and have started adding more snacks to the day. This also means more planning to be sure I have the fuel needed in order to just function.
I headed down to the race, went to the parking garage I planned on, and applied sunscreen. While in the car, I cracked open a can of Red Bull. This is something new I have been practicing with the past 2 weeks. Sugar, B12, and some energy to kick off the event. All good stuff for me.
Before the race met up with Howard, Eric, and Paul. Howard was the Best Man at my wedding and we’ve known each other for almost 14 years. We’ve worked together at 2 different companies (in 2 very different industries), but only see each other a few times a year. He lives between Denver and the Kansas state line, but we keep in regular contact. In fact, he was the first one that made me aware of running. One day he came into work wearing a half marathon medal around his neck. That day kickstarted my interest in running distance.
Howard and his wife Luciana presented me with a gift. A VIP entrance to the Brooks bathroom area. If you have ever been to one of these events, you know that bathroom lines are long. As in, stand there for 20-30 minutes waiting to go. Nerves don’t help as you wonder if you’ll miss your wave start, maybe freezing in the cold, trying to figure out if there’s organization to the line, and laughing because you paid for this. The VIP area has almost no line and clean bathrooms. Although I didn’t get to use the area, I know what a treasure it is to have the access!
Getting to the corral ran into Terry (Leadville Family) which was great! 15,000 people getting in line for a race and I run into someone I know. Good sign! I congratulated him on finishing Leadville 100 and we chatted about what I’m going to fix for me next year there. So good to have an unfiltered conversation about running with someone.
After last year remembering how crowded the sidewalk (yes, 1 sidewalk for 15,000 people) to get to my corral, I made sure to be there early. Last year, they had bathrooms in the corral. Not this year. I’m not sure why they didn’t do it again as it just makes sense. I could see lines of people waiting for a turn in the bathrooms on the opposite side of the entry to the corrals. Poor logistics.
Standing there, I just took in the surrounding. Didn’t say anything, no music, just zoned out. Hearing people talk about their first half marathon, others dressed in costumes, talk about when this will start, and very few other marathon bibs. Just being in my own little world. Howard came into the corral, shook my hand, and said have a great race. Always great to have a friendly face just before you take off!
With my toe on the starting line (that was pretty cool and a first!), I waited for them to let our corral loose on the streets. People were still smiling and chatting. The stage to my left had several people yelling about getting us yelling and who was a first timer and are you ready and this is what you’ve been working for. All things I have heard before, but still ring true no matter how many times I run. It helps to hear it all again as one of those sayings may come in handy a few hours down the road.
The countdown from 10 began and the horn sounded. I was off and running my 4th Denver Marathon. I knew this course well so was ready for where the personal challenges would be. It was a very conscious effort to not take off like crazy down 14th Street. I was surprised that nobody was passing me as I headed out of the starting area and around the corner. By the end of 14th Street I had caught up to the wave in front of me. I decided to shorten my stride and just ease on through the crowd.
The first 4 miles of the course is pretty nice. Taking you through the heart of the city, crossing the Pepsi Center parking lot (home the NBA Nuggets and NHL Avalanche), down past Union Station, and the corner of Coors Field (MLB Rockies). At mile 2 there was an aid station. I saw someone leave a bathroom and took that as my sign to jump in. It was great timing and much needed!
After these few sights, the chatter amongst the crowd really thins out. People are realizing they came out to fast, starting to get into their rhythm, or just being in the moment. I knew that we were heading up 17th Street in a couple blocks which is a steady incline completed with an obvious uphill at the end.
First 8 miles went by easily. I’m not sure why, but halfway through the first park, I saw the 8 mile marker and thought “well that’s nice.” My foot that had been bothering me for 2 weeks was still bothering me. Didn’t really care as I told the foot it didn’t have a choice. I could almost swear a voice in my head replied “we shall see about that.” Normal to hear voices, so just kept going.
About this time is when the course puts you on a down and back route. This is where you run about a mile 1 way and then a mile back (maybe more). It’s fun because you get the ultimate people watching experience. You see those ahead of you only to turn around and see those following your path. It also provides a chance to see how far ahead the next pace group is. In my head, I was looking for the 4 hour marathon pace group. Such a delusional world I live in sometimes.
Leaving the park area and heading towards the next park, I get to pass by the big gold dome capital building. From there, the course wraps around to another park where the half marathons stay to the right towards the finish. They’re pretty excited and spectators are yelling about a mile or two to go. Good time for me to turn on some music and enjoy a much thinner crowd.
The next part of the course involves a 2 miles down the street and turn around 2 miles back. Before you get to turn around they make sure to take you to the bottom of a hill of course. Coming back down the road I passed the 13 mile mark and looked at my watch. If I was just doing the half marathon it would have been a PR day. Why do something I already know I can do though.
My foot that had remained a constant stinging of pain for 14 miles had now just flipped out on me. I think it gave me the middle toe. I got the message.
I played Taylor’s Swift “We Are Never Getting Back Together” … foot didn’t like that. I found it kind of funny and others were laughing as well. Or maybe they were laughing because I was singing the lyrics outloud. Possibly too loud.
I did my best to alter my foot strike to reduce the pain that was now being shot up into my leg. After a couple miles of this though, I switched to a run/walk strategy.
Entering Washington Park at mile 17 was the last major landmark. This part of the course is always a struggle for me. I’m not sure if it’s the point of 17 miles into the day or being able to see the entire loop around the park that is left to travel. What made this route a little more easier this year was knowing beer was ahead. No, not race supported, but spectator supported. I had thought the beer was just after mile 17, so when I did not see or hear them, my heart sank a bit. Hitting the mile 18 mark it made me sad. Then as I rounded the corner I heard them. Music blasting and yelling galore! I ran up to their table and did a couple shots of beer. So nice! The group cheered louder and all drank from their (much larger) cups. That made the pain a little easier to deal with … for 6 or 7 minutes.
Made it through Wash Park relatively (denial) unscathed in what seemed like a faster pace then previous years. I knew that I basically had a 10k to the
beer finish line. The city skyline was off in the distance. What felt like too far of a distance.
I knew that at mile 22 I’d see a familiar face at an aid station. Lisa is someone that I met on the trail in Leadville during the Silver Rush 50 who we took turns passing back and forth. The volunteers at the these aid stations make the event possible and their constant energy is encouraging! After moving through the aid station, it wasn’t long again before my foot gave a smirky jab at my body. My stomach was fine and energy level a little low, but M&Ms were doing the trick. That foot on the other hand, was becoming more and more of a real issue.
At mile 24 I should have just gone to straight walking. The pain in my foot was now shooting up my back and into my head. That seemed to be a sign. Well, there were many signs. This one was getting just a bit more obvious. I actually remember myself saying:
Just keep running. You don’t really have to walk tomorrow.
That would be the moment I knew I loved doing these things. It hurt like hell, and that just made it a better experience.
This course doesn’t make the last mile very easy. In fact, they toss a large quarter mile uphill into it. Whatever. Who cares after 4 hours of doing this stuff. Power up this hill because it’s a rolling downhill into the finish. In fact, the race course is doing me a favor with the uphill so I can finish on the down. Oh the justification we create on the fly.
Rounding the corner and seeing the finish line took away any pain I was feeling. About a hundred feet from the finish line was the announcer yelling into a microphone. She saw my shirt and yelled out “alright American Cancer Society and Team Determination!!!”. I hadn’t seen her until that moment and she had a hand up in my face for a high-five. I might have managed a smile and crossed the finish line.
After receiving my medal I considered going to the medical tent to grab a bag of ice for my foot. Nah. That can wait to later.
Enjoyed an Evol burrito (you must go buy those now!) and some water. I did a little stretching, which made things start to hurt, and grabbed a couple bags of cheese fries things. I left the finish area and headed for beer. My ID was in my camelback which would mean taking it off to retrive it. That’s when I noticed I was a bit stiff and sore. I plopped down in front of the beer garden entrance and removed my bag to get the ID. After what seemed like 20 minutes, I was ready to enter. Getting the beer was fast and I sat down to enjoy a live band.
Another marathon finish complete. I finish these with a sense of glad I finished 26.2 miles and wish I could go faster. I’m glad that I finished, but really wished I had the time to put in to go under 4 hours or even qualify for Boston. I know that the ability is there as this time is an hour faster then my first marathon in 2009. The opportunity to improve is always there, it is a matter of having the plan, support, and effort to put into getting there.
Someone asked me the next day how I was walking around after running a marathon. That never really occurred to me that I wouldn’t be walking around the next day. As long as I was conscious about how my left foot landed, there was very little pain. Some soreness, but nothing that I would let cripple me. After all, I got home from the marathon, took a shower, then walked around the neighborhood with my son for 2 hours as he sold popcorn. Life moves forward with or without you. One can choose just to watch it go by or become part of life.