Race week had finally arrived and that feeling of "calm before the storm" settled in...
The weather in Colorado has always been unpredictable during spring, and I think most of us are used to this crazy element (although I don't quite agree with it) so the last weeks of my mileage increase long runs went something like this:
-Saturday long run 18 miles: pleasant weather, cool, layers worn.
-Saturday long run19 miles: I got rained/hailed on THE ENTIRE TIME. drenched and freezing by the time I was done. average temp, mid 30s
-recovery week: 13 miles and warm, light layers.
-Saturday long run, the mack daddy 20 miler: We got a hot one! I ran out of water twice (thank goodness for planning a route with a King Soopers market for key water/bathroom stops). average temps: mid 50s at start, low 80's at the end.
-recovery week: 10 miles. average temps 70
-recovery week: 6 miles. Last one before the race. average temperature 32 with light rain/drizzle before snow
Based on this, it was really a gamble knowing what the weather would be like on race day... then it snowed on tuesday and they predicted a high of 85 for sunday.
All my training had been done, I worked hard, went to the track every week without fail, dialed in my nutrition and hydration (during the week AND while running), and honestly started feeling strong overall by adding two more disciplines to my training. Swimming and biking is truly making me stronger!
RACE MORNING is finally here. I had everything ready, clothes, nutrition, garmin, bib number, road id, etc. Woke up at 3am (yes, I wake up at least 2 hrs before I head out) had coffee and my ritual 2 blueberry (gluten free) muffins while getting ready. Walked the dog, and headed out for an early race start (6am, love it!).
Arrived at City Park at 5:15, and after scouting the area, and after the 1st port-a-pottie break, went to the Team In Training tent to say hi and from there, headed to the bathroom one last time before getting to my corral (before a marathon, you HAVE to get all the bathroom breaks you can get! nobody wants to stop at mile 2..you just got started!)
Everything was super organized, and the race went on smoothly. I was running in no time! I started the race telling myself it was MY race and to keep MY pace, while repeating this mental mantra, I kept an eye on the people around me for reference, would I catch up to them? The pacer for the 4:30 group (my goal) was right in front of me and then, I saw them getting away from me.. again, MY pace, MY race, since I didn't know what their strategy was, I didn't worry. My strategy was negative splits, no matter what. That was my plan, and I was sticking to it!
I mentally write the best blogs while I'm running. I have run the last 2 marathons without music, and I was running this one sans music as well.
I took a mental note that for the 1st 10 miles, my HR never went above 150. That made me happy, because I'm starting to notice other benefits from incorporating triathlon training into my marathon "world". I keep on moving, same effort, same pace -or as close as possible- knowing that my race wouldn't start until mile 16, when we were "out of the woods" AKA done with the 8 miles of steady incline (up). I kept moving right along through the turns, and the deceiving hill that wouldn't end and then:
The highlight of today's marathon: running in Lakewood, around mile 14, and a lady caught up to me to thank me (I was wearing my TNT singlet). She said : "thanks to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, my grandson, who had Leukemia, is alive"
THIS is the reason I keep fundraising! It does count!
THIS is the reason I keep fundraising! It does count!
last turn after mile 15 finally out of the big hill and.... mile 16! Time to get to IT, I took advantage of the now downhill without going "too crazy", there were another 10 miles to go after all, but I still felt powerful in my legs, and every mile split was a bit faster (seconds). My HR kept steady, now over 150 but not above 152 (WOOHOO), I was feeling super confident of my effort, and I knew I could pull faster miles towards the end if I kept the plan intact.
Nice downhill at mile 19 closer to 20, allowed me to have the fastest mile of the race (9:53) and I could feel the heat starting to rise as well (and so did my HR, but just up to 164 momentarily). I made it to the Broncos stadium once again for our second loop around their running track (amazing they have it as part of the race not once (at mile 6), but twice!)
and I kept on drinking water and more Skratch Labs electrolytes. Mile 20, and I was at 3 hours 31 min, I thought to myself, I can do this PR, time to step up. Left the stadium and at this point, there's about 3 miles of concrete running and no shade in sight... mile 22 comes and goes and I need more and more water, the heat is really annoying me, and mentally I try to stay strong and keep pushing, and then we get to mile 24, the part of the course that every Denver race adds to their route towards the end... the killer hill on 17th ave uptown, I had to walk it (sigh), at that point I knew it would be a really hard effort to get a PR (about 7 min/miles from there until the end). I was annoyed and a bit delirious, my left quad was very unhappy and every second I walked I knew it would get harder to start running again, so the moment I got to the top and started running again. The last water station I remember was there, grabbed some water and put it on my bottle, I needed more and more by the second..kept on drinking and running; my legs started feeling like bricks but my pace said otherwise, I was pushing, I was going for it! I knew there would be no PR but that wasn't a reason to quit or slow down, STICK TO THE PLAN, I yelled in my head and I kept getting more and more annoyed by those people comfy on their chairs eating at the restaurants along 17th while I was running a marathon! how dare they rest while I'm in so much pain -discomfort really- (yes, this happens when I get close to the end of a race, since I just want to be done, I want my medal, and I just want to lay down on the grass for a really long time).
Finally we make the left turn north, mile 25 is here, and another right turn to 20th avenue... getting closer to the park. At this point, I feel I'm about to kill anyone who dares stepping in front of me, I get to City Park at last and I keep looking for the finish line chute and nothing... not there yet. Mile 26 beeps on my watch... where is the damn .2??? my watch keeps on adding distance, the desperation is at 100% I want to be done, my quads are screaming for mercy! and there it is... I honestly couldn't tell you who was there cheering if there was anyone at all (there was, but my mind is so blank at that point, and all I see is the chute... tunnel vision at its best!) I'm so close! I keep moving, I know it's almost over. I cross the finish line, was there an announcer? Did he say my name as I crossed the finish line? I realized this was probably the case as I was leaving the race and walking to my car and could hear him, but while I crossed there was nothing but silence around me, CRAZY! I shut off everything outside my head and only focused on the task... finish.
So I did. and immediately after, I stopped. I was done. I wasn't moving anymore, and then a voice told me "Daniela, you have to keep moving". It was one of the fireman who hands out the medals. I was out of it, all I wanted was water. Got my medal and went to the water tent and sat there, gasping for air. Drank some water and went to get my picture taken. Out of all the exhaustion from 5 min. ago, once you have your medal (at least in my case) everything is good with the world again, I did it!
After a few minutes walking very slowly, I made it to the TNT tent and sat on the grass. I was out of it, dizzy and feeling I would be unable to move for a long time. Thankfully they had a few massage therapists helping us runners, so my quads and back got a bit of relief.
At first I was a bit disappointed because I didn't PR but then I realized it was OK. I put in a lot of effort, and even though I was 10min off my goal time, I managed a strong finish and gave it all I could.
I'm still thinking about what I could have changed, and looking at my time splits, I know I did what I was supposed to do, I had controlled everything I could, and weather was my only game changer.
That's OK though. I'll keep working hard for my next one (whenever that may be). Today I'm grateful I was able to run, thankful for all the inspiration all around me, the people that work so hard to reach their goals, and go get them. I kept my HR at a whooping 157 average, and that makes me so happy. My heart is healthy and I will keep on training.
Next stop is Bolder Boulder (in only 6 days -yikes!) and on June 1st, my first triathlon ever, the Boulder Sprint Triathlon! Excited and a bit scared, since it will be the 1st time I will tackle all 3 sports one after the other, but the more I see the excitement on my friends' faces as they train and race Ironman races, the more inspired and excited I become.
The plan for next year (april) is Ironman New Orleans 70.3! I will keep training throughout summer, fall and winter and will keep working hard to become a faster and stronger in all 3 disciplines. This is what I love about these sports, you only get out what you put in, and once you cross that finish line, all that effort is just you! Nobody can take that away from you. It is priceless!!!