The 13.1 mile journey started last fall. Some friends were talking about running in the Colorado Marathon right about the same time I was getting back into running. (After the Lincoln Marathon several years ago, my running shoes got relegated to lawn mowing duty.) I got to looking at the details of the race, and everything seemed to be aligned for me to join my friends in their high altitude run. Let me translate that: I looked at the course map and saw a marathon that is ALL downhill!
My friends were planning to run the half-marathon. I’m sort of an ‘all or nothing’ guy (at least when I vainly think I can handle “all”) so I wasn’t all that excited about the idea of running HALF of something. Today, on the day after that HALF something, I am very grateful to Jon, Michele, Scott, & Jennifer for reminding me of the difficulties of training for the full in the wind of a West NE winter. I can honestly say, I wouldn’t have made it 26.2. Lesson in humility #1: Listen to your friends!
I’ve never been a very scheduled runner. I squeeze in what I can, when I can. Marking days with prompts like “tempo run,” “speed work,” and “long one” makes me feel like I’m running out of obligation instead of because I want to, so I generally just start running. If I don’t have much time, I run fast – if I feel good and have some open time that day, I keep running. The problem with this training approach (or lack of one) is that it’s more than a little haphazard toward actually accomplishing what a training regimen is supposed to accomplish: increase the capacity to run long distances efficiently. Going in to yesterday’s run, my “longest” long run in the last 5 years was 7 miles. It’s probably not a coincidence that my body started breaking down with about 6 miles to go! Do the math. Lesson in humility #2: Don’t expect to perform like you’ve trained if you didn’t.
The day before the run, my heart was not in it. I didn’t want to leave, had a headache, just not in the mood… I don’t know. But I had committed (and paid) to run, so I gathered my gear and headed to Ft. Collins. The room I’d reserved had somehow turned into a smoking room, but nothing else was available. I opened the windows and left the fans running, so it wasn’t too bad (but did little to improve my outlook). I puttered around town a little bit, met up with Jon and Michele to retrieve my race packet, then headed back to the hotel to get some sleep (ha!). As I began to go through the packet with the reminders and race day details (not to mention the race tech shirt) the “clouds” began to lift, and I started to get a little more excited about what the morning would bring (aside from a 4:00 wake up call). The morning came quickly, we all met up downtown and rode the bus up into the Cache la Poudre canyon, where we’d start – after standing around in the cold for about an hour. It was a beautiful morning in the canyon (we Scottsbluff runners were particularly impressed by the absence of insane amounts of wind!) and, though it was cold, it warmed up quickly as soon as the mass of humanity began the run. The course was great – “standing in the canyon, painted hills around, the wind against my skin.” Running through awe inspiring scenes, I couldn’t help but think about how awesome our Creator really is. And aside from a few hundred meters, it really was downhill all the way! Lesson in humility #3: Stop feeling sorry for yourself and wait for it – the fog will lift!
Despite my lack of adequate training (or nutrition, but that’s a whole other issue), and the consequent knee pain for the last 5 miles or so, I finished in 2:18:59 still in sight of Jon, with whom I gladly ran most of the race (881st out of 1446 finishers). Maybe next year, we can work on a finish in the top half like Michele!