First, thanks for all the sweet comments on my last post! They definitely made me feel better about the race. As promised, here’s my recap. It’s wordy. Sorry.
I spent the Friday and Saturday before the race at a conference for work. Timing was great because the conference was in Loveland (where the race finished), so I didn’t have to stress about getting to packet pick-up on time. The conference was excellent, and I had lots of professional things to think about, so my mind was occupied with things besides my usual level of pre-race nerves. That was nice.
Packet pick-up was out at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, which is a special place to me because that’s where J and I had our rehearsal dinner. Last year’s floods caused a lot of damage at Sylvan Dale (including wiping out the building in which we had our dinner), so I was happy to see that they were receiving some financial kickback from the race.
The view as I left packet pick-up
There was no expo, just bib and shirt pick-up, which was totally fine with me. I grabbed my bib and shirt, asked the (very nice) volunteers a few questions about the shuttle the next morning, and was on my way in just a few minutes.
I headed back into Loveland and checked into the hotel, then went for a walk to loosen up my legs while I waited for Jordan to arrive (he had meetings in Denver at the same time as my conference). When he got there, we grabbed some spaghetti from Noodles and Company, then went back to the hotel to swap conference stories and try to relax. I went to bed super early and, of course, didn’t really sleep.
The alarm went off at 3:45 the next morning. Ouch. I got dressed, ate my bagel, peanut butter, and banana, and threw on my ugly warm-up clothes. Jordan drove me the 15 minutes to meet the buses (he’s a good husband), and soon I was drifting in and out of sleep on the drive up the canyon. Soon, we arrived at the start in front of the famous Stanley Hotel. I waited on the warm bus for as long as possible, then stood in the porta-john line, worrying as the 6 a.m. start drew ever nearer. I needn’t have worried, though: two of the buses got lost, so the race start was delayed.
(This is not my picture. I didn’t want to run with my phone. I stole this picture from here. But this is where we started.)
Finally, the race director said a few words, and then we were off! We started down a steep downhill, but I tried to keep it reeled in, especially since I almost always start races too fast. Mile one ticked by in 7:33, which is right where I wanted it: about 20 seconds slower than goal pace.
I settled in to my goal pace then and watched the miles tick by. The sun was just coming up in the canyon, reflecting off the rocks and river, and it was beautiful. Two girls were ahead of me, but I kept reminding myself that it wasn’t time to race yet, to just stick to my pace. Before long, I passed one of them, and then the only woman ahead was the one in the red Nebraska singlet… hereafter named “Nebraska” because that’s how I thought of her.
Shortly after mile 10 (I think), I passed Nebraska, but I didn’t let myself get cocky: I knew there was still a LOT of race ahead of me, and I needed to stick to my pace. By mile 15ish (when this picture was taken, I think), I was still feeling good.
(Clearly these are the crappy thumbnail pictures sent out by the photographer. But I’m not going to pay a billion dollars for a picture, so you can look through the copyright).
At mile 18ish, I started feeling the need for a bathroom. But Nebraska was still hot on my heels, so like a moron, I didn’t stop. I really thought I could push through. So I just kept going, and for a while, I did feel better.
After 20-some miles of almost exclusively downhill, we hit a series of rolling hills. Going uphill at that point was pure torture, and looking at my splits, you can tell it:
Mile 20: 7:05 (down)
Mile 21: 7:56 (up)
Mile 22: 6:52 (down)
Mile 23: 7:34 (up)
(This is my “who put this hill here!” face)
The last aid station was at mile 23, and I fully intended to stop and use the porta-john and just pray that Nebraska wouldn’t pull too far ahead. There was no porta-john at that aid station.This was bad news, but I had no choice but to keep going.
So I had to walk. Late-marathon leg pain is expected. It sucks, but I can push through it. But when the choice is between walking (and losing my PR and taking second instead of first) and soiling myself, I will choose walking every time… even if I wanted to cry when Nebraska passed me. My dismal last splits:
Mile 24: 7:46
Mile 25: 8:19
Mile 26: 9:02
Of course, this was also just about the only place on the course where there were spectators, all yelling at me, “You’re almost there! Just push through!” Ugh.
I finally crossed the finish in 3:13:00 and made a (hobbling) beeline to the bathrooms. And then I cried a little, drank some water, tried to eat some watermelon, and decided that there was nothing I could do, so I should just accept the race I ran. The $400 second-place prize helped soften the blow considerably, too.
Aside from the digestive disaster, I’m pretty happy with this race. I did much better at pacing than I ever had before, and I think that I do have that 3:10 in me, if all my systems cooperate. During this training cycle, I sometimes thought that this would be my last marathon, that I was ready to try something new … but now I feel like I need one more chance to redeem myself. Spring marathon suggestions, anyone?
My personal race aside, the Fall Classic is a fantastic marathon, and I highly recommend it. This was its first year, so naturally it had a couple of little glitches (like the bus issue), but overall, it was very well-organized. And it’s tough to beat that gorgeous course. I was a little nervous about running down that narrow canyon road, since the road remained open, but the runners’ area was clearly marked with cones, and police were constantly driving up and down the canyon with their lights flashing to slow down motorists. I never felt remotely unsafe.
My favorite thing about this race is that it 100 percent benefited locals. The entry fees supported flood victims. The aid stations were manned by local high schools’ cross country teams, who earned money for “volunteering.” The medals were created by a local artist, and the food and beer were provided by a local brewery (apparently their hand-made bratwursts were to die for. I wouldn’t know, because bratwursts are the worst. Ha. Pun).
So, in a nutshell: stunning mountain course, substantial cash prizes, great organization, all benefiting the local economy. Do this race if you can.
Have you ever had a race foiled by digestive troubles? Tell me your story and make me feel better about myself, please.
What spring marathon should I do?