Wolf Pack

Expo at new home of Peyton Manning; Sports Authority
Sloans Lake at dawn in Denver's City Park
BRC Getting Pacers Organized as the sun came up
"You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when my sister brought Doug home, I knew he was one of my own. And my wolf pack... it grew by one. So there... there were two of us in the wolf pack... I was alone first in the pack, and then Doug joined in later. And six months ago, when Doug introduced me to you guys, I thought, "Wait a second, could it be?" And now I know for sure, I just added two more guys to my wolf pack. Four of us wolves, running around the desert together" (Alan Garner)

I ventured out of my comfort zone again this last weekend and tried something for the first time.  As I blogged about last week, ("Slow is a Four Letter Word,") I had used pace groups in marathons before following the lead wolf--most notably in my first BQ and (still my) PR in a marathon at Sacramento's California International Marathon (CIM)  at 3:21.  Given that experience, you might say I'm a fan of the concept.

Some running buddies at Boulder Running Company had picked up duties as pace group leaders for the Colfax Marathon and were looking for a few good men (and women) to help pace the "Ultimate Urban Tour."

Knowing how much I relied on pacers myself before, I mentally started to place a lot of pressure on myself realizing that people who used pacers had very specific goals in mind.  It's one thing to have a disappointing race myself, but another to let other runners down that may have be running their first every race, or trying for a PR.

Having just run Ft. Collins two weeks prior at the Colorado Marathon, I didn't want to run a full, nor did I want to push the pace as it's obvious that you should be able to run comfortably at the pace you've signed up for.  I went back-and-forth with the pace organizer and was dubbed the 2:45 guy...in the half.  A few twit peeps thought I was actually pacing the 2:45 full...um no...not in this guy's lifetime.  My PR in a half marathon is a 1:32 which is just over a seven minute mile pace.  A 2:45 finish would be a 12:30 pace.

Freaking out a bit, I went to the gym on Saturday before the race and set the treadmill to 12:30.  My cooldown is not even that slow, so I wanted to make sure I could consistently hit that pace.  Just above my fast airport pace walk, I shortened my stride and managed to find a cadence that would work.

I checked and double-checked my calculators to make sure I had my math right.  Coming in after the stated goal would be bad...very bad.  The night before I went through the normal rituals of pasta, and going to bed early after making sure the Garmin was charged and clothes were laid out along with contingent clothing for colder than expected weather.

It was an extra early alarm (3:30 AM) as I needed to rendezvous with my partners in crime at the race start in the early Denver darkness to grab my pace group sign with 2:45 half pasted on it.  Prior to joining up, I used a Sharpie to write my intervals on my arm.  I realized before that you can't do math after mile 20 in a marathon, and now know you also can't do math in the car at 4AM.  Twelve and a half minutes after 2:17 is NOT 2:22.  I gave up on that plan and figured I'd be able to add 12:30 and 12:30 over a span of twelve and a half minutes.  Not that I was freaking out under the pressure.

Even though I'd scoped out the corrals at the expo the day before, I was doubting myself...am I supposed to be in corral D or E?  What's 12:30 plus 12:30.  Sweating and I hadn't started to race yet.  I nestled into corral E behind the 2:30 guy and started to twirl the sign wondering where the 2:45's were.  I engaged in conversation with nearby runners using my sense of humor to lighten the anxiety of the start and anxiety of being a pacer.  Stomach don't fail me in this race!  No time for bathroom breaks.

Is more than one Elvis called Elvi?
As our corral started, it was clear that some were "cloaking me" but didn't want to acknowledge that 2:45 was their goal.  I had two runners who were running their first ever half marathon.  Meg made the trip from Colorado Springs and her husband was supposed to run the full.  Babysitter plans fell apart so she was the only one with a shot at a medal on Sunday.  No pressure.  A third runner (Kristin?) was running her second marathon.  Doug verbally jousted with me throughout the race sometimes running ahead, sometimes behind me.

I was told I didn't need to carry the stick for the whole race since I had 2:45 pinned to the back of my singlet as well.  Knowing that this was a fairly large race and runners may be looking for the "beacon" to keep them on track, I planned to carry the sign for the whole race and figured it would work my forearms.  The weather was perfect for a race with cool temps at the start, so I skipped the gloves and arm warmers and went with a singlet.  My plan was to not let anyone down and have fun for once in a race.

Another first?  I was going to bring my iPhone to capture some pictures and big video along the way.  Within the first few miles, it was clear that this race was going to warm up.  A couple of the 2:45's who committed to sticking with me for the duration were wearing long sleeve shirts...uh oh.  "Ummm...do you have something under that?"  "You may want to lighten the load as it's going to warm up."  Once the engine overheats, it's hard to cool it down.  I violated a couple pretty basic man rules...never tell a woman what to wear, or telling them to take their clothes off without getting to know them first.

Entering Aurora
With the weather warming up, I was planning on hitting every water station and in fact announced that we would walk through some of them should we be running too much ahead of schedule.  I consistently hit splits over twelve minutes until I hit City Park and the last two miles of the race.  One aspect of the course that I'm not sure I was a fan of was that the full and half only shared City Park in common as the start and finish.  The half went East on Colfax into Aurora and had decent crowd support, but I would have liked to have run through the Broncos stadium with the marathoners.

The advantage of the half course over the full was my first ever route that literally ran through a fire station. (Insert "you're on fire" pun here.)  Very cool and great to see the firemen cheering us on as we ran through the pump house--that definitely pumped us up along with the band outside (see the big video above.)  Somewhere along there, Meg informed me that we'd "lost" Kristin.  Shit.  Bummer.  One wo(man) down.  I'd asked her about her heavy long sleeve shirt and if she'd popped any nutrition on the course.  She didn't ditch the shirt, didn't take in any nutrients and I could tell that she began to struggle with her breathing.  I'm no expert, but I know that if we're on our feet for two hours and 45 minutes, you're gonna need to pump more than water in your system.

I didn't get her Kristin's last name or bib number so I don't know how she fared.  As we were heading back towards City Park on the out and back loop, the sun was fortunately at our backs as the sun was still coming up.  I tried to veer towards the shade.  The sun also cast a shadow on my sign as runners ahead of me would joke, "there he is again, I gotta speed up."  I saw a group of Elvis' and even Little Orphan Annie was out there cheering us on.  I had a few onlookers ask what 2:45 meant and a few nearby runners asked me all sorts of questions? 

How many marathons have you done?
How fast do you normally run?
Are you really gonna carry that sign for the whole race?
Have you run Boston?
Have you done this before?

Long shadows approaching City Park
I tried to keep things light and not talk too much (or more importantly, have them talk.)  I had one veteran runner who kept trying to engage in too much conversation.  At one point, he was on his phone, talking to his buddy about fishing.  Really?!?  Another first.

Two from my wolf pack; Meg and Doug
The math was easier than I thought and as we entered the City Park finish area, with two miles to go, I knew we were good on time, but I wasn't going to cut it too close.  Meg and Doug were right by me and others were still cloaking ahead or behind me.  I told our group we were going to cut the corners on the curves in the park and finish strong.  I told Meg she was looking strong and "you got this!"  We came in to the finish area and as hard as it was, I resisted the "kick" I always throw into gear trying to grab whatever time I can, pass some runners, and look strong for the photo finish.  Final time was right around two minutes under goal.  Better than two minutes over.

Best part of the race was a post on my blog the next day, "I appreciated you being out there today. I have no doubt that had I been running alone I would have given up somewhere around mile 11 and walked. Thank you."

Footnote to the race:  Having suffered from plantar faciitis combined with a high arch, I'm constantly looking for orthotics or insoles to use in my running shoes.  I figured Colfax would be a good time to test out a new pair from Sof Sole.  The name explains the concept in that in a low-profile format, their inserts work with any shoe and provide additional cushioning.  Being worried about having run a marathon a mere two weeks prior, this was the perfect chance to test drive them.  I've used them on training runs, and it was hard to tell a big difference, but I must say that my recovery and condition of my legs and body the day after the race were great.  The gel pads helped with my mid-foot strike and clearly provided a smoother ride.  My only mistake was getting a standard pair...upon looking deeper at their site, they have a high arch version as well.  I have been trending towards more of a minimal shoe and these work great with my race day Brooks Racer ST5's.


  1. Thank you again. It really was the perfect day for a race. Maybe sometime in the distant future I will be good enough to pace a race and pay it forward.


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