A Race and a Dance

With a summer filled with four triathlons, I was staring at the fall marathon calendar and realized this run junkie needed at least one more major race before going into my "off season."  I'm still trying to figure out what the hell an "off season" is, because I'm not sure I've ever had one.  Regardless, with my last race in September, I knew that with all my virtual and real running friends "geeking" out over Chicago and New York, I would need a fix.  With that, I signed up last minute for the Denver Rock and Roll Half Marathon this last weekend.  I knew that running a marathon was out of the question since it has been nearly four months since I've run anything even close to 20 miles.  I had run the half before it was converted to a "Rock and Roll" and figured "what the heck!"
Post Race Bling.  RnR knows how to do bling.

I discounted the fact that I spent the last three months splitting time between running, swimming and cycling.  Despite the fact that Denver added a "bike tour" for the gear heads that wanted to ride the course before runners, my time in the water and in a saddle would do nothing more than provide a base level of conditioning.  Two weeks out from Denver, I figured I had better get in at least a nine mile run which I did.  If you look at my runs over the summer, I've largely focused on speed, but have been implementing some heart rate runs to counter the ones where it feels like "Alien" is bursting out my white t-shirt chest.

So...triathlon training...no training plan for the half...no idea how I'd do...no problem.

The nice thing about a hometown race is just that...no flight...no jet lag...and sleeping in your own bed.  I hit the expo on Friday and left a hundred dollars lighter after picking up my bib number.  I still get excited with expos as you can't help but get amped up for the race that weekend.  Based on my estimated half time, I was placed in corral number one.  That can't be.  Considering the corrals were mixed with fulls and half runners (did I really just call myself half a runner?) it made sense.  One of my purchases from the expo was a new pair of CEP compression socks.  My left leg (yes...long history of crap on my left side vs. the crap out my back side...more on that later) was still feeling some shin splint action so I wanted a full sock.  Neon green...oh yeah...they'll see me coming for miles with those bad boys on.

Worst race picture ever, but had to document the VIP Potty.
Men's bathroom pictures are a bad idea
Having traveled to Chicago earlier in the week (another race pattern I can't seem to avoid,) I was exhausted by Friday night so there were no issues getting to bed early for the 4:30 AM wake-up call.  Only race eve issue was my wife was invited to a friend's birthday party and we had my son and daughter's homecoming game.  The exciting part of the later was that my daughter was nominated for Homecoming Queen (further proof that she's not mine) which I was NOT going to miss.  It was a special evening and worth another blog post.  Upon getting home, my wife was still out at the birthday party when it was time for bed.  Uh-oh.  I did my best trying to get to sleep with one eye subliminally staring at the clock wondering when she'd get home.  Not one to miss a party, I was wondering what fun I was missing. She got home at a decent hour, but wine tends to create snoring.  Scheisse.

I had plotted my timetable to get downtown along with laying out everything I needed for the "mary" the night before.  Morning ritual was routine and I found a free parking spot less than a mile south of the event's epicenter.  One of the smartest things I ever did for a race was get a Brooks Pee Like a Rock Star pass.  Considering my history of (ahem) race day issues, I felt this would be worth it.  #understatement  All I had to do was spend $100 at Runner's Roost on Brooks product and the pass was mine.  A "no brainer."  The rock star toilet was a trailer that was heated with running water.  Condiments lined the bathroom sink.  I'd rate this number two event a number one.
My "O" face.
I ran into a number of run friends and started to get into my zone, but was quite relaxed.  I snapped a couple Instagram pix before checking my bag and heading to the corral.  I was happy to run into one of my running group buddies (Erik) who bought a full marathon bib, but wasn't sure whether he'd run the full or the half.  We caught up on recent races and figured we'd start out the first mile or so together.  The most ironic part of the start is that the Colorado Rockies skipper, Jim Tracy, fired the starting gun.  That's an ironic choice and juxtaposition of words (Rockies...Tracy...fire) considering he could be gone after the colossal failure of the Rockies this year.

Prior to the gun, Erik asked what my goal was.  1:35 to 1:40 was the answer.  I knew a PR was not happening on this course without really training (1:32,) but I wanted to improve my previous time on this course of 1:37.  Erik had planned to go out at a 8 minute mile and speed up.  I had powered up my Garmin to hone in on the satellite prior to the race but it had gone back to sleep by the time Tracy's gun had gone off (#rookie.)  Adrenaline caught the best of us and we went out sub-seven minutes.  My Garmin actually showed my first half mile at an 11:15 pace but it was still seeking a signal.

I liked the course layout as the initial miles are through Denver's downtown streets and LODO district.  I was feeling pretty good and kept my seven minute pace and separated from Erik.  I think he understood although I felt rude without even a "I'm pushing ahead," or "have a good race."  I probably blew some run etiquette rule there.  My race strategy was quite unconventional, but figured I would try and average a seven minute mile pace until mile nine or ten.  Even slowing to an eight minute mile pace the last few miles would allow me to hit my goal.  At least in marathons, I've never been able to run a negative split.

I had two other things I was going to try in this race. One was more frequent gel fueling and secondly, implementing a few walk breaks through water stations.  Having done quite a bit of speed work this summer, I would often run Yasso's (800M intervals) with recovery intervals at walk or much slower pace.  My net times even with recovery were overall pretty fast.  I'm not quite sure, but I believe I had four such breaks and took in Hammer Huckleberry gels every couple of miles with a smaller portion.  It seemed to work for me although I'd later question the impact on my overall time given the short walk breaks.
I love pix where it looks like I'm floating.
I also love passing younger racers at the finish.

The second attractive part of the half marathon course is that it runs through two of Denver's urban parks, City Park and Cheesman Park--the later had a bit of a climb.  The course is fairly flat, but has an overall climb of 774 feet.  Once I got through the second park my math was a bit clouded but I knew I was well within reach of my goal for the day.  For the first time in a race my last two miles picked up the pace.  My last full half mile interval was at a 7:15 pace and the last 4/10 mile was at a blistering 6:17 pace.  I felt great and the somewhat downhill finish and crowd adrenaline helped.  My good friend Jim shouted encouragement somewhere around mile 11-12.  I didn't see him, but heard his encouragement (thanks Jim.)  As I normally try to do, I kicked it in towards the finish and passed a couple runners in the last 100 yards.  I finished with a 1:36:18.  My Garmin had me at 1:35, but I clearly fumbled the Garmin start as I indicated before.  Good enough for a course record and 11th in my age group.  For such a large race, I'll take that.

To top off the fantastic day, my oldest brother flew into town to surprise me since he wasn't able to catch my big birthday party over the summer.  We celebrated in Evergreen Saturday night and gathered to watch some football on Sunday.  As I was sitting on the sofa waiting for football to start, I reveled in the race, the evening, and watching my daughter with pride walk on the football field as captain of her poms team to accept her royalty nomination.  Wondering how this weekend could get any better, I got a Sunday morning email from the BAA.  This was not the "Dear John" you're fast enough to qualify, but not fast enough to get in letter, but an acceptance into the 2013 Boston (frickin') Marathon.  My daughter had her dance and dad is going back to one.


  1. Loved reading this. I trained for triathlons all summer and also have been longing for a fall race to finish my season. I am doing the Runners World Half next month and hope so much that I can PR but we will see. My legs aren't so happy with the added running since my 70.3 a few weeks ago.

    And I got my Boston acceptance on Sunday too. :) So excited.

  2. Nice job! I like the pee like a rockstar pass. :)

    I'm doing my first full in about 6 1/2 weeks and banking on endurance I've gained training for my first 70.3 this weekend. Not a conventional marathon training plan, so we'll see how it goes...


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