Down & Over the Hill: 2019 Colorado Marathon

Hello?

Hellooo?

Come on, blog, wake up.

Huh?

Hi!

You?

Yeah, me!

What … what year is it?

It’s 2019. A lot has happened.

Sure has. Have you noticed how disgusting WordPress is with all these ads?

Yeah, it’s not great.

Anyway, are you going to start blogging all the time again?

Not quite. But I feel compelled to keep my race journal going, even if it means starting a write-up far too late. I guess there’s something about getting older that makes you outsource your memory to digital platforms. I’m sorry if this makes you sound like you only have a utilitarian purpose. I respect you a lot more than that.

I can see that.

And I’m truly sorry for abandoning you. I guess my 50-states quest slowed down considerably as the other pieces in my life began to fall into place. As work gets more demanding, it’s also more rewarding. There’s also the background noise of getting older, reassessing the priorities in your life, and taking a hard look at how we spend our time.

So I’m also your therapist?

Not exactly, but you definitely provide some therapeutic outlets. Running itself is a great example of my impulse to disconnect and escape for long periods of time with no one but my thoughts. But being able to elaborate on that experience and put it into writing is just as effective and important.

Can we cut to the chase? Did you run something?

Yes, I did. But there’s a lot that happened since the last time we spoke. I rode across Iowa in the summer of 2017, and last year I finished my first (and only) triathlon.

Hold on, you finished a tri and didn’t tell me about it?

Not to you, directly, no.

Well, now I feel better.

I did a different kind of write-up for RaceRaves, but that just goes to show you, right? Something as big as my first triathlon, a half-Ironman no less, and I still didn’t feel compelled to ink it down.

Triathlons tend to be in pretty exotic locations. Did you spring for the trip and collect a medal in Europe? Or New Zealand? Oh my god, did you finish a Kiwi triathlon?!

No, it was in Muncie.

Muncie? Is that a prefecture of northern Japan?

No, Muncie, Indiana.

Oh. I’m sorry if I sound disappointed.

It’s alright. It made for a quick trip from Chicago, and I got to spend the weekend getting pumped with my father in law. I went to that same tri in 2014 to spectate, so it was fun to return four years later as a participant. But the tri isn’t even close to the biggest development of the last three or so years.

Let me guess, you have a kid now.

Yeah, what made you say that?

Kids always mean less time for recreational blogs.

That’s true. Although it’s been a huge change for us, we’ve done our best to make sure we’re still living the lives that make us happy.

So, what did you run?

Well, I realized in September of last year that 2018 was shaping up to be the first year since 2009 that I had not run a marathon, which is a little nuts in its own way. So on a whim, I signed up for the Chicago Lakefront 50k with only an 18-miler under my belt.

Just throwing this out there: that race, despite the total lack of preparedness, went surprisingly well.

Correct you are. I walked a minute for every nine minutes of running and I made it to the end in 4:50 with nary a side-stitch, cramp, or bonk to report. It reminded me that running non-competitively, or simply doing it without the pressure of PR’ing, was still incredibly fun. Or maybe there’s a deep well of muscle memory that I have in my system that kicks in with the right pace. It certainly helped that late October in Chicago tends to be chilly.

Is that all?

Nope! I ran the Colorado Marathon in May.

(left to right) Scott, Jim, me

I guess I should have read the title of this post. Anyway, that’s great that you were able to cross off another bucket list race.

Indeed. It didn’t take much to convince my uncles-in-law to sign up for the race and join me on the adventure. You remember them, they ran with me in St. Louis, Lost Dutchman, Hoover Dam, Miami, and a few others. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re on a secret 50-states quest themselves.

How’d it go?

Well …

It was challenging to focus on the race itself over the weekend, as I was busy dealing with the trials of traveling with an infant for the first time. We had no idea how he would react to the noise of a plane, the change in cabin pressure, or how to fit him through the x-ray machine. We didn’t realize the #1 enemy of smooth travel would be the pilot talking on the intercom. Our little one hated that.

We settled ourselves in Fort Collins, not far from the vintage town square that today is covered in microbreweries and restaurants. It was only natural that our first stop be New Belgium’s facility, which was walking distance from the condo we rented. The next day we walked the city, hopping from bar to brewery with our local friends Jay, Marla, Otter, and Lisa. Do you remember them?

Of course I do.

Just checking. The race itself was everything I expected it would be, and maybe even a little more. It begins with a long bus ride up what are essentially the Rocky Mountains, following the Poudre River literally twenty-six miles uphill. We were expecting a cloudless day with a nice breeze to keep us cool. Once we started, we ran about sixteen miles in a canyon, with the river leading the way to our left. We wouldn’t even see the sun until about 10k into the race.

I had no real time goals or expectations, but that didn’t stop me from stomping through those early miles. I don’t know if you’re supposed to train for downhill racing (and I did more than my usual share of hill-training in the leadup to this), but I am completely incapable of restraint when the slope dips toward the earth. With childlike glee I ran effortlessly down, knowing that the reckoning would soon come.

And when it did, it wasn’t as terrible as I was expecting. Right on cue at mile 16, the road flattened out, and that extra push downhill vanished. I thought I would immediately lose all energy, feeling as my weight would double. But I managed to keep my pace. That is, until mile 19, when we had to run briefly uphill.

That did it huh?

That did it. The rest of the race was an exercise in running until I had to walk. I eventually reached familiar territory: a winding bike path that I covered all the way back in 2011 when I ran the Horsetooth Half Marathon. A lot of people passed me during this stretch; people who didn’t storm their way downhill for the first half and chose instead a more even and prudent approach.

And while I didn’t really have a time goal, I had told Otter the week before that I would be happy with a 3:50. All throughout those last six miles, I kept glancing at my watch and doing quick math to see if I was still going to come in under that threshold. Everything seemed fine until I was literally 0.2 miles away from the finish line, seeing that I only had a little over three minutes to spare. I managed to pick up the pace in the final stretch until I saw Steph with our son strapped to her chest to the right of the finish chute.

I had to stop and give him a kiss, even though he was asleep. No worries though, I still finished in 3:49.

Would you still have stopped for that little embrace if your time cushion had been tighter?

We don’t have to get into that. I say I don’t care about my finishing times these days, but deep down, I really do.

I don’t care about them, and neither does anyone else.

Noted. I was happy to notch a sub-4 marathon at altitude, especially since in the last few years, I’ve felt that discouraging voice tell me that my best times are behind me, that all my marathon pursuits in the future will either be for fun, or to flirt with aspirations, but never quite reach or surpass them.

That’s a little gloomy.

Yeah, but I have to face the possibility. That said, I have just put in three solid training months leading up to my 40th marathon in October, so part of me feels like I’m back. Maybe I’ll earn a fast time in Chicago, for once.

Or not, and that would be okay.

True, true. Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. I’m glad we had this talk. I remember when we would see each other almost daily. It was part of my ritual to spend time together and to see what our mutual friends were up to. I really enjoyed being part of the community, especially since I made some great friends in the process. Times have changed though, mostly for the better, but I’m glad we can still have these talks.

And I have Chicago coming up, so I’ll hopefully be back for that.

I won’t hold my breath.

 

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About Dan
Running a marathon in all 50 states because there's no better way to explore the world around you than on your own two feet, for as long as you can, until you hate yourself and everything around you. Then you stop, get a medal, and start over.

3 Responses to Down & Over the Hill: 2019 Colorado Marathon

  1. Amy says:

    Hi! Congratulations on your marathon, and what a beautiful race! And congrats on the kid!!! My kid is almost 4 now, and I have yet to get back into the race times I had before him and I haven’t been able to figure out how on earth to squeeze in a solid marathon training cycle yet, but it will happen one day. Good luck in Chicago! I’ll look out for the race report in…April? (says the girl who hasn’t done a blog post in 4 years).

  2. Patty says:

    So good to hear from you! Congrats on your son!! Does he have a name? 🙂
    Congrats also on your Colorado marathon and good luck at Chicago!
    I PR’d at age 47 in the 5K, half marathon and marathon. I have been running since I was 17, and running marathons since I was 35. You never know, and you’re still young!

  3. G-Tang says:

    This was so good! The finish line smooch! Looking forward to the post when you run one with your son, and he crushes your PR.

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