Sunday, May 25, 2014

Surviving My First "Doubler" - Black Canyon Ascent & Colfax Marathon

I might've gotten a few "are you crazy" looks and reactions this weekend. I did my first "doubler". Running 2 races in one weekend, that is. Of course it also didn't help that the 2 races were both away from home and about 5 hours away from each other. 

I had thought about doing the Colfax Marathon for awhile, but then decided with all of the other races I had going on, I better not. So instead I signed up for the Black Canyon Ascent. You may recall that I did this race last year, or that I've done several other races at Black Canyon National Park. That is because it used to be in my backyard. 

Well sometime in late April, I changed my mind and decided I did really want to do the Colfax Marathon after all. My main reason being that it was over my 26th birthday weekend (so I could "run 26 miles for my 26th birthday) and my second reason, was that it was a Team Beef race. I still wasn't completely sold though until getting caught up in the excitement of watching the Boston Marathon on April 21st. Obviously the Colfax is very different from Boston, and I had no intention of being fast enough to qualify for Boston during this or anything, but just watching the crowds and hearing about it had me longing for a big road race. I've been doing a lot of smaller trail races lately, which I do enjoy, but there's just something about the crowds and excitement of doing a big city race. So I decided to sign up!

So now the question was - do I still do the Black Canyon Ascent? Yes it's a fun race and (at the time) local, but I've done it before and it didn't cost a lot, so I wouldn't be losing too much if I passed on it. But I've also really had my mind set on getting the prize for doing all three Black Canyon races in the same calendar year. I had already done one. So I just decided I would try and do them both. After all, I know runners who do double races all the time - in fact, check out and support fellow ALZ Star, David Knapp, who has done 3 weekends in a row of double marathons this year (among many others) on his quest to run 50 marathons this year! 

If he could run back-to-back marathons over back-to-back weekends, I could clearly manage a 6 mile race followed by a marathon. No, they probably wouldn't be the fastest races I've ever done, but it's just running. And if there's one thing I know how to do now-a-days, it's run.

So it was set. I was doing my first "doubler."

Of course the whole "moving 75 miles away" thing put a bit of a hiccup in the plan. On the bright side, I was now one hour closer to Denver for the Colfax Marathon. On the down side, I was now 75 miles away from Montrose for the Black Canyon Ascent. The good news was that we still have our old townhouse in Montrose through the end of the month. So I decided to bring a sleeping bag and make Friday night a bit of a camping trip.

It was set. Time for the big weekend.

Back prior to the move, I had said I would volunteer at packet pick-up. In a way this was good, because I probably would've been very tempted to just skip the entire race had I not. So because of the long drive, I worked through lunch on Friday so I could leave at 4, and make it down to Montrose shortly after 5. Of course, work was crazy, so I didn't leave as soon as I wanted, but eventually got there around 5:30. It was fun to see everyone again (although it had only been a week - so it's not like it felt any different). I helped at packet pick up until we were done a little after 7, and then joined everyone else for some pizza and beer at Colorado Boy, before heading back to my old place and attempting to get some sleep.


I slept horrible. A combination of being in a sleeping bag on the ground with being in an empty house all by myself I guess. But at least it made it easy to get up the next morning. I quickly got ready and then headed to the Black Canyon. I drove to the top (the finish area), and then worked it out to get a ride back down to the starting line, so I wouldn't have to wait for a shuttle post-race with all the crazy things I had to do that day (like drive 5 1/2 hours to Denver).

I made it back down to the start at around 7:15. After waiting around for awhile and chatting with a few people I knew, it was time to start! I really wasn't mentally prepared at all, other than the fact that I knew I could at least finish, since I've done it before. So I started out at an easy pace. As soon as we started the majority of the climbing, my calf muscles immediately felt tight and uncomfortable. "Oh great" I thought. Barely into it and my calves are not liking this. So, I walked a little bit. I figured, I would much rather take today easy and be ready for tomorrow, than go out hard today and regret it tomorrow. After all I would be running over 20 MORE miles than this race was, the next day.

The walking seemed to help stretch out the muscles a little, I think. Once I made it to the 1.25 mile "flat" section (it's not really flat, but compared to the previous part it is), I tried to pick up my speed a bit. They had an aid station at the 2 mile mark, so I stopped and drank some water there, and then continued on.

My calves were feeling better, but I still wasn't feeling overly motivated to really push myself, so I kept up with my walking every so often to catch my breath. The sun had come out and it was getting hot! It was probably only 60 degrees or so, but with the bright sun, and the constant uphill, my heart rate was getting pretty high. More excuses to take breaks!

The second aid station was at Mile 4, and I stopped for some more water and actually poured a bit onto my arms and the back of my neck to help cool off. In my opinion, mile 4-5 is the worst section, but the good news it that mile 5-6 is the easiest, so it kept me going (the good thing about knowing the course). Once you hit mile 5, it becomes more "rolling" hills, so I picked up my pace and passed a few people! Finally, I made it to the park entrance. Only a little bit further! I picked up my pace some more, made the turn towards the amphitheater and the finish line was in sight! I sprinted to the finish line (it's always nice when I actually still have juice left to sprint at the finish) and finished in 1:12:52. A little over 3 minutes slower than last year, but not bad considering I took a few walking breaks.

One race down, one to go! I hung out at the finish line for about 30-45 minutes chatting with people and having some of the post-race refreshments and food and then headed out. I had to stop back by the old house, then drive back to Grand Junction and pack real quick before Scott, Argie, and I began the trip over the mountains to Denver for race #2.

[Black Canyon Ascent] RACE STATS:
Date: May 17, 2014
Distance: 6 Miles
Weather: 50's-60's and SUNNY
Official Time: 1:12:52
Average Pace: 11:57
Overall Place: 53/95
Gender Rank: 13/41
Age Division (F20-29): 3/5
Garmin Elevation Gain: 1839 feet
Minimum/Maximum Elevation: 6,599 feet / 8,414 feet
Garmin Splits: 11:41, 11:30, 12:51, 12:40, 13:17, 10:16

It kinda looks like I'm racing the RV here!
Charles (race director for the Cimarron 50K) took the race photos and he did a great job!
Showing off my Team Beef Shirt!


We made it to my parents house in Denver around 5:45 on Saturday night. Just enough time to have some dinner, relax for a bit, and then head to bed since I was going to have a much earlier morning the next day. The Marathon started at 6:00, and they wanted people parked by 4:45, so the plan was to leave no later than 4:15. That meant getting up at 3:15. FUN!

Once again I didn't sleep well and 3:15 came around all too soon! But alas, I got up, took a shower, made sure I had all of my stuff and then the hubs and I were off (leaving my poor puppy by himself). Timing was about perfect - we got there right around 4:45 and got a pretty good parking spot. We hung out in the car until about 5, and then decided to start working our way toward the starting line.

The race starts and ends in City Park downtown, and we had some great sunrise views while waiting for the start. It worked out really nicely since Scott came with me - he hung out right by me until the start, so rather than having to figure out the bag check, I could just give him my sweatpants and sweatshirt about 5 minutes before the race start.

Waiting for the start!
I was in Corral E (I think the same as Disney!), and once the race officially started, it took about 5 minutes to cross the starting line. They did a pretty good job with the corrals, and so it was easy to run right from the get-go. Although there were only 1300 Marathon finishers, there was also a relay category, so there were a lot more racers out on the course (there were actually around 15,000 total participants between the 5K, 10 Miler, Half-Marathon, Marathon Relay, and Full Marathon - but only the relay started at the same time).

The first mile was through the park, and then onto Colfax for miles 2 & 3 which ran near the capitol before getting onto the Cherry Creek trail for a few miles. Around mile 5 we got onto a bike path that went behind Six Flags. This part was kind of depressing because we would run it again on the return, so we were passing signs for mile 21, but only 5 miles into the course, etc.

(Note my pictures aren't great, because I was actually running as I took them)

Around mile 6 we went under I-25 and around Mile High Stadium before running through the stadium (pretty cool, and similar to running through the baseball diamond at Disney - except no cheering fans this time). Shortly after exiting the stadium, the first group of relayer's broke off from us to exchange their batons, while the marathoners got our first aid station with Clif shot blocks. I knew I wouldn't get anymore again until the return (mile 20), so I grabbed 2 (plus I had one in my pocket already). This was one thing that annoyed me, the only gels were at Miles 6 and 20 - meaning if you wanted anything between then you had to carry it yourself - pretty frustrating. My plan was to save them all, and then take one at miles 8, 12, 16, and then 20 again. I had room in my pocket (by the way LOVE the skirt sports running skirt that my mom got me with 2 pockets - one on each leg) for two, so I decided to just carry the last one until mile 8.

Right after the stadium we got back onto Colfax for about a mile before turning north towards Sloan Lake. There was a short section here, prior to actually getting to Sloan Lake, where the course overlapped - so I could see the faster runners coming out from Sloan Lake - about 2 1/2 miles ahead of me.

About 2 miles around Sloan Lake was where the second group of relayers broke off from us, to exchange with the third group. It was always depressing to see the fresh relayers shoot past me, but I just had to keep telling myself that they weren't going as far (by a long shot)! Once I made it around Sloan Lake, I was now on the side of the "fast" runners, passing the slower runners, until we got back onto Colfax for a couple more miles. Once again on this section, we were passing / getting passed by the faster runners coming back, but also by the fresh 10 mile runners who had just recently started the race.

Mile 12.5 - 16 was probably my least favorite section. We turned off of Colfax right around Casa Bonita and ran through the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design Campus (this was actually fairly interesting, as I've never been there before, but was only roughly 1/2 mile) where the 10 Mile Race had started, and then made our way onto some residential streets for awhile. Too long in my opinion. It got a little boring.

I had to get a picture of Casa Bonita!

The highlight of this section was passing by some spectators who were out in front of their house cooking bacon on the grill and offering it, along with donuts, to the runners. Very tempting, and had I been in a trail race with walking breaks, I would've taken them up on it. But alas, I was constantly running, so decided to refrain. I don't think it would've gone over well.

Finally after what felt like the longest stretch ever, we turned!!! I knew it was an out-and-back (for the most part), but it felt like we just kept going west. FOREVER. When were we going to go back east!?

Once we hit mile 16, we were finally back on Colfax and finally going east! Whew. I just had to get back to City Park now! Not going to lie, I was feeling a bit tired by this point. And still had 10 miles to go. Lovely. I was doing good about taking my gels, and took my last one on-hand, right at the mile 16 mark. We had about 4 miles to go before reaching Mile High Stadium again, but luckily it was downhill! The course had been gradually uphill for awhile, so it was nice to pick up a little speed. After letting the 4:15 pacer pass me shortly after mile 13, I used this as an opportunity to try and catch up with him again. I didn't have a really specific goal in mind, but I was secretly hoping for around 4:15.

Somewhere along Colfax

Well it took me until about mile 19, but I finally caught up and passed the 4:15 pacer. I was getting tired, but the downhills helped me keep my pace up and I actually gained a little ground on him. Once we got back to Mile High, I grabbed one last gel (I actually was planning to grab 2, but they were out of the second flavor I was going to get), and kept on going - through the stadium, under I-25, and back onto the bike path that goes behind Six Flags. I was honestly feeling better at this point than I had earlier. I'm not sure if it was the gels, or just the mentality of knowing I passed the 4:15 pacer, but I was keeping my steady pace.

Then we got onto the Cherry Creek path, and I lost some of that energy. I was trying to keep at it, but by the time we got off of the Cherry Creek path, I knew the 4:15 pacer was right behind me. I did my best to keep up, but I wanted to stop at the mile 23 aid station and so he passed me. I quickly got some water (and poured most of it all over me - it was getting really hot out by this point) and continued on, but I had really lost some momentum. There was also a GIANT hill that really took it out of me. Just 3 more miles to go I told myself!

At mile 24, I got a little surprise, in that Rebecca, a blogger who I follow (and who I met while pacing at the Grand Mesa 100 last year - she was running the 60K), came up to say hello! She just happened to be out having breakfast and happened to see me (I guess it was a good thing I wore the same outfit both days and posted my photo to Instagram - but don't worry, I washed it). So she snapped a picture of me. I tried to not look like total death, so instead I look totally fake-happy:

Pretty soon I was back in a residential area before FINALLY getting into city park. I had lost all hope of catching back up with the 4:15 pacer, but I did think I still had a shot at PRing (my first marathon had been 4:26). I tried my best to finish strong, but it really wasn't as strong as I wanted. My legs were really hurting at this point, so while I was keeping an okay pace, it definitely wasn't a "sprint to the finish" ending for me today. BUT I did get my PR with a time of 4:18:17 (9:51 average pace) along with a pretty sweet finisher's medal.

[Colfax Marathon] RACE STATS:
Date: May 18, 2014
Distance: 26.2 (Garmin clocked it at 26:65)
Weather: 50's at the start, up to 70's (luckily not really sunny until the last hour)
Chip Time: 4:18:17
Average Pace: 9:51
Overall Place: 604 / 1325
Gender Rank: 176 / 554
Age Division (F20-29): 59 / 197
Official Race Splits:
6.4 Mile Split 1:02:27
10.1 Mile Split 1:38:32
16.1 Mile Split 2:37:07
20.1 Mile Split 3:15:32
Garmin Elevation Gain: 608 Feet
Garmin Splits:
Miles 1-10: 9:26, 9:34, 9:21, 9:05, 9:24, 9:27, 10:10, 10:09, 9:15, 9:18
Miles 11-20: 9:30, 10:10, 10:12, 9:35, 10:10, 9:32, 9:36, 9:30, 9:13, 9:10
Miles 21-26: 10:04, 9:33, 10:09, 10:07, 10:02, 9:58, 10:18 (last .2)

Miscellaneous Post-Marathon Thought:
I know I've done a few now, but just a friendly reminder to myself: the Marathon distance is TOUGH. I was really thinking I could easily do closer to the 4 hour mark, since my very first Half-Marathon was at a 9:13 average pace (and I knew I ran Disney conservatively for my first), but it was hard. 26 Miles is a long way to run the entire time. The trail ultra's I've done, I've been run/hiking, so it really is an entirely different experience. I still want to try and qualify for Boston someday, but I definitely realize, it is not something to take lightly. I am REALLY going to have to work for that.

What worked / what I liked about this race:
-My skirt sports running skirt and it's awesome pockets! Fit 2 gels and an iPhone really well, and made it easy to take a few pictures with my phone without having to stop.
-I did get to run in parts of Denver I haven't been to, so that was pretty cool
-The finishers medals were pretty freakin' awesome (and won't leave anyone asking "how long was your marathon?")
-Plenty of water & Gatorade aid stations, so no need to carry my own water

Things that didn't work / what I didn't like about the race:
-A race this long needs WAY more fuel stations than miles 6 & 20. Disney also only had 2 with gels, but they had 2 other stations with bananas which worked great.
-Not a flat course despite people saying it was
-Parts of it were great, parts were a bit on the boring side - why can't the marathon go through the Zoo?!? (the half-marathon did).

Course Map
Elevation Profile. Yeah...this is NOT flat.

A few more Pictures:

Go Team Beef!

The hubs and I post-race.
Pretty cool shirts, and my favorite, STICKERS!
Love the guy photo-bombing me in the background!
This is my "hurry up and get your a$$ over that finish line" look!
Birthday Presents! :)

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