Monday, September 28, 2015

Loveland Fall Classic Marathon

Well for starters, I am WAY behind on blogging. I have several hikes to post, tons of pictures to edit, and a few races to recap. It's a little overwhelming (and even more so when I think about the fact that I'm running races almost every weekend from now thru November - how will I ever catch up!?). But you've got to start somewhere, right? So I'm going to start, slightly out of order (but not terribly) with the Loveland Marathon (formerly called the "Fall Classic Marathon" - hence why I just call it the "Loveland Fall Classic Marathon"). The races take longer to recap, so I think if I can get this one up first it will help me get the process going. So without further ado....

I first heard about this race last summer from a Team Beef member and was immediately intrigued. The race runs Highway 34 from Estes Park down into Loveland - this is the road Scott and I always took when we went to Estes Park in College so I knew it would be gorgeous - almost the entire route is ran through Big Thompson Canyon!

Random picture showing Big Thomson Canyon that I stole from Google...

Alas, last year the timing didn't work out, so I had thought about using it as another back-up in my attempt to qualify for Boston - but I also wasn't going to sign up for this one until after I knew how Revel Rockies went.

Well as we all know Revel did NOT go well. So "not well" that I was actually ready to give up completely on the BQ for this year - I even said this exact statement in my race recap:

"Which is why I have decided not to attempt to qualify again until I can
commit to a race and give it a full 16-18 weeks of dedicated training."

Well, that's the thing about runners. You really can't trust what they say in the week after a race. Because whatever opinion they have about running in general will probably change (possibly multiple times). Honestly, I was 100% sure of what I said in that statement. On that day. A week later though, this little thought kept creeping in, "well if you don't try ONE more time before Boston registration opens in September, you're going to regret it."

And so, I got super motivated and signed up for the Loveland Fall Classic Marathon. I mapped out a perfect 8 week "multiple marathoning" training schedule. I was going to train really hard for 8 weeks and go for it!

Well...that was a nice thought. About a week or so later all that motivation I had was completely gone. Not only that, but I was officially going through my annual "burn-out" for the first time this year (this happens to me about once a year - although this is the worst it's ever been - I even wrote a post about it here). I barely wanted to run in the first place, let alone add speedwork and tempos and strides. I was a mess...and very mad at myself - I just spent another $100 on another race and here I was with no motivation to do anything.

This anti-running, burned out mood lasted. And lasted some more. And pretty soon I was ONE week out from this marathon wondering what in the world I was going to do. I had barely trained at all. I did hike a lot which was great for my mental well being (as I was also mad at myself for wasting my summer road running, when I usually love to hit the trails this time of year) - but not for my physical readiness to run a marathon. At All. I remember going for an afternoon run - and it may have mostly been the heat, but I seriously did not think I was capable of running an entire marathon at that point. Finishing? Yes. But running the whole thing ? Nope. I couldn't do it.

So what to do? I went as far as emailing the Race Director to find out my options - I could either defer to next years race or drop to the Half Marathon. My hubby and I had planned to stay in Estes for a few days after the race, so dropping the Half was probably what I was going to do. Luckily I didn't have to decide until packet pick-up the day before the race. So I went into my last week of training with the intention to try and run almost every day and just see how I felt and then make my decision.

Well my answer came to me on Tuesday night. I was reading my daily devotional "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young and that specific reading for the day just spoke to me. It said the following:

"On some days, your circumstances and your physical condition feel out of balance: The demands on you seem far greater than your strength. Days like that present a choice between two alternatives - giving up or relying on me".

The days reading also referenced 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. This is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

It was settled then. I was going to run the full marathon. This was the perfect opportunity to put my trust in God completely. I didn't feel ready at all, but I was going to go out there and see what I could do with full dependence on the Lord.

I knew it was a smaller race, so this was also the perfect opportunity to put together a motivational playlist with some of my favorite music, as well as some songs that had also been speaking to me, like Jeremy Camp's, "Same Power" ("The Same Power that rose Jesus from the grave... lives in us") and of course Hillsongs "Oceans" (best song EVER - although probably not what most people would consider an upbeat workout song - but I just love it - it brings peace to my soul!).

So now that that was settled...onto race day:

The race starts at 6:00am and requires a fairly long bus ride up to Estes Park, so that meant getting up at 2:45am (so fun!). I quickly got dressed, packed a bagel, and then drove to a parking lot right off of I-25 where I was really grateful to get a ride with Skirt Sports Ambassador Jayme (and soon to be female winner of the Half Marathon!!!) who picked me up so we could carpool to Loveland together. It was really great to meet her and I hope to run more races together (and by together I mean seeing her before and after because she is SPEEDY). She had ran the full Marathon last year so gave me some insight into it - including info about how the last 6 miles were tough (although I still majorly underestimated this - but we'll get to that later).

My #FlatRunner. LOVED the bibs - so pretty!

We got to Loveland and said our goodbyes, and I hopped on the marathon bus. It was still pitch black at this point, so I plugged in my iPod and started listening to some of my inspirational music as the bus wound it's way up the canyon before dropping us off at the starting line - which was the Estes Park Visitor's Center (last year the race started at the Stanley Hotel - I'm slightly disappointed that it didn't this year, since I LOVE the Stanley - but ohwell - it was still dark anyways). Luckily we only had about a 1/2 hour to wait around because it was actually quite COLD - this was just enough time to hit the restrooms and get situated. We all lined up at the start and just like that, we were off!

At the start line!
The first mile is mostly uphill as you head toward the canyon, so I took it pretty easy and used it to warm-up before settling into a comfortable pace. It was still dark when we started, but just starting to get light out. It was actually pretty nice running these first miles as the sun rose.

Another random pic from Google - but this is the first hill as you head out of town

I always struggle with what to do about water during marathons. I am not good a grabbing the plastic cups while maintaining a running pace - so it's a struggle on whether to bring my own or not. I decided to keep things simple this time though and not carry anything - which meant briskly walking through aid stations - I found I didn't mind it though and it didn't seem to slow me down too much.

At mile 8 I passed by a runner I knew from Instagram - she recognized me from posting my #FlatRunner the night before (and lets face it, my zebra print skirt is pretty recognizable!) - we chatted a bit and then ended up leap frogging throughout the race until about mile 20.

At about 12 1/2 miles, the top 2 men in the Half Marathon sped by me. Since mile 6 I had been trying to calculate when that might happen - they started 1/2 hour behind us. Just as we passed the Half Marathon finish line the sun finally made it's appearance above the tall canyon walls. And it was INTENSE. It had been SO nice and cool, that it was a big change. Thankfully we were still in this winding canyon - so depending on which direction we turned, I got to be in and out of shade for the remaining 7 miles until we hit 20. I had been running really well and felt good up to this point - I was trying not to worry about pace too much and run on feel - keeping a steady hard, but not too hard pace. I was probably averaging between 8:10-8:15 - just around a BQ - but even if I COULD manage to maintain it for the remaining 6, it would be a very close call (a BQ pace for my age group is an 8:12/mile).

I think this was taken around Mile 16.
I didn't have to worry about that too much though because as soon as we exited the canyon I slowed significantly. I still felt strong, but without any shade the heat was just really getting to me. Add to the fact that course changes from it's beautiful gentle downhill nature to rolling hills (with some decent sized uphills!!) and it was a struggle. The biggest hill was right at mile 20 - I pushed myself to run the hill until I got to the aid station which was probably about 3/4 of the way to the top - and then I let myself walk the rest of the hill as I drank some water. The only problem with this logic is that every small hill after that had me wanting to walk. And I'll be honest I did walk a little - it was tough - I wanted to push through, but the heat and those hills just make my heart rate skyrocket which always freaks me out a little (I am NOT a good heat runner I've determined), so I just did the best I could. I still felt okay other than just being generally tired and so, so HOT. I kept going - one mile at a time.

Finally after what felt like FOREVER (I seriously think those last 6 miles mentally lasted as long, if not longer, than the first 20), I saw the 26 mile marker! I took what I had left and finished in 3:44:26 - my second fastest marathon. No this was not a BQ or a PR - but I was still 100% happy with this time because for the first time since Phoenix I actually felt strong the entire race. Yes, I slowed a lot in the last 6, but just finishing a race where I still felt good (and didn't have stomach issues!!) was really important to me. I truly, 100% believe that I could not have done this without the Lord by my side. I honestly don't think I had ran more than 1 mile under 8:30 since Revel Rockies and here I just did 26 of them at that average (although in reality it was about 20 of them at 8:10, and 6 at 10:00 :). There's no way I could have done it on my own. His power was made perfect in my weakness!

Some pictures my family snapped as I headed into the finish line.
My parents came to see me finish! Thanks guys!
My hubby made it to this one too which was a nice treat! :)

Race: Loveland Marathon (formerly known as the Fall Classic Marathon)
Location: Estes Park to Loveland, CO
Distance: 26.2 Miles (Garmin clocked it at 26.34)
Bib Number: 155
Weather: Cool at the start - probably upper 40's, HOT at the end - upper 60's to low 70's maybe, but the sun was SO intense and with running that many miles, it just really got to me.
Gun Time: 3:44:36
Chip Time: 3:44:26
Average Pace: 8:34/mile
Starting Elevation: 7612 feet
Ending Elevation: 5043 feet
Total Elevation Gain/Loss: My garmin data seems to be off, but the website says it's about 2500' of loss - just note there are UPHILL sections on this that are tough!
Overall Rank: 58 of 176
Gender Rank: Not listed
Age Division Rank (F25-29): 5 of 16
Garmin Splits: 9:32, 8:14, 8:19, 8:20, 8:01, 8:02, 8:01, 8:13, 8:01, 7:52, 8:09, 8:00, 8:14, 8:14, 7:59, 8:09, 8:37, 8:06, 8:13, 8:02, 9:42, 7:57, 9:07, 9:28, 10:29, 10:32, 8:42 (last .2)

Aren't the finisher's medals pretty!? They're handmade!
Course Map
Elevation Profile


  • Unique handmade finishers medals: SO pretty, I loved these!
  • Beautiful course - Big Thompson Canyon is gorgeous, and I loved running it - if only you didn't have to finish those last 6 into town...
  • Well organized
  • Small, low-key event - yes "big" races can be fun, but these smaller ones are just so nice and easier to manage (not as many logistics to figure out)
  • Nice tech shirts and finishers posters. Race photos were affordable ($1.99/photo for a digital download).
  • Good post race food - although the burgers were being grilled by middle schoolers which made me a little nervous...


  • Running on the shoulder - I didn't love that the roads were still open forcing me to run the entire race on the shoulder - which in some sections can be angled a lot and tough to run. This also made passing difficult in some sections if there were cars coming (although it wasn't THAT bad - not enough to prevent me from doing it again).
  • Last 6 miles are TOUGH. I understand why you have to come into town, but oh how I wish there was a way to finish closer to the canyon! The last 6 miles of a marathon are tough enough as is, without adding in a bunch of hills and taking away the shade
  • SO hot at the end - not much they can do about this, especially since it already starts at 6:00am, but just a general dislike. I would love to run this on a cooler day!
  • No fuel on the course, you had to bring your own (they had water and Gatorade). Not the end of the world, but just something that kind of erks me - luckily I always have my Skirt Sports skirts with tons of pockets to carry my own!

Would I run this again?

Probably not every year, but yes. I really enjoyed this race and Big Thompson Canyon is stunning!


After the race, my hubby and I spent a few days enjoying Estes Park - TONS of pictures from that will be in a separate post once I have a chance to go through them! We had a great time - the leaves were just barely starting to change and the Elk were very abundant at Rocky Mountain National Park! Here's a little sneak peak for now:

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