Friday, November 9, 2018

Double Marathons – Rim Rock & Broomfield Trails Marathons

Running back-to-back marathons has always intrigued me and I knew I wanted to do it someday… I wasn’t sure that “someday” would come this past weekend until a few days before. You see, I signed up for the inaugural Broomfield Trails Marathon last spring when they first announced it. A new marathon in my hometown sounded like something I needed to be a part of, at least for the inaugural year. However, it also fell on the same weekend as one of my all time favorite races (and favorite local race) – Rim Rock Marathon.

I immediately had the thought of making the two races into a “Doubler”… I mean it was kind of perfect in many ways – running marathons in both my old home and my new home on the same weekend. A symbolic journey of where I’d come from and where I was now (cheesy I know)… however, there were some serious complications with deciding to do this. On one hand, the two races are over four hours drive apart from one another. That’s a lot of sitting to do after running a marathon… On top of that, they were both in November. And driving over the Rocky Mountains in November isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Because of this, I decided not to commit to the second race (Rim Rock) until closer out when I knew more about where my fitness level was and depending on what the weather was looking like...

The week before rolled around and while weather didn't look ideal, it wasn't looking horrible either. Plus a friend offered to transfer her entry to me for a reduced price... so I was officially set on doing it... (I pretty much knew in the back of my mind that I would have regretted it had I not anyways!).  So there I was, preparing for 2 marathons in 2 days...

My #FlatRunners all ready to go!

Day 1: Rim Rock Marathon - Saturday, November 3rd 2018

Let me start by saying that Rim Rock is no cake walk of a marathon. In fact, it’s one of the hardest “road” marathons I have ever done… so having it as Marathon #1 probably wasn’t the smartest plan from a logistical / recovery standpoint… but that’s how the race dates fell, so it was what it was.

You see, the race starts in Grand Junction (about 4600’), then runs up into the Colorado National Monument (6600’), before dropping down into Fruita (4500’). That being said, at least I had done this course before and was able to come up with a race plan: slow and steady. Especially on the uphill. The last time I ran the full marathon back in 2015 I went too hard on the uphill and paid for it immensely in the second half. I was too dead to really enjoy and embrace the downhill. So I was settled – I would take the uphill very easy, and be sure to mix in walking as well, so as to keep myself from getting overly sore (not sure the “not getting sore” really worked out for me).

Right at 8:00am we were off with a gradual first mile and a half before the major climbing came in from Miles 2-1/2 to 4-1/2 as you climb close to 2000’ over these miles. This is where I immediately started adding in walk breaks. The trick to adding in walk breaks is to not let yourself walk for too long, so I would always point out a starting and stopping marker on the road and tell myself I could only walk from here to there (such as a sign, tree, etc). This worked pretty well and in no time I had made it to Cold Shivers Point and the end of the major climbing (there was still gradual climbing for quite a while though).

Right after the start!

And up we go!
Entering the Colorado National Monument - 22 of the 26 Miles are spent in the Monument!

Looking back from where we came.

Tunnel #1 of 3

One of my favorite pictures I took - I love how small the two runners look.

From here on out since the climbing wasn’t as extreme, I didn’t add in as much walking, but still some here and there as I continued gradually heading up towards the high point around Mile 9. Meanwhile, since this is a small race, I was pretty much alone now for the remainder of the day, with the occasional passing of people (or being passed – although I’m proud to say it was more of the former – guess I paced myself well on the uphill after all). After I hit the high point, I decided to put my headphones on for the remainder of the race and just zone out to some tunes while enjoying the views.

I still felt pretty good mentally as I reached the half-way mark, but honestly my legs were hurting a bit already and I was starting to wonder how I was going to run another marathon the next day… but I tried not to let myself worry too much about that yet. The good news about making it to the halfway point is that it really is mostly downhill from here on out. Just like the first half though, it’s a relatively gradual downhill for most of it, with about 4 miles of steep downhill later in the race. So I embraced the gentle downhill for the next 5 miles or so until reaching the visitor’s center at Mile 19 – which is when the major downhill (and what I call the “fun part”) starts. The years I run the half marathon, I seriously CRUSH this section (we’re talking low-7:00 miles)… however when doing the full, I don’t seem to have that kind of speed left in me by this point (no idea why…). So I had a few high-8:00’s and a lot of 9:00’s through this section, just trying to enjoy it and let gravity pull me downhill.

One of my favorite sections of the course!

Now, despite thinking I had paced the uphill well, I was starting to get tired by Mile 22… great, tomorrow was going to be interesting… Nevertheless I kept at it. At Mile 23 you exit the Colorado National Monument leaving you with a somewhat boring couple of miles leading to downtown Fruita. In the scheme of things, I really don’t find these last 3 miles “that” bad, but compared to what you were running before it doesn’t exactly compete. Finally I hit Mile 25 which meant I just had to run the final stretch up and over the interstate and down towards Circle Park, which I did, finishing in 4:33:xx. Missing my course PR (I’ve only done the full marathon here once before) by about 4 minutes… but given that I wasn’t going for any specific time goals I was pretty happy with it (my only goal was sub-5:00).

After I finished, I got my medal, walked around Circle Park for a few minutes to get my pint glass and finisher’s picture before quickly hitting the road to make the 4 ½ hour trek over the mountains to get ready for Day #2...

Day 2 – Broomfield Trails Marathon

After a very last minute decision to take the bus from Glenwood Springs to Denver (which I was very thankful for given my exhausted legs and the fact that it was blizzarding over Vail Pass on Sunday night), I made it into Denver on Saturday night around 6:30pm. My mom picked me up from the bus station in Lakewood where we had dinner before heading to their house. I was thankful for their hot tub so I could soak my somewhat stiff legs to hopefully help them out before Marathon #2 of the weekend. After that it was an early bed time before getting up the next day.

It was daylight savings on Sunday morning so while I was really looking forward to an extra hour of sleep, I, of course, woke up an hour before my alarm… nevertheless at least this meant I could leisurely wake-up and enjoy my coffee before we made our way to the start. My dad was doing the Half Marathon and my mom was doing the 10K. The half started at the same time as the full, but the 10K was an hour later, so my mom was able to take our coats just before the start time (which I was very grateful for because it was COLD out).

After lining up towards the middle of the pack, they played the National Anthem, and then right at 8:00am we were off. The course started near the library and civic center (the civic center which was not around back in my day – Broomfield has really grown since I left home!) and headed north over to Main Street where we actually ran several blocks up Main Street, past my old High School, and then headed west where we hopped onto The Outlook Trail around Mile 3 – the beginning of my favorite section of the course.

Running down Main Street around Mile 2

Getting onto Outlook Trail

I’ve ran the Outlook Trail before and it’s pretty hilly if you do the whole thing, but we were only on a small portion of it as we ran around the west side of the Outlook neighborhood before dropping down to get onto Rock Creek Trail (note – these “trails” are a very well maintained crushed gravel, not a “trail” trail). We were on Rock Creek Trail for until about Mile 7 when we reached the Flatirons Mall area. As mentioned this section (Mile 3-7) was the best part of the course. It was on the nice maintained trail, away from traffic with nice views of the Front Range in front of you.

The mountains always look better in person!

After we reached Flatirons Mall, the course atmosphere dropped quite a bit. You ran around the mall which was okay given it was Sunday morning and there weren’t too many people out, but then, you got onto the US36 Bike Path… which is a concrete bike path that hugs US 36 – the major highway connecting Denver and Boulder. On top of having to run right next to tons of traffic, you’re headed uphill and away from the mountains (so no views either). This section was by far the worst part of the course. I get that it works well to make the course into a loop, but running right alongside a major highway is never very fun. The uphill was pretty gentle though and since I was taking it easy today I didn’t mind it too much – I just kept chugging along (now, had this section been at Mile 20, I would have been cursing).

I took this picture solely to document this horrible section.

Around Mile 10 we were still running along US 36, but the half marathoners split away from us as they went over the highway and on to finish up their race. Us marathoners keep on straight for another half mile or so until we cut over to a couple of smaller roads before making our way onto Big Dry Creek Trail right around the half-way mark. Big Dry Creek is a paved bike path with many sections of it having a soft shoulder if you prefer to not run on pavement.

A random barn somewhere along the route that I thought was neat.

Now, I just remembered I haven’t mentioned at all yet how I was actually feeling given I had ran a marathon the day before… well truth be told, the first half actually felt okay. I felt tired, but like I could run slow and steady and definitely finish this thing no problem… that was until just after the half-way point. I think my body all of a sudden realized this wasn’t a short recovery run I was doing anymore... After that half-way point, my right shin started majorly hurting every time there was a slight downhill (shin splints??)… and guess what? Big Dry Creek Trail (the 7 mile stretch I had just started) is entirely downhill. (Fair warning in case you’re reading this for feedback for next year, yes it’s downhill but it’s very gentle downhill - had my shin not been hurting I would have barely even noticed it was downhill). I know this pain was caused by the downhill from Rim Rock the day before because extreme downhill like that always makes things sore in weird places… so here I was, over half-way and yet I knew I still had a LONG way to go.

This was NOT taken during the race, but just showing what Big Dry Creek Trail looks like since I didn't get any pictures.

So the next 7 miles were spent alternating between running and walking… I had ran the first half in 2:20 and at that point had still felt okay and felt confident I could definitely run Day 2 under 5 hours. Now I wasn’t so sure. No matter what my time though, I knew I just needed to keep going. One foot in front of the other. Relentless forward progress…. My focus became to just get to the next aid station. Meanwhile, several people had caught up and passed me. Around Mile 18 a couple of people passed me, but then they were also doing a run/walk routine as well, so I made it a personal goal to try and stay somewhat near them (leapfrogging a bit). This worked out well for a while and kept me motivated to run more.

At Mile 20 we got off of Big Dry Creek Trail and made our way through some neighborhoods for what felt like forever. I didn’t love this section either, but I did my best to just keep running until FINALLY we made it to Broomfield Commons just before Mile 23 – a park that I know well and thus knew I was getting close. Something about getting here motivated me, so from here on out I actually ran the entire remaining miles. We ran through a couple more neighborhoods where my Garmin decided to die at Mile 25 (seriously??). I told myself at least I only had a mile to go and picked up my pace as best as I could, passing two people before finishing in 4 hours and 55 minutes. Definitely not my fastest marathon (by an hour and a half), but hey I got it done and can now check “back-to-back marathons” off the bucket list!


The finish line was pretty anticlimactic as it was still seriously cold out (it was apparently 50 by now, but it was windy and cloudy and did not feel anywhere near that warm - I actually didn't even take my longsleeve off until Mile 23!) and there was hardly anyone around. They handed me a water bottle and my medal and I met up with my parents who had finished hours before (and gone home and come back). I got a couple pictures with my two medals and then we went to Panera for lunch before calling it a day!

SO Happy to be done with my Two Marathons!

Post-Race Thoughts on Double Marathons:

Right when I finished I said “never again”, and while I have no desire to ever run two back-to-backs again I’m not going to officially say “never” just because looking at it now, I know I could have a more enjoyable time doing this had I done things differently. For starters, having the two races over four hours apart (which turned into 5 on Saturday, 6 on Sunday given the bad weather) was not ideal, and having the Day 1 Marathon be a seriously hard marathon with 2500’ of elevation gain and loss did not help the situation. So, if for some reason I were to come across the opportunity to do flat races close to each other where I could just take my time, I would probably would enjoy it much more! (That all being said, I have no regrets for doing it the one time - I loved that I got to do these two races!).

Overall Review/Thoughts on Rim Rock Marathon (Day 1):

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love this race. I think it’s the best race we have in the Grand Junction area. While I’ll still agree that the half is more “fun” because it’s less exhausting and there are more people, I really enjoyed running the full marathon this year. Taking my time and even walking some on the early climb must have made all the difference because my 4:33 time felt comfortable and for the most part, I felt good the entire race.

For a more detailed recap check out some of the other years I’ve ran this, but this was once again well put on. It’s definitely a small town race and if you do the full marathon you will probably be alone for a lot of it (the half is large enough that you are not alone), but the views are seriously phenomenal and make the race.

Race: Rim Rock Marathon
Date: November 3, 2018
Distance: Marathon (26.2 Miles)
Weather: 40's at the start, 50's at the end. Sunny and beautiful running weather!
Bib: 502
Gun Time: 4:33:14
Average Pace: 10:26
Overall Place: 49 of 83
Gender Place: 14 of 32
Age Group Place: Unknown

Course Map

Elevation Profile

Overall Review/Thoughts on Broomfield Trails Marathon (Day 2):

This was the inaugural year for the Broomfield Trails Marathon. Given the amount of advertising and hype they had for this race I was expecting a lot. In some ways I think they delivered and in some ways I don’t. They had a great turnout for the event, so I think it has a lot of potential. The volunteers were by far the number one best thing about this race. They had SO many volunteers out on the course. The aid stations were often and well stocked (they had coke at every aid station, which was awesome and something I have only seen at trail races – I feel like someone googled “what to have at trail races” when they came up with that…which is funny since it’s not really a trail race, but I loved it). I’m pretty sure I saw more volunteers than runners out on the course!

That all being said, some of the negatives: overall I just didn’t love the course. I’m still kind of scratching my head as to how you could make it better…but essentially, it just felt very discombobulated. There were so many intersections to cross and different sections spent cutting from one area to the next area etc. It just didn’t “flow”. There were some great sections too… so again I feel like it could be made better, but I just can’t figure out the “how” yet.

Last, I briefly touched on this already, but the finish line atmosphere was seriously lacking. Now, I will be the first to admit that a lot of this had to do with the weather. It was cold out and people don’t like to stick around after a race when it’s cold out. I totally get that… but there was hardly anything at the finish line – I didn't see any food, which after finishing 26.2 miles is kind of weird (I did find out later that there was some over at a tent further away). Last, I was kind of expecting a really cool medal given all of the advertising they did and the high price tag of the race, but it was kind of lame compared to a lot of races these days…(seriously just 5 years ago it would have been awesome, but medals have come a long way!).

Overall, it was well put on and well attended, I think it just needs a little feedback from runners to get it on par with other races in the area! (Also, I wish they would just call it Broomfield Marathon because putting "trails" in the name has got to confuse people!).

Race: Broomfield Trails Marathon
Date: November 4, 2018
Distance: Marathon (26.2 Miles)
Weather: 30's at the start, maybe 50's at the end, but overcast and COLD
Bib: 1003
Gun Time: 4:55:36
Chip Time: 4:55:17
Average Pace: 11:17
Overall Place: 61 of 93
Gender Place: 30 of 46
Age Group Place (F21-30): 10 of 16

Course Map (except my GPS died - it should finish at the start)

Elevation Profile

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations! �� That is a serious endeavor encompassing races that far from each other. I, too, wonder why they chose the course that they did for Broomfield. It seems to me they could have used all of the Outlook trail and then headed north toward the Coal Creek Trail in Lafayette and Louisville thereby not heading south of US 36 and Dry Creek Trail. I've talked to quite a few runners that have been saddened by the paving of the Dry Creek Trail from the crushed gravel that used to make up part of it.

    Anyway, glad you ran it! You're amazing, Keep up the great work and enjoy some recovery now!


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